This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
Unstoppable – this is how the message of God’s saving love spreads after Jesus’ ascension from Jerusalem to the center of the world at that time to Rome and to this day throughout the world.
This is what the Acts of the Apostles tells, which we deal with in our new service series.
Jesus had given his disciples a commission to spread his message and he had told them not to do it on their own but to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit who would enable them.
We looked at waiting times and how we deal with them two weeks ago.
Today is about what happened back then at Pentecost and why we still celebrate Pentecost today.
And we want to look at who the Holy Spirit is, how He acts in our lives, who receives Him, and how we can live filled with the Holy Spirit.
A nursery worker was tasked with explaining the Divine Trinity to her children on Sunday.
After much pondering, she has a brilliant idea.
She buys a pretzel and shows it to the children.
A pretzel has 3 holes. All belong to the one pretzel.
She points to the first hole and says: This is like God the Father.
Pointing to the second: This is like God the Son
and on the third: This is like God, the Holy Spirit.
One pretzel, three holes.
One god, three persons.
Have the children do the same thing next time.
The employee has another pretzel with her and little David proudly announces:
The first hole is like God the Father, the second like Jesus the Son.
Then he points to the third hole, hesitates a bit and says: and the third hole, that’s the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost.
Talking about God is not that difficult, neither is it about Jesus. But the Holy Spirit, there are many question marks. How should I imagine that? Who is this? What does it have to do with our life as followers of Jesus?
So let’s look at:
1. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian
Finally came Pentecost. On that day they were all gathered again in the same place. Suddenly there came a roaring from heaven as of a mighty storm; the whole house they were in was filled with this roar. At the same time, they saw something like tongues of flame spreading out and settling on each one of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in strange tongues; everyone spoke as the spirit prompted them. Pious Jews from all over the world were in Jerusalem at the time because of the Pentecost festival. When that mighty roar from heaven began, they flocked together in droves. They were deeply confused, for each heard the apostles and those with them speaking in their own language. Stunned, they cried: “Aren’t they all Galileans who are speaking here? How is it, then, that each of us hears them speaking in our native language? We are Parthians, Medes and Elamites; we come from Mesopotamia and from Judea, from Cappadocia, from Pontus and from the province of Asia, from Phrygia and Pamphylia, from Egypt and from the region of Cyrene in Libya. There are visitors even from Rome, both those who are Jews by birth and non-Jews who have embraced the Jewish faith. Cretans and Arabs are also among us. And we all hear them speaking in our own tongues of the wonderful things God has done!’ Everyone was amazed. “What does that mean?” one asked the other, but neither had an explanation. However, there were also some who made fun of it. “They drank too much sweet wine!” they scoffed.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read how on Pentecost the disciples were praying together in Jerusalem and suddenly a mighty roar from heaven filled the house and something that looked like tongues of fire came upon the disciples.
We only see at the beginning that the Holy Spirit comes to people in this way, but there are reports from time to time in which something similar has happened, including from a place today where people even called the fire brigade.
The Holy Spirit speaks to the people around the disciples, who came together from all over the world for the Pentecost festival, in their own languages.
A special gift given by the Holy Spirit. And then Peter, the illiterate fisherman, gets up and starts preaching.
We’ll look at that in two weeks, the Holy Spirit will also enable him to do that.
Peter explains that they are experiencing the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy and that it is directly related to Jesus’ death and resurrection. He tells them about the love of God, that Jesus died for the sins of man, that forgiveness is possible and that all who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life. And he preaches with such authority that people turn to Jesus. On this day more than 3000 people are baptized and the church is formed.
And then in Acts we read how people are healed like Jesus, how angels deliver apostles from prison, how people are delivered from demons, how the Holy Spirit leads the disciples through dreams and visions unusual ways, how he preserves them, as miracle after miracle happens and through it all the message of God’s saving love spreads, many convert and many churches spring up.
Jesus had promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would descend from heaven in such power that he would enable them to be his witnesses and endow them with supernatural abilities.
