Knowing That God Abides Within Me
June 1, 2008 / No. 3413
Dear radio friends,
Do you know if God is dwelling within you? Do you have the confidence and joy that you are His child? Do you have the assurance that right now He abides in you, that is, He is not going anywhere and that nothing can separate you from His love in Christ Jesus our Lord? If you do, all is well. Eternal, almighty, glorious, blessed, gracious God, by His Holy Spirit lives in you! Then you have eternal life now. What is more, you have no lack. Psalm 23 : “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” You are lifted above every trial and sorrow. You have strength, peace, hope. And you are also made to be humble, trusting, obedient. In one word, if God dwells in you, you are victorious. I John 4:4 , “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome (the wicked one).”
How do you know? How do you know that God dwells in you? Do you assume so, by the mere fact that you go to church or that you were born in a believing home? Are you assured of that because you have had some type of vision or you have heard a voice? The answer of the Bible is that the only way of knowing that God dwells in you is by the Holy Spirit whom He hath given us ( I John 4 ). By the work of the Holy Spirit we are given to confess with all our heart that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, come in human flesh to save us, by grace alone. And then by the Holy Spirit given to us we hear in our heart the Word of God. Is that true of you? Then you are of God. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!
The apostle John, in I John 3, 4 , speaks of profound and deep and precious truths in the simplest of terms. He is speaking to us, in those chapters, about assurance, Christian assurance, the assurance of knowing the love of God, of the confidence of faith. How do we know? How do we assure our hearts before God? How do we have confidence toward God?
The apostle has given various indications of how we are given truly to know that. One indication or test is love. Do you love God? Do you love your brother and sister in Christ? ( I John 3:14 : “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”) We know that we have passed over from the realm of spiritual death to the realm of spiritual life because we are given to love the brethren. He goes on to say in verses 18 and 19, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before (God).” Do you love your brother in Christ? Do you forgive him, even as God forgave you? Do you truly seek her good? Do you have compassion for them?
Those are the gifts of the indwelling Spirit.
But another, even more basic evidence that God abides in us and that we know Him is the evidences of the indwelling Spirit. We read in Romans 8:9 , “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” We read in John 14 Jesus’ promise: I will give you another Comforter; and he shall abide in you. A Christian, then, is one who has been given the Holy Spirit to dwell in him, his body being made the temple of the Spirit and his heart abiding in sweet fellowship with God. It is the Spirit who works in our heart to confess with heartfelt reverence and conviction: Jesus is the Christ, my Lord and Savior. And it is the Spirit who opens our ears to hear the Word of God as the Word of God in truth.
The point is this: The Christian life, the true life of salvation, is not simply an empty, formal, indifferent, outward thing. Nor is it something of continual doubt and uncertainty. But it is the real spiritual life of the Holy Spirit within us. It is the assurance that God Himself dwells in us. It is the victorious cry: I know that God dwells in me, for the Spirit gives me to believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and to hear His Word in my heart.
By that, we know that God abides within us.
As I said, John, in I John 3 and 4, has been talking about the assurances that we have that God dwells in us, namely, that we are savingly, eternally, irrevocably united to God by the Holy Spirit whom He hath given to us. (We read that in verse 24 of chapter 3.) That is a sovereign gift of grace. God gives the Spirit. And by that a man is saved.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He has a work among the three persons of the Trinity. His work is to reveal, to make known, to illuminate. His work is to reveal the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father. We read in I Corinthians 2:10 , “But God hath revealed them (that is, the things of salvation) unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. The Spirit is the great Illuminator. The Spirit is the One who makes known. You cannot know that you are a child of God but by the work of the Holy Spirit ( Rom. 8:16 ). The Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are the children of God. We cannot understand the treasures of spiritual things but by the work of the Spirit in us.
John, in I John 4 , warns of false prophets and lying spirits. How do we discern whether the true Spirit of Christ is in us? We would say, the Holy Scripture, the Bible, is the test. And the answer is, Yes, that is right, but it is only part of the answer. Without the Holy Spirit of Christ you can have the Word of God in your hand and it will avail you nothing. It must be the Holy Spirit personally who illumines the Holy Scriptures to your heart and gives you to understand them. Again, Paul says in I Corinthians 2:12 , “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
But that brings another question, does it not? If I can know God only if the Holy Spirit is given to me, and if I can understand the Scriptures only if the Holy Spirit interprets them for me, then the question is: How do I know whether I have the Holy Spirit? John says in I John 4:1 , “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” So how do I know?
