The Promise of the Holy Spirit
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We’ve been discussing the Holy Spirit. Last week’s lesson was about the person of the Holy Spirit. In that lesson I pointed out:
The main takaway from last week’s lesson was evidenced by the title: The Person of the Holy Spirit. We learned that the Holy Spirit is a person. We need to think of Him that way. I mentioned that one of the biggest reasons we don’t understand the Holy Spirit like we should is because we don’t have the right concept of who the Holy Spirit is.
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.
But I hope last week’s lesson did more than to simply prove that the Holy Spirit is a person with His own independent thoughts and feelings who speaks and works in our lives. I hope I helped you to see how the scriptures describe the Holy Spirit as our friend. When Jesus told Nicodemus:
"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)
First, we learned is how Jesus said that we be born of the water and of the Spirit. If we are not, we can’t enter the kingdom of God. That makes being born of the Spirit very, very important to us. We are going to talk about the power of the Spirit in our lives today.
Second, we learned that the word “Helper” doesn’t have an exact translation into English because it’s 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”. We could summarize what he is as a loyal friend who will always be there for you. So it’s comforting to know that God recognizes our inabilities and our handicapps and our shortcomings. He knows we are bound to make some mistakes…that we will be weak at times and our understanding might be flawed. If we let the Spirit act upon our lives like the wind – allow Him to direct us where HE wishes instead of where WE want to go, He will act as our friend, our helper, our counselor, our source of strength. Doesn’t that sound good?
Let’s focus on this verse and others like this one.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples:
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."
- John 16:7–13 (NKJV)
Convict. Guide. (Anim.) When trying to learn why do certain verses come to mind and not others. Could this be the H. Spirit guiding us? He will “guide” – leads us there, up to you and I to consider it and put it all together.
Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus told His disciples
"5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”"
- Acts 1:5 (NKJV)
Acts 2:17-18 quotes Joel 2 and he says this applied to those disciples back then:
"17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. "18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy."
- Acts 2:17–18 (NKJV)
"15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. "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."
- John 14:15–17 (NKJV)
So the Holy Spirit wasn’t only promised to the apostles, but He would continue to abide with them forever. In future lessons we’ll see the promise that the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer.
So time and time again, they were promised that the Holy Spirit would come. And come He did, in a big way.
The word that is translated “spirit” are the words Ruach in the Hebrew and Pneuma in the Greek. Both of those words mean “wind” or “breath of air” or “gale of wind”. The Holy Spirit came just like that in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. When He arrives there is the sound like that of a mighty rushing wind (woosh)!
But there is something I want to briefly say about how we interpret our Bibles. As you read through your Bible you will easily see that different books are written for different purposes and in different styles. Some, like the letters to the Romans and Galatians and Ephesian and so forth – those are instructive letters. They are written to give instructions to the church. Then there are books, like the book of Acts. Acts was written as a historical account, not to give instructions to anyone. It contains the historical record that tells us how the church came to be. So, it isn’t written to give instructions. It is written to describe the events of the first century.
Remembering this, we need to understand that just because something happened that way one time, doesn’t mean that it is going to happen that way every time. So, when the Holy Spirit appears in Acts 2 with the sound of a mighty rushing wind or with tongues of fire atop the apostles head or with people miraculously speaking in other languages or receiving miraculous spiritual gifts – that doesn’t mean every time the Spirit appears that those things will happen. Keep that in mind when you study your Bible.
Remember what I asked you to think about last week? If the Holy Spirit was not present, would you notice?
It’s easy for me to ask that question, but you are probably wondering: “Well, if I don’t have any miraculous gifts and I don’t speak in tongues and I don’t hear the sound of wind or have fire atop my head…unless He speaks directly to me how am I supposed to know whether or not the Holy Spirit is present?”
This is a subject for a future lesson, but the scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit dwells within the Christian. Some people call it the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Exactly what that means has been the subject of some debate. But what I can tell you is that there is a way to know that the Holy Spirit is in you. We are going to look at that together this morning:
Evidence of the Spirit Living in Us
Let’s look at a familiar passage together.
