Pentecost (23 Apr 2021)
A few weeks ago John pointed out that explaining God to people is very hard nut it is easier to explain Jesus. We know a lot of facts about Jesus. He was a real, historical person and we can read so much about what he said and did. Talking about Jesus is easier than talking about God.
I think he’s right but I would add that it’s also pretty tricky to talk about the Holy Spirit. However, because today is Pentecost Sunday I really think we should talk about the Holy Spirit today.
No one has seen God which is a good thing because if you see God you will die. God himself warned us about that in Exodus 33:20.
Of course, no one has seen the Holy Spirit either. People saw Jesus. They saw him, talked to him, ate with him even touched him as he moved among people. Even after his death on the cross he appeared in his resurrected body to hundreds of people and left them in no doubt as to who he was.
But you can’t see the Holy Spirit. His name tells you why. He is the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit is not someone new, though. He’s been around for ever.
At the very beginning of the universe in the very first words in the Bible he is there.
Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The Holy Spirit was there in the beginning because God was there in the beginning and the Holy Spirit is God’s own Spirit. He is God.
Words ascribed to God also apply to the Holy Spirit. words like…
immortal, invisible, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immanent, incomparable, infinite, almighty, creator, heavenly father. All of these describe the Holy Spirit.
So, we know the Holy Spirit is God, God’s own spirit.
We also know Jesus is God, God in human form.
The Holy Spirit is the spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Jesus Christ.
Now, explain that!! How does that work?
Only someone as clever as God will understand that. Only someone as powerful as God will be able to make that work.
God decided to do things that way and so he did.
By the way, I’m not being unkind or superior, but don’t expect a non-Christian to understand the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself pointed out that unbelievers can have no idea as to who the Holy Spirit is.
(John 14:16-17) “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
Not only is the Holy Spirit mentioned in the first verses of the Bible, where he was busy creating the whole universe, but he is there all through the Old Testament.
He was changing people’s hearts to God (Ezekiel 36:26-29)
There were occasions he temporarily filled selected people so they could do things like pass on messages from God or do particular jobs. (1 Samuel 16:12-13)
When God wanted some people to serve him in some way the Holy Spirit gave them special power to do the job (Exodus 31:2-5. 2 Samuel 23:2-3)
Whenever people in the Old Testament spoke of the Holy Spirit they were talking about the Spirit of God and the Spirit of the promised Messiah, the Spirit of Jesus (1 Peter1:10-11)
But all along more was promised, more was foretold (Isaiah 11:1-2. Joel 2:28-32)
Then there was that special world-changing day we call Pentecost when those prophecies were fulfilled and we read about it in Acts chapter 2. From then on the Holy Spirit was poured out on all Christians to live in and with them full time. Each of us has become the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Have you received the Holy Spirit? (Acts 19:2)
It’s a question many people ask themselves at some time.
It’s not an offensive question to ask someone, either. Even when Paul visited Christians in Ephesus he asked them that very question, “have you received the Holy Spirit?”
How do you get from being an unbeliever who has no idea who the Holy Spirit is to being a believer filled with the Holy Spirit?
Let’s work through a checklist of some of the things which I believe apply to us and show us that we have received the Holy Spirit.
(1) It starts with the Holy Spirit when he convicts us of sin
(John16:8-10) When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
People don’t, won’t and even can’t understand that they are not living up to God’s standards until the Holy Spirit prompts their conscience. It’s then that we develop an honesty streak – honest with ourselves and honest wth God – and confess we are not good enough for God. In other words, we admit we are sinners. We turn away from those things the Spirit convicts us of and commit to finding out what God wants us to do. We repent and are forgiven, cleansed and accepted by our Heavenly Father.
(2) The Holy Spirit reveals to us the wonderful love of Jesus and allows us to understand what he has done for us.
(1 Corinthians 2:12) What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.
Now we can begin to understand what Jesus has done for us by way of his crucifixion and resurrection and what he has taught us. The Bible starts to make more sense to us as the Spirit opens it up to us.
(3) He draws us into a wonderful unity with Jesus.
(John 14:20) On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
The Spirit of God lives in and with us. We become the Temple of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit communicates directly with our spirit. He understands us perfectly and completely. He teaches us to turn to God the Father in prayer and praise as we can speak freely to Abba Father – Daddy!
(4) He gives us an assurance, a guarantee of our place in the Kingdom of Jesus
(Ephesians 1:13-14) When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.
We are given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, a down payment to assure us that we are accepted, adopted as a child of the Father God. He comes as a stamp of approval by God so we know for sure that we have a sure and certain place in the Kingdom of Heaven.
(5) Jesus explained to Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of God you must be born of water and the Holy Spirit. He said we must be born again. And this is just what happens when we receive the Holy Spirit. We are born again into the Kingdom of God.
(6) He makes us more and more into the image of Christ, and we begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit
(Galatians 5:22-23) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I have a theory that it’s a mistake to check up on yourself by checking yourself against this list, the fruit of the Spirit. Have a look at that list and see if you can say, “yes, that’s me!” You don’t easily see these characteristics in ourselves.
These characteristics are not normal, automatic human characteristics. These are characteristics of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit.
And I think that if I have them they are not mainly for my benefit. Of course, I am better off if I am loving, joyful and peaceful. However, it is you who are so very much better off if I am patient, kind, good, gentle and self-controlled.
The question I should ask myself is not, “do I have the fruit of the Spirit” but rather I should ask, “am I bearing the fruit of the Spirit?” Not, “can I see the fruit of the Spirit in myself” but rather, are other people noticing and benefitting from the fruit the Spirit is producing in me?
If the answer to this question is, “yes”, then people around us are seeing what Jesus is like. The more we bear this fruit the more we are like Jesus, the more we are in the image of Christ, the more Christian we are.
(7) The Holy Spirit gives us gifts with which to serve Jesus and his church
(1 Corinthians 12:4-7) There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
In other words, you are a very useful, necessary part of the church. At the very least just by being here you are bringing the gift of encouragement to the rest of us. Thank you for that! I appreciate that, I really do.
I think it would be even more encouraging if we were to work our way through the congregation and work out what gifts we each bring to it but that would be better done some other get-together.
In the meantime, give it some thought – even over morning tea!
Have you received the Holy Spirit?
Having answered that question with a “yes” we come to an important one. So, day by day how do we know what the Holy Spirit wants us to do?
2 Timothy 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
You have learned about Jesus your Lord and Saviour from the Scriptures, from the Bible. And the Bible has been given by the inspiration of God himself. The Holy Spirit has been active in preparing it so it can teach, rebuke, correct, train us and equip us to be who he wants us to be.
Obviously that means – keep reading it, keep learning from it, keep hearing from the Holy Spirit. Keep letting the Holy Spirit work out his purposes, his guidance, his fruit, his gifts in you. That is, keep reading the Bible.