In Step With the Spirit

By David Feddes

Jason was his own man. He was young and single and had an apartment all to himself. Jason was a bit of a slob, and his apartment was often a mess. He seldom made his bed, so his blankets and sheets usually lay in a tangle all day. The sink and counter were piled high with dirty dishes and fast-food containers. The floor was an obstacle course, strewn with clothes and other items Jason had tossed there and didn’t feel like picking up. Once in a while, Jason got tired of the mess and restored some order, but for the most part, he liked doing as little cleaning and picking up as possible. After all, that was one advantage of having an apartment all to himself.

Another thing Jason liked about having his own place was that he could do whatever he wanted. He liked watching steamy videos from an adult bookstore and pornographic shows on cable TV. From time to time, he also liked taking various women home for a night in bed. When he had a date lined up, he usually tried to clean the apartment and make the bed, just in case the woman might be willing to come to his place. Jason also liked smoking pot. Having his own apartment, he could do all sorts of things without taking anyone else into consideration.

Jason saw many advantages to having a place to himself, but there was one big disadvantage: it was expensive. The rent was more than Jason could afford. He was getting further and further behind on his payments, and his landlord was telling him he’d have to get out if he didn’t find a way to pay. After thinking about what to do, Jason decided to look for a roommate to share expenses. He didn’t have any close friends in the area, so he put a notice in the classified ads.

Only one person responded to the notice. When Jason found out who the person was, he was shocked. It turned out that William, the young man who wanted to share Jason’s apartment, came from one of the nation’s richest, most powerful families. William’s father was a government leader. The family had a fortune in various investments. William was going to be studying at an elite university nearby, but for some reason, he didn’t want to live in a fabulous penthouse apartment. Instead, he wanted to live in an ordinary place with an ordinary person, and Jason was the person he chose.

When Jason’s new roommate moved in, things began to change. William was not a slob; he liked things neat and clean. William did a lot to get the apartment in order, and before long, Jason felt uneasy being messy around William. He worked together with William to keep the place decent, making his own bed each morning and putting things where they belonged.

William was also a highly moral gentleman. He thought pornography was disgusting; he thought women should be treated with respect; he thought you shouldn’t go to bed with a woman unless you were married to her for life. He also thought it was bad to break the law and harm your brain by smoking pot. With William for a roommate, Jason began to see his old behavior in a different light. He canceled the smutty cable channels because he felt ashamed to watch such filth when he was in the same room as William. Jason stopped using women for his own pleasure, and he quit using drugs.

At first, Jason made these changes because he was in awe and even a little afraid of William. He didn’t want to make a bad impression on someone so important, and he certainly didn’t want to do anything to make William want to move out and stop helping with the rent. At times, Jason resented William for making him feel bad about his old ways, and now and then he still did things which obviously bothered William. But as time went by, Jason did such things less and less.

After awhile, it wasn’t just awe or fear of William that affected Jason. He found that he liked his new life and that he liked William. He enjoyed his friendship, his conversation, his kindness, wisdom, and encouragement. He liked meeting William’s family and circle of friends. Although they were rich and important, they weren’t snooty or spoiled. They were just bright, interesting, fun people to be with. At first Jason felt uneasy around them, but he eventually found that he was becoming more like them and fitting in with them. Jason was a new person, thanks to the new person living with him.

When God Moves In

What happened to Jason is a parable, a glimpse of what happens when God himself moves in with you. When you’re living on your own, without God in your life, you may like the feeling of freedom to do as you please. But after awhile you may find that you simply can’t keep going alone. You face things you can’t handle by yourself; you need someone else’s help. You need God himself to move in and live with you.

But why would God want to move in? It may be hard to see why a rich, powerful, moral person like William would want to live with a lower class guy like Jason, but it’s even harder to see why the holy, almighty God would want to live with low-class sinners like us. Still, whether we understand it or not, the fact is that God does want to live with us. Nobody is too low for the Lord to befriend. The Lord Jesus Christ came to earth and lived among us, and died on a cross to pay a huge debt. He paid the price for human sin—a debt we could never pay on our own. What’s more, Christ comes to us in the person of his Holy Spirit not only to live with us but to live in us. This new roommate doesn’t just live in the same place you do; he lives inside you.

Once the Holy Spirit makes his home in your heart, you won’t stay the same. You have resources to meet life’s challenges, and you will become a different kind of person. At first, you may change because of shame and fear of offending God, but after awhile you’ll be moved more by love and friendship. You’ll want to avoid sin, not just because it might bring you shame and pain, but because sin grieves the Holy Spirit. You’ll strive to please and honor the Holy Spirit—not just because you have to, but because you want to, and he is helping you to do so.

Maybe this all sounds strange to you. The Holy Spirit is hardly on your mind. You don’t have much awareness of the Spirit of Christ, and you don’t give much thought to how your attitudes and actions affect him. In that case, one of two things must be true: either you don’t have the Holy Spirit in your life at all, or else you’ve been ignoring and grieving him.

