The Holy Spirit
Reverend Rob Grafe
Not along ago, we had a series of sermons on relationships and marriage and I told a story about some friends of ours, a couple, while we were in seminary who were leaders in the church, radical Christians in their late 70's. They had come to each other late in life after being married to other people and had a whole second life with each other. They had been together for quite a while when it came to our attention, privately, that they were not in fact married. They had been living together for quite a while and they just slipped into it. They kind of got ahead of themselves. They couldn't wait on some things and before they knew it they were living together and everybody assumed they were married. This is the couple you will remember that she told me, "It's not about sex, Rob, because he can't and I won't."
Sometimes we portray things to others that we wish were true of ourselves. We can lie about a lot of things. We can lie to ourselves about our relationship with God. We can lie to others and sometimes we just find ourselves locked into something not of our own choosing.
How does the enemy work against the church? He's a defeated enemy but he is working against the church. We know that. I think it's safe to say that he would neutralize the Holy Spirit. There are many ways to neutralize the Holy Spirit in our lives. Many ways to cut our spiritual life out from under us. I want to offer three lies that the enemy throws out.
He will say that the Holy Spirit is no longer working in the world like it did in those early days of the church. You see...." there was a need then that there would be a powerful manifestation of the Spirit to equip these people to get the church rolling. Now, these gifts have since died out and we don't see those anymore". So the lie goes that the gifts have faded away into obscurity.
A second lie from the enemy is that "well, yeah, the Holy Spirit is still working and he is empowering and strengthening His people to be who He is calling them to be, but He is just not doing it in me. For whatever reason...I am not holy enough; I just don't have what it takes to walk in the Spirit. In fact, I am kind of scared of it and I just soon keep my distance." That's lie number two.
Lie number three is, "Yes, the Holy Spirit is alive. He's working and transforming lives. He's doing amazing ministry even today and I am so filled. I am filled to brimming with this power and this new life " Now, if that is not true and you are not walking in the Spirit and you are living the life that tells everybody, "Well, yeah, I am. I go to St. Andrews after all." Then, I would say that the third lie is the most dangerous of all.
Yes, the Holy Spirit is still working and I am there. I consider our church and I love our family, but we have to admit to ourselves we were all drawn to each other for a reason. What is it that drew us? I'll tell you what drew me. I wanted to go see what you people were doing, ministering in the Spirit. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to soak up all I could and just be here and I wasn't disappointed. I think there are lots of us who--some of us just show up, passing through--but a lot of us have come here for a reason. And most of the reasons have to do with an alive Spirit, ministry in the Holy Spirit. So, I would wager that there are some of us who have come here and maybe after a while we just never quite caught on, we never experienced that release. We never quite gave in to all that He has offered to us. Yet we have been acting as if we were and living as if we were. There is no life in that.
"Remember not the former things nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth," says the prophet Isaiah. "Do you not perceive it?" "Well, you should have seen it back in the 70's, Rob, it was amazing. We were meeting in the little sanctuary and the Spirit was so thick. Lives were being changed. We were doing ministry all hours of the night. It was amazing! In the 80's, it was phenomenal the way the Spirit continued to minister in our lives. We built this wonderful sanctuary and we filled it up. We had powerful healing ministries and retreats and it truly was amazing. And it didn't slow down much in the 90's and, Rob, you just should have seen it when they came back from Toronto. They were laying out in these aisles. We had to walk over them. The Spirit was so thick here you just...."
We don't have to live in the past. "Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now, it springs forth do you not perceive it." We live in a powerful time. We can't pretend; we can't play games with ourselves. There is too much being offered. There is too much that He is calling us to do. Let's pray.
Holy God, we give you this time. We ask you to set aside anything that would get in the way of you and your Holy Spirit. We ask you to put down any obstacles, that nothing would come in between us and your convicting, life-giving Spirit. We don't want just a little and we don't want to play games. We want all you have in store for us, Lord. We ask all this in the Name of Jesus.
If you haven't figured it out, I would like to talk about the Holy Spirit today. The Holy Spirit is a Person. Now, we talk about "it", how thick "it" was and we talk about the power of the Spirit, the manifestations of the Spirit as "it". But when we talk about the Holy Spirit, it's Him. It's He. It's "yes, sir, no, sir." He speaks. He leads. He thinks. He can be grieved. Why is this important? It's important because He chooses to reveal Himself in a personal way. We are encouraged to engage Him in a personal way. Not the force; not it, but Him. Life-giving Him. The Holy Spirit is also the paraclete, we are told. A funny word, hard to define. Basically, that which comes along beside. That which comes along beside to strengthen, to encourage, to empower. So, think of it as a personal counselor, a personal encourager to come along beside us. The Holy Spirit.
Not a new concept. Not something that a bunch of wild-eyed charismatics come up with just to liven things up a little bit. It's not new to this century. It's not new to any one church. The Holy Spirit is the pre-eternal, triune God. Just as much a part of that trinity as the Father or the Son. So we have lots of examples of the Holy Spirit moving in both the Old Testament and the New. Throughout Scripture, he is moving. And I want to throw this out to you. It's a drama. Get caught up in the drama. Get swept into the drama.
