A BETTER WAY (25) Living the Story – Spirit

The event by which the work of Jesus begun during his personal ministry was carried into the future – even to this day – was the coming of the Holy Spirit. This of course occurred as is recorded in the 2nd chapter of Acts on the day of Pentecost.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4).

To explain this wonderful event, Peter quoted Joel 2:28ff. In this prophecy from Joel, one of the so-called minor prophets, God said… “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” and names sons and daughters, young men and old men, male servants and female servants as being recipients of this wonderful blessing. He said this would occur “before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.” This is an expression that usually refers to the judgment that is to come at the second coming of Christ. So, the presence and power of the Spirit with believers was going to be until the end of the present age.

It is tragic that Christians have focused on the last part of Joel’s prophecy and forgotten the earlier part. Because of this we have failed to avail ourselves of the Spirit’s presence and help by denying his continuing presence and working in the world, assuming it applied only to the day of Pentecost or to the apostolic age. But Peter does not leave the Spirit out of the gospel he preached on that day. When he came to the end of his sermon and the people cried out in conviction, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and they would “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).

Peter was reiterating the promise of Joel 2:28ff. He even points to that fact when he said…

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39).

Read in this way this is a very important matter. This promise of the Spirit was not just for the day of Pentecost. It was a promise that extends as far as the “great and magnificent day of the Lord” – the last day – the day of judgment when the Lord comes again and to “all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.””

There are many things the Spirit is said to do for the Christian and the whole body of believers. Here is a list of just ten of those things. Read these scriptures and see how important they are. These are things we cannot do ourselves but can only be achieved through the agency of the Spirit working in and among us.

  1. He regenerates us (Titus 3:5).
  2. He quickens our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11)
  3. He washes and renews us (Titus 3:5).
  4. He glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26).
  5. He leads us (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18).
  6. He sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2).
  7. He fills us (Eph. 5:18).
  8. He bears witness in us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).
  9. He produces in us the fruit or evidence of His work and presence (Gal. 5:22-23).
  10. He brings unity and oneness to the body (Eph. 4:3; 2:14-18).

I know many will insist that all these things are done to us or for us by the word of God which the Holy Spirit revealed to man and I frankly admit to the truth that many things the Spirit is said to do the word is also said to do. But there are things the Spirit is said to do that the word alone cannot accomplish. For instance, the first thing on this list – regeneration. This word means to be “born again.” This, of course is the life that, as Jesus said, comes when one is “born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:5). It is a spiritual birth as a result of the regenerative power of the Spirit working in the heart and life of the individual.

“…he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5).

Without the Spirit one may be “converted” to a religion or to a church, but the radical transformation of life that marks a new creation will be lacking. Without the filling of the Spirit, (Eph. 5:18), one will simply go through the motions of religious rituals with no real benefit either to himself or to anyone else.

But the one that really is telling is the one about the fruit of the Spirit. It is only by being filled with and led by the Spirit that we are enabled to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Look at what the apostle said before listing the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit …

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal. 5:16-18).

He sees life as a struggle between the Spirit (not man’s spirit, the Holy Spirit) and the flesh, man’s nature that still wants to walk in the ways of the world. If one yields to the desires of the flesh, the works of the flesh will be the result. But if the Spirit is allowed to have his way in our lives, the fruit of the Spirit will be the result. One can readily identify one who is bearing the fruit of the Spirit …

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23).

This is one thing that is evidently lacking in those who deny the presence and influence of the Spirit in the life of individuals and of the whole community of believers. Some among those who claim to have the means of understanding all truth through a method of interpretation are among the most harsh, critical, judgmental and downright mean spirited among mankind, even though they claim to be God’s true people. They deny that people who meet the description given above are even children of God because they do not agree with them on their own man-made doctrines and dogmas even though they evidence every quality of the fruit of the Spirit. Such is the height of hypocrisy and self-righteous arrogance! Such evidence the works of the flesh in their lives instead of the fruit of the Spirit.

For what purpose is the Spirit given to believers? Remember, the Holy Spirit is God – deity – just as the Father and the Son. He was given for a very real purpose. This text, (Gal. 5), gives us an understanding of that purpose. In verse 1, Paul says that Christ has set us free from the yoke of slavery to law and that we must not take up that burden again. To do so would be to deny the effectiveness of the blood he shed on the cross. This was what the Galatians were doing. Paul said that when they had done that they had accepted another gospel – a perverted gospel.

Then in verse 13 he repeats that statement about freedom … “For you were called to freedom, brothers.” This time he was not warning against returning to a legal system for justification, but to not abuse their freedom by indulging the flesh. The freedom Christ gives is not license to sin. Their freedom was to be used to glorify God through serving one another….

Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal. 5:13-14).

What guards believers against both these extremes? How is one then to avoid the pitfalls on either side of this highway of freedom? The answer given here is to …

“…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh … … But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 5:16-18).

The blessings from or through the Holy Spirit to Christians and to the whole body of the redeemed are great and numerous. Paul said …

“…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5).

He also shows us the true nature of the kingdom of God and allows us to experience it …

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

And enables us to have an abundant hope ….

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13).

To teach that the Holy Spirit is not a real presence of deity in and among believers is to teach a truncated salvation. Is it any wonder there is so little joy and so little real spiritual life among so many professed believers today? Is it any wonder religion carries with it such a sense of boredom and drudgery from keeping all the tedious tenets of legalism? Is it any wonder that there is so little of a sense of freedom? It’s not supposed to be that way! It doesn’t have to be that way!

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

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