The Holy Spirit, Part 1: Jesus and the Holy Spirit
Jesus the Giver of Life.
It has been said that if the great painter, Leonardo DaVinci, got a glimpse of a beautiful person, he would follow them around the streets of Florence and occasionally persist until sundown. In his actions (which must have seemed very strange and disturbing to the one being followed), we see the power of beauty - it can draw us away from self and focus our attention on something or someone else. For example, in an amazing sunrise or sunset we find a beauty that grabs our attention and it can be as if we are lifted and drawn out of ourselves. In a sense, we break free from all that restrains us, if only for a second, as our hearts feed on that which captures our thoughts and emotions.
When we look at the real Jesus, we see someone who calls out to all who are weary and burdened. If we look at those who came to Him, we can be amazed as these individuals were often not the well versed, religiously polished people of the day. Instead, it was the prostitute who washed his feet (Mat. 26:7), the leper who received his touch (Mat. 8:3), the blind and the lame who found healing in an upturned Temple courtyard (Mat. 21:13-16), and a Centurion (Mat. 8:13). It was often the broken or marginalised people that came to Jesus, and He turned none of them away.
Upon reading the Bible I find that I, a rebel and disturber of peace in His world, am loved and although I so often used His world as a playground for my amusement, I have always been of great concern to God. When I really look at God, I find that the sacrificial love displayed by One so holy that I couldn’t stand in His presence for a second with my own merits, has always been there for me. For the unseen cross – that incredible supreme sacrifice made by the perfect One – was already in the heart of God from the beginning as angels looked on in amazement at the creation of a world - the world where I live. I also find that the One present at creation and at Calvary will be there at the end and is here with me now in the Holy Spirit. As He reveals Himself to me through His word and leads me by the Spirit, I begin to realise yet again that this amazing person is not some sort of imposition on my life, or a curtailer of true freedom. Instead, He is at the very heart of life because He is life: He is the Holy One.
Compare a lit match with the fire of the sun and we still cannot get close to comprehending the difference between our ideas of perfection and His holiness, yet He still draws close to us, the rebel. God is the Holy One, the separate One, yet He is also the One who is close to us in our suffering and difficulty, even when these are self-imposed. He knows our failings yet does not turn away and loves us so completely that He will not leave any stone unturned when it comes to making us His. However, neither does he force His ways onto our lives. Instead, God asks us to reach out and take hold of the hand that is always extended, the hand of the One who makes us holy.
Step back in time and imagine working in a field to bring in the harvest. It is a beautiful hot day and the golden heads of corn stretch off into the distance like a sea of sunbeams washing over the earth. The corn is cut and then it is threshed so that the chaff - that transparent paper-like substance around the grain - is removed and blows away in the evening breeze. The chaff has no goodness in it, no real value, and is lifted by the faintest of breezes (Psalm 1:4-5). What then remains is the goodness of the grain.
Scripturally speaking the word ‘holy’ speaks of that which follows the threshing, speaking of the purity and stability of a life that is at home with the Lord and free from sin.
Positionally, this life is ours right now but because of Jesus, all has been paid for. In experience, the Holy Spirit is with me right now and helps me to learn new ways and grow in all that He provides (Psalm 1:3). I have been baptised, meaning that I have been placed in a new environment by the Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11); or to put it in its full Hebrew setting, I have been baptised with “the fire of the breath of the Special One.”
Imagine a fire that does not destroy you and yet it removes all that stains, along with crippling thoughts and emotions and everything else that hold us back in life. In and of itself, this is amazing, yet there is more. The fire of the breath of the Special One (the Holy Spirit) purifies and brings to maturity the man or woman who trusts in the Lord alone. So, as we go through this course, may we hear the heartbeat of God afresh and be encouraged, yet again, by the One who is with us by the Holy Spirit right now. As we do so, some of the areas we will be looking at are as follows:
• Jesus and the Holy Spirit
• The Holy Spirit: A Person who helps and not just an influence?
• Self-motivated or Spirit-empowered? (Including the desires of man and
the desires of God)
• Imagery Associated with the Holy Spirit
• Sanctification: Becoming like Jesus
• The fruit of the Spirit
• A brief picture of Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles
Jesus and the Holy Spirit
One day a builder received a phone call asking him to go and provide a quote for a house extension. He presented this quote, which was subsequently accepted. The client asked to meet early the next morning to finalise some details. This client also declared that he would pay the builder ten times more than the quote if one product could be swapped for another that was free. On arriving at his clients’ house the next day, the builder was taken into the garden. The client then pointed at the morning mist and said, “I want you to use bricks made of mist.” How do you think the builder would feel about this? How do you think an artist may feel when told to collect colours from the rainbow to paint with? How would you feel towards the father who promised his child so much if they could do something that you knew the child would never be able to do? How would you feel about someone who asks you to do what is obviously impossible?
When we fail to take into consideration our need to live by the Spirit (Gal 5:25), we are unable to live in the victory that Christ has achieved for us and we will drift back into old ways. Yet our need for the Holy Spirit is clearly revealed throughout Scripture, including in the life of Jesus. For example, in prophecies concerning Jesus we find words that speak of how He was able to minister in strength and power to the people around Him.
