Grace Lutheran Church • 6931 Edinger Ave • Huntington Beach, CA • 92647 • (714) 899-1700

Larger Than Life – God In Us Pt. 2

John 3:1-9
Pastor Chris Tweitmann

Have you ever been overlooked by another person? Ignored like you don’t exist?

Have you ever been in a room with a group of people only to have
no one acknowledge your presence – engage you in any way whatsoever
– as if you were someone how completely invisible?

Many of us tend to treat the person of the Holy Spirit the same way.

Sure, we know and sort of believe the Holy Spirit is real,
but the Spirit hovers outside our experience.

Sometimes we sense or feel the Spirit, but then again, we’re not quite sure.

And then maybe from the little we’ve heard about the Holy Spirit
– speaking in tongues, being slain in the Spirit,
or some other weird, unexplainable manifestation, we can start to view
the Holy Spirit like that weird uncle or cousin of the family
we always feel awkward around – that we just can’t figure out how to interact with.

Another one of the ways I used to view the Holy Spirit. (SLIDE #1)

Because we don’t know what to do with the Holy Spirit, we tend to ignore the Spirit.

But last week, we started a new sermon series about the Holy Spirit
aiming to show us this is posture we can’t afford to maintain.

(SLIDE #2) Together we learned the Gospel ain’t no ghost story.
(SLIDE #3) The Holy Spirit isn’t like Casper the Friendly Ghost.

(SLIDE #4) The Holy Spirit is a person, one of the three persons of
the one and the same God we know as Yahweh.

(SLIDE #5) The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity
that also includes the Father, and the Son.

Even though the Holy Spirit may be the most unique person we’ve ever met,
(SLIDE #6) our relationship with the Holy Spirit is how God in Christ purposes
to be vitally, tangibly, and intimately present not only with us but in us.

(SLIDE #6) The Holy Spirit is God’s love, God’s truth, & God’s power right inside of us.

Today, in order to continue to get to know the Holy Spirit better,
we begin to consider the role or the central activities of the Holy Spirit.

They can be broken into three major focuses (SLIDE #7)
The Holy Spirit gives life. The Holy Spirit sustains/enhances life.
The Holy Spirit extends life.

Today, we are going to focus on the first one – the Holy Spirit as giving life.

Our starting point for doing this will be to return, once again, to the teachings of Jesus.

We are going to listen to the first half of a very familiar conversation
Jesus had with a man named Nicodemus. (SLIDES #9 – 12)

Just a little encouragement first, when it came to the Holy Spirit,
we’ll notice from this interaction, Nicodemus was just as confused as we often are.

As I briefly mentioned last Sunday, it took the early Church some time
to fully get to know the Holy Spirit (SLIDE #13).

“And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.”

This is a line from what is known as the Nicene Creed.
It’s named for the place where it was formulated.

Creeds summarize the accepted interpretation and understanding of ideas
and concepts in the Bible as the Church developed and grew over time.

This was next official statement of faith drafted after the Apostles Creed.

It’s longer than the Apostles Creed because it represents about three-hundred years
of Spirit-filled followers of Jesus seeking and working together to better understand God in Christ and the Gospel, and in the case here, the person of the Holy Spirit.

Notice the Holy Spirit is equated with God, hence being called “the Lord.”

Notice the Holy Spirit is perceived as being present and active in our lives,
giving or bringing about life.

Notice the Creed declares the Spirit to be not just a giver of life but “the giver of life.”

This is in line with what Jesus tells Nicodemus here. The Spirit gives life. (SLIDE #14)
The person of the Holy Spirit is the means to being born again.

Now before we address this idea of being born again through the Spirit,
I want to take us on a brief overview of the presence and role of the Holy Spirit
in the Bible leading up to this revelation by Jesus.

For while Jesus states “flesh gives life to flesh”
this is only true because were first given life through the Holy Spirit. (SLIDE #15)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a
formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.”

The Holy Spirit was involved in creation – giving life where there once was nothing.
This role or work of the Spirit includes giving life to us as humanity. (SLIDE #16)

And the LORD God formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and
breathed into it the breath of life. And the man became a living person. (Genesis 2:7)

(SLIDE #17) The words used to refer to the Holy Spirit are RUACH & PNEUMA.
Both words also are translated as “breath” or “wind.”

A common image of the Holy Spirit in the Bible is as the breath of God.
This is because the Holy Spirit gives us our physical, temporal life.

Picture that for a moment
—God through the person of the Holy Spirit breathing His life into you. (SLIDE #18)

Take a deep breath right now.

