One of my favorite stories to tell is about the little boy in Sunday School, who, while the other children were listening to the bible story for the day, was off by himself drawing feverishly with a blue crayon on bright yellow construction paper. One of the teachers noticed little Johnny was not with the other children and walked over to him and said, "Johnny, what are you doing?" to which Johnny said, "I'm drawing a picture of God." The teacher said, "But Johnny, no one knows what God looks like." Without missing a beat Johnny kept drawing and said, "They will when I get finished."
When we talk about God most people think about God the Father and perhaps they picture Him on His throne, dressed in robes of white with a long flowing beard. Others, when they think of God, think of Jesus, and everyone at one time or another has seen what some artist thinks Jesus must have looked like, but when someone mentions the Holy Spirit what comes to mind?
Today, as we continue our series in the Foundations of our Faith, we come to the third message on God. Today we will concentrate our thoughts on the doctrine of God the Holy Spirit, often referred to as Pneumatology, literally meaning, "A word about the Spirit."
The confessional statement which we as Southern Baptist set forth as being descriptive of our doctrine is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. It has this to say about God the Holy Spirit.
"The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Savior, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism and service."
The fact of the matter is that many Christians know a lot about Jesus, they understand less about God the Father but God the Holy Spirit is somewhat of a mystery to them. They have heard about Him, sang about Him and read scriptures where He is mentioned, but if the truth be known, their understanding of His person and His work remain somewhat obscure in their minds.
The purpose of our study this morning will be to try and come to a better understanding of how God the Holy Spirit reveals Himself to us through His word.
Again, since the Holy Spirit is fully God, it would be impossible for us to be exhaustive in our scope so, because of our limited time I will try and show you several things about the Holy Spirit about which every believer should be aware.
We will begin by saying a word about the person and nature of the Holy Spirit. From there we will cover some of His major activities outlined for us in Scripture, and finally we will consider how you and I are to respond to Him.
I. The person and nature of the Holy Spirit
As our confessional statement sets forth in the first sentence, "The Holy Spirit of God is the Spirit of God, fully divine." That means that in every way He is equal with God the Father and God the Son.
He possesses their attributes and character. He is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and holy. He is eternal, immutable, righteous, just and loving. And, as the third person of the Holy Trinity, He is a person. This is an important point to understand.
Many people make the mistake of referring to the Holy Spirit with the impersonal pronoun, "It." But this is not how scripture reveals Him to us. When Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, say in John 14:26 for example He uses the masculine personal pronoun when He says, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit - the Father will send Him in My name - will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you."
Remember, our understanding of God is that He is one God who expresses Himself in three equal and yet unique persons. The Holy Spirit of God is the third person of the Godhead. He is not merely some impersonal force as the Jehovah's Witnesses would have us believe. He is not simply Jesus or God the Father appearing in a different mode, as one branch of heresy taught. The Holy Spirit is a unique person with the characteristics which define a person.
One can be in fellowship with Him or one can be out of fellowship with Him. One can invite Him to be present or one can grieve Him and quench His presence. Acts 5:3 tells us that it is possible to lie to Him and Acts 7:51 tells us it is possible to resist Him. And Acts 13:2 tells us that He speaks, all of these are characteristics of a person.
As we study the Bible we see Him in the very beginning, involved in creation. Genesis 1:2 says, "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters."
And we find Him in the last chapter of the Bible, extending an invitation. Revelation 22:17 says, "Both the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come! Anyone who hears should say, ‘Come!' And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift. "
He is active in the Old Testament and active in the New Testament. At Pentecost He came upon believers in a new and powerful way to indwell them and enable them to accomplish the work of the kingdom that Jesus had begun.
That brings us to our second consideration today.
II. The work of the Holy Spirit
In his excellent book on Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, defines the work of the Holy Spirit by saying, "The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church." He is God present and active in the life of every believer."
While the work of the Holy Spirit in totality is far beyond our ability to address this morning, allow me to mention to you, ten things the Holy Spirit does.
A. He is a Spirit of revelation
The Bible is filled with instances where the Holy Spirit is actively working. In fact, one of the key roles the Holy Spirit played was that of revelation. 2 Peter 1:21 assures us that "...because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God." The Holy Spirit inspired the scripture; one of His primary roles is in the area of revelation. So everything the scripture tells us about the work of the Holy Spirit is self revelation.