If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, if you don’t have a special roommate making his home in your heart, you’re not a Christian at all. You have not been saved by Jesus. It’s that simple. The Bible says that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). And if you don’t belong to Christ, it means your sins are not paid for. Your sin debt is growing worse and worse, and if you died right now, you would suffer in hell forever. Right now you may like living on your own without the Lord and doing whatever you please, but if you keep going that way, you’ll end up in a horrible place you can’t ever escape. So if you’ve never trusted in Jesus Christ, if you’ve never welcomed his Spirit into your life, please do so before it’s too late. Face your need. Realize that the only solution is for the Lord to move in, and humbly ask him to do so.

Perhaps, though, you’ve already put your faith in Christ some time ago and you’ve had his Spirit living in you for awhile. If so, you are a Christian—but take a moment to ask yourself, “What effect is the Spirit’s presence having on me?” Sad to say, even if you’re a genuine Christian, you can sometimes ignore your special roommate and grieve the divine Friend who lives inside us. When someone important and dear to you shares your life, you should consider that person in whatever you do. This is true of ordinary persons, such as a friend or spouse, and it’s supremely true of the Spirit of Christ. If we are Christians at all, the Holy Spirit lives in us, and we must cherish his presence and live in a way that delights and honors him.

When you have another person living with you, whether a friend or a spouse, you can’t act like you’re living alone or make a habit of offending that person. That also applies to life with the Holy Spirit. The Bible urges every Christian, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). When we do grieve the Spirit, we need to repent and ask his forgiveness and seek his help to change our ways. Then we need to honor him. How should Christians honor the Holy Spirit? Let’s consider three areas: recognition, communication, and participation.


The first, most basic part of honoring the Holy Spirit is recognition: realizing he’s there inside you and recognizing him for who he is. Nothing is more grievous than to ignore someone as though he’s not even there. How do you like it if you’re around someone who acts like you’re not even in the room? It’s insulting and upsetting, isn’t it? So how do you think the Holy Spirit feels if you go about your affairs without paying attention to him, even though he’s actually inside you wherever you go?

Honor the Holy Spirit by realizing he’s present inside you. The only case in which he’s not present, as we saw earlier, is if you don’t belong to Christ at all and are walking the road to hell. The Bible says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If you have no sorrow for sin, no faith in Jesus’ blood to cleanse you, no love for the Lord, no longing to serve and obey him, then you fail the test. But if these signs of true faith are evident, then Christ is in you by his Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in you! Don’t forget it! Don’t grieve the Spirit by ignoring him. Honor him by always being aware of his presence.

As you pay attention to the Spirit’s presence, be sure also to recognize his personality. The Holy Spirit isn’t just a thing or an abstract power; he is a Person, and we must relate to him as a Person. We must honor the Spirit by treating him as a real, personal companion and having a relationship of love with him.

But maybe you find the Holy Spirit’s personality mysterious and hard to know. In that case, keep in mind that the personality of the Spirit is just like the personality of Jesus Christ. In the mystery of God’s being, God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three Persons united as one God—the Holy Trinity. Although we can’t understand this completely, one thing it means is that when the Holy Spirit lives in us, Christ himself lives in us.

Jesus told his disciples that after he returned to heaven, he would come to them in the person of the Counselor, the Holy Spirit. “I will come to you,” said Jesus. “On that day you will realize that … I am in you” (John 14:18,20). That’s why a biblical writer who had the Holy Spirit could say, “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20) and why he could speak to Christians about “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). So if we’re not clear what sort of personality the Spirit has, we just need to know what Jesus is like. Whatever offends Jesus offends the Holy Spirit, and whatever honors Jesus honors and delights the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit doesn’t just make himself known to us in his own right as the third person of the Trinity, but he makes Jesus Christ known to us (John 15:26).] The Spirit unites believers with Christ and, through Christ, he connects us with God the Father in a relationship of love. Knowing and experiencing this is the most amazing, life-changing reality in the world. If a great and noble prince became your roommate, it might seem like an amazing thing, but it would be nothing compared to God living in you. The Lord is far greater than any prince, and he doesn’t just live with us; he actually lives in us. Honoring the Holy Spirit involves recognition of his presence and his wonderful, divine personality.


Another important way to honor the Spirit is communication. If someone lives with you and loves you, but you seldom talk to or listen to that person, you are wounding the relationship and grieving that person. When someone is always around you and is dear to you, you want to hear what that person thinks, and you want that person to hear what you think. So it is with the Holy Spirit. Communication is vital. According to the Bible, “no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God,” and the Spirit speaks to us “that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:11-12). To know what is on God’s mind, we must listen to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit speaks to us from the pages of the Bible, which was written under the Spirit’s direct guidance. When we read the Bible, the Spirit impresses various truths on our hearts and helps us hear him speaking to us personally. The Spirit also prompts certain thoughts in our minds to deal with particular situations in our lives. If we stay alert, we’ll hear his voice and feel his nudge. We grieve the Spirit if we neglect his words in the Bible or if we don’t listen for his leading in our daily lives. We honor the Spirit if, like the biblical psalmist, we love to hear his voice and consider God’s words to be sweeter than honey and more precious than gold (Psalm 19:10).

