Listen: Christian Growth with Simon Manchester. (Airs 8am Sundays on Hope 103.2 & Inspire Digital.)
Simon Manchester presents a 10-part series of messages called ‘Confident Theology’. Week by week he takes listeners on a journey through the famous statement of Christian faith known as the ‘Apostles’ Creed’. This week, Part 7: “I Believe in the Holy Spirit”.
Part 7: “I Believe in the Holy Spirit” – Romans 8:1-12
Let’s bow our heads
Our Heavenly Father we pray that in your great love and power you would drive away everything which would prevent us from benefiting from your truth. And we pray that you would drive home everything which would cause us to believe and live and rejoice and be faithful. We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen.
Today is our seventh in a series in the Apostles Creed. There are three to go in a series of ten and we have the six words “I believe in the Holy Spirit”.
Now I find it difficult to say the Creed in church to be honest. I find that it’s very rotish and I have to work very hard to concentrate and mean it and I am sure that you are the same. I wonder what you think when you say the words “I believe in the Holy Spirit”. I wonder whether you are saying in the back of your mind, the Holy Spirit is a very meaningful person or I wonder whether you are saying the Holy Spirit is a very mysterious subject. Are you the sort of person who can say this morning “I know the Holy Spirit, the Comforter” or would you say “The Holy Spirit is a stranger”?
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
Fifty years ago the Holy Spirit was considered to be the forgotten member of the Trinity. There was focus on the Son, focus on the Father but not so much on the Spirit. And then up sprang the Pentecostal churches in abundance, they were everywhere. And the charismatic movement means that the work or the doctrines of the Holy Spirit were being preached a lot in the main line denominations and suddenly the Holy Spirit was the subject of the churches all over the place and there were conversations about miracles and speaking in tongues and the gifts and there were thousands of books suddenly written on the Holy Spirit, bending one way and bending the other and there were conferences and there were discussions and there were debates and there were disagreements and all of that seemed to me to take place roughly between 1970, perhaps 1975 and right up to about 2000.
Now a whole lot of this has died down and the churches that we would think of as being the ‘Holy Spirit Churches’ are much more committed to things like music and some of them are committed more to things like self-focus unfortunately. And we have to ask ourselves this morning
Is the Holy Spirit still at work in the same way as ever?
Is He pleased with churches that have big emphases on music?
Is He pleased with churches that have emphasis on self focus?
Is the Holy Spirit at work in St Thomas, North Sydney?
(because I assure you that some people have joined this church
with the hope and the pray that they would bring and introduce
the Holy Spirit to St Thomas.
So as we come to these six words this morning, “I believe in the Holy Spirit” and one writer has called it “Six Thundering Words” they are very wonderful words as I hope you’ll see.
The Holy Spirit as you know is the third person of the Trinity. So we’ve already confessed in the Creed … I believe in God the Father, I believe in Jesus Christ and now we come to … I believe in the Holy Spirit. The Trinity you remember is now something that was invented by believers but the Trinity was presented to us. In reading the Bible we are suddenly faced with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And we are being told that there is one God and we are being face to face with three persons.
Although we could preach a hundred sermons on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, we are going to try and combine this morning to just a few minutes two simple points. One is the Person and one is the Work of the Holy Spirit. You will notice that the Creed says very little, perhaps because the Holy Spirit is a very self effacing person. He directs his attention to the Father and the Son but the Bible says a lot about the Holy Spirit and if you want to do some reading in the Scriptures, you should read John chapters 14 – 17, or Romans chapter 14 or Romans chapter 8 or Galatians chapter 5. There are great chunks of Truths in the Scriptures on the Holy Spirit. Let’s try and pull a few threads together.
Two points, first – The Person of the Holy Spirit. Just a couple of minutes on this and then secondly – The Work of the Holy Spirit – a few more minutes. If you think at the end of the first point the second point is going to go as quickly, you will be disappointed because the first point will take a couple of minutes and the second point will take a couple of hours!
