Before I met my wife in person, we had a long distance relationship for quite a while. The long emails, daily text messages, and late night talks over the phone was all we had–until we finally met in person. I remember seeing her for the first time and I was almost speechless (which says a lot for my temperament). But what if our relationship stayed in email, text, and phone call form? Our beautiful daughter wouldn’t exist and neither would our son on the way. In fact, there wouldn’t be any real intimacy between us. It would just be a limited and lifeless relationship. We’d miss out on so much of each other and definitely wouldn’t be as close as we are. When I hear someone say, “relationship with God,” it can be even more of a struggle to wonder how that would work out. Is Jesus going to pick me up for dinner and a movie or something? Is he going to sit and have tea with me… or does he like coffee instead? How does God have a “relationship with us?” Does He even want to be close? Being that He sees all and knows all, He has to know how much of a mess I am… and I don't think He wants anything to do with someone like me. Truth is, He wants closeness with us–yes, in all of our mess. This relationship God desires with us is much like that of a husband and wife. In fact, marriage is but a divine metaphor for us to have a glimpse into the kind of thing God wants with us.
Unmistakably, the most famous verse in the whole bible is found in the gospel of John. In John 3:16, it strongly says that God is so in love with people that He sent His only Son, to rescue us from death itself, and give us eternal life. The next verse is not as popular, but just as powerful. It says that God didn’t send His Son to condemn the world, but to save it. I would personally think that the God who created this world, would show up in a different way… maybe like the landlord who visits his tenants to find they trashed his place…. aaaaannnnddddd the eviction notice follows. But God does something much different. In John 3:1-21, Jesus has a conversation with a Jewish leader, an authority on God’s word at the time, named Nicodemus.
Impressed with Jesus’ teaching and living example, Nicodemus comes to him at night (perhaps to be discreet) acknowledging and affirming that Jesus is a “teacher from God.” He tells Jesus, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God, because no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” And Jesus replies, “No one can even see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.” Nicodemus struggled with this phrase “born again” and asked “how can a grown man crawl in his mothers belly and be born another time?” Which Jesus then tells him that isn’t the case. He further explains this is a spiritual birth he’s describing, made possible by The Spirit of God, bringing someone into The Kingdom of God. This phrase Jesus uses, “The Kingdom of God,” is speaking of the governing rule of God as King over His domain. It’s the reign of God as rightful King of our hearts–so our lives reflect His essence, greatness, and goodness. No one comes under this governing rule unless they are spiritually reborn. After Jesus further attempts to explain these things, Nicodemus seems to have even more trouble and says “how can these things be?” And Jesus, asks him “how are you a teacher in Israel and not understand this?”
God had made so many promises to His people that describe this, and Nicodemus would have known them all. One of them is in Ezekiel 36:26-27. Here, God is promising to give His people “a new heart and a new spirit” (like a building “under new management”). He vowed to actually put His Spirit inside of them; that they would know and respect His ways–and actually keep them. This promise is pretty radical in contrast of the condition his people were in. They had totally rebelled against God, and ripped apart the beautiful masterpiece–His beautiful creation. They had wasted their God shaped affections on other things, attempting to replace God with stuff that could never compare to Him… they just wouldn’t seem to be candidates of this kind of Divine endearment (like us). Yet God wants to be near them (like us). So close that He wants total union. A union that He describes will turn their course and put their lives right side up. These kinds of affections from God, The faithful lover of the unfaithful lover, are seen all throughout the law and prophets Nicodemus knew so well. What Jesus was pointing to shouldn’t have been completely unfamiliar to him. After all, as a jew, and a Pharisee at that, he probably memorized Gods word by the time he was 12 years old.
But Nicodemus had trouble with it. So Jesus continues on to explain that God was in love with the world and sent His son, not to reprimand it, but to rescue it. In this, is a beautiful mystery; God is calling us closer. He’s not a God that is far away, He is a God within reach. He wants to be closer to us than anything else and He will pay any price needed to do so. He will not hold back on anything that would bring us together. He wants to be a part of every moment of every day of our lives. Not to be a critique or criticize our every word thought and deed and make us feel crumby. Not to be a party pooper and ruin our fun and our lives. But to be our all and all and the greatest joy we have ever known–giving us life in it’s fullest measure. To give us Himself in full measure. He want’s to be close. He wants His Spirit to be inside of us. To be there, in person, in our enjoyment of a meal. To walk with us through the park on a fall afternoon enjoying foliage. To be there with us at school, helping us though a test. To be with us at our jobs, helping us through a hard day at work. To with us watching a movie (and maybe to lead us away from watching that other movie).
There is so much to say about all the Holy Spirit does. But we first must know that He is a person. He is God; the person of God making a union with God possible. He makes a relationship with God tangible. He is a person with feelings, emotions, and desires. In the book “The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit,” R.A. Torrey well says:
“Before one can correctly understand the work of the Holy Spirit, he must first of all know the Spirit Himself. A frequent source of error and fanaticism about the work of the Holy Spirit is the attempt to study and understand His work without first of all coming to know Him as a Person.
It is of the highest importance from the standpoint of worship that we decide whether the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, worthy to receive our adoration, our faith, our love, and our entire surrender to Himself, or whether it is simply an influence emanating from God or a power or an illumination that God imparts to us. If the Holy Spirit is a person, and a Divine Person, and we do not know Him as such, then we are robbing a Divine Being of the worship and the faith and the love and the surrender to Himself which are His due.
“It is also of the highest importance from the practical standpoint that we decide whether the Holy Spirit is merely some mysterious and wonderful power that we in our weakness and ignorance are somehow to get hold of and use, or whether the Holy Spirit is a real Person, infinitely holy, infinitely wise, infinitely mighty and infinitely tender who is to get hold of and use us.”
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And as its put in James 4:5, “…do you think the scripture means nothing when it says that the Spirit that God caused to live in us jealously yearns for us?” This is something heavy to consider: God is very jealous for us. He sent His Spirit to live in us. He wants us close. May we remember His presence more and more and grow in our relationship with The Holy Spirit.