Imagine Clark Kent living his whole life without knowing he was Superman. Can we picture Clark Kent on his deathbed, looking down and muttering, “What’s that big “S” on my T-shirt? Superman? What’s that?” How sad! Even sadder is the fact that figuratively many Christians on their deathbed will look down and say, “What’s that big “HS” on my T-shirt? The Holy Spirit? What’s that?”
The confines of one sermon will not allow a thorough teaching on the Holy Spirit. Rather, in keeping with this series on the church and community, we will mainly talk about the role of the Spirit in the life of the community of God’s people, today that is the church.
A.W. Tozer: “If the HS was withdrawn from the church today, 95% of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the HS had been withdrawn from the NT church, 95% of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”
We often wonder why today’s church fails to experience the excitement, adventure, and growth that the early church experienced. Perhaps we should look at the absence of the Spirit in our conversations, teaching, and planning. Consider this- if we were to write a history of this local church, would the term “Spirit” appear in the historical account as frequently as it occurs in the book of Acts?
Perhaps we lack the enthusiasm of the early church because we lack their reliance on the Spirit. We rely on our own power, logic, and creativity- tackling only those things we know we can accomplish on our own- rather than depending on the Spirit to empower us.
Going back to Jesus, we find that His public ministry began with his baptism, at which time the Spirit descended on Him like a dove. Luke points out that He returned from His baptism “full of the HS” and from his temptations “in the power of the Spirit ” (from Luke 4). He then went to the synagogue in Nazareth and proclaimed ““The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”” Luke 4:18, 19, NIV.
As was mentioned last week, Jesus commissioned the church to continue the mission of advancing His kingdom. Jesus promised that the Spirit- the same Spirit that empowered and led Christ’s ministry- would empower and lead our ministries: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”” Acts 1:8, NIV.
In addition to empowering Christians to fulfill Jesus’ mission, the Spirit also arranges circumstances and prods Christians to missional opportunities. In Acts 8, the Lord led Philip to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. As a chariot approached that held the Ethiopian eunuch, “The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”” Acts 8:29, NIV. Philip obeyed and told the eunuch about Jesus, then baptized him. Afterward, “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away” Acts 8:39, NIV. Jesus gave us the Spirit to empower and instruct us toward the fulfillment of this mission.
Thesis: Talk about 3 things that the HS gives to the church
The HS gives particular skills and abilities granted by the Spirit for use in ministry. The NT discusses gifts such as teaching, hospitality, mercy, and leadership- various ways the Spirit equips Christians to minister. I do not feel that lists of spiritual gifts in the NT are comprehensive. These lists are more representative than comprehensive, this leaves open the possibility that the Spirit may equip a Christian with gifts not mentioned in the NT.
Though the kinds of gifts vary, the purpose of the gifts remains consistent. God grants spiritual gifts to individuals “so that those individuals may use these gifts to meet the needs of God’s people as a whole” (Cottrell). Paul taught the Ephesians that God grants spiritual gifts “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12, 13
The Spirit gifts us “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Therefore, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10, NIV. A Christian who serves according to his or her gifts will find more joy and fulfillment in service; these, however, come as secondary benefits, not as the main purpose. Primarily, the Spirit grants gifts not to benefit the individual but to enable the individual to benefit the community of the church.
“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” 1 Corinthians 12:18. God equips Christians to perform the ministries that He wants His church to pursue. This implies that when churches plan their activities, programs, and ministries, they should begin by asking, “What has God equipped the individuals in our church to do?” Then, the church should design its program and make its plans based on the gifts God has granted. For example, the leaders of the church might recognize that God has given gifts of hospitality to various members of their church community. The leaders should then ask themselves, “How might we design programs that enable these individuals to utilize their gifts?” Perhaps it will involve ministry to provide meals to new mothers, to minister to those in nursing homes, to help children in foster care.
Too often churches get this messed up. We either look at other churches and try to do what they are doing in their culture and forget about our own culture. Or we try to do things that people have little interest in doing so we strong arm some to fill the necessary holes. From this we have weary, unfulfilled servants and fruitless ministries. If God has not equipped...
HS equips individual Christians with gifts that enable them to serve the community and church where they are, thereby enabling the church to advance the kingdom of Christ into the community in the manner God intends.
The Holy Spirit indwells us for several reasons but a big one is to transform us into lives of godly character, ethics and integrity. HS gives us power for holy living. In developing a holy character, our biggest problem is not a lack of knowledge but a lack of power. Our knowledge of what is right usually exceeds our doing of what is right. As Paul said of himself, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:19, NIV. Our minds are informed, but our wills are weak.
We must be putting “to death the misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). These sins must be put to death, killed, destroyed, overcome, driven from our lives. Many are not automatically removed because of our coming to Christ. There are things for us to do to remove them but Paul’s main point is that we will not accomplish this alone but “by the Spirit.” Whole verse says, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,” Romans 8:13, NIV. The indwelling Spirit is the key to our victory over sin. On a conscious level we must be willing to put sin to death, but below the level of our consciousness the Spirit’s energizing power is making it possible.
Ludwig Nommensen traveled to begin mission work with a tribe in southeast Asia. The village chief welcomed Ludwig and said, “You have 2 years to learn our customs and convince us you have a message worth hearing.” After 2 years, the tribal leader asked the missionary how Christianity differs from the moral rules and traditions of the tribe. “We already know what is right,” the chief explained. “We too have laws that say we must not steal, or take our neighbor’s wives, or tell lies.” The missionary replied, “That’s true. But my God supplies the power needed to keep those laws.” This startled the chief. “Can you really teach my people to live better?” “No, I can’t,” responded Ludwig. “But if they receive Jesus Christ, God will give them the strength to do what is right.” The chief invited him to stay another 6 months, during which Ludwig preached the gospel and taught villagers how the HS works in the lives of Christians. “You can stay as long as you want,” the chief finally announced. “Your religion is better than ours, for your God walks with men and gives them strength to do the things He requires.”
Jesus praying for his disciples- “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23, NIV. How?
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3, NIV. There are not many spirits bringing people out of death into life, there is only One Spirit doing that work in the World. His name is the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that dwells within you, dwells within me. We are made one at the deepest level of our beings through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God. In all whom are indwelt by the Spirit, the Spirit produces a certain oneness in faith, in repentance, in views of sin, grace, Christ, the Bible, the world, and many things. How is this possible for people with different backgrounds, different gifts and personalities? Because there is one Spirit- Ephesians 4:4.
Key word in “community” is “unity”
Need to make sure that we have the HS. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:9, NIV. Acts 2:38