Christianity -- Christian Living/God's presence in us
Please help me to understand how the Holy Spirit is "God in us". Is this what makes Christians different from others? Is the Holy Spirit constantly in us or comes and goes like in the Old Testament? I know Jesus said he would teach us all about Him but how does the Holy Spirit lead us? Is He like our conscience? Is it arrogant to say that God is in us? Is this what it means to be born again and why this is such a topic that makes a lot of heat speaking with others? The Holy Spirit will lead us to Christ and the focus is on Christ and the cross but what does it mean our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and He lives in us?
I want to give you this slightly revised answer to your question.
Tragically, due to people forming mistaken ideas about the Bible and anything it says and then assuming their ideas true or at least as close to the truth as they think anyone can get, it's very difficult to get people to recognize the real truth but I'll try.
As Mark Twain said long ago, "It's much easier to fool someone than to show them they've been fooled." However, sometimes it's important to try and sometimes it isn't.
Over the many years I've studied and researched and earnestly longed to discover the actual answers to such questions as the one you've asked, I eventually discovered that nearly everyone, both "believers" and non believers are wrong and that the mistakes they make and the reasons they make them lie at the very heart of so much of what's wrong in this world.
One critically important thing that you must take into account is that everything written in the New Testament as a quote by Jesus is actually an interpretation of what he might have said coming from his disciples and third parties who, according to their own accounts, did not accurately understand Jesus most of the time and Jesus, as far as we know, didn't write down anything that we have any record of. Couple this with the fact that popular ideas, of which there are several, of what the New Testament writers meant by the scriptures being "inspired" are clearly wrong, Once you carefully examine them, it's easy to see and be legitimately certain that the people who wrote the New Testament, while being lead by the "spirit" in the direction of a completely clear or mature understanding of "the truth" of the meaning of the golden rule, were wrong about some of the ideas that are presently considered to be critical to correctly understanding the will of God concerning the solution to our problems that result from our disobedience to God or the spirit of the golden rule.
Now, the answer to your question is really quite simple but, as I indicated, "our" firmly held prejudices make answering it and being sure that the answer is understood by others as the right one is very difficult and could be very lengthy, much lengthier than what I present here. As a matter of fact, I recently published a book titled "The Answer" in which I try to guide people to the real truth by teaching them how to think clearly and accurately about such critically important topics as this one. It contains a huge amount of information and reference material that can be easily and quickly accessed because it's a PDF with many links to the most authoritative kinds of material.
Well, here is a relatively brief and simple answer to your question. It may not be completely satisfactory any more than Jesus' teachings were immediately satisfactory to his disciples and he spent a lot of time teaching them and demonstrating what he meant.
Read Matthew 19 and Luke 10 first. Do that before you continue reading my answer. Have you done that?
Now, I want you to pay particular attention to the discussion Jesus is reported to have had with a "rich" man. The man asks Jesus how a person can have "eternal life."In other words, “How can a person get into the kingdom of heaven,” or, “How can anyone be saved?” or, “How can a person “see,” that is, how can they accurately understand God?” Jesus told his disciples that he, not literally “he,” was “the way, the truth, and the life” and that no one could come to the Father. That is, no one could really know and understand God in order to accurately obey him, but through what Jesus taught and demonstrated. Many people don’t realize that Confucius taught the golden rule in far eastern China several hundred before Jesus’ time and even Jesus said that it was what the Law of Moses and everything the Old Testament prophets said was based on.
