“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” – The Apostles Creed
How would you describe the Holy Spirit?
More pointedly, how would you describe your relationship with the Holy Spirit?
Most followers of Jesus acknowledge the Holy Spirit as a core part of the Christian faith.
And yet, despite this, many believers don’t fully understand or truly embrace
the Holy Spirit as a reality in their daily spiritual walk.
This fall at Grace we will engage in a sermon series designed to resolve this disconnect.
(SLIDE #2) In truth, this series is based on feedback from many of you over this last year.
For more than 10 years as your pastor, I have repeatedly pointed to and underscored the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our journey of faith as Christians.
And yet, very recently, several in this community have expressed
some difficulty and confusion about the tangible manifestation
and practical working of the Holy Spirit in their everyday lives.
In hearing this and after some time spent in prayerful discernment, I have
become convinced this was exactly the direction the Lord wanted us to go together.
So here are we.
Over the next few months, together we will reflect in some detail
upon key biblical passages that illuminate the person, the role of,
and our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
By the grace of God, the goal of this series is to inspire and equip each of us
to better understand and more fully embrace the active, daily role of the Holy Spirit
in every area of witness, ministry, and mission as the Body of Christ.
This message is going to lay the foundation for the rest of the series.
Keep in mind, there are many things I will be touching on this morning
that over the next few weeks I will be diving into more depth and detail.
• “Mmhm” or “Oh!” sermon
Our primary focus today will be getting to know the Holy Spirit.
Probably the best place in scripture to do this is in the Gospel of John,
where Jesus formally introduces his disciples & us to the Holy Spirit.
While there are other references earlier in the gospels,
here is where Jesus goes into some detail about the Holy Spirit.
We’ll be reading from chapter 14
but the conversation about the Holy Spirit extends all the way through chapter 16.
I’ll be digging into things Jesus has to say across all three chapters
that help us get to know the Holy Spirit better.
This conversation is taking place in the midst of great fear, uncertainty, & confusion.
Jesus and his disciples are in the Upper Room.
This is night when Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, & begin his journey to the Cross – to die.
Jesus knows his time has come and he will be leaving his followers.
However, Jesus does not want them to be without some future perspective,
as well as some assurances.
So, Jesus speaks to them about many different subjects
– one of the main ones being the coming of the Holy Spirit. (SLIDES #3 – 6)
So, let me confess one of my early struggles with the Holy Spirit.
Growing up Catholic, my introduction to the Holy Spirit was as the Holy Ghost.
Therefore, for much of my early life, I pictured the HS being something like this (SLIDE #7)
As I grew in my faith, I encountered others who were more charismatic
– more familiar with & knowledgeable about the Holy Spirit (work, movement, gifts, etc.)
Given my previous picture of the Holy Spirit –like something out of Scooby Doo,
I found myself in this weird tension between curiosity and resistance.
My posture towards the Holy Spirit became one of arm’s length (SLIDE #8)
– “I ain’t afraid no ghost!” but I preferred for the Holy Ghost kept its distance.
How did we get this translation of the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost?
In early English translations of the Bible, the Latin word “spiritus”
was best translated into Old English as “gast” or “ghost.”
But back then, the use of the word “ghost,” didn’t necessarily mean,
as it does today, spooky things that haunt houses.
“Ghost” was just another word for “spirit.”
Old English word: “gast” from the German “geist”: zeitgeist = “spirit of the times”
Still, I think many of us conceive the Holy Spirit to being something like
an ethereal ghost or a mystical force (ala Star Wars).
However, one of the first things Jesus makes clear for us is
the Holy Spirit is not a ghost but a person. (SLIDE #9)
Jesus in introducing the Holy Spirit does not refer to the Spirit as an IT but rather as HE.
(SLIDE #10) Notice the repeated usage of personal, masculine pronouns.
And before we get to hung up on the gender of the Holy Spirit, (SLIDE #11)
the Hebrew word for the Holy Spirit is feminine.