Acts two contains a record of something that happened over two thousand years ago on the day of Pentecost. Jesus was an innocent man. He was, undeniably God’s Son. God confirmed and endorsed His teachings through the miracles He performed. The apostles preached to the crowd, convicting them of crucifying God’s innocent Son. This is what the scriptures say about their response:
"37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” "38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
- Acts 2:37–38 (NKJV)
Remember, the Holy Spirit is at work all over the place here. He is working through the apostles, guiding them, telling them what they should say. But the Holy Spirit is working in the crowd too. He is convicting the people – they were cut to the heart. So Peter tells them if they will repent and be baptized to have their sins forgiven they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let’s break this down:
They are convicted – they are cut to the heart.
This changes their thinking – they repent. That means they did a 180 in their mind
This moves them to respond appropriately – to be baptized. The word remission there literally means they would receive a pardon from God. They would have their sins forgiven.
But then the Spirit is mentioned again. They would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
Because their mind has changed…
And their sins have been forgiven…
God won’t have anything to do with someone still in sin. But now they are in a condition that the Holy Spirit (God) can have fellowship with them again
So the question is this: How will they know it? How will it impact their lives.
Years ago, I went to a football game in Indiana with a friend of mine. On our way home we started talking about our faith and he mentioned how sometimes the Spirit spoke to him. I asked him if he could tell me what that’s like. His response surprised me and made me laugh. He said he really didn’t know.
I get the sense that a lot of Christians feel a little embarrassed about their relationship with the Holy Spirit. And that’s because they read the verses about Him and somehow get the impression that if He is dwelling in them that, in some way, they should sense another being within them or they should hear Him talk – something like that. But I don’t know of a scripture that says we go around hearing another voice (other than our conscience) speaking inside of us. I don’t know of a verse that says that we are going to feel some being living within us. But I do know of verses that tell us how we can know that the Holy Spirit is living in me. And further, I can know if He is living in you.
As a side note I want us to think about the concept mentioned in these verses:
"9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. "10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. "11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."
- Romans 8:9–11 (NKJV)
These verses clearly say that the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God dwells in us. That doesn’t mean the person of God or the person of Christ are literally inside of our being somewhere. The phrase “spirit is in us” can be in the same sense that someone might have their school spirit (meaning they root for their school team) or in the sense of “the spirit of 1776” meaning that they feel patriotism for the same principles like freedom that people fought for during the revolutionary war.
Remember, the Spirit is like the wind. In other words, He can’t be seen but you can see and sense evidence when He is present. It’s like that in the life of a Christian.
When we lived in Indiana, one night there was a particularly bad storm. There were very high winds, rain, lightning. It was really bad out. To make matters worse, it was night.
I opened up our back patio door and I was looking at the sky and the lightning. Then something just seemed to change. I could sense something was off but I couldn’t see anything. I got concerned and I yelled for the kids to go to the basement. Just as we got to the basement steps the lights went out. When we got to the basement the house shook a little and the duct work began to pop as all of the air was being sucked out of our house. At that moment I got a little worried. I stared at the floor above and wondered if I would see the house being lifted into the air. And just like that it was over.
When we went outside it was obvious a tornado had just went through our back yard. Our neighbor had 30 foot tall pines – probably ten of them laying all over. Kids swing sets were tipped over and there was debris everywhere. Luckily most of the houses suffered minimal damage and nobody was hurt.
When the winds and the tornado came I couldn’t see it but I could see evidence it had been there. I could sense its presence by what was going on around me. The Holy Spirit should be like that for us. He should have such an impact on our lives and on this church that we are certain of His presence. Even if we don’t fully understand Him, even if we can’t see Him, we can see the effect that He has.
We probably won’t hear the sound of a mighty rushing wind. But the apostle Paul did write about what we would see.
In 1 Corinthians 12-14 Paul discusses at great length some of the gifts of the spirit. Listen to what He says:
"4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. "5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. "6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. "7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: "8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, "9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, "10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. "11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills."