Communication involves listening; it also includes speaking. It involves talking to God in prayer and expressing what’s on our hearts. Does the Lord need us to talk to him in order to find out what we’re thinking? No, the Lord already knows us completely. He knows our thoughts before we speak them—he even knows our thoughts before we think them! If God already knows what we’re thinking even before we tell him, why would he still want us to talk to him in prayer? Well, smart moms and dads can often tell what’s bothering their children or what they’re excited about without the kids telling them, but parents still want their kids to tell them about it and express their thoughts and feelings and desires. It’s good for the child, and it’s a pleasure for the parent, even if the child is saying something the parent already knows. So too, even though the Spirit knows everything about us, it’s good for us and pleasing to him when we express ourselves in prayer. And if we don’t know what to say at times, the Spirit himself speaks on our behalf in ways that no human language can express but which God fully understands (Romans 8:26-27).

There’s no doubt, then, that communication is a vital part of honoring the Holy Spirit. Listening to what he declares in the Bible and to what he whispers in our hearts honors the Spirit by treating him as our most trusted Counselor. Speaking and pouring our hearts out in prayer honors the Holy Spirit by treasuring him as the perfect Listener and Friend.


In addition to recognition and communication, a third vital way to honor the Holy Spirit is participation. If you take part in the holiness and mission of the Spirit, you are honoring him. But if you resist his holy influence or try to accomplish things without his power, you grieve him.

It’s no accident that the Spirit is called the Holy Spirit. His character is holy, and he intends for everyone in whom he lives to participate in his holiness. This means that in everything you think or say or do, you must ask yourself how the Holy Spirit is affecting you and how your choice will affect the Holy Spirit. Will he be grieved or honored? Are you participating in his holiness or going against his influence?

For example, when you’re thinking about watching a TV program or a movie, keep in mind that the Holy Spirit will be watching it along with you. Will he enjoy it? Or will he be grieved? When you’re making decisions that involve sexuality, remember that whatever you do with your body doesn’t just involve you; it involves the Holy Spirit who lives in you, and it involves Christ himself. When the Bible warns Christians against sexual immorality, it doesn’t just say, “Naughty, naughty.” Scripture says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! … Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:15, 19). Do you really want to drag Christ into a house of prostitution or invite Christ along as you seduce someone on a date or take Christ with you to a filthy movie or have Christ look with you at dirty pictures on your computer screen? That’s what you’re doing if you’re a Christian involved in sexual sin.

It’s not just that God always sees whatever you do. That’s true of course, but it’s more than that. God isn’t just spying on you; he’s living in you. You’re not just breaking his commands; you’re breaking his heart. The Holy Spirit is grieved and disgusted when someone for whom Christ died and someone in whom he lives drags the Spirit along to a bar or a casino or a rotten movie or anything else that’s repulsive to God.

This applies to all your actions and words and attitudes. If you lie or gossip or cut people down, you’re grieving God’s Spirit in you. But if you say truthful things that build others up, you are honoring the Spirit and participating in his truth and holiness. If you have an angry, bitter, malicious attitude, you are grieving the Spirit. But if you are kind, compassionate, and loving, you are honoring the Spirit and participating in the love of Christ (see Ephesians 4:25-32).

Participation in the Spirit’s work involves personal holiness, and it also includes making use of the Spirit’s gifts and power in you. The Holy Spirit gives every Christian certain talents or gifts for doing God’s work. Find out what your Spirit-given talents are, make the most of them, and be open and eager to receive any further abilities and power which the Holy Spirit may choose to give you in the future. Also, respect and value gifts which the Spirit may give to other Christians but not to you. Don’t think that any Spirit-given talent is unimportant.

Honor the Spirit by prizing his gifts in you and in other Christians. “There are different kinds of gifts,” says the Bible, “but the same Spirit… Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:4, 14:1). Don’t stifle the rightful use of any gifts in God’s service, and don’t be a wet blanket who smothers the fire and excitement others may have in the Holy Spirit. “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

The Holy Spirit is the one who gives life and power to each individual believer and also to the church. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). We grieve the Spirit if we act as though our own power is enough to make things happen, or if we quench the fiery freedom of the Spirit’s power because we’re afraid to leave our comfort zone. We honor the Holy Spirit when we depend on his divine power and keep asking him to fill us with more. We honor the Spirit when we overflow with his love, joy, and peace and participate in the Spirit’s great work of making Christ known to the world.

By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.