What John says is, “Test the spirit.” By the word “spirit” he is not referring to ghosts, disembodied spirits, demons. But he is referring to influences—those influences or powers exerted over the minds and hearts of men and women. John says there are many such influences, many such spirits, many such false prophets gone out claiming to be the guide for you to find truth. Many false prophets say, “We possess the inner light and can bring you truth.” There are the cults and the false religions. There are the cults that claim to be of Christ but add to Christ, perhaps by saying, “What you really need is to understand the golden plates that were revealed long ago.” Or false religions that say, “Paradise is guaranteed to you if you strap a bomb under your coat and blow yourself up.” Or the spirit of twenty-first century America, a spirit that makes men and women apathetic to any concern at all about their soul, any concern at all about eternity. It is the spirit that would have you absorbed only in things, sex, pleasure, booze; the spirit that will work in a man so that he gives up his children for an affair; the spirit that would work in a girl so that she gives sex so her boyfriend will love her. There are many spirits gone out into the world—false spirits.
As the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is a power to illuminate our soul and control our heart and mind and renew us within, so also these pretender spirits, these false spirits, have power and influence. False spirits in Christianity and in false religions exercise deception and delusion. These spirits, these false prophets, says John, are gone out into the world. They are sent by the devil to establish the kingdom of the Antichrist. He says in I John 4:3 , “This is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
Beloved Christian, all the false spirits, all those influences—cults, false religions, the influences of our present world to control a man’s heart and mind, American materialism, the spirit of ungodliness—all of these spirits are sent by the devil with a view to the establishment of an antichristian kingdom, the kingdom of man.
Now, how do I know that I have the genuine Spirit of God and that I am not duped, that I am not deceived by these false spirits and impostors? How do I know that the true God is in me and not a false spirit, even the spirit of the antichrist?
John gives the test ( I John 4 ) for recognizing the true Spirit of God. He gives two tests. The first is given in verse 2: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” In other words, you know that God dwells in you by the Holy Spirit by this evidence: that God will cause you to confess the truth about Jesus Christ, namely, that He is God, and that He is come into the flesh. You confess that the pre-existing Son of God was born of the flesh of the virgin Mary according to the sacred Scriptures. You know Jesus Christ as the God-man, the only One who can remove sin and death and clothe us with righteousness, life, and glory. The Holy Spirit works through the Holy Scriptures so that you confess that Jesus Christ, God’s Son in my flesh, is my Savior, my God, my Master, my Lord, my treasure, my joy. That is the work of the Spirit. Do you do that? Do you confess that? Then God dwells in you. The emphasis falls on that word “confess.”
What does that mean, “confess”? That is more than speaking mere words. Many who are not born of God or indwelt by the Spirit can say true things about Jesus Christ. If we paid someone enough, we could get a man from the street or anywhere to make a confession that we would want to be made in front of the whole church. But true confession is a matter of the heart. It is the ability not just to say words, but to know the beautiful teachings of Christ from the heart. The true Spirit of God gives you to make a confession with heartfelt reverence, conviction, and submission.
John uses the word “confess” in I John 1:9 : “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Confess our sins. What does that mean? That is not the glib confession, “I’m a sinner, I guess.” It is not like telling your child, “Go tell your brother that you’re sorry,” and then your child goes to his brother and quickly says, “I’m sorry.” That is not a confession. It must be of the heart.
To confess Christ is to feel the tremendous truth that God’s Son came in the flesh for me, that He is my only Savior. It is not merely correct words. It is done in a disposition of reverence and submission. You continue your confession by saying, “Lord, Sovereign Savior, what wilt Thou have me to do? I love Thee, Lord.” So, here is the first test: a heartfelt confession and a loving submission to God’s Son—tonight, tomorrow, wherever you are, in the church, at work, with your friends—always. Is that true of you? Do you confess Jesus Christ, God’s Son that way? Then God dwells in you.