First of all – The Person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person. Do you think I need to say that to you? I think I probably do. The Holy Spirit is not an energy or a force or a power, the Holy Spirit is a person. He is God from all eternity. He has been in fellowship with the Father and the Son forever and will be forever. He has been involved with the Father and the Son in the creating and in the revealing and in the saving for the last thousands of years. Therefore you must teach yourself that the Holy Spirit is a person.
Teach yourself to think of Him as “Him” not “it”. People do fall into the trap now and again when referring to the Holy Spirit as “it” which is irreverent. How do we know the Holy Spirit is a person? Well because Jesus refers to him as “He”. In John chapters 14, 15 and 16 there is a lot of teaching by Jesus on the person of the Holy Spirit and he keeps referring to him as “He” and what is interesting is that the word “spirit” in Greek is a neuter word so he should be using a neuter pronoun but Jesus breaks grammar for good theology and keeps speaking of “Him”. So Jesus says “He will live in you, He will teach you, He will witness for you, He will convict the world and He will glorify me”. “He”, “He”, “He”.
And also the Bible keeps teaching that the Holy Spirit does things that only a person can do. So the Holy Spirit initiates and He guides and He thinks and He feels and He grieves as a person does. And I want you as a result of this sermon (and I will try and do the same) to keep preaching to yourself this week – ‘God by his Spirit lives, if you are a believer, in me’. ‘God by his Spirit lives in me’. It is not just ‘God above’ or for three years ‘God beside’ it’s ‘God living in me by his Spirit’. And if he is going to comfort us it’s because He is a Person.
The other thing to say about the Person of the Holy Spirit is that He is God, He is divine, He shares the character of the Father and the Son and that’s why the Bible keeps joining them together. Jesus said “Go and make disciples, baptising them in the name (singular) of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
Or are you familiar with that blessing in 2 Corinthians chapter 13 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore”. In one extraordinary verse in John chapter 14 Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and he says this “I won’t leave you as orphans, I will come to you”. It’s almost as though he is speaking like a father. I’ll make sure you are not orphans, I will come to you. But of course, when he says “I will come to you” he doesn’t just mean I am going to return one day, he means I, by the Spirit, will come and take up residence in you.
And of course Jesus said if you blaspheme against the Holy Spirit you are really blaspheming against God. And you are unforgivable, said Jesus because you are basically rejecting and refusing the Saviour and the life giver and therefore there is no hope for you. So we need to remember when we think about the Holy Spirit, a Person, God, from the very beginning and present and in the future, he is a God who is part of the maker of creation, he is the one who is involved in revelation and he is the one who is involved in salvation. That’s the person of the Holy Spirit.
Now we are going to think about The Work of the Holy Spirit
How do we draw together the threads of the Holy Spirit? Now I want you to stay with me because I noticed the earlier congregation tuned out a bit because this is a little bit more complicated than a normal sermon. It’s not looking into a passage, it’s trying to pull together the threads of the Scriptures. That’s the challenge of this series. It’s a challenge for me and it’s a challenge for you and I want to make a confession to you. Normally I work out my own structures, that’s why I come up with exciting three point series all beginning with “P”!! A little ‘p-brain’ works out these little three “P’s”.
But back in the 1970’s I sent away for some cassettes. (Anybody here remember a cassette?) I sent away for some cassettes and they were talks given by John Stott given to the church All Souls Langham Place in London. And this was a little series I noticed on the booklet they produced of all the talks that were available. It was a series called “The Theory and Practice of Evangelism”.
Six talks of doctrine and six talks of practice and I used them. I was a student minister at Balgowlah and I asked 40 young people if they would like to come and join me on a Sunday afternoon and bring along a little notebook and we sat in a big circle and I would push the cassette button and the cassette would play. And a lot of these young people came straight out of the surf and they sat there literally in their towels taking notes of these talks.
But the talks were so brilliant and so clear, so breathtakingly clear, I have never forgotten them. And the talk that he gave on the Holy Spirit, I am borrowing his four points for The Work of the Holy Spirit. And this is what John Stott said:-
“In regard to Jesus, the Spirit glorifies.
In regard to Christians, the Spirit sanctifies.
In regard to the church, the Spirit edifies.
In regard to the world, the Spirit evangelises.”