What does Jesus tell him? Is it clear to you that Jesus says that if the man correctly understands what we call "the golden rule" and complies with it, that he will have "eternal life" which is equivalent to being in the kingdom of God, being saved, and in “the church” of God? Is it clear to you that only "saved" people are in the kingdom of God? Well, what does it mean to be "saved"? The answer is right there before your eyes. A person is saved when they actively commit to, not just believe or give intellectual consent, sincerely obeying the golden rule which is also known as the law of reciprocity. In its complete form it says that you give other people permission to treat you the same way you treat them therefore, you should treat others the way you'd honestly want them to treat you if the circumstances were reversed. But, in order to do this you must "Love God with everything in you." That is, it is absolutely necessary for you to literally love loving or being concerned about other people without being primarily concerned about yourself. It does not mean that you have no concern for yourself at all, it just means that you’re primary concern, your first thought, is always for the welfare of others. It’s OK to want to be rich, to have lots of money, as long as it’s not just so you can lavish yourself in luxury. You don’t have to give away everything you own either. Jesus didn't go around naked, penniless, and starving but he did pretty much live as if tomorrow might never come or that death could come by surprise at any time, that peace and safety are not guaranteed in other words. Does that mean that you have do exactly what Jesus did? Only if you’re a legalist would you assume that to be what’s literally expected.
In first John, God is defined as "love." "God is love," said John. Well, love is a spirit and God is spirit. That's why "no one has seen God at any time" said Jesus. However, when Jesus' disciples wanted more assurance of God's existence and said to Jesus, "Show us the Father (the creator of the universe)," Jesus said, "Do you not yet realize that when you look at me you are looking at God?" You see, Jesus’ disciples had a very mistaken concept of God but, and this is going to shock you, so did Jesus but his was not quite the same mistaken concept his disciples held. After all, Jesus was “growing in wisdom” too. He didn't know everything right from the beginning nor did he know everything by the time he died. Luke 2:52. He was being “guided” to a fuller understanding of the truth just as he was guiding his disciples to a deeper understanding of “the truth” as he came to understand it.
Now Don, most people think that Jesus was literally claiming to be the creator of the universe, but that is not correct. Jesus was speaking figuratively as you should come to realize if you read the book of Hebrews for example which says that Jesus was a human who simply "imitated" God's character or attributes that Paul partially described in 1 Corinthians 13 when he described how loving people behave; people who, like Jesus was, are committed to the golden rule in other words. Not only did Jesus teach people the golden rule, he demonstrated how it was to be understood, which was what the Jews, especially the leading "authorities," did not understand. Of course, the people who were influenced by the leaders believed the same as they did and this included Jesus' disciples. Even Jesus believed some of the very same things that were believed by his Jewish brethren. It was because Jesus “accurately” portrayed the character of God (the golden rule), that he could figuratively speak as if he were God. He was not literally God. Remember, God can't be seen but Jesus did have God, or the spirit of God, in him in the form of his commitment to the golden rule. Recall what supposedly happened immediately following his baptism? The idea that Jesus was literally God has caused a tragedy of the most critical nature. One of the most important things that Jesus did was to demonstrate that God is just in punishing "sinners" (people who don't comply with the golden rule) by showing that they have no excuse for non compliance. If he could do it, so could anyone that really wanted to. Unwittingly, what the Jews believed made God an unjust tyrant but one that they were supposed to "worship" anyway. The doctrine of "inherited depravity" that is quite prevalent today does the very same thing. It, along with numerous other false teachings that are just as bad, creates an unjust tyrant and monster that people are to irrationally respect and love.
So, when a person realizes that the golden rule is the one and only way that humans will ever be able to live in peace with each other and be secure from each other, and when they make a sincere and determined commitment to living by it, it is at that instant that "the spirit of God," or the spirit of Christ, comes to be “in” them. If they then stop being committed to that way of life, to that true religion, and return to thinking and acting contrary to it, we can say that the spirit of God has left them and as long as they continue that way, they are just as bad off as if they'd never been committed to the golden rule (God) in the first place, maybe even worse if possible since there's a good possibility that they won't recommit to it once they've tried it and didn't like what happened. Read the entire book of James.
Yes, this is the "new birth" Jesus was talking about when he tried to explain to Nicodemus (John 3:1-3) that if a person wants to be "saved" from the results of their own selfish and legalistic way of thinking and behaving, saved from their sins in other words, they had to be "born again," or change their mind so radically and completely that it would be as if they were a completely different or a new person, a new creation.