Other times in the NT, the Holy Spirit is referred to
without an article of gender, as in “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Based on Jesus’ description here and what we find in the rest of the Bible,
the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force; the Holy Spirit is a person
with all the characteristics of personhood. (SLIDE #12 & #13)
The Spirit THINKS (Acts 15:28) The Spirit SPEAKS (Acts 1:16, 8:29)
The Spirit LEADS (Romans 8:14) The Spirit COMFORTS (John 16:7)
The Spirit GRIEVES (Ephesians 4:30) The Spirit CAUTIONS (Acts 21:4)
(SLIDE #14) So, the correct question we should be asking is
NOT “What is the Holy Spirit?” but rather, “WHO is the Holy Spirit?”
And if we pay attention, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the person of God. (SLIDE #15)
Another way of saying this is the Holy Spirit is a unique person of the Godhead. (SLIDE #16)
The word “Godhead” comes from “Godhood” and it refers to the deity of God, specifically, God as being Trinity – a tri-unity of three persons,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The basis for the concept of the Trinity comes straight from the Bible
– from the experience of the first Christians who encountered this one God
in the three distinct persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (SLIDE #17)
In fact, verse 26 here in John chapter 14 is one of the key verses where
we witness this clear reference of God as three persons and yet one and the same God.
The way Jesus describes it here and elsewhere,
each person of the Godhead/Trinity is distinct from the other two
but in experiencing one of the three, we experience the one God who is them all.
We shouldn’t worry if we have a hard time wrapping our heads around this concept.
It took the early Church almost 200 years to be able to adequately and appropriately put this reality of the Trinity into words.
Rather than getting lost in the functionality of how this all works;
we need to focus on the revelation of the RELATIONAL nature of God. (SLIDE #18)
God is not lonely. God exists – God is a community of three persons.
In creating us, in pursuing us, in saving us, in transforming us,
this Triune God is inviting into this relationship of the Godhead.
And when we ask, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” the answer is, (SLIDE #19)
the Holy Spirit is not just a person but the person of God
– the third manifestation of God’s personality, if you will.
In our ongoing, developing, and hopefully, maturing relationship with God,
the Holy Spirit is the person in the Godhead with whom
we are to have the most direct dealings in this present age.
If we want to cultivate our relationship with God, we need to get know the Holy Spirit.
We might ask, “How do we relate to someone like the Holy Spirit?”
No doubt the first disciples wondered the very same thing.
I mean, the way the Holy Spirit is described, this is a unique relationship
like no one else to whom we relate on a day-to-day basis.
This series will seek to unpack how we engage this unique relationship with the HS
but for now, let’s focus on getting to know the Holy Spirit a little better.
From Jesus’ description, I’d like to highlight three key aspects of the person of the HS.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love (SLIDE #20)
Our assurance of BELONGING
– that we are God’s BELOVED children vs. God’s subjects.
Our security that God’s grace, forgiveness, salvation, and peace are
real and present realities in our lives – transforming and reshaping them.
In the midst of this conversation, Jesus says something that must have caused
his disciples to drop their mouths open and raise their eyebrows,
if not at least, scratch their heads. Did we even notice that moment? (SLIDE #21)
Jesus makes a shocking claim when he tells his disciples it was BETTER
that he returned to heaven so the Holy Spirit could come and be with them.
I think most of us today would say we’d rather have Jesus here and now
rather than the mysterious, seemingly allusive Holy Spirit. How could this be better?
Through Jesus, God was WITH us. Through the Holy Spirit, God is WITH us by being IN us.
God’s presence inside of us is better than God’s presence beside us.
Taking the idea of INCARNATION to a whole “nother” level.
The Holy Spirit is makes God closer than ever to us.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ with us today
– how Jesus keeps his promise to be with us literally to the end of the age.
The Holy Spirit is the difference maker
between knowing about God/Jesus (as an idea or a doctrine)
and encountering and experiencing God/Jesus as SOMEONE you know
– as a confidant, a mentor, a friend, as Lord and Savior. (SLIDE #22)
The Holy Spirit is the love of God, the love that is God in Christ,
poured into our hearts, minds, and souls giving us peace, instilling confidence,
and speaking affection and encouragement
– we matter to God, God longs for us, treasures us.