- 1 Corinthians 12:4–11 (NKJV)
For those who say spiritual gifts have ceased - we may not see some of those gifts manifested today, but that means nothing. Notice how Paul ends this passage: “one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” What gifts the Spirit gives, when He gives them and to whom He gives them is entirely up to Him. So if your preferred spiritual gift isn’t manifested here, take it up with God. It is up to Him to determine if and when those things will happen, if ever.
And I’m sorry but I have to say this. Many people have been caught faking miraculous gifts. I have known friends who admitted their tongue speaking was faked. I’m not here to condemn people like this. But I need to say that sometimes those things are faked because I think some people read their Bibles and feel an enormous pressure. They get the idea that speaking in tongues is a sign every believer will have. That’s just not so. The Spirit is in control. Not everyone in the first century got them and people may not get them today. That is up to the Spirit. There is ample evidence that God primarily works in other ways today.
When people hear the term “spiritual gifts” I think a lot of people think of raising people from the dead or speaking in tongues or healing the sick. But Paul lists ten gifts. Many of those gifts are still seen in the church today.
The gift of wisdom
The gift of knowledge
The gift of faith
The gift of healings
The gift of miracles
The gift of prophecy
The gift of inspiration
The gift of discernment
The gift of speaking in tongues
The gift of interpretation of tongues
I have known and see people with the gift of wisdom, knowledge, faith and discernment all the time. Why would we discredit the ability of the Spirit to work in our lives today.
But I really don’t want to focus on these in our time together today. What I want us to realize though is that when people exercise things like wisdom, knowledge, faith and discernment that is like the wind. I can’t see the Spirit there, but I see evidence that He is alive and well, working in the lives of individuals. Working in the church.
But what’s interesting is Paul speaks at length for three chapters about spiritual gifts. But sandwiched in-between chapter 12 and 14 is chapter thirteen. In that chapter Paul says:
"1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. "2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. "3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
- 1 Corinthians 13:1–3 (NKJV)
Spiritual gifts, “they’re great” Paul says. But if you don’t have love, they are NOTHING! NOTHING! It is more important that things be done with love at the core.
I want us to look at what may be the most important passage we look at together today. Let’s turn to Galatians 5:
"19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, "20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, "21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. "22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, "23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. "24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. "25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
- Galatians 5:19–25 (NKJV)
Remember that question I keep asking you? If the Holy Spirit was not present, would you notice? Paul is telling us how we can tell. He contrasts outward behaviors: those who live by the lusts of the flesh with those who live by the fruit of the Spirit. I’m not going to spend much time talking about the lust of the flesh. To sum it up we are talking about someone who lives only to please themselves. These are the people – if it feels good, do it. They lack self-discipline and self-control and they are not God-fearing.
Paul says how we can see if we live in the Spirit. Remember, you can’t see the Spirit, but you can sense when He’s there because you see the evidence that He’s there with that person. You see “fruit”. In other words, the Spirit produces certain traits and characteristics in the people He is with.
Love. Paul brings up love again. Remember how Paul described what love is (and even what love is not) in 1 Corinthians 13? When you see someone who is patient and kind. They have love. When someone could be envious of others, but isn’t, that is love. When someone is polite, when someone is humble, they are a loving person. When someone lives by those principles Paul describes, they are a loving person. And being a loving person is a fruit of the Spirit. When I see a loving Christian (especially when they have every reason not to be a loving person) they are showing fruit – a sign that the Spirit is in them.
Joy. Joy is another sign that the Spirit is in you. A couple of weeks ago I preached a sermon entitled Complaining About Complaining. In that sermon I pointed out how we really shouldn’t be complaining about so many of the things we complain about. Christians aren’t supposed to be complainers. We are supposed to be joyful people. People who aren’t joyful are forgetting that those things that bother you are minor, petty nusances but they are no big deal! Car broke down? Aren’t you glad this life will be over soon and you’ll never have to worry about another car repair again? Bills piled up? Well, your bills are pretty minor when you consider the biggest debt you owe is the one for your sins and Jesus paid the price for you. Health got you worried? Aren’t you happy that we are going to a place called Heaven where there is no more sickness, no more death and a place where every tear will be wiped from our eyes? Truthfully, what do you have to be unhappy about?