The second test that John gives is in I John 4:6 , “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.” When God, by the Holy Spirit, dwells within you, you will hear the preaching of the Word. You will hear that Word of God in your soul and in your heart.
In verse 2 we saw that the test is what we say. You can tell a true child of God, you can tell that the true Spirit of God is in you when you are given to say from the heart the truth about Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In verse 6 the test is of what people hear. What do you hear? Do you hear only the world? Do you listen only to the world? Are you concerned only about what the world says? The test is this: Do you hear the Word, do you hear the teaching of Holy Scripture going down into your heart? That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
In the days of Jesus Christ the people would say it this way: “No man speaks as that man!” They heard in their heart the Word of Christ. John says, “Whosoever heareth us knows God.” And the hearing of us, the apostles (John and his fellow apostles), again, was not merely the listening. Just as confession, the mere speaking, proves nothing; so also the mere listening, again, proves nothing. But it is a believing listening. It is when you listen so that the word sinks into your heart. Great swelling words of eternal life come into your heart. It is a humble listening that believes the truth and gladly submits. That is the test of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Do you hear the Word, especially as that Word is preached to you? Do you hear Jesus in the preaching say, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”? Do you hear Christ speak to you in your heart of hearts, “You, you are Mine, you belong to Me”? That is the test.
Does God dwell in me? Has His Spirit been given to me so that He abides within me—not a false spirit, not the spirit of antichrist who will vanish in the day of Days, but the true Holy Spirit? Well, here is the test: Do you confess from the heart that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, has come in the flesh to deliver you from sin’s bondage? And, secondly, do you hear Him speak to you personally through the Word?
Oh, the glory of it! John says in verse 4, “Ye are of God, little children.” It is a statement of fact. Doubts are gone. Questions fly away. I am of God. Let that sink down. Your source is of God. You are born of God. You have come into existence by His grace. God gave birth to you. A divine life has been implanted within you. Not of this world, but of the world that is above. Little children, ye are of God! The term “little children” is the affectionate term of love.
Do you confess Jesus Christ as God’s Son, your Savior? Do you hear His Word deep down in your soul? God is in you, little children.
And thus, another fact is true about you. You have overcome them, that is, these false spirits of the antichrist, says John, these strong, seductive, powerful influences of darkness. You have conquered them. You have been victorious over them. You have stood firm. You have not yielded to them. You have remained loyal to the Son of God incarnate. You have overcome them. Great foes have been brought against you. Seducing, deceptive spirits would assault you. How are you going to be able to stand? You have overcome them because He that is in you is greater than all the world—greater than Satan himself, the god of this age, and all of his false spirits. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Our God is God!
You conquer by the power of His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is more powerful than all satanic forces, all the forces of deception and blindness. You owe your confession to the sovereign work of the living God. You owe your orthodoxy to the Spirit of Christ. You stand, listening receptively to the Word of God and confessing loyally Jesus Christ because the Holy Spirit is stronger and has conquered in your hearts.
Oh the glory of this: God dwells in us! Can words be found to express the comfort? We know that God abides in us by His Spirit given to us. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. What sorrow, what heartbreak, what grief, what trial, what loss, what pain, what hardship, what thing in your future will be able to outweigh or prevail against this truth: God dwells in me?
As a rock on the coast of Oregon, where the waves slam against it, is higher than all, so God dwells and abides within me. In this world of turmoil and unrest, all is well. For God dwells in me.
This is a gift of grace. Many Christians struggle with this. Many Christians seek to know if God is in them. You must base this knowledge upon Scripture, upon the exposition of the Scriptures that you have heard today.
Then remember: Live always to His glory. Praise Him always. And rely on Him always. When you are threatened by the deceptions of the evil one, by temptations or discouragements, remind yourself: Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. And trust Him. For this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. This is the gift of gifts—the sovereign indwelling of the Holy Spirit giving you to confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to hear His Word. God dwells in you.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. Work within us that blessed assurance, that perfect confidence, that we are Thine and Thy Spirit is ours. In Jesus’ name. Amen.