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The Work of the Holy Spirit

I’d like to think that we’re a friendly church, and so I imagine when most of you arrived here today, you were greeted by a smiling face and the question that starts off near every single small-talk conversation that you’ve ever had. And that question is: How are you?

Sometimes there is some variation in the wording of the question – sometimes it’s ”How’s it going?” or “How was your week?” or “How was work?”

But the main thrust of the question is all the same. Really we’re inviting the other person to describe their recent experiences in life. 

And how do most people answer the question “How are you?” 

“Good”.

That’s the typical answer: “I’m good – how are you?” That’s not always the truthful answer, but that’s the standard answer that most people give and what most people expect. Occasionally, however, you’ll meet someone who actually tells you the truth – and most often in those cases, it’s not “I’m good”. It’s usually “I’m not good at all, let me tell you about my terrible life….”

And I don’t bring this all up to convince you to be more or less brutally honest in your small-talk conversations – but I do want you to truthfully consider the question: How are you?

Really. How are you? If you had to describe your life as you reflect on your last week or your last few months or even your last few years – how would you describe it? Is your life mundane? Exciting? Painful? Discouraging? Challenging? And I’m sure there are moments of all those things – but overall, how would you describe your life?

How would you finish this sentence? My life is _______________.

Hard? Easy? Crazy? Pointless? Amazing? How would you describe your life?

Well, Jesus once said – in John 10:10…

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

First of all, I think that’s really cool! That Jesus’ main purpose is to give me a rich and satisfying life. That’s incredible. But the question I want to ask you is this:

Would you describe your life as being rich and satisfying? Does that sound like your life? Or to put it another way, the new King James Version puts that same verse like this:

…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

John 10:10 NKJV

Would you describe your life as an abundant life? I’m guessing that most of us – when we are asked “How are you?” – we’re not likely to say, “I have a rich, satisfying, abundant life!”

But why don’t we say that? After all, according to this passage, Jesus came to give us exactly  that kind of life.

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been asking the question: What Good is the Gospel?

For many people, faith in Jesus is just a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ – it’s what allows them to escape the punishment that they deserve because of their sin and gives them the future hope of eternal life in heaven. And while all of that is true and wonderful, the good news of the Gospel includes so much more! Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying and abundant life even today!

We talked last week about the freedom that we have through Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have freedom to be and to do the things that God created us to do – things that bring us true joy and peace and satisfaction. Previously, as slaves to sin, we did not have that option! Sin was our master and we obeyed it at every turn – and of course, that led to sorrow and pain and regret – and would ultimately lead to death if Jesus hadn’t intervened.

But now that we’ve put our faith in Jesus, He has freed us from our old slave master. He has transformed us into new Creations – with a new nature that actually wants to please God – it’s quite a stark contrast to our old sinful nature that only wants to please itself. And although, as Christians, we have these two natures that are constantly going-head-to-head against each other, we have the confident hope that one day soon, Jesus will do away with our sinful nature once and for all, and we will be freed from that constant draw towards evil and we’ll be free to do all the good that God created us to do.

That is amazing good news! But that’s still only just part of the picture.

Today I want to continue to share even more aspects of this good news with you. We’re going to continue to see how Jesus has provide for us the means to live a rich and satisfy and abundant life even today!

If you were here two weeks ago, you’ll remember that I gave you a quick overview of where we’re going with this message series. There were just four basic points that we would eventually expand on. And these were the points:

#1. Jesus’ death paid the price for our sin

#2. Death and sin are both defeated.

#3. God lives within us.

#4. Our lives have meaning and purpose.

Today we’re going to be looking at point number 3, and then next week Greg will wrap up the series with point number 4.

So our 3rd point of goodness in the Gospel is that God lives within us. How does that work and why is that such good news? How does that enable us to live a rich and satisfying life?

Well, let’s start off with the basics. The Bible teaches that when we believe and trust in Jesus, God (or specifically the Holy Spirit) comes and lives within every believer. Ephesians 1:13 says…

When you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. Ephesians 1:13b

So right from the moment we believed in Christ, God gave us the Holy Spirit. If you are Christian today – if you’ve placed your faith in Jesus Christ and are trusting him for the forgiveness of your sin – acknowledging him as the Lord of your life – then you have the Holy Spirit.

And just to clarify, the Holy Spirit is not a force or a power or an ‘it’ – The Holy Spirit is a person. He is the third person of the trinity. There is God the Father, God the Son (who is Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Three distinct and different persons – who together make one God. 

I know that the idea of the trinity can be a little difficult to wrap our heads around and I’m not looking to dive into that today – but if you have questions about that, I’m certainly willing to talk to you about that later.

But the bottom line for our purposes today is that if you are a Christian, you have God (in the person of the Holy Spirit) living within you. That means that the God who created the universe has made his home in you. That’s pretty amazing!

