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THE HOLY SPIRIT

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					                        THE HOLY SPIRIT
                          Gen. 1:1-2, 2:7
                           I John 2: 1-6
                          John 14: 15-21
                              Acts 2:4
                        Rev. Nelson Weller

       I don‟t suppose you have been counting, but we have used
the words “Holy Spirit” a number of times during this service as
we do during every worship service. I just read a scripture lesson,
where the Holy Spirit is called a “Counselor”, and that is my text
today.
      The Holy Spirit is the agent God used to bring the church
into being and it is the Holy Spirit who daily works within our
lives. So we should be aware of his work. Yet of all Christian
doctrines, this is one that is easier to believe in than to define. If
we were to answer in 1000 words or more the question, “Who is
the Holy Spirit?‟ all of us would have trouble, including me. Most
likely we would have trouble finding 100 words to describe the
Holy Spirit. There is an old story that years ago before an All Star
baseball game the American League pitchers were discussing how
to pitch to Stan Musial, who was the greatest hitter in the National
League. Yogi Berra, a man known for his wit and insight, said to
the pitchers, “You guys are trying to figure out in 15 minutes what
no one has figured out in 15 years.” By the same token, my
attempting to define the Holy Spirit this morning in some 20
minutes, is trying to do something that people have not been able
to do in 20 centuries.
      Perhaps the simplest answer would be to say, “The Holy
Spirit is another name for God.” Any time we use the word Spirit
with a capital “S”, we could just as well use the word, “God.”
That is simple, but there are times in scripture when “Spirit” is
used, that are not that simple. So maybe we could say the Holy
Spirit is God‟s way of working with us; God‟s way of showing His
intangible connection with His creation. You have a fine example
of this in the creation story, where you have the words, “In the
beginning, the Spirit of God was moving over the waters.” In that
same account, you have the thought that it was God‟s spirit that
brought order to the chaos. One example used over the years
might mean something today; it is comparing God‟s Spirit to
sunlight. The idea works better on a cold, wintery day, when you
walk out into the sunlight and feel its warmth in spite of the cold.
But, I think you can get the same feeling today if you were to stand
out in the sunlight. The sun is 95 million miles away, a distance
we have trouble grasping, yet, we can actually feel its presence.
God‟s presence works the same way and what we feel is His Spirit.
       Another scripture passage that relates comes from John‟s
gospel, where Jesus speaks of how “the Father loves the son and
the son loves the Father.” It is not something we think about
much, but nowhere does scripture record the thought that the
Father loves the Spirit or the Son loves the Holy Spirit. But we do
understand the thought that the Spirit is divine love, the love that
flows between the Father and Son; that the Spirit is the bond that
binds the Father and Son into the Godhead. The Spirit is also the
bond that binds all of creation with the Creator. The Spirit brings
God to us and takes us to God. I do not think it is hard to
understand that “Holy Spirit” can be another name for God. But
that last thought, about the work of the Spirit, needs expanding. It
is the Spirit‟s activities which are involved, when we begin to think
of God influencing human behavior and actions. I do not think
most of us remember our Confirmation classes, how the Holy
Spirit is referred to as “the Lord and Giver of life,” “as the guide
and director of human activities.” This is one of the earliest ideas
in terms of the Spirit‟s human involvement. In Genesis 2, we read
how God breathed His Spirit into us, and that breath or Spirit, (and
the word is the same in Hebrew, Ru-ach), that ruach is that which
sets us apart from all the rest of creation. You have another
example of this thought in today‟s scripture, where we read, “I will
pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be
with you forever.” Think how much that thought resembles Jesus‟
last words to the disciples just before His ascension, “As the Father
has sent me, even so I send you. And when He had said this, He
breathed on them and said to them, „Receive the Holy Spirit.‟” In
these passages our Lord repeated the same action taken by God at
the creation of human beings. The Spirit was given to empower
the disciples and He will work in and thru their actions. Implied in
that idea is the thought that our intellectual, moral and religious
abilities come to us as a result of God giving us the Spirit. To me,
this is saying the Spirit‟s coming to us is actually what makes us
human.
        This brings us to a very important and practical
consideration. If the Spirit is another name for God, and the Spirit
is the divine influence that directs human activity, then how can we
be sure when something is the work of the Spirit and when it is
not? Over the years it has been very easy for people to attribute all
kinds of activities to the Spirit‟s direction. But we have to know if
it is the Spirit‟s will or the actions of a willful spirit to be sure.
There is a story about a group of women who went to President
Lincoln to get him to follow a course of action they wanted. They
made a very elaborate presentation about how Lincoln had been
made an appointed minister of God to bring this about. He ended
the interview thusly, “I won‟t argue this matter with you ladies, but
I would suggest you consider, if the Lord had appointed me to do
the work you indicate, don‟t you think He would have
communicated some awareness of that fact to me as well as to
you?”
        How often do we read or hear about some negative action
being taken and the person justifies their action by saying, “It is the
will of God?” Actually, knowing if something was of God or not
was one of the early problems experienced by the Church. In I
John you have this passage, “And by this we may be sure that we
know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says I know
Him, but disobeys His commandments is a Liar and the truth is not
in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly love for God is
perfected. He who abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in
which He walked.” Simply put, if what is being suggested or
being done does not match what Jesus did, and what He taught, it
cannot be of Him and therefore of the Spirit. God is love, and love
does not act in a violent way, so if someone claiming to be
following directions from the Spirit acts in a violent way, we can
easily say that action is not of the Spirit. We may justify some of
our violent actions, but we will never be able to say those actions
were of the Spirit, no matter what our justification.
       A second test comes from II Cor. 3:17 where Paul writes,
“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of God is, there is
freedom.” I personally apply this test to such things as social
movements and trends and the like because I have seen the rise of
a number of programs and governments that claim to be bringing
about some kind of freedom for its people, and therefore claim
support. However, when they get into power they suppress the
freedom of all those who do not agree with them. A prime
example in the news today is Zimbabwe. To me, such action can
hardly be of the Spirit. Of course, thinking like that puts us in a
bind, as you may have to support such an idea until it takes over
and then it may be too late to make a judgment. We do not live in
isolation and I think we have had enough examples in our lives that
if we want to judge, we can do a fairly good job of it. If we are
stuck, we can always turn to Paul‟s thoughts in Galatians, where
we are told the fruits of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
When these are present then I think we might be able to say this or
that is of the Spirit.
       If we need a further test, look at the flip side of Paul‟s coin,
for he also says that the fruits which come when the Spirit is not
present are: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery,
enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit,
envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I think if we use these
two lists, we can tell if something is of the Spirit or not.
       A boy, who grew up in a very emotional church group where
speaking in tongues and jumping up and around showed the
Spirit‟s presence, once asked his mother if it was always the Spirit
who took possession of such people. The mother, not wishing to
put anyone down replied, it was not how loud they shouted or how
high they jumped that mattered. What showed the Spirit was what
they did after they landed. Jesus said, “By our fruits we will be
known,” and Paul gave us two lists of things that we should or
should not have within us to show that we are connected to God by
His Spirit.
       If we have the qualities from the first list our definitions and
doctrines of the Holy Spirit will not be so important because we
will be positioned in such a way that the sunlight of God will be
shining on us by way of His Spirit; and we will know this to be a
fact, because we will be radiating that love onto all those around
us.
       Amen

				
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