March 8, 2009

The Essentials

What all Christians believe and why it matters

Part 8: I believe in the Holy Spirit

 

Opening:

          I became a Christian when I was 13; dinosaurs still walked the earth and many people were still reading out of the King James Bible, which uses the words “Holy Ghost” instead of “Holy Spirit.”  The whole idea of the Holy Ghost was kind of…spooky.  Boo!  Anybody else ever feel this way?  Who is the Holy Ghost, and what’s He going to do to me?  Today, we’re going to talk about the Holy Spirit…and it won’t be spooky!

 

Offering and announcements:

          Last week, you gave over $65,000 for the well project in Kenya.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of you!  Here we are in the midst of an economic downturn, and you open your wallets and gave so generously for those who have far less than yourself.  Thank you!  

 

Introduction:

          We’re heading into the home stretch on our series, “The Essentials: what all Christians believe and why it matters.”  We’re working our way through the Apostles’ Creed, the oldest and most widely accepted of the ancient creeds of the church.  It is a summary of the core beliefs that Christians hold-the essentials.  Let’s read it together.

 

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

    Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

    He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.

    He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
    whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

 

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

    the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,

    the forgiveness of sins,

    the resurrection of the body,

    and life everlasting.  Amen.

 

Today, we’re on the eighth article: I believe in the Holy Spirit.  We’ve already said, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty…and I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son.”  Now we’re saying, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” which leads to our first point.

 

1. I believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

          Who is the Holy Spirit?  He is God.  That is the meaning of the “holy” in Holy Spirit.  He is the “holy” Spirit; He is the Spirit of the Holy One, God.  He is called the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ or the Spirit of Jesus.  Who is the Holy Spirit?  He is God.

          “Now wait a minute,” someone will say.  “You believe in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.  And you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, who is also God.  And you believe in the Holy Spirit, who is also God.  So how many Gods are there?”  The answer is: one.  Not three…one.  One God in three persons.  This is called the Trinity, a word that you won’t find in the Bible, but is used to describe what the Bible teaches: one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Where did we ever get this idea of the Trinity, or one God in three persons?  The short answer: from Jesus.  Here’s the sitch:

          The first Christians were all Jews and the Jews were strict monotheists.  They believed in one God, period. 

          Then Jesus showed up.  Jesus was Jewish, and monotheistic.  He believed in this one God.  But the things He said and did led His followers to believe that He was this one God, the one God the Jews worshipped.  He did things only God could do: performed miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead, mastered nature, and rose from the dead Himself.  He said things that only God could claim: He claimed to forgive sins, that He came from heaven and has always been, that He was the giver of life, and that He would come again to judge the world.  This could only be God…in the flesh!  And yet, Jesus talked about God being His Father.  On the one hand, He prayed to God the Father, and it was clear that He wasn’t talking to Himself.  On the other, He said, “The Father and I are one,” and “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  So they were one, and yet not the same. 

          Then Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit in a similar fashion.  It was clear that the Holy Spirit is God, and yet different from the Father or Jesus.

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Here is Jesus the Son promising that God the Father would send the Holy Spirit. It was this kind of teaching that led Jesus’ followers to believe that there is one God who has revealed Himself in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Listen to Jesus’ parting words:

Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Baptize in the name of, the authority of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  From the very beginning, the Christian faith was Trinitarian: one God in three persons.  The writings of the apostles reflect this in many places.  Here are a couple examples:

Romans 8:8-9 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

It was the life and teachings of Jesus and His resurrection that forced the apostles to the unheard of idea that the one God exists in three persons.  They simply accepted it as the only explanation of the facts.

ILL: Kevin Miller explains it like this:

Here’s the beautiful thing: you don’t need to fully understand the Trinity to worship the Trinity, pray to the Trinity, and enter into the life of the Trinity.

They tell me that deep within the core of the sun, the temperature is 27 million degrees. The pressure is 340 billion times what it is here on Earth. And in the sun’s core, that insanely hot temperature and unthinkable pressure combine to create nuclear reactions. In each reaction, 4 protons fuse together to create 1 alpha particle, which is .7 percent less massive than the 4 protons. The difference in mass is expelled as energy, and after one million years, through a process called convection, this energy from the core of the sun finally reaches the surface, where it’s expelled as heat and light.

