I’ll never forget that Thursday night in April 1983. I had been struggling for months to understand what it meant to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That night at a conference in Nashville, Tennessee, I heard Argentinean evangelist Juan Carlos Ortiz speak these simple words, “To be filled with the Spirit is to be continually conscious of Christ in you.” From that point on, I had a life verse that has shaped my life and ministry: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
Before that time, I certainly had understood biblically, theologically, and intellectually that when I accepted Christ into my life, he had come to dwell in me through his Spirit. After all, that’s what the Bible says. But that night, the truth of this simple fact impacted my life in a profound way, moving the truth from intellect to experience.
Walking in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit was not so much a special experience as it was a daily, even moment-by-moment, awareness of this biblical truth concerning the Lord’s presence in my life. That changed everything. No longer was the Christian life simply me trying hard to be better. Instead, it was the lifelong cultivation of a relationship with Jesus, who had chosen to take up residence in me.
One of the reasons Colossians 1:27 has become a life verse for me is that, in its simplicity, it is often overlooked in the lives of Christians. We fail to see the revolutionary aspect of the indwelling Christ. No longer are we “mere men” (Paul’s term for us), but we have become partakers of the divine nature through Jesus coming to dwell within us.
To understand how radical this is, let’s imagine trying to explain the indwelling Christ to Moses, Elijah, Daniel, or any of the Old Testament prophets.
“Moses, are you aware that God has taken up residence within me?”
“What did you say?”
“I said that through the Spirit, Christ, the fullness of God, has come to dwell within me. Uh, Moses . . . what are you doing?”
“I’m looking for a big rock. It’s time to stone a heretic who believes that God would come to dwell in a man.”
The amazing men and women of the Old Testament could not possibly imagine what you and I often take for granted—Christ in us, the hope of glory! Suddenly the words of Jesus concerning John the Baptist make more sense. Jesus said though John was the greatest of the prophets, the one who is least in the kingdom would be greater. Neither our character nor our nature makes us greater; rather it is the indwelling presence of God in our lives.
The great adventure of my life now is daily to increase my awareness of Christ in me. No longer is prayer simply a duty, not when I’m in a relationship. The Christian life doesn’t revolve around meetings or buildings, but the cultivation of and deepening of that relationship. The assembling of the saints is all the more precious because there I find brothers and sisters who are carrying within them the presence of Christ. God’s presence is experienced more powerfully among those who are aware of his indwelling in them as well as within the corporate body.
We often teach children who become believers that Jesus has come to dwell in their hearts. It is time that we remind ourselves as adult believers of that same life-changing, world-shaking truth: “Christ in you, the hope of glory”!
David Butts is president and founder of Harvest Prayer Ministries in Terre Haute, Indiana. He also serves as chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee.