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The Promise of the Holy Spirit

Wind and Fire – Part 2

Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 37-38

We are in week two of a series on the Holy Spirit called “Wind and Fire.”  Last week we said the Old Testament word for spirit is ruach and the New Testament word for spirit is pneuma, and both of these words have at their root this meaning of wind: “a breath of air.”  Jesus said in John chapter 3 that the Holy Spirit works like the wind.  You don’t know where the wind is coming from and you don’t know where the wind is going.  Wind is one of these rare things that is non-physical but it’s tangible—meaning that you can’t see it and you can’t grab a hold of it, but you can feel it and you can see its effect.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a documentary on YouTube that highlighted the restoration of an old sailboat.  It was a huge boat.  After watching highlights of the months-long restoration project, the video concluded by showing the restored sailboat’s maiden voyage that took place in Boston Harbor.  The host of the video was aboard the ship as she sailed, and he struck up a conversation with the captain of the ship.  The captain talked about how the ship was so old that it had sailed enough to have circumnavigated the Earth like a dozen times.  They trolled out of the marina using a motor, and then once they were out in the open they were going to hoist the sails.  

Now hoisting the sails was not a one-man job on that boat.  The host of the video said that the sail he helped with weighed 2500 pounds, and there were a half a dozen men that were pulling on the rope.  And finally the sail was up, but nothing really seemed to be happening.  And so, the host of the video said to the captain, “So how do you know when the wind catches the sail?”  And the captain said, “Oh, you’ll know.  You’ll know when that happens.”  And a few minutes later, sure enough, the host of the video about lost his footing when he heard this loud whoosh and the wind filled the sail.  And they took off across the Boston Harbor and turned off the motor, and they were just letting the wind carry them.  

But the point that caught my attention and that I want to highlight is that when the wind caught the sail, everybody knew. Everyone could tell that something had happened.

In this series this is the point we’re making as we talk of the Holy Spirit: That the Holy Spirit should have such an impact in our lives and on this church that everybody knows.  Even if they don’t quite understand Him, even if they can’t see Him, they can see the effect that He has.  So the question I’ve asked you to wrestle with, as we go through this series, is: If the Holy Spirit were to leave, would anybody notice?  If the Holy Spirit were to leave you, would you notice?  If the Holy Spirit were to leave this church, would anybody notice?  Or would things just continue as usual?  Because we can get to a place where we play it safe and everything is predictable and “this is how we do things,” and we don’t make changes.  And the Holy Spirit leaves and we just…everything is business as usual.  Is that how it works?  Or are we really dependent upon Him?  Are we really open to where the wind would want to blow?

So last week we talked about the fact that essential to understanding the Holy Spirit is to understand Him as a person—the relational dynamic involved.  And the problem, we said, for many of us is that we think of the Holy Spirit as a “what” rather than a “who”, and we speak of the Holy Spirit as an “it” rather than a “he”; and we relate to the Holy Spirit as a force rather than a friend.  And as long as this is our thinking, as long as this is our approach to the Holy Spirit, the rest of it doesn’t work.  It begins with this understanding that the Holy Spirit is a person and the relational dynamic involved is more significant than we realize.  And so, the purpose of this study is not, then, to deepen our understanding of the Holy Spirit.  The purpose of this study is to deepen our relationship with the Holy Spirit.  And those are two profoundly different outcomes.

And this weekend’s message is titled “The Promise of the Holy Spirit.”  Last week we listened as Jesus promised His followers that the Holy Spirit would come.  It was just before Jesus was going to be leaving Earth, and He said to them, “I’m going to have to leave, but God is going to send the Holy Spirit.”  John 14:16: “[I’m going to leave], but I will ask the Father, and He will give you another….”  Remember this word?  Another…just exactly like Me.  “…an Advocate (a Helper, a Comforter, a Counselor, a Friend) who will never leave you” (NLT).  And Jesus goes onto say, “The Holy Spirit is with you now, but He will be…He will be in you.”

And then in Acts 1, verse 8, just before Jesus ascends into heaven, He again promises the Holy Spirit, and He says to His followers, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you….”  

And so then Jesus is gone, but for a bit nothing happens.  I don’t know what that was like for the followers.  “Well, how are we going to know?  How are we going to know when the wind comes?”  Oh…you’ll know.  

