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Extreme Soul Makeover

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Topical Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 5:18

Occasionally we wonder if the human race will survive another generation. These “idiot sightings” are unfortunately all true:

My family is originally from Kingman, Kansas, a small town outside of Wichita. Now I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. A man in the area called the local police to request the removal of the Deer Crossing sign on the road. He gave his reason: “Too many deer are being hit by cars out here. I don’t think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.”

In Birmingham, Alabama, a man was checking his luggage at the airport. An employee asked, “Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?” The man replied, “If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?” The employee smiled knowingly and nodded, “That’s why we ask.”

At a Ford dealership in Canton, Mississippi, a couple arrived to pick up their vehicle but were told the keys had been locked inside. They found a mechanic working feverishly to open the driver’s side door. As the woman watched from the passenger side, she instinctively tried the door and discovered it was unlocked. “Hey,” she said to the technician, “it’s open!” He replied, “I know–I already got that side.”

Self-esteem is a major issue these days. Depression rates are at all time highs. Downsizing is a fact of corporate life. There is more stress on our time, finances, and families than many of us can remember. We’re not sure we’re up to the times. That’s because we’re not. But the God who lives in us is. “Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world,” the Bible promises (1 John 4:4). How can God’s power be yours wherever you need it most today?

Why the Spirit lives in us

“You yourselves,” the phrase begins. Paul addresses all the Corinthians, no matter their past, present, or future. This church was divided, condoned sexual immorality, were suing each other, and committed every sin of their culture. And yet they were individually and collectively “God’s temple.” If they were, so are we.

We are God’s “temple.” Not heiron, the temple enclosure, but naos, the Most Holy Place, the most sacred place in all the world. That place which housed the ark of the covenant and the Ten Commandments. That place which was so holy that the High Priest could enter only one day a year, on the Day of Atonement. A rope was tied to his ankle so that if he was struck dead by the glory of God, his corpse could be dragged out from behind the curtain. Now we are that Most Holy Place where God dwells today.

Why? Because “God’s Spirit lives in you.” He literally “dwells” in us, “makes his home in us,” “pitches his tent in us.” He has taken up residence in our lives. This is in the present tense–he is living in us right now, this moment.

When we “ask Jesus into our heart,” it is actually the Holy Spirit who comes to dwell in us. Jesus is at the right hand of God, praying for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25) while the Holy Spirit lives in us today. God does not dwell in temples made with human hands (Acts 7:48; cf. Acts 17:24). Instead, he dwells in us. All of God there is, is in us right now.

Our status as God’s temple is so serious that “if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.” “If anyone” is a Greek construction which assumes the reality of the condition–“if and when” would get the sense of it. “Destroys” means “corrupts” or “tears down.” The word is in the present tense: if and when people tear down the temple of God right now.

When people attack the church, dividing our fellowship, slandering or gossiping about our members, seeking to hurt the people of God. “God will destroy him”–God will do to the enemy of his church what that enemy does to his church. If a person attacks or assaults God’s people, that enemy will face the wrath of God Almighty.

This is because “God’s temple is sacred,” holy, set apart for himself, belonging only to him. And “you are that temple,” right now, where and as you are. We are not our own–we were bought with a price and must glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

It is human nature to measure ourselves by our appearance and possessions, our house and car and job and salary. But Scripture says that our chief value is this: we are the temple, the house, the dwelling of the Spirit of God.

A friend recently sent me a story about a group of successful alumni who got together with their favorite college professor. Talk turned into complaints about stress in their work and lives. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups–porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal. Some were plain looking while others were expensive, even exquisite.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken first, leaving the plain and cheap ones. It’s normal for you to want the best for yourselves, but that is the source of your problems and stress.

The cup adds no quality to the coffee. Yet you all went for the best cups, then began eyeing each other’s cups. Consider this: life is the coffee; the jobs, money, and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. The type of cup we have does not define nor change the quality of life. When we concentrate on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.”

We are the cup–the Spirit is the coffee. He is what makes life worth living.

