Indwelling and On-dwelling

One of the most powerful realities of the Christian faith is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. How amazing is it that God doesn’t just forgive and redeem us through Jesus Christ, accepting us as we are, but He also sends His Holy Spirit, the very Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, to dwell within us?! (See one of my favorite verses, Romans 8:11) It is more than just wearing a wedding ring representing our marriage to God. Rather, the very God who has saved us from sin’s guilt and power is inside us and transforming us every day. Wow.

I reflect on this because I was thinking earlier today about “dwelling.” I have heard this word many times in my life, mostly because I have a tendency to dwell on things. Growing up I was the one who worried, over-analyzed, and got preoccupied by things. I would verbalize something to my dad and he would say, “Why are you dwelling on that?” I got a message in that repeated question that I misinterpreted. My misinterpretation was “Dwelling is bad.” I shouldn’t dwell just like I shouldn’t worry. After all, when a parent or mentor figure asks you why you are doing something, often the implication is that you should not be or that you could be doing something better. But dwelling is not bad. Dwelling is something we humans do. In fact, dwelling can be good! I believe dwelling is even a spiritual discipline. Paul in his letters talks a lot about “dwelling in” (God in us). But there is one verse where he focuses on “dwelling on.” Philippians 4:8 says:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (New Living Translation)

Something strikes me about this “on-dwelling.” Our indwelling and our on-dwelling are directly related. Who dwells within us should affect what we dwell on. This is convicting. To be confessional for a moment, I dwell on many things frequently each day that do not line up with Paul’s exhortation. I dwell on what I would like to buy that may or may not enrich my life. I dwell on failures that God is trying to free me from but that I have trouble letting go of. I dwell on things people have said that they have long forgotten and I would do well to at least forgive if not forget, too. And I dwell far too much on the trivial instead of the things of God that are significant and eternal. Dwelling is a struggle.

So I am asking myself, and I invite you to ask yourself, what am I dwelling on? Yes, perhaps in this moment but more so on a daily basis. If I think about what I dwell on I can begin to be more proactive in pursuing Paul’s suggestion – to discipline myself to dwell on things that reflect the One who dwells within. May our on-dwelling reflect our Indwelling. After all, the very Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us so that we may have new life as well!


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