Archive for May, 2011

Understanding the Forgotten God

Posted: May 2, 2011 in Sermons

Last week we celebrated our risen Lord and Savior. The story of Jesus’ life is amazing. If you were reading his biography for the first time you would be shocked at how his life ended in false accusations, a monkey trial, abuse, and a torturous death. The disciples experiencing it first hand must have been shocked. But then, on the first day of the week, Jesus is alive! Talk about an unexpected ending. No one could have predicted it. In fact, as of a week later, one of his disciples had yet to see the risen Lord face-to-face. Even with his closest friends swearing that they talked to him, Thomas wouldn’t believe it. It wasn’t until 8 days later that Jesus appeared to the group, including Thomas, settling the matter once and for all that he was alive.
I wonder what Jesus taught his disciples during the 40 days in between his resurrection from the grave and his ascension into heaven. I think he explained to them from the Scriptures (the Law, the Prophets, and the Poets) why it was necessary for him to die. I also would guess that there would be some things that Jesus taught them that only became more confusing. For example, the disciples thought that Jesus was going to becoming King of Israel the first time they came to Jerusalem, but that ended in Jesus’ crucifixion so they thought it was “game over.” And then he came back to life. They probably thought, “game on!” it was time to set up his Kingdom on Earth. But then a short time later he left them again. But they remembered what Jesus taught them before the Passover about what would take place after he left.
m, and if he went to prepare a place for them he would come back again. Also in John 16:7 Jesus said, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” We are going to spend the next five weeks studying the Scriptures to understand more about whom this “Counselor, the promised Holy Spirit” is that Jesus spoke about.

Let’s start by reading John 14:15-19

As we begin to look at what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit I think it’s important to acknowledge that you have pre-conceived ideas in your mind. You have a paradigm with which you view the world and it is probably influenced mainly by your upbringing and what you’ve been taught. For example, if you came from a conservative background you might be thinking some churches are focused too much on having an “experience.” You might see people in those churches as crazy and out of control. And if you come from a more charismatic church you might view conservative churches as quenching the Holy Spirit’s work. As you are meeting in community groups this week or next, that might be a good question to start out with: What are my pre-conceived ideas about the Holy Spirit?
I am not advocating a balance of just the right amount of Holy Spirit because I think we would all agree that having the Holy Spirit is a good thing. What I want to do today is to see what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit and how does that impact our life as we live in the Post-Resurrection era waiting for Jesus’ return.

The Holy Spirit is God.

1. He is called God. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 we read “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.” Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As Christians and believers of God’s Holy Word, we believe that the Scriptures teach that there is one God eternally existing as three persons. As we’ve learned in our Theology Sunday school class, there is a false teaching known as modalism. This is the belief that God existed as God the Father, came to earth as God the Son, and now exists as God the Holy Spirit. This is not truth. It is not what is taught consistently throughout Scripture. For example, at Jesus’ baptism we see all three parts of the Trinity physically manifested on earth at the same time.

2. He is creator. He was involved in creation. In Genesis 1 we read “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” They said, “let us make man in our image.” The words here are plural indicating that it was all three parts of the Godhead that were involved. It’s easy to picture God the Father as a person forming the earth and all the plants and animals and then Adam and Eve. We need to remember that God the Holy Spirit was a part of man’s creation from the beginning. And with that…

3. He is eternal (Heb 9:14). As we read earlier Jesus promised to send a “Helper” to his followers. The mistake would be to think that the Holy Spirit was a temporary helper that is here only in between Jesus’ first and second comings. In actuality, the Spirit of God has always existed and been active. We can find his working throughout the Bible. His work in our current time period is just a little different than it was when Jesus was on earth or when God worked through the Israelite prophets before Jesus.
And also as God, he has all of the attributes of God:

4. He is holy, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Let’s look at his work with the prophet Zechariah in Zech 4:6 “So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” We also see mention throughout the book of Psalms. One of my favorite chapters is 139:7-8: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” The author is exclaiming that the Spirit of God is with him no matter where he is.

The Holy Spirit is a Person.

1. The Spirit is never an “it” but a “He.” Read John 16:12-14 “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.” As you can tell, Jesus talked about him like he was as real as he was. In fact, the word that Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit to the disciples as recorded by John is the Greek word, paraclete. That word can mean Counselor, Advocate, or Helper. In classical Greek this word was used to describe a legal assistant that pleads the case of someone. Eugene Peterson in the Message translates it as “Friend.” And in John 14:16 Jesus says that he is “another” counselor. This word “another” means another like the same as me. In doing this Jesus was implying that the Holy Spirit was a person, just as He was. And that he would help them just like Jesus did.

2. He has feelings and personality. Ephesians 4:30 says not to grieve the Holy Spirit. He is invisible though. John 14:17 Jesus says that the world will not accept Him because they can’t see him. As we know though, just because you can’t see something doesn’t make it not real. You might not think that there are radio waves in this room but I turned on a radio wave receiver and you heard music coming out then you would believe me.