How often do we take that for granted – the very breath in our lungs
– the Spirit of the Living God who gives life to us in each and every moment?

We sing that praise song, “Great Are You Lord” by Casting Crowns.

But when’s the last time we acknowledged
the presence of the Holy Spirit and thanked God for every breath we take?

In the beginning, God through the Holy Spirit didn’t just give us physical life.
The Lord gave us life never-ending in unbroken communion with Him.

But we rejected that offer. We rebelled against that invitation.
And human life as it was created, all life as it was meant to be, got interrupted,
became broken as we decided to play God rather than
relying on the Spirit of the living God.

Humanity, on its own, all of us when we try to live and breathe apart from God, continue to repeat this folly.

It is important to understand the Holy Spirit is not the human spirit.

Our human spirit is the “divine spark”—the image of God—as Paul tells us in his letters, tainted or disconnected by our rebellion, our self-will over and against God’s will.

The human spirit is a broken one, a hungering one, a static presence that longs to reconnect to the flowing, eternal, and perfect Spirit of God from which it came.

On our own, yes, we are created in the image of God,
but we lack the animation of the Holy Spirit.

Like Paul says, it is like having a partial reflection
but not the fullness of the actual source of the reflection.

On our own, with each breath we take,
we carry but the echo of the Holy Spirit that first gave us life.
Eventually, inevitably, our human breath ceases and we die.

Thankfully, graciously, from the moment we ran away from Him,
the Lord had a rescue plan, if you will a resuscitation or a resurrection plan in mind.

And the person of the Holy Spirit isn’t some late party crasher to all this,
only arriving on the scene at Pentecost eons later after the start of all creation.

(SLIDE #19) No, as we carry on through the Old Testament, we read how the Holy Spirit
brought life in the midst of barrenness, brought life in an exodus from slavery,
brought life in the birth of a nation, brought life through the voice of the prophets.

And yet, repeatedly in the OT, we witness even as the Lord changes the
external circumstances of His people, they always end up back at square one
– forgetful of God’s faithfulness, rationalizing their disobedience and misbehavior, trying to hide or deny their rebellion, and continually grumbling or doubting
the goodness of God.

Ironically, many of us exist in this same space with God today.
We believe external changes in our lives will fix everything with us.

If the Lord will only give us this, if the Lord would only do that,
in terms of circumstances, then we’d turn things around.

By the way, the point of God going through all this with Israel was not
because the Lord didn’t think through in terms of how it would all work out.

The people needed to see, to experience – we need to see and experience,
that the Lord cannot just live WITH us. We need to Lord to live IN us.

And as you go on through the OT, through the prophets, who, again, were raised up, who came to life as prophets through the Holy Spirit, God delivers this message to His people. It is a message of hope. It is a promise to be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit.

What exactly is the promise? (SLIDE #20)
It’s repeated in several places but here’s the most famous articulation of it.

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,”
says the LORD. “I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)

God through the Holy Spirit redirects His people away from externals,
the letter of the Law, from just focusing on trying to keeping the rules
(which they can’t) to embracing the Spirit of the Law, a relationship with Him,
which God Himself will make possible through the Holy Spirit.

The prophet Ezekiel, through the person of the Holy Spirit, receives a dramatic vision and is given the words to express how this promise will come to be fulfilled. (SLIDE #21)

“And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.” (36:26-27)

The Holy Spirit will give us life in a new way through coming to live within us.
It is a promise of empowerment through presence.

The Spirit of God will touch the core of the human spirit
and realign it back to God’s purposes.

It is an assurance of transformation—what is a human possibility
—God promises by and through his very being to make a human reality.

Furthermore, what we learn through the prophet named Joel is this,
this giving of new life by the Holy Spirit, this offer, this invitation,
of God coming to live within us, will be for all people all the time. (SLIDE #22)

“Then after I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your
young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike. (2:28 -29)

And again, how would God come to live in and reside, abide,
& potentially indwell in everyone? Through the person of the Holy Spirit.

This is why Jesus points Nicodemus to the Holy Spirit when Nicodemus
pretty much asks to be in the deepest relationship with God possible. (SLIDE #23)

The new life God has promised, the new creation Jesus came to make possible,
comes through the person of the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit is the giver of life
– both our physical, temporal life, and our spiritual rebirth, our eternal life.

