Posts Tagged 'The Holy Spirit'

Mystery of the Trinity, Part 5


Human beings were created to need fellowship. As a matter of fact, as soon as God created the first man, Adam, He said this:

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18 | KJ21)

But what does fellowship look like? A group of people hanging around together? Or eating together? We can learn about true fellowship by looking at the Trinity. There is no more perfect example of fellowship than how the three Members of the Trinity relate to each other.

Submit to the Father

The first Person of the Trinity is known as the Father. There’s a clue in this title as to how we should relate to Him. In the book of James, we read something so simple we miss it, but it’s the foundation upon which our relationship with God the Father is built.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:7 – 10 | TNIV)

The word is “submit,” and it’s a word we don’t like. It means to put our will under God’s. Often it means behaving or thinking in a way we don’t really like but we do it because we know that’s what God wants. But our submission is not the submission of a subject to a tyrant, but that of a child to a Father. There’s a difference. One is done out of fear of punishment, the other is done out of respect and even love.

There’s a chilling statement Jesus made that has to do with submission:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21 | TNIV)

Anybody can claim to be a Cristian, but Jesus wants disciples, not Christians. There’s a difference. The test of true discipleship is not what you call yourself or what others call you, but rather the test is one of submission. And the true test that a person belongs in the Kingdom is not just words, but also deeds. Verse 20 amplifies verse 21, so we should look at it:

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:20 | TNIV)

Our Lord is actually referring to false teachers here, but He’s laying down a pattern. What is true of false teachers must also be true of anybody claiming to be a follower of Jesus. One can call himself a Christian all day long, but if his actions don’t pass “the smell test,” then he can’t be a true follower of Jesus; he can’t be a disciple.

So doing the will of God – submitting to God – is the very least you should be doing if you want to be disciple of Jesus’.

That idea of humble submission is exemplified, not only in how we are to act, but even in how we pray. The very words we choose to use show whether or not we have learned submission to God.

He said to them, “When you pray, say: ” ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.’” (Luke 11:2 | TNIV)

Jesus began teaching His disciples how to pray by giving them an example. It’s not that He expected all of His followers to memorize and repeat this particular prayer all the time, but that we should take not of and appreciate the attitude in which it was prayed, and that means looking at the words Jesus used. For example, Jesus began the model prayer with using the title “Father,” which comes from the Greek, pater. So when we pray, we should consider the fact that we are praying to our heavenly Father and that we are His children. Again, that’s a relationship made possible by Jesus’ redemptive work on the Cross, and by praying like that – in that attitude – we are acknowledging what Jesus did for us and we are behaving in prayer as submissive, humble children.

Jesus also used an old fashioned word, “hallowed” in the prayer. That’s a word essentially unknown to modern readers, even though the TNIV, a very modern translation of Scripture, uses it. But what exactly does it mean? And do we need to use that word in our prayers? In answer to the second question first, no. Jesus probably didn’t mean for us to use “hallowed” in all our prayers. The idea behind the Greek word “hallowed” is found in many Old Testament prayers, like this one:

He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name. (Psalm 111:9 | TNIV)

It’s more of an act of worship than a statement of fact, though it is a statement of fact. When we pray, we ought to be worshipping God – the “holy and awesome” heavenly Father, and the fact that His name is “hallowed” should influence, not only the words we use, but our very attitude as we pray. He is “hallowed” and He is “holy and awesome” and we should pray in that attitude.

Follow the Son

We are able to have fellowship with God the Father because of what God the Son did for us. Our relationship with God the Son is slightly different than our relationship with God the Father. While we are to relate to God the Father as our Father, we are to follow God the Son. Jesus helps us understand how to do that.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25 – 30 | TNIV)

The first thing you should notice in verse 25 is how Jesus addressed God in His prayer, which is what part of this paragraph is. He is following the model prayer He gave His disciples! Our Lord refers to His Father as, “Lord of heaven and earth.” That’s another way to “hallow the Lord’s Name.”

He also reveals a vital piece of doctrine. Nobody can know that Father except those who know the Son because the Son reveals the Father to them. It doesn’t matter what a person may say, only followers of Jesus the Son can know God the Father.

