Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Holy Spirit Study - Week 1

Objective: This overall series introduction will reveal who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does in the world.

While you may or may not think it is fair that our friend here had help, there is a point behind what I am trying to show. In a sense, most of us probably think that we are alone: we are the ones responsible for getting good grades, getting a job, getting a date, driving the car, watching our siblings, and so many more things. 

In our culture, we are taught the value of individual responsibility. But at the same time, many of us may try to shirk this individual responsibility by blaming others; in fact, your generation is often accused of not taking personal responsibility. 

While we are all personally responsible for our own choices, we are in fact not alone in what we do. What if we had a Helper who was always there with us? Think about this like an assistant or buddy who would come to our aid when we needed it. 

The good news is that we do have help and are not left alone when we need things. The Bible calls this Helper the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings power into our lives and is with us when we are in need.

The overall Scriptural focus for our series comes from a powerful story. This story speaks of the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, which is talked about by Jesus right before He ascended into Heaven. These were the last words Jesus shared with His disciples while on the earth, so they are pretty important: 

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8, ESV)

Jesus promises the disciples that they would receive power. This power would come directly from the Holy Spirit, who would help the disciples become Jesus’ witnesses wherever they went. The word "power" in Greek—the original language being spoken here—is dunamis. Say this word with me: dunamis. We get the English word dynamite from this Greek word. 

Essentially, Jesus promises His disciples that they would receive a power unlike any other power they had experienced previously. This power provided by the Holy Spirit is dynamite power.

Each week, to help us as we discover who the Holy Spirit is in our lives, we are going to use an icon. These icons will help describe the Holy Spirit each week. 

Today, our icon is the wind. One of the most incredible and powerful descriptions of the Holy Spirit is that of the wind. Like a breath flowing from God the Father, the Holy Spirit is the presence of God as He moves in our midst today. 

When I think about wind, I am reminded that it is something that can be felt and its effects seen, but it cannot be seen by itself. This method is also the way the Holy Spirit works. Since the Holy Spirit is spirit, He cannot be seen, but the effects of the Holy Spirit can be seen. 

Like a wind, the Holy Spirit can be gentle as a breeze and bring comfort. Similarly, the Holy Spirit can come in mighty power like a tornado or hurricane. While you might not fully understand what I am saying right now, I hope by the end of the night you will learn a little more about this wind of God called the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit has a powerful role in creation. Did you know that the Holy Spirit was present when God created the world? Check it out:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1:1-2)

The image of the Holy Spirit hovering over the darkness is a lot like a gentle wind, which you’ll remember is our icon this week. This wind-like Holy Spirit was present at creation and existed even before the creation of the world, which means that the Holy Spirit, like God the Father and Jesus, the Son, is eternal. In other words, the Holy Spirit has no beginning or end. What’s important to realize is that the Holy Spirit has been at work from the beginning and will continue to be at work forever in eternity.

While the Holy Spirit was present at creation, the Holy Spirt works in our world and in our lives in a very different way compared to the Father and Son. Let’s look at the words of Jesus concerning the Holy Spirit:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:7-14)

You can hear the urgency and the rush in Jesus’ voice here. He pleads with the disciples to understand that His time on Earth is limited and that He must go on. So as not to worry the disciples, Jesus urges them that it is for the advantage of the disciples that He leave SO THAT the Holy Spirit can come and help guide them even more. 

Not only was it important that Jesus leave, but it was also to their advantage that He go away. Jesus, the one who had spent three years with these disciples, is saying, “I have to leave. Don’t worry, though, because I am sending someone better to help you. This person will actually help you even more than I can now.”

Here’s why this is so important: Jesus was one person when He was on the earth. As one person, even Jesus was limited because He could only be in one place at a time. And this is the difference that the Holy Spirit makes: because the Holy Spirit is spirit, the Holy Spirit is not limited to space or time. Don’t get stuck on what may seem really complicated. The Holy Spirit can be present everywhere, at once, and at all times. 

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would remind the disciples (and us, as well) of Jesus and all that Jesus did and said. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus and all that Jesus taught and did, as the Holy Spirit works and moves in our lives teaching us about Jesus. The Holy Spirit works in the world, is present for all persons, and works through followers of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit came as a gift at Pentecost, but more about that story next week.

Now that we have talked about the person of the Holy Spirit, what does the Holy Spirit do? Here are three areas in which the Holy Spirit is at work: Convict, Comfort, Contribute, 

Convict – John 16:7-11. The Holy Spirit convicts nonbelievers of their sins. The Holy Spirit also helps believers stay holy when they are tempted to sin, as well. As the Spirit of Holiness, the Holy Spirit seeks to bring about holiness and a holy way of living in all situations. Conviction is important, since it helps us realize right and wrong.

Comfort – Isaiah 11:2; John 14:16, 15:36, 16:7. The Holy Spirit brings comfort to followers of Jesus, but the goal of the Holy Spirit is not to make us comfortable (like a warm bed). Comforting means that the Holy Spirit seeks to work for our benefit in helping us better follow Jesus. 

The Bible calls the Holy Spirit our Intercessor (Romans 8:26), which means that the Holy Spirit speaks to God when we cannot find the words to say. The Holy Spirit is also our Guide (John 16:13, 1 Corinthians 2:14), who helps us know where to go and what to do. This comfort that the Holy Spirit brings is powerful, since it helps us know what to do and when to do it.

Contribute – Galatians 5:22-23. The way that the Holy Spirit contributes is through providing gifts to believers. We usually call these things spiritual gifts and fruits of the Spirit. We will look deeper into the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the coming weeks as we see that the Holy Spirit is a generous gift-giver.

Take Away - 
Your challenge as you leave this week is a little different than challenges you will be given later in the series. This week was a little like drinking from a fire hose. For some, you understand much or most of what we talked about, and you are wanting to dig deeper. For others, you are thoroughly confused and maybe a little weirded out by all this Spirit talk. For probably the majority, though, you have heard some of what we talked about before, but you are not completely clear as to how the Holy Spirit works or what it means for your everyday life.

The challenge for each person right now, whether you are a committed Christian, a skeptic nonbeliever, or a confused/unclear follower of Jesus, is this: commit to attending each week of the DUNAMIS series—not only to learn more about the Holy Spirit, but to begin to experience the power that the Holy Spirit can bring to your daily life.

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