Pursuing the Holy Spirit
About the Guest
The Holy Spirit is mysterious. Author and pastor J.D. Greear explains the difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which occurs at baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit which can occur repeatedly in a believer's life. J.D., Dennis, and Bob share stories about the Spirit's influence in their marriages.
J.D. Greear explains the difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which occurs at baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit which can occur repeatedly in a believer’s life.
Pursuing the Holy Spirit
Bob: How is the Holy Spirit at work in our marriage? Here’s Pastor J.D. Greear.
J.D: We understand that the Holy Spirit’s primary purpose in our lives is to make us more like Christ. For both of us, one of the most effective tools that He has used / earthly tools in our lives has been our marriage because that’s revealed to us where we are not like Him, and then, used that hammer to shape us / reshape us so that we become more like Him.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 12th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about your marriage and the Holy Spirit—how the two go together. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I think a lot of people are confused about how to—or whether they even should—be pursuing the work of the Spirit in their life. Is God’s gift of the Spirit to us something that He’s given to us that is going to function kind of on autopilot—we just let it happen when it happens? Or should we be seeking the work of the Spirit more and more in our lives?
Dennis: I’ve got an opinion about that, but I know for sure our guest does because he’s put his opinion between two covers—it’s the book, Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You. J.D. Greear joins us again. Welcome back.
J.D: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Dennis: He’s a pastor in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He has four children—been married since 2000. Answer Bob’s question.
J.D: Yes, the Spirit of God is so indispensable to the Christian life that Jesus told us it would be to our advantage for Him to go away if it meant we would receive the Holy Spirit.
Really, the whole book is me exploring, “What does that promise mean?” I know that it might be mysterious; but there was something that was so crucial that, if we could choose Jesus beside us or the Spirit inside us, we would hit the Spirit inside of us.
Bob: So, when I became a Christian, I was baptized into the body of Christ—baptized into the Spirit is the way the Bible describes it; right?
J.D: That’s right.
Bob: That means I’m immersed in what the Spirit is doing in the world.
Dennis: Yes. Let me just ask you something at that point, Bob. How much of that did you know?
Bob: Oh, the day I became a Christian, it was immediately—
Bob: Yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: The answer is: “You didn’t know any of that.”
Bob: No idea what was going on.
Dennis: So, it’s a lot like being born into a family—at that point, did you know your identity?
Dennis: Did you know your heritage?—where you came from and where you were headed and the family you were born into? No.
Bob: So, I’m tossed into the pool where the Spirit is at work. In addition, I am indwelt with the Spirit—the Spirit is now with me / alongside of me—
—so, I’m both baptized, and I’m indwelt. The Bible also talks about being filled with the Spirit, but that’s different than the baptism or the indwelling; isn’t it?
J.D: Yes, that is—I mean—you don’t want to get too caught up in all the different words; but, when the Bible says, “baptism,” it’s talking about a one-time event, where the Spirit of God places you into the body of Christ—1 Corinthians 12:13: “By one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body.” The filling seems to occur repeatedly.
You know, we see references to the early church being filled with the Spirit in Acts 4. It doesn’t mean they didn’t have Him before. It just meant that they become more aware of His presence. Anybody who has walked with God for any length of time realizes there are times when the Spirit of God makes certain truths of Scripture or the love of God just come alive to you.
The way—I think Paul probably defined it best in Ephesians 3, when he prayed for the Ephesian believers—that they would know how wide, and how high, and how long, and how deep was the love of God for them in the gospel. He said, “because, then, you will be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Depth in understanding of the love of God for you is what gives you the sense of the presence of God inside of you.
Bob: He went on to say in Ephesians that, when you are filled with the Spirit, He controls your behavior—not like a puppet and a puppet master—but what you do are the things that you are prompted by the Spirit to do.
J.D: That’s right. You know, the Spirit of God changes your character—makes you more like Christ—that’s Him taking the Word of God and reshaping your heart into the character of God; but then, there are certain applications. You know, we see Paul, for example—being told to go in one place, in Acts 16, and not in another, even though he wanted to go a different direction. Nehemiah—Nehemiah says that God put it on his heart to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem. There is never a verbal command that’s given in Nehemiah—it’s just a passion that God gave him.
