Summary: Third in the "Back to the Basics" series, exploring the foundational beliefs of Christians. This sermon addresses the question, "What do Christians believe about Jesus Christ?"
You all remember Peter, don’t you? One of the very first people to jump on the Jesus bandwagon, THE first to declare that Jesus was the Messiah. He travelled with Jesus and listened to him teach, witnessed his miracles…
Peter may have been on the right track in following Jesus, but he’s also a person we remember well for his mistakes and failures. When he saw Jesus walking on water, he decided that maybe he could do it too and so HE stepped out onto the water. Jesus had to rescue him.
This same Peter vowed that he would never leave Jesus’ side. And only hours later, after Jesus was arrested, Peter denied to three different people that he even knew Jesus at all! By the time Jesus was being crucified, he was nowhere to be seen.
Peter was, by many accounts, a pretty ineffective disciple to start out with. A mess, quite frankly.
But that’s not the end of Peter’s story. Only a little later in his life, he spoke before a crowd of people and over 3,000 of them believed his words and became followers of Jesus. His words deeply moved people and brought them into God’s presence. Soon after that he stood before the very same court that had Jesus crucified and, rather than backing off as he had before, he preached boldly about salvation and resurrection in Jesus’ name. Not to mention the fact that he healed a man who had been unable to walk for over 40 years. Peter became the leader of the movement that became the Church throughout the world.
So what changed? What changed Peter from a bumbling, ineffective, and fear-filled man to one that preached and healed and led a budding movement with power and authority and great effectiveness?
One thing. One thing happened. Peter received the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit changed him from weak to strong, changed from fearful to bold, changed from ineffective into the Rock upon which Christ built his Church. The Holy Spirit empowered Peter to become an unstoppable force of God’s grace in the world. And it was the Holy Spirit that made that difference.
This morning we’re talking about that difference. That difference that the Holy Spirit makes in our world. That difference the Holy Spirit makes in our lives. So we’re focusing this Back to Basics sermon on the Holy Spirit.
When Brian and I were discussing this sermon, he suggested we make a job description for the Holy Spirit. If the position of Holy Spirit were up for employment, what would a brief description of the position entail? I asked him, why a job description? His response was immediate: "Because the Holy Spirit is the part of God that is always at work! If the Holy Spirit weren’t working, it wouldn’t really be the Holy Spirit!" Because at its core, that’s our basic understanding as Christians – the Holy Spirit is God at work in our world, in our lives, in our communities.
Three main images are used for the Holy Spirit in the Bible – wind, breath, and fire. The interesting thing about all three is that they are active. We can talk about God the Father being a rock or a fortress or a shelter. We can talk about God the Son being a redeemer or a savior or a deliverer. But when it comes to God the Holy Spirit, we need an image that is in motion and that is active. Even though wind, breath, and fire are things that can’t be grasped or controlled, they are all things that carry power and life in them. And all must be in motion. If the wind stops blowing, it stops being the wind. If a breath stops inhaling and exhaling, it stops being a breath. If a flame stops burning, it stops being a fire. Likewise, if the Holy Spirit stops its motion, if it stops its work, I believe it stops being the Holy Spirit. It simply must be active!
For the Holy Spirit is the part of God that is always in motion, constantly drawing the world in to God, reminding us of God’s ways, and teaching the world about the things of God. We learn about and see the work of God the Father and Jesus the Son in Scriptures and in the world around us, but most of our actual experiences of God are experiences of the Holy Spirit. When we feel God at work in our lives and see people around us changing into the people God would have them be, we are experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
And I was thinking about the Holy Spirit and what it does, I realized, that the Holy Spirit has got quite a job! So here’s the job description I came up with for the Holy Spirit to share with you to help you get a better grasp of just what it is that the Holy Spirit is doing in the world today: