Sermons & Bible Study
The Person of the Holy Spirit
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If the Holy Spirit was missing, would you notice?
Years ago we lived in Hubbard, NE and were hit by a huge storm. A tornado passed through the area and I actually drove and sat atop the hill in our town and I could see a tornado off in the distance, striking power lines and throwing debris into the air as it went through Jackson, a town that was probably only 4 miles away cross country.
The tornado damaged part of the power grid so it was several hours before the power came back on. And it came at somewhat of an inconvenient time. We had clothes being washed in the laundry, we needed to cook supper, the air wasn’t working, I was a little worried about the food going bad in the refrigerator and freezers, night was approaching so we needed light. And I realized how much we really depended upon electricity.
You take electricity for granted when it’s there. You don’t even think about it most of the time. But you really notice it when it’s gone.
“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, ninety-fice percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had withdrawn from the New Testament church, ninety-five percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” – A.W. Tozer
The early church was highly dependent on the Holy Spirt – to be what God had called them to be, to fulfill the mission that God had called them to fulfill.
To see the church without the Holy Spirit in the New Testament wouldn’t be to see the church at all.
I’m afraid many of us have learned about the Holy Spirit but have never encountered the Holy Spirit.
The title of this series is titled Wind and Fire because these are a couple of the images used to depict the Holy Spirit in scripture. We will talk about both in this series, this week I want to focus on wind.
The word for “spirit” from ruach (Heb.) pnuma (Gk.) meaning “wind” or “breath of air” or “gale of wind”.
It is a word used to give an illustration to help us understand the Holy Spirit.
In John chapter three, a religious leader by the name of Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. It’s that famous exchange when Jesus confused Nicodemus by explaining that he needed to be born again. Nicodemus had a difficult time understanding what Jesus meant. Here is part of that exchange:
"5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. "6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ "8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”"
- John 3:5–8 (NKJV)
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
I want to preach a series about the Holy Spirit. And as we preach through this series, I want us to think about this question:
If the Holy Spirit was not present, would you notice? In other words:
If the power of the Holy Spirit was not present in your life, would you notice? Or, to put it another way…
If the power of the Holy Spirit was no longer present in this church would anybody notice? (Or would it just be business as usual?)
The Jews believed in the Spirit of God but in a different sense than we do. The Jews eject the idea that there are three in the Godhead. Obviously, they don’t believe in Jesus and when it comes to the Holy Spirit they believe this language in the Old Testament is simply a way of referring to God’s divine force, His power and His influence. They see phrases like “the Spirit of God” in the Old Testament as a phrase that merely describes how God moves or what He is doing but they don’t see the Holy Spirit as a being separate from God.
So that made Jesus’ teachings about the Holy Spirit very radical. To some it almost sounded blasphemous to a Jew who knew the first commandment was “You shall have no other gods” and then to be told that there was another member of the Godhead.
In the third chapter of John Jesus explains what the Holy Spirit is like by comparing Him to wind. In the second chapter of Acts it describes the coming of the Spirit exactly like that. When He comes upon the apostles there is the sound of something like a mighty rushing wind (Ac. 2:2). Jesus says of the wind: you don’t know where it is coming from and you don’t know where it is going.
The wind is something unique. It is one of the things that is invisible but also tangible. You can’t see it, but you know its present. You see the evidence that the wind is there even if you can’t reach out and grab ahold of it.
And the Holy Spirit is like that. When He’s present, it’s tangible. You may not be able to hear Him, see Him or touch Him, even if can see and sense the evidence of His presence. You can see the difference that He’s made.
If I can make an analogy, the church can be a lot like like a beautiful sailboat:
Lots of time and money building sailboat
We hire a captain and recruit others to work on the sailboat.
Lots of training to learn how to sail.
Read books about sailboats and sailing.
Conferences about sailing.
Read books about famous sailors.
Charted a course for the sailboat. Mapped it out. Plan. Know safest route.
But even if we had all of this knowledge and training about sailing and even if we had a beautiful sailboat…what would a sailboat be without the wind? (The wind is the most important part.)
I want us to think for a moment about Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it wishes” (Highlight).