John said it best, in the first letter he wrote to the Church, when he said (SLIDE #23):
“This is how we know we live in him and he is us; he has given us of his Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (SLIDE #24)
Of course, this makes sense. Jesus has declared himself to be the Truth.
Therefore, if the Holy Spirit is God, the Spirit of Christ,
then of course, the Spirit is Truth. (SLIDE #25)
The Holy Spirit teaches us what is true – and notice, the revelation of what is true derives not from abstraction but from the word of God
– scripture and the life, the testimony of Christ.
The Holy Spirit unveils our eyes to who Jesus is (like Peter: Who do you say that I am?)
The Holy Spirit makes the Word come alive.
The Bible as the LIVING word of God because of the Holy Spirit – otherwise, just a book.
Jesus repeatedly stressed we only can understand the word of God, we can only follow Him, through the initiative of the Holy Spirit and our ongoing connection to the Spirit.
The apostle Paul was convinced our exposure to and study of the word of God
without the illumination of the Holy Spirit was useless.
Consider who Paul was (a man of the word of God) before & after encountering the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth also involves being enabled to remember.
We are a forgetful, absent-minded people.
We forget what Jesus taught us.
We forget to take the time to open our Bibles and clarify what Jesus told us.
We forget to pray to ask for wisdom and discernment based on the counsel of Christ.
It’s not just an US problem.
If you know anything about the Gospels, you will know that
the disciples had a great problem with this.
They failed to learn many of the lessons the Lord Jesus taught them,
and they forgot many of the truths that He had laid down for them.
But the part of who the Holy Spirit is as the Spirit of Truth is a remembrancer
– tapping us on the shoulder, putting a bee in our bonnet,
raising up a word of scripture within us, looking us straight in the eye
and speaking to us through the accountability of a fellow believer.
The Holy Spirit reminds us of the truth we forget. (SLIDE #26)
Without the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves
speaking of finding or creating our own truth – what works for me.
However, through the Holy Spirit, we discover and understand God’s truth
– who we are in Christ, how we have been gifted, positioned, and equipped
not only to serve the Lord but in so doing to find purpose & to experience fulfillment and contentment as well as personal growth we could not achieve on our own.
Being in relationship with the Holy Spirit ends up
making God’s call upon your life personal for you – makes each of us aware
that we are not in it for ourselves, but that we are part of
something bigger, something better – that we are in it together as the Body of Christ.
This leads to the last observation about the person of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Power. (SLIDE #27)
Our relationship with God is founded on grace
– giving us what we don’t deserve and what we cannot achieve or earn on our own
– life itself, salvation from death, unconditional love, abiding hope.
God always makes the first move and that move is through the Holy Spirit. (SLIDE #28)
Notice how Jesus underscores the Holy Spirit initiates our relationship
– the world’s relationship with God.
The Holy Spirit proves to the world – convicts and convinces us of our sin,
of what is right and just, of our absolute and desperate need for God.
The Holy Spirit enables us to have faith and believe in Christ.
The Holy Spirit prompts us to follow to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit sustains us through our questions, our doubts,
and our struggles along the way.
Again and again, (SLIDE #29)
Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, the Helper, or the Advocate.
The Greek word used here is ‘Parakletos.’
When we think of a comforter, we imagine someone coming along & covering us
with a blanket and patting us on the back, and saying: “There, there, it’ll be alright.”
But this is not the connotation of this word, of what Jesus had in view here.
The Holy Spirit is an encourager – infusing us with boldness and confidence in Christ.
The Holy Spirit strengthens us – equipping us with what we need to live for Jesus.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to be fruitful (FRUIT of the SPIRIT)
– to become who we were created to be – our best, truest, and fullest selves.
The Holy Spirit empowers us by praying on our behalf – speaking for us
even when we don’t have the words, can’t find what to say as we pray to God.
(SLIDE #30) The Holy Spirit empowers us to bear witness to the Gospel,
to point to Jesus, in and through our lives – through specific GIFTS.
The Holy Spirit empowers us with what we need to say and how to say it.
