Ongoing Work of the Holy Spirit

In America, we enjoy many freedoms, but some of the things we have as freedoms aren’t the same everywhere in the world. The freedoms we have here are freedoms that were bought by the blood of many who sacrificed their lives for them.

It can be a problem, though, when we try to utilize the freedoms we have here in other places. The freedoms we have here in America are extensive.

Last year, we saw the story of Brittany Griner play out. She was a professional women’s basketball player who was playing over in Russia. Many of you probably heard of her imprisonment in Russia last year. She was caught with drugs in her luggage. That probably would have gotten her nothing more than a slap on the wrist here (if that), but over in Russia it had her imprisoned for months.

I am not looking to get into the crime, or how Russia used it to their advantage. The reality is that there are consequences for our actions when we break the rules of the laws of the land we are in.

We see this at times when missionaries go into countries that don’t have freedom of religion, and end up in prison. There are consequences for breaking laws, and ignorance typically isn’t an acceptable excuse.

In this blog we are going to look at what is typically the last non-negotiable of the evangelical faith. As we look at this final topic of the indwelling and continuing work of the Holy Spirit, we will be looking at a topic mentioned a few weeks ago, sanctification – or the process of being made into the image of Jesus.

As we begin to look at the indwelling and ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, I would like us to start with a couple of verses.

“The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Luke 3:15-17 NIV

When John the Baptist was asked if he was the Messiah, he said no, but he also let them know what to expect. When the Messiah (Jesus) comes, he will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus speaks about the coming of the Holy Spirit in John chapters 14-16:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever--- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17 NIV
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father---the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father---he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27 NIV
“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment...” John 16:7-8 NIV

As Leon Morris points out in his commentary on John, the Holy Spirit is referred to as helper, advocate, and prosecutor.

Gerald Borchert says this in New American Commentary on John 12-21:

“Morris is certainly correct when he states, ‘The basic sin is the sin that puts self at the center of things and consequently refuses to believe.’ If one were to relate this idea to a political system, it would be the equivalent of registering a charge of treason against a ruler, and there is no question that John regarded Jesus as the Lord (John 20:28).”

Jesus is to be both Lord and Savior of our lives, even if today we seem to only want Him as Savior, as we seek to have lordship over our own lives.

As we move from the Gospels to Acts, we go from learning a little bit about the Holy Spirit, and seeing Him active, to seeing the Holy Spirit being given to those who believe.

In Acts chapter 1, the disciples were told to wait for the Holy Spirit to come.

“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5 NIV

Here we see the Holy Spirit given at a separate time after they believe. Starting in Acts chapter 2, they were told to repent and be baptized, and they would be filled by the Holy Spirit.

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off---for all whom the Lord our God will call.’” Acts 2:38-39 NIV

For those looking to dig deeper into the work of the Holy Spirit, there are a couple of good books to read. On the charismatic side there is Perspectives on Pentecost by Richard B. Gaffin Jr, and on the other side there is Baptism and Fullness: the Work of the Holy Spirit Today by John R.W. Stott.

I really like how John R. W. Stott explains the process of sanctification… he speaks about how the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us and forms Jesus in us. He unites us, helps us to worship, and equips us.

Later on Stott mentions that “Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that it is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate, and transform us.” Baptism and Fullness: the Work of the Holy Spirit Today by John R.W. Stott. p. 25-26

A few weeks ago I wrote about the differences between those who live according to the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh cannot please God.

“Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” Rom. 8:8-9 NIV

In Romans 8 we see that there are two states we can be in, the flesh (world) or the Spirit. This is what we spoke about a few weeks ago when we talked about regeneration or new birth (we won’t go into detail again, but you can go back and listen or read about it if you missed it).

With this very basic understanding, let’s look at Romans 8:12-14:

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation---but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Rom. 8:12-14 NIV

There is this amazing partnership that happens when we become believers. We cannot save ourselves, only God can do that. The good that is in us comes from God. But we do have a responsibility…

Notice he says in verse 12, “therefore brothers and sisters…” He is speaking to what we would consider to be believers. The Spirit will give us strength, but as He gives us the strength, we are to follow His lead and live as He calls and leads us to live. And there are consequences if we choose not to. This comes from Douglas Moo’s commentary on Romans:

“We must not eviscerate this warning: Paul clearly affirms that his readers will be damned if they continue to follow the dictates of the flesh. As Murray puts it, ‘The believer’s once-for-all death to the law of sin does not free him from the necessity of mortifying sin in his members; it makes it necessary and possible for him to do so.” New International Commentary on the New Testament “The Epistle to the Romans” by Douglas Moo p. 494

To mortify sin is to kill it. He is saying that by dying to the law of sin through belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are able to, with His help, work to kill the chronic sin that is in our lives.

We are not to live unrepentant lives.

