"You keep saying It,” a pastor friend said to someone making a comment during Bible Study. "The Holy Spirit isn't an it. He's a He." If you listen to people talk about the Holy Spirit, you will notice this and many other mysterious habits. After decades of being a Christian, I'm convinced that most people don't really know what to make of the Holy Spirit. Some treat Him as a mystical power somewhat akin to the force in Star Wars. Other’s seem to see Him as Aladdin’s genie in a lamp, ready to grant your wishes three. Some seem to confuse the Holy Spirit with the individual spirit of each person. Most of all, He often gets called “It.”
Now, how do you think that makes Him feel? Strange question, I know, but as we look at the two eternal distinctions from the perspective of the Spirit, we are going to explore where He lives, and interestingly, how He feels about it. Let's take a look at the first eternal distinction, which should be familiar by now.
Here’s what Paul says about never-believers.
...Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Romans 8:9B )
Those who are unsaved do not have Who he calls “the Spirit of Christ.” In other places He is called The Holy Spirit. If a person does not have God's Spirit, they do not belong to Christ. This, then, is a clear eternal distinction. If not having the Holy Spirit signifies a lack of eternal salvation, what does it mean to have the Spirit?
...In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise... (Ephesians 1:13 )
All believers, naughty or nice, have God's Spirit living inside them. From the Godly believers of Philippi (Phil 2:1) to the sinful believers in Corinth (1 Cor 3:15). God's Spirit dwells in you if you've believed in Jesus for everlasting life. Jesus has promised you eternal life for believing in Him.
The Spirit’s presence is the seal that signifies that promise. Paul calls the Holy Spirit the “guarantee” (vs. 14). Since the Spirit never leaves once he arrives, his presence acts as a guarantee that you are forever saved.
How do we ensure that we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us? We don't have to wonder because it's right in the verse. It took place when "You heard… the gospel of your salvation. …Having believed you were sealed…" The Spirit comes to live in you when you believe in Jesus for everlasting life. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a ride-along with salvation. Those who don’t have The Holy Spirit are eternally condemned. Those who are sealed by the Spirit are eternally saved. Once sealed always sealed.
Right after I got out of college, I lived with a group of young guys in a beat up old house. One time my rent money mysteriously vanished. When the cash went missing, I searched the guy's room who was in charge of the bills. I didn't find my money, but I did find his hidden drug paraphernalia. A month later, he moved out without telling me while I was on a mission trip. He stopped paying bills, so the utilities were cut off by the time I returned. When he moved away, he left an old fishing boat and a dead car in the yard. The refrigerator, which had been full of frozen meat before the power cut off, had become a fly-infested maggot buffet. Instead of cleaning it out, the fridge was dumped over on its side and shoved into the yard with the abandoned boat and car. When I got back from my mission trip, I was livid.
It looked like a slob bomb had gone off in my home. My cell had been stolen while I was out of the country, so I didn't have a phone to call anyone for help. I walked to the nearest payphone, which was still a thing at the time. I was so upset, and I needed to talk to someone. Since my phone had been stolen, I didn't have anyone's phone number. The only number I had memorized was an ex-girlfriend's. I spent my quarter, called, and complained to her. She thought it was weird. She had nothing to do with the situation. After that, I walked back to my destroyed house sat on the floor because we had no furniture, and I grieved. I grieved hard. I continued to live there because I had committed to six months and couldn't afford the cost of breaking my contract. I stayed, but I was incredibly grieved about it.
The Holy Spirit is committed to dwelling inside you, no matter what. Whether you keep the place tidy and neat or let it deteriorate into a dilapidated shanty, He's going to fulfill his contract. That doesn't mean that he is always happy about the living arrangements, though. Notice what Paul says about it:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30 )
Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God. What a powerful statement. He won’t leave you or forsake you, but He may be grieved by the state of the place. So it seems pretty important that we figure out what types of things upset the Spirit of God who lives inside us.
In the verses right before this, Paul tells us what types of things grieve the Holy Spirit. He talks about lying, anger, wrath, stealing, and unwholesome talk (Eph 4:25-29). Are you kidding? Seriously, as I'm writing this, I'm squirming a little bit. I've been known to lose my temper with the kids. It hurts the Holy Spirit's feelings when I do that. I use unwholesome talk on a regular basis. I rarely, if ever, stop to think about how that makes the Holy Spirit feel. Which things on that list hit home for you?
There is a cost if you don't keep a rented apartment in good condition. We left that rented house in such a wreck I didn't get my security deposit back. It was five hundred bucks down the drain. I learned my lesson. When I rented my next apartment, I was determined to get my deposit back when I moved out. That meant no wild parties, no holes in the bathroom drywall, no boxing matches in the living room. Letting a place fall apart comes with a cost. In a similar way, there's a cost for grieving the Holy Spirit.
Some think the cost for grieving the Holy Spirit is a loss of salvation, we know that isn't true. In the same verse he reminds the believer, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. If you didn't have salvation, you couldn't grieve the Holy Spirit in the first place. You can’t grieve the one whom you’ve been sealed with if you’ve never been sealed.
So, the cost of grieving the Holy Spirit is a loss of reward. Clearly, we should aim at getting the "full reward" that Christ is interested in giving us. To do that we have to keep the place in good condition. Here's how Paul put it to his friends in Galatia:
Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 )
Years ago, I was asked to play music with a band at a summer camp outside of Lindale, Texas. When the music set was over, I told my bandmates that I wanted to take a walk and that I would meet them back in town. They were surprised since it was a long way. I told them I was pretty sure I knew how to get back. I wasn't.
I was in my Sunday dress shoes, and for some reason, I wasn't wearing socks. I hadn't brought any water, and I took a wrong turn somewhere. As I walked down nowhere-leading country roads, I was surprised how many big farm dogs there were on the loose and interested in biting me off at the knees. I found a big stick to carry as I made my way through the countryside. By the time I got to a major highway, my back hurt, my legs were in terrible pain, my feet were blistered, and I felt like I might keel over from thirst. To add to the fear, my cell phone, which had no service for most of the walk, was on one percent battery. What was supposed to be a leisurely walk turned into an agonizing trudge.
When the Bible talks about walking, it's valuable for us to put ourselves in a first-century mindset. For most modern westerners, a walk is something we do for fun on a sunny afternoon. However, in the ancient world, the vast majority of people walked everywhere they went. Royalty, nobles, and the rich had beasts of burden, but most of the time, people had to walk, even if the trip was 100 miles. When the Bible talks about walking, the average person would not think of a leisurely stroll; they would recognize walking for what it was, long and hard work.
It took no effort but to believe in order for the Holy Spirit to take up residence in you. However, don't be confused. If you take the no-effort approach in your daily Christian living, all you'll ever do is grieve the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit is something that will take effort. It will take focus and dedication. Disobedient believers grieve the Spirit, but obedient believers walk in the Spirit.
So, what does it mean to walk in the Spirit? We have a clue in that Paul tells us what the result will be. Walking in the Spirit extinguishes the “lust of the flesh.” When we walk in the Spirit, He blocks our flesh from pursuing its desires. Notice that an attempt to stop sinning is not what he's calling for here. We don't walk in the Spirit by following a list of don'ts. Instead, walking by the Spirit is all about where we set our minds. We’ll discuss that concept more in a later chapter.
Have you been sealed by the Holy Spirit? It’s as simple as believing in the saving message of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit lives inside you, He will never leave you, guaranteed. That doesn’t ensure, however, that you won’t grieve the Spirit. It’s time to start focusing on walking by the Spirit. Reward awaits for those who do.