But this I’ll call it outer dimension is just one side and it’s a sign of what the Holy Spirit does in a person.
This other side, even if it is not so visible and so spectacular, is just as important.
The Father will give you another helper in my place, who will be with you forever; i will ask him. He will give you the spirit of truth that the world cannot have because it does not see and does not know. But you know him because he stays with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as helpless orphans; I’m coming to you.
Believe me, it’s good for you that I’m leaving. For if I did not go away from you, the helper would not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will show the world they are wrong; he will open people’s eyes to sin, to righteousness and to judgment. He will show them what their sin is, that they do not believe in me. He will show them how God’s righteousness is demonstrated: that when I leave you and you see me no longer, I go to the Father. And as for judgment, he will show them that the ruler of this world is doomed. I still have a lot to say to you, but you would be overwhelmed now. But when the Helper comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will lead you to the full understanding of Truth. For what he will say, he will not say of himself; he will say what he hears. And he will tell you the things to come. He will reveal my glory; for what he will announce to you, he will receive from me. Everything that the father has is also mine. For this reason I say: what he shall declare to you, he shall receive from me.”
Whenever the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit, it is speaking of a person.
The Holy Spirit is addressed as a person, can be treated as a person, acts as a person himself, and has characteristics of a person.
Jesus speaks of another helper.
And we have to imagine it as if we were invited to drink coffee. There are different cakes to eat.
We eat a piece and now we can have another piece of the same cake or take a piece of a different cake.
There are two different terms for this in Greek.
And when Jesus speaks of a different helper, he speaks of a different piece of the same cake. A different person but of the same kind. Of a divine nature.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.
He acts no differently than the Father and the Son.
Jesus says it is good that he is going because otherwise the Holy Spirit would not come.
But what’s good about it?
Jesus could only be in one place at a time, but the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us.
So God is very close to each of us.
“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
How good that God and his love are so close to us.
The main work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus.
So to make Jesus big in our lives.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Parakletos, the advocate, the comforter, the helper, the helper.
He knows our thoughts, he knows exactly how you are feeling right now.
He knows what you need.
He studies you and is like a good counselor.
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit translates our prayers.
We try to pray to God with our best possibilities but sometimes, maybe you know that too, you have the feeling that you cannot put into words how you feel at the moment, what you need, what you want. And the Holy Spirit knows that exactly and then translates it.
I find that incredibly calming. And conversely, he knows God’s plan so well that he can transmit it to us and open it up.
He teaches us, he shows us the truth, he shows us how God thinks and he reminds us of what Jesus said.
He prepares people and He convicts them of sin.
He opens people’s eyes so that they understand what Jesus did on the cross.
He uses us and speaks through us.
We don’t have to understand everything to do that.
Peter didn’t have that either when he gave his Pentecost sermon.
But the Holy Spirit speaks through him.
He gives us the inner assurance that we are God’s children.
It is like a pledge that God will really take us into eternity.
He guides us, he gifts and enables us, and he encourages and corrects us.
God announced through the prophet Ezekiel:
Hes. 36, 25-27: I will pour out clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all impurity and from all your idols. I give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I take the heart of stone from your breast and give you a heart of flesh. I put my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my laws and heed my commandments and keep them.
A completely new, a completely different quality of strength and willingness to follow God is to come into our lives.
Through his death and resurrection on the cross, Jesus invalidated sin’s claims on our lives. Through this we have forgiveness. But forgiveness does not automatically mean being able to live redeemed.
For this we have received the Spirit of God, which changes and reshapes us from within, so that we become more and more like Jesus. He causes the fruits of the spirit, divine qualities of character, to grow in us.
At Pentecost we celebrate the coming of God through His Holy Spirit.
The essential difference from the OT is that the spirit resides permanently in each believer, whereas previously it was given and taken only to special persons and for special purposes.
And we see: that makes a huge difference.
Without the Holy Spirit we could not live as Christians.
He changes our lives and aligns us with God,
It’s an inside-out movement.
