Summary: The Apostles Creed - I believe in the Holy Spirit
I wonder what you think of when someone mentions God. You may think about God the Father, the creator of the universe, the one who watches over everything we do, who protects us, who sets the standards by which we live, who in his love sent Jesus to live and die and rise again for us. Or you might think of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God; God in human form. You might think about the person who walked and talked here on earth all those years ago, who chose the 12 apostles to go and tell the world about him, who was a human being like us and yet who was at the same time truly God; and who’s now seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven.
But I wonder, if I were to ask you what you think about when I mention God, how many people would straight away mention the Holy Spirit. I think we all find it easier when we’re thinking about God to picture the Father in heaven, or the Son who appeared in human flesh than we do to picture the Holy Spirit.
I mean we’re all aware of the Holy Spirit but he’s hard to pin down isn’t he? Do you remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus when he began to talk about the Holy Spirit. He said he’s like the wind: "The wind blows where it pleases and you don’t know where it’s come from or where it’s going" (Jn 3:8). The Spirit is invisible, intangible, incomprehensible. There are signs of his presence: a dove, the sound of a mighty wind, tongues of fire, laying on of hands, words in strange languages. But nothing remains, no footprints, no echoes, nothing we can see or touch.
So what picture does the Holy Spirit generate in your mind? Do you imagine a wisp of mist floating through the room like something out of Ghost Busters? Do you imagine an invisible presence whispering good ideas into your mind? An invisible friend who goes with you wherever you go?
Well, Jesus used the picture of the wind. That’s because the Hebrew word for spirit was also used for wind. But that’s because that carries with it something of the idea of what the spirit is like.
For example, wind or air and life are closely connected. We can’t live without air. Your last breath signifies the end of life.
There’s the idea of power. Kim and Matthew will benefit from the power of the wind when they go to Darwin later this year. You may remember, if you’re old enough, that 30 years ago this Christmas Cyclone Tracey came along and knocked down roughly 70% of Darwin. Geoff remembers it because he was involved in the reconstruction program that followed. So the image of the wind reflects the power of the Holy Spirit.
But still, the Spirit is in so many ways incomprehensible to us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t know something about what he’s like and certainly what he does. So let’s think for a moment about what the Bible tells us about the Spirit
The Old Testament
The Spirit appears in the very first chapter of the Bible. He’s there as creator, as the one who brings order out of chaos. The earth begins as formless and empty. All there is is the waters, swirling around in chaos. But there, moving over the waters is the Spirit of God. And God speaks and the world comes into being as we know it.
Then in Gen 2 as the story begins again from the point of view of the creation of human life, God takes the dust of the ground, forms it into a man, and what does he do? He breathes the breath of life into his nostrils. This is a parallel idea to the statement in Gen 1 that God made them in his own image. God breathes into them the stuff of life, his own life; that is, his Spirit; just as Jesus does to his disciples in John 20:22.
Then as the story of God’s people unfolds we see the Spirit being poured out on individuals to empower them for ministry. The judges are raised up by God to rescue his people. How do they happen to be the people to lead the nation? The Spirit of the Lord comes upon them and they go out and lead the people to victory (or some variation of that idea). Similarly, God’s Spirit comes on Saul to empower him to be king, then when he repeatedly fails to obey God, God’s Spirit leaves him and David is given the Spirit instead. And so it goes on. The Prophets arise and they too have God’s Spirit leading and empowering them so they do amazing things. They prophesy God’s words to the people, telling of what God’s going to do and warning the king and the people not to forget the things God has done for them.