Back in the Old Testament, God was present with his people by living among them in the tabernacle or the temple. Whenever people wanted to interact with God in some way – by prayer or worship or sacrifices or whatever, they would go to the temple where God had made his home. But that’s no longer the case. Now – God has made his home within each Christian.

19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? 1 Corinthians 6:19

Which is amazing to think about. God – THE God – lives within you! Your body is his new temple. He lives within you and you have become united with Him. If you back up just two verses from that last verse we read, it says…

But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. 1 Corinthians 6:17

That’s pretty amazing – not only does God live within us, but somehow we have actually joined spirits with him. Now that’s not to say that you are now God. You are not God and you will never be God. But you have been united with God… It’s much like how a man and woman are united as one in marriage. They are one, but that doesn’t mean they become each other. They are united, but still distinct. In fact, the Scriptures even describe it this way.

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. Ephesians 6:31-32

So this is pretty incredible stuff. And all of this happens the moment you accept Christ as your Saviour! God’s Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence in you – His Spirit somehow unites with ours – and that’s really the process by which we are born-again. We become new Creations and receive that new Christ-like nature like we talked about last week. That all comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and uniting with us.

That’s why Paul writes in Romans 8:9…

9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Romans 8:9-11

Now there is a whole lot in that passage, but key idea is that the Holy Spirit living within us is what gives us life! The Holy Spirit gives us a new spiritual life when we accept Christ as our Saviour – a life that is evidenced by that new Christ-like nature that wants to please God – and it is also the Holy Spirit that enables us to have new physical life – when at the end of time God will transform our mortal bodies into immortal ones. He does this through the Holy Spirit living within us.

And that’s just the beginning! I mean, all of that is incredible as-is, but there is much more that the Holy Spirit does in our lives – things that enable us to live a rich and satisfying and abundant life even today.

So in the time that remains, let me try to give you 3 more things that the Holy Spirit does in our lives. I had originally planned to share six things, but we just didn’t have time for that. So here are 3 anyway.

#1. The Holy Spirit empowers us in our battle with sin

We talked lasted week about the constant battle between our old sinful nature and our new Christ-like nature. We read Galatians 5:17….

17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.

Galatians 5:17

So long as we have that sinful nature in us, we will always struggle with temptation and sin – but it doesn’t have to be a losing battle. The Holy Spirit leads us and empowers us to have victory over sin. Romans 8:12 says…

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. Romans 8:12-13

That verse 13 is key! The Holy Spirit gives us the power to put to death the deeds of our sinful nature. He gives us the strength to choose right over wrong. Does that mean it’s always easy? No, in fact it’s usually not easy. But it is possible. Through his strength, we can choose to follow his leading.

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:24-25

You know, I think a lot of the reason we find that our lives are not rich and satisfying and abundant is because we are still chasing after the passions and desires of our sinful nature. As long as we’re allowing sin to call the shots in our lives, we will not have the joy and peace and satisfaction that we want – because sin never satisfies. It always leads to misery!

But since we have the Holy Spirit living within us, providing us with the power to overcome sin and temptation, we don’t have to live that way. We have no obligation to do what our sinful nature urges us to do – instead, we can follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives doing the things that please and honour Him – and as a result, we can enjoy that rich and satisfying life that Jesus came to provide for us!

And that leads us to the second thing that the Holy Spirit does in our lives.

#2. The Holy Spirit produces supernatural fruit in our lives.

I’m sure most of us are familiar with the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a

Just as an apple tree naturally produces apples, the Holy Spirit naturally produces these 9 supernatural characteristics in our life.

And I call them supernatural characteristics, because these are only produced by the Holy Spirit – you can’t get them any other way. 

And before you disagree with me on that, let me explain what I mean. Now, certainly there are many non-Christians are who are loving, kind, and patient. But that kind of love, kindness, and patience that you’re thinking about is not really what we’re talking about here.

This is where our English translations really struggle to convey the original greek meanings.

For example, the word love. When we use the word love, it could mean infatuation towards another, it could mean how we enjoy a certain food, it could mean how we feel about our pet. There’s all kinds of love and we use the same word for all of them.

So when we read the word love in our english Bibles, we need to see what kind of love the writers were talking about.  So in this case, the love that the Holy Spirit produces in our lives is agape – that’s the greek word for God’s love. God’s love is a totally pure, it’s never selfish, it’s always self-sacrificing, it always seeks the good of others EVERY SINGLE TIME without fail. That is a unique kind of love – probably the closest things we could equate it to is a mother’s love for her child – but God’s love is even deeper and more pure than that!

And this is the kind of love that the Holy Spirit produces in our lives. He gives us that kind of love even for our enemies – the people who are actively trying to hurt us! That is not a natural love – that’s a supernatural love!

In the same way, God gives us supernatural versions of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We’ve probably experience some element of the natural versions of those things – but the Holy Spirit produces supernatural versions of those things in our lives.