Verses 28 – 30 are among the most beautiful verses in all the Bible. In spite of our sin and corruption, Jesus never said, “Get lost, you good for nothing bums!” Instead, He put out the invitation for lost, sinful man to “come” to Him. Why would those dragging around sins want to come to Jesus? It’s because that burden of sin is so heavy and the only One who can give relief is Jesus. It’s a measure of the wickedness of sin that it deludes the one it has control over into thinking it’s easier and more pleasurable to go on sinning than it is to come to Jesus and be set free. In comparison to the awful weight of sin, the “yoke” of Jesus is easy and the burden of following Jesus is so much lighter than that of sin. You can’t help but be reminded of the terrible words of Jacob Marley to Ebinezer Scrooge. Scrooge asked the specteral Marley why he was dragging around a very long length of heavy chain as he walked by night. Marley answered:

I wear the chain I forged in life! I made it link by link and yard by yard! I gartered it on of my own free will and by my own free will, I wore it!

The crushing weight of sin, like the chains of Jacob Marley, can only be removed when a sinner comes to Jesus for the rest only He can give. But to receive that rest means to submit to Christ’s authority. That’s what is meant by “yoke.” There’s definitely a give-and-take here. The sinner comes to Jesus, Jesus takes his sin away, giving relief and rest, and the one-time sinner becomes a submissive follower of Jesus. The idea is you either follow the difficult way of sin where there is nothing but difficulty and drudgery or you can follow the way of Jesus, where there is rest and peace in His presence.

But there’s more to it than that, as those of us who have been following Jesus can attest to. It isn’t always easy to follow the Son.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, 27 | TNIV)

If you’re like me, you probably prefer the verses in Matthew over these found in Luke’s Gospel! It’s startling to read verse 24, especially. Did Jesus really mean that following Him means we must hate our family? Or even our very life? It’s really a matter of love in degrees. The Aramaic word Jesus used for “hate” simply means, “to love less.” To be a true disciple of Jesus means that you must love Him more than anything or anybody in your life, including your very life. That sounds good, and it makes a great deal of sense. But it’s not easy to put into practice. If you are on Facebook, for example, take notice of how mothers (it’s almost always mothers who write such things) refer to their kids. Often the phrase that accompanies the latest picture of their little darling is something like, “This kid…he’s my life/my whole world/I love him more than anything.” Now, we know what she means, but what sideways insult to Jesus! Not to mention it’s a terrible witness. Of course, social media begs for the use of hyperbole and exaggeration, but if you’re a Christian, your witness ought to be: “This Jesus…He’s my life/my whole world/I love Him more than anything.”

Loving Him more than your family is hard enough, but it’s hard to get all worked up about having to “carry your own cross.” We know Jesus is simply saying that being His disciple means that your life will be a life of submission (there’s that word again!). There may be times when you’ll have to deny yourself something because you are a follower of Jesus. You may have to put Him or an activity for Him ahead of what you’d rather be doing. It’s all part of “carrying your cross.” Jesus the Son submitted to His Father’s will – death on the cross – and so you must also submit to God’s will.

Rely on the Spirit

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—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.” (John 14:15 – 17 | TNIV)

Very shortly before Jesus was crucified, bringing His earthly ministry to a close, He gathered His friends around Him to tell them that soon He would “give them another advocate.” Other translations use the word “comforter.” What Jesus was trying to tell them was that while He was their present Advocate and Comforter, when He left them He would send them another One to take His place. We know He was referring to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would take His place and do what He had been doing for them and in them. Think about what Jesus did with His disciples during His three years of ministry on earth. He taught them God’s word; He explained to them what all those verses meant. He showed them how to apply all those teachings they knew since childhood to their lives today. They saw Jesus working miracles – miracles of healing and deliverance, for example. They saw Jesus do amazing things, like walking on water and changing the weather and feeding thousands of people with what amounted to a snack! By using the word “another,” Jesus was telling His friends that the Holy Spirit would what He did.

Jesus began by talking to them about submission. If that seems to be a repetitive theme, that’s because it is. I began this study by stating that submission is the very foundation of a relationship with God the Father, so it’s natural that the notion of submission keeps popping up. Fellowship with Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives all begins with submission. You cannot get away from it. As a Christian, there is nothing more important than submission to God. You can claim to love Him, but if you can’t submit to Him, just how valid is your so-called love for Him?