Notice that Jesus speaks of "the water and the spirit" in this passage. While you may not immediately understand why (most people don't), the water is a reference to baptism which is total immersion in water, actual water. Once you understand how critical symbolism was, according the way people of Jesus' day thought, you'll become aware of why Jesus and his disciples taught the absolute necessity of being baptized, along with the absolute necessity of repentance, in order for sins to be forgiven.
You see, before Jesus came along and before he died, water was used in Jewish ceremonies to "wash" away the sinners’ sins, not literally but figuratively. It was "as if" their sins were like dirt on their bodies but their sins, their anti golden rule attitude or spirit, was not forgiven until they took action to show, by being baptized, that their repentance was sincere. That is why John the Baptist commanded the Jews to be baptized in order to obtain forgiveness for their sins. Reference to this idea is made when Paul was baptized by Ananias in Acts 22.
After Jesus died, baptism was also likened to a burial where a person could figuratively and literally bury their selfish sinful self and rise up out of the water perfectly free from their old self because of the firm commitment they'd made to living by the golden rule and demonstrated by being baptized or buried in water. See What Paul says in Romans 6. A person was not considered to have "obeyed the gospel" or to have been forgiven and thus saved until they'd repented and been baptized. It was only then that they could begin a new life. Peter indicates the same thing in Acts 2 and other places, especially in 1 Peter 3 where he uses the illustration of Noah being saved by the same water that drowned the rest of mankind that had not heeded his warnings. He specifically says that "baptism saves us" similar to how the water saved Noah and his family, by coming between or separating us from our sin; our anti-golden rule attitude or spirit. We are to leave that attitude or spirit behind and buried, so to speak, in the water.
Keep in mind that Jesus, according to those who wrote about him, didn't baptize anyone nor require anyone to be baptized before they could have "eternal life" during his three years of preaching. Jesus' cousin, John the immerser, required it and Jesus complied with it but he did not include it as a requirement in his teachings before his death. The idea that baptism was to be required after Jesus died comes from his disciples. They said it was required because Jesus, according to them, commanded them to require it but they were wrong about some important things and had generally misunderstood much of what he taught. Peter, for example, was wrong for years to teach that salvation was only to be offered to Jews and Paul was wrong to teach that humans are "born in sin," which would make God unjust, and that Jesus was coming back in person referring to the coming judgment and the only "final" judgment mentioned in the New Testament. It took place beginning late in the 6th decade of the first century A.D. and Jesus didn't return in person. Just by reading Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 anyone can see that this is true because they only refer to that event and it's that event that Paul tries to prepare those early Christians to be ready for. Paul was also wrong to teach that “all have sinned.” Because of the fact that sin cannot be committed by anyone who couldn't possibly know about or understand the golden rule so as to be justly held responsible for disobeying it, infants and certain other people are not sinners and not in need of forgiveness and it wouldn't be rational or reasonable to require them to repent anymore than it would be rational or reasonable to require an infant to repent for wetting itself after being commanded not to.
Now, of course it isn't arrogant to say that God is in us. God is "in" anyone that is firmly committed to uncompromisingly living by the golden rule. That is the "eternal life" that Jesus was speaking about to that rich man and others. Yes, it's in clearly understanding how the golden rule is to be applied that "the spirit of God" will lead you little by little to truly knowing God. It's extremely unlikely that you'd clearly understand it at first any more than Jesus' disciples understood it at first or even all that well after he died. Now, you think as a child but when that which is perfect comes, when true understanding comes to you, you'll think as an adult and you'll understand God just as well as you'd understand who you're looking at if you were looking at yourself in a good quality mirror. 1 Corinthians 13. You don't have to wait until after you die to be "perfect." If you really do understand the golden rule and live by it, you will actually stop sinning in the here and now. You'll literally be free from sin.
