Committing to Christ invites in Holy Spirit

I’m confused because of the different things I’ve heard people say about the Holy Spirit. I know the Holy Spirit came to live within us but when does that happen? How can I get the Holy Spirit? — Mrs. N.H.

The Holy Spirit is God — and when we come to Christ and give our lives to Him, God comes to live within us by His Spirit.

In other words, if you are a Christian — if you honestly have asked Christ to forgive your sins and have opened your heart and life to Him — then the Holy Spirit already lives within you. You don’t need to beg Him to enter your life; He is already there (whether you feel His presence or not). The Bible says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).

In fact, before you committed your life to Jesus the Holy Spirit was already at work, convicting you of your sins and convincing you that Christ can save you. He did this because God loves you and wants you to be with Him in heaven. If God didn’t care about you He wouldn’t do this — but He does love you, and He sent His Spirit to draw you to Christ. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

But the Holy Spirit’s work doesn’t end there. God wants you to become more like Christ — and this is only possible as we yield our lives to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to change us from within. We don’t have the power in ourselves to transform our lives — but God gives us the power, as we submit to His Spirit every day. Is this happening in your life?

I’ve heard that old spiritual for years about Ezekiel and the valley full of dry bones that came back to life, but the other day I finally found the story in the Bible. I gather God gave Ezekiel a vision of this, but I’m confused about what it means. Maybe you can help me. — F.G.

Yes, God gave the prophet Ezekiel a vision of a desert valley full of scattered, dry bones, such as you might see years after a major battle. As Ezekiel scanned it, God asked him a simple question: “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3).

The logical answer was “No” — but as Ezekiel watched, the bones began to come together at the command of God’s Word. Gradually they took on human form as flesh became attached to the bones, and then at God’s command through Ezekiel they came alive: “Breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet — a vast army” (Ezekiel 37:10).

What was the meaning of this vision? First, God was telling Ezekiel that the ancient Jewish nation — scattered and destroyed in Ezekiel’s time by war and violence — some day would come back to life. God would not abandon His people or forget His promises. This literally came true in the generations after Ezekiel.

But God also, I believe, was pointing us to Jesus Christ, and the new life He offers to all who put their faith and trust in Him. Like those lifeless bones, the Bible says we are spiritually dead because of sin. But when we come to Christ, He forgives our sins and we become spiritually alive. The Bible says, “When you were dead in your sins ... God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13). Has this happened to you?

Our daughter is married to a man who has a very sarcastic tongue, and some of the things he’s said have really hurt me. Our daughter says we shouldn’t take him seriously because he’s only kidding, but I don’t see it that way. Why can’t people learn to watch their tongues? — Mrs. K.W.

We may not take our words seriously — but others do, and something said thoughtlessly or in jest can do just as much damage as words that are deliberately meant to hurt. No wonder the Bible compares our tongues to a spark that sets a whole forest on fire (see James 3:5).

The problem, however, is far deeper than what we say — because what we say is only a reflection of what is within our hearts and minds. A person may try to guard his or her tongue - but if their heart is filled with anger or jealousy or pride, it will eventually come out in their speech. We may not like to admit this but it’s true. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come . . . false testimony (and) slander” (Matthew 15:19).

This is why our greatest need is to have our hearts touched by Christ, for only He can take away the things that are wrong and replace them with His love and peace and joy. And this is what I pray will happen to your son-in-law. When God touches our hearts, we won’t feel the need to put down other people or try to draw attention to ourselves.

But pray too about your own attitude. You son-in-law’s words may hurt but ask God to help you forgive him, and to respond with kindness. The Bible says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).

I’ll be celebrating my 90th birthday in a few weeks. What advice do you have for an old man like me, since I understand you celebrated your 90th birthday just a few months ago? — M.J.

Congratulations — and I pray your heart will be like mine has been these past few months: filled with gratitude and thanksgiving to God for all His blessings to you. The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I never dreamed I would live this long — but God had other plans, and my sole desire is to use whatever time He gives me for His glory. No, I can’t do everything I once did, and neither can you. But I’ve found that God has given me other opportunities — the opportunity to spend more time in prayer, for example, or to devote more time to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Hopefully they will see the importance of living for Christ as the years go by.

This doesn’t mean that old age is easy — for it isn’t. Our bodies wear out, and it’s easy to become preoccupied with our health or other immediate concerns. Old age can bring us loneliness or grief also. But if we know Christ, we know we are never alone — and ahead of us is heaven. God’s promise is true: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Thank God for every day He gives you, and ask Him to help you live it for His glory.

The Rev. Billy Graham, whose column appears in Faith & Values every Saturday, can be contacted at “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, NC, 28201.