Jesus in Me
Introduction: Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Constant Companion
Weather permitting, early each morning that I am home, I walk and run for about two and a half miles. This has been my routine for over thirty years. As I grow older, I also grow more grateful for the physical ability to maintain this exercise. I have been consistent and committed to it, not just for the physical benefits but also because it is a stress reliever. The burdens of the day seem to be placed on hold for the thirty or forty minutes it takes to complete my route.
Over the years I have had multiple walking partners who have either moved on to other forms of exercise or dropped exercising altogether. The friend who walks with me now from time to time is a delight. While walking, we engage in energetic discussions, solve world problems, share insights into Scripture, and often end by praying for each other. Her companionship has made me aware of an interesting facet of my routine. When she walks with me, the journey does not seem nearly as long or arduous as when I walk alone. With her beside me, I seem to have more joy, more energy—and the time seems to fly by. Somehow, her presence makes my walk easier.
On the other hand, when I walk by myself, the routine seems harder, longer. My hamstrings seem tighter and unwilling to stretch for long strides. My knees ache when I pick up my pace for a jog. My breath seems more labored and shallow. My mind shifts into neutral. I find myself just trying to make it to the next bend in the trail, to the next familiar tree, to the third bridge that marks the ascent to the parking lot, to my waiting car on which I lean as I work through final stretches.
While the direction, pace, and length of the routine are the same whether I walk alone or with someone, a good companion makes a distinct difference in my overall enjoyment and well-being.
Which brings me to the walk of life. Living day after day, week after week, year after year requires effort, energy, commitment, focus, thought.
To be perfectly honest, I’m old enough to know that the path of life leads through emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual aches and pains. Some are irritating. Some disruptive. Some much more serious and even life threatening. At times I have found myself just trying to make it through this day. This month. This year. “If I can just make it to Easter break.” “If I can just get to the beach for our vacation.” “If I can just hang on until Christmas.” There are times when I have fulfilled a commitment just to check it off my list and get on to the next thing so that I can get on to the next thing. The walk itself becomes a burden. Drudgery.
What I have needed is a walking partner. For life. Someone who would come alongside me and share every step of my journey, day in and day out. Someone in whom I could confide. Someone with whom I could discuss issues that are on my mind. Someone who would answer my questions. Help me with decisions. Listen to my complaints, my fears, my worries, my dreams. Someone I could trust. Believe. Enjoy. Someone whose very presence would bring joy. And peace. And hope. Someone who would know me. Who would understand me. Someone who would love me!
Where have I found such a walking partner? Amazingly, as a child of God, I didn’t have to look around for one. I just needed to look within. Because God has given me the ultimate walking partner for life: His Spirit. And not just for life, but forever!
In this book I will not attempt a full, in-depth treatise on the Holy Spirit, nor will I explore all the ways He is understood or misunderstood, abused or used, sensationalized or normalized, neglected or prioritized. I will seek to share with you what I have experienced personally about this incredible divine Companion. While I do not claim that I can even begin to know all there is to know about Him, I am learning to enjoy and trust Him more and more. If anything, the more my knowledge of the Holy Spirit grows, the more I learn I still have a lot to learn! One thing I know for certain: He is not an optional extra in my Christian life. He is a divine necessity.
The indispensable necessity of the Holy Spirit has never been more evident in my life than during the writing of this book. As I began the challenge of putting words on a page, my ninety-nine-year-old father, whom I adored, went to Heaven. I was already a widow, and his homegoing left me an orphan. Six months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer, went through follow-up surgery, then began the brutal chemotherapy treatments. Through the ups and downs, the tears and joy, the grief and comfort, I have experienced the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit.
I have learned day in and day out that the Holy Spirit is all that Jesus is, though without His physical body. He is Jesus without skin. Just as Jesus is the exact representation of God the Father, the Spirit is the exact representation of Jesus’s mind, will, and emotions. He is the invisible Jesus. The Holy Spirit is…Jesus in me!
Part 1: Loving the Person of the Holy Spirit
Have you ever formed ideas or opinions about someone based on what others told you? And then when you met the person for yourself, did you discover that actually he was very different from what you had been led to believe?
Recently I received an invitation to appear on a television talk show hosted by a couple who had been in the news frequently and had received quite a bit of negative publicity. Without intending to, I had absorbed some of the public’s disparaging attitude. I almost declined the invitation, but when some respected advisers urged me to accept it, I did. What I discovered was almost the polar opposite of what I had been led to believe.
The couple was humble, warm, charming, thoughtful, encouraging, and supportive. They were easy to talk with, and I found my spirit resonating with theirs. To this day, I’m struck by the contrast between the public’s perception of them, as well as my own preconceived opinions, and the reality of their lovely personalities and authentic testimonies.
While our perception of other people can be dramatically different from reality, the same may also be said about our perception of the Holy Spirit. Could your perception be different from the truth or even in sharp contrast to it?
I’ve heard the Holy Spirit spoken of as an “it,” a feeling, a dove, a flame, a ghost, an emotion, or even an ecstatic experience. He is frequently referred to as the third person of the Trinity, as though He is the least of the Trinity or a postscript to the more significant Father and Son. All of which is inaccurate.
While the Holy Spirit may be symbolized by a dove or flame, while His presence may be accompanied by an emotion or feeling or ecstatic experience, He Himself is distinctly separate from those things. The Holy Spirit is not a thing but a person. His personhood is emphasized in John 16, when eleven times in eight verses, He is referred to by the personal, masculine pronouns He, Him, or His.
So at the outset of our exploration of who the Holy Spirit is, we need to be clear that we are not speaking of an “it.” We are speaking of a “He.” He is a living person who has a mind, a will, and emotions. He is referred to as the third person of the Trinity not because He is the least but because He is the third person to be more fully revealed in Scripture.
In the Old Testament, although the Holy Spirit and God the Son—the living Word who became Jesus in the flesh—are present, it is God the Father who is primarily revealed. In the Gospels, while the Father and the Holy Spirit are certainly present, it is God the Son who is primarily revealed. Beginning with Acts and the epistles, although God the Father and God the Son are also present, it is primarily God the Holy Spirit who is revealed. In fact, the book of Acts is not about the acts of the disciples or the early church. It is a book about the acts of the Holy Spirit as He worked in and through the disciples and the early church.
If the Holy Spirit is a person with an intellect, will, and emotions, what is He really like? What is His personality? What are His responsibilities? Are you intrigued by this mysterious person? I know I have been and still am. One way we get to know Him is through His names.
In the Bible, names reveal the character of the person to whom they are given. For example, in the Old Testament, Abraham’s grandson was given the name of Jacob, which meant “deceiver” or “supplanter.” Jacob grew up to be a man who deceived his father, Isaac. In doing so, Jacob supplanted his brother, Esau, as the heir to his father’s blessing. He was well named.
Twenty years after that deception, when Jacob returned to claim his inheritance, he was blocked from doing so by the angel of the Lord, who was a visible, tangible manifestation of the Lord Himself. After an entire night of struggling, God dislocated Jacob’s hip to force him to give in and give up. But instead of falling to the ground in a heap of self-pity, Jacob wound his arms around God’s neck and said he would not let go until God blessed him. Right there, on the edge of the river that served as the border to the Promised Land…the river where they had been wrestling…God led Jacob to confess his name…who he was…the deceiver and supplanter. Then God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “a prince who has power with God.” As a man broken, Jacob fully yielded his life to God, and he did indeed become a prince with power, the father of twelve sons who became the founding fathers of the nation that bears his name—Israel.
Perhaps the most familiar example of how a name reveals someone’s character is found in the name given to the Son of God. He was called Jesus, which means “Savior,” “Rescuer,” “Redeemer,” “Deliverer”—the One who would save us from the penalty and power of sin. His name accurately describes who He was…and who He is.
So what about the Holy Spirit? In John 16:7 Jesus gave Him a name that is often rendered “Helper” in English but is a rich word that requires several English words to effectively capture its meaning. The Amplified Version of the same verse indicates that the word for “Helper” could also be rendered as follows: “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].” In the following seven chapters, we’ll consider together the personal and practical implications of each aspect of the Holy Spirit’s name as listed in the Amplified Version of John 16:7.
One of my deepest, richest joys has been discovering by experience who the Holy Spirit is in every step of my life’s journey. Each name that He has been given—Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, and Standby—reveals another aspect of His beautiful character and has provoked in me a deep love for the One who is my constant companion…Jesus in me. My prayer for this book is that you, too, will discover Him by personal experience as your constant companion and that the discovery will lead you to love Him more.
Chapter 1: Our Helper
As my husband Danny’s health deteriorated due to type 1 diabetes and its complications, I stopped traveling for the most part and embraced the joy of being his caregiver for three years. On an August afternoon, he was sitting by the pool, playing with our dog, and just relaxing in the summer sun. I stayed in the house to get some work done. Suddenly I realized it had been over an hour since I last checked on him. I ran to the window, looked toward the pool, and saw he was not there. With relief, thinking he had come in without my awareness, I ran through the house, looking for him and calling his name. No familiar voice responded. Only silence. A deep foreboding gripped my heart as I ran back to the window and saw our dog sitting by the water’s edge. When I called to him, he refused to come. I flew down to the pool and found what I knew I would.
There are no words to describe my desperate cry for help as I jumped into the pool, pulled my husband to the steps, and cradled his head on my lap. Even as I called his name over and over, even as I cried out to God for help, I knew I was looking at a man who was already seeing his Lord. The expression on his face was one of strength, confidence, and utter peace.
What transpired next required all the Helper’s assistance to get me through: staying on the line after my emergency call to 911, EMS arriving, medics running through the backyard and dragging Danny out of my lap, news helicopters swirling overhead, sheriff’s deputies standing by the pool and guarding the property, cars filled with curious onlookers lining our street—and then the scene indelibly impressed on my mind when Danny was placed on a gurney and wheeled out of our yard as he left the house for the last time.