The Holy Spirit: A Question About the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

spirit-thumb.jpgI get emails —

I’ve been following your blog for some time now and have come to believe that what you are teaching is largely correct. …

Also, this idea of having the indwelling of the Spirit is new to me and I wonder . . . if I can’t tell that I’ve got the indwelling of the Spirit, does that mean I don’t have it? I know I should be developing the fruits of the Spirit but I really have no sense of this happening in me.

I really appreciate your ministry and the good it does. There are many hundreds of thousands of us “conservatives” out there who need to see the light.

Thanks so much for your time and for any assistance you can offer.

I’m regularly impressed by the wisdom of the readers (well, most of them). I thought this would be a good one to pass along to the readers for an answer. What do you think?

[The ellipsis in the quote omits a second question that we’ll take up in a couple of days.]


20 Responses

  1. Part of this reader’s dilemma, in my view, is the unspoken expectation that the Spirit dwelling in us will have some overt, obvious manifestation. And personally, I think it’s more subtle.

    I think it’s important to seek the promptings from the Spirit. To seek the Spirit’s inspiration.

    Personally, I think the Spirit may manifest itself with the thoughts we have when we drive past someone with a flat tire on the side of the road and we think to ourselves, “Should I have stopped to help that driver?”

    I’m convinced the Spirit always prompts us to do the things that result in us loving one another the way Jesus loved us. And that’s often in very small things, not in big revelations.

  2. I agree with David (above), and since he said it better than I could have, let’s leave it at that.

  3. My own personal experience has been that the closer I am to God, the more that I understand His character, the more that I appreciate His working, the “louder” the Holy Spirit “speaks”. It can be in the form of subtle thoughts or it can be in the form of the same message from friends heard over and over and over again or sometimes my heart feels as though it will beat out of my chest.

    I think a true believer will know when they God’s Spirit is living in them. Paul wrote to the Romans that the Spirit (of God) will testify to our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16). We shouldn’t have to wonder.

  4. Are you actively trusting in and depending on Jesus Christ alone as both Savior and Lord? If you can honestly answer yes you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.


  5. LOL! I came back to post that for me personally I knew that I was indwelt with the Holy Spirit when I understood the full depth of my sinfulness, submitted to God’s sovereignty and placed my complete trust and dependence on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I see that Royce beat me to it.

  6. We Christians settle for subtleness because it is all we are taught. Why would Jesus state that we are one with Him and pray for the eyes of our heart to be open, only to live with the subtleness or “faith” (for many a mask for I cannot experience it in my heart where Jesus resides so I will settle for a cognitive understanding of it). Jesus is alive and can be felt as though He is alive. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in you, but what lies are you believing that limit it to “just having faith that He is there” God has boundaries. He is not going to force His true nature upon anyone who does not want to see it. He wants you to know the depths of His love experientially. Ask Him why you are not experiencing it.

    Also as far as implementing the fruits of the spirit. They are not mandates. We do not do the work to act loving, patient, kind etc. These are natural manifestation of truly grasping intimacy in Christ. As He does the work to transform your heart, you manifest these qualities.

    Remember His yoke is easy, His burden is light. He does the work because He is much better at it.

  7. David, your “unspoken manifestation” may be a God given desire to truly experience Him. We all desire intimacy and closeness. Unfortunatey bad theology leads us to think that we are to get this only from people. People and relationships are very important. God created them, but they cannot fulfill our deepest heart felt needs. We can attempt to get them too, but this leads to conflict because we were meant to partner with one another not complete. He did not die so that we be distant from Him until heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is within us. Do not let the enemy lead you to settle for less!

  8. I would probably need to have a personal conversation with the reader in order to fully understand his situation, but I would like to make one point that may be relevent.

    It takes time for fruit to develop, and it may develop largely unnoticed by yourself. For example, nearly a decade ago, I copied Philippians 2:14-16 on an index card and placed it on my desk at work. I was struggling with complaining on my job, and I wanted to change. I knew that my attitude was not honoring God. The index card stayed there for several months, but eventually I lost it. I even forgot about it.

    Earlier this spring, one of my co-workers made a comment that surprised me: “Terry, you never complain about anything.” I was surprised. Honestly, I had not noticed that I had stopped complaining on the job. But I remembered the index card with Bible verses on it from 10 years ago. Somehow the Holy Spirit had changed my attitude without me noticing it. It took time, and I don’t even know when it happened, but the Spirit bore fruit in my life (and as a bonus, I have had more of my co-workers attend church services with me in the last year than ever in my life). Others may need to point out to you when the Spirit has started to bear fruit. You may not have noticed.

    I hope this answer helps you.

  9. When we are sensitive to the “spiritual warfare” going on within us, we learn to recognize temptation to commit sin. We recognize this temptation as coming from the Devil who, I believe, does not indwell us.

    Do we make the mistake of believing that our good impulses come from ourselves? Or is it possible that those impulses come from God through the Holy Spirit? Philippians 2:12-13 speaks of us working out our own salvation, but also of God working in us (through the indwelling Spirit?) “both to will and to do” His good pleasure.

