Holy Spirit: God’s love and power in action – in us!

Robin WilliamsonPosted on Monday, May 20, 2013 by Robin Williamson

Acts 2:1-21 and John 14:8-17

How do we know if we’ve fallen in love?

Those who have experienced it know what it is – but it’s very hard to describe to others. You can’t necessarily “see” it, and yet someone has said “You just know when it happens” and that sounds terribly ‘waffley’ and imprecise and yet when one does fall in love – we do know!

When I realized I’d fallen in love with my wife, Helen and we’d started – 5 years later – tentatively and quietly seeing one another, the ladies in my the office could indeed apparently see something about me had changed – long before I told them, and they met Helen!

If I were asked to describe in a simple sentence, who the Holy Spirit is in my experience, I would say the love and power of God in action, making the Lord Jesus real to me. (The Holy Spirit is I believe, a person who can be known, not an object. In my experience, He’s not scary and sort of ‘whiz bang wallop’ as I’d thought years ago, but loving, gentle, and safe.

There have been many books written and debates held by many theologians over the years trying to grapple with the person of the Holy Spirit and his work in the world – and fit him into precise doctrines.

There are those who have held firmly to the view that the Holy Spirit’s main task was to ‘kick start’ the first disciples into spreading the news of Jesus in word and deed, by signs and wonders following his introduction at the feast of Pentecost, and then once he’d got them going, He quietly withdrew.

There is another school of thought that seems to put almost the opposite view that declares that he is very much in action in the world today, but that unless one has experienced a certain charismatic experience of the Holy Spirit, you can’t be a proper follower of Jesus – you can’t be a proper Christian.

I believe both extremes are wrong. We know that the Holy Spirit is part of the “person” of the Trinity, or character of God if you like and we know that he was present at the creation of the world, recorded in Genesis.

There were some characters in the Old Testament that appear to have been filled with the Holy Spirit for particular tasks – e.g. Moses, Joshua, David, Sampson, and Elijah.

In the New Testament from the Jewish Feast Day of Pentecost as Peter reminded his hearers by quoting the book of Joel; God would pour out the Holy Spirit on all people.

The day of Pentecost (the Jewish harvest festival) dawned like any other day. The disciples were praying together as they had been asked to by Jesus before He ascended. But this time, the Holy Spirit came to them in such an unmistakable way that it just had to be what Jesus had promised.

  • The Holy Spirit gave people the power to fulfill Jesus’ requirements in a fresh way
  • The flames that hovered over them reminded them of God’s purifying holiness burning away any sin and preparing them for mission
  • The wind symbolised God’s breath of life (The words, ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ in Greek and Hebrew are the same) God breathed new spiritual life into the disciples, and as it were, blew them into the world as his witnesses

The languages they suddenly seemed able to speak had a double symbolism.

They emphasised God would give his words for praise and prayer and proclamation (as Jesus promised recorded in Luke 12: 11-12,

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

The different languages also showed that God cared for all people and wanted to be able to communicate with them.

Many Jews from different countries had all gathered in Jerusalem for the festival – and we are told each heard and understood the praises of God in their own language, which was the introduction to Peter’s sermon, at the end of which we read 3,000 were convinced by what he said, and were baptised beginning a new Christian life.

There have been similar occurrences recorded since – even in our own time: I read of a foreigner from an obscure country, and I think a Muslim, going past a church where lively worship was taking place, and he heard Christ being praised in his own native dialect – and was converted to Christianity by the experience.

So for us 2000 years later,

  • Have we welcomed the Holy Spirit into our lives?
  • Peter, quoting the Old Testament prophet Joel, says that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all people – and there is the sense that the Holy Spirit wants to speak to us giving dreams and visions. Do we believe that if we really listened to God we might actually receive a dream or a vision or some words that may be helpful to someone?
  • As we receive the presence of Christ afresh in Holy Communion, ask that the Holy Spirit may refresh us with himself again so that we may continue to be faithful followers of Christ, living and witnessing for Him.
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