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The Holy Spirit Powers
JOHN 14:15-27, ACTS 1:8
John Killinger in his book, You Are What You Believe, reports a survey he conducted. He stopped five people and asked them, "Who or what is the Holy Spirit?" Here are the answers:
"Should I know the answer to that?"
"It's the same as the Holy Ghost, isn't it?"
"Sounds scary to me."
"I don't know; I'm not into all that New Age stuff."
"It's the Spirit of God, I think."
Of particular interest is that these five people were not random pedestrians approached on some street corner of the city. They were all members of a Christian congregation encountered in the halls of their church building. Four were adults, one was a teenager.
When Paul first arrived in Ephesus, he met some Christians. During the get acquainted conversation, Paul asked them, "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" They answered, "We haven't even heard about a Holy Spirit." Evidently, some of the modern church is also ignorant of the Holy Spirit.
I'm preaching a series of sermons this Lent and Easter on basic Christian beliefs, using the Apostles' Creed. We believe in the Trinity. We know God in three primary ways. We are each known in several ways. Right now, you know me as preacher, my sons know me as father, my granddaughters know me as grandfather, and one person in this room knows me as husband. But, I am one person. Similarly, we know God in three ways: as the Creator, the person Jesus who was both fully human and fully divine, and the Holy Spirit. This morning we are considering the Holy Spirit.
What is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God present with us right now. God the Creator creates. God the Son walked on this earth. God the Spirit is with us right now. The God who made you loves you in Jesus and powers you with the Holy Spirit. As an engine is powerless without gasoline, so we are powerless without the Holy Spirit.
What does the Holy Spirit do? We will look briefly at five acts of the Holy Spirit.
1) Jesus, in our lesson this morning, told the disciples the night before he died that God would send a counselor, a helper, an advocate. The Holy Spirit is the mothering side of God, the feminine side of God; like a mother holding you, hugging you to her bosom, protecting you, encouraging you, forgiving you, whispering, "It's okay. You can make it now. You can do it. I'll be with you." The Holy Spirit mothers you, comforts you and gives you peace.
2) The Holy Spirit heals, puts lives back together, puts marriages back together, heals the body and mind. The Holy Spirit meets your deepest needs. When we pray individually, or together as a congregation, the Holy Spirit combines our spirits, our energies, with the Holy Spirit and focuses the combined power on the need. As I said in the Almighty sermon, God is in charge, but not in control. God needs us; we are the body of Christ. When we co-operate with God, God uses us and our prayers that God's will be done. There are many examples of the power of prayer.
Last Monday we held a Healing Service in the chapel. What a moving, inspiring service! Participants testified to the presence of the Holy Spirit and the impact in their lives. Healing services will now be held the third Monday evening of every month. These services are open to everyone.
3) The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray. Romans 8:26,"The Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words." Doesn't God know what we are going to ask before we ask? Yes, but God has given us all free will. God rarely enters where not invited. Sometimes God crashes through, but God rarely acts when not asked. But, God doesn't leave us entirely to our own resources. The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray, and even does our praying for us when we can't. When you find it difficult to pray, ask the Holy Spirit, lean on the Spirit, wait on the Lord, and you will be shown what is blocking your prayer. Sometimes you want to be in control, and won't trust the Holy Spirit. Sometimes there is resentment, bitterness, or anger blocking the Spirit. Sometimes there is unconfessed sin, something you need to admit, confess, and receive forgiveness. Let the Holy Spirit teach you. Ask for insight. Ask for direction. Lay whatever is blocking you on the Lord, give it to God, and let the Holy Spirit take over.
4) The Holy Spirit gives gifts and fruits. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul lists some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, and tongues.
I find there is confusion about speaking in tongues. A woman once told me, with tears in her eyes, how she told her Methodist pastor that she spoke in tongues, and he laughed at her! I heard the preacher on Family Radio say that God no longer gives the gift of tongues. I wonder how he knows that! At the other end of the spectrum, some of those who do speak in tongues accuse the rest of us of not having the Holy Spirit. Read 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14. Thank God for church fights! Because the Corinthian Church was squabbling about this very issue, Paul devoted a great deal of space in his letter clarifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He is very clear: there are many spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues is one of them. But, no Christian is given all the spiritual gifts. Not everyone has the gift of teaching, or healing, or speaking in tongues, Paul says. Then, he wrote, 1 Corinthians 12:31, "But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way." It's too bad editors inserted a chapter break at this point, for what we know as chapter 13, follows: "If I speak in tongues... but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." The greatest gift of the Holy Spirit is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13, "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit. If you are in the Spirit, you should see evidence of growth in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
5) The Holy Spirit sanctifies. We are created by the Creator, redeemed by Jesus, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. We don't often hear the word "sanctification", but when I was a youth, I attended the Red Rock Camp Meeting on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota where old-time Methodists preached the second blessing. Folks went to the altar to get saved by Jesus, and then went a second time to get sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Sanctification means the Holy Spirit sanctifies you, sets you apart, consecrates you, and makes it possible for you to belong to God wholly, without reservation, without restraint. Sanctification means the Holy Spirit powers you to live and to act as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit makes you a spirited Christian, full of life and vitality. The Holy Spirit makes you an inspired Christian, undaunted, unafraid, and able to handle whatever happens. The Holy Spirit powers you.
Sanctification-- the process of making us holy-- is an ongoing process. Like marriage, it begins when we say, "I will" to God's invitation; but it is not a one-time event. David Gyertson, President of Asbury College, tells how he experienced sanctification at his ordination. Previously, he had received the gift of salvation through faith. At his ordination he asked God for the gift of sanctification. With that prayer came an inner peace and the assurance that his life was now sanctified, set-aside for God's work.
However, a test came during his first pastorate. He hit a wall. Joy left. The church was not doing well, and David felt it was because of him. During a prayer time he heard God speak in his inner being, "You must forgive your father." No way! His father's alcoholism had caused great tragedy in his family. Because of his father's addiction, the family experienced poverty, anger, insecurity, and his mother suffered serious physical and emotional difficulties. At the age of 13, David found himself on the street, but, thank God, a loving, Christian family took him in.
Now, the Holy Spirit was telling him to forgive his father! There was too much pain, too much anger. But, the Holy Spirit kept pushing him, "Did you say you would not or cannot?" David cried out, "I would if I could. Please help me!" The Holy Spirit spoke, "Then let the Christ in you forgive your father through you." If you can't do it, let Jesus do it. He responded, "Yes, Lord." The struggle ended. Joy and peace returned to his inner being.
A few weeks later, David took his turn preaching at the Salvation Army's Harbor Light Mission in downtown Toronto. The chapel was filled with the homeless and abandoned, prostitutes, alcoholics, and drug abusers. When he gave the invitation for them to come forward to receive Christ, to receive the gift of salvation and reconciliation with God, one man came forward. Half way down the aisle, David realized the man was his father. Together they knelt, and he led his father to Jesus.
What is the Holy Spirit doing in your life? Rather, what are you letting the Holy Spirit do in your life? Are you holding on to something'a grudge, anger, greed, me-first'and won't let go? Have you asked God to fill you with the Holy Spirit? Have you asked God to make you, wholly and completely, a child of God, a friend and disciple of Jesus Christ? My prayer is for the Holy Spirit to make you hunger for the Spirit, to yearn, long, and thirst. Then, turn to God, and ask for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comforts, heals, prays, gives gifts and fruits, and sanctifies. The Holy Spirit powers you.
© 2001 Douglas I. Norris