Sunday, 14 June 2015

Sermon Notes: Who is the Holy Spirit? What does He do?

Today sees us beginning a new sermon series revisiting the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian and the gathered church. We feel that in the busy-ness of making RFC work, we have lost something of this and we want to return to and strengthen it as it is one of our founding values being part of Newfrontiers. To be clear, we want to pursue God, not the merely supernatural, for not everything that is supernatural is of God. And we want this not just for our meetings, but for our everyday lives - no dividing walls.

Here are seven foundational things we want to tell you / remind ourselves about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The list is by no means exhaustive for that would take ages.

1. The Holy Spirit is God - Genesis 1-2, 2 Corinthians 3:18, John 14:23

The Holy Spirit is not an it. The Bible introduces us to the Living God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three distinct persons, all fully, eternally and equally God in their nature. The foundational picture that God has given us in creation to help us begin to get our heads around this is the first created human family in Genesis - a father, mother and children. Each person is distinct and unique, yet all are equally and fully human. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of the Father and the Son (John 15:26, Gal. 4:6), he eternally proceeds from them both in a similar way that you and I and our brothers and sisters all proceeded from our fathers and mothers. He is the life, love and infinite creative diversity of God who flows eternally between the Father and the Son and from the Father and the Son out into creation.

2. He loves to glorify the Father and the Son - Matthew 5:16, John 16:14

All the members of the Trinity are self-forgetful because they find their joy in the other. They aren't interested in getting attention for themselves. The Father loves to glorify the Son: "Look at Him, isn't he wonderful?!" The Son loves to honour the Father: "He is worthy of all glory!" The Father and Son have sent us the Holy Spirit to be our constant and eternal companion. Like a best man, joyfully and unobtrusively organising the logistics of the wedding day on behalf of the Bride and Groom, the Spirit longs to shine the spotlight on Jesus and His Father and help us to glorify the Son and honour the Father as we go about our lives in the world. Abraham's chief servant, Eliezer (see Gen. 15:2) exemplifies this gospel truth about the Spirit wonderfully in Genesis 24.

3. He brings new life to the dead - John 5:25, 1 Corinthians 6:11

The Bible shows us that not only are we unable to save ourselves, but moreover, that we don't want to be saved. The Holy Spirit is the one who awakens a person to the reality of their need before God, that we are guilty in our rebellion and high treason, clothing ourselves not in the glory of righteousness as image bearers of God, but in shame that comes from that rebellion and thus ironically becoming naked and held captive by the Devil. As the gospel is spoken over a person, the Holy Spirit enables us them to hear and receive the words, he cleanses us from all this guilt and shame and takes us from the captivity of the Devil and places us into the family of God.

4. He testifies to us and in us of our adoption and betrothal - Galatians 4:6, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 22:17

When we find ourselves forgetting, doubting, faltering, or indeed when we are speaking / singing out truth, it is the Holy Spirit, who in those moments speaks to our spirits in a way that is greater than the sum of any words and reminds us that we are truly God's child and that as part of the church, we are truly Christ's bride. Fasting is a great way of preparing our hearts for these kinds of moments, but God can bring them any time through people, creation and circumstance, but he especially reminds us of this when the Bible is read or in the gathered church.

5. He empowers us for the obedience that flows from faith in Christ - 1 Peter 1:2, John 14:15, 1 Corinthians 14:5

Paul introduces his letter to the Romans by saying that God set him apart for calling the Gentiles into the obedience that is by faith. Christians are not expected to remain as they are on the day they got converted but to grow in maturity. That maturity comes the same way they got converted, by hearing, believing and obeying (aligning with) the truth. The hearing, believing and obeying that began their spiritual life is the same process that continues to sustain and flourish it. Hearing, believing and obeying is like taking, chewing and swallowing food. Food is only any good to us if it is eaten. God's truth is only any value to us if we will take it into ourselves and act on it. The goal of all this is that we become more like Jesus, or to put it another way, to take on the family likeness by bearing the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts. It is also by the Spirit that we exercise the gifts of the Spirit which are both “natural and supernatural” (more on this in the coming weeks), engage in spiritual warfare and transform the world, taking down everything that sets itself up in opposition to God. And it is by the Spirit that we not only obey once, but persevere, in that obedience to the very end growing continually in the likeness and work of God. When we disobey God, we grieve the Holy Spirit, who is standing / sitting / lying with us in the same room.

6. He is the great stage manager of history - 2 Peter 1:21, Matthew 10:29-31, John 14:23, Revelation 21:3

Like a stage manager working under the authority of the director to ensure the show happens the way it should, not only is the Spirit at work in the lives of individual believers, he is at work orchestrating all human history according to the Father’s will so that all people might see the excellence of Jesus the Son. We see this in clearly in the Bible where he gives prophecy and then fulfils it, but his influence on history didn’t stop when the Bible was completed. He is also moving human history towards its great conclusion – that God is preparing the earth to be a home where he can live with his people forever. In Genesis 1 we see the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters partnering with the Son, under the Father's instruction, bringing light into darkness, life out of death, order out of chaos and beautiful, multi-coloured diversity out of boring singularity. As a climax to it all, God plants a garden where he can be at home with human beings. Human history is the story of God moving house, from temporary dwellings with Israel to a final home with all his people who, through the life and death of Christ, have been gathered from every people group in the world - from Garden to Tabernacle to Temple in the Old Testament through to human hearts and eventually the whole creation in the New Testament. God isn't setting up home in our hearts to prepare us for "going to Heaven," God is preparing our hearts and the whole creation through both the mundane and the miraculous, to be a place where he can live with us - forever.

7. He is preparing the world for metamorphosis - Romans 8:21, 2 Peter 3:12, Revelation 22:17

That moving house will happen when Jesus returns. At that point, all those who have refused to love and obey the truth will be driven from the earth into outer darkness, The church, both dead and alive will, by the Spirit, rise to meet Jesus in the air like a bride watching and waiting for the bridegroom, and running down the drive to meet him when he comes, and she will take him into his new home - the earth, which having been refined and renewed, will have become a fitting home for God to live in with his people, and the prayer that they have prayed ever since Jesus commanded will have finally been answered for it will truly be"on the Earth as it is in Heaven."

Are you ready for this? If not, what do you need to hear, believe and obey?

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Rowan Williams' Excellent 5mins on Prayer

Probably the best 5mins I have ever heard out of the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Filmed by my cousin, and posted on his website here.