You wonder: “How many listeners are there that there is a particular passion for some part of the ministry that God has given to them?”—He is saying: “This people group,” or “This career field,” or “This person is somebody that I want you to reach out to.”
Dennis: You go back to the New Testament and the words of Christ—who basically, in a paradoxical way, made an interesting statement—He said, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more is your Heavenly Father”—and implied is: “who is good, not evil”—“able to give the Holy Spirit to those who seek Him.”
J.D: Yes, you know, it’s—you wonder why He used the word, “evil,” in that context. Was that just a gratuitous insult?—you know like: “Hey, just wanted to remind you of your depravity.” I think the reason is because most of us, when we are parents, feel like we are being at our most loving when we are dealing with our kids—He said, “Even in that moment, when you are at your most-loving, compared to your Heavenly Father, you’re evil.” He says: “Well, if you parents—if your kids ask you for a chicken nugget, you’re not going to be like, ‘No chicken nuggets, but here’s a cobra to play with.’”
He says, “If you wouldn’t do that, and you are evil, imagine what the perfect Heavenly Father—of course, He’s not going to withhold the Holy Spirit from you,” which is the one thing you absolutely need to do anything of significance in the Christian life.
Dennis: And you talk about how we need to be seeking the power of the Holy Spirit. Are you talking about seeking the filling of the Holy Spirit?
J.D: Absolutely; I’m talking about seeking His presence more inside of me because I need—as a dad / as a man—I need to sense His love / His presence. He needs to grow larger in my life.
I need the fullness of the Spirit in parenting. I need to be able to instruct my children / love my children, not with the powers of the flesh but with the Spirit. I need the fullness of the Spirit, as a pastor, when I am explaining the Word of God to people, whether I am sitting next to them on an airplane or whether I am standing up in a pulpit. I don’t want to do anything apart from that power.
Bob: So, have you had some of your Baptist friends read your book and go, “You’re going a little ‘Bapticostal’ on us, J.D.”? Have you had that?
J.D: You know, yes, certainly; but really, when you get into the Scripture—
Bob: You’ve heard that before; haven’t you?—Bapticostal. Sure. [Laughter]
J.D: A lot of these things Christians believe—I say this at the beginning of the book—is you can get really quagmired really quickly into these things that really are secondary or even third level. They have their place. We need to talk about whether—what the role of tongues is and—but the real issue is—God wanted to be a living, moving, dynamic presence among His people. I don’t know any Bible-loving Christian that would not agree to that. So, what does that look like?
Dennis: So, what does it look like for a husband and a wife to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit?—to be seeking His filling, day-in and day-out, in the most intimate of all relationships, where two imperfect people live with each other.
J.D: Well, I think we’re on good footing here because, as you mentioned, the marriage is supposed to be the representation of the gospel / the Trinity.
We would expect that the Holy Spirit would love to create in us the image of Jesus—that’s what He loves to do—is direct us toward Jesus.
For me and my wife to be filled with the Spirit, in relation to each other, means that almost daily I’m asking: “Where is my relationship with my wife? Where does it not resemble the love of Christ for the church?” For her—she’s got the questions that she needs to ask. Asking God: “Will You make me like You? Will You make me love her to the point that I’ll lay down my life for her the way that Christ was with the church?” It means that we are sensitive to how the Holy Spirit is pointing out sin.
I, very quickly, become numb to my sin against her. A lot of times, I won’t listen to her pointing those things out to me; and if I close myself off to the Holy Spirit, I’m cutting myself off from the source of life in our marriage.
Dennis: Need to listen to your wife.
Dennis: Yes. I’ve used this illustration a couple of times, recently; but it’s good for humility, here on the national radio, to admit this. I had spoken rashly to my wife; and the Holy Spirit said, “You need to go ask her forgiveness,”—to which I responded: “I don’t want to. You know, in this situation, I was mostly right.” And the Holy Spirit said, “I think your judgment of what’s mostly right is mostly wrong is a little tarnished at this point.” And I had to go and look my wife in the eyes and say, “You know—I’m sorry.” It wasn’t long—it wasn’t like it was a couple of months later—it was a few hours later, but I went and asked her forgiveness. To which, she was very grace-filled in her response to me as I came and apologized and asked her to forgive me for what I had done specifically.