This means we are not to live lives in sin that we don’t repent from. And if we are repentant, then the Holy Spirit is working in us and with us as we seek to turn from that sin.

On the topic of regeneration, it is typically looked at a couple of ways. These are the Arminian and Calvinist viewpoints.

For those who choose to live in their sin, the Arminians would say that they could lose their salvation, and the Calvinist would say that the person was never really saved.

The end result is the same.

I was asking some of my pastor friends about this, and it was interesting as some stand on different sides of this issue. But no one doubts regeneration, or the power of the Holy Spirit to draw people to God and help people live lives that are pleasing to Him.

The Holy Spirit has been working in the church for over 2,000 years, and in this way, the Holy Spirit continues to work today. Working in partnership with us (and fortunately doing all of the hard lifting for us).

I like the way Douglas Moo puts it…

“While the Christian is made responsible for this ‘mortification’ of sins, he or she accomplished this only ‘through the Spirit.’ Holiness of life, then, is achieved neither by our own unaided effort — the error of ‘moralism’ or ‘legalism’ —nor by the Spirit apart from our participation — as some who insist that the key to holy living is ‘surrender’ or ‘let go and let God’ would have it — but by our constant living out the ‘life’ placed within us by the Spirit who has taken up residence within.” New International Commentary on the New Testament “The Epistle to the Romans” by Douglas Moo p. 494

In Eph. 4, there is a great section of do’s and don’ts for Christians living in the Spirit, and near the end we are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit:

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Eph. 4:30 NIV

I believe this helps us to see that we play a part in the process of sanctification. It might be a minor part, but it is a part just the same. But our desire should be to keep from grieving God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

When we believe in Jesus, we believe in Him as our Savior and Lord… this is why sin is such a problem! We are children of His family, citizens of His kingdom. And we should be seeking to obey His laws. We can’t do this alone, but fortunately, we don’t have to because the Holy Spirit is still at work today! One of the ways that the Spirit is seen is through our lives.

He is seen in our lives because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19):

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”  1 Cor. 6:19 NIV

And since our bodies are His temple, His fruit should be seen in our lives, and the lives of all believers. A list of them are seen in Gal. 5:22-23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Gal. 5:22-25 NIV

These are expected to be seen in the life of believers in Jesus. They are fruit that is seen because the Holy Spirit lives in us.

Since some of us come from different views on spiritual gifts, let’s dig in. When we mention different views, typically they are versions of charismatics and cessationists.

Those in the charismatic movement see the gifts of the Spirit as being active today. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12:

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Cor. 12:7-11 NIV

There are many denominations that follow this list. I have even heard some pastors and teachers call themselves apostles.

People of the other viewpoint are typically called cessationists.

Richard Gaffin writes that cessationists follow a few passages of teaching, and these passages bring them to believe that prophesy and tongues ended prior to Christ’s ascension and are no longer utilized by the Holy Spirit.

Notice that one of the gifts from 1 Cor. 12 is that of an apostle. Cessationists would look at the apostles as having ended with Paul. We can read 1 Cor. 15:7-8 and they would believe that this shows that Apostleship ended with Paul. In Acts 1, when the apostles were looking to replace Judas Iscariot, one of the requirements was to choose someone who was with them from the time of Jesus’ baptism on. All of those people are gone now.

We want to understand what different stances are as we understand that there are different opinions on the gifts of the Spirit. We have people here who hold different views on spiritual gifts.

One thing we (hopefully) can agree on is that the Spirit is active today, even if we may see His moving a bit differently.

Specifically, with regard to speaking in tongues, the Elm Street Community Church follows 1 Cor. 14, where we ask that if someone is going to pray in tongues, they pray quietly unless there is someone else there to interpret.

To wrap up:

We believe in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works in our lives, partnering with us to help us become who we are created to be. We believe that Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit when we believe. When we believe, He chooses to live in us and makes His temple in us.

He calls us to obey Him, and fills us with His Spirit so this is possible, as it is impossible without His help and guidance.

And because He lives in us, the fruits of the Spirit can and should be seen in our lives because we are His children, and citizens of His kingdom. We also believe that the Spirit guides us to the truth, and enables us to fully worship Him.

And since the greatest fruit of the Spirit is love, it should be seen in us as a sign of His presence in our lives, and is in fact how we will be known to be His disciples.

We also believe that unity is possible in the Spirit, even if we don’t agree on every issue. Unity is possible because God is one, and because He is in us (I wrote about this last week).

And as far as gifts of the Spirit, we will leave that in His hands, and allow Him to give and use them as He sees fit.

I hope this series on what we consider to be the non-negotiables of our faith has been helpful for you. If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out to me.

And even if we aren’t in full agreement on these issues, I hope it brings about further discussion so that we can grow in our faith together. As it says in Ephesians 4:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:11-16 NIV

Lord, continue to bring us together, and guide us towards unity and maturity in our faith, until that day we stand before You. In Jesus’ Name…

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