In Acts chapter 2—the Holy Spirit comes.  Verse 1 and following says: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind…”  Whoosh!  “…came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (other languages) as the Spirit enabled them” (vv. 1-4).

On down we read about Peter being filled with the Holy Spirit, and he begins to preach this sermon to thousands of people who were there.  And the Bible says that the people who heard Peter’s sermon…it says in verse 37, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart….”  This “cut to the heart”—that’s Holy Spirit stuff.  The Bible says that we, in and of ourselves, cannot be drawn to Jesus.  It is the Holy Spirit who draws us.  It is the Holy Spirit who calls us.

And I have experienced just this phenomenon we read about in Acts as a preacher.  Where you get up, as a preacher, and you preach a sermon and then you talk to someone afterwards and they were cut to the heart.  And they made a decision and it had an impact on them.  But as they’re telling you about what you said in your sermon, you realize you didn’t really say that, right?  Like, the Holy Spirit connected some dots that you didn’t intentionally connect, but that’s how He works.

And so they are cut to the heart after hearing the sermon, and they said to Peter and to the other apostles, “What do we do? How do we respond to this?”  They’re convicted of their sin.  “What do we do to be saved?”  And Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ,” so that your sins may be forgiven, “for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (vv. 37-38).

So they say to Peter, “What do we do?  How do we respond?”  And Peter doesn’t do this.  He doesn’t say, “Well, there are a lot of people here, so let’s do it this way.  If you think you need to make a decision today, then just go ahead and raise your hand.  With every head bowed and every eye closed…  I see that hand.  I see that hand.  I see that hand.”  He doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say, “Well, we could do it this way, I’m going to pray a prayer.  We’re going to call it ‘The Sinner’s Prayer,’ and you just repeat after me whatever I say.  And the Sinner’s Prayer will be a promise for you and all those who are far off.”  That’s not…that’s not what he says.  Now there’s nothing wrong with raising a hand and praying a prayer. Certainly I’ve sat in sanctuaries and listened to sermons and afterwards had the preacher say, “Would you raise a hand if you need to make this decision?”  And my hand has gone up in the air, and I am thankful for moments where I have been called to step over a line, where I have been given an opportunity to express conviction.  And there have been plenty of times I’ve led people in what would be called “The Sinner’s Prayer.”  It’s a prayer of repentance, a prayer of desire, where you make it clear that this is what you believe and this is what you want.  It’s a prayer of surrender.  So those things are good, and they’re great places to start.  But what Peter says here is: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

When I was a student in high school, and then college, I liked the grammar assignments that included diagramming sentences.  I’m not afraid to say that.  Judge me if you want to judge me, but I did.  I liked diagramming sentences.  It’s a lost art.  And one of the things I want you to catch here is what Peter does.  He paralleled some things.  He parallels repentance and being baptized with forgiveness of sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It’s what that is.  And being baptized isn’t something you do.  Sometimes people get a little uncomfortable because they think of baptism as a work.  It’s not.  You’re being baptized.  It is an act of submission.  It’s an act of surrender.  But it’s something that’s done to you.  And so Peter says, “This is the promise.”

One of the key principles of interpreting Scripture is to understand the genre of what you’re reading.  So the Book of Acts, then, is historic literature.  It’s history.  It’s an account of something that happened.  And if you’re interpreting history literature, one of the things that you keep in mind is that something that happened once doesn’t necessarily mean it always happens that way.  That it could be dangerous to say, “Oh, this is an account of what happened then, and because it happened then like that, then it’s the way it should always happen.”  That’s not how we read it.  In other words, the Book of Acts is not prescriptive; it’s descriptive.  It describes what happens.  It’s not necessarily a prescription for the way it should always happen.  And yet when Peter says this…  When he says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit,” it’s as if he…the Holy Spirit inspired him to know that there was going to be this hermeneutical objection: that people would say, “Okay, well, yeah.  That’s how it happened then, but that doesn’t mean it’s how it always happened.”  

And so Peter says…he adds after he says this promise…he says, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (v. 39).  

Isn’t that interesting?  In other words, Peter says, “And this isn’t just happening now.  This promise isn’t just good for today.  This promise applies to you and your children and for all those who are far off.”  Now look, is this the way that it always has to happen?  No.  No.  It doesn’t always have to happen this way.  It’s not necessarily prescriptive in that sense. But what we do see is Peter saying, “This is how it happened, and this is how it…this is how it will happen.”  And so you repent and you be baptized.