And I don’t want to get legalistic about this; but I think, when men or women hurt one another, they need to be specific and admit—go ahead and admit what they have done.
I think there is something about us, men, where it gets caught just a few inches south of the Adam’s apple—it’s called pride, where we don’t want to admit, specifically—
Bob: You mean—name it, specifically.
Dennis: I mean—yes.
Bob: Say the words.
Dennis: “I was angry when I said this to you, and I am sorry. Will you forgive me? I’m sorry I hurt you.”
J.D: You think about how many times we quench the Holy Spirit through our relationship with our spouse. That’s Paul’s command—“Do not quench the Spirit.” I tend to think that my sin against my wife: “It’s not that bad. It’s not harming anything.” God says, “I am putting out the fire,”—the life-giving fire / the warmth of the Holy Spirit in my marriage when I have unconfessed sin / when I will not acknowledge my wrong to her. I’m literally pouring water on the flame that keeps our marriage alive.
Dennis: Let’s just have a little confession here. I’ve shared my story. Bob, you’ve got a story recently from you and Mary Ann? And then, it’s coming to you, in a second, J.D.
You’re the one—
J.D: Let me text my wife real quick and see—she’ll give about ten answers.
Bob: I don’t know that there is necessarily a conviction of sin story that jumps to mind; but when I think about just walking in the power of the Holy Spirit—you’ve mentioned this already, J.D.—it’s the whole idea of being sensitive to the needs of another person and how I can serve those needs.
I’m not naturally a morning person; okay? Dennis can attest to this—he’s seen me enough mornings, here at the office, where—I like to say I get to work at about 8:30 / I’d wake up about 10. So, there’s this gap in here between where I’m functional. Well, what that means, around the house, is that when I wake up in the morning, that’s not the most relational time of the day for me. Now, it’s pretty easy for me to just go: “Look, that’s the way I am; okay? So, don’t expect me to be relational, first thing in the morning.”
Well, there were a couple of days, recently, that were very busy; and what it meant was—in the evening, where Mary Ann and I usually have time to spend time together / be relational—we just weren’t together. She was at the women’s Bible study one night / I was at a meeting the other night—we just kind of missed each other. Well, that meant: “You know what? I need to figure out how I can be relational in the morning,”—first, because I missed the time with my wife; but secondly, because she’s missing that. She has a need—I need to be sensitive to that. I had the Holy Spirit tap me on the shoulder and say, “That’s something—don’t just say, ‘Well, I’m tired, and we’ll get to this later.’”
Dennis: What you are hearing there is a teachable spirit—being willing to hear when it’s being pointed out in your heart by Almighty God: “You know what? I think you need to correct something here.”
What about you, J.D.?
J.D: You actually took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to say that no one understands my sinfulness other than the Holy Spirit—
—and maybe me—more than my wife does. Yet, I know that—whenever she point out: “You know, I think you might be being self-centered here,” “I think you might be—you’re not giving this person the benefit of the doubt,” I always—my initial reaction—is to resist it because I’m just proud with her—I don’t want to acknowledge it. I realize that, in that moment, I’m actually not just resisting her—I’m resisting the Holy Spirit.
I’m not saying everything my wife says is from the Holy Spirit, but what is happening is—my sin is being exposed. Rather than confessing my sin and receiving forgiveness, I puff myself up with pride; and I quench the Holy Spirit’s activity in my life in that moment.
Dennis: Is your wife busy right now? [Laughter] No; is she? You think she’d be available for a phone call—
J.D: She probably would be.
Dennis: —to just get an eyewitness to what you’re talking about here?
Bob: He’s serious. So, you better—if you’re here to protect your wife—
J.D: Do you have a three-hour program?—because she might keep going.
Dennis: Yes, let’s give her a call.