He guides us and uses us to be a channel of blessing to those around us.
And he is our assurance that we will arrive with God in eternity
So the Holy Spirit is so important that you want to make sure you have it.
Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and that ye are not your own?
So we are a temple for the Holy Spirit
That was something new at the time, because in the beginning God tied himself to the temple where he was present, to then make it clear to the Israelites that it was much bigger than a building, and finally to enter the people through the Holy Spirit dwell that belong to him.
Now there are people who wonder why they experience so little with the Holy Spirit.
And I think it’s good to reach for more, I have that longing too.
First of all, in reading Acts. be careful a bit, without wanting to limit God’s possibilities now.
Because reading it sometimes gives the impression that a miracle happens every day.
And it is reported about it in almost every chapter.
But from very different places and sometimes in a chapter it also says in a sentence that Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years, so there is quite a time in between.
I’m sure many of us here have seen miracles, and some have reported them.
So we should not be discouraged if we are not constantly experiencing something with God.
At the same time, I also believe that if we get more involved with HG and thus with God, and trust him to still work miracles today, that we too can and will experience even more in this regard.
But we shouldn’t limit the Holy Spirit to these spectacular experiences, signs, miracles, supernatural things either. But the Holy Spirit is much more than just these outward effects.
Some things, such as conversion or change, happen over years.Other things go faster, for example that he comforts me, guides me, speaks through me to others and also to me personally.If I don’t reduce him to that, then I have to say that I experience a lot from him, just maybe not always as clearly.
Nevertheless, the question of why some people experience so little with the Holy Spirit and, from people’s experiences, gave rise to a lesson that I am filled with the Holy Spirit in two stages.
First, when I commit my life to Jesus, and then there is a second event, also referred to as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that qualifies you for ministry where you are endowed with special gifts.The sign of this is the gift of being able to speak in a foreign language, which the Holy Spirit gives to the disciples, as at Pentecost.I’d like to watch this with you because some of them are so insecure that they think they’re second class Christians and they pray and pray and nothing happens and then they get really frustrated and they wonder if God really loves them, if thatenough what they have in their life.
First of all:
The New Testament has different terms for receiving the Holy Spirit. This is the coming of the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts. 2 and the concept of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which says nothing other than that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, the anointing and sealing with the Holy Spirit, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit
They are all terms for one and the same event. This is what the disciples experience at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit comes, is poured out by God, given by him.
The doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is anchored in four Bible passages.
1. Some say Pentecost was a second filling of the Holy Spirit for the disciples, for Jesus had previously breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).
But he had also said that he had to go first before the spirit came upon her. (John 16:7), we read that earlier.
So this breathing was symbolic of a later event that occurred at Pentecost.
2. The conversion of Paul. Acts 9
Paul is pursuing the Christians when he meets Jesus on the way. He tells him that Paul should go to Damascus and that he will find out there what happens next. When Paul looks up, he is blind. Now comes Ananias, a disciple whom Jesus commands to go to Paul and pray for him, and in doing so, Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Some say this is the second time because he has turned back before on the way to Jesus. But when Ananias prayed for him, it is literally said: Immediately it fell from his eyes like scales, and he regained his sight; and he arose and was baptized.
It fell from his eyes like scales is a name not only for his regained sight, but also for his inward sight and knowledge of Jesus.
3. In Acts. 19 is about twelve followers of John the Baptist.
Paul comes and asks them if they have received the Holy Spirit yet.
Although their lifestyle was not very different from that of Christians, it turned out that they were not following Jesus but had been baptized as a result of what John the Baptist had said.
So Paul first had to explain to them who Jesus actually was.
They were then baptized in the name of Jesus, which was an expression of their conversion, and received the Holy Spirit.
And finally there is a 4th passage in Acts. 8, from verse 14:
But when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. They came down and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. For hitherto none of them had received the Spirit, although they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
This is indeed a reception of the Holy Spirit, but it says specifically that they had not received the Holy Spirit before. And why is this happening separately from conversion?
