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What if the Holy Spirit Came?
May 23, 1999

JOHN 20:21-23; ACTS 1:8; 2:1-4

What if the Holy Spirit came? Perhaps I should back up and ask: What is the Holy Spirit? John Killinger, in his book, You Are What You Believe, reports a survey he made. He asked five people, "Who or what is the Holy Spirit?" Here's what they said: "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." What is interesting about this survey is that these five people were not random pedestrians approached on some street corner. They were standing in the hall of a church of which they were all members! 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, much of the modern church is also ignorant of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is God present with us. We know God in three ways as the Trinity. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are not three distinct entities. God is one. We know water as liquid, solid (when it freezes into ice), and vapor (when it boils and turns into steam). Same substance, but known in> different ways. You know me now as preacher. But I am also husband, father, grandfather, citizen. I'm one and the same person, but known and experienced in different ways. We know God in three ways. God the creator created all there is, and is still creating. God the Son, Jesus, walked on this earth as a human being. God the Holy Spirit is God with us. The Holy Spirit is God in action.

The Holy Spirit moves with might and power. I'm not talking about some wimp of a god. I'm not talking about sweetness and syrup. I'm not talking about superficial blessings. I'm not talking about a pat on the hand and an easy assurance, "Oh, it will be all right." I'm talking about power.

When the Spirit came upon David, he killed a lion! When the Spirit came upon Samson, he pulled down a temple. When the Spirit came upon Jeremiah, he preached to the king, confronted the king with what he was doing wrong (and Jeremiah was thrown into a well as his reward).

When the Holy Spirit came upon the timid, anxious, frightened disciples hiding in an upper room, the experience was so vivid they could hear the sound of a mighty wind. It was so real they could see flames of fire over their heads. The experience was so powerful, they left the upper room as people of power. They began to witness. Peter preached, 3,000 responded, and the church was born.

What if the Holy Spirit came? When the Holy Spirit comes, people are transformed. The power of God reaches into the depths. The fire of the Holy Spirit cleanses and purifies, forgives and makes new. Old sins and long memories are rooted out. Anxiety and worry are discarded. The power and control of habits and addictions are broken. Sorrow and grief are turned into gratitude and joy. Broken spirits and broken bodies are healed.

Last Friday, several of us were treated to a tour of the Arvin Sango plant by the Manager, our own John Admire. The Merced plant makes exhaust systems for the Fremont Toyota plant. We were very impressed with the efficiency of the operation, and of John's administrative skills. Throughout the plant, motivational signs are hung. One reads, "Perfection: the only standard worth working towards." As Christians, perfection is also our goal. When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, the Holy Spirit sanctifies which means to cleanse, purify, perfect you, make you the person you were created and called to become.

What if the Holy Spirit came to our church? When the Holy Spirit comes, language barriers collapse. When the disciples left the Upper Room as people of power, people of courage, they began communicating in other languages. They witnessed, they told the visitors who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost all about Jesus. They found the words they needed. They didn't rehearse. The words were there. Communication barriers were transcended. When the Holy Spirit comes, we can communicate on levels deeper than language. We communicate with hugs of affirmation, smiles of encouragement, tears of compassion, and the laughter of joy.

What if the Holy Spirit came to our church? When the Holy Spirit comes, we can forgive each other's sins. Did you hear what the resurrected Christ said to his disciples? John< 20:21-23, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Did you hear the influence, the power we have over one another? A congregation, can build each other up or tear each other down. We can increase each other's pain or we can relieve pain. We can encourage each other or we can discourage. We can set each other free or we can increase the ropes of bondage.

What if the Holy Spirit came? When the Holy Spirit comes upon a church, we are given power to witness. Jesus told the disciples, Acts 1:8, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses." I'm not talking about a wimpy social club where the members sit around, wish things would never change, massage each other's egos, and keep other people out.

I'm talking about a church on fire, a church that has been blown upon by the Holy Spirit,

a church that welcomes everyone regardless of who or what they are. Bill, a college student, decided to go to church one Sunday. With his wild hair, a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans, no shoes, and things probably dangling from his ears, Bill walked into a very formal church where the men wore suits and ties (one of "those" churches).The service was already in progress, but the minister stopped as Bill walked down the aisle, trying to find a seat. The church was packed, so he sat down on the floor right in front of the pulpit. There were gasps; the tension in the air was thick. One of the saints of the congregation, an 80-year-old godly man, elegant and dignified, with silver-gray hair, wearing a three-piece suit, walked down the aisle with his cane. The congregation knew what he had to do. They were silent as they watched the old man walk slowly down the aisle, clicking his cane on the floor. When he reached Bill, he dropped his cane, with great difficulty lowered himself to the floor, sat down next to Bill, and together they worshipped. The congregation choked up with emotion. I suspect the Holy Spirit came upon that congregation that day with might and power.

When the Holy Spirit upon comes upon a church, I see a church where everyone is welcome, a church where the people are transformed into witnesses, transformed into ministers, a church that loves and serves in Jesus' name,

a church where each member has a ministry, and is given the gifts of the Spirit to do the ministry. I'm not talking about a church where its members squabble over things that are unimportant, in pursuit of the trivial. I'm talking about a church that has a mission to the community,

a church that provides after school care and summer day camp for children, a church that cares about families in need and opens wide its doors, a church that opens its arms to a new woman pastor, a church that is not a museum but uses its facilities in mission, a church that dares to experiment, that tries to reach new people by offering a contemporary music service, a church that cares about youth and provides a ministry that is powerful in its outreach, a church that sends its youth as far away as Bolivia to do God's work.

I'm talking about us. I'm talking about our church because the Holy Spirit has come upon us, and has led us into mission we never thought possible, has enabled us to do things we never dreamed we could do. I'm talking about us, and encouraging us to be open to what God next has in store for us.

What if the Holy Spirit came? Let me ask you some questions for self-examination. Your answers to these questions will help you evaluate your relationship with the Holy Spirit. Has the Holy Spirit made Jesus real to you? Are you beginning to hear the inner Voice of the Holy Spirit guiding you? Are you seeing in yourself a new kind of love for other people? Are you experiencing power in living your life and doing the work of God? Are you receiving help from the Holy Spirit in praying? Is there increasing evidence of the fruits of the Spirit in your life? Gentleness, joy, peace, self-control? Are you receiving gift(s) of the Holy Spirit to do your ministry? Are you going on to perfection? (If not, where are you going?) Have you asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit cannot be turned off and on like a faucet. We are not in charge. God decides if and when. We can only ask. Pray for, ask for the Holy Spirit. Be open so God can fill you.

And, act on that which you have already received. Why will God give you more if you haven't acted on what God has already given you? When God frees you from anxiety and worry, don't take them back. Leave them there. When God calls you to do a ministry, even if you think it is small and insignificant, do it. Even if you think it is too big for you, do it. Don't be afraid or intimidated. Act.

When God calls you to perfection, and expects you to repent and make life style changes, act. How can you expect more strawberry shortcake when you haven't finished what is already on your plate? How can God give you big blessings if you haven't acted on the little blessings?

What if the Holy Spirit came? Wow! Get ready. Ask and act.

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© 1999 Douglas I. Norris