You and I as disciples of Jesus must rely on the Holy Spirit. He makes the Son and the Father real to us. But not only that, the Holy Spirit enables us to live for God in the world by making it possible for us to do some of things Jesus did while He was engaged in His earthly ministry. He does this through the spiritual gifts He gives us. There are several lists of the Spiritual gifts in the New Testament, but the most well-known one is found in 1 Corinthians 12 –

To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:8 – 11 | TNIV)

By using the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are able to carry on the work of Jesus within the Body fo Christ. But there’s even more. With the Holy Spirit in our lives, it just gets better and better. He also enables us to live like Jesus. With the power of the Spirit, we can work like Jesus and live like Jesus!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22 – 25 | TNIV)

Letting the Spirit live through you will result in you living a life totally different from the life you lived before you became a Christian. Back then, you were controlled by your sinful nature, but now you are – or should be – controlled by the Holy Spirit. And to be in step with Him means living the kind of life Jesus lived – a life marked by things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Really, when you cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in your life, you will be simply living like Jesus did.

The Holy Spirit wants all of us to learn to rely on Him. Living the Christian life isn’t always easy, but when we submit to God we will be relying on the Spirit and we will be living the very best Christian life we can.

Mystery of the Trinity, Part 4


There are plenty of things people get wrong about the Holy Spirit, and I’m not talking about just Pentecostals. Christians of all stripes can’t seem to think rightly about Him. A large contingent of Christians seem to think the Holy Spirit is a gift. True enough, Jesus did put that idea in the heads of His disciples, but the Holy Spirit is so much more than just a gift. He is a Person; a divine Person. The Holy Spirit is a much a divine Person as God the Father and God the Son.

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is one of the most important doctrines in the Bible and is a major component of what the Bible teaches about Redemption. He is mentioned in every book of the New Testament except for 2 and 3 John. All the Gospels begin with a promise of His outpouring. So why is He so misunderstood? The fact is, the Holy Spirit is neglected by most churches because of either formalism or the fear of fanaticism. But the very simple truth is that when we have the Spirit in our lives, we have God in our lives.

His Work

By the time we get to John 16, the end was near for Jesus as far as His earthly ministry was concerned. Things were about to get very uncomfortable for the disciples, so Jesus warned them.

They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God. (John 16:2 | TNIV)

Talk about getting it all backwards! The so-called religious leaders would stoop to persecuting and sometimes killing followers of Jesus Christ thinking they were doing God a favor! Sin deludes people into believing the craziest things, which leads to actions that are inexcusable and unthinkable in a sane world. To comfort His friends, Jesus said this:

but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. (John 16:5, 6 | TNIV)

Those are a curious two verses. It’s a little hard for us to make sense of them. The disciples were overcome with a sense of sorrow and dread, not so much because Jesus was leaving them, but because their world was about change. None of them had the courage to ask where He was going, probably because they had been down that road before and at least one of the bunch got an answer he didn’t care too much for.

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:36 – 38 | TNIV)

That was bad enough for Peter, but now it sounded like everybody’s future was just a grim as his was going to be. They didn’t care where Jesus was going; they were concerned about their own futures. To calm their fears, our Lord mentioned the coming of an Advocate.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7 | TNIV)

Wescott remarked:

The withdrawal of His limited bodily Presence necessarily prepared the way for the recognition of a universal Presence.

Some Christians sentimentally think how wonderful it must have been to walk with Jesus, but they don’t understand that today His Presence is within them, in the Person of the Holy Spirit. One scholar noted,

The braver and more perfect disciple is he who can walk by faith, and not by sight.

That perfectly describes believers after Jesus left the scene and sent the Holy Spirit. We can have a far more intimate relationship with the Lord than the disciples ever had while He was with them during His earthly ministry. Not only is the Holy Spirit the abiding presence of God in believers, He has some very specific things to do for us and in us.

When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about 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. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:8 – 15 | TNIV)

In all, there are three aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work:

• To the world–conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
• To the disciples–direction and truth.
• To Jesus–revealing him more perfectly to and through those who represent Him.

As far as the world is concerned, the Holy Spirit’s work is to “prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” That seems to be an awkward way to describe what other translations call “convict” or “reprove” the world in regards to sin, righteousness, and judgment. In the Greek, that all springs from a Greek word that refers to a legal term meaning to pass judgment on a guilty party. It’s not just that the Holy Spirit accuses man of sin, He actually brings to them a sense of guilt and helplessness before God. So the Holy Spirit is like a prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful man. By creating an awareness of sin in man, He places man in the position of being unable to justify himself before God. To help you understand this role, think of the prophet Nathan and his interaction with King David after exposing the King’s sin.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.” (2 Samuel 12:1 – 7 | TNIV)

That brought David to the place where he finally acknowledged his dreadful sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:3, 4 | TNIV)

The attitude behind a life of sin (or any sin a man may commit) is unbelief. This makes sense, for if a man truly believed in God and Christ, he would live accordingly. When that man continually rejects the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he is essentially telling Him that He doesn’t exist.

