The night before Jesus died, he startled his disciples when he said, “It is for your good that I am going away.” Then he explained why - he said, “unless I go away, the Holy Spirit will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” [Jn 16.7] In other words, the Holy Spirit is no poor substitute for Jesus. In some ways, having the Holy Spirit is even better than having Jesus. How does that work?
The Bible says that the Spirit lives in us [Rom 8.9, 11], and that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that incredible?
He’s in us 24/7 - whilst driving to work, whilst sitting in a classroom, whilst changing nappies or waiting for a medical appointment, whilst in a difficult meeting or serving an awkward customer. That was why Jesus said it was better for him to go, so the Spirit could come. He can now be with each of us, all the time.
But what does the Holy Spirit do? We’ve started a sermon series which will begin to answer that question, and as usual, we’ll follow it up in our midweek small groups.
Some people are wary of the Holy Spirit or get worried when people start talking about the Holy Spirit too much. Some people want to steer clear of the Holy Spirit - for them, it sounds a bit spooky or weird-and-probably-not-wonderful.
There are people who make unhealthy and unbiblical claims about the Spirit’s work. That’s why in the Bible, God urges us to test the spirits [1 Jn 4.1] - we have to use our brains to see whether something that is claimed to be the Spirit’s work really is the Holy Spirit. But God also urges us the Bible not to quench the Spirit. [1 These 5.9] So we mustn’t write off everything that sounds a bit out-of-the-ordinary. Over the years, I’ve had to go on a journey to become much more open and desiring of the Spirit’s work.
Some people say, “The Holy Spirit isn’t really for me – I’m not that sort of Christian.” But Romans 8.9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” In other words, you can’t be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. It’s simply impossible.
And the Spirit is really not to be feared. You see, if Jesus is the most loving man who ever lived, and this is the Spirit of Jesus, then of course we’ve nothing to be scared of. The Spirit’s presence brings love.
Jesus said, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” [Lk 11.13] Our heavenly Father longs to give us his Spirit because he knows the Spirit is the best possible gift he could give us.
My prayer through this series is that we’ll all open ourselves up to the Spirit’s work in our lives more. I don’t know what that will look like - sometimes he acts obviously and quickly; more often he works slowly and in a hidden way. But let’s welcome his work among us, whatever he chooses to do.
Dan and co.
Dan is vicar of St James' by the Park. Some blog posts are by him; others are by members of the congregation - with one or two guest posts thrown in for good measure!