Now that was all kind of interesting, but you know what? You don’t need to know all that to get a tan.

You don’t have to understand the Trinity to worship God.  All our explanations fall woefully short.  For example, the Trinity, the Three-in-one God has been likened to:

  • Water: H2O exists as a solid, a liquid and a gas.
  • An egg consists of a shell, the white and the yolk.
  • A plant consists of a root, a shoot, and the fruit. (Tertullian, 155-230)

What all of these examples miss is the complex relational interaction of persons.  And it is this very thing-the relationship of Father, Son and Spirit-that makes the Trinity such a wondrous thing. 

          The Bible says that God is love, and love needs an object.  So who has God been loving forever?  The Father and Son and Spirit have always loved each other.  Love and relationship didn’t begin when God created us.  Love and relationship was there before the universe began, and is at the heart of everything.  God has always been in community, and invites us into His community.  God invites us to join the love relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit. 

ILL: Lots of people have asked me what I think about The Shack.  My first answer is, “It’s a novel.”  It’s not the Bible; it’s a novel.  Do I agree with every idea in the book?  No.  Did he get it all right?  What do you think? Who does?  I know I don’t!  But I do love his portrayal of the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit.  He captured the big idea that God is love, and that the Father, Son and Spirit live in a perfect eternal relationship of love.  And they invited Mack-and us-into that relationship.  It’s beautiful and very moving.

So here’s the big idea on the Trinity: you don’t have to understand it all to enjoy the relationship.  The triune God invites you to join the relationship.  I love the Father.  I love the Son.  I love the Holy Spirit.

          Sing: Father I adore you.

          Sing: Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

 

2. God within us.

          The Holy Spirit is God-God within us.  For the first Christians, the Holy Spirit, like Jesus, was not just a point of doctrine, but a person they knew and loved.  Jesus said:

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

He will be in you.  And from the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the first believers to now, the Holy Spirit lives within us.  When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives in you.  It was the Holy Spirit who convicted you of sin, drew you to Jesus, and caused you to be born again.  And now He lives in you.  The Holy Spirit is God within us.  This is why Jesus said:

John 16:7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

It is for your good that I am going away; it is better for you if I go away.  How could it possibly be better for us if Jesus goes away?  Because then the Holy Spirit could come, and He can be within us.  Jesus could only be with a few people at one time; the Holy Spirit can be within all of us.  It’s better for us now that the Holy Spirit has come because we can have Him within us all the time.  God within us.  This is why Paul prays:

2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

I hope you’ll enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 

ILL: If I came and hung out with you all day, I hope you’d talk with me and enjoy my company.  I’d feel a little bad if you just ignored me all day. 

I hope you’ll enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 

          Once again, I’m drawing water from a deep well with a really short rope.  There are hundreds of verses on the Holy Spirit and what He does in our lives, and I can’t begin to cover all of them.  But I had the idea of using this song we just sang to talk about our relationship with Holy Spirit.  We just prayed, “melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.”  I’m going to use those four verbs to talk about some of the big work the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life.

 

A.   Melt me.

When I pray, “melt me”, I am inviting the Holy Spirit to melt my hard heart;  I am inviting Him to take me apart, so He can put me together again.

ILL: Has anyone here ever recast any of your jewelry?  If you have gold jewelry that you doesn’t wear any longer, you could take it to a jeweler and ask him to recast it into a new piece of jewelry.  What’s the first step?  The jeweler melts the old jewelry down.  He can’t recast it into a new form until he melts it down.

Before the Spirit can mold me into someone new, He has to melt me.  He has to take me apart so He can put together again as a new man.  Melt me. 

One of the Spirit’s works is to convict me of my sin, and bring me to Jesus. 

John 16:8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.

The Holy Spirit turns up the heat in our lives to melt us, to make us aware of our sin so that we can repent.  Have you ever felt convicted about your sin? 

ILL: I was visiting my friend Dave Stenersen this week; he’s the principal at Northwood Middle School, and he’s amazing.  It’s a joy to watch someone who’s in their power curve, who’s really good at what they do-that’s Dave.

