Friday, May 23, 2014

The Presence of the Holy Spirit

Most Christians can probably point to a time (or many times) in their life where they experienced the presence of God. Whether that be at a Sunday morning worship service, a conference, or on their own. It is amazing to experience the presence of the living God. However, there is something that we must understand as Christians. The presence of God is not merely at church services or conferences. The Bible makes it clear that the presence of the Holy Spirit is within believers. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that a believer's body is "the temple of the Holy Spirit." Let's take a moment and realize what this truly means...

In the Old Testament God commanded Moses in Exodus 25:8: "Have the people build a holy sanctuary so I can live among them." The God of the universe wanted to live among his people. He asked Moses to have the Tabernacle made. Moses went ahead and made it. The Tabernacle was continually torn down and built back up, as Israel traveled through the wilderness on their way to the promised land. After Israel was established in the land God had given them, they built the Temple, which was a permanent version of the Tabernacle. It was within the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) that the presence of God dwelt.  

Within the Temple there was a place called the Holy Place. Various sacrifices were offered here on a daily basis. Beyond the Holy Place was a curtain. Past this curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place--also known as the Holy of Holies. It is here that the Ark of the Covenant stood. This is where the presence of God is said to have been. This Most Holy Place was a sacred place. Unlike the Holy Place, the Most Holy Place was only to be entered once a year on the Day of Atonement, by the High Priest (Leviticus 16). Each year the High Priest would offer a sacrifice to the Lord to atone for the sins of himself, and the sins of Israel. This was the only time that a person would be permitted to enter into the presence of the Lord.

Fast forward now to the death of Jesus. When Jesus died something very interesting happened. After Jesus died in Matthew 27, it says in verse 51: "the curtain in the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." This was the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. It is what represented the Presence of God. When Jesus died the Old Covenant was fulfilled, and the age of the New Covenant had begun. No longer would God dwell within the temple. No longer would the presence of God be unavailable for the people of God. Instead, the people of God (believers) would be the temple of God, like it says in 1 Corinthians 6. Now believers all have access to the presence of God every day, instead of the High Priest once a year. 

This is an amazing privilege and something that we need to recognize! God the Holy Spirit lives within us! This should change the way we live, think, and do everything. This should encourage us, for not only is God for us, he is within us! He is transforming us to become more like Jesus! He is using us to accomplish His will, which is greater and more important than ours! We can experience God's presence every day, because his presence is within us! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Transforming Power of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the eternal God. Last week we discussed how God the Holy Spirit comes alongside believers to encourage, comfort, and strengthen them. Today's topic is the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

In Galatians 5 we have two different lists. The first list gives the results of the human nature. It is what naturally comes about through humans. Galatians 5:19-21 says that when we follow our human, sinful, and selfish nature, we will find these things in our lives: " idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these." Paul (the author of Galatians) goes on to say that people who do these things will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God; in other words: will not go to heaven. 

So, if by nature we as humans do these things, and these things send us to hell, how can we be saved? Is it by trying really hard to abstain from doing wrong? Is it to try really hard to do good? No, and no. In Titus 3:4-5 we read: "But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit."

On our own we will only produce evil. But, when we put our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes in and transforms us into a new person. The Holy Spirit gives us "new birth." We are born-again, just as Jesus said we must be (John 3:3). When the Holy Spirit transforms us, we begin to produce new fruit. This is what we read about in the second list in Galatians 5, in verses 22-23: "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" When we are born-again (of the Spirit), we begin to produce new fruit. Our lives look different. The way we think is no longer the same. Our attitude is different. Everything about is is new! This is the work that God does in us at salvation. 

However, the point in which we are born-again (or "saved") is only the beginning the Holy Spirit's transforming work in our lives. For even though we are given a new nature at conversion, we still live in our fleshly bodies and live in this fallen world. Because of this, our sinful nature will always attempt to spring back to life.

Therefore, if we lack patience, self-control, or any of the other "fruit of the Spirit," we must ask the Holy Spirit to produce them within us. For, it is only Him who can do so. And, when we see things like selfishness, lustful thinking, or fits of rage in our lives, we must go to the Lord and ask him to change us. If we live our lives in this way, and continually seek Him, we will see the transformation of the Holy Spirit within us. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Identity of the Holy Spirit

This our first part in a series at Encounter Student Ministries concerning the Holy Spirit. Before we dig into the numerous topics concerning the Holy Spirit (baptism in the Holy Spirit, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, fruit of the Spirit, gifts of the Spirit, etc.), we need to understand what God's Word tells us about the identity of the Holy Spirit. 

So, let's start with the question: did the Holy Spirit have a beginning point? Was the Holy Spirit created? In Genesis 1:2, right after God created "the heavens and the earth," we read: "The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters." The Holy Spirit (or here called the "Spirit of God") was there at creation! The Holy Spirit is eternal, without beginning and end. 

Is the Holy Spirit similar to "the force" in Star Wars? Is it some sort of energy field, or mystical power? The answer is found in Scripture. While there may be some similarities between "the force" and the Holy Spirit, the force is a very poor analogy. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit can grieve, counsel, comfort, testify, and intercede. Can some mystical force or energy field do those things? No. But, a person can. 

The Holy Spirit is never referred to as an "it," but always a "he." In John 14:15-17 Jesus said: "If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. HE is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive HIM, because it isn’t looking for HIM and doesn’t recognize HIM. But you know HIM, because HE lives with you now and later will be in you." The Holy Spirit is a person! And no ordinary person, but as we discovered earlier, the Holy Spirit is an eternal person!

But, we still have yet to get to his true identity. Who is this eternal person? Logic of course points that the Holy Spirit is God, considering the fact that God is the only eternal entity. Scripture also teaches us the same thing, that the Holy Spirit is God. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, Paul is telling the Corinthians how no one knows a person's thoughts except that person (specifically that person's spirit). He goes on to say that no one knows the deep thoughts and secrets of God, except the Holy Spirit. This is because the Holy Spirit is God. To ride on our last two points, the Holy Spirit is the eternal person of God!

I would like to go back to John 15, and close with what the Holy Spirit does for us. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be our "advocate." Other translations say encourager, comforter, or counselor. The original Greek word there is "paraclete." This word meant to "come alongside of." This is what God the Holy Spirit does for believers. He comes alongside believers. This is truly amazing. The God of the universe loves us and cares for us enough to come alongside each of us. He comes alongside us and comforts us when we need comfort, encourages us when we are discouraged, strengthens us when we are tempted, and convicts us of our sin when we straying from Him.  This truly is amazing. We need to realize this, and bring everything to Him, for the Holy Spirit is the eternal person of God who comes alongside us. If we truly believe this, the way we live should be different than the world! We need to hold on to this amazing truth. Our God is with us always!