Faithlife Sermons

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Ghost - The Holy Spirit  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:41
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Main Idea: The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus in a way that is consistent with God’s character and God’s Word. In this message, we look at three ways the power of the Holy Spirit works in our lives to bring glory to Jesus and talk about how to discern His voice as He guides us.

This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
I came across a very provocative quote by A.W. Tozer some time ago and have been pondering it again this week:
If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.
In the book of Acts, we consistently see the Holy Spirit leading and empowering the early church as they took the gospel of Jesus to the world around them. I’m not sure if Tozer’s numbers are accurate or not, but I think we would all have to admit that we don’t depend on the Holy Spirit today the way the early church did. That is true in both our personal lives and in the church.
In some ways, I can understand why this is the case. Even in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit works “behind the scenes” and we’re really not given a lot of detail on exactly how He guided the church after Jesus ascended to the Father.
I also understand why even mature disciples of Jesus are sometimes reluctant to talk about how the Holy Spirit operates in their lives.
This quote from Hungarian-American psychiatrist Thomas Szasz has been cited so often by everyone from Lily Tomlin to Mulder in “The X-Files”:
If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.
When the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ disciples on the day of Pentecost, they were accused of being drunk. So I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised when people are so skeptical of people who say “God told me” or “God guided me”. That is to be expected given the people throughout history who have committed horrible atrocities and claimed that God told them to do it.
But we can’t let that kid of skepticism paralyze us to the point where we go to the opposite extreme of never being willing to step out in faith in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I love what pastor Francis Chan wrote in his book Forgotten God:
I don’t believe God wants me (or any of His children) to live in a way that makes sense from the world’s perspective, a way I know I can “manage”. I believe he is calling me - and all of us - to depend on Him for living in a way that cannot be mimicked or forged. He wants us to walk with His Spirit rather than depend solely on the raw talent and knowledge He’s given us.
Last week, we began our current series by talking about the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And because that foundation is so critical to what we’re going to learn today, let me review a few of the most critical things we learned:
The Holy Spirit is 100% God
The Holy Spirit is a person, not an impersonal force
Every disciple of Jesus receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of placing one’s faith in Jesus
From that moment, the Holy Spirit dwells permanently in that person’s life
The Holy Spirit is a Helper, not a dictator
Today, we will be learning about the power of the Holy Spirit - power that is available to every single disciple of Jesus, not just a few super spiritual Christians.
Let’s begin with Jesus’ last words to His disciples before He ascended to the Father:
Acts 1:8 ESV
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus told His disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. From the surrounding context, we know that Jesus directed these words to a fairly large group of disciples, and not just His “inner circle”. So this is power that is available to every disciple, not just a privileged few. And I also want you to note here is why Jesus was going to empower them with the Holy Spirit. It was not to draw attention to themselves or to get rich or so they could “live their best life now”. It was so that they could be effective witnesses for Him, not only right there in Jerusalem, but in the entire known world. We should be surprised at this since Jesus had already told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would empower them in that way on the night before His crucifixion.
Last week, we saw the beginning of that discourse in John 14. This morning, we’re going to look at the continuation in John 16:
John 16:5–15 ESV
5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 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. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 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. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
We looked at verse 7 last week to remind us that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is actually better than having Jesus physically present with us here on earth. This morning, we’ll look at the rest of the passage to better understand why that is true.
Let’s begin with the overall picture of how the power of the Holy Spirit operates in our lives, then we’ll dig into some of the details. Here is the overall principle:

The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus in a way that is consistent with God’s character and God’s Word

