ReConnecting to the Power of the Holy Spirit
Topic: Holy Spirit Passage: John 16:4–15, Acts 8:1, Luke 11:14
Grace Community Church
Feb. 12, 2017
Re:Connecting to the Power of the Holy Spirit
Turn with me to the gospel of Johnchapter 16. We are in a series called Re:Connecting, and this morning we are going to look at how vital it is for the church to be connected to the Person and power of the Holy Spirit. I want to recommend a book on this subject that I've been enjoying and will refer to several times in this message, called Jesus, Continued…by J.D. Greear. I have found it to be a fresh and balanced look at the work of the Holy Spirit in the church and the believer's life.
Jesus has been preparing the disciples for his upcoming death, and their hearts are heavy with sadness. Let's pick up in the second part of verse 4: John 16:4-15
If you're like me, there've been times when you've thought, "wouldn’t it be incredible to have Jesus right here in person to talk to, and learn from, to see perform miracles?" And it would be incredible! But Jesus says it is better for us that he isn't here in person because when he left, he sent the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit to us. As Greear writes, The Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.
Luke opens the book of Acts by saying that his first book, the gospel, was an account of all that Jesus began to do and teach. The book of Acts will document what Jesus continued to do and teach after he ascended through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit continues the ministry of Jesus in this earth, but instead of that ministry being limited to one person, Jesus, now the Spirit continues the Lord's work through all believers. The Lord invites us to a life of adventure, faith, and God glorifying fruit as we are led by the Spirit, walking with the Spirit, and empowered by the Spirit. It takes faith to believe that the Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you, but that's what Jesus said and we want to take Jesus at his word. Let's thank God for the work of the Spirit that we see in our lives and church, and let's ask God for more. More of the Spirit's power. More of the Spirit's leading. More of the Spirit's ministry. And more of the Spirit's fruit in our lives and in Grace Community Church.
In 1982 a 33 year old truck driver named Larry Walters was sitting on his lawn chair in his back yard when an idea popped into his head. He figured that if he tied some weather balloons to his lawn chair, he could float maybe 50- 100 feet above his neighborhood and enjoy looking down and waving at his neighbors. So with the help of some friends, Larry tied 45 weather balloons to his lawn chair, strapped himself in, and had his friends cut the tethers that anchored the lawn chair to the earth. Sure enough Larry rose to 100 feet…and kept on rising! 1000 feet, 2000 feet, 10,000 feet, finally Larry and his lawn chair leveled off at 16000 feet - higher than most clouds! A commercial airliner flew by and the pilot was pretty surprised to see a guy sitting on a lawn chair outside his window. Thankfully 2 1/2 hours later Walters made it back to ground safely, with nothing but a crazy adventure to tell his grandchildren about.
The ministry of the Spirit has tremendous power to lift the church into the supernaturally fruitful and God-glorifying life that God has for us, but unbiblical and misguided teaching on the Holy Spirit has tremendous power to wreak havoc and confusion in the church, therefore there are tethers that are essential to a believer experiencing the true work of the Spirit in a biblical and God-glorifying way. We can't cover everything in this one message, but let's consider three connecting tethers that help encourage and steward wisely the power of the Spirit in the church.
