Then, afterward,I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,your old men shall dream dreams,and your young men shall see visions.29 Even on the male and female slaves,in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
If you love me, you will keepMy commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be inyou …But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
I was not excited about going to my first school dance! Listen, I don’t have a lot of rhythm and I didn’t know the first thing about dancing, especially disco dancing. And to top it all off, my date was one of the best dancers in town. So, mama came home one day with a book about dancing, and I read it! Then, I practiced the moves; I cut out the little shoe patterns and taped them to the floor. If the book said “step,” I stepped. If the book said “shuffle,” I shuffled. If the book said “spin,” … well, let’s just say, I decided not to spin. Then, I called mama into the den and showed her my moves. I danced for several minutes and when I finished, I plopped down on the couch next to her, huffin’ and puffin’, and said: “Now, that was perfect.” She said: “Yeah! That was pretty good, except for one thing … you forgot the music.”
Music!!? I wasn’t thinking about the music. I was thinking about the book; I learned the rules; I laid out the pattern; I did the moves, but I forgot the music. So, I got up and did it again, and this time, I turned on the music. And I danced … without patterns, without books, and without worrying about the moves. I just danced.
Sometimes, we make the same mistake when it comes to living the Christian life. We follow the book, but we forget the music. We master the rules; we memorize the rituals; we know all the moves; then, we step onto the dancefloor of life without the music. And we wonder why it seems so hard and why living for Jesus isn’t more fulfilling. And it really comes down to this: You aren’t supposed to dance without the music.
Jesus understood this. So, on the last night of His life, He talked to the Disciples about the music. He said: “I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth … you will know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you … the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” [i]
Our Summer Sermon Serieshas been a time of reflecting on what we believe. In the first part of the series, we looked at what we believe about God the Father. Then, we spent a few weeks on what we believe about God the Son. And now, we turn our attention to the last part of the Creed, what we believe about God the Spirit. Our Creed reminds us: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” That’s what we believe! We believe in the Holy Spirit, but … if you ask the average Methodist who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does, most couldn’t give you an answer.
So, first, let’s tackle the obvious question: Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God! The Spirit is everything to us that God is! He is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all things. He existed before the world began and He will be around long after the world has been destroyed by fire. The Holy Spirit is God; in fact, in John 4, Jesus said: “God is Spirit.” So, God the Father is Spirit; God the Son is fully God and fully human; and God the Spirit is spirit too. Now, one of the distinctions between God the Father and God the Spirit is where they are manifested. God the Father manifests Himself in heaven and God the Spirit is manifested among and within the people of God. So, we believe in the Holy Spirit: God, manifested among and within the Church.
Now, what does the Holy Spirit do? Well, trying to explore the depths of the Spirit’s infinity is like trying to drain the Gulf of Mexico – we’re going to be here for a while – but there are several things the Bible teaches us about the work of the Holy Spirit and we’re going to think about a few of them this morning:
First, the Holy Spirit enables the believer! The reason God sent the Spirit to be among us and within us is to enable us to live godly and holy lives. Remember: Jesus told His Disciples: “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” He is the Vine; we are the branches and apart from Him, we fail. Yet, Paul tells us: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
On our own, we can’t love others. In fact, if we could, we’d choose who to love and how. On our own, joy is swallowed up in the tragedies of life. On our own, peace within and peace with others is threatened by the jumbled mess of chaos and confusion that permeates our world. But we’re not on our own! We are enabled by the Holy Spirit to experience and emit love, joy, peace … and a whole lot more. That’s why Paul told the churches of Galatia: “The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” It is the Holy Spirit working in us, that strengthens us and enables us to be everything God has called us to be. The Spirit enables us!
Second, the Holy Spirit empowers the believer! Just as the Spirit enables us to be everything God has called us to be, and to live in right relationship with God, the Spirit also empowers us for ministry in the church and in the world. Jesus told the Disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.” [ii]
When you read the Gospels, and you see the things Jesus did during His ministry – the way He served people and pointed them to God – you can’t help but wonder: “Where, in the world, did He get the strength and energy to do the things He did?” Well, this is where: The Holy Spirit. In the Book of Judges, we read about an ordinary man named Samson. Before he was born, Samson was dedicated to God as a Nazarite. He was just an ordinary man, but when the Holy Spirit came upon him, he was empowered to do extraordinary things. It wasn’t Samson; it was Samson, empowered by the Spirit. And the same Spirit that empowered Samson, empowered Jesus, and empowers us today!
Third, the Holy Spirit equips the believer! When the Holy Spirit abides in us, we are enabled to live the Christian life; we are empowered to witness in the world; and we are equipped to serve in the church and in the world. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says: “To each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Because the Holy Spirit abides in us, each of us has been given at least one Spiritual Gift to be used to make the church a better place. Paul said: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone … to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge … to another faith … to another gifts of healing … to another the working of miracles … to another prophecy, to another discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” So, according to Paul, if Jesus is your Lord and Savior, then the Spirit of God abides in you. And since the Spirit lives in you, you have been equipped to serve others. The Holy Spirit equips us.
Fourth, the Holy Spirit educates the believer! Jesus told the Disciples: “But the Father will send the Comforter in my name to help you. This Comforter is the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things. He will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit works within us to help us understand scripture and apply it to our lives. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin by showing us how our messed-up lives are out of line with the holiness of God. The Holy Spirit educates us.
I believe! “I believe in the Holy Spirit!” Now, there’s a problem: The Holy Spirit is God, living among and within us. Everything God does, the Spirit does! Everything Jesus did, the Spirit does! But in our thinking and in our Creed, the Spirit doesn’t get much attention. The Creed gives the Spirit six words: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” I think it’s because we don’t understand, and we’re confused and afraid of the Holy Spirit. And all these things go together: we fear what we don’t understand and haven’t experienced personally. So, some traditional Methodists are scared to death of the Holy Spirit; they think the Holy Spirit will take them over and lead them to do weird things and make them charismatics. But friends, being charismatic just means being enabled, empowered, equipped, and educated by the Spirit.
If the Spirit of the Living God dwells within you, you are a charismatic. And if the Spirit doesn’t dwell in you, you’re lost. Friends, you’ve been invited to the dance; you’ve studied the rules; you’ve learned the moves; you’ve memorized the rituals, but you’re trying to dance without the music.
I believe! “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” and I pray to God you do too!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!