When we put our faith in Jesus Christ and invite Him into our hearts, it is the person of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ), not really Jesus, who comes to dwell in us. Jesus is enjoying better accommodations in heaven. But to fully appreciate this new reality, I’m afraid you’re going to need to be visited by the “Ghost of Israel Past,” as we take a historical digression through Scripture.
We begin in a strange place with a rather strange passage. Let’s look at the book of Acts, the last verses of chapter one. The disciples must choose a replacement for Judas, the weasel who ratted on Jesus:
So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then, they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles (Acts 1:23-26, NIV).
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So, what in the world does this have to do with the Holy Spirit? I’ll tell you later. For now, just cut and paste this passage on your mental clipboard. Sit back, while I tell you a story:
It’s about 1446 B.C., and the Israelites venture out of Egypt to find the land God has promised to them. They stop at Mount Sinai, where God’s presence comes and dwells as He speaks with Moses, the Israelites’ leader. This fact of His presence was impressed upon the people by rumblings, smoke and fire that came from the mountain. At Mt. Sinai, God tells Moses His presence will leave the mountain. He will go with them to the Promised Land. God reveals to Moses that a portable temple known as the tabernacle, or the tent of meeting will house His presence. Chapter upon chapter, then, describe the exact instructions for making this tabernacle given to Moses.
That which will distinguish this wandering nation from all nations of the world is that the very presence of God goes with them. They will be known as the “people of His presence.” As they camp along the journey, equally symbolic, the Tabernacle is always raised in the very midst of the tribes and clans of Israel – God’s presence is in their midst. Now, when they first raise the Tabernacle, they do not have to wonder long if God’s presence is, in fact, in their midst. In Exodus 40:34-35 (NIV), we read: “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”
Was the tabernacle always filled with God’s glory like this? No, this happened only at the inaugural assembling of the Tabernacle. God gave them a visual aid that His presence was truly among them. It was quite a thing to conceive that the God of the universe “tabernacled” or “dwelled” among men. When I picture this scene, I imagine going to sleep at night in my sleeping bag and jammies, looking over at the Tabernacle, glowing like a nightlight, knowing nothing in the world could possibly harm me as I slept.
Now, if you were paying attention, you will remember that I said that the tabernacle was like a portable temple. It was constructed as an enormous tent. God’s place of dwelling among the Israelites would remain in this portable housing for about 450 years until King David’s son, Solomon, built a more permanent structure, the actual temple. We will look at that next.
It’s now about 980 B.C., and Solomon hears a voice saying, “If you build it, he will come.” No. Sorry. Wrong story. Solomon doesn’t hear that at all. But, God does tell him to build the temple in Jerusalem as the permanent dwelling place for the Lord’s presence among His people. Solomon builds it, and on Inauguration Day, or the day of dedication for the temple, the same amazing phenomenon happens--the temple supernaturally fills with His glory. Once again, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that God’s presence has filled the temple.
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3, NIV).
The temple in Jerusalem was the hub of Israel, and faithful Jews traveled there several times each year. Not only was it the symbol of God's presence among them, it was also the actual place of His dwelling.
Here’s where the story could get confusing if you’re not paying close attention. Several hundred years later (about 600 B.C.), due to continued disobedience to God, the Israelites are exiled from their land by invading Babylonians. Jerusalem is ransacked, and Solomon’s Temple is demolished. In their exile, preachers, called prophets, tell the Israelites that they will once again be restored to their land. They will again enjoy the presence of God in their midst. Sure enough, 70 years later, through God’s miraculous provision, the Israelites are enabled to return to their homeland, Israel. Their first order of business is to rebuild the Temple, the symbol of God’s presence.
So, they rebuild the temple (now about 520 B.C.), but with little resources. It’s a pretty scrawny looking temple, by comparison. I imagine it looks more like a movie theatre than a house of worship. Nevertheless, they dedicate their new temple just as Solomon did. But lo and behold – nothing. No sparks. No smoke, not even caps. This disappointment, along with more messages from the prophets, inspired expectation that there was another temple yet to come. A future temple, more glorious than even Solomon had constructed would come. When the Messiah came, He would be the One to rebuild the temple, and God’s Spirit would be poured out in an abundance that they had never experienced or could imagine (Joel 2).
We now flash ahead to 32 A.D. Israel is once more dominated by another foreign power, the Roman Empire. Jesus, the Messiah, had come. He was crucified and resurrected. Many probably wondered that, if He had been the Messiah, why was there no new Temple? Why were the Israelites not liberated? Why was God’s Spirit not poured out in an overflowing measure as the prophets had foretold? Now, think back to that passage we began with:
So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles (Acts 1:23-26, NIV).
These are the final verses of the first chapter in the book of Acts. The timing is right after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The disciples are casting lots to see who would replace Judas. This was a common way of discerning God’s will at the time. Then, we read Acts, chapter two. Here, God’s Spirit is poured out like a fire hydrant. Everyone starts acting crazy, and everyone thinks those affected are crazy. But, they’re not. We read:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4, NIV).
