I Believe in the Holy Spirit
John 14:15-17, 25-27
I spent the first 30 years of my life afraid of the Holy Spirit. Whenever I heard sermons or conversations about the Holy Spirit, I instantly went on the defense. I heard strange things about the Holy Spirit that only caused confusion and increased my apprehension.
- I heard of him being “poured out” upon people and that made me think of a liquid.
- I heard of him “falling” on people and my first images were of lightning bolts falling from the sky. Later on I understood his coming could be more like the falling dew. A bit more gentle than fire from heaven.
- Others talked of being “baptized” in the Holy Spirit, or being “filled” with the spirit, and the liquid image came back into my mind. Should I be immersed in the Spirit or would the Spirit enter into me? It was all very confusing!
- Other speakers used images such as fire, wind, oil, or a dove, and each one reinforced in my mind that the Holy Spirit was rather strange.
- Others used the language of invasion, which only increased my apprehension. They told me that the Holy Spirit wanted to “Possess me”, “Control me”, “take over in my life”, and I had to “yield to him” all of which increased the feeling that if I let Him into my life, I would lose the freedom to be myself.
- During those earlier days all sorts of bizarre behaviour were attributed to the Holy Spirit. I was informed that I would speak in tongues, maybe be slain in the spirit, or break out in holy laughter. The consequence was that I became afraid that the Holy Spirit might make ME do some very odd things.
- The very language of the Church did not help much either. We used words like HOLY GHOST and that conjured up strange ideas. The word SPIRIT picked up similar connotations since it also referred to the presence of the non-departed dead. It created some of the mystery and also some of the fear of the Holy Spirit.
- Teachings on “the BLASPHEMY against the Holy Spirit that could never be forgiven” also served to increase my fear of the Holy Spirit.
- But the capstone of horror for me was when I heard a well-meaning evangelist preach on the theme, “If you don’t get the Holy Spirit, He’ll get you!”, and then he went on to tell the congregation that unless we were filled with the Holy Spirit, God might do something terrible to us or one of our family members. I got the distinct impression that God would break my kneecaps unless I cooperated with him.
Then one day I heard E. Stanley Jones, Missionary to India, speak about the Holy Spirit. After hearing what he said, my anxiety lifted and I found myself able to trust the Holy Spirit.
Have you heard of the rider on the Harley Davidson going through a small English village. A police car just happened to be behind the bike as it proceeded through the village. The policeman saw the left arm shoot out and pointed left, indicating a left turn. Then suddenly it changed, and the arm went up, indicating a right turn. Then once more another change as the arm bent down ward, indicating a stop was intended. Then the arm was pulled in, and just as rapidly shot out again, but this time began flailing up and down in rapid motion. It was then the policeman pulled the biker over. That signal he could not understand! The explanation came “Oh officer, I was erasing all the other signals so I could start all over again.”
I also think it would help us get started again, by erasing all that is written on our minds, and get us back to the basics about the Holy Spirit? Let me share with you four fundamental realities about the Holy Spirit that I first learned from E. Stanley Jones.
1. The Holy Spirit is a Person.
So many of the images, that the church in its careless moments has used, have been damaging. When we sing songs such as “let it breathe on me” we treat the Holy Spirit as an ‘it”. When we sing “Lord send the power just now.” We allow serious questions to arise about whether the H.S. is actually a person or whether he is like the EverReady batteries that keeps the Pink Bunny going on and on.
But the church in its more careful moments has insisted that the Holy Spirit is not a thing. He is a person. He is not a mere influence, nor a power like gravity or electricity. He is not an experience. He is not a something; He is a someone.
Hear what Jesus says in John 16:13.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all 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. He will glorify me….”
He acts like a person. He works, he speaks, he teaches, he testifies, he reproves. That is because he is a person.
The implications of this are far reaching. He desires to enter into a relationship with me as my best friend.
Matthew, when teaching us about prayer says – “God will give good things to those who ask” but Luke interprets that by saying “God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.” The best gift of all!
2. The Holy Spirit is God present with us.
There is a second reality about the Holy Spirit that invigorates my mind and heart. He is God Himself present with us, in the here and now.
Our view of the Father is often affected by the line in the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in Heaven.” This makes us think of God enthroned on high in transcendent majesty. We can easily get the feeling that He is remote from us by distance.
Our view of Jesus is also affected by the same scriptures. The Gospels tells us of Jesus who for 30 years lived among us. But that was a long time ago. 2,000 years ago. After his resurrection he returned to heaven, and one day he shall come again. But that too makes him seem remote not only in the distant past or an unknown future, but like the Father, he too is far from us in heaven enthroned and waiting.
But the Holy Spirit is God Himself present in the very present-tense moments of our lives. It is what Jesus had promised: “It is better for you that I go away. For if I do not go away the comforter will not come, but if I go I will send him to you …and He will be with you for ever.”
The implications of that are also far reaching. God is not remote at all. In Him we live and move and have our being. There is then no need to shout in prayer for God to hear us. He is closer than we are to each other. We do not need to go into heaven to bring him down, for He is already here.
3. The Holy Spirit Empowers but does not Overpower.
In my own strength I find myself unable to be the kind of person I want to be. Too often the experience of Romans chapter seven is true of me even as a child of God. “When I want to do good, evil is present with me… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want to do is what I do. Wretched person that I am, who will deliver me?”
The best of us are weak in the presence of temptation or stress.
But then I hear the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of John and I take new courage. It is in this gospel that Jesus gives the Holy Spirit a more personal name.
The Greek word that Jesus uses is the word “paraclete“. (not parakeet: that’s a bird) It is translated by the English word “Comforter” or “Counselor”. The word Paraclete comes from two words. Kaleo – to call, and Para – along side of. The Holy Spirit is the one who is called along side of me to help me in the tasks of life. He is called along side of me to comfort me. He is the helper and the advocate.
The Latin word “comfort” is also a rich word. It means cum which means “with” and forte, which means “strength, or fortitude, or to fortify.” He is the one, who when I am faced with temptation, or I have a job to do that is beyond my ability, comes along side to fortify with His strength.
4. Another Comforter.
There is one final truth about the Holy Spirit that causes me great relief. In John 14:16 Jesus says, “I will pray to the Father and He will send you another comforter.”
That word “another” is an interesting word. There are two Greek words for “another.” One word is Eteros, which means another of a different kind. (e.g. A Bible and a Hymn Book) Then there is the word Allos, which means another of the same kind. (two identical Hymn Books) Jesus is saying, “I will send you another counselor of the same kind.” The same kind that Jesus had been! The Holy Spirit is the “spitting image” of Jesus himself. He is, so to speak, Jesus’ identical twin. He is a clone of the One we came to love.
Jesus was the one who had lived along side these twelve disciples for the previous two or three years, and his presence had been strength and wisdom to them. Now He is to leave them, but He is sending the Holy Spirit, who is just like Himself.
I began this chapter talking about fear; being afraid of the Holy Spirit. Now the opposite of fear is faith. But what is faith? It means to trust in someone, to rely upon someone, to depend upon another, to lean upon, to put my whole weight on this person. The Holy Spirit says, in the words of the popular song, “Lean on me, when you are lonely, when you need a friend, to help you carry on, lean on me…”
All the scriptures declare without hesitation, that if I can trust Jesus with my life, then I can trust the Holy Spirit too. “I can trust him, I will depend upon him, I do rely upon him, I will count on his help”.
This is the only way to live! In partnership with God Himself through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit!