Confirmation Journey 6. The Holy Spirit
(Read Chapter 9 of “What Christians Believe” and complete Assignment 6 before this Session)
So far we have looked at God, as Creator and Parent, and God revealed to us as Jesus Christ. This session is all about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost). The Holy Spirit is the personal presence of God who brings the presence of Jesus alive in our lives.
Firstly we are going to take an overview of what the books of the Bible reveal to us about how the Holy Spirit worked in peoples lives, including that of Jesus Himself. Secondly, we will focus on how the Spirit can work in our lives today.
THE SPIRIT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit is often pictured as being the breath of God. The Hebrew word “Ruach” is often used (which was the sound a horse would make when expelling breath!) The Spirit was also seen as the powerful creative force, involved in creation, untamed, an invading force that fulfilled the work of God.
The Spirit came down upon people to enable them to fulfill particular tasks, in particular speaking God's word... (prophesying)
2 Chronicles 24:20 “Then the Spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, "Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? “
He took control of them, sometimes in unlikely ways...
Numbers 11:25 “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied.”
He filled people with creative power;
Exodus 31:3 “I have filled him with divine Spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft”
As God 's revelation unfolded, God spoke of a time to come when peoples relationship to God would be in new way... of a new covenant relationship.
Jeremiah 31:33 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
The law “written on hearts” that Jeremiah spoke of cane to be understood as the work of God's Spirit, as we read in Joel...
Joel 2:28-29 “Then afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my Spirit.”
THE SPIRIT IN THE GOSPELS
When Jesus is born, the Holy Spirit becomes uniquely focused within and upon His life.
Matthew 3:16 “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as He came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him.”
The Holy Spirit gave Jesus the power in His ministry. The promise was given, that as He was baptized in the Spirit, so that baptism would be passed on to His followers. John the Baptist tells us:
Mark 1:8 “I have baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Jesus, as His earthly ministry drew near it's close, spoke of how the holy Spirit was to take His place in the disciples lives.
John 15:26 "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, He will testify on my behalf.”
Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit was as much a part of God as He was... and that the Spirit (whose nature was love) would dwell in peoples lives.
John 17:26 “I made Your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."
Jesus promises to continue to make Himself known to His followers. How?
By being in them! How can he be in them?
In the personal presence of the Holy Spirit, which we saw from Jeremiah and Joel, would be poured upon all people and write God's law on peoples hearts.
THE SPIRIT IN ACTS AND EPISTLES
Following His crucifixion, resurrection and Ascension, the disciples return to Jerusalem. It is there that all these promises about the Holy Spirit start to be fulfilled.
Acts 2:1-4 “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit! Strange things happened. People said; “What?” Some said they were drunk! Peter stands up and, in the very first sermon by a disciple, tells them...
Act 2:15-17 “Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning.
No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 'In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
So... the early church was made up of people who had received the Holy Spirit. Sometimes you may hear people saying that to be a Christian we need to “Ask Jesus into our heart.” What they mean is that we need to ask God to fill our lives with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who is the personal presence of Jesus. God can do this, because that is why Christ died, to save us from sin and open a way for God's love to be known in our lives.
That presence should make a huge difference. Paul, when writing to the Roman church, tells us....
Romans 8:9-11 “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit that dwells in you.”
Complicated, yet important words. Paul claims that unless the Spirit lives in our hearts then we have not yet become a true disciple. He teaches that Christian life is all about allowing God to be in charge and direct the way we are living. This is such an incredibly hard thing to do, that it can only be done with the help of the Holy Spirit.
THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Spirit works in three huge areas;
- Initiation - “He brings us into the family of God”
- Imitation - “He gives us the power to live Christ-like lives”
- Illumination - “He gives us the light to guide us and serve one another”
He brings us into the family of God. The first thing He does is reveal to us the truth about our need of God. (This is sometimes called 'conviction')
John 16:8 “And when He comes, He will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment”
If we respond to what He shows us, He takes up residence within us... we become a temple.
1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
Not only that... but He'll let us know that we truly belong to God!
1 John 4:13-14 “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent His Son as the Savior of the world.”
As we get to know Him, and understand how much our lives matter to God, we find ourselves being changed. God's commands and instruction really start to matter to us.
1 John 2:3-4 “Now by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we obey His commandments. Whoever says, "I have come to know Him," but does not obey His commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist.”
Of course, this does not happen overnight. It is a learning process that lasts for our whole lives. We have to stick with it, or as the next verses say “Abide in Him”
1 John 2:27 “As for you, the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in Him.”
He gives to us a love for other Christians and makes us one with them. We are one in the Spirit
John 3:23-24 “And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. All who obey His commandments abide in Him, and He abides in them. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit that He has given us.”
The Spirit gives us power to live like Jesus and do the things He is calling us to do. It is a way, not of obedience to any written code, but entirely governed by our sensitivity to the leading of God's Holy Spirit.
Romans 7:6 “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.”
Jesus invites us to allow our lives to be directed by His love in our hearts.
Galatians 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”
We are all given gifts by God to use for God. It is the work of the Spirit to activate these gifts in our lives so they become used for purposes of God's Kingdom. We are not alone in this... but serve together.
1 Corinthians 12:11-14 “All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-- and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
He gives us the light to guide us and serve one another. The Spirit lights us up to possibility! How? Sometimes the Spirit guides us by closing one door and opening another... as in this story about Paul!
Acts 16:6-10 “They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
He guides us in as many different ways as we are different people! Yet one thing is a common feature of the Spirit's guidance. He gives us peace. How? God speaks to us through other people, through the reading of Scripture, through times of corporate worship and personal devotion, and through our willingness to serve others.
Colossians 3:15-17 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Most importantly, the Holy Spirit lights us up us to the importance of the love of God.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. “
(For more about the Holy Spirit read again chapter 9 of “What Christians Believe” - Tapping the Power.)