At the deepest place in every single human heart is the need for intimacy with a person totally safe, entirely powerful, incredibly close—A confidant, a protector, a hero. Alas, many of us carry indescribable wounds, because we trusted a friend, a relative, a lover—We gave somebody our heart, and we were betrayed. We need intimacy; we fear treachery.
When men and women became friends with Jesus, they found one upon whom they could really rely. He was trustworthy in his intentions, and he had the power to meet their every need. John, the artistic apostle, knew Jesus as beauty itself. He self-identified as “the one whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). He also leaned against his very breast. Mary Magdalene knew Jesus as the only man who ever spoke to her with purity. He also healed her soul with power. Lazarus was the friend for whom Jesus wept. And Jesus also raised Lazarus from death. Jesus healed people, fed people, gave them the all-fulfilling words of life.
The powerful, faithful intimacy of Jesus is why his disciples, his friends, were distraught when he told them he must leave. He encouraged them in John 14, “Let not your heart be troubled” (v 1). Christ promised them that he was going to prepare a place for them in God the Father’s eternal mansion. And, at some point, he was coming back to get them. He also told them he would soon be with them in a way they never imagined.
True friendship is deep intimacy, oneness with another which cannot let go. Sometimes, when Karen is out of my sight, even if only feet away in another room, I miss her terribly. Jesus frankly told them he was leaving the world, leaving their sight. He was leaving them in one way, but coming to them in another way.
Indeed, he promised that he would come in a way not unlike the relationship God the Father has with his Son. The Father and the Son are so intertwined that to see one is to see the other. “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11). The words and the works of the Son are the words and works of the Father! “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father!” (John 14:9).
And there is a third Person just as intimately bound with the Godhead as the Father and the Son. Jesus promised his distraught disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18).
In Romans 8, Paul used the same language to describe the union of Christ with the believer and the union of the Spirit with the believer. If the Spirit of God is in you, then Christ also is in you. The indwelling of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit are coterminous personal relationships. To have “Christ in you” (Rom 8:10) is to be “in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9) and to have the Spirit reside “in you” (Rom 8:11). The Holy Spirit who indwells us is “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9).
The Spirit is distinct from Christ; but the Spirit is also one with Christ. “The Lord is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17). Therefore, although Jesus departed in body, he came through the presence of his Spirit to be, in an even more intimate way, present to his followers: To John, the apostle whom he loved, Jesus came in the Spirit. To Mary, who could not let go of him when she saw he had risen from death itself, Jesus dwelt in the Spirit. To Peter, the one friend who had horribly betrayed him in his hour of greatest need, not once but three times, Jesus resided by the Spirit.
Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ came to live “in” and “with” John and Mary and Peter. But this promise of intimacy with the divine is not only for them then. For even now the all-powerful Spirit of God offers to live in us, to heal us of every affliction, to feed us forever, to ensure us of eternal life. The Spirit offers you intimacy with the eternal Christ himself. If Christ is “God incarnate,” then the Spirit is “God intimate.” Have you been born again by faith in Christ? If so, the Spirit desires to fill your life with his immediate, powerful, saving presence.
(This is the second in a four-part short series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. For part one, concerning the Spirit as Love, click here. For part three, concerning the Spirt as the Giver of Life, click here.)