And if you’ve put your trust in Jesus and if you believe Jesus to be your Lord and Savior but you haven’t done those things, then there are some things you need to take care of.  And the Bible says, for those who do this there is the forgiveness of sins.  There is receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.  And so there’s the promise of the Holy Spirit: All those who put their trust in Jesus receive Him.

But we all have had experience with receiving a gift, a good gift, that remains unopened and unused.  So imagine it this way.  Imagine there are a couple of acres that need to be cleared, and that that’s your job.  And for the sake of argument, we’ll apply this today to the men.  So let’s just imagine that your wife knows that you’ve got this job that needs to be taken care of, and so she gets you this nice, big chainsaw…brand new in the box…and it’s perfect.  But it’s a little bit big, and it’s pretty powerful.  And you think, “Maybe it’s too powerful,” and so you don’t even open it up.  You just stick it in the attic. It’s a little intimidating, a little overwhelming. 

But you’ve got lots of trees that need to be cleared, so go out the next day and you pull out your pocketknife.  It’s a nice one…Swiss Army.  And you start to work on that first tree with your pocketknife…get the biggest blade out.  And by the end of the day, that blade is down to a nub and your knuckles are bloody from the bark; and your hands are cramping up and you’ve barely made a dent in that tree.  And you realize you’re going to be here for months if this is all you’ve got to use.  But in the attic is this brand-new chainsaw sitting in a box.  

Now look, I’m not comparing the Holy Spirit to a chainsaw.  Save your letters.  That’s not…that’s not the point I’m making, okay?  I get it.  The Holy Spirit is not a tool in our hands that we use for our purposes.  We are a tool in His hands that are available to accomplish His purposes.  What I am saying is that many of us live our lives like a guy who goes out to cut down a forest with a pocketknife when there is a chainsaw unboxed and unopened in the attic…boxed up and unopened in the attic.  You’ve received the gift, but it’s…it’s just boxed up.

I know that this week we will have an opportunity to realize…if you’re a follower of Jesus…to realize the promise that the Holy Spirit has been given to you.  We’ll have an opportunity to live out of that promise.  We’ll have an opportunity to hoist the sails and to allow the sails to be filled with wind.  But what does that look like?  How do you know when that happens?

There are a couple of different ways in Scripture that we can see the evidence for the Holy Spirit in our lives.  You can think in terms of two categories: gifts and fruit.  There are the gifts of the Holy Spirit and then there is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  We kind of have these two lists given to us in Scripture.  One of the things you’ll notice is that oftentimes when the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is talked about there tends to be a focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  They’re supernatural, powerful demonstrations.  We’ll talk about some of those next week.  But the point I would want to make here is that, in my opinion…  This is just my opinion.  In my opinion the fruit of the Holy Spirit (more so than the gifts of the Holy Spirit) are evidence of a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit.  Right?  Now these two things go together, but the fruit of the Spirit, I think more so than the gifts, demonstrate a deep relationship.  I’m not saying they more effectively demonstrate the Holy Spirit; they more effectively demonstrate a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Paul seems to get at this in 1 Corinthians 13.  So in 1 Corinthians 12 he gives us a list of the gifts—supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.  In 1 Corinthians 13 he talks to us about the fruit of the Holy Spirit—the primary fruit of love: “Love is patient. Love is kind,” and so on.  In between talking to us about the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit, here is what Paul says….  In 1 Corinthians 13:1, he says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels…”  If I speak in tongues “but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.”   I’m just making noise.  “If I have the gift of prophecy and I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing” (vv. 1-2).  

So what Paul is saying here is: “Look, if I have these gifts of the Holy Spirit but I don’t have the fruit of the Holy Spirit, then…then I’ve missed the point.  Then I am nothing.”

And so, I want to talk to you for a few minutes about the fruit of the Spirit, but I certainly don’t have time to go into depth.

