Somewhere in the course of my reading I ran across these statements or truths:
“Bethlehem is God with us.
Calvary is God for us.
Pentecost is God in us.”
In this particular article, I would like to spend some time looking at the later assertion which points to the work of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. In writing this article, I in no way presume to even attempt a summary of the work of the Holy Spirit. I think that would be impossible. I do hope, however, that it will serve as an introduction for our Michigan District 2015 Theological Conferences … LIFE IN THE SPIRIT: Watered, Fed, and Armed taking place February 21, 2015 at Faith, Grand Blanc and March 21, 2015 at Holy Cross, Jenison and several simulcast locations.
What I think would be helpful is a brief, biblical review of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Bible helps us understand how the Holy Spirit works in and through our life and how He makes real to us, and in us, what Jesus, the world’s Savior, accomplished on Calvary’s cross. Jesus says in John 15:26: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” We also embrace a familiar and similar sentiment expressed by Martin Luther in his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.
The Holy Spirit Works for You
One of the first things the Holy Spirit does is to convict us of our need of salvation. In John 16, the Lord Jesus has been talking about the Holy Spirit to the disciples. The Holy Spirit is God, the third person in the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes this statement about the work of the Holy Spirit in verses 8–11: “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will do a work of conviction. I cannot convict anybody of his sin. I can make you feel guilty. You can make me feel guilty. But the Holy Spirit has to convict people of their sin and their need for Jesus. He convicts.
How does the Holy Spirit convict? According to the Scriptures, and putting a lot of them together, the way the Holy Spirit convicts all people of their need of salvation is by turning on the light in their life. The word convict carries the idea of ‘turning on the light.’ It is only as the light is revealed and reveals that lost people see their need of the Lord.
God has His revealing, saving, convicting light in three places
God put the light in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Unfortunately, many people are not interested in the Lord Jesus Christ.
He also put the light in His Word, the Scriptures. Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.”
When you come to church and listen to the Word, or when you read the Bible at home, you are encountering the inspired, inerrant Word of God. As the Holy Scriptures are shared and learned, the Holy Spirit attending the Word of God convicts people of their sinfulness, their lost condition, and their need of Jesus.
Have you ever listened to the Word of God and, as it was being expounded upon in the sermon, thought that it was directed specifically to you? You wondered, “Who’s been telling the preacher about me?” Nobody. Thatʼs the Holy Spirit. But, unfortunately, a lot of people never come to hear the Word of God or they never read the Scriptures.
The third place God has deposited the light is in His people, the saints of God. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). As Christian people live for the Lord around lost people, it turns the light on and it shows them their need for Jesus … or sadly, their disgust for Him.
You can begin to see a process, a flow in how this works:
• The Holy Spirit convicts people of their need of Jesus;
• They repent of their sins;
• By grace, through faith, they believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord; and the moment they do…
• God the Holy Spirit makes them a light in a dark world.
Sin – Savior – Salvation – Shine
Listen also to Ephesians 1:13,14 to see what else the Spirit does for you: “Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (NIV).
There are two ‘transactions’ the Spirit does when we’re saved:
One, we are “sealed” by the Holy Spirit. The moment you are saved, God puts the seal and sign of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Two, you are also given the Holy Spirit as a “deposit.”
In Bible days, the seal meant several things. It meant a finished transaction. When you finished the transaction, you put a seal on the document. It also meant ownership. A seal on something meant that you owned it. You had your own signet seal.
When you are saved, God is saying that the work is done, the transaction is complete. When you are saved, God the Holy Spirit is given to you as a seal saying that you belong to the Lord. You belong to Him because you have been purchased and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, to Whom the Holy Spirit directs you!
And the Holy Spirit is a “deposit.” If you go to the car dealership and you see a car you like, you put down a deposit. What the deposit means is that you will finish the transaction later. The deposit is your guarantee that you are going to pay the rest of it.
The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is God’s deposit, His down payment. Everything He promised you at salvation Heʼs going to give you: His power, presence, peace, sustenance, and heaven. Every time you receive a blessing from the Lord—wake up and listen! That’s God saying: “This is just the down payment. Youʼll get the full ‘load’ when you come home to heaven.”
The last thought I want you to consider about the Spirit’s work for you is that, when you are saved, when you receive the gift of saving faith in the waters of Holy Baptism or through the hearing of the Word of God— Godʼs Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you. Jesus said in John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (Cf. Romans 8:9-11).
Think about that. Get the impact of what’s being said here. This passage of Scripture, and numerous others I point to in the Word of God teaches that, when the Holy Spirit gives us faith and brings us to Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, God, the Holy Spirit, comes to live in you. What an awesome, overwhelming blessing. Godʼs Spirit is in you. Those hard times you go through, Heʼs right there. Those times when you need a special touch from the Lord, Heʼs right there.
Thereʼs so much more I want to say about that, but this is the first thing: the work of the Spirit for you is salvation.