          While I was with him, two boys were sent to the principal’s office.  Dave asked them what happened.  They were in art class; one boy provoked the other, so he poked the antagonist with his paint brush and put paint on his shirt.  That boy then called the other a fag.

          Whose fault was it?  They each pointed at the other. 

          What did you do wrong?  I put paint on his shirt.  I called him a fag.

          Was that smart?  No. 

          What should you do?  Say I’m sorry, shake hands and forget about it.  So they did…and away they went, after they each got a demerit!  But it took awhile to get to the truth, to get a straight story from both boys, and to get them to own up.

Dave was doing what the Holy Spirit does-he was helping them see what they did, and come to grips with their responsibility.  He was convicting them of sin.  Why?  To make them feel bad?  No, so they could grow and move on.

This is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives.  He brings the heat; He convicts us of sin.  When John the Baptist was announcing Jesus coming, he said this about Jesus:

Matthew 3:11 He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

What’s the fire?  It’s the fire of judgment and cleansing.  Like I said last week, don’t think about judgment in a negative light.  You can’t correct something until you’ve identified what’s wrong.  You can’t cleanse something until you’ve identified the dirt.  This judgment, this fire is good.  It cleanses and changes us.  This is the work of the Spirit in our life, bringing His purifying fire.

ILL: 1 Peter 1:7 These (trials) have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

          Peter compares our faith to gold refined by fire.  In ancient times, when gold being refined, the gold ore was heated until the gold melted.  Gold is a heavy metal, so all the impurities in the ore would slowly rise to the surface of the molten gold, where they would be skimmed off.  The goldsmith knew the gold was pure when he could see his own unmarred reflection in it.

I think this is a picture of the Spirit’s work in our lives.  He turns up the heat, He brings the fire, He melts us so that we can pure and be molded into the image of Jesus.  Melt me, Holy Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.  (quench the Spirit)

Why would Paul write this?  Because when the heat’s turned up, we want to put out the fire.  When faced with our sin and the need to change, we deny, we avoid, we blame and we run.  But we can’t change until we’re melted.  When the Spirit turns up the heat in your life, don’t resist.  Don’t run.  Don’t try to put out the fire. 

Where are you feeling the heat?  That’s the Holy Spirit.  Melt me…

 

B. Mold me.

          When I pray “mold me,” I am inviting the Holy Spirit to shape me into the person He wants me to be.  I am asking Him to make me more like Jesus.  This is God’s purpose for us.

Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

God’s destiny for us is that we “be conformed to the likeness of His Son.”  His plan for me and you is to make us more like Jesus.  How does He do this?  That is the work of the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

The Spirit works to transform us into the likeness of Jesus.  He works to change us and make us more like Jesus. 

          Galatians 5 says that if we live by Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of our old sinful nature.  It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to change, to live a new life, to be transformed and become different people.  The result of this work of the Spirit is called “the fruit of the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

This is what the Spirit produces in us, the fruit of the Spirit.  They are the character qualities of Jesus.  How many of you would like more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?  When we invite the Holy Spirit to mold us, this is the mold He uses!  He transforms us to make us like Jesus.  Mold me.

          Have you ever met someone and wished you could be like them?  When you meet Jesus, that’s what you think.  “I want to be like Him.”  He is the most amazing, the most wonderful person who has ever lived.  Read the gospels-read the story of Jesus-and you can’t help but be captivated by this man.  I want to be like Him.

ILL: C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend about those who think that being holy, being like Jesus is dull.

          “When one meets the real thing…it is irresistible.  If even 10% of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?” 

Jesus is irresistible-love, joy, peace is irresistible.  That’s what the Spirit wants to do in you.

ILL: When William Wilberforce was converted at age 26, his mother had a fit.  She was fine with him being a nominal Christian, but she was absolutely against his becoming a genuine follower of Christ.  She heard he had become “melancholy mad”.  But when Wilberforce came to visit, he didn’t arrive wearing a scowl and sackcloth.  He was happy, and his mother and the neighbors noted the change in his behavior, especially the absence of the irritability and short temper he had often displayed toward her.  Mrs. Sykes, a family friend, told his mother, “If this is madness, I hope he will bite us all.” 