Galatians 5 gives us a list of the fruit of the Spirit.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.”  I think I got them all.  And so he goes through this fruit of the Spirit.  And I was trying to decide which one of those I should talk about in this message.  You know, which one would be good to use as an example?  And as I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago and doing some research online, I happened to run across the results of a survey on Crosswalk.com that was conducted just before last Father’s Day.  The editors of Crosswalk surveyed a group of teenagers and asked them, “Of the nine fruit of the Spirit that the Apostle Paul writes about in Galatians chapter 5, which fruit would you say your father needs to hear about the most?”  And they gave the teens a list of the fruit of the Spirit with a little definition next to each fruit. 

Well, after tabulating the results of the survey, here is what Crosswalk.com listed as the top three.  Third place was patience.  Okay, it turns out that it takes a little patience to be a father.  But you know, it takes probably more patience to be a mother, because they have to be patient with the kids and the father!  And so I thought maybe not that one.  The runner-up…it was self-control.  But the number one…and this may surprise you…at least it did me…was gentleness. Hmmm….  If the editors of Crosswalk would have asked the dads that, I can tell you with a reasonable amount of certainty that that would have ranked towards the bottom.  But they didn’t ask the dads; they asked the kids.

I think that surprises me because gentleness is usually overlooked.  Gentleness tends to be, if you will, the rhubarb of the fruit of the Spirit, right?  Like, you’re vaguely aware that it’s a fruit, but it’s not something you give a lot of time and attention to and seek after.  Maybe the reason it got some extra votes is the definition the editors of Crosswalk put next to gentleness.  Here it is: It’s “power and strength that is under control for the benefit of someone else.”  Okay.  It’s power and strength that has been disciplined.  It’s under control so that people around you will benefit from it.  And that sounds not just like gentleness, but that sounds like patience and self-control as well.

And most men, I don’t think, are especially interested in growing in gentleness because we tend to associate gentleness with weakness.  We tend to think of a gentle person who isn’t aggressive enough to win the game or isn’t driven enough to climb the ladder of success.  And gentle people get taken advantage of.  I know that’s a broad observation but just anecdotally I think that’s right.  My thesaurus helped me understand why men aren’t interested, perhaps, in gentleness.  Some synonyms for gentleness include: mild, tender, docile, and soft.  Well, what man wants that?  I’ve been called some names in my life, right?  Like, I laugh most of them off, but if you call me tender and docile, we’re going to go a few rounds.  Like, that’s not okay.  And yet gentleness is this strength.  It’s not weakness; it’s strength that is under control for the benefit of someone else.  That’s real strength.

There’s a section in Galatians 5, before Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit, where he gives us a different list.  It is sometimes called “the acts of the sinful nature.”  And there is an act of the sinful nature that is kind of the opposite of gentleness.  It is listed as…maybe in your version…“fits of rage” or “outbursts of anger.”  It’s the opposite of gentleness.  It’s emotional frustration that is out of control to the detriment of everyone else.  It’s being disengaged from what’s happening, and then something happens and suddenly you lose it and you’re really engaged.  It’s a constant state of aggravation.  It’s giving a constant scowl of disappointment or a heavy sigh of annoyance.  It’s the person who’s always defensive and constantly critical and in a perpetual bad mood.  That’s the opposite of gentleness.

In Ephesians 4:30, we saw last week how we relate to the Holy Spirit.  Paul says, “Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live….”  Don’t make the Holy Spirit sad by the way you live.  But put that verse in context.  It’s interesting.  Because the next verse, verse31, says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander….”  So in context what do we see?  That at least to some degree, what brings sorrow to the Holy Spirit is bitterness, rage, anger, harsh tones….  It grieves the Holy Spirit.  It makes the Holy Spirit sad when He hears us speaking harshly to one another, filled with anger towards one another.  It brings sorrow to the Holy Spirit.

And so how do we do this?  You see, most of us, when we hear about a fruit of the Spirit like gentleness or joy or patience or self-control…whatever it is…we immediately go to a self-improvement plan.  Okay, I’m convicted, so I need to change some things.  Maybe an anger management class, maybe a little self-help book….  That’s not the idea here.  The idea is that we have this promise of the Holy Spirit, who we have received when we put our trust in Christ.  We raise our sails; He fills our sails, and He grows gentleness in our lives.  It’s not about trying harder to be gentle; it’s about being filled with the Holy Spirit.  Paul says in Galatians 5:25, “Since we live by (since we’re powered by) the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  That’s it.