3. He has a will. In the book of Acts we read how the Spirit guided Paul in his journeys about where he should go or not go.

4. He has a mind (Romans 8:27). He helped the writers of Scripture. We read that men were carried along by the Holy Spirit when they wrote the words of God.

In his book The Counselor, A.W. Tozer said, “Spell this out in capital letters: THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON. He is not enthusiasm. He is not courage. He is not energy. He is not the personification of all good qualities, like Jack Frost is the personification of cold weather. Actually, the Holy Spirit is not the personification of anything…… He has individuality. He is one being and not another. He has will and intelligence. He has hearing. He has knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think. He can hear, speak, desire, grieve and rejoice. He is a Person.”

The Holy Spirit is Active.

1. He prays for us (Romans 8:26-27). When you can’t find the words to pray, the Holy Spirit will help you. He will intercede for you with groans that words can’t express. I read a cartoon in the comics once (I think it was Family Circus) where the little boy was saying his ABC’s. When his mom asked what he was doing he said he was praying. He thought it would be better to let God rearrange the letters for him. Sometimes when you are at the end of your rope and you don’t know what else to do or even how to pray. You should just cry out to God and ask the Holy Spirit to help you. That is what David did in the Psalms.
In Ephesians 1 calls him “a seal…a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” In other words, we have assurance in our salvation because we have the Holy Spirit in us.

2. He convicts of sin (John 16:8) and helps us gain freedom from sin (Romans 8:2). Sin is rebellion against God. Most people do not easily admit to being guilty of sin. They will admit to failures or vices or even crimes. However, sin is against God, and people have suppressed the truth of God. The working of the Holy Spirit is necessary to convince and convict people of their desperate situation. The Holy Spirit draws people to God and reveals to them their need for a Savior. I would describe this as uneasiness in your heart or a pulling sensation. If you are not a Christian, then my hope is that somehow the Holy Spirit would make your realize that you are not a good person that does some things wrong, but that you are a wretched, sinful person that needs saving from your sinful self.
If you are a Christian then you know that you are licentious person and it’s only through the grace of God that you are saved. If that’s the case, then I pray that God will convict you of your sinful actions and that you will rely on the Holy Spirit’s help to gain freedom.

3. He teaches us. He shows us Jesus. John 15:26 – The Holy Spirit will testify about Jesus. We are only able to understand spiritual matters because the Holy Spirit helps us to understand those things. In 1 Corinthians 2 it says: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them.”

4. He helps us speak and witness in precarious situations. This was important for the disciples. After Jesus ascended into heaven he told the disciples to go back to the city and to wait for the gift from the Father. I think they didn’t know what to expect and they were in for a shock. In Acts 2 it says they were all together and then they heard a sound like the blowing of a violent wind and something that looked like tongues of fire rested on each one of them and they began to speak in languages to the people from all over Rome and Mesopotamia. It says everyone was “amazed and perplexed.”
Throughout the book of Acts we see the Holy Spirit help the disciples speak whenever they got in difficult situations. In Mark 13:11, Jesus said not to worry when you get arrested because the Spirit will give you the words.
The Holy Spirit will help us out as well. When we find ourselves face to face with a difficult situation or lacking answers the Holy Spirit will guide us with just the right words.

5. He is our counselor, our comforter, our guide, and our strength. In Acts 9:31 we read that the church “was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit,” Stop relying on your own strength when life gets tough. God sent the Holy Spirit to comfort you and to guide you.

6. He gives life and freedom. Turn to Romans 8:9-11. The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that kills the sin in you allowing you to have life in Him. That’s the Spirit of God that lives in you if you are a follower of Christ.

1. Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life? It’s possible that the Holy Spirit has been talking to you today during the sermon. Maybe he has been telling you that you are sinner and that you need to receive Jesus as Savior. If you have not accepted by faith the gift of salvation then you do not have the Holy Spirit in you but you can have that assurance today. Make Jesus Lord of your life. That is what the Holy Spirit wants you to do. You don’t need my help, that’s why He’s been talking to you. If you want me to pray with you, though, I will. I will be available after the service.

2. For the Christians here I would ask: In what way do you need to let the Spirit work in your life? If there is sin coming to your mind right now that you haven’t dealt with then I urge you to deal with it before you leave this place. If there is a person that has come to your mind then you need to talk to them. If you have been relying on your own strength then I urge you to find your comfort in Him.

3. I also want to challenge you in this: What are you going to do this week that would make you rely on the Holy Spirit? If the Holy Spirit was not in your life then would your life look any different? Would anyone notice? God wants us to rely on Him. God wants us to learn more and grow in our faith. Let’s be people that know and experience the Holy Spirit daily.