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May 9, 2019, 9:29 PM

The Holy Spirit – Who Is He Anyway?


            Easter was awesome. Absolutely loved working through THE most supernatural events in the history of mankind and what a ride. Jesus prophesying His own death and resurrection; and then the reality of His death unfolding just as He foretold. Then three days later His resurrection and finally His ascension into heaven in front of eleven witnesses. I mean when Jesus made the miraculous and incredible happen, He wanted witnesses present to testify to the world so His Father would be glorified.


            But then maybe the most supernatural event of all took place AFTER Jesus ascended physically into heaven. And I point out physically here because it’s important to understand the complete nature of the transformation. He had shown them His wounds – His nail-scarred hands; His side where He had been pierced by the Roman soldier; they had touched His body (John 24) and He had asked them for something to eat (Luke 24:41).


            None of that resonates with a spirit or some kind of apparition or a ghost. This was Jesus in the flesh. All of that was done to fulfill prophesy and to glorify God through the resurrection of His physical body from the grave and ultimately the ascension of His earthly body to heaven. Jesus Christ defeated death.


Now I realize we are human and inquiring minds always want to know. But we’re not called to understand. We’re called to believe. We’re called to trust the testimonies of those eye witnesses. We’re called to absolute faith in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. And in that we are called to believe in the Truth that exists through Jesus Christ.

But now we’re going to move into another realm. We talked last week about the necessity of Christ’s ascension to fulfill His promise; His promise to send the Helper; the Comforter – the Holy Spirit. And you know what’s awesome… we’re not living in that time of promise. We live in the fulfillment of that promise.


But I think the problem is, we simply can NOT grasp the reality of the Spirit, so we tend to either set Him aside or think about Him in more abstract terms or at a surface level only. The Holy Spirit is a person. Not an it. He descended from heaven to dwell on the earth; to convict us all of sin and indwell believers to give power to Spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth – like Jesus said. He is here. Jesus Christ is here in Spirit – on this earth -- today.


            And like we said, He is here to indwell believers. In other words, once we accept Jesus Christ as Lord of our life His Spirit becomes the core of our existence. And at that point we begin the life long process of transformation. We begin to be more like Him; walk like Him; talk like Him; act like Him and think like Him. We desire to know Him better, because He’s become our identity.


            Our heart responds with compassion instead of judgment or anger and real agape love for others over the desires of the flesh and worldliness. Now we’ll certainly never hit His level of perfection on this earth, but through His Spirit we’ll begin that process of being perfected and as believers of His Truth, saved by grace, we should be striving in every aspect of our life to emulate Him.

            Here I go again, getting ahead of myself. For our Scripture today, we’re going to stay in Acts – Chapter 2:1-13. You all know this one; the feast of Pentecost when the Spirit descended and overwhelmed everyone present that day.  If you listen closely you’ll hear Luke narrate the event in two parts. The first four verses speak to the coming of the Spirit and the rest of our Scripture reflects the reaction of the Jewish crowd to the Spirit-filled believers.  I can’t imagine the chaos and the turmoil in those moments – utter bewilderment for some, an explosion of insight for others; a flux between complete confusion and absolute enlightenment.  Let’s go to our Scripture Acts 2:1-13.

                When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  

                And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

                        Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.

                And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?

                Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,

                both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.


            Now we’re not going to spend a whole lot of time in this Scripture today, because the goal for this message is to know the Spirit better. But how can we talk about Jesus’s promise to send the Helper and not recall that incredible day that He arrived? It was through His introduction that day that everything changed. The Cross was the turning point for humanity. But the coming of the Spirit was the new beginning.  

            Our Scripture today is His introduction to the world and the immediate impact He made. But you know what strikes me about the super nature of His introduction, the confusion, the chaos that prevailed in those moments… the world was completely lost at the moment He arrived.


