Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. –1 John 3:24
A year or so back, Penny had the pleasure of lyme disease. If you’ve never experienced this tick-borne illness, then save yourself the trouble and trust me. It’s one to skip. She had all manner of stiffness and general yuck. At first the doctors–bless their hearts, they try–settled on arthritis as her affliction. Penny protested that she had not suffered from arthritis for several years and that her symptoms sounded a good deal like what she’d read of lyme disease. No matter. She had arthritis. (This same doctor might have recommended me for a hysterectomy.)
This hasty diagnosis bought the bacteria a couple of weeks to reproduce and settle in. Eventually, another doctor–one we no longer use, I might add–listened to all of Penny’s complaints and said, “I think that might be lyme disease” in a tone that seemed to say “why didn’t you think of that sooner.”
We had to practically lay siege to the lab and doctor’s office in order to get the test results back, but when they came, they confirmed what she had suspected for several weeks: lyme disease.
Unlike some diseases, lyme disease does not simply keep bothering you until treat it. This is one that will progressively worsen. Catch it very quickly and it’s a non-event. Let it run for months and you’re in for some very bad effects. Happily, Penny was closer to the beginning than the end.
I’m not entirely sure how the test for lyme disease or any other ailment works. My understanding is that the lab techs perform some sort of analysis to determine if some substance is present that indicates the critter involved in the illness. For example, if I were performing a test to see if my daughter Alyson were around, I’d probe the trash cans for Sonic Drive-in trash. That’s a tip-off to her presence.
How, however, do you do a test for the Spirit of God? Is there a blood test indicating the Spirit and therefore the indwelling of God? John would seem to suggest that ability, yet I’ve never been offered such a test. Wouldn’t that be a nifty test for a prospective Sunday School teacher?
Just as bacteria leave behind chemical markers and Alyson leaves behind tater tot wrappers, the Holy Spirit provides evidence of its presence, evidence that plays out in our lives. Inwardly, that evidence involves the sense of conviction and duty that comes to a believer. Outwardly, it should be manifest by a holy life and a string of loving actions.
As certain as I am that the Holy Spirit is within me, I sometimes wonder if that presence is truly evident to the outside world, to my friends, my students, and my family. If I were accused of being a Christian, would there be sufficient evidence to convict me. Do I present the symptoms of a spirit-filled life? I’ll leave you with that question today.