Those of you know and love John Stott will know that’s typical of the tidiness and the genius of his brain and I am going to borrow his four headings.
Let’s think about The Spirit Glorifies Jesus. John chapter 16 verse 14 Jesus said, “He the Spirit will glorify me”. Now how does the Holy Spirit glorify Jesus? Well one of the ways he does this is by causing the Scriptures, the Old Testament Scriptures to point to and look forward to the coming Messiah. You know, think of a chapter like Isaiah chapter 40 “Prepare the way of the Lord. Every valley will be exalted and every mountain will be made low” because the Lord will come. And the Old Testament Scriptures prepared the way for the Messiah. That’s the Spirit at work through the Old Testament prophets pointing to Jesus.
And then the Spirit was at work in the Apostles causing them to preach about Jesus and then to write about Jesus. You think of Colossians chapter 1 where Paul says: “Him we proclaim teaching and admonishing that everybody may be mature”. And of course the Holy Spirit works through believers today. And the Holy Spirit worked through the believers of the past and the Holy Spirit will work through the believers of the future.
I mentioned a few minutes ago that this little tract/booklet was possibly useful for giving away and during the week I had a call from a retired bishop in Perth and he said to me ‘I’ve just had a conversation with a bus driver and he said I didn’t really know what to give him and I reached into my pocket and your funny little leaflet/tract was there. So I’ve given it to him and he said I’d now like you to send me 50 more. So I’ve sent him 50 more tracts and I am telling you this so that you know what a wonderful tract it is!! So there are ways in which the Lord by the Spirit is working through his people all the time pointing people to Christ.
Now I’ve always loved the way John the Baptist did this. John the Baptist said to his followers (and you remember he had followers) “There’s the Lamb of God – leave me and go to Him”. And that’s really what we must do whether we are pastors or preachers or parents or friends, we must say to people ‘don’t get stuck with me, that will be a big mistake – Go and do business with Jesus Christ’. And when a parent is sitting with a child at a bedside and is reading and is praying with the child and saying ‘you trust Jesus’, this is the Holy Spirit at work through such a parent helping a little one to go to Christ.
Jim Packer famously told a story where he had to preach on the work of the Holy Spirit and he was leaving for the church and he wanted to know how to explain to people that the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus. He said as he turned up in the evening to preach at this particular church, he came around the corner and there were the flood lights in the grounds around the church all pointing up to the building and he said he had his illustration. The Holy Spirit points away from himself so that people will know something about Jesus Christ, why he is to be trusted, why he is to be obeyed, why he is to be loved, why we are to be grateful for him until the person gives themselves and belongs to him and finds that he is sufficient.
So this is the spiritual question that we should be asking ourselves. In our ministries it goes like this: Will Christ be honoured? Because he deserves to be.”
Secondly The Spirit Sanctifies Believers. And what this means is that the Holy Spirit works in the believers to make us holy, more like Christ. 2 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 18 “We are being transformed into his image from glory to glory by the Spirit”. Paul talks about the Christian as being like a mini temple in whom God lives. You may wonder whether this is true for you because you might say to yourself, ‘I don’t feel the Holy Spirit.’ But let me assure you that the Holy Spirit lives in every believer because as soon as you give yourself to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour you immediately have a Saviour and you immediately have a Father and you immediately have an in dweller. You can’t have one member of the Trinity or two, it’s three or nothing.
So how do you know the Holy Spirit lives in you? You won’t be helped by trying to work out whether the fruit is appearing in your life. You know, if you go and read the ‘fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, humility, faithfulness and self control’ you will just get depressed. And it’s no good saying ‘well I’m very gifted so the Holy Spirit must live in me’ because our gifts fail and fall over every now and again. No, we know the Holy Spirit lives in us because the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit causes us to call to the first person of the Trinity, Father, Romans chapter 8. And the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, causes us to call to the second person of the Trinity, Jesus is Lord, 1 Corinthians chapter 12.
So you see the third person of the Trinity causes us to have confidence in the first person and the second person. And that’s why you can go home from this building and you can go back to room on your own and you can kneel down by your bed or you can sit in your favourite chair and you can suddenly lift up your voice and you can say ‘Heavenly Father’ and you mean it because the Holy Spirit is at work in you. Or you can say ‘Lord Jesus’ and you mean it because the Holy Spirit is at work in you. So the Holy Spirit reassures you that God is your Father and Jesus is your Lord.
