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How may we know that we have the Holy Spirit?
All the passages below are taken from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John.” It was preached in the 1940’s and re-published as one volume (formerly in five Volumes) in 2002 by Crossway Books.
My second principle is that the Christian is one who has received the gift of the Holy Ghost. ‘Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.’ (1 John 3:24) What is a Christian? I am never tired of putting forward that question, because I think that of all the things that are misunderstood in the world today this is the one that is most misunderstood. What is a Christian---a good person, a moral person, a formal member of a church, one who pays an occasional visit to God’s house? Is that a Christian? Shame upon us if ever we have given that impression! No, a Christian is pneumatic, spiritual. Is that not the statement of the New Testament everywhere---a spiritual man or woman?
A spiritual person is one who has received the Holy Spirit---that is New Testament terminology. Christians are people who are altogether different from those who are not Christians. They are not just a little bit better, or people who do certain things. No, they themselves are different; they are spiritual. ‘We have received,’ says Paul, ‘not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God. . . . He that is spiritual judgeth all things’ (1 Corinthians 2:12, 15); but not the natural man---that is the difference, naturally and spiritually.
Now, there are some people who say that you become a Christian and then later you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. But you cannot be a Christian unless you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is that, in a sense, that makes you a Christian. It means this new birth; it means being born again; it means, to use the language of Peter, to be ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4). It means, to use the language of our blessed Lord Himself, that God is abiding in us. ‘He that keepeth his commandments,’ says John, ‘dwelleth in him, and he in him.’ And if you want the best commentary on that, read for yourselves John 14, those great words of our Lord: ‘I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you’ (v 18); or, as some would translate it, ‘I will not leave you orphans, I will come again.’ ‘I will come through the gift of the Holy Spirit; I will send another Comforter, and the result of His coming will be that He will dwell in you---I and the Father will dwell in you.’
These are the amazing words describing the mystical union of the believer and Christ and God, and here it all is in a phrase in 1 John 3. Surely if all of us who claim the name of Christian only realised that and what it means to be a Christian, not only would the whole church on earth be transformed, but I think the world would be shaken. If we but realised that this is the Christian, the spiritual man or woman with the Holy Spirit, with God dwelling in us, if we but realised that, I think our world would rather look at us and say, ‘What is the matter with these people---what is this?’ And we would be able to give the same answer as Peter gave way back so long ago in Jerusalem: ‘This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.’ We have received the Holy Spirit, and we are therefore what we are. That is the Christian.
Let me come to my last principle. How may we know that we have the Spirit? That is obviously the vital question. That is the basis of my assurance; that is how I know that He dwells in me; that is the practical question. How do we know that the Holy Spirit has come to us, that we have received the gift of the Holy Ghost? I shall simply suggest a number of headings by way of an answer.
Here are the things that are taught by the New Testament. Those who have received the Holy Spirit are aware of a power dealing with them and working in them. ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil 2:12-13). A disturbance, something, someone interfering in our lives. We are going along, and suddenly we are arrested and pulled up, and we find ourselves different. That is the beginning; that is what always happens when the Holy Ghost begins to work in a human being. There is a disturbance, an interruption to the normal ordinary tenor of life. There is something different, an awareness of being dealt with---I cannot put it better; that is the essence of the Holy Spirit dealing with us.
Then it leads to this, that we find ourselves beginning to take an interest in these things, in a spiritual sense. Paul says that they who are carnal ‘mind the things of the flesh,’ but the Christian, he says, is the one who minds ‘the things of the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5)---he is interested in them. Non-Christians say that the Bible is a terribly boring book, and when you talk about spiritual things, they do not know what you are talking about. I am not criticising them; I rather pity them. They just do not understand, and the whole thing is boring and has no relevance to life.
If you feel like that about these things, you have not received the Spirit, because when people receive the Spirit, they find themselves curiously interested in these things. They are amazed at the fact that they could ever have lived without them. This, they say, is the most wonderful thing of all. They are no longer interested in the mechanics of religion. You can be interested in that, in the work of the church or in your work in the church, without being interested in the Spirit. That is not what I am talking about; those who have received the Spirit are spiritually interested in truth.
And that leads to the next thing, which is the conviction of sin. They are men and women who see themselves unworthy and guilty before God. They begin to see that their nature is wrong, and they hate it. That is the Spirit---He leads them to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and to understand the truth. John has already told us: ‘This is the commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ’ (v 23). Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to see Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of our souls. You will dismiss Him entirely until the Spirit enlightens you; but once He works, you begin to see and understand the truth. Then you are aware of a new life within you; you are conscious of a new being, and a new nature. ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Galatians 2:20). I cannot understand myself; there is ‘the old man’ still---the man that I do understand, but there is someone else, because I have become a new creature.
And then there are the fruits of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, love of the brethren. Once the Spirit comes in, the fruits of the Spirit begin to show themselves---hatred of sin, desires for holiness. We love God’s commandments, as John says in chapter 5: ‘His commandments are not grievous.’ Christians begin to love them, and they want to show the fruit of the Spirit in that way.
This is that ‘Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father’ (Rom 8:15), and we know what the Scripture means when it says, ‘the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God’ (Romans 8:16). Those are some of the things that you recognise. It means holiness is in you. Do you recognise all of these things? These are the proofs of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There were also those gifts which God gave on the Day of Pentecost; they may still be given. Yes, I may, in His sovereign will, still get these. The gifts of the Spirit also are a proof of the indwelling of the Spirit.
Take, then, all those things together and there are the proofs of the fact that we have received the Holy Ghost. Oh, the marvel and the wonder of such a gift, the free gift. In spite of our sin and shame, in spite of our unworthiness and all that is so true of us, this amazing God has given us His own Spirit, and with the Spirit He comes to dwell and to abide in us. What a wondrous gift! What an amazing gift that God, the eternal, should come and dwell in us and enable us to dwell in Him. ‘Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.’ (385-388)
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