What the Spirit does with us

Why is this so? Why is it so important that the Spirit lives in us? Who is he? What does he do? In my systematic theology classes we take hours to discuss “pneumatology” or the “doctrine of the Holy Spirit.” Let me summarize all of that in a page.

The Holy Spirit is a person. He is not an “it,” or a “ghost.”

He knows the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:11), and loves us as God’s people (Romans 15:30). He speaks to us (Revelation 2:7), cries out to the Father from within us (Galatians 4:6), prays within us (Romans 8:26) and for us (v. 27), teaches us about Christ (John 15:26), and leads us into all truth (John 14:26).

He is grieved when we sin (Ephesians 4:30), insulted and blasphemed by those who reject Jesus (Hebrews 10:29; Matthew 12:31, 32).

He is omnipresent, so there is nowhere that we can go to “flee from the Spirit” (Psalm 139:7-10). He knows all things, the thoughts of God and of man (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11).

He is the means by which God the Father acts in the world.

The Spirit created order from chaos: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light” (Genesis 1:1-3).

He gave us the word of God: “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

He empowered Jesus’ life and ministry, and raised him from the dead.

He is the one who made Mary to be pregnant with the Lord Jesus: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

Jesus lived a sinless life through the power of the Spirit: Jesus “through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God” (Hebrews 9:14).

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was anointed and empowered by the Spirit: “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased'” (Luke 3:22).

The Spirit empowered the miracles of Jesus: “if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).

He raised Jesus from the dead: “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

What he does in our lives:

  • He gave each of us physical life: “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4; cf. Psalm 104:30).
  • He gives us eternal life: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63).
  • He liberates us from sin today: “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
  • He brings out the character of Christ within us, the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • He leads us each day: “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
  • He gives us assurance of our salvation: “the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).

What he does through us: the first Christians preached in the power of the Spirit (Acts 2:4), performed miracles in his power (2:43; 19:11), healed the sick and the lame (4:31); were unified in the Spirit (4:32), raised the dead (9:36) and defeated the devil (13:6-12). What he did then, he still longs to do today.

How the Spirit works through us

How can he? How can this doctrine be our personal experience today? Here’s the key, the single most important command in Scripture for any of us seeking the power of God in our lives: “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

The word translated “filled” means to be “controlled by” or “under the influence of” another. This is a Greek passive: “be filled,” be yielded to God. Don’t try to fill yourself–ask him to do this. It is in the present tense: “be continually being filled.”

How? First, begin the day with this commitment. You fill the car with gas before you drive it, and plug in the power tool before you try to use it.

Second, ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything keeping you from experiencing his direction and power today. Confess whatever comes to mind.

Third, submit your life to his leadership in every dimension. Pray through your day, specifically giving everything you anticipate to God. Ask him to lead you and use you for his glory.

Fourth, believe by faith that he has done what you have asked. Nowhere does the Bible say how it feels to be filled with the Spirit. Believe that he is in control, and he will be.

Last, when you step out of the Spirit, step back in. Confess your sin immediately and turn yourself fully over to him again. Do this all through the day.

The result will be a Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered life of purpose and power. You will manifest the “fruit” or the results of the Spirit every day: his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). If you see these traits in your life, you can know that the Spirit is in control. If you don’t, he’s not.

Conclusion

You’ve perhaps watched or heard of “Extreme Home Makeover,” one of the more popular shows on television. Each week a construction crew builds or rebuilds a home for a deserving family. One week it’s a family who lost their father to disease. Another week it’s a family with a child facing great physical challenges, and so on. When the crew is done, the house looks nothing like it did.

God invented the idea of an extreme home makeover. When his Spirit comes to live in our lives, he wants to remake us into the nature and character of Jesus. He is working on us right now. We’re a project under renovation. The result will be worth all it costs.

C. S. Lewis put the analogy better than I can: “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.

“But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of–throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself” (Mere Christianity 174).

Who is the Master of your house today?