The Holy Spirit’s Work in You
Picking up on the fact that the Holy Spirit is within you, we come to the second work of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit in you is called sanctification. The Bible says that believers are sanctified … which means that we are set apart by God for God.
The moment we are saved, WE ARE SAVED … completely, wholly, perfectly SAVED! But, in another sense, or in another snapshot of God’s saving work in our life, God the Holy Spirit is just beginning His work in our life. His intent is that we are more and more separated from sin and more and more separated unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Thatʼs what the Holy Spirit strives to accomplish within your life. He wants to get the sin out that still plagues us, and He wants to get the good things of God more established—like the fruit of the Spirit (Cf. Galatians 5:22, 23).
One thing the Holy Spirit does is to begin His reclaiming and cleanup work in us. If you were saved by God’s great grace later in life there was probably a whole lot of junk that God needs to get out, some habits that ought not to be in your life. The Holy Spirit comes in and starts working on those. Every time you get ready to do one of those things youʼve been doing, the Holy Spirit says, “Do you think you ought to do that?” All of a sudden the Holy Spirit starts pointing out things to you that ought not to be in your life.
I think it’s a whole lot like one of the older gentlemen who got married in one of my first congregations. He fell in love with and married Eloise (name changed to protect the innocent). She came into his house, looked around and said, “My goodness sakes alive.” All of a sudden she took the vacuum out and began cleaning up. She mopped the floors and put things away. She picked up his dirty clothes and put them in the washing machine. A little while later, he looked around and didnʼt even recognize his own place. It even seemed bigger. She cleaned it up for him and he said, “I kind of like this! It looks better in here.”
Then, about two days later, she came back again with a vacuum cleaner, broom, and mop. She swept what she did two days earlier and then started on the second floor. He asked, “What are you doing?” She responded, “Iʼm cleaning up again.” He exclaimed, “Again? You just did it two days ago.” Friends, this is a process.
Thatʼs the way it is being a child of God and having the Holy Spirit in you. He continually points us to the cleansing blood of Jesus and at the same time keeps digging up the dirt and working to get it out of us. He cleans up and reclaims what He can and then He begins His transforming work in us.
As you worship, continue receiving the Sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood, and regularly read and meditate on the Holy Scriptures, you are connecting to a power source—the Means of Grace—where the Holy Spirit is present and where He mightily works. We see what begins to happen in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
In other words, as you read God’s Word, you read about Jesus. As you read about Jesus, see Jesus, and get to know Jesus your Savior … you change. We “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
This is what Jesus prayed for in His High Priestly prayer in John 17:17:“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” As you continue reading the Word, God’s truth begins to work on you and in you. As more and more of the bad stuff gets thrown out and more and more of the good stuff starts coming in and remaining—you’re changed. It’s not all at once. It’s a process. Salvation is in an instant. Sanctification, transformation, is a lifelong development.
As God the Holy Spirit continues His work in your life, you are going to notice the growing reality that God is at the center of your life where He rules and reigns. You’re living “better,” at peace with God and yourself, and you’re happier. You’re going to like the new you the Holy Spirit is producing in you.
The Holy Spirit’s Work through You
The third work is the work the Holy Spirit does through you. This is our work of service as we use the particular gifts that He has given us.
Philippians 1:19 reveals a precious truth: “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” The provision of the Holy Spirit. “Provision” is a very interesting word. Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit provides everything you and I need to serve the Lord. But there are many times we donʼt feel like we have what we need to serve the Lord.
I believe that there are only three “ingredients” needed to serve the Lord:
• I need to know what the Lord wants me to do. I need wisdom;
• I need the right kind of love to love people enough to do what God wants me to do; and
• I need power to do what God wants me to do.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 1:7:“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (ESV). Put these last three “gifts” in reverse order. Start at the bottom of the verse and move up. God has not given us the spirit of fear; He has given us the spirit of self-control (soundness of mind). God the Holy Spirit will give you the wisdom to know how to serve the Lord.
He also gives you love: love for Him and for others so that you can do His will in the right way and with the right motives.
We also need power to be able to do God’s will. Paul reminds us again that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power. Jesus said in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
In closing, I’d like for you to remember a few other Bible verses. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul writes: “Do not quench the Spirit.” God’s Holy Spirit wants to work through you in service to the world. God says don’t put out the Spirit’s fire. Let Him work through you.
Paul also writes in Ephesians 4:30: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” When God’s Holy Spirit wants to work in you, don’t grieve Him. Let Him work in your life.
By His gracious invitation let us continually turn to Christ and ask for forgiveness, renewal, and transformation. And may we always heed the invitation of Jesus in Luke 11:13: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Please join us for our Michigan District 2015 Theological Conferences … LIFE IN THE SPIRIT: Watered, Fed, and Armed … to learn, discuss, and experience more on the Holy Spirit. (Please note: deadline for early bird registration fee was extended to Fri, January 30. To register, click here.)