Christians sometimes wonder whether they have been given God’s Holy Spirit. What are some guidelines we can use in trying to understand our own spiritual state? Since the Holy Spirit is spirit, we cannot feel, touch or sense the Spirit in the way that we might discern a physical object. So we can’t talk about having the Spirit in those terms.
Our emotions and feelings are part of our spiritual life. But we can sometimes “feel” as though we are charged with the Holy Spirit and at other times “feel” as though we aren’t. Both feelings can’t be right, because the Holy Spirit does not enter and leave us on a repeated basis. When we are born of God’s Spirit, we are a new creation and always have the Spirit within to guide us.
How can we know we have the Holy Spirit? Let’s answer a few questions.
- Do we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9)?
- Are we moved in prayer to God in ways that sometimes surprise us (Romans 8:26-27)?
- Do we have a desire to obey God in love and bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:6-18, 22-25)?
- Do we love others and show them acts of kindness as we have opportunity (James 1:27)?
- Conversely, do we see the need to avoid things that are contrary to God’s way (James 1:27; 1 John 2:15-17)?
If we can answer “yes” to these questions, we can have assurance that God’s Spirit is leading us. Gradually, as we live in Christ, we will find clear marks of his presence in our thoughts, action and life.
One individual explained the signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the following ways, with references to the first letter of John. As Spirit-filled Christians we will have a new:
- Desire to please God (2:5).
- Assurance of pardon (2:1-2).
- Willingness to face opposition (3:13).
- Delight in the company of fellow Christians (3:14).
- Generosity of spirit (3:17).
- Experience of victory over temptations (4:4; 5:4).
- Discovery of answers to prayer (3:22).
- Understanding of life and set of priorities (5:20-21).
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
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This article was updated in 2014. Copyright Grace Communion International. All rights reserved. If you'd like to learn more about the Bible, check out Grace Communion Seminary. It's accredited, affordable, and all online. www.gcs.edu.
If we see that these factors have been at work in our lives, we should be confident that the Holy Spirit is working in us. We should be careful not to deny these manifestations, as though we are not worthy of them. It is not pride to know we have been born again of God. We should be humbly thankful for God’s mercy in bestowing his grace upon us.
As human beings, even with God’s Holy Spirit we will sin (1 John 1:8-2:5). We will never be perfect in this human life. This may cause us to feel as though God is not with us. But the things mentioned above will be working in our lives because we do have the Spirit. When we sin, we will go to God in prayer acknowledging our sinfulness and our need for his mercy (Luke 18:9-14). That in itself is a demonstration that we have the Holy Spirit.
We can always have confidence in the fact that once God begins to work with us and gives us his Holy Spirit, he will never leave us. Despite the ups and downs of life, despite the problems we may have, we can be assured of God’s faithfulness. In the words of the apostle Paul: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).