We have another drama that we all are real excited about. It's fundamental to who we are as Christians; it's our salvation history. We start in Genesis and we move through John's Revelation and we see God reaching out to His people. We see Him giving us laws. We see us dropping the ball; we see him forgiving and forgiving, calling us back into relationship, calling us to repent, and finally we see the ultimate offering of Jesus on the Cross. We see Him die; we see Him raised to new life and we know we are promised that we share in that new life. We share in His life, in His death, and in His glorious resurrection. It's a powerful drama that we are a part of. There is a separate drama; it's parallel, it's closely tied and has to do with the Holy Spirit. It has to do with the Promise. It's a bubbling undercurrent of all that other drama is about. We see in creation that God brings order into chaos. This is the same God that brings peace into dark, chaotic lives. This is the same God that heals those addictions and those broken bones and broken lives. In the power of His Spirit, He comes to restore.
We see in the formation of man, He forms this human in His own likeness out of dust and mud and then He breathes new life into this person, animating him in the power of His Spirit. So we have this breath of God in the spoken word of creation with the Spirit hovering over the waters and being a part of that creation. Also, in the breath being breathed into mankind from the very beginning. We move out through Scripture and we see a pattern. You have heard this before. Hear it again. God works in the power of His Holy Spirit in Old Testament times and in the New Testament in particular ways. He moves on particular people at a particular time for a particular purpose or task.
We see it in Bezalel in Exodus, Chapter 31, "See, I have chosen Bezalel, son if Uri, the son of Hur of the tribe if Judah and I have filled him with the spirit of God, with skill, with ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.." Why? I have a job for him to do. I have an artistic role for him to play. He's going to be able to hammer out gold and silver and bronze. He's going to be able to cut stones. He's going to be able to hew wood the way I need it done.
We see it in the story of Gideon, the reluctant warrior. "You want what, Lord?" That's right. So, the Lord pours out His Spirit and equips him to the mighty tasks He had given him to do. We see it in the story of Samson and his strength. We see it in the prophets. How about Isaiah , our Old Testament lesson prophet this morning in Isaiah 61, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me." Working in particular people at particular times for particular tasks.
So, the drama begins to unfold. We also see, kind of reading between the lines sometimes, that God is not happy with how we are understanding His laws. You see, he has given us laws that we might know how filthy and wicked we are that we might then turn to Him. He has given us ways to make that atonement, ways to repent, sacrifices that can be made. People who can do the sacrifices for us that we might as a people be restored back to the God who loves us so. And reading in between the lines we see that He doesn't care about the system. He doesn't care about the rules and regulations, although they are true, eternally and forever true and spring forth from who He is. What He is interested in is how we respond to Him; that we realize that we can't keep the laws and that we need more than just the sacrifice offering.
"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am dong a new thing. Now, it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?" The drama continues to unfold. We move to the prophet Jeremiah. This is one to mark in your Bibles; this is one to read and contemplate at home. "'The time is coming,' declares the Lord 'When I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.'" A new promise. It's not going to negate the old promise; it's going to clarify. New opportunities; something new. "I will put my law in their minds. I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor saying, 'Know the Lord' because they will all know me." So, in Isaiah God promises a new thing. In Jeremiah, He promises that the weight of the law--all the external stuff that stands between us and God and at the same time allows us to approach Him--all this stuff is going to be dissipated. It's going to be turned around. The law will be internalized and it has to do with our hearts.
How is He going to do this? Well, He tells us. He lays it right out as this drama of His Spirit just steam rolls ahead. We look to Ezekial 36:26, "I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
We can't do it in our own strength no matter how glorious the laws are; no matter how perfect the system is. We need a Savior; we need something internalized and He promises that. It's a death of sorts. Our hearts that are flesh and hard are going to be circumcised and cut that a new heart might be placed in us.
God's promising a new thing. He will pour His Spirit into our hearts if we will let Him. He will transform us from the inside out and we will never be the same. It's the Holy Spirit that moves us to be able to keep God's laws, to keep His statutes and decrees and further He tells us how He is going to do it.
Look at Joel, Chapter 2:28, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days." So, He has told us how. Now, He tells us to whom. Is this just open to the holy elect. Oh, yes and no. It's open to all of us. All of us who will receive it. All of us who will walk in it, regardless of age, gender or regardless of our status in this world, or our responsibilities in this world. It does not matter to Him. Joel is telling us that the promise will surely be for all of us. There is coming a time, the Lord is promising, when, "I will not only move on particular people at particular times but I am going to open myself up to all of it the time."
And we wait; we wait. Finally the birth of the Messiah. It's pretty clear, another just huge outpouring of the Spirit. Just about every person who touches His life even before He is born, family, friends around Him and all these moves of the Spirit. There is prophecy and words. There is just a deep understanding and anointing over that entire situation. But still it's on particular people at particular times for that purpose--to herald the Messiah. So, our Lord grows. Our Lord assumes His ministry. He is anointed clearly and visibly, but still we wait. "I baptize you with water," cries John, "but one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire".
