CLICK TO LISTEN
The Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven to glorify Christ and to apply his work of salvation. He convicts sinners, imparts spiritual life and gives a true understanding of the Scriptures. He indwells all believers, brings assurance of salvation and produces increasing likeness to Christ. He builds up the Church and empowers its members for worship, service and mission.
The Holy Spirit (2)
Last Sunday morning we began to think about some of what the Bible has to say about the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
We considered the following truths:
He is a person
He was active in the OT
He was active in the life and ministry of the Saviour
His primary ministry is to glorify Jesus
He prepares sinners and draws them Christ
In addition to these truths we also noted that Jesus promised to send the Spirit, another helper, to his disciples as a gift. Now this morning we are going to consider in more detail just what it is that the Spirit does in the life of a believer.
This is an important subject, a vital subject, because if we would be right with God then the Spirit must be at work in our lives. Indeed the Bible teaches us that "Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." (Rom.8:9)
Jesus taught us the absolute necessity of the new birth and linked this with the work of the Holy Spirit:
Jn.3:7-8 "Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
But that is not the end of his work it is really only just the beginning.
On the Day of Pentecost Peter, anointed by the Spirit of God, preached the first Christian sermon. He spoke of sin and righteousness and of judgement and his hearers were deeply affected by what he had to say. They wanted to know what to do next, how they should respond. Peter knew how to answer them:
Acts 2:38 "And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
The Spirit – a gift
Jesus had taught earlier his disciples that they would receive the Holy Spirit as a gift send by him from the Father (Jn.14:16, 26; 15:26) and now at Pentecost we learn that this gift was a conditional one. The gift of the Spirit was (and is) dependent upon a response of personal obedience to the gospel message.
The way any person becomes a Christian is by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – and such faith Peter declared was to be accompanied by baptism. Everyone who does so respond to the gospel receives the gift of the Spirit in their lives.
Thus the presence of the Spirit in a person’s life is not a sign of great spirituality or a reward for mature faith – his presence is the birthright of every believer. This should be a tremendous encouragement to every believer.
At the same time we must understand something more: it means that the presence of the Spirit is not an optional extra for keen Christians. It means that without this gift of the Spirit no-one can lay claim to being a genuine Christian, for:
1Cor.12:3 "no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit."
So what I am telling you this morning is that when we become Christians we do so on God’s terms or we do not become Christians at all whatever we might like to call ourselves, however others might view us.
The salvation that God offers to us in the gospel of his Son is a complete salvation package. He does not come to us and ask us which elements we would like instead he offers us the complete salvation that we need. God does not offer his gospel package to us for our intellectual approval, nor are we to imagine that it contains his first proposals in a round of peace negotiations – no, we need to realise how serious our true condition is. A drowning man doesn’t worry about the colour of the lifebuoy thrown in to save him!
The Spirit is a gift and what a wonderful gift he is. His presence in the life of a person will bring changes. Now in life some changes we welcome. Minor changes, for example, are fairly easy to cope with. More major changes are however much more difficult to envisage. While we might like to have a freshly decorated house we may not be sure that we really want to put up with all the upheaval that will be involved. Ultimately we’ll only put up with the inconvenience if we value the end goal highly enough.
Jesus used an illustration to encourage his hearers to count the cost before engaging in the discipleship enterprise:
Lk.14:28 "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?"
We must now turn to consider what having the Spirit in our lives will look like, must look like. I hope as we do so you will want to know more of his influences in your own life; that you will want to pray the Father to give you more of the Spirit; that you will want to go on and on and on being filled with the Spirit (Eph.5:18).
The genuine believer enjoys life in the Spirit
The Spirit makes us spiritually alive. Jesus declared that he had come in order to give us life and the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. This new and abundant life we experience as the Spirit dwells in us and works in us:
Rom.8:11 "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you."
This life is new and fresh, a life in which the believer has been set free from the law of sin and death. The believer thus freed is able to set his mind on spiritual matters and enjoys peace with God. Not only that but he also is a beneficiary of God’s love towards him:
Rom.5:5 "God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
All the blessings that were unobtainable because of our repeated and failed attempts at law-keeping are now brought to us by the Spirit who gives us the very life that the law never could bring.
For living this new life the Spirit supplies us with a new energy and this new life proves to be fruitful resulting finally in that harvest which is eternal life.
The Spirit wants us know who we are
There is plenty of testimony in the Scripture that tells us that the Spirit brings to our experience the assurance that we have been saved and that we will go on being saved until our salvation is finalised in glory.
The Bible speaks about two distinct yet complementary sources of assurance:
Firstly, there is the direct work of the Spirit which gives us the internal conviction that we belong to God. Such internal conviction evidences itself not merely in our thoughts but also in the very way we find ourselves approaching God and relating to him:
Rom.8:16 "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,"
2Cor.1:22 God "has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." Cf. 2Cor.5:22 "God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee."
