Where is your source of power? What resources do you have to draw on to walk confidently through life? For many of us our only power is self, our only resource is the strength of our will. And we find ourselves running on empty most of the time.
It’s a dangerous place to be and when we are completely self-dependent and rely on no one but ourselves we live our lives frustrated and discouraged.
And the fact, is God doesn’t intend for us to walk alone. When Jesus was preparing his disciples for his death and departure, he told them this: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.” (Jn 14:16-17)
Seven weeks later, on the day of Pentecost, Peter told those thousands of people gathered in Jerusalem, they would receive “the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And as those three thousand people were baptized into Jesus Christ, they were not only cleansed of their sin, they also received the Holy Spirit living within them. Sin moved out, God moved in.
Paul would later write in Ephesians 1:13-14, And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
You have the personal indwelling of God himself through his Holy Spirit. That Spirit of God lives in you so that you can have that close intimate relationship with God that he wants you to have. This is not a random occurrence that falls on the elite few, but the promise of God to everyone who has been baptized into Christ.
You might be thinking to yourself, “I’ve never felt the Spirit in me; I can’t think of anytime he’s done anything to make himself known.”
When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, the Pharisee, he described the working of the Spirit: Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:5-8)
The Spirit is at work in you, whether you are aware of it or not. In fact, there may be things going on in your life that you just explain away as luck or fate or good genes, when the truth is the Spirit has been working on you.
You might think that all you need to do is study the Bible enough and you can address all the issues in your life. You are the one who, through your superior intellect can make your way through any problem. I have news for you: you’re not smart enough, and you can’t know enough, and your will power isn’t strong enough to get you through life. When you pray for God’s guidance, his answer isn’t to make you a little smarter, but to give you direction through his Spirit.
James tells us to ask for wisdom, and that doesn’t come in the form of a little more Bible information (and I’m all for knowing your Bible), but asking for wisdom means we need guidance beyond what we are wise enough to discern.
It is the Spirit who is God’s answer to our need for wisdom and guidance. I have mentioned that that there in John 14, when Jesus says he is going to send the Spirit, he calls him the “Paraklete” – the one who comes alongside and walks with us. He is the Counselor, Comforter, Encourager.
And though we may not understand all of what the Spirit does, the Bible tells us about several things that the Spirit does within us. Last week I mentioned three: he helps us when we pray, he reveals God’s will through his Word, and he plants and brings to maturity the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
There are three more that I want us to think about this morning:
The Holy Spirit gives you gifts to use in service to the church and in God’s kingdom. While the Spirit dwells within you personally, he also dwells within the church, and the two are never mutually exclusive. He knows that your reason for living is to serve in God’s kingdom. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8-10 - For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. You have been saved, not to sit back and bask in your salvation, but to put on gloves and get to work serving God.
But you need equipping to do kingdom work – you need tools beyond your skill set to do what God has called you to do, and that’s where the Spirit steps in.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul instructs the Christians there about the gifts of the Spirit: Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant…. 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. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Cor 12:1,4-11)
When he writes to the Roman church, he describes different gifts, but the same purpose: We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Rom 12:6-8)
Peter describes yet another set of gifts: Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 4:10-11)
The Holy Spirit gives you gifts, not to amuse yourself or amaze others, but to serve God and his people. Paul said that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
You might have the gift of encouragement, or the gift of mercy; you might be a leader or a teacher; you might have the gift of generosity and giving, or you might have the gift of serving others. The common thread in each of those passages was, whatever gift you have, use it to the best of your ability and so that you might bring praise and glory to God.
I don’t know what your gifts might be, you might not even be aware of them, but the Holy Spirit knows, and he needs you to open your heart and your life up to being used by him in God’s service.
A second thing the Spirit does is the work of transformation. Yes, he is there in God’s work of salvation, because God loves you just as you are, but he also loves you too much to leave you there, and so he begins that work of remaking you into what you were created to be:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17-18)
You were designed to be more than you are right now. God, through his Spirit is moving you from what you were to what you can be.
We talked last week about the fruit that the Spirit plants and grows and harvests in our lives as he molds us into the image of Christ. Peter writes about this process of transformation and growth when he says: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-8)
And the thing I want to continue to remind you is that this is a process, not a destination. It is a process of continual growth in which the Potter keeps molding the clay and smoothing the edges and adding details and creating a vessel that is useful in his service. Our job is to stay pliable and moldable, never allowing our heart to grow hard or our attitude to crystalize with apathy. As long as we remain on the Potter’s wheel, yielded to his will, then he will keep working on us.
One last thing I want you to think about this morning is what Paul writes in Romans 5: And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Rom 5:2-5)
Paul says that God pours his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, but the end goal, the purpose of his love is to produce hope. Did you notice how many times in that passage hope is mentioned?
Vs 2 … we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God
Vs 3-4 … suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope
Vs 5 And hope does not disappoint us…
Think of how many times in the Bible God has to tell people not to get discouraged, not to fear, not to give up, not to lose hope. And he doesn’t leave us without something – that is someone – to continually renew that hope by reminding us how much God loves us.
There is a passage of scripture in 1 Corinthians 10:13 in which Paul writes, No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
How many of you have been right up to that precipice? Have you ever found yourself right at that breaking point and wondered, “How does God know where my breaking point is, how does he know how big of a load I can bear, how will I know where the way out is?” You can trust God because he is walking with you through it. The Holy Spirit is God’s personal presence with you through those difficult times. Jesus said he would not leave his disciples as orphans – he has promised he will never leave you alone, as well.
In fact, isn’t that where Paul leaves his description of life with the Holy Spirit in Romans 8 – with this promise that we will never be alone?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35-39)
David wrote in Psalm 23, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me …"
You will never be alone; you should never lose hope, because God has put his Holy Spirit within you to always be with you.