We see that here and in the words of Jesus we looked at in Acts chapter 1. The purpose for the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives is not primarily about us at all, although we certainly benefit. It is, instead, all about glorifying Jesus. Although this entire passage makes that point implicitly, Jesus is very explicit about this idea in verse 14. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus by taking what is His and declaring it to His disciples. The rest of the passage, along with a few other passages, provides some detail on how He does that.
As you might expect, this passage is not a comprehensive description of all the ways the Holy Spirit works in our lives. There are other passages, like Ephesians 1 and Romans 8, that reveal that He provides us with the assurance of our salvation and that He helps us to pray when we don’t know what to pray. Those are no less important than what we’ll cover this morning, but we just don’t have time to give them the attention they deserve. So I encourage you to explore those passages on your own.
Here in John 16, we see three ways that the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus as He works in our lives:
He convicts
Our first encounter with the Holy Spirit is when He comes into our lives to convict us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. He helps us to understand that unless we are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus by putting our faith in Him, we will be subject to judgment.
As we saw in Acts chapter 1, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus. Here we see the Holy Spirit then uses that witness in the lives of others as part of the process of convicting them of their need for a Savior.
Obviously the Holy Spirit doesn’t need us to draw someone to God. And our words alone, no matter how eloquent, can never convince someone to commit his or her life to Jesus. However, God has chosen to use man in the process of salvation. And the Holy Spirit equips us with everything we need to do our part in that process. And when we do that, it brings glory to Jesus.
He guides
In verse 13, Jesus promises that the Spirit will guide us into truth. Remember that this follows very closely Jesus’ declaration in John 14:6 that He is the truth. The idea here is that the Holy Spirit will pick up where Jesus left off, guiding the disciples to live their lives according to the commands and example of Jesus.
But exactly how does He do that? The connecting word “for” in verse 13 is the key to understanding how the Holy Spirit guides us. Whenever you see the word “for” in the Bible, it usually means that what follows is an explanation of what immediately precedes it. So we see that the way the Holy Spirit guides us is...
He speaks and declares
During His earthly ministry, Jesus frequently declared that He was not speaking of His own accord, but only what the Father had revealed to Him. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit does not speak on His own authority, either. He only speaks of what He hears from God the Father. And just as Jesus brought glory to God the Father, the Spirit brings glory to Jesus.
But again, the question we must answer is, “How does He do that?” Although we clearly see the Holy Spirit speaking and guiding in the early church, we aren’t given any detail on how He did that. Did He speak audibly? Did He just impress those things on the disciples by communicating inaudibly with their human spirits? Did He use circumstances? We aren’t really told.
So that certainly makes it harder for us to know when the Holy Spirit is speaking to us, doesn’t it? I know without a doubt, like many of you, that I have experienced the Holy Spirit guiding me through what I would call “inner impressions”. But when that happens, how can I know whether those impressions are from the Holy Spirit, from Satan, merely a result of my own desires or even just a result of the Mexican food I had for dinner?
While I can’t give you some easy-to-follow steps or a foolproof process, I think there is enough here to develop some tests that we can apply i order to discern whether it is the Holy Spirit speaking.
In his book Listening to the Voice of God, pastor Roger Barrier has developed some guidelines that I have found to be very helpful in this area. While I am not going to use his principles word-for-word, what I am going to share is based to some degree on those guidelines.
It will always be 100% consistent with the Bible
Sometimes when I send an email or a text to someone, they misunderstand what I have written. That could be because they misinterpret my tone or perhaps because some of the words I use mean something different to them. When that happens, I have to explain what I’ve written to the other person so that they will understand what I intended. And I’m the only person capable of doing that because I wrote those words in the first place.
The Holy Spirit does something very similar when I read the Bible. And He is the only one who can do that, because, as Peter points out, He is the author:
2 Peter 1:20–21 ESV
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Paul confirms this truth:
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
The phrase “breathed out by God” is just one word in the underlying Greek. It is a compound word that Paul coined that is essentially a word play on the Greek word that is usually translated “spirit” but which can also be translated “breath”. So Paul is confirming the idea that the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible.
While the Bible has human authors, every single one of those people was guided by the Holy Spirit as they wrote every single word. That means that the main way that the Spirit speaks to us and guides us into truth is through the Bible. That is where we find the story of Jesus from beginning to end and that is the primary tool that the Holy Spirit uses to speak to us about how to conform our lives to the image of Jesus.
While we sometimes argue about whose “interpretation” of the Bible is right, the fact is that every passage in Scripture has only one true interpretation. And as the author, the Holy Spirit is the only one who is capable of explaining that true meaning, in much the same way that I am the only one capable of explaining what I write.
The practical implication of this idea is that every time I sit down to read or study the Bible, I ought to ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand what the passage means and how I can apply it to my daily life.
He speaks when we are actively seeking Him
It is certainly possible for the Holy Spirit to speak to us any time He wants. But in the book of Acts, it seems that every time the Holy Spirit spoke, He did that when people were seeking His guidance. Sometimes that is while they were praying. At other times it was while they were sharing the gospel or ministering to others in the name of Jesus.
For us, this would certainly include those times when we set aside time to go to a quiet place and read the Bible and pray. But I think it also includes those times during the day where we follow Paul’s instruction from 1 Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”. When we’re faced with a decision or have a difficult situation to handle we shoot up those quick, quiet little prayers and ask God to guide us. It’s a lot more likely that the Holy Spirit will speak to us when we do that than when we’re merely absorbed in our own thoughts.
He speaks with gentle leadings
The world does just the opposite of this. The purpose of all the advertising that we’re exposed to on a daily basis is to shout out to us “You need this now!” If you doubt that, just spend a couple hours of your vacation to listen to a timeshare presentation in return for a free luau sometime.
Again the examples we see in the book of Acts aren’t like that at all. The Holy Spirit gently nudges Philipp to go share the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch or to keep Paul from going to Macedonia. There is no big fanfare, no rush, no “once in a lifetime” offer.
His voice produces peace and order
We live in a world that is largely characterized by chaos, conflict, division, and restlessness. But since God is a God of order and peace, it is not surprising that when the Holy Spirit speaks, He guides us to a place that is consistent with the nature of God. Paul confirms that the Holy Spirit wants us to produce peace - and joy - in our lives.
Romans 14:17 ESV
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
We also know from the bible that God is a God of order. So the voice of the Holy Spirit is not going to create chaos and disorder in our lives.
His voice spotlights Jesus above all else
This brings us full circle back to the overall principle that we laid out earlier:

The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus in a way that is consistent with God’s character and God’s Word

Here in this auditorium we have a bank of lights on the ceiling in front of the stage. Those lights aren’t there to bring attention to themselves, but rather to light up the people on the stage. If you came into this building each week and only noticed the lights, but not the stage or the people on the stage, those lights would not be serving their purpose.
Although that illustration breaks down at some point because our ultimate goal each week is to bring attention to Jesus and not those of us on the stage, I think it is helpful in illustrating the role of the Holy Spirit.
His role is not to bring attention to Himself, but rather to shine the light on Jesus. So the ultimate test of whether He is speaking is whether or not Jesus is the one in the spotlight.
I could share some more guidelines here, but I really think that if we apply just these five when we’re trying to discern if it is the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, we’d probably get it right most, if not all, the time.
On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ disciples, it was not the disciples that received glory. Nobody said, “Isn’t it cool that those men learned to speak so many different languages in just one day?” Nobody talked about what a great orator Peter had become overnight. Instead, the attention was all on Jesus. Luke records that the people there that day were “cut to the heart” and three thousand of them responded to the guidance of the Holy Spirit by putting their faith in Jesus and being baptized.
For those of you who have never committed your life to Jesus and trusted in Him for your salvation, my prayer this morning is that the Holy Spirit would do that same work in your life today. I pray that He has been using everything we’ve done this morning - the music, the prayers, the Bible and the teaching of His Word - to convict you of your sin and your need of a Savior. So this morning if you sense in any way that He might be leading you in that direction, I can say with a great deal of confidence that is the voice of the Holy Spirit and you need to listen to Him today and follow through by making a commitment to make Jesus your Lord and Savior.
For those of you who have already made that commitment, I will readily admit that it’s not always simple or easy to determine when the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. But there is actually a very simple test that will show whether or not you have been listening and obeying:
Is Jesus being glorified in your life?
My prayer for you this morning is that the Holy Spirit would empower you so dramatically that your life would be transformed so radically so that people would look at your life and give glory to Jesus. If that is not true of your life right now, what are you going to do about it? What practical steps are you going to take to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He speaks and then obey Him?
I’m going to close this morning with one more quote from Francis Chan from his book, Forgotten God, that I believe reflects God’s desire for all of us:
I do not know what the Spirit will do or where he’ll lead me each time I invite Him to guide me. But I am tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people who do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them. I want to consistently live with an awareness of His strength. I want to be different today from what I was yesterday as the fruit of the Spirit becomes manifest in me.
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