Also in relation to the world, the Holy Spirit convicts people of righteousness. That’s another way of saying that somehow, in a way that we don’t fully comprehend, the Holy Spirit enforces the standard of God’s character so that a man may compare his thoughts and actions against God’s standard. In other words, a sinful man knows deep down in his heart of hearts that what he is doing is wrong and that his life not what it should be. You may consider that his conscience talking, but it’s a subtle work of the Spirit. Paul in Romans advances this thought using other words:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:18 – 20 | TNIV)

And when man continues to reject the conviction of the Holy Spirit; when he continually turns his back on God, what results is not unlike what happened to Pharaoh when he kept refusing to release the Hebrews. Exodus says that, “God hardened his heart,” but Paul put in terms that seem a little more reasonable:

[24] Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. [26] Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. [28] Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:24, 26, 28 | TNIV)

With respect to the disciples, the Holy Spirit would enable them to grasp the teachings of Jesus that so far they seemed unable to. And that’s one of the wonderful things the Holy Spirit does for all believers, not just the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking. The Spirit doesn’t teach anything new, He helps us to understand the Word of God and its teachings. Furthermore, the Spirit, though His gifts, broadens the spirituality of believers, helping us to do things spiritually that we normally would be unable to do. He deepens our understanding of spiritual matters and helps us to discern the world around us, enabling us to have clarity of thought, especially in regard to the future.

And the last function of the Holy Spirit relates to Jesus Christ. The Spirit doesn’t draw attention to Himself, but rather glorifies Christ. He makes the teachings and the Person of our Lord real to us.

He lives in us

The Holy Spirit and His work in our lives is completely indispensable. It’s sad that He is so ignored and misunderstood. Paul, in writing to the Romans, did his best to illustrate the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. In discussing those who live by the sinful nature versus those who have been born again, he makes this crucial observation:

You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:9 – 11 | TNIV)

The non-believer is controlled by his sinful nature – the base desires that lead to sin. The believer, by contrast, is no longer controlled by his sinful nature but by the Spirit because the Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit – dwells in them. Your body may constantly feel the effects of sin, but inwardly you are made alive by the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit is powerful; His power is the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

In fact, by using different titles to describe the Holy Spirit, Paul is teaching something very deep about the Trinity and the nature of the fellowship we have with it. He uses these titles interchangeably: “the Spirit,” “the Spirit of God,” and “the Spirit of Christ” to convey the thought that with the Holy Spirit residing in believers, the Godhead resides there also. That’s an incredible thought showing the closeness of the relationship God wants with His people. It’s mind boggling to consider the singular privilege afforded only to Christians! To be able to daily live in the presence of the three members of the Trinity.

Many of us have been Christians for so long, we have forgotten how it felt to be outside of the family of God; we don’t remember being alienated from God because of our sin. We’ve been very comfortable with God’s presence – so comfortable that sometimes we take it for granted. In writing to the Corinthians, encouraging them to stay away from sexual immorality, Paul gave a piece advice that we would do well to practice, whether or not we are involved in sexual immorality.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 | TNIV)


Filled With the Spirit


We celebrate “Pentecost Sunday” 50 days after Easter. This is the one Sunday of the year that traditional, stodgy, dusty, mainline Christian denominations, that otherwise ignore the Holy Spirit, give Him His due.

In our sermon series on the Holy Spirit, we said that the Holy Spirit, specifically the idea that all believers are to be filled with Him, is a promise. In fact, the infilling of the Holy Spirit is as much a promise as salvation is. In Luke 24:49, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to send the Holy Spirit, all they had to do was wait in Jerusalem until He came to them. That promise was fulfilled in Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, a Jewish festival.

Being filled with the Spirit is part and parcel of being a born again Christian. As Christians, we are called to live a “Spirit filled life.” But what does that mean? Let’s look at some aspects of what it means to be “filled with the Spirit.”

1. Filled with the Spirit, Numbers 11:24-29; Acts 2:1-4. 16-17

(a) Elders receive the Spirit of The Lord, Numbers 11:24-29

And the Lord came down in the Cloud and talked with Moses, and the Lord took of the Spirit that was upon Moses and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied for some time. (Numbers 11:25 TLB)

In Numbers, God had enough with the constant complaints of the Israelites. And so had God’s man, Moses.

