The Work of the Spirit

The Work of the Spirit

The Work of the Spirit              Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21       May 23, 2021    John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

The book I want to highlight today is called The Hiding Place.  It’s a true story about the amazing things God did with Corrie ten Boom during the Nazi occupation of Holland.  Corrie and her family had been hiding Jews so that they wouldn’t be sent off to concentration camps (or extermination camps, as they turned out to be).  When they were caught, they were sent to a camp as well, and Corrie is the only one from her family who survived.  It’s a glimpse into the darker side of human history, but it also illuminates the glorious things that God did during that time.  After the war, Corrie was a much-sought-after speaker because of her healing message.

I highly recommend this book.  It will bolster your faith and give you confidence in God’s goodness!  Since it is Pentecost, I found a quote from Corrie about the work of the Holy Spirit.  Here it is:

Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work.

But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”

When I was a kid, I sang a line in church every Sunday.  In fact, we often sing it here, “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”  I had no idea what we were singing about!  The only ghost I could picture was Casper the Friendly Ghost, so I envisioned Casper being really holy (or something).  I was in church virtually every single Sunday, so I must have been there for a bunch of Pentecost Sundays—the day we read the Scripture about the Holy Spirit filling the Disciples and sending them out to share the Good News—but I don’t remember ever having anyone explain the Holy Spirit to me until I was in college!

Well, our Gospel text today has Jesus telling his Disciples that, after he goes, //:the Spirit of God will come to them:\\—and he explains all that the Spirit will do.  Now, if it’s any comfort to you, the Disciples didn’t really get it either when Jesus started talking about the Holy Spirit.  He had to explain it to them on several occasions, but //:they didn’t really get it until they were filled with the Spirit!:\\

My plan today is to explore with you some of the basics of Christian teaching, so I’m just going to pretend that you are unaware of these things.  Please don’t be insulted if I cover information that you already know—just sit there and smile and pretend you are interested, okay?!  Thanks.

The Holy Trinity

Jesus talked about his Father, and referred to himself as the Son, and made reference to the Holy Spirit.  Through the centuries, his followers have tried to make sense of this three-in-one God, so we refer to this Divine Reality as The Holy Trinity.  Not three gods—but One God in three persons.  Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is reported to have used a shamrock to illustrate how a single plant can have three distinct parts—helping them to understand the concept.

We say that the Fatheris our Creator, Sustainer, Lord of the whole universe; and that the Son is Jesus, God in-the-flesh who came to show us the way, to die for us, and to be resurrected for us; and the Holy Spirit is God-with-us today, but not in the flesh.

The Scriptures are riddled with references to God’s Spirit:

  • Genesis 1, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters
  • Moses had 70 elders gather around and the Spirit rested on them—and they were helpers for Moses
  • Years later, the Spirit fell on different people, and they were empowered to be Judges for Israel
  • King David, who wrote many songs of worship, included this phrase: “Do not cast me from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from me.”
  • Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him.” And “I will pour out my Spirit.”
  • The prophet Joel was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”
  • John the Baptizer proclaimed that the coming Messiah “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
  • Jesus, in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, said, “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…for God is spirit.”

The Spirit of God

None of us can see the wind, can we?  But we can see what the wind does!  We can’t see the Spirit of God, but we can observe what God’s Spirit is doing in our midst and as the Spirit moves through you and through me:

  • When we express creativity that comes to us from beyond our own intellect;
  • When we have power that is beyond our own strength;
  • When we have wisdom beyond our own understanding (as in Proverbs 3, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”);
  • When we see God at work in our world today and we are moved to say, “It’s a God thing.”;
  • When we are tempted to identify something as merely a coincidence, we are reminded, “Be at peace, and see a clear pattern and plan running through all your life; nothing is by chance.”;
  • When we see wholeness coming out of what was broken;
  • When we see answers to our prayers.

God’s Work and Our Work

The last point I want to make is that there is a difference between God’s work and our work.  We do our job, and God does God’s job.  For example: Jonah was sent to Ninevah to deliver God’s warning to the people there.  Jonah didn’t actually expect them to respond to God’s words, so he delivered the message and climbed a hill to watch God’s promised destruction.  But, surprise!  The people repented, and they asked for God’s forgiveness, and their destruction was averted! We refer to Jonah as “the Reluctant Prophet” because he didn’t care for the people of Ninevah and didn’t really want to deliver God’s message to them (and obviously didn’t have much interest in seeing them repent).  I would suggest that his delivery was half-hearted, probably scornful, and he was actually excited to see them destroyed!

This tells me that even an imperfect response to God’s call can still be used to achieve God’s will—because it is God’s Spirit that is actually at work!

Therefore, any results of our work are totally up to God, not us.  You and I need to focus, not on results, but on doing our part and letting God do God’s part.

So, what is our part, our responsibility?

  • Paul wrote to Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  (One who studies God’s word and lives it)
  • Peter wrote: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”
  • Jesus told his disciples: “You also are to testify.”  (remember: witnesses report what they see and experience.  There is no concern for any results because that is God’s business!  A witness might be ridiculed, but so what?!)
  • It is also our responsibility to keep in mind that we live “in an unfinished story.” Our story is still being written, and we must remain attentive to see it develop.  Jesus told his disciples, “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.  I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  //:The Spirit of Truth will guide you into all the truth.”:\\

In our Gospel text for today, Jesus explains what the Spirit will do:

  • Testify on behalf of Jesus
  • Prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment
  • Guide us into all the truth
  • Declare to us the things that are to come
  • Glorify Jesus

I’ll finish today by going ‘way back to the prophet Ezekiel, who had a vision of a valley full of dry bones.  God commanded him to prophesy to the bones. He did, and the bones all connected together, flesh covered them, skin covered the flesh, but there was no life in them. Then God commanded him to prophesy to the breath (same word as wind or spirit), and when he did so the winds blew and breath entered the lifeless bodies and they came to life and stood up, a vast army.

This vision was about people who were dead for lack of the Breath of God, people who were brought to life when God’s Spirit blew through them!

Prayer: May God’s Spirit blow through us and guide us into all the truth!

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