Now of course the Holy Spirit helps you to pray. We are told in Romans chapter 8 that we don’t know how to pray. Our prayers are feeble, and our pray-ers are feeble. The Holy Spirit takes our prayers and presents them to the Father in a very faithful and wonderful way. The Holy Spirit also helps us to grow in holiness so we discover there are times where he reduces the power of temptation and he promotes the desire to be godly. We wish that experience was more often but we do know the experience.
It’s one of the great privileges of the Christian life to watch people who become Christians grow more like Christ. You know, somebody comes to Christ, they have been a very angry person, they have been a very selfish person, they have been a very greedy person and you begin to watch as the Holy Spirit makes them more like Christ and they are becoming more loving and more peaceful and more wise. Therefore, dear friends, we must thank God for the Holy Spirit at work in us.
One of the things I love about the Holy Spirit is that He just won’t let me settle down with my sin. You know, there are one or two sins that I would love to settle down with but He just won’t let me do that. He keeps causing me to be torn and unhappy with sin and to come back to Christ and forgiveness and joy.
And the wonderful thing about the Holy Spirit is that although He will not drive out all our sin in this life so we will continue to have sin and feel sin and experience sin and will see it in other believers, the sin will not drive the Holy Spirit out. One day the Holy Spirit will drive all sin out and we will find ourselves before Christ with no sin. But in this world, sin will never drive the Holy Spirit out of your heart. And so though you may fall and fail in a very terrible way and you may think to yourself ‘I have just now sent the Spirit out’, it’s impossible. Jesus said “He is in you forever”. So be thankful the Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer.
Thirdly, The Holy Spirit Edifies the Church meaning He builds the church up. He causes the church to grow. Ephesians chapter 4 speaks of the body of the church, the spirit and the gifts and it says in Ephesians chapter 4 that the body of Christ may be built up, edified and become mature.
Now how does the Holy Spirit build up the church? The main way that he does this is through the Word of God. The Word of God is the instrument or the Sword of the Spirit. When a batsman goes out to the crease to score runs, he walks out with a bat. When the Holy Spirit goes to do work He goes with the Word. And the Word of God is to be proclaimed among the people of God whether (as we have heard) it’s the Sunday School or the Youth or the Small Groups or the gathering of the Congregation like this. The Word of God is to be proclaimed in order that every believer, myself and yourself be equipped in order to do our part using our gifts for the building up of other believers. So let me say again, the Spirit’s work is by the Word.
A couple of weeks ago a man rang me from another church. He said ‘ just want to run something past you’. He said ‘I am a nominator for my church, we are looking for a new minister’. He said ‘some of the other nominators that I am working with they want us to find for our church a Manager, a CEO’. He said ‘I just want you to remind me that we should be looking for somebody who preaches the Word’. I said ‘of course, because if the Word doesn’t get preached, the Congregation doesn’t get fed. If the Congregation doesn’t get fed the Congregation dies or it goes into a very strange new direction’.
Once you are converted the Word of God is meaningful to you. Once you are clear on the Gospel you know that God has given you a gift or a number of gifts and then you say to Him ‘Lord how can I use my gifts in your service for your people to your praise?’
And the way to do that, friends, is to ask yourself, how has God made me? How has he wired me? What can I do, what do I love to do? Don’t ask yourself, can I do something miraculous. Many of the gifts are not miraculous. Ask yourself a question like this:
Am I a good organiser?
Am I a good encourager?
Has God given me resources to be a very generous person?
Has God given me a home to be a very hospitable person?
One dear lady who I think is not here this morning has the gift of writing, encouraging cards. It’s a lovely ministry. It means a lot to people who receive them. But every Christian is gifted by God, every church is built up when the people of God use their gifts and it’s not going to happen if you just stay like a passenger. You have to say to yourself, ‘how do I contribute to the people of God and to the praise of God?’ And it’s not going to happen if you are away from the people of God week after week after week. You have to be around using your gifts.