Here's a critically important key to doing that. Be clearly aware of the fact that the difference between right and wrong is not in the things you do no matter what they might be. The difference, said Jesus, between right and wrong is in the reason you do what you do. If you always think and act primarily out of concern for others, you are living by the golden rule and everything you do is right. This is why Rahab, a Palestinian prostitute, was not condemned for lying to the authorities when they came looking for the ten Israelite spies or when Abraham took his son Isaac to sacrifice him. See James 2. It's why Sampson was not condemned for his long hair when, as Paul said, it's a crime against nature which God set in order for a man to have long hair or for a woman to have short hair or not wear a head covering. It's why David was not condemned for stealing the sacred bread from the temple to feed his starving men when doing such a thing was normally punishable by death. In other words, if you're acting out of sincere concern for others, you can kill another person or persons and it be the right thing to do. God "commanded" (that is, the golden rule required) the Israelites to wipe out every man, woman, child, and farm animal of some of the people's they came in contact with but it was out of concern for the welfare of the Israelite people who would be influenced to abandon God by these pagan people and the imaginary tyrant gods they worshiped and obeyed. See the account of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 for example. It was people like this who were constantly given to evil ways, opposed to the golden rule, that were destroyed in the great flood described in Genesis 6 and 7. It was because the Jews were so determined to reject Jesus and the lifestyle he taught and demonstrated that Jesus said they would be judged and condemned to hell, a hell he predicted they'd experience when Rome invaded Palestine in the late 6th decade of the first century, destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70, kill thousands of people, and take thousands of others as slaves. Read Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 where he describes it quite clearly even though there is some figurative language used.
Just as God had come in judgment on the Jews in past centuries in the person of foreign kings such as Nebuchadnezzar (Read the book of Daniel for example), Jesus, or God, came in judgment on the Jews in the person of the Roman general Vespasian and then his son Titus. It was all figurative. Read what Paul says in Romans 13 about how he believes that it is God who sets up governments and takes them down. How does he do it? It's by using humans to represent him to either reward or punish people for their behavior but the writers of the Bible speak as if God did those things in person.
Jesus' dying "for our sins" does not mean that he paid for our sins the same way you might pay off someone's debts for them. That’s Paul’s theory of atonement by substitution; just one of several mistaken ideas he taught. Peter said there were some things Paul taught that were difficult to understand. He doesn't seem to realize that it was because they didn't really make good sense. Jesus died as the result of (for) the sins of others and paid the same ultimate price that anyone else might have to pay for being so committed to living by the golden rule that the rest of the world thinks is stupid, weak, and naive. Jesus warned, we’re told, his disciples that the world would persecute them for the same reason it persecuted him and would do even worse things to them if possible. When a person lives by that rule, especially in public, it condemns the conscience of people who refuse to live by it because they instinctively know that they have no excuse and it angers them for you to expose their attempt at self deceit; their willful blindness. Such exposure can anger some people to the point that they will kill you or want to kill you. It's certainly true in the case of Islam today. Criticize the terrible things they practice and expose their false God as if what you do and believe is superior and see what happens. They'll persecute you or put a price on your head or kill you if they can reach you. As a matter of fact, they’ll persecute you anyway. Their sects even persecute and kill each other. It’s perfectly clear that they do not hold the golden rule in high regard. It’s jihad, war and dominance that they prize most highly, preach most loudly and, obviously, practice most consistently.
I sincerely hope this helps to open your eyes at least somewhat and helps you begin to recognize the seriousness of people's mistaken ideas about what the Bible says. If you need further explanation, it might be of benefit to get my book which goes into much greater detail. The title of my book is, "The Answer," but you can't understand it until you realize that you've just been guessing and you're totally sick and tired of not really knowing.
Like Jesus, I'll certainly receive a lot of persecution for the answer I've given you because it's obviously correct and so contrary to the prejudiced and irrational beliefs that the rest of the world has and is so certain are true..