Just as in the beginning of the first creation, as the Spirit hovered over
the deep darkness and the chaos of a formless and empty earth,
in the Gospels, when the angel Gabriel visits young Mary,

we hear of the Holy Spirit as “the power of the Most High” who will “overshadow” Mary and bring to her womb Jesus the Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life
– the Light who will overcome the darkness of this world.

Jesus’ earthly ministry comes to life only after His baptism by the Holy Spirit.

After Jesus does the work He came to do, when Jesus dies,
we are told Jesus gave up “his spirit.” His “spirit” is the Holy Spirit.

And the Holy Spirit rushes upon the world, giving life, heralding a new creation,
even before Pentecost, in fact as soon as Jesus dies.

The Holy Spirit brings life, already begins to bring order out of the chaos of sin and death, as “the tombs were opened” and many of the dead in the faith were raised.

Such life-giving work is, and can only be, the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit continues to bring life, new life like that today
– bringing life out of nothingness – providing order & peace into chaotic
and confused lives, freedom from harmful habits or addictions,
renewal in the midst of broken relationships.

And on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gives life to
a ragtag group of believers in Jesus and births the Church.

For the Church, despite how we often perceive and actualize it,
is not an institution or organization.

It is a community of diverse individuals who otherwise probably
wouldn’t belong together who are enlivened to become a body, the Body of Christ.

It is the Holy Spirit that is the life of the Church – not worship attendance,
not how much is in the offering plate, not how many programs or campuses there are. It is the Holy Spirit who gives the Church life. (SLIDE #24)

The Holy Spirit IS the giver of all life – physical and spiritual.

If this is true, then there is no life apart from the Holy Spirit
– no meaningful life today and no everlasting life to come.

Apart from the Spirit,
we are like this empty glove – dangling aimlessly, empty inside, powerless.

But when the Spirit gives us life, the Spirit is like the hand inside the glove.
With the hand in the glove, the glove can grip, can take stretch out,
can grab on and take hold.

There is no life without the Holy Spirit. And the life the Spirit gives is not ours to control.

While we have made countless medical advances
and several metaphysical breakthroughs,
the mystery of life – both physical life and new, spiritual, life, and by extension
the mystery of the working of the Holy Spirit, of how the Spirit moves and works
to give such life, continues to allude us.

For all we think we grasp, there is so much about life
– the giving of life by the Spirit that we cannot grasp.

Jesus, when speaking to Nicodemus, indicated this would always be the case,
when he compared the Holy Spirit to being like the wind. (SLIDE #25)

As Jesus points out the wind by its very nature is invisible and unpredictable.

The wind that blows today from the north may blow from the south tomorrow
or from the east or west or not at all.

Wind exists everywhere on the earth, is continually in motion,
and may be experienced in varying degrees—from a slight breeze to
a mighty rushing wind to the destructive force of a tornado. (SLIDE #26)

We experience its effect and hear it whistling through the leaves,
but the wind itself is totally free from our control. Just as the presence of the wind
is evident to us and yet beyond our control, in the same way, Jesus makes clear,
while we recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, we cannot control
the work of the Spirit – how and when and to whom the Spirit gives life.

And yet, we need, Jesus also makes clear, the life only the Spirit can give.
While we cannot control the Spirit,
we must seek, we must rely upon, the Spirit in order to truly live.

Just as back in the days of old, before ships were powered by internal engines,
sailors relied on the wind to fill their sails and give their boats life,
we need the life only the Holy Spirit can give.

Back then, if the wind wasn’t blowing, those sailors weren’t going anywhere.

If we want to move anywhere in the Christian life, if we want to grow and mature
in our faith, in our relationship with Christ, we desperately need the life
that only the Holy Spirit can give.

And the Holy Spirit gives us life first by bringing us into this world
and then by leading us to Christ.

Beloved, God has faith in us.
God puts His faith in us through the giving of the person of the Holy Spirit.

So many Christians struggle with the question of having enough faith or any faith in God.

Our faith is not independent of the Lord’s faith in us.

Our faith is a leaning into, a reliance upon the faith we have been given,
that is supplied to us through the person of the Holy Spirit
—faith borne the person and the work of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit gives us life.
The question is are we receiving the life the Spirit seeks to give us? (SLIDE #27)

God in Christ through the Holy Spirit initiates our relationship.

The Spirit leads us to the Cross, opens our eyes to who first hangs there to die
and then walks out of the grave victorious over death,
the Spirit gives us ears to hear and understand the Word of God,
the invitation of the Gospel, to believe in our heart and profess with our lips
that Jesus is Lord and Savior – but we must speak the words,
we must follow the Spirit’s lead and follow Christ.

