In this message Stephen introduces us to the mysterious third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, and explores some of the aspects of the Spirit's ministry that often go unnoticed. So join Stephen once again in his series, 'Unwrapping the Perfect Gifts,' as he brings us the greatest gift of all: God Himself!
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
If you asked the average Christian, “Just how important is Jesus Christ?” you’d probably get an immediate response. If you asked the average Christian, “Just how important is it that our lives are related to God the Father?” and again, we’d probably get a few things, perhaps not as many as our first question about Jesus Christ.
I am convinced that if you asked the average Christian, “Just how important is the Holy Spirit, day in and day out?” I believe most would think hard and then, perhaps, come up with one or two things.
Would you believe that what you believe about the Holy Spirit will define everything from how you pray to what you watch on television.
Did you know that without the Holy Spirit,
- you couldn’t become a member of God’s family,
- you couldn’t become a participant in God’s mission;
- and you couldn’t even become a recipient of God’s love!
For the very first time in the Book of Romans, Paul mentions the Holy Spirit.
In Romans chapter 5 you’ll notice that Paul is informing us that we have received:
-the perfect gift of peace (v. 1)
-and the gift of grace (v. 2)
-and the gift of tribulation or pain (vv. 3 & 4),
-but now he makes the announcement that we have
received the gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 5).
Romans 5:5. “. . .the love of God [he writes] has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Ladies and Gentlemen, just as you did not earn the gift of salvation, so you do not earn the gift of the Spirit.
Just as you did not work for your justification, so you do not work for the gift of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not given to good people, He is given to redeemed sinners; He is not given as a gift to only obedient believers, He is given to all believers.
The Apostle Paul wrote to a confused, divided, frustrated church in Corinth. A church that was tolerating open immorality within it’s ranks, and division among it’s people, Paul wrote to them and said, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
He did not say, “Whenever you get your act together, the Holy Spirit will baptize you into the Body.” He said, past tense, you were baptized.
If anybody asks me, “Hey, have you been baptized by the Holy Spirit?” my answer is, “Absolutely.” According to the word of God it is impossible to be a believer, in the body of Christ, without that supernatural immersion of the justified believer, into the life of Jesus Christ.
In fact, according to what Paul just said in Romans 5:5, without the Holy Spirit being given to us, we could never receive the gift of God’s astonishing waterfall of love.
Look at it again, 5. “. . .the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit [literally, by means of the agency or action of the Holy Spirit] who was given to us.
One of God’s perfect gifts to every believer, is the Holy Spirit!
But just who is this Spirit? What does He do? How important is he to the believer? Is He some invisible power . . . some life force? Is He a real person, or an emanation of God the Father?
How you answer those questions will determine how you pray; how you witness to others; what kind of gifts you hope to exercise; what kind of involvement you’ll have in the local church; how secure you believe you are in your salvation; what your sense of value is to God; how you determine decisions and how you relate to other believers.
Simply put, the Holy Spirit is indispensable to holy living, communion with God, service to His church and every decision and relationship in life.
No wonder J. I. Packer said the problem in the life of the average believer is not that he thinks so little of the Holy Spirit; it is that he doesn’t think about the Holy Spirit at all!
But the truth remains, according to even a quick study of the Bible, you discover that without the Holy Spirit there would be:
No living church;
No conviction of sin;
No witness for Christ;
No illumination of scripture;
No unity in the church;
No operation of spiritual gifts in the body;
No ability to effectively pray . . .
and on and on and on regarding those things that are attributed directly to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Adapted from J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Intervarsity Press) 1973, p. 61
And here in Romans 5 Paul brings out one of those distinctive occupations of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the connecting agent between God the Father’s love and the believer.
On January 21, 1930, the most far-reaching radio broadcast up to that time was scheduled. It was King George's message at the opening of the session of the London Arms Conference. For the first time the entire civilized world would be brought within the sound of the king's voice. America almost missed the message because, just seconds before the king was to speak, a member of the control room staff of the CBS tripped over a wire and broke it, severing the connection. Harold Vivian, then chief control operator quickly grasped one of the broken wires in one hand and the other wire in his other hand, thus restoring the circuit through himself. 250 volts of electricity shot through his arms and coursed through his body, but he held on long enough for the king's message to be heard throughout America.
The King of Kings has a message for the world – and the Holy Spirit is the key agent in that message being heard. And the Holy Spirit, connects the wires so we get the message and not only that, we are able to transmit the message throughout the world. Without the Holy Spirit we don’t get the message and neither does the world. (Acts 1:8).
But what do we really know about the Holy Spirit?
Is He just hype? Is He some huge source of power?
As I prepared for my message, I typed into my internet explorer, www.yahoo.com. I figured the best search engine to find something to do with the Holy Spirit would be named Yahoo. Immediately after typing in Holy Spirit and hitting a couple of commands, there were more than 2 million sites available to me.
I looked some of them up. Some of them promised a Biblical overview of this third person of the Holy Spirit. Others treated the Holy Spirit as if He were some secret potion or magical power.
One site promised to remove forever the dark mystery of Spirit baptism; another promised to give me the 7 secrets so I could tap into the megaton power of the Holy Spirit.