B. He brings conviction
John 16:8 tells us that the Holy Spirit reproves, or convicts the world about sin, righteousness and judgment. In the original language, this word reprove, means to convict or to prove. But interestingly it carries with it the idea of reconciliation, that is, God the Holy Spirit, reveals our sin to us and convicts us of it, shows us how unrighteous we are and warns us of the coming judgment because He loves us and wants us to be in fellowship with the Father through Jesus the Son.
C. He extends an Invitation
As we have noted the Holy Spirit is actively involved in inviting people to come to faith in Jesus Christ. It is through God the Holy Spirit that people are able to see their sin for what it is and are invited to respond to the good faith offer of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ. Without the work of the Holy Spirit none of us would want to become Christians. The Bible assures us in Romans 3:10-111 that there is none that is righteous, not even one and tells us that no one, on their own initiative seeks after God. It is the Holy Spirit Who invites us to come. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to see ourselves for what we are and invites us to allow Jesus to change us.
D. He affects regeneration
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit regenerates us, or makes us new in Christ. In John 3:5-6 Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. He says, "Jesus answered, ‘I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.'" It is the Holy Spirit who affects this new birth in the life of the one who believes. In fact, the Bible tells us in Romans 8:10 that the Holy Spirit brings life. The Spirit of God gives life. He regenerates.
E. He indwells believers
Contrary to what some may teach, there is no second blessing where you have to beg and beg to get the Holy Spirit after you are saved. Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us that at the moment of salvation God puts His Spirit in us as His seal of ownership and as an assurance that We are His and that He will never forsake us. In fact, in Romans 8:9 scripture tells us that if we don't have the Holy Spirit we are not saved. I Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are the temple, or the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit of God. From the moment of salvation forward we have God present with us through His Spirit.
F. He teaches believers
In John 14:26 Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things and bring all things to our remembrance whatsoever Christ has commanded us. The Holy Spirit is a teacher. He shows us truth and helps us understand why we should obey it and how to implement it in our lives. He enables us to discern truth from falsehood and teaches us the ways of God. He teaches truth to God's people as they seek to study and apply God's word to their lives. Jesus said in John 16:13, "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come."
G. He makes intercession for believers
One of the most reassuring ministries of the Holy Spirit is that of intercession. Romans 8:26-27 says, "In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groaning. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit's mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." That is an incredible verse! It does not say that sometimes we don't know how to pray. It clearly says that we do not know how to pray as we should but God has made provision for us. His Spirit intercedes, that is, He goes to God on our behalf, asking God for what we need, even when we don't know we need it. He makes intercession for us.
H. He brings unity to God's people
Ephesians 4:3 commands us to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace while Philippians 1:27 tells us to be steadfast in one Spirit. 2 Cor. 13:14 speaks of the unifying fellowship of the Holy Spirit for all believers when it mentions the "fellowship of the Spirit." The idea here is that through His Spirit indwelling His people, God wants there to be unity in His body. Whenever the Spirit of God is in control, people who are under His control will be unified in love, in purpose and in the grace that gives evidence of His presence. Folks, where the Spirit of God is there is a unity which is evidenced by His peace.
I. He empowers God's people for service
In Acts 1:8 the disciples were told that they would receive a special anointing of power, a special enablement to carry forth with the work of the kingdom of God. This is the same thing which the Lord spoke through the prophet Zachariah in Zachariah 4:6 when He said, "Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts." Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing, which is to say, without His Spirit working in us and through us, without the supernatural empowerment which He alone can give, we cannot accomplish anything of eternal consequence. The Holy Spirit empowers.
J. He equips believers with spiritual gifts
I Corinthians 12, Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Peter 4:10-11 tell us that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to every believer to equip them to be a functional and productive part of the body of Christ. Now, if every believer has a spiritual gift, the obvious question is, why aren't they using them? The problem, you see, is not with the Spirit who gives the gifts, but with the believer who has buried their talent instead of investing their life in the work of the kingdom of God. The Church will grow or diminish based on the active work of the Holy Spirit as He flows through the people of God to accomplish the will of God on earth.
