The Holy Spirit’s Presence
About the Guest
Jesus beside you or Jesus inside you. What would you prefer? Pastor J.D. Greear, author of the book, "Jesus Continued..." talks about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life. Sent to be our helper, Greear explains that it's the Holy Spirit who comforts, corrects, convicts, and ultimately points us to Jesus.
Jesus beside you or Jesus inside you. What would you prefer? Pastor J.D. Greear talks about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.
The Holy Spirit’s Presence
Bob: One of God’s greatest gifts given to us is the gift of His Spirit. Yet, Pastor J.D. Greear says, “A lot of us don’t fully appreciate the goodness of that gift.”
J.D: If you ask the average Christian:“Choose right now—you could have Jesus beside you this evening or the Holy Spirit inside of you,” most of them, if they were honest, would say, “I choose Jesus beside.” If you told them that Jesus was going to come and be the new pastor of their church, they would be ecstatic: “Jesus of Nazareth teaching every week.” Yet, they are not nearly as excited about the Spirit of God inside of them, and that shows us just how far removed we are from the reality of the promise that He was giving us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Do you understand and appreciate the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life, in your marriage, and in your family? We’re going to talk with J.D. Greear about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Anytime there is a book that crosses my desk on this particular subject, I think to myself, “Dennis is going to want to call and have this guy on as a guest.”
Dennis: I think the body of Christ does not understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit; and, I think, as a result, we’re anemic, spiritually. We are not powerful; and we need to be powerful today in the culture—in our marriages/families. I’m just glad J.D. Greear has written this book, Jesus Continued…. It’s subtitled Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You.
Welcome to the broadcast, J.D.
J.D: I’m so glad to be here, Dennis. Thank you.
Dennis: J.D. is the lead pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
He and his wife Veronica have been married since 2000. They have four children, ages four to eleven—today, at least—that’ll probably change next month.
J.D: Let’s hope not. [Laughter]
Dennis: And I’m excited you’ve written on this. You begin the book with the story of a man who was sitting in your office. Describe this man who was seated there.
J.D: Well, he was burned-out. He was tired in ministry. He felt like he knew all the things he was supposed to know about God—he certainly could have passed any doctrinal exam that he would have encountered.
Dennis: In fact, he was educated; wasn’t he?
J.D: He was educated. He had degrees in theology. He just—he could articulate many things about God, but he just felt a relational disconnect from God. As he read the Bible, what he saw in the Bible made him—I guess you could say jealous because it seemed like people in the Bible had this encounter—
—where God wasn’t just somebody, who recorded some stuff in the past, and then gave them assignment—but God actually interacted with them.
This guy felt like God was almost like an absentee teacher—Jesus was an absentee teacher, who would give him an assignment, and then left the room. You are busy trying to get the assignment done because He’s going to come back, and He’s going to hold you responsible for it. He just felt this relational disconnect.
Then, he—the other thing that began to happen is—he started to feel like no matter what he was doing, it was never enough. I mean, how do you, in a world—where there are so many people have never heard about Jesus and so many people that are captors in the sex slave trade—I mean, how do you ever enjoy any part of your life, knowing that that’s out there?
So, this guy sat as a weary and burned out man. His relational disconnect, I think, was making him susceptible to the lusts of the flesh. This guy was the pastor of the church—his name was J.D.—it was me! It was—I had taught on this for years, and I just felt like:
“Something is missing—something crucial is missing from my walk with God.”
Dennis: You know, when I read that story, I thought, “That could be true of a lot of us, at some point in our Christian faith, until we find out about who the Holy Spirit is, why He came, what He came to do in our lives, and then, begin to experience Him.” And that’s really what you’ve attempted to do here—is trying to bring people into an experience / a personal experience in their lives—as a man, a woman, a wife, a husband, a mom, a dad, a grandparent. He came to live within us / empower us and live through us.
Bob: But you knew that—you knew about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Even sitting in your office, feeling defeated, you could answer all the right questions about the Holy Spirit.
