Letter 01: The Indwelling & Overflowing Spirit

Dear Friends,

I love the film Notting Hill! It has all the ingredients necessary to cook up a heart-warming, tear-jerking confection of a movie. First, the filmmakers mixed a fairy tale atmosphere distilled of all reality with a will-they-won’t-they plot line that draws us in and keeps us guessing. Next, they seasoned the batter with a dreamy montage played over Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine. Then, a headlong race through crowded London streets was stirred in to bring a dash of action. Last, they added the sprinkles: a truth-telling Welshman, a fruitarian, and prescription snorkeling goggles. For two hours we are enticed by the romantic aroma wafting from our television sets. When the boy finally gets the girl, we’re eating it up by the shovel full. I have seen Notting Hill more times than a full-grown man probably should admit, and it still makes me choke up every time. How long will I love Notting Hill? Indefinitely.

I don’t want to run through the entire plot because you can just watch the movie for that. But, to summarize quickly - William Thacker, played by Hugh Grant, is a self-described, “rather diffident” travel bookshop owner. Through the kind of chance only a romantic comedy can provide, William meets the world famous actress Anna Scott, graced on screen by the lovely Julia Roberts. The two strike up an unlikely, topsy-turvy courtship that runs poor William ragged. Toward the end of the film, at a moment when they have not spoken to or seen one another for a long while, William visits the set of Anna’s new movie. They have a brief encounter during which Anna makes the hopeful statement, “Don’t go, there are things to say.”

This statement is how I feel at the end of every church service. Of course we must leave sometime. I mean, unless we leave the sanctuary how will we share the love of God with the world around us? Also, the roast needs to be taken out of the crock-pot. But, for me, the joy of being together with you all and encountering God as one, could stand to last a little longer. There at the piano, watching everyone shake hands, hug, and laugh with each other, I am quoting that line from Notting Hill in my heart.

Over the past few years, I have been recording the revelations and encouragements God gives me as short devotionals. When I am struggling to walk in faith, they serve as reminders of His great love toward me. Lately, there has been an urgency in my spirit to share these with you. But we have so little time! We only come together three times a week, and I am only able to be at just one of those! There are things to say, so by the leading of the Spirit, I am writing to you. I hope through this letter and the ones to follow to express the truths God has used to change my life. Freely He shared them with me; freely I share with you.

The Indwelling Spirit

One of my favorite moments in the Old Testament is found in 2 Chronicles 5. Solomon has just completed the temple, fulfilling the dream of his father David. On the day the temple was dedicated, the Ark of the Covenant was brought up from Zion and placed in the Holy of Holies beneath the Cherubim. When the Ark was set in its place, the Levites, singers, and instrumentalists assembled together and the song went up before the Lord and all of Israel. They praised the Lord with one voice, singing, “For He is good; for His mercy endures forever!” As they sang, the presence of God in a cloud filled the Holy of Holies! Then, overflowing into the temple’s outer courts, it put an end to all the priests’ ministering, because they could not see to carry on their duties.

It is against this backdrop that Paul frames his question to the Corinthians and to us, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). God’s design of that first temple is a type and shadow of His intention in our being. It stood as a prophetic symbol of God’s desire for His presence to rest on earth in His people. We find the first fulfillment of this prophecy revealed to us when the Holy Spirit descended upon and remained within Jesus at the point of His baptism.

Paul calls Jesus the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:22) because through Jesus’ rebirth, or resurrection, comes the new life we enjoy today. Through the first Adam, God gave humanity life, but that life was corrupted by sin. From that point until now, we are all born into this corrupted life, receiving death by sin; however, through the second Adam, God releases new life - resurrection life. “So that, just as sin reigned through death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (Ro. 5:21)

In the same way that Jesus is the second Adam, He is also the second temple. What God showed by the release of His presence into the first temple, He fulfills through Jesus. Speaking concerning His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus tells us, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn. 2:19). By these words, we encounter something truly wild. God’s intention is to move the place of His habitation on earth from buildings constructed of stone to hearts shaped by His hand. No longer will He reside in brick and mortar, but He will find His dwelling in flesh and blood.

Church, when we are born again, we are born again in the likeness of the second Adam. Being born again we are also constructed anew in the fashion of the second Temple. We are designed to be God’s holy of holies, and like Jesus, to be filled with God’s glorious presence.

The Overflowing Spirit

On the day of the dedication, the thick smoke of God’s presence filled every part of the temple. Joyous outburst of praise fell silent as the cloud poured from the Holy of Holies, rolling toward them like an avalanche. All the priests and all the people stood still, the smoke curling around their bodies, blinding their vision, filling their lungs, and saturating every fiber of their clothes and hair. For days afterward the streets of Jerusalem were certainly perfumed by the sweet fragrance.

When the Spirit comes to indwell us, His entrance is like that smoke. He fills our innermost being and seeks every opportunity to overflow into the world. Just as the presence of God billowed from the first Holy of Holies, and as the Spirit flowed from Jesus, He will break out from the inner place of His dwelling in us. His presence will put an end to our self-efforts to do the work of God. Rather than leaning on our own intellect, the Spirit will teach us by revelation. He will bring us dreams, visions, and prophecy to encourage us. From His overflowing, He can accomplish in us and through us the “greater things” Jesus promised. As we listen and obey, the Spirit residing in us, we will bring forth His fruits. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Our Father yearns to make Himself known to the world through us. He does this by the demonstration of His will through our obedience to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us the full scope of God’s will in the scriptures: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lep­ers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:7-8). This is God’s will for my life. It is His will for your life, but we are completely incapable of performing it. I cannot heal the sick, nor could I cleanse a leper. I’m pretty sure you can’t raise the dead. Those devils will remain firmly entrenched if we have to send them packing with our own power. But don’t despair; even Jesus didn’t seek to do the will of God in His own strength.

In John 5, Jesus tells us, “I only do what I see the Father do,” and later, “I only say what I hear the Father say.” The Messiah’s demonstration of God’s will was accomplished by obedience to the Spirit inside. This is the example of our elder Brother: being moved with compassion, He asked the Spirit, “What would You have me do?” What the Spirit revealed, He did - simple as that. If the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, did not move in His earthly wisdom but leaned fully on the leadership of the Spirit, why would we ever attempt to do anything else? Every miracle and sermon delivered by our Lord was given to Him by the Spirit. It must be the same for us.

Church, by the overflow of the Spirit from our inner man, we are to be the demonstration of God’s will in this world. This is our role in His kingdom. Therefore, when the Spirit leads we must move! Swiftly in perfect obedience and faith, we must move! Please, do not hesitate to obey. Behind the door of obedience lies the full provision and power of heaven. If we will step out in obedience, we will find the power to heal is in our fingertips! If we dare to believe His instruction, we will see the leper cleansed and the dead raised! If we will commit to love as He does, we will liberate the captive and freely give all we have! I am filled with joy at the thought of it.

Oh God, let us be that second temple. May Your pres­ence roll like an avalanche from each of our lives! Put an end to our self-effort. Accomplish Your super­natural will through our obedience. Yes, and let our streets be fragrant with Your Spirit, amen.

To my friends,
JW