Another told me that I could harness the power of the Holy Spirit and gain the Midas touch. Forget the fact that the Midas touch ruined the person who had it – destroying all his loved ones and bringing about an the utterly empty life . . . oh no, you can have the Midas touch from God’s Spirit and it’s a good thing now.
Another book promises to harnesses the Holy Spirit’s economic secrets; and the title of the book boldly promises, “You’ll never be broke another day of your life.”
I ordered that one! And just think, next time one of my kids comes to me and says, “Dad, I’m broke,” I’ll give ‘em that book and say, “This’ll fix it.” They’ll leave with the book, and I’ll still have money. It works!
Is the Holy Spirit truly some great genie from God the Father?
Is He some force or mystical power that we tap into in order to have our prayers answered and all our wishes granted?
Is He some mysterious power who reserves His deep, dark secrets for only those who are clever enough to break the code?
The word of God removes much of the mystery.
What I want to do is follow up on Paul’s introduction of this member of the Triune God. Because so much of who we are and what we do demands we dig a little deeper into who He is and what He does.
And by the way, since we’re dealing with Deity, what you know about the Holy Spirit today will not be all there is to know about Him.
The longer you know Him, the more you will learn about Him.
And the more you learn about Him the more you’ll realize what you didn’t know about Him and have yet to learn about Him.
How many men in here have been married for 30 years? 40 years? 50 years? How well do you know your wife now?
Have you ever noticed that it’s the guys who are dating that say they know that woman. Talk to a guy who’s thinking about getting married, and ask him, “How well do you know her?” And he’ll say, “Oh, I know her really well.” I just smile and say, God bless you sir. Ask a man whose been married around 2 years and he’ll just be catching on. The longer you live with your husband or your wife, and the more you realize there is so much you have yet to learn.
Much of it is great! Those of you planning to get married, trust me. Many wonderful things will be discovered over the course of years.
When I dated my wife of nearly 22 years now, I didn’t know she would enjoy painting . . . my favorite painting is hanging in my office today; I didn’t know she remembered bits and pieces of every gospel song, hymn and even pop song going all the way back to her teenage years. I can say something and it’ll trigger some phrase from some song . . . and she’ll start singing it. Gospel, pop . . . even a little Elvis Presley. Can you believe that?
I came home one day from the office and my daughter who was 3 years old at the time came running out to me all excited; she said, “Look Daddy . . .” And she began shaking her leg back and forth . . . and around and around. Then she looked up and me and, I promise you, 3 years old, she said, “You ain’t nufin but a hound dog.” And here I thought my wife was home schooling...
The longer you get to know each member of our Triune God, the more you realize you have so much to learn and the more you learn the more you love Him!
What do we know about this 3rd member of the Trinity?
To begin with, we know that 2 members of the Godhead (Father and Spirit) do not have bodies but are invisible to us in this dimension. Only one member of the Godhead has a visible body – that is Jesus Christ who, Paul wrote, is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).
In other words, when you one day see God, you will be looking into the face of Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote, “He is the visible expression of the Triune God.”
The invisibility or otherness of God the Father and God the Spirit leads to much of our confusion. In other words, since the Holy Spirit is invisible, we tend to think of Him as less of a real person than we do Jesus Christ.
Let me give you several truths about who the Spirit is.
1) First of all, while the Holy Spirit does not have a
physical body, He does have a mind.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:11. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
He is not some vaporous thing that has no mind or thought process . . . He is Divinely brilliant – equally omniscient.
2) Second, the Holy Spirit not only has a mind, but he has a will
In the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit which are determined and delivered by the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:11)
He isn’t a mindless puppet, with nothing to do on His hands. He is determining and arranging and the very fabric of not only the universal church, but the specific gifts within each local church.
3) The Spirit of God has a mind, He has a will and thirdly, the Holy Spirit has emotion.
Paul instructed the believers in Ephesus, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God . . .” (Ephesians 4:30).
The word for grieve is lupew (lupeo) which means to cause sorrow or shame.
When we disobey or ignore or sin against the Lord, the Spirit of God is filled with sorrow. He is not unemotional, passive, stoic mist. He thinks, He decides, He feels.
4) Fourth, the Holy Spirit has a specific place of residence.
While He is omnipresent, in the uniqueness that only God can arrange and understand, the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in the believer.
Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you . . . for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
You never have to ask for God to give you the Holy Spirit. You have Him already.
You don’t have to pray for the Spirit – you simply can praise God that you have Him.
He is God’s gift to you and, at the moment of conversion, you have Him (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Wherever you go, the Holy Spirit goes. Whatever you see the Holy Spirit sees; whatever you do, you put the Holy Spirit through that same experience.
You are a walking sanctuary of God. He literally resides within you.
And may I remind you, He doesn’t fill you up like water fills up a glass.
Many people, I fear, think of God as if He were gasoline in the believer’s tank. You fill up with the gas of the Spirit and drive off with wheels spinning. After enough miles you run out of gas and so you pull up to Divine gas station and, by means of prayer, you get a refill.
But doesn’t the Bible say, “Be filled with the Spirit.”