J.D: You know, it seems like—when it comes to the Holy Spirit, Christians / orthodox Christians fall into one of two categories. On the one side, you’ve got some that are, shall we say, obsessed with the Holy Spirit.
It seems like the Holy Spirit always appears in some random confluence of events—you know: “The billboard was the same background color as the color of her eyes…” “The last two digits of the phone number was the same as her age, and I just knew the Holy Spirit was telling me to ask her out.” [Laughter] Ahh, sounds like a preamble to a restraining order to me—you know, I would go with that. Or they’ve had these kind of like manifestations, where the Holy Spirit makes them do just really bizarre things. That would be one side.
The other side—and this is probably more where I was coming from—is, maybe, in reaction to that, they ignore or neglect the ministry of the Holy Spirit all together. I believed in the Holy Spirit, but I related to Him in the same way I relate to my pituitary gland—I know that it is in there. I know it is essential for something. I certainly would not want to be without it—but I don’t have any interaction or relationship with the Holy Spirit. You know, I worship the Holy Duet—is how I would say it—God the Father and God the Son; or my functional Trinity was God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible.
But there was something that Jesus indicated that was so important about the Holy Spirit that He told His disciples that they should see this to their advantage—that He go away and they receive the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know the Holy Spirit that way.
Dennis: Yes, it actually an astounding statement that Christ makes—He said, “It is to your advantage”—
J.D: Yes, to your advantage. I mean, think about—
Dennis: —“that I leave, and that I go back to the Father.” Now, that sounds contradictory; doesn’t it?
J.D: Think about how absurd that must have sounded to those first disciples when they heard it. How awesome would it have been to have had Jesus as a constant companion for three years? Every night, you go back, you sit around the campfire, you’ve got a theological question—bam!—Jesus answers it. You’re at a party, you run out of Chex® Mix—bam!—Jesus multiples the Chex Mix. Your dog dies—bam!—Jesus raises the dog back from the dead. [Laughter] Your cat dies. Jesus digs a hole to help you bury the cat because, you know, that’s how He feels about cats. [Laughter] That’s probably not exactly what it was like, but—
Dennis: We have a large, large degree of listeners who love cats.
Bob: Cat-loving listeners.
Dennis: We apologize.
J.D: I’m sure that will be edited out.
Dennis: We apologize for our guest, right now. Continue on.
J.D: So, I mean, it would have been just amazing to have Jesus as a companion. Yet, Jesus said, “If you really understood who the Holy Spirit is and what is being offered to you in Him”—“If you had to choose Jesus beside you or the Spirit inside of you, you would choose the Spirit inside of you.”
I think it’s a very sobering question. If you ask the average Christian, “Choose, right now—you could have Jesus beside you this evening or the Holy Spirit inside of you,”—most of them, if they were honest, would say, “I choose Jesus beside.” If you told them that Jesus was going to come and be the new pastor of their church, they would be ecstatic: “Jesus of Nazareth preaching every week.” Yet, they are not nearly excited about the Spirit of God inside of them. That shows us just how far removed we are from the reality of the promise that He was giving us.
Bob: So, from sitting in your office—
—feeling exhausted, feeling empty, feeling dry, and going, “I need something more,” where’d you go? I mean, how do you go from “I have an awareness of my pituitary gland,” to having a functional relationship with the Spirit inside of you?
J.D: Well, having seen and experienced a lot of—I guess you would say—mystical things that are really more in line with the New Age movement than they are with biblical Christianity, I wanted to really uncover: “What does the Bible say about the experience of the Holy Spirit?”
I knew that it wasn’t the pituitary-gland thing because you just don’t see that in Acts. The Holy Spirit shows up 59 times in the Book of Acts. In 36 of the 59, He is speaking. Now, I get that the Apostles are in a different category than we are. I mean, they could write the Bible—that sets them apart—
—but you just can’t convince me that the only book that God gave us that records stories of people walking in the Spirit are filled with stories of people whose experiences have nothing in common with us. So: “What are the ways that we experience the dynamic, moving, and leading presence of the Holy Spirit?”
