The Holy Spirit - Jon Fryer
In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Yes, on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
(Click on the fire to view a video clip made by our friends at Safe Space - Requires QuickTime)
To put it simply, the Holy Spirit is God, a member of the Trinity. He is fully God, just as much God as God the Father and Jesus the Son. I’m not going to even to attempt to explain how God can be three persons all at the same time and all of them are equally one God, ‘cos I’m pretty sure that most of you don’t want to spend the evening talking about ontological equality and economic subordination – lets just take it on faith that the Holy Spirit is God. Trust me on this one!
The Holy Spirit that we talk about is not an energy force, or a ghostly spirit or anything like that – He is God, and as such, He is a person, not an ‘It’. He has a personality like you and me – the Bible says that we are made in the image of God, and what that means is not that we look like God, but rather that we have a personality like Him, that there is something in us that says ‘I AM’ and that we are different and unique and special.
You notice I’ve been saying ‘He’, but some people call the Holy Spirit ‘She’, and that is perfectly fine too – at various points in the Bible it talks about the Holy Spirit in feminine terms and feminine words. The Holy Spirit is often described in terms relating to nurturing and motherhood, for example. Human beings were made in the image of God, and that means both male and female. The Church has traditionally described the Holy Spirit as ‘He’ and so that is what I’ll continue to do, but if you want to think of the Spirit as a ‘Her’ then that’s fine too.
The Bible also describes the Holy Spirit as a dove coming down from heaven, as fire, as the wind, as water – but the important thing to remember is that the Spirit is a person and not a stuff. He may have appeared in different forms throughout history in order to make a point, but he is still a person.
So where is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God, and therefore is everywhere, just as God always is. He is always moving in the world carrying out the will of the Father and sustaining all life. But He also makes His presence felt in the Church especially, which we will talk about more in a few minutes time. Most importantly of all, it is the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends to live in our hearts when we become Christians in order to always be with us, to comfort us, and to guide us. So where is the Holy Spirit? He is here all around us, and He is here between us, and He is here within us, as Jesus promised.
So what does the Holy Spirit do?
The main work of the Holy Spirit is to be the active presence of God in the world and in the Church. The Spirit goes out from the Father and the Son to do the work of God in the world – when God is at work in the world it is most usually the Holy Spirit who is carrying out that work. That work comes in many different forms, but it is the one Holy Spirit who does them all.
Firstly, the Spirit is Creative and life giving. When God created the universe, all of his persons were involved – He said ‘Let us create’. It is the Holy Spirit that God sends throughout the Bible to inspire artists, craftsmen, preachers, prophets and all of his people. When the worship in church is fresh and vibrant, it because the Spirit is inspiring God’s people and is leading them into the presence of God. When you play your guitar for God you are joining in with the One Great Song sang by the Spirit for all of eternity. When you turn your hand to create anything at all, you are being like God the Creator and it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that guides you. The Holy Spirit is all verdant, all greening, all creativity, all life giving. The Holy Spirit is the person of God who most revels in creation and dances in the heart of every star and every atom.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit purifies God’s people. Since the Holy Spirit is ‘holy’ it comes as no surprise that one of his primary jobs is to convict us of sin and to purify us from unrighteousness. When we give ourselves to follow Jesus, it is the Holy Spirit that Jesus sends to live with us and in us, and going forward it is the Spirit who nudges us when we are about to do something that will make God unhappy – to a lesser extent it is the Holy Spirit who is at work in everyone’s conscience before they become a Christian too. It is the Holy Spirit who first explains to us that we are separated from God by the things that we have done and that we need Jesus to fix the problem. It is the continued nudging of the Spirit that helps us to become more like Jesus.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit reveals God to us. It is the Holy Spirit who points us to Jesus ay every opportunity. It is the Holy Spirit who inspired the disciples and prophets to write God’s word in the Bible, and it is the Holy Spirit who still today tells our preachers and song writers how to explain God’s words to his people. It is the Spirit who prays with us to God the Father. It is the Spirit who guides us with words and pictures and that gentle nudge in the brain that won’t go away. It is the Holy Spirit who bears witness that we are children of God and assures us of our salvation. When people see something different about you because you are Christian it is because they see Jesus in you, and it is the Holy Spirit who is showing them.
Fourthly, it is the Holy Spirit who unifies God’s people. Lets face it, Christians are weird. It is only by the Holy Spirit changing our hearts that we come to love the Church as Jesus does – the Spirit teaches us to love one another with the same fellowship that He experiences with God the Father and Jesus the Son.
Finally, the Holy Spirit comes to empower God’s church so that they may serve Him better. The Bible says that ‘Without Him we can do nothing’. The Bible also says that ‘Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father’ – it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us with these gifts. Sometimes He makes Himself known more strongly and equips us for service in particular ways, and we will talk about these more in a minute.