Gal.4:6 "And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!""
Secondly, as the Spirit works in our lives, and as we live in him, a number of life-changes are brought about in the way we live and the attitudes we entertain. These changes serve as proof of the genuineness of our faith and of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
The apostle John tells us just how we may examine our own lives to see whether or not we are genuine. In his first letter he gave us a set of three tests with which to measure our lives. When the Spirit is present in a person’s life there will always be certain fruits and John draws our attention to three areas in which he will be at work:
the doctrinal test – is there a love for the God’s truth?
the social test – is there a love for the God’s people ?
the moral test – is there a love of God’s commandments, a love that is strong enough to lead to obedience?
1Jn.5:13 "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life."
It is the Spirit who then leads us and teaches us
Jesus taught his apostles that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth:
Jn.14:25-26 "the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
The apostle Paul knew that spiritual truth is not accessible to the unspiritual mind. If a person is set on the things of this world then he will remain blind to the worth of the truths of God. But the Spirit of God does teach the believer granting him progressively more wisdom and understanding:
1Cor.1:14 "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."
The true believer is no longer however this sort of natural person who obstinately rebuffs the Spirit but as Paul wrote just a couple of lines earlier:
1Cor.1:12 "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God."
I don’t mean to suggest that every believer will have a first rate theological mind able to accurately explain every aspect of Christian doctrine. What I do mean is that every genuine believer will have a grasp of the essentials: for example every true believer will know and heartily embrace such truths as these:
God is a great God – I am a great sinner – and Jesus Christ is a great Saviour of sinners such as me
Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose again from the dead – he is my only hope of heaven
If you find yourself arguing with such truths and refusing to entrust yourself wholly to the Saviour you are showing that the Spirit has not yet taught you these things. They are folly to you because they are spiritually discerned and you are not yet spiritual.
Ah, but for those of you who do readily acknowledge and embrace these truths and who have gone to the Saviour for salvation take heart – if you have understood those things it can only be because of the Spirit of God teaching you!
Further to this the Spirit not only teaches us doctrinal truth, saving truth, he also teaches us what we must also do as we live out our lives to please our God:
Acts 8:29 "And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot.""
Acts 10:19 "And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you.""
Acts 16:6-7 "And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them."
Gal.5:18 "But if you are led by the Spirit,"
It is the Spirit who strengthens us and comforts too
Right at the outset of the church era the Spirit of God came upon the disciples and gave them power and boldness to witness for their Lord. Many of those present on the Day of Pentecost had seen the risen Lord but they still needed the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit:
Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Nor was one filling enough! Courage and boldness needs to be regularly revitalised and does so to this day:
Acts 4:31 "And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness."
Comfort and strength is given too enabling the church grows:
Acts 9:31 "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied."
Do you ever struggle to know how to pray? Well, the Spirit helps:
Rom.8:26 "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."
Nor is there any reason to feel as though there is no future:
Rom.15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
It is the Spirit who sanctifies the believer and makes us Christ-like
When we are converted we are put right with God but conversion only marks the start of our new life with God and we have a lot of progress to make. Sometimes we can look at our lives and be overwhelmed by what remains to be done and in such a condition we can wonder how we will ever make any significant progress. Well, we are not left to get on with things all on our own, relying upon our own efforts and resolve: the Spirit is committed to glorifying Christ and one of the ways he does that is by transforming the lives of his disciples to be more and more like the Saviour:
Rom.15:16 "sanctified by the Holy Spirit."
1Pet.1:2 "in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ"
2Th 2:13 "But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth."
1Cor.6:11 "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
As the Spirit dwells in us, teaches us and sanctifies us he gradually produces in us his own fruit:
Gal.5:22-26 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."
This is the fruit of Christ-likeness!
It is the Spirit who equips disciples to serve
The NT contains three different lists of the gifts that the Spirit distributes to Christian disciples – and there is nothing to suggest that these lists are comprehensive. In short:
1Cor.12:4 "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;"
The principle however is clear:
1Cor.12:7 "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
In short the gifts of the Spirit are simply God enabling believers to do what he has called us to do.
To become true Christians we are absolutely dependent upon the work of the Spirit.
To live as Christians we are totally dependent upon the work of the Spirit.
The Spirit’s work is willingly and delightfully carried out in us – not with the exclusive goal of promoting our self-interests but primarily to glorify Christ. But what blessings come our way as the Spirit glorifies Jesus!
We have no reason to fear the Spirit but every reason to co-operate most fully with him!
Eph.5:18 "be filled with the Spirit,"