Dennis: And I like where you start—you don’t start with experience—you start with the Bible as the authority. I want our listeners to hear that because some of them are training sons and daughters to know how to think, biblically, as they grow up because they are going to encounter all kinds of mystical religions as they go away to college, to work, to service. They need to think from the Bible, not merely to the Bible.
J.D: Absolutely. Spirit divorced from Bible—when you leave out either side of that—you’re going to end up in spiritual disaster. Bible without Spirit leads you to dryness—spiritual deadness. Spirit without Bible leads you to—there is no telling where. More havoc has been wreaked in the church, following the words:
“God just told me…” than probably any other phrase there has ever been. So, it’s when you combine the Word and the Spirit—I mean, Jesus did it—He said, “My words are Spirit.” When you combine those two, that’s when Christianity explodes.
Bob: And we could even go so far as to say that Bible without Spirit is nothing because apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, we can’t understand the things of God. One of the things the Spirit does for us is to give us understanding; right?
J.D: Yes. The Holy Spirit—this is sort of a provocative statement—the Holy Spirit is a better teacher than Jesus was because the Holy Spirit was able to take the truth of the gospel, and in the right places and the right time, apply them to the recesses of our heart. That’s one of the reasons Jesus said, “It’s to your advantage…” Now, I’m not taking, at all, away there from the primacy of Christ or the fact that His work is finished. I mean, that’s not taking anything away from Jesus—it is recognizing that the Spirit has a vital and dynamic role that He plays in each believer’s life.
Dennis: He guides us. He teaches us. He directs us. He comforts us. He corrects us—brings conviction of sin we need to deal with in our lives. He’s at work in all kinds of relationships.
You tell the story of how you met Veronica and how the Holy Spirit—even though you weren’t really fully aware of the Holy Spirit’s work in your own life—how the Holy Spirit brought you guys together.
J.D: Yes. There was a sense—I mean, she was walking with God / I was walking with God. We were fairly mature Christians. I had a sense that God was prompting me to pursue a relationship with this girl. I saw her leading worship and just knew some things about her—I thought, “I really feel like—I feel like God wants me to go talk to her.” She shot me down.
Bob: Now, wait, wait, wait! Was it “I really feel like God wants me to talk to her.” or “That girl is so hot”?
J.D: See, that’s the beauty of it! I have no idea how to unscramble that egg; but something in my heart was saying, “Man!”
I prayed about it; and I was like, “God?” The first few times, she shot me down.
And I remember—I was leaving the place where she and I were both working—at a camp for one week for high school students. I was leaving. As I was walking out to my car, I felt this just—I know it sounds a little mystical and weird—but I felt this sense of “You need to go back and talk to her.” I argued: “Lord, I’ve already had this conversation twice. It didn’t go anywhere,”—a man’s got an ego he’s got to protect. I go back—now, had she shot me down that third time, I would have just assumed that was more biology than it was pneumatology—
J.D: —the Spirit at work in me. But—and I went back, and I talked to her. That’s where this remarkable train of events began to open up that led to our marriage.
What I think is key in that is—“What was the foundation of what I was doing?—was the Scripture. The Scripture told me what to seek in life, what to seek in a wife, and I was obeying those things. It was like I was pedaling the bike in obedience—
—and the Holy Spirit, as was necessary, was turning the handlebars to get me where He needed me to go.
Dennis: Okay. You and Veronica have now been married for more than 15 years. Undoubtedly, in the past week, the Holy Spirit has spoken to you—led you, guided you, convicted you in your relationship with her. Give me an illustration, from a practical standpoint, how this works out. The Holy Spirit in me, who is at work—He is teaching us, guiding us, comforting us, convicting. How has He worked in your marriage in the past week?
