John 14:12-21 – Third Person – Demystified
Last year on my visit to Ghana one of the attendees at the conference I was teaching at asked me as a simple question. What’s the difference between The Holy Ghost and The Holy Spirit? A simple question which belayed a misunderstanding of who the Holy Spirit really is. Jesus said: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” God’s Spirit is a gift to bless us, one that He would not have us fear or ignore. Over the next few weeks, we explore who the Holy Spirit really is and why Jesus sent The Holy Spirit to us. Along the way, we shall also bust a few myths.
The service recording failed so please excuse this recording which has a little echo from my office.
Speaking Notes – Caveat
These notes are my speaking notes and are provided as an accompaniment to the recording. Please accept that they are not intended to be a published grammatically correct essay. I do hope and pray however they help you move towards Jesus.
Now onto the content…
Today I want to re-introduce us to an old friend who has been a little misunderstood over time. Who is it? Well as you may be aware this series we are in right now is looking at the Holy Spirit. The third person of the trinity. A helper, a guide. God himself.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to explore who the Holy Spirit is. You see, It seems to me that across the church there is quite a misunderstanding of who the Holy Spirit is, not just across our family church but often in general and that is incredibly sad.
So I am going to bust five myths about the Holy Spirit. I am going to list five things about the Holy Spirit that I hear often and then simply give you some relevant Bible verses and a little of my own experience in that area. Then I will leave you to make your own mind up. I am sure there are many more misunderstandings and myths about the Holy Spirit but we are going to bust five myths today.
Strap yourself in, because we will be going at quite a pace.
Myth 1. Holy Spirit isn’t needed we have the Bible.
I hear sometimes that we don’t need the Holy Spirit when we can simply read the Bible. Well, let us see what the Bible itself says about that.
John 14:26 [Jesus said] But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
It’s not one or the other it is both. Indeed particularly as Anglicans our theology, that is how we live our lives as Christians. Our Theology is made up of Tradition, that is what we have learnt from Christians across the ages who have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is made up of scripture, otherwise known as The Bible, which itself says that all scripture is God-breathed or Holy Spirit created. Finally it is made up of reason, the God-given ability to use our minds and be inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Anglicans are Holy Spirit people we don’t simply rely on one part of who God is.
Myth 2. Holy Spirit is not God and is less than the Father and the Son.
To say that one part of the Trinity is less than the other two is a very old heresy. Just as the Father and Jesus are one so is the Spirit one with the Father and Jesus. The Trinity is not easy to understand, and perhaps it is not supposed to be easy but we say it regularly in our creed, and this has been the truth know amongst Christians and particularly Anglican Christians for hundreds of years.
The Athanasian Creed, which is one of the earliest european christian creeds of the church from about 400 ad says:
That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son: and another of the Holy [Spirit]. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit], is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Indeed Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is equally God as the Father and the Son and that is why we are to baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. Anglicans have always been the Holy Spirit people who know all of the Trinity, including the Holy Spirit are equal.
Myth 3. Holy Spirit is a weird and scary “force”.
I remember one vicar I knew referring to the Holy Spirit as being similar to “The Force” out of Star Wars. As though we can use the Holy Spirit in some mystical way in the same way Luke Skywater uses the force. Indeed I may have been equally guilty of using such analogies in the past. It also doesn’t help that for years we translated the greek Pneuma (“New Ma”) as Holy Ghost which in our English brains make the Holy Spirit into some sort of disembodied creature floating around in a bed sheet.
However that is not how Jesus refers to God’s Spirit. Actually whenever the Holy Spirit is mentioned it is a positive personal way, not some disembodied out there, don’t quite know who he is, way. When Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit He uses words like comforter, helper, truth. From our gospel reading we hear:
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.
God’s Spirit is within you whether you recognize Him or not. Jesus said we would recognize His voice and follow him. If we take the time to seek Him.