The reality is, sometimes we want to control God, instead of allowing God to take the lead. But there’s just one problem with that. The Spirit (God) is like the wind. He can’t be captured. He won’t fit into our little box we might want to put Him in.
God has plans for your life. He has plans for this church. And we have two choices: we can follow God’s plan and let Him lead or we can go our own way. But God is going to go where He wishes.
Leaders need to pray a prayer like this:
“Lord, help me lead my life the way a sail leads the wind.”
Of course, a sail doesn’t lead the wind at all. The job of a sail is to receive the wind.
We may not be able to see the Holy Spirit but His presence in our lives should be evident. People around us should be able to see that He has made a difference in our marriages, our relationships, in our temperament, in the way that we live our lives. They should be able to see the effect of the wind.
I want to ask you to think about this question one more time: If the Holy Spirit was not present, would you notice?
Ironically, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the subject of the Holy Spirit. And the very one that was supposed to bring about unity in the church has been the subject that has caused a lot of division.
I was curious so I searched online and there are dozens upon dozens of sermon outlines and books and articles online with titles similar to “The Mystery of the Holy Spirit.” Again, it’s ironic that the very one that is supposed to help us gain some understanding may be one of the least understood subjects in the Bible.
On the night that He was arrested, Jesus knew His time on earth was coming to an end. It seems almost as if Jesus had so many things He still wanted to be able to tell them but there so little time left. So, in the thirteenth chapter of John, Jesus begins to share with them, what would be His final thoughts before He would go to the garden, be arrested and be humiliated and cruelly crucified on the cross.
The first thing He tells them must have shocked them. He tells them (in somewhat cryptic language) that He is about to die. He tells them that He would only be with them a little longer – that He’s going to leave and where He is going they will not be able to come. He tells them that He would be leaving to prepare a place for them.
Jesus was their leader. He was the central figure in the group and He knew that one of the first thoughts that the disciples would have was, if Jesus was leaving, what would they do? Who would help them navigate this new way Jesus had taught them about. There were still so many questions they had…so many things they didn’t understand. What would they do.
Let’s look at a few of the statements Jesus made to them that night. Jesus was leaving. But He wasn’t going to leave them alone. Someone else was coming!
The Person of the Holy Spirit
"16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—"17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. "18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."
- John 14:16–18 (NKJV)
I want to focus on one word together for just one moment. Jesus promised that He would send “another.” That word means “very, very much the other one.”
Kyle Idleman tells the story about his college days. He had a friend in college who just so happened to have an identical twin who lived out of state. The two brothers were so much alike it was nearly impossible to tell them apart. In fact, at times they would have fun with it. They would exchange places for a week and attend one another’s classes and even work at each other’s jobs. Nobody ever caught on, except their friends.
Kyle tells the story how, after being gone for the weekend his friend returned (or at least he thought he had). The two were sitting in class and Kyle sensed something was off. He asked his friend if something was different. His friend laughed. But Kyle noticed that the laugh was different and he didn’t remember or know things that he should have. Then it dawned on Kyle what was going on. This person looked like his friend. There were some similarities but there were also differences. This was not his friend.
Jesus used a word that just meant that the Holy Spirit is similar to Him, He chose to use a word that means “very, very much the other one.” In essence, they aren’t just a lot alike but even though they are different individuals, they are so much alike they are in essence undistinguishable from each other. This makes it perfectly clear why a few verses later Jesus could say:
"25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. "26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."
- John 14:25–26 (NKJV)
The Holy Spirit was able to pick up teaching right where Jesus left off. And He could remind them what Jesus said because there was such a closeness…such unity…such a similarity between Jesus and the Holy Spirit that when one taught it was indistinguishable between one and the other. He and Christ are “very, very much the other one” of each other. So, we can learn about the personhood of the Holy Spirit by learning about Jesus Christ.
If we are going to understand the Holy Spirit we need to understand the personhood of the Holy Spirit.
Maybe some of you are like me. Because of the way we’ve always heard the Holy Spirit Spoken of we have difficulty understanding and relating to the Holy Spirit. For example:
We think of the Holy Spirit as a what rather than a who.
