“But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them, because spiritually they are discerned.” 1 Cor. 2.14
When we speak of the environment, the immediate thought is that of the natural surroundings. This would include all influences (such as climate, living things, and forces) that surround us and provide conditions for growth and development as well as danger and harm. Because elements of the spiritual surroundings are “un-natural”, they are seldom if ever included in such definitions or with much understanding. You see, there is a natural environment and a spiritual environment. Because the former is physical, it is both visible and tangible. It is thus perceived by our senses, understood by the intellect, and responded to with emotions. The latter is both invisible and intangible, It is thus perceived by intuition and discernment, and responded to by faith. There is quite a difference. Because of the fallen nature of natural man, this spiritual environment of is apart from God. Since the born again believer has a regenerated spirit, his spiritual environment now involves the Holy Spirit. We will first consider the spiritual environment of the natural man.
A Spiritual Environment.
It is in this realm of the flesh that natural man dabbles in the dimension of the unseen, the spirit domain. By way of the spirit, he attempts to connect with the paranormal: clairvoyance, astrology, ESP (mind reading), fortune telling, and other various mysticisms such as some Eastern practices and spirit channeling. Sometimes psychedelic drugs, hallucinogens, are used to enhance an out-of-the-body experience. In this state, he attempts to disconnect with the natural realm (as with emptying his mind of all thoughts and physical sensations) and function independently in the spirit—a most dangerous practice. If a man’s body was to function independently, he would be trapped in a body with erratic movements and functions. Similarly, the spirit of man should not function in a state of anarchy. Man’s soul would be fed directly with leaven of the spirit. All of these are forbidden by God, for they experiment in the realm of darkness rather than the light of His kingdom. (See for example Deut. 18.9-12) The natural man believes he benefits from such “insights.” However, in the long term, he reaps destruction as these practices alienate him from the true purposes of God. In contrast, man was created to function as an interconnected or integrated whole: body, spirit, and soul.1
1Taken from booklet, “Draw Near to God,” by the author.
The Atmosphere of the Holy Spirit
Recently, I have been thinking of the Holy Spirit in terms of an atmosphere that surrounds and fills. For example, our natural atmosphere provides the necessities for life. We live in it and breathe it into our bodies. On the outside it is our habitation: it protects us from the damaging rays of the sun and provides warmth and moisture. Within us we become its habitation. The air we breathe provides a completely different set of functions: it brings oxygen to over 50 trillion cells and fights diseases and toxins. Without the atmosphere we cannot live. In similar manner the Holy Spirit surrounds and fills the people of God.
A Corporate Habitation. Analogous to the natural atmosphere, the Holy Spirit is the spiritual atmosphere in which believers (corporately known as the Church), are His habitation. He surrounds and enshrouds their assembly. I truly believe when the following scripture is really received as truth and become the spiritual reality of the Church, their assembly together will be altogether different in form, function, and soberness:
“…for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” Eph. 2.18-22
There you have it: we have access to the Father in the (Holy) Spirit, and we are a dwelling (habitation) of God in the (Holy) Spirit. Can anything, in the heavens, on earth, under the earth, or by drawing upon the most excellent service of worship in the entire world that man can create, compare? It is the highest most excellent holy assembly man could ever anticipate or hope for, let alone participate in.
An Individual Habitation. In like manner, the reality of the Holy Spirit actually dwelling in the believer escapes us. We memorize and quote scriptures relating to it, and maybe speak in tongues or have sporadic manifestations of the Spirit as prophecy, healings, words of knowledge, etc. (see 1 Cor. 12.4-11) But most often we fall short of this realization, in both faith and action, that “I” am the habitation of the Holy Spirit and that He dwells in “me.”
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in 2you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Rom. 8.9
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in 2you?” 1 Cor. 3.16
2According to the Greek lexicon, the word you, as used in both scriptures, is “a second person singular personal pronoun.” In addition, in the verses before and after 1 Cor. 3.16, the singular personal pronouns he, himself, and him are used, indicating the individual. (I go into this further explanation because some believe the Holy Spirit is only a corporate filling and not individual.)
The spiritual walk is not a simple one. The transformation of an individual’s character, behavior, and moral substance requires first a transformation of the mind. (Rm 12.2) One’s faith must be enlarged by becoming convinced of the invisible and intangible realm of our God, the heavens, and the Kingdom. If the Word says the Church is the dwelling place of God, then it is! This is regardless of what one sees, reasons, or feels. If the Word says that a truly born again believer is a dwelling of the Holy Spirit, then he is. This is truth regardless of what we see, or feel, or of our reasoning and logic. Spiritual truth is truth and we must act and behave accordingly.
A Detachment. I believe all believers must confess to the times in worship when they: sing every stanza of song; repeat every word of prayer or scripture reading; stand with eyes closed and arms raised; partake of communion; and be involved in all other activities of the worship service; yet feel a detachment with God in the Holy Spirit. The mind seems to wonder to and fro with thoughts of self, the day’s activities or recent events. We may appear religious outwardly but are spiritually disconnected inwardly. Something is amiss.
Romans 12.2 speaks of a transformation of the mind. Man is body, soul, and spirit. As such, he must function in worship as a triune being, each part of man working together in union fully engaged. Transformation is a process that takes time and repeated effort. Though one is present and active bodily in a church, he must also fully contemplate his spiritual environment as the church. He must meditate on Biblical truths, such as being seated with Christ in heavenly places (Col. 3.1-2, Eph. 2.6); and standing before the throne of God and the Lamb (Heb. 12.22-24); and that the communion bread and cup really is the body and blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God. (Jn. 6.51-56) In addition, this is a well-learned lesson: to ponder every word uttered in worship. Become fully engaged. This will include every word said in song, prayer, and scripture reading. Focus, focus, focus! “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Col. 3.1-2 This then, is worship in body, soul, and spirit, when “we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 1 Cor. 10.5
The Environment of the Holy Spirit.
We often think of our earthly atmosphere composed as oxygen. However, this is not even one-quarter of its composition. The majority is nitrogen, then numerous trace elements, water vapor, and many tiny particles of dust and smoke. In like manner, the atmosphere of the Holy Spirit cannot be described by one characteristic, such as power.. However, for sake of brevity, let’s consider a few prominent attributes:
Holiness. Above all else, His presence is holy! It is altogether different and set apart from anything earthly. His presence must be considered sacred, honored, and heavenly glorious. His presence is not to be taken lightly, flippantly, casually, or even “socially.” His presence, as a member of the Godhead, commands respect, soberness, and reverence. Personally, approach must be in meekness and respect.
Grace. It is written, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Eph. 1.3 This is grace! And this grace comes by Jesus Christ, from the Father, through the Holy Spirit. We have nothing, are nothing, and will never become anything of value in the realm of the Kingdom outside of this grace. Without this grace we are alienated from God’s life. It is both a gift that works for us, and one that works in us. Personally, become the branch that receives the essence that flows out from the vine, realizing if you are unattached from the vine, you will receive nothing.
Wisdom. Wisdom is a step above intellect. With wisdom comes intuition and discernment—two most needed senses of the spirit of man. Intuition (insight) is having the capacity to gain accurate and deep intuitive understanding of God and the workings within the kingdom of God. It comes instinctively, without much conscious reasoning. With discernment comes the much needed ability to judge well doctrines and character, and for obtaining spiritual direction and understanding. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, to know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Jn. 17.3 Personally, allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the Father and the Son and the desires of Their hearts to you in the intimacy of fellowship.
Power. Upon His resurrection and just prior to His ascension, Jesus said to His disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1.8 This power is outside of, and above all the strength and ability of man. It is extraneous to his makeup. Power is the ability to do and to become. Man may attempt to serve the Lord in all his innate abilities of strength, knowledge, skills, and cunningness or, by the Spirit, he may serve in a particular calling and ministry, and in spiritual gifts, being set in place by God Himself. In addition, outside of man’s capability is the ability to become: the progressive process of sanctification by which the believer is “being transformed into the same image (of the Lord) from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3.18 This is spiritual reality—the object of our pursuit!
These and many more qualities make up the environment of the Holy Spirit. We are limited here by time and space to explore other assets of the Holy Spirit such as: life, truth, and glory. But I will leave that to your imagination and understanding. I will close with this final note: the phrase you will be (Gk. su eimi) witnesses stands in the shadow of Jesus’ I am (Gk.ego eimi). In as much, the “I Am” is saying “you are.” It is a meaning well beyond that of a verbal testimony. It is being a testimony in which we live, and move and have our being.