We talked last Sunday about how Jesus commissioned his disciples to take his message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. We have also seen that at first they thought that Jesus wanted to set up a kingdom based solely on Israel.
The Samarians were a mixed race of Jews and foreigners, actually despised by the Jews. It was here that non-Jewish people were converted for the first time. The reception of the Spirit under the authority of the apostles was, so to speak, the public sign that they had really become believers, that God’s offer of salvation was also valid for other peoples.
Later in Acts 10 we read how a Roman received the Holy Spirit for the first time.
The Jews from the community in Joppa, who had come with Peter, could hardly believe that God also gave the Holy Spirit to non-Jews. For they heard people speaking in foreign tongues and praising God.
Here Peter was directly present as an apostle and the gift of speaking in foreign tongues, just like there was an extra sign among the Samaritans, was a confirmation of the reception of the Holy Spirit.
Later we will no longer read about it explicitly. And we see, when Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12:30, that not everyone gets this gift, so that it cannot be a sign of this second event with the Holy Spirit.
This means that everyone who invites Jesus into their life also receives the Holy Spirit and God provides everything that enables them to live as a Christian.
Nevertheless, there is a difference in the life of a Christian, because the question is not only:
Do I have the Holy Spirit, but does the Holy Spirit have me? Does the Holy Spirit have you?
The Bible says I can give the Holy Spirit more or less space in my life.
And you will notice that.
And that brings me to my last point:
3. Live filled with the Holy Spirit
Since we have a new life through God’s spirit, we now want to be determined by this spirit at every turn. (Galatians 5:25)
The Bible makes it clear that we have the choice to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, to be guided by Him and the Bible, and to do what God wants us to do.
We can just as well, although we have invited Jesus into our lives, deny him some areas of our lives, set other priorities, hardly spend any time with God and do not take it so seriously with listening to him and doing.
Writes Paul in connection with behavior that is not pleasing to God.
The Bible makes it clear to us that the Spirit of God withdraws in our lives or in individual areas of our lives if we do not give it space, if we do not listen to it and do not allow ourselves to be guided by it.
First, by confessing sin that stands between God and us. Things we have done, areas we have withheld from God, where we have not listened to His word.
He tells us:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1.John 1:9
So we become free for the Holy Spirit.
The second step is then to make our lives available to him with everything that goes with it, and not just as lip service on Sunday morning, but to make ourselves available to him every day of the week:
Romans 12:1I have shown you, brothers and sisters, how great is God’s mercy. The only proper answer is that you offer your whole life to God and present yourselves to him as a living and holy sacrifice, in which he delights. This is true worship, and I challenge you to it.
The third step is to ask God for more of his spirit:
Luke 11:13If you, hard-hearted people, give good things to your children, how much more will Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him
And I believe that at this point people sometimes also experience emotionally that the Holy Spirit fills them and that we are very close to what people call the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
But it’s not about a second event, it’s what we need throughout our lives to open ourselves up and trust God and ask for more of his Holy Spirit because he has so many effects in our lives as we saw at the beginning .
And then it is important that we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit in our lives when he speaks to us through the Bible or in everyday life, to trust him and to do what he tells us to do .
And that’s actually always a cycle, because we’re not perfect people.
But little by little we are transformed by the Spirit and we trust more.
and then let’s see what God is doing by His Spirit in our lives and through our lives.
We have seen what role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives, that it is good that he dwells in us and that he wants to fill us more and more and use us in our everyday life.
And if you belong to Jesus, then you have the Holy Spirit and you don’t need a second event to be fully equipped, but you do need to open yourself to the Holy Spirit, invite Him, make yourself available to Him, to His speaking listen and do what he says.
And that’s why I want to invite you this morning to open yourself to him and his work this morning.
to let you forgive
to make you available to him again
and during the next few songs to ask God to give you more of his good spirit in your life.
that he fulfills you.
And the Bible says when that happens, rivers of living water flow from your life to others. And that’s what the people around us need so much.