    I explored these thoughts somewhat in a blog entry I called “Tempted to Do Good.” You may read it at

  10. Terry, I totally agree with your comment. It is my firm conviction that God does the hard part. I, too, have come to love the encouraging words of Philippians 2:13, especially in the NLT. God even gives us the desire according to that verse. For some time I longed for an unidentified missing element in my life as a Christian. Almost without my noticing, God began a heart transplant in me. As I welcomed the working of His Spirit in my life, His fruit began to bud and blossom. But what happened was not of me. It was His working! My part was faith and the desire ~ and He gave me that! Sometimes we make it so hard on ourselves, forgetting perhaps that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us.

  11. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8

    Do you sometimes find yourself saying or doing things that are in harmony with the character of Christ?

    “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 13:52

    Are you occasionally aware that your are inexplicably joyous?

    “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” – Romans 8:9

    Do you belong to Christ?

    “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12:3

    Is it progressively easier for you to confess (and live) Jesus as your Lord?

    Could be the presence of His Holy Spirit in your life!

    There’s lots, lots more … but the folks above aren’t just whistling in the dark. The promise is real, the presence is real and the power is real – whether you perceive it all the time or not.

  12. Compare Gal 5:22-23 with 2 Pet 1:5-9. The Spirit produced fruit in our life, but we are called to make every effort to add those fruits. So, it seems to me, the Spirit amplifies the results when we make the effort.

    Rom 8:5-14 says pretty much the same thing We have an obligation to live according to the Spirit. We choose whether to do that or not. It is still possible for a Christian to live according to the flesh… and if we do so, we lose the benefits from the Spirit that could be ours.

  13. After spending my teenage years drinking and drugging, I went to a Billy Graham crusade in Sept 1981, went forward and prayed the Sinner’s Prayer. I believed that I received the Holy Spirit after the prayer that night and was convinced it was so because I was able to give up alcohol and drugs cold turkey. Although I joined a non-denominational, bible-teaching church, and was at various church functions five days a week, I wasn’t able to repent of my immorality, jealousy, fits of rage, etc. I was baptized by full immersion 8 months later after being “saved” hoping that this act of faith would help me to repent of my immorality and other sins, but it did not.

    Fast forward 11 years. During that time I had a child out of wedlock, got married, had two more children, got divorced and was living with another man before my divorce was final. My ex-husband had become a Christian and called to ask me for forgiveness. He knew how much I loved God and he invited me to his church. I kept saying no. He said he would pray for me.

    Fast forward 2 years. I had to get out of that sinful relationship and start a new life. I packed up my kids and we went to live in the city where their father, my ex was at. I stayed with the women from my ex’s church while my ex took care of our kids. During this time I studied the bible and realized that I had only transferred my addiction to drugs and drinking to religion. I had only a religious relationship with Jesus rather than a grateful, soul-saving relationship with Jesus.

    I studied the bible and learned how the first century Christians became true disciples of Jesus. I decided to follow their example. As the Apostle Peter preached in Acts 2:38, “Repent each one of you and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    I realized that my first attempt at salvation 13 years earlier wasn’t biblically accurate and therefore, I hadn’t received the Holy Spirit after I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer nor after I was baptized 8 months later. It was only after I repented and was willing to die to my sinful self and was baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of my sin that I received the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised.

    I was now filled with the Holy Spirit and was able to live a pure, spirit-filled life, and more importantly, I was able to help others become disciples of Jesus – something I was never able to do before in my religious days. 15 years later I’m still faithful and living proof that 1 Timothy 4:16 is a true statement.

    Blessings to all.

  14. “willing to die to my sinful self”

    Ouch!!!!! This is the very hardest thing to do. It starts by acknowledging that we are indeed sinful, a truth that conflicts with living to please our prideful self.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  15. David,

    You said:

    I think the Spirit may manifest itself with the thoughts we have when we drive past someone with a flat tire on the side of the road and we think to ourselves, “Should I have stopped to help that driver?”

    I agree that is definitely one way the Spirit works. This summer, my wife and i attended a Florida Marlins game with our 15 month old son. On Sat. nights, they do a fireworks show and then a concert after the game. We left after the fireworks but before the concert, so we were kind of between the crowd. The parking lot was fairly deserted with few people moving around. We were at the back of our vehicle changing the baby’s diapers and putting pajamas on him so he could go straight to bed after we drove home. While we were doing this, a gentleman walked up and asked for a ride to the bus stop because he had feet problems. My dad/husband radar went up and I brushed him off and tried to get rid of him as quickly as possible. As soon as he walked away, I felt awful. We talked it over and my wife got in the back seat next to the baby and we were able to catch the man before he was out of the parking lot and give him a three minute ride to the bus stop. I don’t answer nearly as often as I should, but I, like you, am convinced that was the Spirit prompting me to serve that man.

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  17. Paula,

    Thank you for your powerful testimony.

  18. Hi Jay
    Thank you for this site. When you get a chance, I would be really interested in your (as well as others) thoughts on a couple of things — Specifically, John 16:8-11 where Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”

    Here are my questions:

    1. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit convicts the world in a different way (by different means) than he employs to convict the Christian?

    I do not and wonder why it can not be possible for the Holy Spirit to convict the Christian in the same way he convicts the non Christian?

    2. Also, in what sense do you believe that Jesus was “in” his disciples when said that he was in John 15? Is it possible that the Holy Spirit is in us in the same way that Jesus was in his disciples back then (and still is today)?

    Any thoughts?


  19. []

  20. Hi Royce,

    Was that link in regards to my questions above?

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