O God, who on this day didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment of all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with the, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
♦ Psalms 104:25-35, 37
♦ John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
“They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak about the marvelous deeds of God. Alleuluia! Father, through your Spirit you have poured into our hearts a marvelous love. Confident that you hear us, we pray: Send your Spirit, Lord, and renew the earth.“
The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit provides for many discussion points in the church: “What is the role of the Holy Spirit?” “How does one get the Holy Spirit?” “Who wants the Holy Spirit?” “Does a person need the Holy Spirit to be saved?” And, I’m sure there are dozens more discussion points that could be brought up about this mysterious Third Person of the Trinity.
Today was Pentecost Sunday a day also known by its Jewish festival name of Shavuot or The Feast of Weeks as recognized for the remembrance of God’s giving of the Ten Commandments. The day also has specific significance in the cycle of the Christian calendar as it remembers the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the original disciples and other followers of Jesus as written in the Book of Acts (Acts 2:1-31).
I’m certainly no learned expert on the details and workings of the Holy Spirit, but I think the role, personality, and nature of this representative person of the Godhead is very misunderstood, often taken for granted, and all too frequently spoken of with generalities instead of specific truths. This is unfortunate, because the result of this vagueness and ambiguity is miscommunication and misinformation leading to bad doctrine and false teaching about the Godhead.
I was glad that we talked about the role of the Holy Spirit in our church today and I thought our pastor did a commendable job in his teaching; although, I think the time allotment for these types of teaching and sermons is inadequate. While the points shared in the message given in our church today were informative and solidly supported by the Scriptures, there were clarifying details that were missing that could have been helpful in presenting a more mature understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of the individual believer. The same can be said about the working of the Holy Spirit in the corporate setting of the church a community…more clarifying details could have been shared.
The question was posed in our setting today; “Why are many living a Spirit-less life?” This is a good question and has a bit of a prophetic edge to it. The answers given to us were that some people aren’t aware of the Holy Spirit and others resist the Holy Spirit. Both points are valid and scripturally supported, and in both cases, there are people “who believe in Jesus” who are not filled with the Holy Spirit.
Our pastor went on to share several roles or ministries the Holy Spirit works in the life of the person who has received Him in their life. The Holy Spirit comforts, the Holy Spirit counsels, and the Holy Spirit convicts (of sin, righteousness, and judgment). The follow-up (and obvious question) comes next: “Who wouldn’t want this?” It is here (in my opinion) that our slope gets slippery.
As pastors, leaders, and as a priesthood of believers, we want people to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his followers they should be filled. He told his disciples it would be better for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit than it would be for him to stay on this earth with them. It is good; then, for us to want every Jesus-following-believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Yes, it is a good thing. So we ask people; “Who wants this Holy Spirit… Who wants a personal Comforter, Counselor, Accountability Guide aka Convictor?” And, people respond… yes. And, we invite people to “say a prayer and ask God to send you his Holy Spirit.” Really? I don’t know if this is right. Something doesn’t sit right with me when we, as a church community, proceed with instruction in this manner.
It seems to me that we become sponsors of unintended “bait and switch” with our captured audiences. We have the tendency to be overly generous with our presentations of the gifts and benefits of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The example I have shared with asking for the filling of the Holy Spirit is a case in point. Once again, let me stress that it is a good thing to want our people filled with the Holy Spirit. I pray every Jesus Following Believer is filled with the Holy Spirit of God, but when we make a strong rhetorical argument for the reasons one should be filled and follow that argument with an invitation to be filled… without full disclosure of the cost and personal responsibility involved with becoming filled with the Spirit of the Living God, I think we are doing a huge disservice to the people we teach and potentially run the risk of dishonoring God and even grieving the Holy Spirit.
While the gift of the Holy Spirit is freely given by God, the cost to us is not free. We must surrender our lives to God in order to be continually filled with His Spirit. If we are not surrendered to Him, I dare say we are not filled…or we will not remain filled. I think that it is significant to note that when the Bible shows Jesus being filled with the Holy Spirit it was at the Jordan River as he was baptized by John. The significance here is what baptism symbolized. Baptism is a sign of death, burial, and resurrection…denial and surrender of self. As Jesus surrendered himself to the plan of God the Father and emptied himself (Phil. 2:5-9), so he was filled. This, I believe, is an example to us and for us. Being filled with God’s Holy Spirit just doesn’t happen because we ask for it; God sends his Spirit to those that ask who are willingly surrendering their lives to Him… and this might be another reason “why many are living a Spirit-less life.”