The work of the Spirit must always be tethered to the word of God
We must never cut the tether connecting the work of the Spirit to the word of God. We've probably all heard the saying, "all word and no Spirit and we dry up; all Spirit and no word and we blow up!" The Spirit and the word always work together. See, there is a beautiful mystery to the workings of the Holy Spirit. Jesus likened His work to the blowing of the wind, we can't see where it comes from or where it's going but we see its effects. We can't always quantify the workings of the Spirit and we can't reduce it to a formula that we can control or predict. Which can make it a little scary for people like me who like to have some basic control over what's happening, and like things to be predictable. I have no desire for weird and wacky stuff in the church, but in our zeal to avoid spiritual flakiness, we can't remove all mystery from the way the Spirit moves and reduce everything to the predictable. The way that we guard against mystery morphing into weirdness is by understanding that the mystery of the Spirit is guided by the clarity of the Bible. The Spirit and the Bible never contradict each other and the Spirit will never operate independently of the scriptures. Jesus said,
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Without the clarity of the Bible, we may become so concerned we don't miss the Spirit's moving that we will attribute anything to Him. Years ago I heard about a church that had a gas leak and church members starting getting nauseas and light-headed during the service. They had been fervently seeking a move of the Spirit and the pastor insisted this was the Holy Spirit working and urged everyone to stay. Some couldn't take it and left, but all those who stayed, including the pastor, died from the gas fumes. If we untether the work of the Spirit from the word of God, then anything could be a work of the Spirit. Nauseasness? Light-headedness? That could be the Spirit moving. People staggering around like they're drunk, roaring like lions and barking like dogs? That could be the Spirit moving. By tethering the Spirit's work to God's word, we clearly see that none of that looks anything like Jesus' ministry, and nothing like those things happened when the Spirit of God moved powerfully in the early church. So I think we can safely say, no barking or staggering around like drunks in church, and if you feel nauseas or light-headed, get some fresh air.
Jesus said, He will glorify me. The primary work of the Spirit isn't to do weird and wacky things, it's to glorify Jesus. Where the Spirit is moving, the primary result is Jesus is loved and glorified. Years ago my family went to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and we decided to stay until it got dark enough for them to turn the spotlights on. As darkness fell, different colored spotlights came on all over the place, and the falls lit up like we'd never seen them before. The spotlights were amazing, and without them we couldn't have seen the falls at night, but we didn't spend our time looking at the spotlights, we spent our time looking at the falls lit up by the spotlights. The spotlights weren't there to be admired, they were there to highlight the falls for our enjoyment. The Spirit doesn't shine the spotlight on Himself, He shines the spotlight on Jesus in order to glorify Jesus. Jesus said, He will glorify me…
This gives us some healthy guidelines for stewarding inner impressions that we may feel (or wonder) are from the Holy Spirit. He is like the wind blowing and we don't know where it's from or where it's going. As we read through the book of Acts, we see the Spirit leading and speaking to the disciples, but Luke doesn't explain how He spoke to them. Was it audibly? Was it an impression? We don't know, there is mystery there, but for millions of Christians we have experienced the leading of the Holy Spirit through inner impressions..
Once I spent some time praying at a favorite place by a bay on Long Island but when I went to start the car, it wouldn't start. Just then a young woman came jogging up and stood looking at the water just a few yards away from me and I felt an impression on my heart, that I was to share the love of God with her. I resisted, and continued to try to start the car to drive off. But it wouldn't turn over. Just as I was about to give up and go talk to her, she jogged off. And I had this funny feeling as I turned the key in the ignition, and - sure enough! - the car started right up. Had never had that problem before, and never had that problem after.
So I'm driving down the street and I saw her jogging and again, this unmistakable impression to share God's love with her. So I pulled past her, parked the car, and as she jogged up to me I interrupted her jog and opened up with, "this is gonna seem kinda weird and I don't normally do this but…" She got really emotional, like she was freaking out. I had no idea what was going on! She told me that she used to jog every day and would spend that time talking to God, but when a friend of hers lost her husband to cancer about a year earlier, she stopped jogging and talking to God because she was angry at God for taking away this husband and father from his family. This morning was the first time she had jogged in a year, and having a stranger interrupt her with a message of God's love for her freaked her out. I have no idea what God has done in her life, but I doubt she ever forgot how God sent her a personal message as she jogged that morning.
But how do we know if inner impressions are from the Spirit, from ourselves, from that pizza we ate last night before going to bed, or even from deceptive spirits? There's no way to know definitely - it always takes faith - but when we tether it to the clarity of God's word, we will be guided safely. Does it shine light on Jesus? Does it glorify Jesus? Does it lead us and others to love Jesus more? Does it promote peace and spiritual health in our lives and in other's lives?
