Have you looked at your shoulder lately?
John the Baptist was sent to baptize in water, and he also was to look for the Coming One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John was told that the Holy Spirit would descend upon Jesus and "remain" upon Him (John 1:33), and this would distinguish Jesus as the Messiah. Sure enough, John testified saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him (John 1:32). I don't believe Jesus walked around with an actual bird on His shoulder, but I'm certain that the Holy Spirit remained with Him. Remain (meno) means to dwell, sojourn with, abide, and tabernacle upon. The Holy Spirit, the dove, never departed from Jesus which tells us that He lived and adjusted His life, in every manner, to host the Holy Spirit.
Years ago, my wife and I owned a talking parakeet. He would sit on our shoulders chirping and saying various words that we had taught him. Although he was frequently out of the cage he was never out of the house. We feared that he would fly away, so we always kept him in the house; usually on our shoulders. One day Cindy and I were having a cookout, and while I was preparing the grill Cindy came outside with the tray of hamburgers. I looked up and spotted our parakeet on her shoulder. Quickly, when I alerted her to the parakeet's presence she carefully sat down the tray of meat and proceeded to walk back into the house carefully making no sudden moves. Every move that she made was accomplished with our bird in mind. Her awareness of the bird required an adjustment in how she walked. How would you walk if you lived consciously aware of the dove, the Holy Spirit, resting on your shoulder? Would you adjust your conversations, temperament, choices, or character?
I learned recently that a dove and a pigeon are from the same family, yet they are worlds apart in their characteristics. Largely, pigeons can tolerate noise, recklessness, and many distractions. They are a boisterous, feisty bird that will easily adjust to almost anyone. Not so with a dove, they are much more temperamental. Noise, distractions, and sudden moves easily frighten doves away. If you want a pigeon to remain you can basically go about your life as normal, because it will adjust to you. If, however, you desire to have a dove remain, then you have to mindfully adjust your lifestyle to its temperament. Jesus experienced three years of ministry and many trials, persecutions, and eventually execution, and yet He never startled the dove from His shoulder. Everything Jesus said and did was accomplished with the Spirit in mind; Jesus altered His life around the sacred habitation of the Holy Spirit. The dove remained with Jesus, and if Jesus lived with the constant presence of the Spirit, then we're called to do the same.
Admittedly, too many of us have hosted a pigeon and thought it was the dove. Our reckless, insensitive lifestyle have long startled away the dove and left us with a flock of pigeons. When Paul identified the deeds of the flesh in Galatians, he was describing people who thought little of the dove—the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the deeds of the flesh are: "immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these" (Gal. 5:19-21). These kinds of characteristics may not startle arrogant pigeons, but the dove—Holy Spirit—has nothing to do with that kind of behavior. In fact, a person who participates in such things "will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:22). I wonder how many churches have quenched the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19) and settled for pigeon religion. I've been to churches where it felt as if they had "trained" the bird to move on command. They had a form of godliness but denied its power (2 Tim. 3:5). Pigeon religion will despise prophetic utterances (1 Thess. 5:20) and squeeze out the manifestations of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7). If we allow pigeons to remain we will "grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30) with bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice, and unforgiveness (Eph. 4:31-32).
Paul wrote, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). Consider this: Walk hosting the dove and you will not allow a pigeon to roost. What is the evidence that you are walking with a dove, the Holy Spirit, abiding with you? The Bible says your life will manifest, "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" Gal. 5:22-23). If you're walking with the dove, then your prayer life will be effective because you'll pray in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18; Jude 20). If you're walking with the dove, then you won't lose heart doing good because you know that sowing to the Spirit will reap eternal life (Gal. 6:8-9). If you're walking with the dove, then the Spirit will be manifested for the common good of those around you (1 Cor. 12:7). If you're walking with the dove, then your life will release freedom in the Spirit to those in bondage (2 Cor. 3:17). If you're walking with the dove, then the Spirit will teach you all things and remind you what Jesus said (John 14:26). If you're walking with the dove, then the Spirit will guide you into all truth (John 16:13). Truly, if you're walking with the dove, then you'll be more like Jesus every day.
My challenge is to live consciously aware of the Holy Spirit every moment of our life. Let's not allow anything around us become larger in our mind than the Holy Spirit that is upon us. Consider how each conversation and every action can, and should, be shaped with the dove in mind.
May the dove—Holy Spirit—remain with us!
Jesus, do I have a dove or pigeon resting on me? I'm asking that your Holy Spirit remains on me every day of my life. Amen.