Moses said to the Lord, “Why pick on me, to give me the burden of a people like this? Are they my children? Am I their father? Is that why you have given me the job of nursing them along like babies until we get to the land you promised their ancestors? (Numbers 11:11, 12 TLB)

It’s interesting that while God got really irritated with Israel’s murmuring, He did not get angry with Moses. Obviously Moses’ heart was right and his “complaining” wasn’t considered a sin by God. In love and compassion, God heard the complaints of Moses and offered a solution. The same Spirit that was on Moses – the Holy Spirit – would be put on the elders of Israel. When they received the Spirit, they began to do the work of The Lord, in this case, they “prophesied.”  The Spirit even fell on two elders who were not present with the others, Eldad and Medad, and they too began to prophesy.  All this new prophesying caused some jealousy among the Israelites, and this caused Moses to say,

I only wish that all of the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all! (Numbers 11:29 TLB)

Don’t we all? And the amazing thing is that even though the Holy Spirit was spread out among all these elders, His power did not diminish! And another very telling lesson is that God’s answer to Moses’ problem was MORE of the Holy Spirit!

(b) The coming of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:1-4, 16-17

The ascent of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit are two events that cannot be disentangled. Jesus went up in spectacular style and the Spirit came down equally spectacularly – in scorching wind and in tongues of fire. These two symbols are significant. Fire and wind are both symbolic of God’s presence and of the Spirit who purifies and sanctifies. When the Holy Spirit fills a believer, He gives that believer power and purity – you can’t have one without the other. This is the purpose of the Holy Spirit and why He is in every single believer: He sanctifies us and He gives us power to live and work for God.

It’s hard not to make the connection between the coming of the Spirit in Acts with the presence of God at Mount Sinai:

On the morning of the third day there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm, and a huge cloud came down upon the mountain…All Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because Jehovah descended upon it in the form of fire; the smoke billowed into the sky as from a furnace, and the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake. (Exodus 19:16, 18 TLB)

A new epoch was dawning and it was essential that God make His presence known in an undeniable, unforgettable way. And so it was at Pentecost in Acts. The dispensation of the Holy Spirit was beginning; the disciples needed an experience they would never forget.

2. Spirit filled living, Acts 2:41-47; Ephesians 5:18-21; Galatians 5:22-25

The descent of the Holy Spirit, with all it’s accompanying signs and enthusiasm, was not the end, it was just the beginning! It was not some sort of emotional high given by God to make the disciples feel good. There was and is a purpose for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

(a) Fellowship of believers, Acts 2:41-47

After the Spirit fell, Peter preached one powerful sermon that led 3,000 people to faith in Christ. He preached it in the power of the Spirit. Not long after that sermon, we see a very simple “church structure” being birthed. We can learn a lot about what’s wrong with the modern church by looking at how it was done in the beginning.

They joined with the other believers in regular attendance at the apostles’ teaching sessions and at the Communion services and prayer meetings. (Acts 2:42 TLB)

We can see four things the early did that formed their simple structure:

The studied the apostle’s teaching. They, the 3,000 plus, gathered to listen to preaching and teaching. After reading Peter’s sermon, we can imagine that most of their messages were teachings from and expositions of Scripture, the Old Testament and probably sayings and teachings of Jesus.

They fellowshipped. From verse 44, we understand that these early members took fellowship very seriously. Koinonia is the Greek word they used for their times of fellowship, and it refers to an intimate sharing with others.

They took communion often. They did this so they wouldn’t forget what Jesus did for them. They were also being obedient to Jesus’ instructions during the Last Supper.

They prayed a lot. Part of this was probably a carry-over from their former religion, Judaism, which had a heavy emphasis on prayer. But there was more going on here than just “Christianizing” old practices. They continued to meet and pray in the Temple, but they also to prayed in their homes and other gathering places.

This is a pretty simple structure, and in some ways it could never be repeated today. But the “spirit” or the attitude of that early church NEEDS to be assumed by the modern church!

(b) The Spirit-filled life, Ephesians 5:18-21

Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him. (Ephesians 5:18 TLB)

The day-to-day experience of the Christian must be that of being filled with the Spirit. This group of verses teaches us a very important truth. Living the Spirit-filled life depends on what we DO. The Spirit is in us, but He won’t force us to live correctly. That’s why Paul gave his Ephesian friends these (obvious) “rules for living in the Spirit.”

