Everyone wants to change in some way or the other. Whether it’s an addiction problem, a chronic rage issue, or a character flaw that is ruining your most significant relationships, there are areas in our lives we want to change but struggle to do so.
And more than this, the Bible makes clear we must change from sinful to holy if we hope to have a true relationship with God. So how can we do this? Certainly we can’t do this in our own power. True change comes only through the power of the gospel of grace. And to be ultra specific, when it comes to actually changing real, tangible things in our lives, the Bible makes clear that only the Holy Spirit can change us.
The Father appoints what he wants done. The Son accomplishes the work of the Father. And the Holy Spirit applies the works of the Son to people. But what specifically does the Holy Spirit change about us? Why should we seek to be filled with the Spirit throughout our whole lives?
Here are seven ways the Holy Spirit changes us.
1. The Holy Spirit Changes Us Through Regeneration and Marks Us for God
When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, God saves us by his grace alone. Jesus died on the cross, was buried for three days, rose from the grave, and then ascended on high to intercede for us at the Father’s right hand. But when he left earth, he sent the Holy Spirit to enter into people at the moment of their conversion. The Holy Spirit changes us by applying the works of Christ to our lives. He regenerates us and marks us for God.
Titus 3:4-7, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
(1 Corinthians 6:11, Acts 2:38, Ephesians 1:13, Romans 8:9, John 3:8)
2. The Holy Spirit Changes Us By Bringing Us Intimacy With God
The Holy Spirit not only transforms us into a new creation by entering into us. He also changes us by bringing us into an intimate relationship with God. Through the Holy Spirit, we can literally experience the presence of God in our lives. Because the Holy Spirit helps us, we can communicate with God in prayer. The Spirit illuminates the Scriptures and helps us apply God’s timeless truths to our current situations, helping us to walk side-by-side with God as he instructs us daily on how to please him.
Ephesians 3:14-19, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(1 Corinthians 6:19, John 14:15-17,Romans 5:5, Galatians 4:6)
3. The Holy Spirit Changes Us By Continually Sanctifying Us and Giving Us the Ability to Produce Good
The Holy Spirit not only gives us access to the gifts of God in full (Ephesians 1:3), he also helps us apply those gifts to our lives in an ever increasing manner throughout our lives. This is called sanctification, which is the process by which we learn to live more and more holy. The Holy Spirit works through us and gives us power to produce good for God.
2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
(Galatians 5:22-23, Acts 1:8, Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 20:21-23, Matthew 10:20, Hebrews 9:14)
4. The Holy Spirit Changes Us by Giving Us the Power to Resist Evil
When we were unsaved, we were free to sin and did not feel a holy conviction because we lacked the Holy Spirit in us. But when someone becomes a Christian through putting their faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit enters that person and begins to lovingly convict them of sin. The Holy Spirit grieves when we rebel, which is why we feel guilty as Christians when we sin. This helps us repent and ask for forgiveness. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can exercise self-control and say “No!” to sin.
2 Timothy 2:7, 14, “. . . for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. . . . By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”
(2 Corinthians 3:17, John 16:7-8, Ephesians 4:30, Romans 8:1-2)
5. The Holy Spirit Changes Us By Opening Our Eyes to Truth
One of the most important ways the Holy Spirit changes us is by giving us the ability to see, know, and understand God’s truth, the only truth there really is. Without the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of God seems like foolishness. But when we are given the Holy Spirit, the dots start connecting in ways we could never have noticed before without the Spirit’s light shining on our path. The Holy Spirit literally opens our eyes and minds to God’s word, his eternal truth.
John 16:12-15, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
(John 14:26, John 15:26, 1 Corinthians 12:3, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, 1 Corinthians 2:13-14)
6. The Holy Spirit Changes Us Through Empowering Our Prayers
The Holy Spirit teaches us many things, but one of the most important things the Holy Spirit teaches us is how to pray. The Spirit opens our minds to Scriptures about prayer so we better understand what God wants and what he can accomplish through prayer. But the Holy Spirit also works through our prayers and even intercedes for us with spiritual groans that our human words could never express to God.
Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
7. The Holy Spirit Changes Us By Giving Us Different Desires
The Holy Spirit changes us by giving us new desires that operate in our lives. Before we had the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we had no desire to open the word of God, to bend our knees in prayer, or to attend church with other believers. But the Holy Spirit changes all that. Sure we still battle the flesh. But before we had the Holy Spirit, there was no battle at all. There were no competing desires because we did not have godly desires yet. Through the Holy Spirit we not only have changed behavior, we also have changed motives and changed desires.
Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
(Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 5:18-21, Philippians 2:13)