So you may say, when does the Spirit visit us?
Quite simply, all of the time! The Holy Spirit doesn’t only turn up during the ministry times! Not at all! Instead He is always around, doing the things that we have already talked about. The Holy Spirit visits us from the moment that we are born – the Bible says that if God were ‘to take back His Spirit to himself, and gather to Himself His breath, then all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust’ (Job 34;14-15). Every living thing on Earth owes its life and existence to the life giving power of God’s Holy Spirit.
More, when we become Christians and are born again the Holy Spirit comes and dwells with us. He comes to live with us in a deeper way, and we recognise Him more easily as we invite Him to live in us – you can not have ‘more’ or ‘less’ of the Holy Spirit ‘cos He is not a stuff, but you can get to know Him more and better, just as you can with any other person.
More, the Holy Spirit visits us in power when we ask Him to, bringing gifts and power to serve God… we’ll come back to this one in a minute.
Most of all, the Holy Spirit visits us whenever He wants to – He is God and can do whatever He likes! The Celtic Church used to describe the Holy Spirit as a Wild Goose, because He goes wherever He wants, and He is definitely not tame! Sometimes He does stuff that we aren’t expecting, and that’s cool, ‘cos who wants a tame God anyway?!
maker of chaos
resister of order
she who takes on the world -
breathe. wreak havoc in complacency
upturn smugness and self satisfaction
defy authorities that deflate challenge all powers that squeeze
the hope out of your people
and your church and breathe life back in
to a world gasping. breathe, spirit. breathe.
So why do we ask the Holy Spirit to visit us?
We often ask the Holy Spirit to visit us in a special way during our church gatherings, and this is because we are desperate to meet with God, to spend time with Jesus, to serve God however He wants us to serve, and it is the Holy Spirit who makes all of these things possible.
We also ask the Spirit to show God to us, and we ask Him to live with us and to make Himself known to us, because we want to become more like Jesus, and as the Spirit spends time working on us, this is what happens. The Bible calls these changes ‘the Fruit of the Spirit’ – as we spend time with the Holy Spirit He slowly changes us and certain qualities grow in us like fruit – and these qualities are things that please God, things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control (Gal 5;22-23). When we pray for the Holy Spirit to come and touch our friends, this is one of the things that we are doing – we are asking the Holy Spirit to show them which bits of their life need work, and asking Him to help them fix the issues that are making God unhappy.
We also ask the Holy Spirit to show us what will please God, and to make us able to those things. Sometimes, to equip us to the things that God wants us to do, the Holy Spirit gives us gifts. These gifts can be all sorts of things: some people are given the ability to lead or plant churches; some people are given words of prophecy and are able to speak God’s words to us; some of us are able to teach what God wants clearly, so that the people can understand; still others are given the words that reveal Jesus to their hearers; some people can do and have done all sorts of miracles; others can ask God to heal people and see it happen; others are given the kind of brain that lets them run the church’s finances; some people are able to pray in the language of the angels, or speak in foreign languages that they have never learned; others are given the power to understand those languages; some are given messages of wisdom to speak to the church; to others the Holy Spirit tells facts that they otherwise would not be aware; some have the ability to see what the Holy Spirit is doing in any given situation; others are given authority to cast out demons; still others are given a heart that understands the pain of other people; others are able to cheer people up with a few words; some are given ability in business or art so that they can support God’s people and give to the poor; others are simply put in the right place at the right time to help someone. The list goes on and on, but we are guided by the Spirit. To some people the Spirit gives a certain gift that they use over and over again, sometimes He only gives it to them once when they need it…. But any of us can ask God to give us any of these gifts at any time, and if He thinks we need it, or if it would please Him to give it to us, then we can receive them in faith – we can ask God to send His Spirit to give us anything that we need in order to serve Him as He wants.
It is important to realise however that there are not two classes of Christians – there isn’t a divide between those Christians who are super-spiritual and who are up the front and praying in tongues and all sorts of things, and those of us who simply have the gift of playing the drums, or of being good at business, or art or whatever – all of these things are gifts given by God as He chooses, and they are all equally valuable. The people who fall over when they are being prayed for are not more special or more holy than those of us who remain standing. In 1 Cor 12 God reminds us that:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"
Every gift that we have is ‘spiritual’, and it all comes from our life giving and creative God. God can use all sorts of odd talents that he has given us, so don’t get too hung up on the fact that God has chosen not to make you a prophet or something – instead, ask Him to show you how to use what he has given you. For example, in the book of Hebrews it lists Samson as one of the great champions of the faith, but what was his gift? Simply, he was very strong. Whenever the Holy Spirit came to him, he turned into this raving madman who killed lots of bad guys who were oppressing God’s people. He was like the Incredible Hulk or something – and you don’t find this gift talked about much in church, but the Bible makes it clear that it was the Spirit of God who gave him the power to turn into this berserk killing machine, and that all along He is fulfilling God’s plan. What’s my point? Simply that the Spirit gives gifts as He wills, and anything that you have or can do can be used for God’s glory if you only ask Him…
Finally we move onto the question “How do we ask for God to send His Spirit to us?”