It has been my experience that in the times when I am seeking God, I recognize the difference between the nudges from His Spirit and my own desires. the Holy Spirit is not a force he is a friend a helper.
Myth 4. the Holy Spirit makes people do odd things.
People are forced to fall down, make strange sounds, shake uncontrollably, bable words. These are the objections I have heard from people who say that they’re scared to explore the Holy Spirit. We even see that from our Acts reading don’t we.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. .. [it goes on] … 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’ 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:.. [and he finishes by saying] … 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
Being confused by how some people react to the Holy Spirit is nothing new in fact it is well over two thousand years old.
There will always be people who put on a show or misrepresent the Spirit even in their misguided eagerness to please God. It is not for us to judge how real that is or not.
There will also be true signs of the Spirit which we may not understand just as those in our reading did not understand. However it is my experience that a friend a councillor a helper does not make you do things you do not want to do.
In the twenty plus years I have sought to follow Jesus and know the Father and the Spirit I can count on my two hands the number of times that I have been so overwhelmed by the Spirit’s love that I have laid down. It happens more often for other people but for me it is a fairly rare occurrence. More often I find that as I prayer I have a gentle bodily shaking as I feel God’s love flow through me.
What I can say to you is there has never been a time where I have not been in full control of my body and my actions whilst experiencing God’s Spirit. There has never been a time that I have not been aware and able to stop at any time. There have been times when I have not wanted it to stop because for me nothing beats spending one on one time with God’s love, but God’s Spirit forces us to do nothing. He is love.
Myth 5. Holy Spirit is reserved for super Christians.
And perhaps the biggest myth of all It is this. Only The Rector, or the super Holy people can receive the Holy Spirit.
If that is true why baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If that is true then why did Jesus say:
John 16.7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the [Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
If that is true then what did Jesus say:
Acts 1.8 …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
The idea that somehow you are not good enough to receive God’s Spirit is the biggest most destructive lie of all time. That lie holds back Christians from knowing the Holy Spirit and from truly knowing life to the full and it makes me angry.
Friends let me say clearly to you God’s Holy Spirit is for everyone. Whether you are nine or ninety. Male or Female. Have been a Christian for seventy years, seven days or seven minutes. It is for everyone.
All you have to do is ask for it. Jesus said
Matthew 7:7-11 7 ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 ‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Friends. Thank you for being patient with me as we have walked through demystifying God’s Spirit and busting five myths about the Holy Spirit.
I wanted to lay these foundations as we look at God’s spirit over the next few weeks, because I truly believe that if we are not guided by God’s spirit in all that we do we may as well shut up shop. We can have a great Vision and Purpose but if our Identity is not wrapped up in God’s Spirit it is a waste of time. So I plead with you over the next few weeks, be open and seek God’s Truth about his Spirit.
Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at
1. Hearing the Holy Spirit as a friend and guide. Identifying the Holy Spirit verses other inputs in our lives.
2. The gifts of the Holy Spirit and how we hunger for them and use them to glorify God.
3. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit, how that becomes apparent in our living with the Holy Spirit.
4. Living it out. Walking with God’s Spirit in our lives.
But for now and as I finish let me leave you with this one challenge.
Don’t wait. Don’t wait until the end of the series to invite God’s Spirit to befriend you to guide you. This week invite Him in.
That doesn’t mean you have to spend hours and hours in prayer I simply want you to do one thing during this series.
And it is this. Every time you have a thought pop into your mind ask the Holy Spirit this one question
Spirit is that you, are you of Jesus?
If you suddenly feel the need to call someone ask: Spirit is that you, are you of Jesus?
If frustration rise in you and you want to say something to someone ask: Spirit is that you, are you of Jesus?
If you feel compassion ask: Spirit is that you, are you of Jesus?
In all your think and do ask: Spirit is that you, are you of Jesus?
And then act upon the answer your recieve.
Then we will be true Anglicans guided by God’s Spirit.