I want to encourage you to be open and listening for impressions from the Spirit, but don't live your life by them. I had a friend who lived his life by inner impressions before he would do anything, and he was always second guessing every decision and often reversing decisions because he felt a conflicting impression. Paul was led by the Spirit as powerfully as anyone, but we see him planning and strategizing and making decisions and using wisdom to determine what he was to do and where he was to go. He was never paralyzed waiting for a word or impression from the Spirit before acting and we shouldn’t be either.
The second connecting tether is this:
The power of the Holy Spirit must be tethered to the preaching of the Gospel
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the power of the Spirit. But what does Jesus say that power is for? It's not to give them shivers in their livers. It's not to give them a great church service. The Spirit will give them power to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and to the very ends of the earth.
There is an amazing contrast between the fire of God in Exodus 32 and the fire of God in Acts 2. In Exodus 32, the fire of God's anger burns against the idolatrous Israelites and 3000 of them died in a single day. In Acts 2 the fire of God's Spirit falls and 3000 people are saved! The difference between the fire of God's wrath and the fire of God's saving power is that Jesus died on the cross to absorb the furious wrath of God for us so that we would never have to. And Jesus commissioned us to take that incredible message to the world, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The greatest miracle that God will ever perform is the saving of a soul. It's a bigger miracle than healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead. When the sick are healed or the dead are raised, it's only a matter of time before they will be sick again and die. But when someone comes to Christ in faith, they are healed of the disease of sin and Jesus promises, they will never die. Not really. For death is just the gateway to everlasting life. But another reason that God's saving a soul is the greatest of all miracles is that any of those other miracles God could do without Jesus dying, but the only way it was possible for God to save a lost sinner's soul was for Jesus to die on the cross. Recently I had the privilege of praying with a dear woman to receive Christ, and as tears flowed down her cheeks, the gospel came alive to her and she prayed for the Lord to save her and come into her life. It's a miracle that only God can do, and it's the most important miracle that the Spirit came to do. Without the power of the Spirit, the information of the gospel can be transmitted, but it won't save a soul.
The Spirit will always shine the light on Jesus and empower us to be his witnesses and in that witness bring many to new life in Christ! So we must be careful to always connect the power of the Spirit to the preaching of the gospel.
We should pursue a growing connection between our daily life and the life of the Spirit
The Lord longs for us to enjoy a deeper and more powerful experience of the Spirit and His leading in our lives. He invites us into the adventure of seeing God's Spirit move in us and use us to touch other's lives in supernatural ways. Keeping the work of the Spirit appropriately connected to the word of God and the gospel of Christ, how do we grow in experiencing more of the Spirit's leading in our lives? If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit resides in you, you don't need to receive the Spirit, you have Him. But there are biblical and practical ways for us to strengthen our daily connection to the power of the Spirit in our lives.
Ask for, and expect, the Holy Spirit to work in and through you
I have found a direct correlation between my openness and eagerness for the Spirit to work through me and His working through me. If I'm not looking for it, or expecting it, or even wanting it, it rarely happens. This anticipation is called faith. Heb. 11:6 says, without faith it is impossible to please God. Living in a place of cynicism and skepticism doesn't please God, and when churches spend all their time explaining why God doesn't move, well, it's no surprise that God isn't going to move in those churches. Ask God to pour out the power of the Spirit in a fresh way in your life and believe, as Jesus said, that the Father loves to give us the good gift of the Holy Spirit when we ask. (Luke 11:13)
Remember that God doesn't need you (or me)
This point might surprise you, but there are so many needs around us that if we start thinking that it all depends on us it can be overwhelming and instead of being joyful and full of faith we can feel guilty and discouraged that we're not doing enough. There's always one more soul to save, one more child to save from abuse, one more needy person to give our resources to help. It will frustrate and discourage us if we think it all depends on us.