The person of the Holy Spirit is patient but not pushy.
The person of the Holy Spirit prompts us but does not violate our will.

The Spirit will pinch, will prod, will pursue and even convict us,
but the Spirit will not force us to engage. God wants a relationship and not a robot.

The person of the Holy Spirit can be resisted, can be squelched, can be grieved.
(More about this later) (SLIDE #28)

From where do we draw life? Do seek life from the approval of others?

From needing to be needed by the ones we love
– our children, our spouse, our parents, a close friend?

If we are getting life from possessing others
– taking and feeding off life from others in order to feel alive, that’s called vampirism.

If everlasting love is what we are thirty for – being accepted and learning to
accept ourselves, why not cling to the life of the Spirit instead?

Why not receive the warm, regenerative, and healing embrace of the life in the Spirit
– life that is never exhausted, life that never comes at the expense of another person?

From where do we seek life? From our achievements and earnings.

From how much money we have? The car we drive? The lifestyle we can afford?
From our conquests? From our prowess physically? Mentally? Sexually?

All of the above have a limited shelf life. An expiration date.
Not to mention all of these things can fluctuate greatly along the way.

Why have your life depend on things that are here today and gone tomorrow?

Why not let the Holy Spirit give you the kind of life that is resilient,
that is filled with joy, peace, contentment, and fulfillment
regardless of your circumstances – often in spite of them?

The Holy Spirit gives us life. Are we receiving the life the Spirit seeks to give us?

Several of us in these room are “cradle Christians” – you came to the faith
seemingly by osmosis – you were born into it, but have you been born of the Spirit?

Others of us here came to Christ later in life.

We said “Yes” to the Holy Spirit once
but are you saying “Yes” to the Holy Spirit every day? (SLIDE #29)

Walking, living by this faith is not a single decision, a one-shot deal,
but an ongoing reliance upon the promises of God,
a daily leaning into the presence and the life of the Holy Spirit.

As the life giver, the Spirit both originates the life we have and
consummates the life to come, but the work of the Spirit is not limited to
an event completed in the past or to be completed in the future.

The Holy Spirit is about the ongoing and continuous giving of life.

Let us stop saying, never say again, all you have to do is believe in Christ as Savior without including the truth that our salvation, being a Christian,
following Jesus is also about overcoming sin by the power of the Spirit.

To say all one has to do is believe in Christ distorts and cheapens faith
that God has in us, that God has given us through the Holy Spirit.

It’s not that we have to believe in Christ; it is that we have to live out of the belief
— the faith, hope, and love God has in us, that the Lord has given us in Jesus,
that the Spirit continues to pour into our hearts and minds every day.

Every day the Spirit seeks to work in us to free us from the power of sin and death
— the old tapes, the tired and destructive habits of our old lives

— our life lived apart from God, our life when we weren’t following Jesus
but following our own path or the path someone else laid out for us.

Every day, the wind of the Spirit aims to blow through our hearts,
replacing fear with faith, replacing lies with truth, replacing anger with love,
replacing judgment with grace, replacing bitterness with forgiveness,
replacing doubt with hope.

The Spirit wakes us up to who we really are – a child of God.

The Spirit awakens us to who we were meant to be, who we can become
– not just a bunch of people who make the approved list at the pearly gates,
but rather heirs of the Kingdom of God, – ambassadors who,
through the person of the Holy Spirit, are privileged and empowered
to share God’s goodness – the riches of God’s love, grace, forgiveness, truth,
and peace with others – others who are spiritually dead,
who are functionally, practically, relationally, lifeless. (SLIDE #30)

We don’t worship a God of dead. We worship the God of the living.
His name is not “I WAS,” it is “I AM.”

And the truth, the power, and the hope of that name rings true
and becomes real for us through the person of the Holy Spirit,
the Spirit who is the giver of life.

The Holy Spirit did so in creation, and the Spirit continues to do so now.

The breath of God that gave life to us through the first Adam,
is the same breath of God that offers life to us through the new Adam
– Christ crucified, Christ died, and Christ risen for us.

The deepest and most profound desire for life we seek
but can never obtain for ourselves comes from the Holy Spirit. (SLIDE #31)

From the beginning of life as we know it,
into our salvation from the life we settle for,
and onward growing and shaping us for the life eternal – the full, abundant,
and everlasting life for which God made us, the Holy Spirit is the giver of life.

No other life compares. No other life matters. Amen.