Bob: I think we can get her on the line. Let’s see if—it’s ringing. Veronica?
Bob: It’s Bob Lepine from FamilyLife Today.
Bob: She sounds thrilled to hear from me, Dennis. [Laughter]
Dennis: Hi, Veronica! This is—
Dennis: —Dennis Rainey.
J.D: I left her at home with four kids.
Bob: Yes, I understand.
Dennis: I just wanted to call you because your husband is here in the studio—
Veronica: Hey, babe.
J.D: Hey, babe. How are you?
Dennis: —and he’s written a book, as you know, about the Holy Spirit’s work in his life. We just, frankly—we just are looking for a little authentication here—an eyewitness—who can tell us that the Holy Spirit is at work in her husband’s life. [Laughter]
Veronica: Oh, yes. I got you!
Dennis: Okay. How have you seen, in your 15 years together—how have you seen your husband change because of the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart?
Veronica: Oh, man! I mean, you know, I think—when I think about it—
—since I’ve lived with him, day-in and day-out, I think of it in tangible small things. I think after years of being married, I see that he’s much more sensitive to what I might need in a situation or what I might want.
I think, for us, having kids was the best thing for our marriage. I think for some people it doesn’t work that way, but seeing him just becoming really tuned in to what was going on when he didn’t necessarily have to be / it wasn’t required, that’s probably the biggest way. Then, he tries to adapt to it—he tries to come around and meet those needs where he can.
Bob: Veronica, he said the first couple of years of marriage were kind of rocky for you guys.
Bob: Was it—you both—you loved Jesus / you both were committed to Christ.
Bob: What was the problem?
Veronica: Well, I think it was sort of a blindside for me since that’s kind of what I went into it thinking—I mean: “He loves God. I love God. Surely, we’ll be happily married.”
You know, I think, for him—he says something different than I’d say.
J.D: I told them it was all your fault. [Laughter]
Veronica: Okay, well—
Dennis: No, he didn’t do that.
Bob: So, you’re saying you had an expectation that there would not be marital conflict—that there’d not be disagreements—you guys would just be on the same page and would—
Bob: —smile at each other?
Veronica: I thought I was really fine, and I thought he would be having a great time with me. We would just be dancing through the meadows. So, when he was disappointed with me and he was let down, I was devastated. I really had this idol of him being pleased with me and happy with me. I could not handle it when he wasn’t, and there were lots of times that he wasn’t.
J.D: And the Holy Spirit had to show me that there was a very self-centered nature that I carried into our marriage—which I thought—but when I was single, it was like, “I live for me.” Then, now, that I was married—now, I’ve got two people to live for me; and: “You’re here to make me happy too.” [Laughter] It wasn’t that she was failing—
—it’s that I had entered marriage with focus on self, as opposed to the way Christ entered a relationship with the church, which is on the church.
Dennis: Yes, but don’t we all enter into marriage focused on self? I was just with a newly-married couple this past weekend. I said, “Well, what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the first six months of your marriage?” And the guy said, “Death to self.” [Laughter]
Dennis: “It is daily funerals,” he said, “I’ve got to go to daily funerals, putting myself to death.”
Are you saying, then, Veronica, that J.D. didn’t dance through the fields? He kind of—
Bob: Meadows—it was the meadows.
Dennis: In the meadows. He stomped off through the meadows? Was that what you were saying?
Veronica: I mean, I think I was in a meadow; and I don’t know where he was! [Laughter] We weren’t dancing in the meadows at first.
Bob: J.D., one of the things God gives us the Holy Spirit for is to wean us from our addiction to self; don’t you think?
J.D: Yes; absolutely. Whenever the Holy Spirit comes, the focus is never on you and it’s never on the Holy Spirit.
It’s always on Christ; and then, by extension, His people—others. The sure sign that somebody is not filled with the Holy Spirit, regardless of what they say, is when the attention is on anything but Jesus and the church.
Dennis: So, Veronica, in your life, what would you say has been the biggest work of the Holy Spirit or a major work of the Holy Spirit in your 15 years of marriage?
Veronica: Oh, I think I would say—it sounds funny, but it wasn’t that funny at the time—that I thought I was—I just thought I was a picnic; you know? I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t thinking I was a picnic. So, I think the Holy Spirit has just continued, and continued, and continued to show me what’s really wrong with me / what’s really going on deep down and that He really had to go pretty far to save me. That’s, I think, the thing for me.
J.D: You know, but I think both of us say that we understand the Holy Spirit’s primary purpose in our lives is to make us more like Christ. For both of us, one of the primary, most effective tools that He has used / earthly tools in our lives has been our marriage because that’s revealed to us where we are not like Him, and then, used that hammer to shape us / reshape us so that we become more like Him.
Dennis: I can assure you—Barbara and I have been married 42 years. We’re still under construction—the Holy Spirit is still at work. And just to your point, Veronica—to put a double underline underneath what you just said—there are certain issues I’m sorry He’s still at work at in my life and Barbara’s life, but the key thing is we see Him at work—He has not given up on us.
Bob: And stop and think how horrible J.D. would be if he hadn’t married you 15 years ago. [Laughter]
Veronica: That’s a dark road you don’t want to go down. [Laughter]
Dennis: You are a good sport to allow us to interrupt your afternoon, and thanks for being on the broadcast.
Veronica: I will. Thanks so much. I enjoyed it.
Dennis: She wasn’t expecting her call at all.
J.D: She wasn’t. [Laughter]
Dennis: But it’s real family life. It’s where all of us live, and it’s not some pie-in-the-sky theology. This is gritty stuff—living out the Christian life in this most intimate of all relationships.
Bob: And don’t you think it’s fair to say—“If we want to look at our own marriages and families and say: ‘Is the Holy Spirit present here? Is He working here? Is He active here?’—we can say, ‘Is there love? Is there joy? Is there peace? Is there patience?’” I mean, you know the list I’m referring to—
J.D: I do know that list.
Bob: —Galatians, Chapter 5—the fruit of the Spirit,—
Bob: —not just in our lives, but in our relationships.
J.D: Yes, I think of the words, as you’re talking, of Robert Murray M’Cheyne who says: “That man is a hypocrite who is a Christian everywhere except for home.”
J.D: And if that’s true, then, you think about the primary theater—
—the primary theater for the Holy Spirit to do His work is, not from the pulpit or from the choir loft—the primary place is in the home and in those relationships.
Dennis: And your children are getting their picture of what real Christianity truly is from you, as a couple.
J.D., thanks for your work on this book and for calling all of us, really, back to a biblical anchoring and belief about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I appreciate you and hope you’ll come back and join us again sometime.
J.D: I would be honored to. Thank you for having me, Dennis.
Bob: I hope our listeners will get a copy of the book you’ve written called Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You. It’s available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center, which you will find online at FamilyLifeToday.com. When you get there, click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” Right there is where you’ll see J.D.’s book, Jesus Continued…; and you can order it from us online.
Once again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order the book by phone—call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask for the book, Jesus Continued…—1-800- 358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, we’ve got a few folks we need to say, “Thank you,” to today, who help make today’s radio program possible. And I say a few folks—it’s actually listeners in cities all across America who make each day of FamilyLife Today possible through their support of this ministry. Whether you are a Legacy Partner or an occasional contributor to the work of FamilyLife Today, we are grateful for the critical part you play in this ministry as you provide the fuel so that we can take this program into more communities, not only here in the United States, but all around the world. You’re helping to make that possible as you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
And if you’re able to make a donation today, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a couple of books—one for men and another one for women. The men’s book is Dennis Rainey’s classic book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. For women, we’d love to send you a copy of the new book from Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss called True Woman 201: Interior Design. Both books are our way of saying, “Thank you,” when you support the ministry with a donation today of $50 or more.
You can do that, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “I CARE,” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone. And of course, you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And with that, we’ve got to wrap the week up. Thanks for being with us.
Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family can worship together this weekend in your local church and, then, join us back here on Monday when we’re going to talk about contentment—what you can do to cultivate contentment in your own life and how you can help your kids become more contented with life as well. Kay Wills Wyma is going to join us on Monday. Hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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