We speak of the Holy Spirit as an it rather than He.
We relate to the Holy Spirit as a force rather than a friend.
Before we can understand the Holy Spirit, and understand the role He plays in our lives we need to learn to se Him as a person.
I think I’m not alone. In the church He is probably the least understood, the least talked about and the member of the Godhead that, when we talk about Him, it might make some of us uncomfortable.
Maybe one of the reasons we have a hard time speaking an thinking and relating to Him as we should is because of the name: the Holy Spirit. It just doesn’t sound very personal. And the word “Spirit” doesn’t connect to “person” for a lot of us.
In fact, some people have reduced the Holy Spirit by describing Him as God’s force or His power. But that’s inadequate. He has power, but the Holy Spirit is a person. We know this for several reasons:
Jesus Described the Holy Spirit Using a Male Pronoun
In John 14:26, a passage we just read a few moments ago, Jesus, speaking of the Holy Spirit, told the disciples:
“…He will teach you all things…” – John 14:26
So the Holy Spirit is not only a person, He has a male or masculine identity.
The Holy Spirit Can Be Lied To
In the beginning the early church had several needy people that needed to be cared for. Several people were selling lands and goods and sharing their possessions to take care of these needy Christians. One man named Ananias sold some land he owned. He gave some of the money to the apostles to help but he lied to them, telling them that he had given them all the money. When this happened, Peter knew it and he asked him:
“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” – Ac. 5:3
So, the Holy Spirit can be lied to.
The Holy Spirit is God.
Later, in that same story. Peter told Ananias:
“You have not lied to men but to God.” – Ac. 5:4
God is not an it, but a who. God is a person.
The Holy Spirit Has Feelings
In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote this statement:
"30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
- Ephesians 4:30 (NKJV)
To the word translated “grieve” in this passage means to cause them emotional discomfort: to distress them, cause them sadness or cause them emotional pain. It can mean to distress someone or offend them. The point I’m making is that the Holy Spirit has feelings.
But it goes beyond that. It tells us that He is someone who is intimately aware of the things that we are saying and doing.
The truth is, in relationships, the closer someone is to us the more power they have to really, deeply hurt us. (Some of you know this because some of the people you love the most are also the people who have hurt you the most. Am I right?) If we are able to hurt the Holy Spirit emotionally that also means that He has a very close relationship with us.
The Holy Spirit Speaks
In Luke 12:12 Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them what they should say when they were taken into custody by the synagogues and magistrates. He said:
“…the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”- Lk. 12:2
and in 1 Timothy 4:1 Paul explained some things to Timothy beginning with the phrase,
“Now the Spirit expressly says…” - 1 Timothy 4:1
So the Holy Spirit speaks.
In fact, let’s look at one more passage together:
"5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ "6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. "7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. "8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: "9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; "10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; "11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. "12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. "13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. "14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. "15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you."
- John 16:5–15 (NKJV)
He wasn’t going to come until Jesus left. Jesus speaks of Him not as if He is some force or power, but as an individual who possesses the ability to exercise power over others.
Notice that Jesus said “He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak”. That means that the Holy Spirit has His own independent set of thoughts and ideas as an individual, but He would refrain from speaking those in this instance that Jesus is referring to.
The Holy Spirit Can Be Your Friend
Did you notice how Jesus described the Holy Spirit in some of the verses we’ve just read? In the passage we just read together Jesus refers to Him as our “Helper”. In John 14:16 Jesus uses a similar phrase saying:
"16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—"
- John 14:16 (NKJV)
The word “Helper” doesn’t have an exact translation into English because it’s kind of a combination of thoughts. The NIV translates that word as “Counselor” and the NLV translates it calling Him our “Advocate.” The Amplified Bible says this word means “Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby”. I think we could summarize what he is as a loyal friend who will always be there for you.
So there’s ample evidence that the Holy Spirit is a person.
As we close out this lesson I want to encourage you to pray this simple prayer with me this week:
“Holy Spirit, I want to know you personally. I welcome you into my life and want you to be my closest friend.”
Pray to the Holy Spirit this week and ask Him to be active in your life.