Now, understanding something of the work of the Spirit of God, let's talk for a moment about our response. How do we as believers respond or interact with the Holy Spirit? A better question might be, how does the Bible tell us we are to respond to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit of God?
III. Our response to the Holy Spirit
Allow me to suggest three things we should do in response to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
A. We are to be in fellowship with Him
Philippians 2:1, 2 Corinthians 13:14
Being in fellowship with the Holy Spirit means walking in fellowship with God; it means practicing the presence of God in your life. Let me explain what I believe that means.
When was the last time you were aware of God's presence with you? When was the last time His presence was so real, so powerful, and so vivid that you were cognizant of His presence, that you could feel or sense His presence? Now, don't get me wrong. We are not to live by feelings, but we are not to act as though we don't have them either.
Cognitively we know that God's Spirit is with us, the Bible tells us this and thus we can live with that assurance. But knowing something and experiencing something are two different things.
I like what one theologian said, (James Dunn, in The Portable Seminary, pg. 156). He said, "The experience of the Spirit is like the experience of breathing: one is not conscious of it all the time, but if one is not conscious of it at least sometimes, something is wrong."
Practicing the awareness of God's presence through His Spirit involves being aware that He is personally with you. It means being comforted by His presence; it means speaking to Him and knowing that He hears you. It means sensing the joy of the Lord. It's like the old Hymn says, "And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known." Romans says that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. We are to enjoy His presence. Do you enjoy the presence of someone you love? Does it bring you delight to be with them? Does it not stand to reason that since the Holy Spirit is a person, and that if you love Him, you will find pleasure in His presence?
That's why the Psalmist could say in Psalm 16:11, "You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures."
But not only is it an awareness, it also involves being attentive to His voice. This means that we are sensitive to His voice when He speaks to us. God is always about the business of speaking to His people. The problem is that we are not always about the business of listening.
There are a variety of reasons we don't hear His still small voice when He speaks. Sometimes His voice is drowned out by other voices which compete and vie for our attention. Everywhere you turn someone or something is trying to get our attention. The television is blabbing, the radio is blaring, the cell phone is ringing, someone needs you to do this or to do that. It's amazing that we ever hear His voice at all, considering how little time we devote to being still and listening.
Being in fellowship with Him, and thus being attentive to His voice not only means that we must be intentional about listening for His voice, it means that we must be positioned to be able to hear. Wrong actions and attitudes will always desensitize us from being able to hear His voice. That's why we must make sure we are right with Him.
1 John 1:6-7 says, ""If we say, ‘We have fellowship with Him,' and walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."
Being attuned to hear His voice means making sure our life is cleared of all impediments and that we are actively listening.
B. We are to be Filled by Him
At the end of the day the Spirit filled life is about surrender. It is about surrendering to Him. It is about surrendering your agenda, your will, your desires and the totality of your life to Him so that He can live through you. To be filled with the Spirit naturally means that you are not filled with self. This is a major problem with many Christians; they are too filled with self and not filled enough with the Spirit of God. The degree to which God will direct you, use you and conform you to the image of Christ, will always depend upon the degree to which you allow the Spirit of God to fill you.
Now, it needs to be clarified here that you are not getting more of God, but God is getting more of you. Being filled with the Spirit means being emptied of self and allowing His Spirit to permeate your heart, your mind and your spirit so that He is living the life of Christ through you. Remember, the Spirit of God is God's presence with you and in you. Thus, when Paul says in Galatians 2:19b-20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave Himself for me." He is talking about the Spirit filled life. It's the same thing He says over in Romans 8:9-11 when he says:
"You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you."
The sealing or indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is a onetime thing but the filling is something which continues to happen over and over and over again. That's what the scripture says in the original language in Ephesians 4:18, literally it says, "keep on being filled." It speaks to a repetitive process.
C. We are to produce His fruit
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law."
Fruit trees don't have to decide to produce fruit, it is the natural result of them being what they are and doing what they were created to do. As a Christian you should not have to struggle and strain to be loving, peaceful, joyful or patient. It should come to you just like it came to Jesus. If you have His Spirit living in you, if you have exchanged your life for His and you are allowing Him to live in and through you, the fruit will come naturally.