There is no book that we could read or no course that we could take so that we could learn to love like God or to have the peace of God.

But amazingly, the Holy Spirit just naturally produces that in our lives as we follow his leading. We don’t even have to try to ‘be more joyful’ or to work hard ‘be more patient’. That never works! There is nothing that we can do to produce that kind of fruit. But the Holy Spirit automatically produces that fruit in our lives as we follow his leading. It’s like Jesus said in John 15…

4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

We have to remain in Jesus to produce fruit, because apart from Him, we can do nothing. We can bear no fruit! But when we remain in Him (that is, when we continually surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives), we will produce much fruit!

But of course, that begs the question then: How exactly does the Holy Spirit lead us?

And that takes us to our third and final point – and that is this:

#3. The Holy Spirit leads us with the truth of God’s Word.

One of the key roles of the Holy Spirit in our day-to-day lives is how He teaches us and reminds us of things that God has said. This is probably the most significant way that God speaks to us today. 

John 14:26 says… 

26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:26

There’s kinda two parts there. But both parts start by us hearing God’s Word. Specifically here in this verse, the disciples were hearing directly from Jesus, but for us that might be maybe hearing the Scriptures in a Sunday sermon, or from our morning devotional time or whatever the source. But we read or hear God’s Word and from there, the Holy Spirit does two things.

First of all, He teaches us through that Scripture. He gives us new insight and understanding for what we’ve just read or heard. I always find it interesting how I can read the same passage that I’ve read 20 times before – but every time I read it, it seems I learn something new! That’s the Holy Spirit teaching me through God’s Word. He takes the truths of the Scripture and helps me understand them and apply them to my life and to the unique circumstances that I’m in right now.

But that’s not the end of it. In addition to teaching us and helping understand God’s Word, the Holy Spirit also reminds later of those things – right at the moment when we need to apply them!

For example, maybe you’re neighbour comes over one day and wants to borrow one of your tools. It’s an expensive tool and you know your neighbour doesn’t always take great care of his own stuff – and so you’re not really eager to let him borrow yours… But then the Holy Spirit might bring to mind that passage you read in Luke 6…

If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you. Luke 6:29b-31

In that moment, as you’re recalling that passage, that’s the Holy Spirit leading you and prompting you. It’s then up to you to decide if you will surrender to and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit or not.

Oh, let’s say your are facing temptation. There is this sin that you’ve been struggling with and you’re in that moment where you’re are awfully tempted to give in once again – but then, the Holy Spirit might bring to mind that verse you read six months ago from 1 Corinthians 10:13….

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Just when you need it, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the truth by bringing to mind the things that God has said. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons that it is so important to regularly and often read the Bible for yourself. The more of God’s Word that you can log away in your mind – the more truth there is for the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind in those circumstances.

When we’re in a crisis or there is some decision that must be made – we don’t usually have the time or opportunity to flip open the Bible and read through the entire thing – looking to see what God has to say about this particular situation. But if we make a regular practice to read and memorize and to think about God’s Word, then the Holy Spirit can access all of that truth and bring it to mind when you need it most!

So that’s how the Holy Spirit leads us with the truth of God’s Word.

And actually I had another 3 more points that I wanted to talk about today – other ways that the Holy Spirit enables us to live the rich and satisfying life that Jesus came to provide for us – but we just don’t have the time today. But let me just end with a quick summary of what we’ve talked about today.

We started by looking at how – at the moment we put our trust in Jesus – the Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence within us. His Spirit unites with our spirit – and his life becomes our life! His nature becomes our nature. And in some ways, all of that happens immediately, but in other ways, it’s also the beginning of a process. And we noted three aspects of that process….

#1. The Holy Spirit empowers us in our battle with sin

I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit gives us the strength and the desire to overcome the sin in our lives. Sin comes with far too many painful consequences – I am so thankful that God gives us the power to choose do right and to honour and please Him.

#2. The Holy Spirit produces supernatural fruit in our life.

Little by little, God transforms us to be more and more like Himself. More and more we take on the His supernatural characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But of course, that only happens as we abide in Him and follow his leading – which is point #3.

#3. The Holy Spirit leads us with the truth of God’s Word.

As we regularly read and hear the message of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit teaches us, He gives us understanding, and He helps us know how to apply those truths to our own individual circumstances. Both now and later on in those critical moments when we need it most!

And of course we didn’t even have time to talk about how the Holy Spirit prays for us – with groaning too deep for words!

Or how he gives us gifts – those special supernatural abilities that allow us to serve Christ and build up his church in unique ways.

Or how the Holy Spirit is our guarantee of Salvation! How His presence in our lives confirms for us without a shadow of a doubt that we are His and He will never leave us or forsake us.

All of this confirms, for me anway, that Jesus truly did come to give me a rich and satisfying and abundant life! His Holy Spirit living and working in me is proof of that.

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