The Holy Spirit empowers us by prompting us when to speak to others,
guiding us in terms of what we need to say and how to say it
or when to just listen or when we’ve said enough and we must now act.
And when we must act, the Holy Spirit gives us the courage and the wisdom to do so
in a manner that acts justly, that loves mercy, & walks humbly before God. (SLIDE #31)
The Holy Spirit empowers even enemies to be reconciled to God and each other.
There can be little doubt that all of us here today are all individuals; no one is the same.
We have our unique talents & gifts. We come from different backgrounds & perspectives.
In fact, we can be so different often it can be hard to agree & to get along with each other.
The Holy Spirit is the glue that binds us first to Christ and then joins us to one another
– forging our unity as followers of Jesus in the midst of our great diversity.
The Spirit binds us together as one Body in Christ in order to care for one another,
love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another,
and help one another as we share the Good News about Jesus with others.
When we talk, when we imagine, when we long to flourish together in Christ
– to live lives together that are driven by, that radiate to others, the goodness of God,
the power of the Holy Spirit is the key.
Jesus made this clear to his first disciples through his first instruction to them
before he ascended to heaven.
He told them to do nothing – to do nothing until the Holy Spirit came upon them.
He told them to do nothing because there was nothing they could do
for the Kingdom of God without the power of the Spirit.
Without the Holy Spirit, we are powerless.
Apart from the Spirit, we can do nothing
that makes a lasting, eternal difference in our selves or in this world.
For a long time in my Christian life,
the Holy Spirit was sort of like the third wheel of the Trinity.
A third wheel is someone who is unnecessary to a group and is tagging along.
You know how it is, three’s a crowd and therefore somebody is bound to get left out.
And for me it was the Holy Spirit.
I was told he lived inside of me because the Bible said so, but I never spoke to him.
Most of the time, I forgot he was even there. And if his name did get mentioned,
I was afraid the Holy Spirit might actually show up in my life.
But then I got to know the Holy Spirit.
I learned the Holy Spirit, through the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit had a personality.
The Holy Spirit was not some robotic, cosmic force, but intimately knew each person.
The Holy Spirit empowered every day, ordinary people
to share and spread an extraordinary Gospel.
Getting to know the Holy Spirit changed my life.
My life was saved by Jesus. But my life has been changed, I continue to be changed through my relationship with the Father, with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.
Do you know the person of the Holy Spirit?
Before you answer too quickly, let me ask you another question,
is Christianity more of (pick one)
1. A set of beliefs to which you adhere and follow
2. A lifestyle to which you conform
3. Or a dynamic, vibrant, interactive relationship in which you MOVE and GROW
in knowledge, confidence, wisdom, boldness, and experience
– in faith, hope, and love.
If you answered either #1 or #2, then you don’t know the Holy Spirit.
If you want your answer to be #3, then you need to know the Holy Spirit.
Too many Christians function as DEISTS – acting as if God rules from afar
giving us His word, God came to us once, long ago in Christ to bear all our sins
and conquer death for us, but God is not really present acting in this world (MACRO)
or moving in our lives (MICRO).
But with Christ’s ascension to heaven, God did not leave the building.
Jesus has not left us orphans. Beloved, the Gospel ain’t no ghost story.
We look to and worship a God who wants to be vitally, tangibly,
and intimately present in and through his people. (SLIDE #32)
As we abide in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is
the very presence of God, of Christ, among us and in us.
Too many of us who profess to follow Jesus, practically, functionally are
remaining in a perpetual state of unforgiveness, hurt, fear, anger, and bitterness.
We aren’t experiencing any significant transformation
– any real growth or maturity in our lives. (SLIDE #33)
Beloved, the Holy Spirit is God’s love, God’s truth, & God’s power right inside of you.
Instead of settling for being powerless and tired,
rather than continuing to run in circles and go nowhere in our walk with Christ,
why don’t we together get to know the Holy Spirit?
If you hunger for a life marked by passion and resilience,
if we thirst our faith to deepen rather than to be eclipsed by our fear,
why not get to know the person of the Holy Spirit? Why not?
(SLIDE #34) Come, Holy Spirit, come and fill the hearts of your faithful. Amen.