So, the people waited. Finally, maybe too soon, we come to the cross. What's this? This is a bad way for the drama to end. He goes to His death. He is resurrected on the third day. The church is born, but we are still waiting. Jesus speaks to this promise and speaks to this drama particularly in Acts, Chapter 1, verse 4. He has gathered His people around Him. This is after the resurrection and be fore the Ascension. On one occasion while He was eating with them, He gave them this command, "Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised which you have heard Him speak about, for John baptized you with water but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." The tension builds; still waiting.
Finally, in Acts, Chapter 2, and we know the story, it's Pentecost. "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place, suddenly a sound like a blowing of a violent wind came from Heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."
And the rest of this drama is as they and we have been living in the Spirit and offering up all that God has to our friends and neighbors. There is some language we use when we talk about this and this is very important. There are metaphors that we use and sometimes they become cliches and I want to look at them as we close this time. We talk about "receiving" the Holy Spirit. We talk about being "filled" by the Holy Spirit. We talk about experiencing the "release" of the Holy Spirit. Let's get inside that just for a minute.
I believe that all of us who are Christians, all of us who proclaim that Jesus is Lord and know Him as Savior--who have been born anew--all of us have the Holy Spirit. That is scriptural; it's fundamental. We can't make these professions; we can't save ourselves without the Holy Spirit coming in, convicting us and making it happen. So, we all have the Holy Spirit but we need to also remember that not all of us have "received" the Holy Spirit. All of us have the Holy Spirit but not all of us have been filled with the Holy Spirit All of us have the Holy Spirit but not all of us have experienced the release of the Holy Spirit. I am not trying to be clever with words here. This is a very, very important point. We have to get inside these metaphors.
First, receive. This is my particular favorite. Does anybody here like romantic English novels. I love romantic novels, especially the old ones, Jane Austin, Emily Bronte, even Tolstoy. What we have there is the whole system of chivalry, courtly love and some rules and regulations on how you maneuver around and it's kind of funny. The guy walks up to the door--maybe he is in a carriage, maybe he is walking--he is coming to make a call. He knocks on the door. He might be shown into a room and if he is shown into a room, he will wait and at one point he will find out, "no, the lady is not receiving today" or "yes" and here she comes in full glory. Then there is much rejoicing.
The point I am making is the idea of "receiving". Now, many of us have heard the knock on the door and we've opened the door. We have let the Holy Spirit in and we have sent him over to the parlor to wait. So, He waits and He waits and maybe we choose to receive Him or maybe we don't.
The second metaphor is that of being filled. I have this glass of water to help illustrate this metaphor. I pour and pour and it's over-flowing and that's great but that's not how our lives are. Our lives are more flexible and elastic. I prefer the idea of a balloon. You take the balloon and blow a little air in it. Is if full? Yes, every little bit of space there has air in it. It's full. I blow a little more air in it and now it is more full. I blow a lot more air in it and so we go. Quite often as with this illustration we let the Holy Spirit in with just one little whish and we look around and we say, "I'm full." And we are, but we're not! We haven't tapped; we haven't begun to go down the road that He is calling us to go down.
Third metaphor, that of release. We use the image of the hot water heater and we believe that when we ask the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and we receive Jesus as our Savior for that first time, our pilot light is lit. So, we've got this wonderful hot water heater and it's ready to go. It's just a rumble, but maybe we choose not to turn on the hot water. " I mean, it's nice to have it but I don't really want it. I've gotten so used to the cold water it will be easier to just keep on doing that plus there is no chance of being burned if I don't use the hot water. Now, if somebody comes over I want to make sure they know I have the hot water, but it's my little secret that I don't really turn it on."
Consider the metaphor of receiving. Do you have the Holy Spirit waiting in the parlor? What a grand and glorious thing to have--this untapped resource for the edification of the body so that He can equip you to be who He is calling you to be in your family, in your job and in your church. Not only that but He can equip you personally to draw even closer to the Father.
What we are going to do this morning is get together again immediately following the service We will allow about five minutes to process out, then those who want to turn on the hot water, those who want to ask the Holy Spirit to come on out of the parlor, I want you to meet with us. There will be those of you who want a fresh touch and those of you who have never done this before. And we are going to pray that there will be no pride; nothing that would keep us from doing something like this even though maybe there is people around us who expect us to be a little bit further down this road. That doesn't matter, we can't play games with our Lord and we can't play games with what He is calling us to do and calling us to be. So, immediately after the service there will be a short teaching, then there will be some ministry time. And I think God is going to show up because He always does. Let's pray.
Holy God, we praise you for this time. For ministering to our hearts and to our minds. For convicting us of your truth. We praise you for Jesus. We praise you for His work on the Cross. We thank you that He sent the Holy Spirit to continue on where He left off, Lord. We want more. We want all you have in store for us, Lord. We pray all this in Christ's Name. Amen.