Summary: The Holy Spirit empowers, purifies, reveals, and unifies us today.
“The Person of the Holy Spirit”
John 14:15-21, 25-27
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
We can grasp the concept that God is our Father, and we especially identify with Jesus, Who walked this earth as one of us…but it’s harder to conceptualize the Spirit; people tend to call the Spirit “it” rather than “he”. Why is that? Because it’s hard to think of the Holy Spirit as a “person”. We think of the Spirit as a force, as energy. The archaic term “Holy Ghost” is particularly misleading. We think of ghosts as disembodied people scaring trick-or-treaters at Halloween. The Bible occasionally speaks of the Spirit using impersonal symbols such as wind, fire, oil, and a dove…yet also refers to the Spirit using personal pronouns. We struggle to grasp what can’t be measured by natural means. Although we may feel less connected to the Spirit, we can discover that we have a vital connection to the third Person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the presence of God within all believers. In our Gospel reading, Jesus knew His disciples were about to feel abandoned. He assures them that they would continue to experience the divine presence; not with Him, but with the “Comforter”. He promises “another Counselor” is coming to sustain the church; this word “another” means of the same essence, the same kind. The Spirit is His replacement. Jesus cautions that “the world cannot accept” the Spirit because He speaks a heavenly message.
Yet the Holy Spirit wasn’t a new concept. Jesus’ disciples don’t question Who the Spirit is; they weren’t thinking that Jesus was, like an author, introducing a “new character”. As far back as Genesis chapter 1 we encounter the Spirit, Who in verse 2 is hovering over the face of the waters. Throughout the OT we encounter the Spirit empowering and leading God’s people. David prays in Psalm 139, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” In the NT on the Day of Pentecost the Spirit came in power, enabling the early church to transform the world. “The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church” (Grudem).
But how does all this impact our day-to-day lives?
The Spirit empowers, purifies, reveals, and unifies us today.
(outline taken from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology)
1. The Spirit empowers us—He first draws us to Christ, convicting us of sin, revealing our need for pardon, opening our eyes to God’s truth, persuading us to trust in the saving work of Christ. He gives us new life, bestowing the gift of faith. He equips us to live effectively, filled with wisdom and free from fear. He imparts spiritual gifts, abilities to better function as Christ’s followers. Have you ever accomplished something that you sensed was not by your own strength? Some challenge came that you were surprisingly able to meet; in retrospect, you sensed that your strength came from Above. The Spirit also helps us when we pray to express our inner concerns. He is “in” us; we are “filled” with, “baptized” by the Spirit. The Spirit is un-bound, unlimited; He is everywhere, a comforting presence in an unfriendly world. When we feel alone and anxious, we know that no one can separate us from the Spirit. We may not always feel His presence; we all go through some periods of spiritual dryness (which is normal), and God may seem absent, but we know God the Holy Spirit is with us. A mistake some church-goers make is seeking an experience rather than seeking God. Seeking a feeling is not worship (Warren). Jesus said that in this fallen world we’ll have troubles, but the Spirit gives us a sense of peace. You can buy sleep in a drugstore, but only the Spirit can give you serenity in spite of all that’s going on around you.
2. The Spirit purifies us—We are in an on-going process of spiritual growth, directed by the Spirit. He sanctifies us, making us “new creations”, leading us toward holiness. The Holy Spirit was given to live inside those who believe in Jesus, in order to produce God’s character within us. In a way that we cannot do on our own, the Holy Spirit brings us toward maturity. His work in us is seen by the “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). He produces in us evidence that we are born from Above. And when we pray to be kept from temptation, the Spirit helps keep us pure. This is why 12-Step groups rely on their “Higher Power”. The arm of flesh will fail us; we need to go higher than our own ability to overcome temptation…but the Spirit does not produce in us sinlessness. When we stray from His path, He can be “grieved”. Have you ever felt that God the Holy Spirit was especially pleased or displeased with you? Though we’re far from saintly, we’ve a better shot at righteousness by the Spirit’s help. We’ll never be perfect in this life, but the Spirit helps us make progress in our pilgrimage. Growing up in Heidelberg, Germany, I used to take a trolley-car to go places; the trolley was connected to an overhead cable. In our walk with God, we’re connected to a spiritual power-source that energizes us, directs us, and enables us to live for Him.