Before He made the world, when mankind was just an idea in the mind of God, He desired one thing from us: fellowship, intimacy. So He created man: body and soul. And then He did with man what He did not do with any other created thing – He gave him a spirit. In that gift He took the greatest risk for with the body one can interact with creation, with a soul one can feel and consider (overwegen) the creation. With a spirit, mankind could know the Creator and choose Him. But he could also not choose Him. The spirit of mankind is where fellowship with God was made possible and where it could be broken. If the spirit of man was whole, the entire man would be whole. If the spirit of man was broken, the entire man would be broken. Choosing for God was wholeness. Not choosing God would not only break relationship with God, it would break the man. And well, we know where the rest of that story goes.
Now why start a new series on the Holy Spirit by talking about Creation? Because our understanding of who the Spirit of God is and His role in our lives tends to be so very shallow and disconnected from the whole story of God. It tends to be too influenced by our experiences and our preferences instead of informed by the truth. We tend to look at Him so functionally and minimalisticaly and ask questions like, “what does the Holy Spirit do for me?” But beyond saying, “He is the Spirit of God” we rarely, if ever, consider who He is and where He fits in the great story of God and man. He is, in fact, the Giver of God’s gifts to us. But He Himself is also the Gift of God.
The story of God and man has known two ages. The first was the Age of the Law – this is where God showed man the true state of our brokenness, how far we’d fallen from the Holy God and what it would take to mend that brokenness. At the end of that age stands a cross upon which the Son of God himself died, because in the end, only a perfect, unbroken sacrifice could fix what had been broken. At the beginning of the next age, the Age of the Spirit, stands an empty tomb and an upper room. In this age, we enter into the relationship for which we were created by an extraordinary act of God – His Spirit joins Himself with our spirit. Now we enjoy both the fruit and the power of that union but still only as a foretaste of what is to come in the eternity when all of heaven and earth will be made new.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves or lose ourselves in the big picture, as wonderful and inspiring and full of hope as it is. Today we’re going to start on step 1. What is the first thing we must know about the Holy Spirit?
Well, these days, it depends on who you ask. There are so many voices talking about Him, teaching about His ways and what He does and does not do. It can be hard to find your way through that sea of information and opinions, hard to find the truth. Today I want to simply turn to a trusted voice, the voice of Jesus himself.
The latter is better
For some of us, the Holy Spirit is familiar and we have walked long with the awareness of His presence and work. But there are a great many who don’t know Him or have been taught to avoid Him. “Just keep your eyes on Jesus and the rest will work itself out.” That sounds spiritual, even scriptural. But in essence such teaching acts as if the holy trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible.
Let me ask you a question: Would you rather have Jesus in the flesh walking with you or the Holy Spirit living in you? I would dare say that for most of us, our gut reaction is to say “Jesus with me!”
But Jesus himself says the latter is better. “It is better for you if I go and the Helper comes.”
When the Helper comes, he will convict (expose the lies you have lived and believed), he will guide you into truth and into your future, and he will reveal the Father’s ways to you.
Now if you’re like me, and like Jesus’ disciples, you’ve thought to yourself, “yes, but that’s what Jesus did too. It would be so much easier if I could see Him, touch Him, talk to Him. Life wouldn’t be so hard if Jesus was right here with me.”
Jesus told his disciples, look, I’ve been here to take the heat and to coach you along the way. But things are about to get hard. And I’m leaving.
Can you imagine the shock, the sadness and the fear that overcame them in that moment? I think you can because I think you and I have felt the same to some degree. The struggles we face. The decisions we have to make. The problems we can’t fix. The brokenness we see. If Jesus were here, he could take care of it all!
But Jesus says to you and me today, “It truly is better for you that I have gone because I have sent my Spirit to you.”
John 14:15-18, 23
God in Us
Unearthing the vast riches of this truth would take much more time than what we have this afternoon but this, my friends, is the great Gift of God! At the very moment that we stand before God and acknowledge our brokenness and need for God, just like Joshua did in the vision of Zachariah, the Holy Spirit of God Himself comes and makes His home in us. Now we no longer have to reach to heaven to touch God, God has made our hearts into a small piece of heaven! We no longer have to fear God or feel far away from Him. Now, we have become His children, adopted into His family, walking around bearing the seal of our adoption in our spirits (Romans 8). We have confidence as we stand before Him that we belong to Him and we need not fear (Ephesians 3)! Our spirit has found its home in Him. Now we don’t know simply know of God. We can say with confidence that we know Him and the longer we walk with Him, the better we know Him.
By the Spirit, we get back what we lost in Eden. We now live in the presence of God, walk and talk with Him. We can ask Him questions and He will answer. We can see the world through His eyes. We can know His voice. We can be sure of our identity as His children. We can win every battle against sin because “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) . And when all is said and done, we know that His Spirit will continue to lead us through this life until we stand before the God who made us, look upon His face. In that day, we will not be surprised. We will know His face as if we had seen it all our lives because He himself has been within us the whole time.
If you do not know
Dear friends, if as I speak you feel that you do not have that confidence, that conviction that Christ, by His Spirit, has made His home in you, I’m telling you that that confidence can be yours right now. Our spirits long to find the home that they have lost and that home is in God Himself. God has given us a gift, His own Spirit. The question is, will you accept this Gift? All you must do is speak honest words to the Father about your need for Him and tell Him you want the Gift He is giving to you.
If you know
And friends, if you have that confidence, if you know the Spirit of God within you, I invite you today to allow that truth to fill you with joy and to reaffirm your desire for the work of His Spirit to continue and to go deeper than you have known up until this point.