“The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD – and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.” Isaiah 11:2.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18-19
Jesus was born of the Spirit (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:18-20) and was anointed of the Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17). He was filled with the fullness of the Spirit (John 3:34) and was led by the Spirit (Mat. 4:1). Jesus spoke and taught by the Spirit (Luke 4:18) and cast out demons by the Spirit (Mat. 12:28). He healed the sick by the Spirit (Mat 12:28; 8:16) and was offered at Calvary by the Spirit (Heb. 9:14). Jesus was resurrected by the Spirit (Romans 8:11) and gave commandments by the Spirit (Acts 2:11). He baptised and empowered His Church by the Spirit (Acts 1:5,8) and directs and governs His church by the Spirit (Rev. 1:2-3).
The Holy Spirit does not come with a programme that is independent of the Father and the Son. Instead, He brings about the purposes of the Father through the Son and is spoken of as ‘the Spirit of truth’ (John 15:26; 16:13). In the actions of the Father, Son and Spirit, we see intimacy and love within the Trinity and we see sacrificial giving.
Whilst on earth, Jesus was always led by the Spirit, revealing not only a trust in what His Father said (John 8:28) but also a dependence on the Father for all things. In this, we see one of the key elements necessary for our walk with God – trust in the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit who always points to the work of Christ. In being led by the Spirit, Jesus was not a passive bystander in life who waited for an emotional experience to prompt Him, nor was his body ‘dragged’ everywhere by the Spirit who then worked through Him like water through a pipe. So, what was actually going on?
The Son of God came to stand in our place and in order to do this, it was necessary to veil His glory and power (Phil 2:6, 2 Cor 8:9, John 17:5) and become man. All that He was and is, by way of deity, was still with Him yet He chose not to use it. To grasp a very pale illustration of this, think of a mother who races along the road with her five-year-old son. As they race along, she limits her speed in order to match that of her son’s speed, despite having the power and ability to race ahead at any time.
Jesus withheld His power and glory in order to stand in our place. This is why He is spoken of as the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45), because He stood as man (not superman). No man, in his own strength, has the ability to perform miracles (supernatural acts that point to God), and because of this everything Jesus did was by working with the Holy Spirit.
There was no sin in Jesus to separate Him from His Father, and the Holy Spirit was always with Him, yet He did not take responsibility for everything or give automatic deliverance from all that Jesus went through. When Jesus endured pain and suffering, He did so as man and not with a dash of deity snuck in, so to speak, to make things easier. Instead, the Holy Spirit was with Him and helped Him in His suffering.
All too often, well-meaning Christians run around praying for people and trying to minister to them as if the Holy Spirit is some sort of power at their disposal, and with no real reference to God. Yet God is the One we must submit to before we seek to do anything else. He knows everything about us (and still wants to be with us!) and will help us minister to those around us if we submit to the Spirit’s leading. He knows exactly what we need and how we should be ministering in any given situation. Take, for example, the way Jesus healed some of the blind people He encountered. Whilst you and I would probably have gone about things in the same way with each of them, we don’t see Jesus doing this. It was the same heart that ministered, but a heart that knew the individual needs of the blind men who would have all had different backgrounds and different levels of understanding.
To the blind man outside Jericho who said, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.” (Mark 10:46). This faith was not a feeling but a trust in the One the beggar called out to. Now read how Jesus healed another blind man who was brought to Him at Bethsaida by friends (Mark 8:22-26). Jesus put mud on the man’s eyes and touched him twice. Then read of the healing received by the blind beggar in John 9:3-9, where Jesus put mud on this man’s eyes and sent him to wash in the pool at Siloam. Surely Jesus could have simply whispered a word and healed all three in a second, but He didn’t. The Father had revealed exactly what these men needed, and Jesus had acted accordingly in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this we see Trinitarian love and the compassion of God for the plight of man.
My wife, Ann, has been reading a book called, Heaven is for Real, which is the true story of a four-year-old boys’ trip to heaven and back. Whilst undergoing life-saving surgery, Colton slipped from consciousness and entered heaven. He came though the surgery and started talking about being able to look at the doctor operating on him and recalled seeing his dad in the waiting room. No one knew what to believe, but the truth of the events began to emerge. Colton spoke of meeting his miscarried sister in heaven, whom no one had told him about. He also spoke of his great grandfather who’d died 30 years before Colton was born, and shared details that it would have been impossible for him to know otherwise. He spoke of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Colton’s father, using his own words, writes the story.
You and I live in a world where it is very easy to assume that we know what is going on and very easy to make snap-judgments; we often go about life in our own strength and decide on how we think God must do things. We need to be very careful; it is His salvation-creating work that we are called to be involved in and this comes about at the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He knows what is going on in our lives and in the lives of all people. At times we may find a lack of power in our walk with the Lord because we assume that we know how God wants to do things, yet if we were honest, we would admit that we have never really bothered spending time with Him in prayer. We may also find a lack of power because when we hear stories such as the one above, it doesn’t fit our thinking and so we reject it. Quite simply, God is not predictable, and we are to seek Him rather than seeking to get Him into our plan or ideas of life.
For example, in Luke 7 we see Jesus raising the widow of Nain’s son, yet in Acts 7:54-56 we read of the stoning of Stephen. Does this mean that the widow was loved more than Stephen, or that more of the Spirit was present in her situation than in Stephens? No, because Scripture reveals that, “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." The words, ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ meant that God was always in control and that Stephen was open to His leading. The whole point is that it is God’s plan and not ours. The One who allowed His Son to be smashed to a cross was, by the Holy Spirit, with Stephen as he died and encouraged him by allowing him to see into the very heaven he was about to enter.
God can speak into any situation in any way He likes, but is our thinking open enough to understand this, or do we limit God to the ways we think He should work? For example, I remember my Mother (a missionary in China) speaking of how a whole village had turned to Christ after having just killed two men who had come to Christ in the village. So how was it that they turned to Christ through killing two Christians? If you were to ask them, they would tell you that upon killing these men, they saw their spirits rise to heaven. Some Christians would find this hard to believe, yet the Bible says, “By their fruit you know them.” So how else would you explain how the village turned to Christ, and could you write such a story if you had to tell someone how the village was going to be saved?
All around our world there are amazing testimonies, not so much about how people came to God, but about how God makes Himself known to people. The work of the Holy Spirit is the continuing of His salvation-creating activity through lives such as yours and mine. The question is: Are we open to His leading are we trying to fit Him into our ways of evangelism, our way of church, leading worship and so on?
In his book, No More a Slumdog, K.P. Yohannan (founder of Gospel for Asia) tells the story of an illiterate man in N.E India who went to a group of Christian leaders and asked for the medical doctor called Jesus to come and help his sick wife. The man’s son, Nibun, was receiving an education at a Christian school and had heard about Jesus who healed the sick, cast out demons and fed the hungry. His mother was very ill, and his father had been praying to all the local gods, yet to no avail. Nibun returned to the family home – a mud hut in a very poor village – and told his father about Jesus. His father then sent word to the GFA Bridge of Hope centre asking for the medical doctor, Jesus. Two missionaries went to his house, explained the gospel and laid hands on his wife, asking that God would heal her. His wife was healed, and the news travelled through the village. Prior to this the village had shown no interest in Christianity, yet it was not long before a church was birthed in the village with many people coming to know Christ. In this story and many others, we see the working of the Holy Spirit in amazing ways through ordinary everyday people.
The Holy Spirit, who was with Jesus at the raising of the widow’s son, was also present at the raising of Stephen, the raising of two Chinese men hacked to death for their faith in Jesus, and in the healing of a Hindu woman. He is also with you right now, but are you submitting to Him? He is the only One who can set us free and continue to set us free.
Jeff Harshbarger was a Satanist. He had been a lonely man from a dysfunctional family with a father who as an alcoholic. Things spiralled downwards and, in the late 70’s, he came into contact with Satanism and eventually set up a coven with others. The coven was heading towards blood sacrifice and Jeff wanted to get out. He said, “I thought at that time that the only thing left to do was to kill myself.” He failed in this and said, “Finally, I the Satanist priest in the making, went to my room, lay in my bed and began to cry. I will never in my life forget what happened next. It was late night. The rest of the coven was out partying, so the house was empty. Out of the silence I heard a voice from beside my bed that said, “get out”. I stopped crying and looked around the room, expecting the presence of a demon. There was no demon. The voice moved to the foot of my bed and said again, “Get Out.” I remember being so shaken at the command that I immediately obeyed. I crawled out of the nearest window and onto the drive into the presence of God. My knees went weak and I fell on my face; there was no mistaking who this was. Looking up at the sky I pleaded, “Jesus, just make my life okay.” This was the beginning of Jeff’s journey to becoming a Christian, and he now works with former Satanists.
Testimony taken from, Biker Bible
We are called to be part of His plan in a fallen world. No matter what we think about our own lives, He wants us to work with Him in all that He does. The Holy Spirit will always give us power for service if that service is directed towards God. Therefore, in all that I do, I am to seek to be like Christ in nature and in character.
“In a sense, the Spirit is the mysterious person of the divine Trinity. He works quietly without drawing attention to himself. Further, his workings are often simultaneous with human action, as he empowers us to do what God wills. Therefore, his activities occur undetected and unnoticed sometimes even being mistaken for our own efforts. In addition, the Spirit’s work itself often appears to be mysterious. What he does seems to lie beyond the realm of the everyday, the normal, the natural.”
Dr S. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, page 537
The heart of the covenant agreement in the scriptures is the presence of God’s Spirit with His people, with the purpose of restoring true fellowship with God.
“To the Christian thinker there is open the glorious adventure of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. All life is an unfolding. Love is not the same thing to the infant in his mother’s arms, the young child, the teenager, the newly married couple, those who have gone down the road of the years past many milestones together, the one who is left when the other has gone from this earth. No truth is static, least of all God’s truth. If we believe in the Holy Spirit we shall be saved from intolerance, from arrogance, and from servitude to the dogmas of men.”
Dr W. Barclay, Promise of the Spirit, page 41
END OF PART ONE.