“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:38-39, ESV).
Jesus did not necessarily mean that there was no work of the Holy Spirit in the world prior to His resurrection.
“There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?'” (John 3:1-4, NLT).
It has been said that perception is reality. In fact, this view could be the mantra of the post-modern era.
The well-known account of the encounter of Nicodemus and Jesus is a story of how people often accept their own flawed perceptions and misconceptions as reality.
“Then Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.” (Ezekiel 3:10-11, NLT).
In this commissioning of Ezekiel for God’s service, there are two points that are relevant for disciples of Jesus.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV).
The Apostle Paul is not suggesting the the Philippians should try to earn their salvation by doing good works.
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ” (Philippians 1:27, NLT).
My paternal grandfather was born in England and migrated to the United States with his family as a baby. Later in life he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
I have a copy of his citizenship papers. His certificate of naturalization says that he intends to reside permanently in the United States and is entitled to be admitted to citizenship.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever” (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV).
A superhero is a person who has extraordinary or superhuman powers and is dedicated to protecting the world from evil.
“So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:16-17, ESV).
According to the Apostle Paul living in God’s Kingdom is not about doing good. It’s not about formulating a set of rules and regulations for good behavior. It’s not about finding happiness or success.
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:26-28, NLT).
We often try to comfort someone who is suffering or grieving by quoting a phrase in vs. 28: “all things work together for good.” In the middle of tragic circumstances these words may provide little consolation to the one who is hurting. And the sentiment may even seem to trivialize one’s loss or grief (It’s almost like saying be happy because this bad thing happened to you.)
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:11, NLT).
The Apostle Paul describes Christians as people presently living in bodies that will die and be resurrected and then live forever.
“What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did.” (Romans 8:3, HCSB).
Some consider Romans 8 the greatest, most theologically eloquent chapter about Christian spirituality in the New Testament. Certainly, some verses from Romans 8 are the most often quoted, often taught, and often preached of any in the Bible. Here’s a few examples: