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I Believe in the Holy Spirit

Foundations of the Faith  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Luke 1:26–38 ESV
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
We are entering into the home stretch of our line by line examination of the Apostles’ Creed – the set of beliefs that the consensus of the Church has upheld throughout time and in all places.
Today’s article of faith:
I believe in the Holy Spirit.
If you remember, we start off the creed with “I believe in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.” Next, “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord.” Then the creed expands on certain important truths of Jesus Christ. Now we reach the third person of the trinity – the Holy Spirit.
There are many characteristics of the Spirit that I could teach on – but I am going to focus on one today. The Holy Spirit often is the deliverer of divine power. We hear of this power in the message to Mary from the angel:
The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
In the original text, written in Greek, the word translated as power is dunamis – it is the same word from which we get “dynamite”. Power. The proper definition is “ability to perform.” How would the virgin Mary receive a child? By God’s power through the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus began his ministry, he was baptized in the Jordan River and the Holy Spirit came down upon him “like a dove.” He then went out into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by the devil. Once he passed that test, we are told in Luke 4:14
Luke 4:14 ESV
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.
Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach, teach and perform miracles.
In the 8th chapter of Romans, Paul instructs the Church that is was the power of the Holy Spirit that resurrected Christ from the dead.
Why is so important for the Church to believe in the Holy Spirit and how does this make a difference in our lives today?
Because it is through the agency of the Holy Spirit that the Church receives God’s power and we need His power if we are going to be effective in ministry.
For the church, it began on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down and powered up the disciples.
When we read the Gospels, we notice that starting with Easter and Jesus’ resurrection until the day of Pentecost (50 days), the disciples seem to operate at less than full power. The resurrected Christ appeared on several occasions to instruct, encourage and rebuke them as they tried to understand what was happening post crucifixion.
Luke tells us in his gospel of the resurrected Jesus appearing to the disciples and saying “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” (24:38) He then ate with them, showed them his scars and went on to tell them
Luke 24:46–49 ESV
and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
And then the day of His Ascension came and we read His instructions in Acts 1:4-5
Acts 1:4–5 ESV
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
And then he ascended.
So they gathered and waited. They waited and prayed. They prayed and enjoyed fellowship. And they waited some more, because they had not received the power that would be necessary to fulfill their mission.
And then Pentecost.
Acts 2:2–4 ESV
And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The power was switched on and the surge that flowed from heaven blew out everything that would limit their ability.
God empowered His Church for the work they had before them. And He did so by sending His Spirit.
Luke spends very little time describing the Spirit’s arrival – 3 whole verses. But he spends a lot of time describing the result of that infilling.
And what we see is that this power surge results in a Spirit-powered mission and a Spirit-powered message.
The mission is evident by the gifts that were received – the disciples were able to praise God in other languages –Parthians, the Medes, the Libyans, the Egyptians – all heard the wonders of God being proclaimed in their own language.
The Spirit-powered mission, therefore, is for the church to proclaim the message to all the world in a way that each person can understand it.
A spirit-powered mission to proclaim a
Spirit-powered message: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
This is indeed a spirit-powered message – how else can the proclamation of a Jewish Messiah fulfilling Jewish prophecy convict the hearts and minds of people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds? And yet this spirit-powered message continues today to reconcile people with their God.
Now imagine the excitement and joy the disciples must have experienced when they received their spirit-powered mission and message – and the confusion it must have caused the crowds that day.
Those who were opposed to the spirit’s message mocked the apostles claiming them to be drunk. But many more were receptive, they knew something important was happening and listened to Peter as he preached his first sermon.
The same is true now – some will immediately resist and some will listen, we have no control over that. But that doesn’t stop the mission or the message.
Peter’s sermon tied what was happening back again to the Old Testament, to the prophet Joel, because this was not a new religion being formed (Jesus did not come to start a religion called Christianity) – for the first hearers of this spirit-powered message, this is a fulfillment of what God had promised all along to the Jewish people. That they would be a light to the nations from them would come the Savior of the World.
Peter goes on to preach on how they had crucified the one sent by God, and in Acts 2:36 “Therefore, let all Israel be assured this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
The people were convicted, Peter leads them into repentance, and that day, 3000 people were added to the church.
That is power beyond human ability to produce.
And that power comes from the Spirit of God. This is not some impersonal power – or something we can manipulate or control.
It is not God bringing out the best in us – it is His Spirit at work within us.
And once we receive His Spirit, we either continue to listen and follow His Spirit, keeping the flame burning, or we stop listening and follow our own spirit which leads our faith to grow cold. Our mission and our message suffers.
That is why Paul says in Galatians 5:25
Galatians 5:25 ESV
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Trying to live by our spirit makes a mess of things.
So what what does this Pentecost story mean for us today here today?
God has given us a Spirit-powered mission to proclaim His message to all the world in a way that each person can understand and receive it.
That means we must continually seek and follow Him (prayer and discernment) as to how to share this life-changing, spirit-powered message with the lost and hurting in our own community and in the world. And then do whatever He calls us to do.
How do we share the God’s message in a way that will be heard today in our current culture? Lots of folks tuning us out. What do we need to change in order to fulfill God’s mission? Where do we need the Spirit to blow out our surge protectors – the way we hold onto the status quo – and instead empower us to do a new thing?
This mission is local and global, not one or the other.
Several years ago, I met Sky and Noelle Barkley – Sky is a former Marine and now uses his military training and love for the Lord to help combat the sex trafficking of children in Asia.
This is what he once posted to his Facebook page a couple of years ago:
“When I accepted Christ I had no idea what living for the gospel entailed. I thought it was either the sugar coated, white-washed Christianity that is common in the West, or planting churches in jungles. I figured I would do the latter. What the Lord has let a sinner like me do in His name is humbling and awe inspiring. I am unworthy, but will continue to serve him. 26 SLAVES RESCUED THUS FAR!!” - Sky Barkley
(The organization he works with has far exceeded that number today)
The Lord has given His Church an amazing mission that is impossible to fulfill without His power. what keeps nagging me is Sky’s comment “the sugar coated, white-washed Christianity that is common in the West.”
That has never been the kind of Christian I have desired to be, and it is not the kind of Church that I desire to lead, nor is it the kind of church I believe any of you really want to be a part of.
We live in a community filled with broken people – and it does not matter if they live in a mansion on the water, if their family has lived here for generations, or if they are sticking a needle in their arm to numb the pain, or silently walking the halls of the high school just trying to get through another day – we are surrounded by people who need to hear the spirit-powered message proclaimed.
And we live in a world where evil atrocities happen every minute and there are children waiting for someone who is filled with power and sent by the love of Christ to rescue them.
Let us be that kind of Christ follower. May our church receive power from on high.
The imparting of the Spirit was never a one-time event.
After Pentecost, when the disciples were beginning to be arrested and persecuted, the disciples gathered together and we read in Acts 4:31
Acts 4:31 ESV
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Let us pray for the Spirit to fill us once again.
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