I want to be like Jesus, don’t you?  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Melt me, mold me…

 

C. Fill me.

          When I pray, “Fill me, Holy Spirit,” I am inviting the Holy Spirit to fill, empower, and lead me.  What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? 

ILL: What do we mean when we say a person is full of something?  We mean that person is characterized by that, or defined by it.  It’s obvious.

  • He is full of himself. The most obvious thing about him is his pride and self-centeredness.
  • She is full of joy. The most obvious thing about her is her joy. We define her by that: she is a joyful person.
  • He is full of baloney. You get the point.

To be filled with the Holy Spirit means that the Holy Spirit is obvious in you.  The Spirit is present and active and obvious.  God’s presence and power define you as a person.  People think of you and they think of God…because you are filled with God. 

          When people were filled with the Holy Spirit, God used them to do remarkable things.  All the verses on your outline from the book of Acts are examples of people being filled with the Holy Spirit, and God used them in big ways.  This is why Paul returned from his missionary journeys and didn’t report on what he had done; he always reported on what God had done.  It was God…obviously.  Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.  You’ve got to be filled before you can be used. 

ILL: Have you ever done nasty tricks like filling a person’s glass all the way to the brim?  When he moves it, what happens?  It spills.  Imagine trying to walk around in a crowded room with a glass that’s full to the brim.  What will happen?  Someone will get wet!  Someone will get splashed! 

God wants to fill you with His Holy Spirit so that everyone who bumps into you get’s splashed!  Does God want you to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

That’s a command.  Be filled with the Spirit!  And it’s in the present tense: keep on being filled with the Spirit.  Always be filled with the Spirit.  God wants you to be filled with the Holy Spirit; what does He need from you?  An open heart.  Melt me, mold me, fill me.

          God wants to fill you with the Holy Spirit.  And no matter how full you are, He wants to fill you fuller! 

Ephesians 3:16-19 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Paul prays that we would be filled with God-how full?  To the measure of all the fullness of God. 

ILL: Let me go back to my glass and pitcher here.  If the glass is me, and the pitcher represents God, I am full of God when the water reaches the brim.  I am full to the measure of me.  What would it look like to be full to the measure of the fullness of God?  It would mean getting all of this water in the pitcher into the glass…which means I need a bigger glass.  (Bring out bigger glass.)  Melt me, mold me…fill me! 

God wants to fill you fuller!  He wants to enlarge your glass to make room for more of Him.  One of our mottos here at Life Center is “There’s more!”  No matter how full of the Holy Spirit you are, there’s more.  You can be fuller!  There’s more.  And I pray that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, that you’ll keep getting filled fuller and fuller. 

          One last thing about being filled with the Holy Spirit: do you have to speak in tongues to be filled with the Holy Spirit?  No.  When you read the book of Acts, you’ll notice that the most common evidence of the Holy Spirit filling someone was that they spoke in tongues.  Other people prophesied; others praised God.  I don’t have time to cover this, so let me just say, “There’s more.”  No matter how much of God you’ve experienced, there’s more.  And I think the best posture before God is one that says, “melt me, mold me, fill me-fuller-and use me.”  If God wants to give you the gift of speaking in tongues, let him!  I pray in tongues often; it’s a good gift.  But speaking in tongues isn’t the big deal-being filled with the Spirit is.  Keep on being filled, fuller and fuller.

          Melt me, mold me, fill me…

 

D. Use me.

          The Bible teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who gifts and empowers us to do God’s work.  1 Corinthians 12 describes us as the body of Christ; each one of us are members of the body, uniquely gifted to do our part.  It is the Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts-in fact, they are called the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These gifts enable us to do what God wants us to do.  Spiritual gifts are God’s power given to us to do His work. 

John 20:21-22 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is sending us just as the Father sent Him.  He was the first missionary, and now He is sending us to the world as His representatives, to do His work.  But God’s work is not something we can do on our own power.  We need the Holy Spirit, so He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Here is the power you need.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.  Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.  Fill me again…and again…and again. 

          We believe in the Holy Spirit.  But it’s not a point of doctrine for us; He’s a person we know and love.  He lives in us.  He melts us, He molds us, He fills us, and He uses us.   

 

Communion