J.D: You know, I think it was actually in my time with God in the mornings that was a part of my relationship with her where I did not cherish her—was taking her for granted. It was just in the middle of a prayer time—sometimes, it almost feels like a random thought; and I have random thoughts all the time. So, not every random thought is from the Holy Spirit; but it was like: “This is an area where I want you to honor her more.
“This is a specific application of what it means to love her like Christ loves the church.”
Interestingly, Dennis, I acted on that later that day. Just the response that I got from her—I knew it was the Holy Spirit guiding me in obeying His Word so that I could be a blessing to my wife.
I’ll extend the circle just a little bit with my kids. I try to practice what I call “listening prayer,” which is to—as I pray for my kids: “What is the Holy Spirit showing me about their lives?” There was something about one of my daughters—you know, just some fear that she has—and so, I start praying about that thing and using Scripture to pray over her. You know, seeing sometimes the way that the Spirit of God uses those particular verses for healing and exhortation in their lives is—I mean, yes, the Bible is complete; but there is something about the Great Physician that takes the full medicine cabinet—and takes the right medicine, at the right time, and speaks a word that is healing.
Bob: So, you say you’re a guy, who has a lot of random thoughts. How can you tell when a random thought you have is a Spirit-prompted random thought versus something that just came into J.D’s head?
J.D: Well, unfortunately, this is the point in the program where I’m supposed to give a really tight three-sentence answer that everybody writes this down. There’s just—there’s none that’s in Scripture. Even Jesus indicated there would be a mystery to this because, in John 3:8, He said, “It’s something like encountering the wind.” And so, there is a mystery about it.
As I mentioned in the Book of Acts, He doesn’t always tell us how He spoke. I think one of the cardinal rules is—I never feel certain that God has said something if I don’t have a chapter and verse attached to it. I think there is just this sense that we got Scripture, which is certain; and then, we’ve got Spirit guidance, which we are always to hold loosely.
Bob: And how do you test those random thoughts to go: “Okay, I just had this thought. I wonder if that’s from the Spirit / I wonder if that’s the pizza I had last night.”
How do you know—or how do you put it to the test? Maybe, you don’t know; but how do you try to discern in that process?
J.D: Yes. So, in the book, I identify that there are, at least, five ways the Spirit of God speaks: One is through the Word. One is through our giftings, where the Holy Spirit puts a particular gift in us. One is through the church. One is through our spirit, where God puts something heavy on our spirit to go and pursue. And the other is circumstances.
All of those—the last four, except for Scripture—are the ones I’m saying to hold loosely, and always in tension with each other, and always subject to the Word. I will give you an example, personally. I was—early in my ministry, I travelled with a friend, who was preaching at a very small church. We had this deal—we were fresh out of college—that if ever one or the other of us played a joke on the other one, publicly, you had to go along with it—you had to see it through. He knew that I could play three songs on the piano: one was Hallelujah, one was As the Deer Pants for the Water, and the third was Faithfully by Journey. [Laughter]
So, at the end of his sermon—there is like 30 people there in this church—the piano player was sick. He gets this little twinkle in his eye; and he says: “I brought my friend along today, and he’s a pianist. I’d like for him to come up here and lead the invitation hymn.” I walk up—and like I said, I can play three songs. I knew Faithfully wasn’t appropriate in that context. So, I played Hallelujah—it’s only three cords—I can twiddle my fingers. The pastor’s wife comes up afterwards; and I could tell she’s like: “God’s given me a revelation for you boys. He put something on my spirit.” I think this happens sometimes—I think God guides us this way.
Well, she says to my friend—she says: “You’re going to be the next Billy Graham. You’re going to preach, and thousands / tens of thousands of people are going to come to Christ.” She looks at me and says: “You’re going to be his concert pianist. You’re going to travel with him, and you’re going to play and bring the multitudes in.”
Dennis: Cliff Barrows.
