What the psalmist said is true: There's nowhere we can run to escape the Holy Spirit.1 And if we unconsciously replace him with rich words like "providence" or "grace" or "faith," we make a poor trade.
E. Sangster observed: "Among some schools of Protestant thought, grace is the substitute for the Holy Spirit ... They speak of being 'fortified by grace' and 'enabled by grace' and even 'inspired by grace.' It cannot be denied; ... we could find some justification... for this wide use of the word 'grace.' But even that cannot justify the virtual (if unconscious) substitution of grace for the Holy Ghost. He fortifies. He enables. He inspires."2
In any case, those who have been called to God's side and nurtured by that Spirit don't really want to escape him or minimize his role. To realize that the Spirit is, and has been, intimately involved in every phase of the self-revelation of God can only do us good and make us even more thankful. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we developed a reverent, but joyful intimacy with the Person who has existed in eternal holy and loving communion with the Father and the Son? How could it not be of incalculable benefit?
So join us on a journey,3 for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is transformation, glory for Christ, freedom, love, community, and truth! The Holy Spirit brings us all the rich blessings of God, which are mediated to us in Jesus Christ.4
Let's journey awhile first, with the Spirit of God in the place of transformation. Where the Spirit of the Lord is ... there is transformation!
A desert way,
A burning sun,
And Saul.A sudden light,
A heavenly voice,
(Harriet Wheeler Pierson)
The Spirit and Mr. Hyde
In Robert Louis Stevenson's riveting "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," a caring doctor drinks a poison and becomes monstrous. Tragically, in real life we've seen our children drink at the wrong fountains and turn back to us with their eyes forever changed.
The transformation will be from death to life and then from glory to glory. But where the Spirit of the Lord is we don't need to worry about the kind of transformation that will take place — it'll be from death to life and then from glory to glory.5
We've seen that in many lives, too, haven't we? Dead men walking with soulless eyes — changed! Happy pagans with no for God or man — changed! Spoiled and bratty children, self-centered wimps — changed! Old men with hard, embittered spirits, as twisted in mind as in their aging bodies — changed! The self-centered and cozy, who deliberately choose to pass by neighbors or a whole world in sin and misery — changed! The smug and self-righteous, clucking their tongues and prattling on about what the world's coming to — changed! The fiercely upright, scorching the earth but avoiding costly involvement — changed! And on rare occasions, whole cities, even countries are raised out of the mire into which the whole planet would sink without a trace if God left it to itself.
Let others say the changes are simply the result of psychology; human kindness, and conditioning; fine literature, church services, new laws, or government leaders. Christians will insist that all of these and more are tools in the hands of the transforming Spirit, bringing life to the dead, passion to the indifferent, and generosity to the selfish. It is he who is at work convicting and sanctifying.
For the Christian, nothing less than the presence of the Spirit is enough to explain the marvelous changes worked in human lives. Call it grace; call it providence; call it the result of Bible study, practical involvement, or social ethics; call it "common grace" — call it what we will, just so we understand that in and behind any or all the instruments is the presence and work of the Spirit who seeks and finds and transforms.
There's a day coming, so say the Scriptures — without giving us any developed explanation — when this transforming work will embrace the whole creation, which presently groans in bondage. When the curse is obliterated, the creation will experience a glorious change along with the children of God. The Spirit of God is a sort of "firstfruits" of all that.6
1 Ps. 139:7-12. The psalmist seems to be half-complaining, but in the end, quite relieved.
2 The Pure in Heart (London: Epworth Press, 1955), 50.
3 We are thankful that Howard Publishing is letting Heartlight share one chapter per month of this wonderful book. However, you may order the book online and read it all at once and let our monthly installments be a pleasant reminder of a treasure found!
4 If you want some serious works that will show how central the doctrine of the Spirit is in New Testament life and literature, you might want to consult James Dunn’s Jesus and the Spirit and Max Turner’s Power from on High (dealing with Luke-Acts) and Gordon Fee’s God’s Empowering Presence (a study of the Spirit in Paul’s letters). Be sure to also consult the major articles in various encyclopedias.
5 2 Cor. 3:18 ASV.
6 Rom. 8:18-24.