Years ago we used to do free car washes and as people were waiting for their cars to be washed we'd talk to them about God and try to share the gospel with them. When we handed the leadership of that ministry over to a very sincere brother, he'd have us out there early in the morning and wouldn't want us to quit until 3pm at the earliest. We had young kids out there who were getting exhausted from hours and hours of washing cars. When we tried to appeal to shorten the time we washed cars, he'd say, there are souls in the next car that need to be reached. Yeah, but where does that end? When is it enough? Because when you wash that one more car and share with that one more soul, there's another one right behind it. The needs in this world are greater than any of us can ever hope to fill. That is a one way ticket to burn out and discouragement.
God doesn't need you or me. Never has. Never will. The gospel isn't a "help wanted" sign, it's a "help offered" sign. God isn't looking for helpers to assist Him in saving the world. He does call us to live generous, Christ-centered lives, but as J.D. Greears puts it, he has never commanded us to go save the world for him; he has called us to follow himas he saves the world through us.1 None of us are indispensible to God.
The Indispensible man
Some time when you're feeling important,
Some time when your ego's in bloom,
Some time when you take it for granted
You're the best man in the room;
Some time when you feel that your going
would leave an unfilled hole,
Just follow this simple instruction
And see how it humbles your soul.
Take a bucket and fill it with water
Put your hands in it up to your wrist;
Pull them out and the hole that remains
Is a measure of how you'll be missed.
You may splash as you please when you enter;
You may stir up the water galore
But stop and you'll find in a minute,
That it looks just the same as before.
The moral of this is quite simple
Do just the best you can,
And as you do, remember;
There’s no indispensable man
Develop the gifts the Spirit has given you for the work of the Lord
God has given each of us gifts to use for His glory and the good of the church. How can we know what gift or gifts the Lord has given us? One thing to consider is where our ability and affinity and affirmation meet. Ability refers to what we're good at. Affinity is what we are passionate about. And affirmation is where people testify to how God has used you. If you can't hold a note in a bucket, God probably isn't calling you to lead worship. If you consistently leave people totally confused about what you were trying to say, God probably hasn't called you to teach.
There are exceptions, but most often God wants to use us in ways that He has given us ability, passion, and where others see the fruit of our gift. The Apostle Paul was a leader and a learned man before he came to Christ, but God supercharged his abilities for the use of the kingdom.
At the same time, developing the spiritual gifts will take stepping out of your comfort zone. When you come to church, don't just come to receive - come looking for opportunities to give. It might be the Lord puts a scripture or a prophetic impression on your heart, and He wants you to come up and share it with the congregation at the ministry mic here. Share briefly what the Lord has put on your heart with Jeff or Walt or me and if we can, we'll try to give you the opportunity to share it. If we don't feel the timing is right or that it's out of the flow of the service, that's ok too. It doesn't mean it wasn't God who put it on your heart.
The Lord might have someone here that He wants you to encourage. Or He may be calling you to get involved with one of the ministries even if it's not in your comfort zone, like children's ministry or worship team or ushers or something else. It’s easier to steer a ship when it's moving, and the Lord guides us more as we're moving, than when we're sitting still. The first disciples waited in the upper room doing nothing except praying, but now that the Spirit has been poured out, we need to practice active waiting. Humbly dependent on the Lord and moving forward in faith with the light and leading we have.
There's so much more to be said - I barely touched the subject. I encourage you to pick up the book Jesus Continued…
Let's close with a time of worship. Let's open our hearts to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He is a gentleman, He doesn't drive us, but like Jesus, He leads us.
Maybe God is encouraging you to fan the flames of faith that the Spirit wants to use you.
Maybe the spiritual gifts have been lying dormant - God wants to stir those gifts up in you
Fear has silenced you from sharing the gospel - Spirit will give you boldness
You've been camping out in Camp Comfort Zone - and the Lord is inviting you to a new place of faith.
Self-focused, and the Spirit wants to take you out of the upper room and into the crowded streets of Jerusalem to bring the gospel.
1 Jesus, Continued…J.D. Greear, pg. 77