J.D: Yes, that was who I was going to be. [Laughter] Now, my hands—
—you’re listeners can’t see them—are more like meat cleavers than finely-tuned instruments. That’s just God—genetically, I do not have any rhythm. So, while I believe that God sometimes—and He has spoken to me before through people and given me different words of guidance—I hold that loosely. In that case—weighing out the prophecy—clearly, she was not telling me something that was from God, even though she was sincere.
Bob: You didn’t go enroll in Juilliard the next day as a result of her word of knowledge there?
J.D: I did not!
Dennis: If we could call Veronica right now and ask her, “Veronica, what quality best illustrates the work of the Holy Spirit in J.D.’s life in your 15 years of marriage?” what do you think she’d say?
J.D: Our first three or four years of marriage were rough. Part of the reason was because I knew all the answers and I was a Pharisee when it came to Christianity.
I was constantly judging her for where she wasn’t living up to—I had these expectations: “This is what you should be.”
One of the first things she would probably say is: “At a point where our marriage could have really dissolved, in answer to prayer, God spoke a word to me that illuminated the right part of my heart, at the right time, that completely changed how I saw the gospel, and then in response, how I saw her.” Over the years, God has been faithful—neither of us are perfect, and sometimes, we go months without realizing errors—but she sees that, as I pray for her and she prays for me, God will illuminate a certain part of our hearts.
Dennis, there comes a point at which arguing about stuff only gets you so far—and then, the Spirit of God—“Because she told me that stuff before!”—but the Spirit of God suddenly turns the light on; and you say, “Now, I see.”
Dennis: You know, what you are describing is a teachable heart.
Right now, we have to be speaking to listeners, whose hearts are hardened / whose hearts are no longer responsive. And I just want to encourage our listeners to take what we’re talking about here—this is not theoretical—this is Christianity. This is the living and breathing experience of Almighty God, the One who created a billion galaxies and slung them into outer space, who is here, right now, working in your heart / your life—who wants to break through, who would like to live in and through you to impact your spouse, your children, your relationships, your church, your community.
J.D: Scripture says, “God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble in every area.” C.S. Lewis used to say: “The reason the proud never hear from God is because they are so busy looking down on everybody else, they can’t see anything that is above them; and God is above them. He’s talking to them, but their eyes are always looking downward.”
Dennis: So, the question is: “Are you looking down, or are you looking up?—and are you listening?”
Bob: Yes. Are you aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit is with you, that He is in you, that He is bringing conviction, or comfort, or humility, as you’re talking about here? Do you understand the role of the Holy Spirit? I think a lot of folks are going to get a better understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit when they get a copy of your book, J.D.—it’s called Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
Go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,”—that you see in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. You can order J.D’s book from us, online. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the “GO DEEPER” button; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order over the phone—
—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I’ve been thinking, as we’ve been talking today about the fact that, really, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is essential for us to know and to understand if our marriages and if our families are going to be lived out as God would have us live them out, we have to walk in and live by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we are relying on our own strength / our own power, then, we are headed in the wrong direction.
And that’s a part of what we want to make clear, every day, as you listen to FamilyLife Today. Our firm conviction is that your marriage needs to be grounded on the bedrock of God’s Word, in the hand of God’s Spirit, because it’s the Spirit using the Word that brings transformation and hope in a marriage and a family.
And I want to thank the folks who partner with us to make this daily radio program possible—it’s those of you who are Legacy Partners, and you give monthly in support of this ministry—or those of you who make a donation, from time to time. We appreciate anyone who says, “I think what you’re doing is important, and I want to be a part of what God is doing through this ministry,”—you go to the website, or you pick up a phone, or you mail a donation to us. We’re grateful whenever we hear from you.
Right now, if you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, click the link that says, “I CARE,” and make an online donation, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a couple of books—a book for men from Dennis Rainey—the book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, and a book from Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian—it’s called True Woman 201: Interior Design. So, it’s a book for men / a book for women; and we’ll send that out when you can help with a donation of, at least, $50 in support of the ministry. Again, you can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation by phone. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’ll continue our conversation with Pastor J.D. Greear talking about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I hope you can tune in for that.
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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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