Paul wrote, “be filled instead with the Holy Spirit.” The verb “filled” is in the present imperative, meaning we could translate it like this: be continually filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a transitory experience; it is ongoing and that Spirit within must influence how we live each day.

The Holy Spirit is our great Sealer and He is also our Sanctifier; He makes holy living possible, but we must co-operate with him. So the Spirit-filled life is, on one had, as simple as thinking twice before we say a certain thing or behave in a certain way. We must strive to live to please Him. And the good news is that the Holy Spirit gives us the power (the ability) to do just that!

(c) Life in the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-25

This is the famous list of the the “Fruit of the Spirit.” It’s a powerful list, especially when we read it in contrast to the the works of the flesh, which precedes it. It’s natural for the unsaved to be attracted to the “works of the flesh,” but the Christian should be attracted to the fruit of the Spirit.

These are not “gifts,” rather “fruit.” If a person is born again, they should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. There are many “works” of the flesh, but the “fruit” of the Spirit is one. Paul wrote that way on purpose. For believers, it actually takes MORE effort to live after the flesh than to live in the Spirit. It’s really just a matter of letting the Spirit live through you; it’s a matter of living to please Him.

3. Spirit-filled unity and service, Acts 4:31-35; 2 Corinthians 3:5-6

Looking at how the disciples changed after the coming of the Holy Spirit is evidence of how He changes a life. Remember how frightened the disciples were during and immediately following the Crucifixion? Remember how lonely and dejected the two nameless disciples were as they walked along that road to Emmaus? Now compare the way those disciples were then to how they were after the descent of the Holy Spirit! They were different people; no longer fearful, they lived and functioned as a community of faith, no longer afraid to share that faith.

(a) Believers share their possessions, (Acts 4:31-35)

All the believers were of one heart and mind, and no one felt that what he owned was his own; everyone was sharing. And the apostles preached powerful sermons about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and there was warm fellowship among all the believers… (Acts 4:32, 33 TLB)

The point of these verses, and the similar ones in 2:44-47, is not that the early church was communist or socialist in nature. Nor is the Bible teaching that this is how the modern church should behave. What we learn here is that there was an intense spiritual unity in the early church, so much so that they made sure all the members’ needs were met by other members. This unity resulted in two things: (1) “warm fellowship.” No longer were the followers of Jesus cowering in a locked room, they were welcoming in a steady flow of new members and that fellowship was not hidden. (2) “powerful sermons” were preached about the Resurrection of Jesus.

(b) Ministers of the New Covenant, 2 Corinthians 3:5, 6

Our only power and success comes from God. He is the one who has helped us tell others about his new agreement to save them. We do not tell them that they must obey every law of God or die; but we tell them there is life for them from the Holy Spirit. The old way, trying to be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments, ends in death; in the new way, the Holy Spirit gives them life. (2 Corinthians 3:5, 6 TLB)

In Acts, we see the role the Holy Spirit played in the everyday life and ministry of the early church. In these two verses, Paul made sure his Corinthian friends understood that his authority and even his competence were from God, via the Holy Spirit. The thing is, this power that was at work in Paul is the same power that is at work in all believers. The old way – the Old Covenant – was obsessed with the “letter of the Jewish law.” It left no room for individual. But the new way – the New Covenant – is all about freedom from man’s ways (even the Law as it had been perverted by religious leaders) in favor of a new life made possible by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit gives life to the one He indwells. It’s a new life based on a brand new Covenant. The Old Covenant was all external, written on stone tablets. The New Covenant is written on the heart and it is administered by the Holy Spirit. That is, the Holy Spirit makes you alive to the New Covenant.

The Holy Spirit and You, Part 8




The Power of the Spirit

We hear a lot about “power” today.  Some people want more of it, others feel like they have none.  There’s coal power and nuclear power.  There’s the power to create and the power to destroy.  We seem to be living in the age of “power.”  The church, too, is living in an age of  “power,” and a church or a Christian without spiritual power is living behind the times.  When Christ ascended to continue His work in Heaven, the Holy Spirit descended to continue His work here on Earth.  But the Holy Spirit didn’t come to us as a helpless baby in a manger, He came in power, as “a rushing mighty wind,” a symbol of self-generating power.  It is God’s will that every church, regardless of the “label” attached to it, live and work in this spiritual, “pentecostal,” power.  And yet, as we look at the Church of Jesus Christ today, we see a distinct lack of spiritual power.  We see lots of programs and man-generated systematic doctrines and we see plenty of churches looking for the acceptance of man, but so many of them are bereft of the Spirit.  We have ministers with more letters after their names than you can find in a can of alphabet soup, who can speak with great eloquence and quote other eloquent (often dead) ministers in their sermons, yet they have no spiritual power.  What’s really needed in the Church today – all churches –  is the  power of the Holy Spirit, manifested from behind and in front of the pulpit.  Christians are desperate for that power, whether they realize it or not.  It’s not another program or committee or dinner or choral presentation the Church needs.  It’s the power of the Holy Spirit.  The great thing is, this power resides in EVERY believer.  This power of the Spirit is:

1.  Desperately needed

Think about what Jesus told the disciples in Luke 24:49–

And now I will send the Holy Sprit upon you, just as my Father promised. Dont begin telling others yetstay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.   (Luke 24:49  TLB)

As far as Jesus was concerned, there was no point in doing His work without the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the context of Luke 24, Jesus had assured His disciples of His resurrection and He gave them some final instructions.  But then Jesus did something significant:  He talked to them about the Scriptures.  And He explained that even beyond the resurrection, something else had to happen in order to fulfill Scriptures written generations ago.  It involved preaching the Gospel and it involved waiting in Jerusalem for something to happen.  Before they attempted to do anything Jesus had told them to do, they NEEDED a power from Heaven that only the Holy Spirit could give.  We, today, are called to the same work and we need that same power. 

Then he said, This is Gods message to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almightyyou will succeed because of my Spirit, though you are few and weak.  Therefore no mountain, however high, can stand before Zerubbabel! For it will flatten out before him! And Zerubbabel will finish building this Temple with mighty shouts of thanksgiving for Gods mercy, declaring that all was done by grace alone.  (Zechariah 4:6, 7  TLB)

Work for The Lord, be it building the Temple or preaching the Word or just sharing your testimony with one who is lost, cannot be done by your determination alone.  It cannot be done in your power alone.  It MUST be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.  William Carey famously said,

Expect great things from God.  Attempt great things for God.

That’s a good quote as far as it goes.  But, if you are going to attempt great things for God, you’d better make sure you are doing them in the power of the Spirit.  If you aren’t sure the power of the Spirit is behind you, then you’d better wait to make sure.  King David, one time, was told to wait for the tree-tops to move before he could do what God had called him to do.

When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the balsam trees, attack! For it will signify that the Lord has prepared the way for you and will destroy them.  So David did as the Lord had instructed him and destroyed the Philistines all the way from Geba to Gezer.  (2 Samuel 5:24, 25  TLB)

You and I need the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to do anything of lasting value for Kingdom of God.

2.  Promised

But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection.  (Acts 1:8  TLB)

It was Jesus who said this and Jesus always keeps His promises!  He fulfilled that same promise in Timothy’s life through the apostle Paul:

This being so, I want to remind you to stir into flame the strength and boldness that is in you, that entered into you when I laid my hands upon your head and blessed you.  For the Holy Spirit, Gods gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them.  (2 Timothy 1:6, 7  TLB)

Timothy wasn’t anywhere near the Upper Room when the Spirit fell and neither was Paul, yet here we see Timothy receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit – God’s gift or promise to believers – through the ministry of Paul.

Just as becoming a Christian involves coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection, power to live for and serve Him comes through a relationship with the Holy Spirit whereby He endues you with His power.  You need it!

3.  Life-giving

Consider these verses:

He is the one who has helped us tell others about his new agreement to save them. We do not tell them that they must obey every law of God or die; but we tell them there is life for them from the Holy Spirit. The old way, trying to be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments, ends in death; in the new way, the Holy Spirit gives them life.  (2 Corinthians 3:6  TLB)

But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead… (Ephesians 2:4, 5  TLB)

And if the Spirit of God, who raised up Jesus from the dead, lives in you, he will make your dying bodies live again after you die, by means of this same Holy Spirit living within you.  (Romans 8:11  TLB)

The Holy Spirit will not only raise your mortal body as He did Christ’s, He imparts abundant life to you today!  The Holy Spirit gives you life today; it’s a new life, full of God’s grace and mercy and power.

