What Difference Does the Holy Spirit Make?

I have been studying the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and what it means to keep in step with Him. The question, “What difference does God really make?” has become a running theme as I have studied.  Scripture is clear about the difference the Spirit of God makes on a spiritual level: heaven over hell, relationship with God over rejection by God, eternal hope over futility.

And these spiritual blessings in the heavenlies are certainly not to be overlooked or taken lightly. As a believer in Jesus Christ, indwelled by His Spirit, my earnest expectation is for a future glory that will render every pain of this earth, light and momentary.  The hope and delight I have in God’s precious plan cannot be described in words. Thus, I have no intention of belittling or negating these amazing differences that come into the life of a believer by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What I mean by the question however, is not what difference does the Holy Spirit make in our future. But what difference does he make in how we lives our lives right now, on this earth. What difference does He make in how I conduct business, go to school, handle my children, deal with conflict, build friendships, and basically “do life”?

Two reasons surface for why this question has become so important in my study of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. The first reason is simple. I see so many people unbelievers and believers alike, exhibiting behavior consistent with the fruit of the Spirit.  I read stories, and see clips on the news of individuals overcoming tremendous odds, great suffering, and gut-wrenching injustice and doing it in a manner full of grace and forgiveness. If the only evidence of human behavior we had to run with were the stories on day time talk shows, it would be easy to calculate the tangible difference of the Holy Spirit. But these stories are only part of the big picture. Other stories of amazing heroism, random kindness toward strangers, and genuine sacrifice also arise from the cesspool of our culture. And these stories are what give rise to the question within me, “What difference do you really make, God? If a person, within themselves can aspire to the greater virtues, and choose to live in a sacrificial, gracious, and loving way, then what difference does the Spirit make?”

The other reason for this question is more personal. If the Holy Spirit intends to make a difference in my life, I want to be in tune to that difference. He is not some “force” or “voice of conscience.” He is not some ideal to aspire to. He is a person. A Holy Being. My creator. I don’t want to work all my life on my own, and come to the end only to find out the Holy Spirit’s intention to make real change has been quenched by my zeal.

If God’s Spirit makes a real and tangible difference in how I live my life right now, what is  it? As I pray and ponder this question, I am still short of a comprehensive answer. But I do sense that God is revealing the answer bit by bit.

Growing stronger through pain is something the human heart is fully capable of. God has given us the capacity as men and women created in His image to not only survive, but thrive through adversity.  What the Spirit does in our lives is lead us on a path, not of personal strength and independence, but of weakness and neediness. The Spirit within allows the pain to drive us into the arms of God our Father. The Spirit takes that pain and uses it to demonstrate His strength, not individual human strength. The basic difference is one of purpose. The Spirit of God within us, allows us to purposefully choose to make much of Him and participate in His glory and renown, rather than in our own survival and success.

Humans can be very charitable, caring for the poor, and valuing the downtrodden. But without the Spirit these efforts have only temporal value. The Spirit gives value to the charitable intent. The Spirit turns that intent into glory for the Father. The Spirit makes our hearts yearn to participate in charitable ventures because of Who He is, not because of any self-gratification, or outside recognition we might receive. The Spirit gives eternal value to every sacrifice, every act of love, every choice to forgive.

So in the end, I guess the conclusion I am coming to is that the Spirit’s difference in eternity is the very thing that makes a difference right now. The Spirit in us, gives us the freedom to choose to live in eternity from the moment we are saved here on earth.


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