This morning I preached at Becontree Avenue Baptist Church (my home church).
As it is Pentecost Sunday it seemed appropriate to talk about the Holy Spirit not only what he does in the lives of believers but also how he is described in the Bible.
This sermon should be available on the church website for a few weeks if you wish to listen to it. http://www.becavebaptistchurch.org.uk/Morning%20services%20messages%20library.htm
Our Bible reading is Acts 2:1 – 21
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine. “
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ” ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
In the Bible we are given several images of the Holy Spirit to help us understand him and his work. In the passage from Acts he is likened to fire and wind. Elsewhere as we shall see, he is compared to water, oil and a dove.
These are to help us get an idea of what he is like. However, the important thing is to concentrate on what the Holy Spirit does both at an individual level ie in each and every believer and at a corporate level in the body of believers we call the church.
The Holy Spirit is given to each and every believer when we come to faith in Jesus. We can read this at the end of Acts 2 when Peter full of the Holy Spirit has preached an amazing sermon and those listening responded. See “What shall we do?” Acts 2 v 37 “When the people heard this, they were deeply troubled and said to Peter and the other apostles ‘What shall we do brother?’ Peter said to them, ‘Each one of you must turn away from his sins and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit. For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away – all whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’”
Some people sadly want nothing to do with the Holy Spirit and are determined to get on with life on their own. The Christian life can be difficult enough; but without the help, support and encouragement of the Holy Spirit it is incredibly difficult.
How many of you drive a car?
You know, hopefully, that you need both the engine and fuel to get the car going unless you have an electric car.
If you were setting out on a journey, would you wind down the driver’s window, get out of the car, shut the door and then proceed to push the car, leaning through the open window to steer it?
You would make some progress but what would it be like going up hill? Or what happens when it rains?
Surely it would be easier to get in the car and start the engine and allow the engine to propel the car?
Some people when they come to faith decide they have to do it all themselves. They ignore the Bible, the word of God which is the engine and don’t want to accept the Holy Spirit, the fuel. The Holy Spirit brings the Bible to life so that it speaks powerfully into the believer’s life.
So its no wonder life is a struggle without the Spirit and the Word and so they get frustrated and even angry with those who have chosen to have fuel in their tanks and start their engines. I’ve even known some who would want all the other drivers to switch off their engines and push – perhaps they feel that’s the right thing to do.
There again you get those who insist that you weigh down your car with vital extras which are the spiritual equivalents of the infamous furry dice and the nodding dog on the parcel shelf. It always amazes me how passionate people get about such items which to them become more important than having a real living relationship with Jesus.
In addition to being the power to get you through life, The Holy Spirit will be your guide. No more fumbling around with old maps or just hoping for the best – “I’ll stop and ask someone if I get lost”, you can have your own GPS satellite navigation system with you and he will never lead you up a dead end! Of course the man made “sat nav” has its problems – there was a story on the news a while back of an ambulance that started out from Chelmsford to go to a hospital in Colchester and ended up in Manchester instead. However the Holy Spirit is 100% reliable and he never leaves you. After all Jesus said the Spirit will guide you into all truth. When you can have the Holy Spirit as your guide, why do so many people ignore him and trust in the supposed wisdom of mere humans?
Just as your car will only do a certain number of miles on a tank full of fuel, so we need to be filled up with the Holy Spirit. Do you ask the Lord to fill you with his Spirit every day?
Lets look at some of the images of the Holy Spirit.
This is what we read in John 7 v 37 – 39.“On the last and most important day of the festival Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, “Whoever is thirsty should come to me, and whoever believes in me should drink. As the scripture says, “Streams of life-giving water will pour out from his heart.”
Just as water is vital for physical life so the Holy Spirit is absolutely vital for spiritual life. And here is Jesus’ invitation to those who are spiritually thirsty: “Come to me”.
There are many people who are looking for meaning to life or for answers to the questions life poses. You could say they are spiritually thirsty. There are apparently many sources of spiritual refreshment, but there is only one that can really deal with mankind’s spiritual thirst. All the rest fail to truly deal with the problem, just like many of the concoctions we pour down our throats fail to relieve our physical thirst so the other religions and philosophies leave us unsatisfied. Our deepest needs and longings have not been met, our deepest hurts not healed.
You may recall some years ago a horrific story about some garage mechanics who found what they thought was a bottle of spirits and had a Christmas drink together. Sadly it was neat anti freeze and they had a most unpleasant death. So unfortunately do many people who try to slake their spiritual thirst by anything other than coming to Jesus.
Many people come to Jesus yet don’t either ask him for the living water or even drink it.
Imagine some one comes to see you and it’s a hot day and they are clearly thirsty. So you say to the person would you like a drink? What would you say if they reply “No thank you I’m very thirsty.” or they accept the drink and just sit and look at it. You know its not going to do any good till they drink it. Until the water is in their body its not going to do anything for their thirst.
Or perhaps they just have a tiny sip and leave it at that.