4.  Enough

I came to you in weaknesstimid and trembling.  And my preaching was very plain, not with a lot of oratory and human wisdom, but the Holy Spirits power was in my words, proving to those who heard them that the message was from God.  (1 Corinthians 2:3, 4  TLB)

Paul was not a weak man.  Looking at the incredible work he did on his missionary journeys, the churches he founded and the lives he changed, we know that he was not weak.  So to what was Paul referring when he told the Corinthians he “came to them in weakness?”  Paul described his attitude as he preached the Word in any city.  Wherever he found himself doing the work of The Lord, he decreased so that Christ in him might increase.  He shared Christ without gimmicks and without relying on the the wisdom of man, of which he had plenty.  Instead, Paul shared Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  He relied on the Holy Spirit.  Paul found out that the power of the Spirit was all he needed.

When I think of the wisdom and scope of his plan, I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father of all the great family of Godsome of them already in heaven and some down here on earththat out of his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you the mighty inner strengthening of his Holy Spirit.  (Ephesians 3:14-16  TLB)

It was Paul’s earnest prayer in light of God’s plan that Christians be filled with God’s glorious, unlimited resources:  the power of the Holy Spirit.

5.  Cannot be purchased

When Simon saw thisthat the Holy Spirit was given when the apostles placed their hands upon peoples headshe offered money to buy this power.  (Acts 8:18  TLB)

A man named Simon was so impressed with the power of the Holy Spirit, he thought he could buy this power.  It sounds foolish, but there are Christians who are just as foolish.  They see other other believers working in the power of the Spirit and they think they can “buy” this power, not necessarily with money, though.  They think they get the power of the Spirit through education, for example.  Or through church membership. Or through being baptized in water.  Or through other means.  That’s wrong-headed thinking of the highest order!  The power of the Holy Spirit is a gift to be received; it is not something you can buy any more than you can by a puff of wind.

6.  Cannot be imitated

“And say to the people of Israel, This shall always be my holy anointing oil. It must never be poured upon an ordinary person, and you shall never make any of it yourselves, for it is holy, and it shall be treated by you as holy. Anyone who compounds any incense like it or puts any of it upon someone who is not a priest shall be excommunicated.  (Exodus 30:31-33   TLB)

The anointing oil in the Old Testament is a type of the Holy Spirit.  God made it explicitly clear to His people that it could could not be imitated.  There could be NO substitute acceptable to God.  When it comes to doing great things for God, you cannot substitute anything for the power of the Holy Spirit.  You cannot substitute enthusiasm for the power of the Holy Spirit.  You cannot substitute worship songs for the power of the Holy Spirit. You cannot substitute education for the power of the Holy Spirit.  Clever plans and programs cannot do the what only the Holy Spirit can do. 

7.  May be taken away

Finally, as difficult as it may be to imagine, the power of the Holy Spirit may be taken away from a believer.   The power of God rested on Samson, but because of sin and selfishness, that  power was snatched away.

Then she screamed, The Philistines are here to capture you, Samson! And he woke up and thought, I will do as before; Ill just shake myself free. But he didnt realize that the Lord had left him.   (Judges 16:20  TLB)

Without the power of the Spirit, the mighty Samson was reduced to an ordinary man.  He was so focused on himself he didn’t even realize he last that power.  He took the Holy Spirit for granted.  He was utterly helpless with the power of the Spirit. 

There is nothing so pathetic as a Christian who has lost the power of the Spirit.  It’s not that the Holy Spirit has been taken from them, but the Holy Spirit is sensitive, and if a believer neglects Him or lives in open rebellion to Him, though His presence may remain His power He will withhold from that believer until that believer makes his heart right.

But there is another way the Holy Spirit may be taken from a believer. 

I will come down and talk with you there, and I will take of the Spirit which is on you and will put it upon them also; they shall bear the burden of the people along with you, so that you will not have the task alone.  (Numbers 11:17  TLB)

This is God speaking to Moses.  Interesting, isn’t it?  When you are serving God in the power of the Holy Spirit, God knows if and when you need help, and He will help you!  God never expects any of us to “go it alone.”  When the Church of Jesus Christ is full of people full of the Holy Spirit and full of His power, a believer who is without that power doesn’t stand a chance!  The power of the Holy Spirit is self-perpetuating.  We may pray for other believers to receive it.  We may lay hands on believers to receive it.  But in the end, it is God who will endue that believer with the power of His Holy Spirit.  There is not begging involved.  Only receiving.

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