So how we do we do that?  Well, here are just a few things to kind of think about this week.

Step one would be repentance.

Repentance makes room for the Holy Spirit.  Repentance says to the Holy Spirit, “I know that my angry words and my harsh tone have made you feel unwelcome.  I acknowledge that my shortness with others and my angry outbursts have not only hurt them, but those things have hurt You…and I am sorry.  I know it’s not just other people that I have sinned against.  I know, Holy Spirit, I have sinned against You.  I know I have not just grieved them; I have grieved You.”  And you repent, and the Holy Spirit knows that He is welcome.

Step two would be surrender.

Where throughout the day, as you keep in step with the Spirit, you surrender things.  You surrender words before you speak them.  You surrender your right to be offended when someone offends you.  You surrender irritations and frustrations over to the Holy Spirit.

Step three, I think, would be to ask.

In Luke 11 verse 13, Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (ESV)

You ask for the Holy Spirit, and Jesus says the Father will give you the Holy Spirit, fill you with the Holy Spirit.  And so you just begin, throughout the day, to ask.

 There is this close correlation in Scripture between being filled with the Holy Spirit and the words we speak.  So an example…or a few…

From Acts 4, verse 8: “Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and he said to them…” (CSB).

Acts 4, verse 25: “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant….”

Verse 31: “…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and [they] spoke the word of God boldly.”

Then we looked at Acts 2:4 earlier: “[They were] filled with the Holy Spirit and [they] began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability” (NLT).  They’re speaking in languages or speaking in tongues.  They don’t understand.  They don’t know the languages.  They haven’t studied them.

You know, for a lot of us the greatest manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in our life would be to speak in the tongue of encouragement, to speak in the tongue of positivity, to speak in the tongue of grace and gentleness.  Because that is a foreign language, and you haven’t spoken it, and no one taught it to you growing up.  And if you want people to see the difference the Holy Spirit makes in your life, you start speaking in that tongue and you see what kind of impact it has.

 Step four: believe.

You believe the promise of Jesus.  In faith you claim the promise of Jesus that this is His gift to us.  You claim the promise of Scripture that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us today.

Kristy Robison runs a ministry in a less than desirable part of the city of Los Angeles.  The ministry is called the HOPE Place.  And she reaches out to thousands of refugees who live in that area, and the need is significant.  Within three blocks of where her ministry is located, there are more than a hundred languages spoken within those three blocks.

A few months ago, Kristy was invited by pastor Rick Warren to present her testimony and to share about her ministry in a gathering at Saddleback Community Church.  And Kristy started off by telling her story.  She grew up in a home where her dad struggled with alcohol and anger.  She said she remembers holes in the wall and picture frames that were broken and figurines that had been smashed.  And at his angriest he would take it out on her mom, and she bore the scars.  And Kristy looks back.  She said she realizes that probably a lot of his anger came from his dad, who was an angry alcoholic, a war vet who suffered from PTSD.

When Kristy was still young, her brother was invited to go to church by the pastor’s son in town, and her brother went to church and loved it.  He came home and he wanted the whole family to go to church.  And he kept asking and kept saying, “We should all go.”  And they went from time to time but…but her dad wasn’t interested in those things.  He was mostly just disengaged.  The pastor of the church started inviting Kristy’s dad to play basketball with him in a rec league at church.  And her dad liked basketball, so he started to go.  And then eventually he was asked to go to a Christian Men’s Conference with some other men in the church, and Kristy said that when her dad came back from the conference he was a completely different man.  There was a night and day difference.  He just wasn’t the same person.  Kristy said, “He came back and he wanted us to all go to church every weekend together, and he did his best to start spiritually leading our family, even though he didn’t have that example growing up.”  And before her dad became a Christian, he often missed birthday parties and special events, but he became much more involved and much more engaged.  And Kristy went onto say…she said, “Once in a while my dad still lost his temper, but now when it happened he would tell my mom he was sorry.  He would apologize to us kids, and I would see him cry over his sin.  When my dad changed,” she says, “our whole family changed.  When I saw the difference Jesus made in my dad, I wanted to know Jesus, too.”  And Kristy began her own journey of following Jesus.

How do you know?  How do you know when the wind catches the sails?  Oh, you’ll know when that happens.

 

 

Pastor David Hall
First Church of Christ
May 31, 2020