Summary: A sermon on what the Holy Spirit gives (or wants to give) to the church (Material adapted from Daniel Overdorf's book, Rediscovering Community, chapter 9 Spirit Empowered)
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A.W. Tozer: “If the HS was withdrawn from the church today, 95% of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the HS had been withdrawn from the NT church, 95% of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”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.