            Jesus had been gone from the earth for ten days. Forty days before that He rose from the grave and three days before that He was crucified. Luke tells us in His Gospel that after the ascension the apostles returned to Jerusalem with great joy, because they were left with hope after His ascension. They had returned to Jerusalem to the upper room and to the temple, committed to prayer, for how long they weren’t sure; for what, they were even less certain. But they were confident in His promise.


            But what about all the others? Some had seen Him. Most hadn’t. Most of the people just went on about the business of their life, lost in the sinful pleasures they chased. He was just another man who thought He was special. They didn’t hold on to Jesus’s teaching, nor did they hear His final words to hang their hope on. And the apostles still hadn’t been injected with that dose of courage they needed to face the world that hated them. But in His arrival the entire dynamic of the world shifted.


            We talk about shaking things up. A new boss or new head coach comes on board and they want to do something or show something visible that represents change. There’s a new sheriff in town.



            Remember back 20 some years ago when Bill Snyder came on board as head football coach at K-State, one of the first things he did was change the image of the MASCOT from this funny looking cat that walked on 2 legs in a sweater holding a little dinky flag ------ to a ‘POWERCAT.’  


            Instantly that image summoned visions of change; from weakness and what was to strength, power and a new beginning. People began to believe. We can do this – even with the weight of the longest losing streak in the history of college football still lingering. We…Can…Win. I remember being in the stands when we won that first game to break the streak. You could sense the change in the atmosphere. Nobody wanted to leave that day. The attitude moved from dismal to excitement; from futility to hope.  


            This was nothing compared to that day of Pentecost. But…  transformation. That’s what it’s all about. In the moment the Spirit came to earth in that small corner of Jerusalem the world was transformed. The apostles were transformed. Cowardice turned to courage. Fear became boldness. Hesitation turned to urgency. The men who had fled the scene of Jesus’s death in fear were suddenly empowered to speak Truth openly in the face of persecution and even death.

            What happened?  The weight of the spiritual battle had shifted. Jesus was now with them in Spirit just as He had promised. You will be baptized in the Holy Spirit, Jesus had told them. And that’s exactly what happened. I will be with you always to the end of the age, He had assured them. The Spirit entered them that day and the apostles weren’t outnumbered anymore. They had gained the upper hand and they knew it.

            You might not know the name Angelo Dundee, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest and most famous professional boxer of all time – definitely so in his humble opinion. For more than two decades, Angelo Dundee was in Muhammad Ali's corner, literally. He was Ali's trainer and cornerman! He's the one who made Ali float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. He also trained fifteen other world boxing champions. Angelo Dundee described his job as a cornerman this way: "When you're working with a fighter, you're a surgeon, an engineer, and a psychologist."


            The Apostles had someone far more powerful than a surgeon-engineer-psychologist in their corner. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the same cornerman they had in us. Who is this Spirit that came over these men and regenerated their life? That same Spirit that convicts us of sin and seeks control of our life when we accept Christ.


            So let’s get into the nuts and bolts of who He is. To do that, we’re going to dig into Scripture to try and get a snapshot of the person and the deity. No better way to understand the nature of God. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit has intellect. He has emotions and will; qualities we attribute to a person, not a spirit.

            The Spirit speaks, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev 2:7).”


            He is our intercessor. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26).”

            The Spirit testifies. But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me (John 15:26).”


            He leads and directs. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (Rom 8:14).” 

            He guides us. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come (John 16:13).”


            He can show anger. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (Heb 10:29).”

            He can be blasphemed. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven (Matt 12:31).”


            We can grieve the Holy Spirit. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph 4:30).”


            All this tells us the Spirit is a person with the attributes of personality, but He is also divine. He bears those same qualities we know God has. He is eternal, all-powerful, all present and all knowing. He was with God in the beginning hovering over the face of the waters and He’s with us today.

            The Holy Spirit and God are one, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18).”

            I could go on and extract more Scripture to describe the nature of the Holy Spirit. But I think we’re there. I hope we get it and can see the eternal relationship between the person of the Spirit and our Creator. Can you see the power of the Spirit? Can you sense the awesome nature of His being? But can you sense too, the personal nature of His relationship with us? And that is the key to understanding Truth and our role in God’s kingdom. The old saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink – very applicable here. Only the Spirit can author change.