Yes it does. In Ephesians 5:18 Paul writes, Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Paul is using parallel ideas to make a point.
“Don’t be drunk with wine.” Now to be drunk means more than to drink – it means more than to fill up. It means to be under the control of that substance – to have surrendered your mind and your emotions and your tongue and your steps to the influence of wine.
So Paul is saying, “Be filled with the Spirit in that way;” let the Spirit affect the way you walk, and the way you talk and the way you think. Surrender to the influence of the Spirit of God.
You could translate the word “filled” with the word, “dominated or controlled.” In other words, Paul is saying don’t be controlled by wine – bit be controlled by the Holy Spirit.
And may I emphasize here that when you received the Holy Spirit at conversion, you got all of Him.
You didn’t get a little bit of the Spirit when you got saved, you got all of the Spirit – because the Spirit is a person – and you can’t cut Him in half or in thirds or into lots of little pieces.
In Romans 5:5 Paul tells us that He was given (past tense) to us! He is God’s gift we already have!
So what do we do about it? What do we do with the Holy Spirit?!
Let me give you 3 responses to the gift of the Holy Spirit.
First of all:
1) Listen to Him
He speaks through the word of Christ that resonates in our minds. (Colossians 315)
His gives the believer a sense of confidence and assurance in taking steps of obedience (Romans 14:16-18)
His voice is heard in our hearts as we desire to honor him and follow Him (Galatians 4:6)
Over and over again, in Revelation chapter 2 and 3 the letters to the churches conclude with the phrase, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying…”
7 times . . . are you listening?!
Not for audible sounds . . . but written instructions and inner impressions, directed by and consistent with the word of God which proves to be the true Spirit’s voice because it ultimately leads the believer to glorify God.
The Holy Spirit is not a power to be used – He is a person to be heard . . . and obeyed!
Listen to Him!!
2) Learn from Him
John 16:12. I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
You might be listening to a human pastor/teacher right now, but if you’re truly learning anything, it is the Spirit of God who is doing the penetrating, the convicting, the encouraging, the instructing. My words are merely the vehicle upon which the Spirit of God drives into your heart the truth that He wants you to learn.
That’s why I’ve had people many times come up to me and say, “Man that was so powerful what I learned . . .” and then they’ll tell me something they learned that had very little to do with what I was teaching.
Learn from HIM! Ask HIM to teach you as you study and listen and worship and pray and sing.
One more thing . . . listen to him, learn from Him and 3) Lean on Him
Jesus Christ promised His disciples in John 16:7. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away (can you imagine…and hey, we always think of the disciples having the advantage. . .); for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
Jesus said, the Father is going to send another comforter – a Helper – and this one will indwell you for the entire journey.
That’s a nice way of saying to His disciples then and now, “You’re gonna need help!”
God’s gonna send a Helper because you simply will need Help.
I remember that was the very first question I was asked when I arrived in this area, nearly 17 years ago.
Marsha and our infant sons were in Atlanta with her parents; I had come alone to find a place to live and a place to rent to hold church services. I was still driving that 20 foot Ryder truck . . . everything had been unloaded in a storage unit and I was driving that first evening to Goldsborough to spend the night with missionaries who worked with my father’s mission. By the time it was growing dark, I was completely lost. I can remember driving down a road that suddenly became a dirt road – I knew I was really lost now. There was a cornfield on my right – and a farm house on my left. I turned into that farmers dirt driveway so I could turn around . . . I backed that big truck too far and the back wheels went right into a ditch I hadn’t noticed. The nose of that truck was pointed upward – and there I sat, looking up at the stars. I remember getting out, wondering what in the world to do . . . and that farmer came walking down that dirt lane that led from his barn. He was wearing overalls and a straw hat . . . he came over to where I was, looked at the truck, looked at me then said, “Do you need some help?” (he said help with two syllables; I didn’t care, it sounded wonderful to me)
My answer was, “Yes . . . I need help!”
What a great question to begin with. It’s come back to me time and time again . . . as a reminder, “Do you need help?”
The Spirit of God asks throughout your day, “Do you need my help? And the only answer for every believer, every single day is “Yes, Holy Spirit, I need help . . . in fact, without You I am utterly helpless.”
Spirit of God,
Help me to understand the word;
Help me to exalt Jesus Christ,
Help me to walk in holiness and purity,
Help me to glorify God in my occupation and duties,
Help me to love and serve the brethren,
Help me to pray as I ought,
Help me to desire what I should,
Help me to
honor the Father,
and adore the Son and
surrender to You, oh Spirit of God.
I will listen to You!
I will learn from You!
I will lean on You!
And we the redeemed, say together today, “Thank you, oh God, for this gift, the perfect gift of your Holy Spirit.”
We will listen to You, enthusiastically!
We will learn from You, expectantly!
And we will lean on You, entirely!
In my heart, Lord, be glorified, be glorified,
In my heart, Lord, be glorified today.
In my life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified,
In my life, Lord, be glorified today.
Invitation comments . . . .
Lord please make me, a sanctuary,
Pure and holy, tried and true,
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living,
Sanctuary for you.