Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Afraid Of The Holy Spirit?

Dear Friends,

It’s been joked that to a Catholic, the Trinity is the Father, Son and the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. To a Baptist, it’s the Father, and the Son and the Holy Bible. And of course for the Pentecostal, the Trinity is the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost and the Holy Spirit. And we cringe as we smile at those because we recognize that there’s a little bit of truth in each one. This week is bookended by two very important days in our church year. Pentecost Sunday was just three days ago and four days from now will be Trinity Sunday. In many churches, those are the two days that the Holy Spirit can be safely mentioned without embarrassment or hesitation.

It was on the Feast of Pentecost around A.D. 33 that the Christian church was born. It did not exist before then, but the world changed in that upper room when the Holy Spirit came to dwell within that ragtag group of Jesus’ followers and coalesce this tiny community of believers into the “church.” But why then do so many Christian believers today become so uncomfortable with the reality of the Holy Spirit? Many mainline pastors ignore the third Person of the Godhead until compelled to do so by the lesson for Trinity Sunday. According to Baptist theologian and professor, Roger Olson, in Baptist churches, the Holy Spirit is talked about, if at all, in hushed tones and with some anxiety. As I said in my sermon last Sunday, we are afraid of the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t want that “violent wind” of the Spirit Acts 2:2 NASB to blow through our lives because we are afraid that God really will change our life. We are afraid of being truly committed to Jesus. We are afraid of being passionate about God. We are afraid we may become a zealous believer. We are afraid that God will turn us into a bold preacher like He did Peter Acts 2:14-41 and we will become compelled to talk about Jesus to our family members and friends. We are afraid that we will become like “pentecostals” and afraid that we will receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

But who is this Person we are afraid of? According to Roger Olson, the Holy Spirit is God. He is a Person. He is not an impersonal force or power. We refer to the Holy Spirit as an impersonal “it” but Jesus says, “You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17 The New Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit speaks, comforts, convicts and can be grieved. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity who has eternally existed with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit was sent to us from God and through the Son John 14:26 but has existed from all time. Jesus said that He was leaving but the good news was that He would send someOne to take His place who would be His presence in and among His followers. And with the power of the Holy Spirit, they would do even “greater things” than He did. John 14:12

The Holy Spirit is the Paraclete. That’s the Greek word used by Jesus that is translated in the King James Bible as “Comforter” but more literal translations use the word “Helper.” John 14:16 That’s more accurate because Paraclete is a word that means a “legal advocate.” When it is translated as “comforter” we think of the Holy Spirit being our consoler in times of distress and He is that. But that is a secondary meaning of the word “paraclete.” The Holy Spirit is not just a consoler, but our counselor. He is our advocate who gives us advice, help and direction. Today there are many Christians who shun the presence of the Holy Spirit and cluelessly follow the ways of the world. God always gives us a choice but why on earth would we not want the power and presence of God in our lives? Why would we not want the Advocate to guide and direct our lives?

What makes many of us nervous about the Holy Spirit is that He brings us to a place of passion for God! Last Sunday I said that we are comfortable with our complacent spiritual calmness. That whole Pentecost thing scares us because we would prefer no movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Nothing to disturb us. No surprises. No upsetting changes. There is something safe and reassuring about sameness. Go to church. Go home. Take a nap. Do it all again next Sunday. Heaven forbid that God would wake us out of our complacency and send a Holy Spirit wind to change our life forever.

But if you’re tired of the status quo, tired of  dysfunction and struggles, tired of religious rituals that leave you feeling spiritually empty, you need the personal presence and the power of the Holy Spirit that is called the “infilling of the Spirit.” Eph 5:18 When you accept the Holy Spirit in your life, you receive the Fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23 and the Gifts of the Spirit. 1 Cor 12:4-11 And, yes I can understand the fear that your life will never again be predictable or safe! When we are “infilled” or “baptized” with the Holy Spirit, He will break us out of our status quo and lift us to new heights of spiritual blessing. You will be transformed. Nothing will ever be the same again.  Amen?

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