And so the Spirit works with the Word to make us clear so that we use our gifts to build up other people to the praise of God. And the Spirit of God is very clever. He brings the church together to hear the Word and understand it and then he builds us up in the truth so that we do our work more and more effectively.
Now what does a church look like if it is being built by the Holy Spirit? Don’t be fooled by our building. We happen to have a nice building but it’s not the church, it’s just the building. The church are the people. What does the church look like that is being built by the Holy Spirit? Well of course part of the answer to that is to go back to what we have just been saying.
We are concerned for the glory of Jesus Christ, he deserves it.
We are concerned that we be sanctified, we need it.
We are concerned that the church be edified and made strong and mature
because it builds out in so many ways in the world.
I think we can say by the grace of God that we have seen the Word of God taught in so many ways in this church, building up the people of God to use their gifts for the glory of God to the praise of God.
Now the final thing this morning is The Spirit Evangelises the World (the unbelieving world). I read this week that Shirley Temple (any of you remember Shirley Temple?) a little girl of six or seven years who had curly hair, could sing and dance, was a movie star back in the 1920’s or 1930’s. She said she stopped believing in Santa when she was six years old when he asked her for her autograph!! It must have been a cute moment so she was taken along to the local store, sat on Santa’s knee, Santa recognises her and says “Could I please have your autograph”. And she sees right through Santa.
Now I think it is safe to say the world is never going to be able to say that Jesus Christ is fiction. That’s never going to happen. We can always be confident that the person, the reality of Jesus Christ is fact. But the world that we live in is either ignorant of the facts or hostile to the facts but the Holy Spirit is not discouraged by this. The Holy Spirit continues to lead the evangelism of the world.
And the way the Holy Spirit does this is He uses people like us. That’s why in John chapter 15, Jesus said “The Holy Spirit will testify” and to the disciples “you must testify”. In other words I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit oversees world evangelism. It’s not up to our Archbishop, it’s not up to Billy Graham who has gone, it’s not up to pastors, the Holy Spirit is in charge of world evangelism and He is a genius, He knows how to do it. And so he prepares people to listen in John chapter 16 and he prepares people to speak in John chapter 15. He breaks up the ground which is hard and causes the seeds to be dropped in.
Think for example of the time that Nicodemus came in to see Jesus and Nicodemus is obviously without life and without Spirit but he is interested in Jesus and he basically says to Jesus ‘we recognise that you are a good man’. And Jesus says “you need to be born again”. Nicodemus says ‘this is ridiculous, how could this possibly happen?’ And you remember what Jesus said? “The wind blows where he wills, the Spirit like a gale or a tornado or a cyclone works to change people’s lives” and Nicodemus seemed to be strangely and wonderfully drawn. And then towards the end of John’s Gospel he seemed to be a real believer.
So the Holy Spirit reaches out to people all around the world using servants and witnesses and we must recognise that we have been given the Holy Spirit not to own the Holy Spirit but that He might own us. We don’t possess the Holy Spirit, he possesses us. We are in a real sense a ‘possessed people’. We have been loved by God, we have been made new by God, we have been called to be signposts and soundboards and this is the great privilege. To do it in the home, to do it with other believers, to do it with people who come to church who are not believers, to do it with believers in our workplace or whatever, to just be His representatives, it’s a great, great privilege.
And therefore the one who gave his life for us
has given his life to us,
and this life is at work in us.
And the Holy Spirit is at work to glorify Jesus,
to sanctify believers,
to edify the church and
to evangelise the world.
No wonder when the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon used to climb into the pulpit it was recorded and said that he would put one heavy foot on one step and one heavy foot on the next step and as he climbed each step of the pulpit, he would say ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit …’ What a privilege.
Father we thank you for your many gifts to us. We thank you for the great gift of your Son, our Saviour. We thank you for the wonderful gift of your Holy Spirit, our in dweller. And we pray that as He works He would indeed to work to bring glory to the Lord Jesus, holiness to your people, the building up of your church and the reaching of the lost. We pray this for your honour and we pray that you would use us in your purposes for Jesus’ sake, Amen.