There is a commonly held, new-age idea that belief – belief in anything – in and of itself, does powerful, good things for you. Sounds nice, but it is nonsense. A buddy of mine believed he was a magpie (Ahh, yes — remember the 70’s?). His belief was confusing but it was not powerful. But there is something powerful going on when God uses faith to interact and connect to humans (See: “Loud and Clear”). But how is that faith any different? Where does the power come from? Faith is a necessary ingredient, but it doesn’t do the work. God does.
It’s sort of like this: If I want to start using Facebook, I can’t just do it because my computer is not automatically equipped for it. First, I have to ask the folks at Facebook to send me a download of software or an “App.” I receive it, install it, and then my computer is enabled to make that connection. Something similar goes on when God connects to people by faith. It is a powerful something, something that is rarely explained, even by Christians.
Before any connection to God is made by faith, a “download” is necessary. But it isn’t software God gives you, it is something alive – Someone alive – the Holy Spirit. God comes and lives in you, by His Holy Spirit. Really! It starts when someone has an “Aha!” moment of understanding that Jesus is God, Who has come to us in understandable human form (See: “One Plus Two Equals One”). When a person crosses that threshold of faith, their natural response is to want to draw closer to God, to communicate with Him. God connects interactively with people who believe like that. But it isn’t the act of believing that makes the connection happen. It’s the “download” from God, the Gift from God that powers it up. Here’s how Jesus said it.
“If you [really believe in Me] I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:15b -17 – with my added clarification )
This is the key. This is how and why faith connects us. God gives us His Spirit and by that Spirit, He lives within us. Really! It’s so fantastic, so unexpected, that Jesus practically stood on His head to explain it. He said:
Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:19-20)
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)
This process of receiving (downloading and installing!) the Holy Spirit is so crucial, that, after His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to wait for the Spirit before they tried to do anything.
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” (Excerpts from Acts 1:4-8]
When God gives His Spirit, as a response to faith, and therefore lives in a human soul, that soul becomes alive in a powerfully new and full way. God’s Spirit is “born” in him or her. That is why Jesus told a religious teacher he must be “born from on above” (commonly translated as “born again” – John 3:1-3). He said that physical birth is not enough for complete life, for truly connecting to God:
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:5-7)
It starts with faith. Faith is how we reach out to God to receive His Spirit. But God’s Spirit makes the connection and brings the new life. Therein is the astonishing power in faith.