In just a minute we will pray for each other that God will send the Holy Spirit to bless us – we have already talked about why we need the Holy Spirit to come and touch us with His power, but we ought to have a quick run through the how.
Firstly, if you are not yet a follower of Jesus then you should very simply ask the Holy Spirit to show you Jesus – as we have already said, one of the Spirit’s main jobs is to reveal Jesus to us, and if you ask, He will begin to introduce you to Jesus, the one guy who can change your life forever. Secondly though, if you are a Christian, then we ought to be praying with a bit more purpose and discipline than we sometimes do… Firstly, God’s Spirit is Holy, and He will not dwell where unholiness is present. Sometimes He is gracious and visits us anyway, but if we are serious about asking the Holy Spirit to visit us then we ought to clear up as much stuff as we can with God first. Before we approach God we ought to make it a habit to confess and repent of anything that we know God would disapprove of, and trust Jesus to forgive us. If we are asking the Spirit of God to use us, to show us God’s purpose or anything like that then we ought to recommit ourselves to giving to God anything that He asks of us. Most of all we need to believe that God is faithful and that He will send His Spirit to us as He promised, and then we need to simply ask… and wait. Sometimes we rush away from things too quickly, we get bored if nothing seems to be happening… but the Bible says ‘They that wait for God will receive strength’. Wait for Him. Don’t rush away.
Some people like to hold their hands in front of them… this is just a symbol that they are ready and waiting to receive gifts from God – do it if you find it useful. Others close their eyes to help them focus on the unseen God – again close your eyes if it helps you focus. One thing you should not do is ‘open your mind’ or any of the things that traditional meditation tells us – the Holy Spirit is not the only spirit, and if you just open yourself up it can be quite spiritually dangerous – we are not sending out an open invitation for anything to just drop in! Instead, open your heart to God. Empty yourself not of yourself, but rather of things that come between you and God. Focus on Jesus. Ask him to visit you. Ask the Spirit to show Jesus to you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to be still, but we are not trying to empty our minds either – its all about focussing on Jesus.
As we pray for the Holy Spirit to work among us, some people shake or fall over. This is nothing to be worried about – its just that their bodies are reacting as a side effect of God’s presence. If you plugged your fingers into the power socket in the wall, you’d shake and fall over wouldn’t you? So what do you expect to happen when you plug yourself into the power that created the universe and holds the world in existence?! Sometimes our bodies just can’t stay still in the presence of God! Other people laugh or cry for the same reason, especially if God is healing something inside them. The point is though, these things are just side effects, not the main event. We shouldn’t be praying for the Holy Spirit to come just so we can experience a warm fluffy feeling and some physical effects – rather, we are looking for God to make us more like Jesus. We are looking for God to talk to us. It’s what we do with our lives when we get up that is far more important than what happens if we fall down.
The final thing to say is that you shouldn’t worry if nothing physical happens – only twice has God ever touched me to the point where something physical happened. The Holy Spirit is still real even if your body doesn’t react. He is still real even if you can’t feel Him. He still loves you even if He chooses not to say anything to you this time – maybe you are in a good place and he doesn’t need to correct you at the moment, maybe he has no work for you to do at this moment and now is a time of rest for you, maybe he just needs you to praying for someone else tonight. Its all good, and its all spiritual. We’re not looking for special effects, and we’re not looking for signs. We are not looking for voices or symbols from heaven – we come to God in faith. All we are looking for is to please God. All we are looking for is Jesus.
(Click on the image below to view a meditation from the very clever guys at Vaux...)
What was Jesus like?
The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?
The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?
The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?
Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?
When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?
Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?
Why should we look after the world God has given us?
How do we know who we are in God?
Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...
How do get to have intimacy with God?
Can we feel the breath of God?
Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?
The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Teaching for Christmas Eve...
What does it mean to have authority?
What can we do when it all seems like too much?
I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?
A contemplative service for Pentecost
A creative/contemplative baptism service
How do we know what we should do?
A creative prayer/worship service
The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?
The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!
Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?
A liturgy for masculine prayer
Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?
The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?
How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?
Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?
To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?
Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?
Will you let Jesus be in charge?
Would you know him if he met you on the road?
The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?
How can we really 'count it all joy'?
More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?
The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?
The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...
Do you really want to follow him?
How should I prepare to give a sermon?
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?
The People of God
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?
Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?
Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?
How do we resist?
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?
The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?
Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?
Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?
Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?
Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed