You may know I have been travelling quite a bit over the last month. I’m not quite done either. Sheryl, Evan and I leave for Bolivia on Tuesday. While we’re excited about the trip, I’ll admit, I’m already a little tired of airports and airlines.
On my most recent trip to El Paso, where I was doing some flying for the Army, I received an unexpected surprise. I was in line to scan my boarding pass before going down the jetway to the plane. As I scanned my pass, the scanner didn’t beep and flash a green light as I expected. Instead it buzzed and flashed a red light. Immediately I thought that I was going to get some sort of additional security inspection from the TSA. Instead, the gate agent said, “Mr. Findley, are you former military?” I said, “Yes ma’am.” She said, “Well, we would like you to ride First Class and thank you for your service.” It was a nice and unexpected surprise.
I had gotten in line for the plane with a certain expectation, namely of having a seat in 20A. But in effect the gate agent told me, “But wait there’s more.”
In many ways the Holy Spirit whose coming we celebrate today, is the “But wait there’s more” of the Christian life. However, I think in many cases the Holy Spirit is the most neglected member of the Holy Trinity. We often speak of God the Father and of Jesus, God the Son, but many of us struggle with understanding the role and the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The truth is, we need the Holy Spirit every bit as much as we need the Father and the Son. Without any one of the Trinity we are incomplete. Without a healthy understanding of the Holy Spirit we are missing out on this great gift that Jesus has given to us.
It is good that I go…
In order to gain an understanding of the Spirit, I think it’s helpful to look at what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit before we dive into the Pentecost event itself.
On the eve of his death Jesus makes a startling claim to his disciples who have gathered with him in the upper room. He says:
“But now I am going to Him who sent me…Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16, 5a, 6-7, ESV)
It is better that He leaves? It is better that, after 3 ½ years that Jesus goes so that He can give the Holy Spirit to His disciples? Yes! This must be some incredible gift Jesus is giving to his followers!
I think for many of us, this gift we are given often remains unopened and unexperienced. What we need is an openness and willingness to follow the Spirit. Only as we are open and willing to follow the Spirit will we experience the life, the “more”, that Jesus has in store for us as his followers.
What Does the Holy Spirit Do?
So what does this gift of the Holy Spirit do in us and for us when we open ourselves to Him? According to the Bible, here are a few things the Holy Spirit does:
- The Spirit teaches and remind us of the Truth. Jesus said in John’s gospel that, “He will guide you into all the Truth.”
- The Spirit convicts us of Sin. Again in John 16 Jesus says, “When He (The Holy Spirit) comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
- The Spirit gives us power to be witnesses to Christ and bring others into the Kingdom. We see this in Acts 1 where Jesus tells his followers, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
- The Spirit gives us Life. In Romans, St. Paul says, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you [He] will also give life to your mortal bodies.” (Romans 8:10-11, ESV)
- The Spirit Produces His Fruit in our Lives. Biblically, fruit is the metaphor used to describe the results of something. In Galatians 5:22, St. Paul says that the Spirit produces, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV)
It is clear, just from these five things, that the Spirit has a vital role to fulfill in our lives as Christians. In many ways, the Spirit is the active agent in our lives that we absolutely need to be the people Jesus calls us to be.
Living by Our Own Power
Imagine that you have a lawnmower. It is a push behind mower, but it has a drive train on it. When you pull the handle down the wheels are powered and pull the mower instead of you having to push it. Can you imagine intentionally not using that drive train? How much harder would it be to push the mower than allowing it to drive you forward under its power? How silly it would be to cut the grass while ignoring the potential help the mower can provide. Yet this is exactly what many Christians do in regard to their spiritual lives. Too many of us try to live our Christian lives under our own power, ignoring the help of the Holy Spirit. This is why so many of us see such little fruit in our spiritual lives. We have trouble identifying the Truth or truly understanding our sin, or we find very little of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives because we are not living by the Spirit’s power.
When we try to manufacture our life of faith in our own power, we always come up short. This is why there seems to be so little difference in the life of the average Christian versus the life of the non-Christian.
In his excellent book on the Holy Spirit called The Forgotten God, Francis Chan puts it this way:
“If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside him or her and the person who does not? When those outside the Church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God.” (Chan, 32-33)
We must engage, listen, cooperate and follow the Holy Spirit and allow Him to fulfill the purposes for which he was given to us and to the Church. That is truly the only way we will become the people God has created and called us to be.
