There is sometimes confusion and misunderstanding in the church about who the Holy Spirit is and what His presence looks like in the life of a Christian. Some barely give his existence a passing thought, while others take it to the opposite extreme, attributing to him all kinds of strange signs, wonders and manifestations. Some even believe in requirements to tap into the Holy Spirit’s power for personal gain that are unBiblical.

So what is the telling sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of a Christian?

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Exhibiting these characteristics is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power in the Christian’s life and is also the most powerful evangelistic tool we have. Those who don’t yet know Christ and his Spirit watch us to see how we live, how we respond to others, and how we handle challenging circumstances – the Spirit gives us wisdom and grace to do so in a Godly way. We also see the Holy Spirit at work through the “gifts” He empowers us with. You might have heard these called “spiritual gifts”, and they are given to each believer, so that we may give witness to and confirm Christ as Savior, reveal the truth of scripture, encourage one another, and serve the church. When you wonder if something you hear, see or feel is the Holy Spirit, remember that he works in the fruits of the Spirit, not necessarily strange manifestations and experiences.

In his book, “The Spirit-Filled Life: Discover the Joy of Surrendering to the Holy Spirit”, Dr. Charles Stanley points to the analogy of Christ as the vine and us as the branches (John 15:5) to draw the distinction between those who abide in Christ and bear this fruit and those who try to produce fruit through other means. He writes, “Fruit is a public testimony to a believer’s sensitivity to and dependency on the Holy Spirit. It is the telling sign. Fruit sets the abiders apart from the producers. It is not simply one mark of a Spirit-filled life; it is the preeminent mark. When we see fruit in a life, we know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit has custody over that particular child of God.” (p. 111-112)

Interestingly, the Bible repeatedly warns against seeking after signs and wonders and about the false teachers who will do spectacular, entertaining things in Jesus’ name. False teachers do these things to deceive the church, but we are told there is no restriction against the fruit of the Spirit.

What does evidence of the Holy Spirit look like to the world?

The presence of the Holy Spirit is a powerful “sign and wonder” to unbelievers as they witness it in the lives of believers, especially in times of difficulty. It is something that cannot be counterfeited. This supernatural fruit that is otherwise foreign to our human hearts is what truly sets the Spirit-filled Christian apart from false teachers or deceivers. Through our obedience and the Holy Spirit’s power, we can give witness to Jesus and what he accomplished through his death and resurrection.

Have you ever heard a story about the Holy Spirit that didn’t feel “right” to you? How does this post help you think through what is really God’s Spirit and what might be a false teaching?