I find it difficult to write a sermon on the theme of the Holy Spirit because, such is the importance of the Spirit to the Mission of the Church, that nearly all my messages are about the Holy Spirit in some way or another! If there was one topic on which I could talk at length it would be about an aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit of God, but today, I am going to go back to basics. For some, this teaching will be familiar, and yet for others it might be the first time they have truly considered who the Spirit is and why the Spirit is important.
Firstly, it is important to notice that I did not ask ‘what’ the Spirit is but ‘who’. You see, the Spirit of God is not a thing but a person — the third person of the Holy Trinity who is God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has always existed, as has the Father and the Son, and we first encounter the Spirit of God hovering over the waters of chaos at the beginning of creation, as recorded in the Book of Genesis. This also gives us a clue as to the work of the Spirit, for ever since we have been aware of the Spirit’s presence, we have recognised that the work of the Spirit is to bring order out of chaos in creation. The Spirit of God is not simply an unseen force but a conscious oneness with God that seeks to bring creation into fruition.
Think about it another way. The very act of creation is to bring order out of chaos. Take a simple example such as painting a picture. When you paint a picture you are being creative. You are bringing shape and lines — order — out of the paints. To paint is to bring order out of chaos or messiness, and this is what the Holy Spirit is about in every aspect of creation — whether it is light and darkness, mountains and seas, or the chaos or messiness in our own lives.
As human beings, we are endowed with creativity, just as God is creative, and we are made in His image. Therefore, the very best thing we can do is to align our creativity with God’s creativity, and as God’s creativity IS the Holy Spirit, we must align ourselves with the very Spirit of God, and the closer we can be to the Spirit the better. In fact, the closest the Spirit could possibly be is in our hearts and minds; for The Holy Spirit to come and make His or Her home in us; for us to become in some way houses or ‘temples’ of the Holy Spirit. That makes sense doesn’t it?
And of course, as Christians we know that the very mission of The Son — Jesus Christ — in the world was to enable, through his life, death, and resurrection, to be made clean so that God’s Spirit can live in us — not as an end in itself but so that the Church can continue the Mission of God in the World — to bring order out of chaos and the redemption and renewal the world needs.
As I mentioned, we are creative in the same way that God is creative, and we can choose how to use our creativity. Yes, it is possible to do good and the ‘right’ thing without accepting the forgiveness that comes though The Son, Jesus Christ, or being filled with God’s Spirit.
I once joined a charity bike ride from Devon to Turin in Italy. It was going to take us 13 days, mostly across the back roads of rural France. We had a support van with bike spares, however, most importantly, the route had been planned in advance and each morning we were given a map with directions. Day 7 was a long day. The ride was 93 miles down lanes and through the countryside. At about Midday and after about 60 miles I realised I was lost, I had taken a wrong turn, about 10 miles back! I had gone 10 miles in the wrong direction and was now off the map! Cycling on back roads without a map was not easy. I did not speak any French and the only two people I met on the journey could not speak any English.
You see, trying to do life in our own strength – trying to use our God-given creativity for good without the Holy Spirit is like getting on a bike, going for a ride, and setting off without a map. You may well end up going in the right direction for some of the journey, but you will not go the best way, be properly equipped, or even end up at the final destination! We NEED the Holy Spirit to guide us.
However, as the Holy Spirit is inside us, the Holy Spirit also transforms us into the likeness of Christ. As the Spirit guides us in God’s mission in the world, he guides us in our personal lives. He brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control into the life of the believer, and who would not want those things?
As the Holy Spirit is always outward-looking and looking to the interest of others, when we are filled with Spirit we become outward-looking and looking to the interest of others. The Spirit, being the very person of God, is not pushy or intrusive. The Spirit is gentle and loving and patient and will never override our own wills. The Spirit only goes where invited. The Spirit will only make Her home with you if you invite Her. And how do you invite the Spirit? You ask. Here is an excerpt from The Beatbox Gospel, a rhyming version of the Gospel of Luke 11.9-13:
If you ask you’ll get and if you seek you’ll find
Knock and the door will swing open wide
For askers get and will find if scoping
And if anyone knocks the door will open
Is there anyone here, if your kid makes a wish
That would give her a snake if she asks for a fish?
Or would give her a stone if she asks for bread?
Or a scorpion sting if she asks for an egg?
So if you know good gifting even though you are bad
How much more will your heavenly Dad
Give you the Holy Spirit? There’s legit, one task
Simply, open your mouth or heart. Just ask!
My prayer for you today is simple; that you would ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, that you might be equipped, as a member of the church, to join in with God’s mission in the world.