How to Live in the Power of The Holy Spirit
Well then, how can we today, begin to live in the power of the Holy Spirit? How can we experience the “more” of the life we are called to live as Christians?
First, we need to repent of the neglect of the Holy Spirit and ask Him to fan the flame of faith that is in us. Simply let the prayer of your mind and heart be for the Spirit to be let loose in you to do those things that are good and pleasing to God.
Secondly, we need to learn to listen and follow His leading. One of the chief things the Spirit does is lead and teach. He leads us into Truth, teaches us about sin, enables us to love, and equips us for holiness. Commit to following the Spirit.
Thirdly, let go of everything the hinders you from doing the first two things. Is your life too safe? If we live purely in our comfort zones why do we need the Holy Comforter? Is your life too loud? Do you need to unplug and unwind so that you can hear the Spirit? Your days do not need to be dominated by worry, stress, and impatience. Those are not fruits of the Spirit. Often those come from the noise of the world around us.
Fourthly, follow Him one day at a time. We tend to be big picture thinkers. I’d encourage you to drill down from the macro to the micro. The first question is not does God want me to be a priest or missionary or Sunday School teacher. The first question is “What is the Spirit saying to me in this moment?” Again I think Francis Chan is helpful on this point, he says, “It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what he wants you to do in the next 10 minutes.” (Chan, 120)
When we start looking for the Spirit’s guidance in this way, we realize that the Spirit’s help is much more immediate and present than we normally think. In the next 10 minutes I will face that difficult co-worker, I will get a phone call with difficult news, I will become frustrated, I will an opportunity to share my faith and offer hope to someone. Chances are in the next 10 minutes I will in someway need the Holy Spirit’s help. The entire coming of the Holy Spirit is based on our daily and immediate need of his strength, comfort, and guidance.
At the first Pentecost we see the Spirit working in a profound way. The disciples are all together, waiting, as Jesus had told them to. However, their waiting was marinated in fear. As you know, from the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, they were hiding for fear they would suffer the same fate as Jesus, they kept the doors to the rooms in which they were staying, tightly locked.
But on this day, everything changed. They move from fearfulness to boldness. The work of the Holy Spirit changed them and enabled them to do the work they were called to do. They proclaimed the Truth, they spoke powerfully of sin, they bore witness to Jesus Christ, they healed in His name, they began to experience the life of faith with new power and strength. And as we read a little later in Acts, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b)
The Holy Spirit enabled the Church to be the Church. I am convinced that what is missing most in our modern churches is a sensitivity and submission to the Holy Spirit in our lives.
So, what will we do? I pray that all of us, young and old, will stop neglecting the Holy Spirit and pray that He will be let loose in our lives, that we will learn to listen and follow His leading, that we will let go of everything that hinders us from hearing him and that we will focus on following him daily.
David Platt, a Baptist minister that I’ve come to greatly admire, puts it well. He said, “If we trust God to save us, we can trust God to guide us.” When we seek and trust the Holy Spirit’s work in our daily lives, when we begin to trust his guidance, our relationship with God truly begins to take the shape it was meant to take. Our faith becomes a daily adventure. With the Spirit of the Living God as our guide, how can it not be an adventure?
Rodney Smith, who was nicknamed “Gypsy” was born in London in 1860. He crisscrossed the Atlantic some 45 times and preached the Gospel to millions over the course of his life. He had no formal education, yet preached at Harvard and was invited to meet with two American presidents. He was once asked what the secret was to his astounding effectiveness.
Gypsy said, “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor and with a piece of chalk draw a circle around yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.” (Batterson, The Circle Maker, p217)
We live in a world where we see much pain, injustice, abuse, fear and hatred. We tend to think that the answer is to fix others. I believe the fix, is not found in getting conformity from others to our way of thinking, but in our conformity to the Spirit of the living God. Our hope lies in the power of the Spirit at work in the people of God. That is what changed the world 2000 years ago and I believe it can change the world again. Draw the circle, and pray the Holy Spirit will be let loose in your life. Allow Him to show you the “more” that you may have been missing. AMEN.