Peace. Knowing all of those things I just mentioned, people who have the Spirit have peace. People in the world go into a state of panic when bad things happen, as well they should. They are all alone. They are without hope. We, on the other hand, have a helper. God has promised He would never leave us or forsake us. He does this through His Spirit. Knowing God is always there for His children gives us, as Paul put it, a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).
Longsuffering. In our first lesson, The Person of the Holy Spirit, I mentioned that Jesus promised to send the Spirit. When He did, the words He used were that He promised to send “another”. I pointed out that word means “very, very much the other one.” In other words, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are very much alike.
When we have the Spirit in us, we will be longsuffering. That’s another word that means “patiently uncomplaining”. Jesus and the Spirit are one and the same on this one. Like Jesus, if we have the Spirit we will be “patiently uncomplaining.” Remember Jesus: even when they cast lies against Him, He remained silent. I know you have the Spirit in you if, when you have every reason to fire back, you refrain from doing so…when instead you decide to be patient.
Kindness. This is another one of those words that just one English word just doesn’t do it justice. Not only does it mean kindness, it also means things like “excellence” and “generosity”.
Christians should be kind to others, again, especially to people who don’t deserve it. If someone compels us to walk a mile, we will happily go two. If someone asks, we lend, expecting nothing in return. If our enemies are just plain awful to them we return evil with kindness. I’m not talking about the moments where you are kind to your grandchildren. That’s easy. It’s not the moments that are easy where we can really see the Spirit at work in our lives, it’s the moments when our faith and patience are put to the test that our relationship with God shines. Remember Jesus willingly went to the cross.
Goodness. This brings us to goodness. Goodness is a cousin to kindness. In fact, the words mean similar things in the Greek. So I won’t repeat myself here.
Faithfulness. Someone who is faithful is someone who can be trusted. How you act when weaker people might be tested says a lot about your relationship with the Holy Spirit. What are you like when you think nobody will catch you? The word means you are reliable, you are committed and trustworthy. You are someone others can trust and place your faith in. In other words, I can see the Spirit in you when I see evidence that you are a person that holds themselves to the highest standards.
Gentleness. Some versions translate this word “meekness”. As men I think some of us may not want to be called meek because it sounds like we are timid or weak. It doesn’t sound very masculine. But meekness in the Greek is “strength under control for the benefit of someone else.” The Greeks thought of gentleness as something connected with the thought of being lenient or humble. It was someone who showed courtesy to others. As the church grows…as new people come in we need to be gentle with them. New Christians need our patience and understanding. Churches are faced with decisions to make that (many of them are a matter of preference). I can’t be someone who always insists I get my way. People who don’t have the Spirit fuss and fight and divide the church and create tension over petty things. When I see someone who is courteous and lenient with other people as much as they can be I hear a “woosh” in my mind. “There is the sound of someone who has the Spirit in them!” I say to myself.
Self-control. And finally, if we have the Spirit in us the evidence is self-control. It is someone who has mastered themselves. You have control of where your mind wanders. You are self-disciplined enough to control your actions. It is someone who can force themselves to do unpleasant tasks they’d rather not do and they don’t make the wrong decisions even when they are tempted to. They are the master of their ship. They have learned to say to God “not my will, but Your will be done” and they know what that means. They live their lives like a sail. They aren’t trying to control the wind. But they are willing to go wherever it takes them.
Hopefully our lesson has helped you to gain some clarity about our question: If the Holy Spirit was not present, would you notice? We know He is present when we make the decision to stop living in the flesh. Before He can live in us we have to cleanse the temple of our bodies and offer Him a suitable place to dwell. When we let go of our own will and allow God to take full control of our lives, the Holy Spirit will begin to be evident in our lives.