Life in the Spirit can feel ordinary at times. It really is one of Satan’s greatest feats.
If he cannot keep God from breaking in and reviving a once-dead soul, he will do what he can to downplay what has happened. He’ll seed thorns that disrupt our sense of safety and rest (2 Corinthians 12:7). He’ll try to veil the glory of God in us and around us (2 Corinthians 4:4). He’ll flood us with cares and riches and pleasures to distract us from spiritual reality (Luke 8:14). He’ll seize on any glimpse of sin: “See, you’re exactly who you were before” (Revelation 12:10).
Satan can convince us that a life invaded by the presence, help, and joy of God — by the Holy Spirit — isn’t really all that different from any other life. He convinces us to perceive and define our lives by what’s left of the curse, rather than by the inbreaking of the new creation.
Yes, life in the Spirit — for now — often feels ordinary. We eat and drink, work and sleep, toil and spin, and then do it all again tomorrow. But none of now is the same as it was, not even our morning coffee or our afternoon snack. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This glory doesn’t skip meals; it invades them. And who empowers us to eat and drink and do everything for the glory of God? The Spirit.
Now, we eat with the Spirit. Now, we drink with the Spirit. Now, we work and play and sleep in the Spirit. Now, we walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). A normal day may feel ordinary, but below the surface of our perceptions, God is knitting together a new, miraculous, unfinished life in us — by his Spirit.
You Have the Spirit
Do you remember that, if you belong to Christ, the Spirit of God lives in you? He doesn’t hover above you waiting to help. He’s not waiting at a desk in heaven for you to call. He’s not patrolling neighborhoods looking for souls in need. No, when God delivered you from the prison of sin and death, he not only invited you into his presence and family, but he came to live in you. He made a home for himself in your weak, broken, and forgiven soul.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple,” the apostle Paul asks, “and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Do you know? Has the ordinariness of life made you forget? God is living in the ordinary, in your ordinary.
Paul writes in Romans 8:8–9, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Even if many aspects of your life stayed the same after you came to Christ — your family, your job, your neighborhood, your car, your wardrobe, even what you have for breakfast — something fundamental changed. Someone fundamental. God flooded every familiar and unremarkable corner of your life with God — with himself, with his Spirit.
Feel the force of Paul’s wonder as he repeats himself three times in just a few verses:
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. . . . If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9–11)
He’s captivated by a reality we often miss. God does not just love you, protect you, provide for you, and draw near to you; he dwells in you. He dwells in you. He dwells in you.
Making His Presence Felt
If we could see all that the Holy Spirit is working in us and through us, we would not yawn or groan over “ordinary” like we’re prone to. One day, we’ll have eyes and ears tuned to these miracles, but for now, we have to search for them — for him. But what do we look for?
We look for child-like dependence. Paul goes on to say in Romans 8, “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15–16). Whenever we reach out in faith to God as our Father — as someone who sovereignly loves and cares for us as his children — we do so by the Spirit. Do you have an impulse to pray when you feel tempted or weak or confused or discouraged? That impulse is not ordinary or natural; it’s a work of God.
We look for an awareness of spiritual reality. Anything you truly understand about God, his word, and his will are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Anyone can read God’s words and perhaps even make sense of the vocabulary and grammar and logic, but no one grasps the realities unless the Spirit moves. “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). We will never fully comprehend all God has done for us in Christ, but what we do understand now, we understand because of what God has done for us in the Holy Spirit.
“Humans die in a thousand different ways, but sin dies in just one: by the Spirit.”
We look for rejected temptations and conquered sins. “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). Humans die in a thousand different ways, but sin dies in just one: by the Spirit. We may miss the power of these deaths because we assume, somewhere deep down, that we could overcome sin on our own — but we can’t and we don’t. If sin dies by our hand, it is only because our hand has become a mighty weapon in the hands of God himself.
We look for God-like love. The Holy Spirit doesn’t only weed out the remaining wickedness in us; he also plants and nurtures a garden of righteousness. The clearest evidence that he dwells in us is not the ugliness he removes, but the beauty he creates. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). In other words, he makes us more like Christ. We look for love like his, joy like his, faithfulness like his. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image” — his image — “from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
We look for specific giftings or insights that meet needs in the church. Everyone in whom the Spirit lives has been given abilities for the good of other believers. Paul says of the church, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7). To each — not just some or many. If the Spirit lives in you, then to you too. So how has God recently met a specific need through you? When he does, he’s reminding you that he lives in you, by his Spirit.
Most of all, though, we look for love for Jesus. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’” Paul says, “except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Of course, they can say it, but not with their heart — not with their faith, their joy, their hope, their love. Sustained love for Jesus only happens where the Spirit lives. Paul describes the same miracle in 2 Corinthians 4:6: “[God] has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” If we still love what we see when we look at Jesus, we see something only the Spirit could do in us.
“The clearest evidence that the Spirit dwells in us is not the ugliness he removes, but the beauty he creates.”
Do you see continued dependence on God in your life? Do you see any gifting from him, any victory over sin, any Christlike love or peace or joy? Do you still love what you see of Jesus? Then your ordinary isn’t as ordinary as you might think, because the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in you.
Prophecies of Paradise
As Christians, we have — yes, have — the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). We have the Holy Spirit now, but what we experience now is only a taste of what’s to come. The Spirit, Paul says, “is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Ephesians 1:14). Guarantee, meaning there’s more.
Whatever good the Spirit does in each of us now is merely an appetizer of what he will do in all of us forever. The Spirit living in us in this world is a taste of what it will be like for us to live in his coming world. And, at the center of it all, we’ll find him. The Christ whose Spirit lives in us will be the Christ who lives with us.
Life in the Spirit feels mundane when we grow dull to miracles. Yes, we live and work and love among thorns and thistles for now, but we do so by the strength and wisdom of God — until the day when he makes glory our ordinary.