            Think about it this way. Imagine that you've decided to go sailing. The problem is you’ve never done it before and you know squat about boats. So you go to the store and buy a few books to figure out what you’re supposed to do. You read through them and then you talk to a sailor who’s been around the block a few times and he answers all the questions you can think of.


            So the next day, you rent a sailboat. You look it over; make sure everything you need for a good experience is on board and in working order. Then, you take your boat out onto the lake. You’re nervous about your first trip out, but the excitement’s high and outweighs any fear. Plus you’ve got a life jacket on. You’re good. You’ve done everything you’re supposed to do. Followed the instructions, listened to your mentor. So you’re ready to go. Launch the boat into the water. Hoist the sail.

            And you sit there. Nothing. Going nowhere. Just bobbing in the water. At that moment you learn a bigtime lesson. You can study sailing. You might even be able to build a sailboat. You can seek advice from the most veteran of sailors. You can cast your boat onto the water on the brightest, most beautiful day. But… only God can make the wind blow!


            The point is, we can study the Bible, know Scripture, talk to someone about Jesus and preach the Romans Road to Salvation. We can do everything that lies within the power of a faithful follower of Christ, but only the Spirit can convict of sin and truly change hearts. Our role is to move close enough to that unbeliever that the power of the Holy Spirit can work through us.


            That’s the great thing about our God. He empowers and works through broken people to bring broken people to faith in Him. But the Holy Spirit not only convicts of sin, He convinces men that Jesus is the righteous Son of God, showing sinners that Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.” That is the work of the Spirit.

            One last place I want to go today with the Spirit. And I want us to all think about this. You know it means to be introspective, right? To look inside yourself… objectively. Ask yourself the hard questions. And that’s where it gets sticky. It’s hard for us to be objective about ourselves, but we have to. Because we get so caught up in the things of the world and we lose sight of who we are in Christ. The Spirit will give us that objectivity. Paul could not be clearer in His words to the Galatians and the Romans distinguishing worldliness from Godliness; sin from righteousness; flesh from Spirit.  

            “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do (Gal 5:17).” And Paul was caught up in this struggle himself. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

            For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it (Rom 7:15-20).”


            That’s being introspective. Paul’s giving himself such a soulful analysis that it almost sounds confusing, but in the end he pins the tail on the donkey. It’s our sinful nature that creates this internal conflict between right and wrong. That’s the same battle with sin we all face every single day. We want to do good. We want to live righteously, but the desires of the flesh and the things of the world are powerful magnetic forces that try to draw us away from the Spirit.


            “The works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these (Gal 5:19).” All these things are out of synch with the Spirit. How many of us are affected by one or more of those things in our life?

            The Holy Spirit in us gives us the tools to battle the temptations the enemy throws at us. When we walk in the Spirit He’ll create in us those qualities that exhibit His nature. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 622-24).”


            You know, the way I see it there is no gray area when it comes to Jesus Christ. There is truth. Then there is opinion. And it’s that opinion that somehow tries to blend those works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. But you know what, they just don’t mix. They’re in absolute dynamic opposition to each other and the Spirit defines that in our life.


            How introspective can you be? Are you honest with yourself about your relationship with Jesus? Do you walk in the Spirit and display His fruit? I’m told that sermons shouldn’t draw on clichés. But I can’t help it here. You can fool some of the people all the time and you can fool all the people some of the time. But you can’t fool the Spirit. He knows your heart. He’s here today; with us and in us. We may not be as overwhelmed as the Apostles on Pentecost, but He’s at work in each of us… shaping, molding, creating a new person in Christ.


            Have you let go of the wheel? Given Jesus complete control. Look inside yourself. Let the Spirit shine His light on your heart. And if you find yourself in need of a relationship with Jesus or you’ve gone off track and need to renew yourself with Him, I’ll be down front.


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