Or perhaps they go into raptures about the wonderful glass or bottle the drink comes in. The container no matter how beautiful to behold is not what counts – it’s the contents! Just think of the people who wax lyrical about the church building or the priests’ robes or the dazzling ritual or hold on to the right words said in the right order in a service yet fail to actually answer Jesus’ call “come to me”.
Of course water has other uses.
We can wash with it. That’s what baptism is really about. Being washed clean of our sins and being forgiven. Psalm 51 v 7 “Remove my sin, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
In 1 Corinthians 6 v 9 & 10 we read a list of the types of people who will not get into heaven. But then in verse 11 we read the good news “Some of you were like that. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”. Now isn’t that good news? No matter what you’ve done, if you are truly sorry you can find forgiveness and be put right with God.
The problem is we do need to be cleaned repeatedly. Just as daily living gets us physically dirty and one bath in our life time is not enough, so life gets us spiritually dirty through our sins and through living in a sinful world. We continually need to be washed clean.
Water is also a source of power. It can drive turbines to make electricity, or run a water mill. It can be heated to make steam and propel locomotives.
It says in 2 Timothy 1 v 7 “ For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.”
I’m sure many of you have been on a beach as the tide comes in. Its unstoppable and can sweep away everything in its way. You’ve probably seen people build sand castles with tall thick walls. They stand there safely within the walls of sand, rather like the inhabitants of Jericho. Yet in comes the tide, the waves don’t have to be very big but the walls are swamped and washed away and very soon there’s hardly a trace of that sandcastle.
Many people have strongholds in their lives. Places where Jesus is not Lord. There are many reasons for these strongholds perhaps through personal sin or through the reaction to hurts the person has suffered. Many times these strongholds represent rebellion against God and Jesus. You can almost hear the person say “I won’t” or “No one will tell me what to do” or “I’m doing it my way”. If you are to truly grow in your faith, to be a blessing to others rather than trying to trip them up, you need to let Jesus deal with these strongholds through the power of the Holy Spirit. He will wash them away and then heal your hurts; after all his word says in Psalm 147 v 3 “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”
There can be times when these strongholds can be entry points for the evil one to get into the person’s life and start poisoning their thoughts and leading them farther away from God. However this can and will be dealt with by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a wonderful thing when the Holy Spirit sets someone free and just washes away the strongholds in that person’s life and heals their wounds. Hallelujah!
Oil was used throughout the Bible to symbolise God’s special anointing on someone usually for a specific purpose ie when the High Priest was appointed. We can read about this in Exodus 21. Specifically in verses 5 to 7 “Then dress Aaron in the priestly garments—the shirt, the robe that goes under the ephod, the ephod, the breastpiece, and the belt. 6 Put the turban on him and tie on it the sacred sign of dedication engraved “Dedicated to the Lord.’ 7 Then take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him.”
We talk about someone being under God’s anointing for leadership or preaching or teaching.
Famously Psalm 133 talks about unity among believers and how special it is: “1 How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony! 2 It is like the precious anointing oil running down from Aaron’s head and beard, down to the collar of his robes.” Unity comes through the working of the Holy Spirit and not through strong arm tactics of making people do religious things.
If you are filled with the Holy Spirit you cannot help your self being enthusiastic in the things of God which may mean that the schemes and plans of man are of little value to you. Look at Philippians 3 where Paul talks about his Jewish pedigree – how religious he was. Yet as a Spirit filled believer what does he say about all this religious stuff? Philippians 3 v 8 “…I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”
In James 5 we read about anointing when we pray for the sick: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”
Oil is also used as symbol of God’s healing power in Isaiah 61v3 “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair....” You can mourn for many things not just over the death of someone. So if you are mourning the loss of something significant in your life, perhaps through death or redundancy or abuse or bad parenting, whatever it is, ask Jesus to anoint you with the oil of gladness to bring you healing and renewal.
Finally we are going to consider the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Doves are by nature gentle birds and they represent the inherently gentle nature of the Holy Spirit’s action in the believer. After all the dove has been used as a symbol of peace.
Matthew 3 v 16 & 17 “As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said ‘This is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”
When Jesus sent out his disciples (Matthew 10 v16) he said “Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be cautious as snakes and gentle as doves.”
One of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 is gentleness.
As I finish, I want to pose some questions?
- Are you thirsty for God? Do you long to have a deeper relationship with Jesus? To really know him?
Jesus says “Whoever is thirsty should come to me”
- Are you running on empty? Is your Christian life a struggle? Do you need your spiritual fuel tank filled? Come to Jesus to be filled again with the Holy Spirit.
If you are thirsty for God ask him to pour his Holy Spirit into you as I say this prayer:
Lord Jesus we come to you as thirsty people. Fill us to overflowing with your Holy Spirit this and everyday to quench our thirst and bring us true life. And for those who do not know you, give them a thirst for you that they will seek you and find you and so be filled by you. Loving Lord Jesus we ask this in your name. Amen.