From this point on, if you were to go ahead and read through the book of Acts, you will see a whole new dynamic. No longer would they cast lots to determine God's guidance; His Spirit would now enable His people to follow Him. Those who followed Christ – both Jew and Gentile – were filled with the Spirit.
People were being healed. The disciples were preaching powerful messages, and people believed that Jesus was the Christ or Messiah. It was apparent that God’s presence was once again powerfully in the midst of His people. His protection, wisdom, direction and power were all back and in ways more powerful than ever experienced in the history of God’s people. While God’s presence had always been with His people externally, it would now go with them internally as well.
Now, if you were a Jewish Christian – like the disciples – you would be ecstatic. The Old Testament prophecies about the Spirit were unfolding before your eyes. The birth of the Messiah announced and began the anticipated last days – the pouring out of His Spirit at Pentecost confirmed it. You would finally be able to tell your neighbors, "Hah! Told you so! Jesus is the Messiah. And God has sent His Spirit. Both as He promised." But you would also have one big question: Where in the world is the glorious new temple the Messiah was going to build to house His presence in these last days?
Paul, the newest of the apostles later reveals the answer for you when he says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NIV). God’s presence dwells within you. His Holy Spirit is inside of you!
Now, I know that was a terribly long story. But you simply must appreciate this amazing truth: God dwells in you! And, by gosh, if I have to teach you 1,500 years of Jewish history to make you see it, I’ll do it. Yes, we are different from non-Christians because of what we believe. But what also separates us is that God resides within us.
So, what does it mean that the Holy Spirit lives in you? Are there implications? I hardly know where to begin, so let’s start where the Bible does:
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, NIV).
To the apostle Paul, the most obvious implication of this truth about the Holy Spirit is that, because God now resides within you, sexual immorality is out of the question. Viewing pornography, from Paul’s perspective, is like showing an adult slide show or movie on the walls of the Temple. Are you nuts?!
In this passage from 1 Corinthians 6, Paul basically says, “You know the sexually immoral things you’ve been doing? Well, God’s not just simply aware of them, you are dragging His holy presence into the mud with you. God lives in you, and it matters what you do with your body. It doesn’t just belong to you, now. It’s His home.”
But I bet you’ve tried fleeing sexual immorality in the past. Over and over again. And have you found yourself still coming back to the things you swore you would never do again? Sound familiar? What’s up with that? Here’s the deal. You’re not just fleeing from sexual immorality. That alone just gets you stuck worse over time. You’re also fleeing towards something different.
So, toward what should we be fleeing? Grace, encouragement, forgiveness, imperative commands and rebuke are all things we need to hear at different times. These things spur us on in our commitment to purity. Fleeing from sexual impurity falls under the category of imperative commands: Run away from it! But as this article has tried to show, it is so much more than simply staying away from it. You are the new temple! You are the new place where God’s presence resides!
As your body is the Spirit’s dwelling place, He will create a desire within you to live in the light and will empower you to flee out of the darkness and into the light. Fleeing into the light looks like bringing your sin into the light with trusted friends. But even more than that, it is bringing your fears, insecurities, fantasies, secrets, lustful temptations, celebrations, joys, heartaches, failures and successes to these friends and family. It means letting them both weep and rejoice with you. Weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice is a learned skill for everyone.
If you’re the one weeping or rejoicing you need to learn to do that in the community of others. And if your friends and family are weeping or rejoicing you need to learn to join in with them. You are fleeing away from isolation and into community. Remember this: isolated Christians are defeated Christians. “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, The Message).
* Some of the concepts found in this article are from Gordon Fee’s work, God’s Empowering Presence.
It’s time to develop a strategy for what “fleeing” will look like in your life. Take a piece of paper, and draw three concentric circles so that it fills the whole page and looks like a large target. The inside circle is the bullseye and is what you are pursuing – those healthy things in life that keep you in relationship with God and others. Make a list of “targets” you are wanting to hit in your life that will help keep you sexually pure, e.g., connecting regularly with guys and living in the light, regular connection times with God, healthy sleep and hygiene habits, etc.
Then, in the outer circle, list all the things from which you are fleeing. These are the things that destroy your relationship with God and others e.g., looking at porn and masturbating, getting drunk, visiting strip clubs, etc. Now, in the middle circle, list things that draw you away from your targets and towards the outer circle. These are “guardrail” emotions and behaviors that are reminders you are on a slippery slope towards more destructive things, e.g., isolating from friends, regular anger, mindlessly browsing the internet, excessive flirting.
Continue identifying daily where you’re at on the FASTER Scale and reaching out to others to process how to get off the FASTER Scale.
Continue filling out a FASTER Scale Exercise weekly.
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