Your Internal ‘Software’ – the Holy Spirit – John 14.26
“But the Advocate (The ‘Helper’), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
When you say yes to Jesus to change your life, something amazing happens. Just as we have an internal ‘system’ in our bodies to make us work, just as computers and devices have internal electronics and software to make them work, so we need an internal ‘app’ to help us as Christians. The internal software that God puts in us is the Holy Spirit. He is the one at work inside us to help us become more like God. It’s not an instant upgrade though! This is software that works slowly but surely over time.
The Holy Spirit is God and he reflects the voice of God into the inside of us, so that we can be more like God. God is like the app developer who sends part of himself inside us to help us get upgraded over time. The Holy Spirit makes little changes and tweaks on the ‘inside’ of us that gradually show up on the ‘outside’ of us. So maybe we used to swear and get annoyed with people easily. Over time the Holy Spirit ‘software’ makes little changes in the ‘God-nano-processors’ on the inside of us so that we don’t want to swear and start to understand people more.
But even more than this, the Holy Spirit will actually show you what to do – give you wisdom (wisdom is doing things now that you’ll be happy you did later in life!) and to teach you things from God. So if we’re not a Christian we may read the Bible and it’s like information. But when we have the Holy Spirit in us, we read the Bible and suddenly understand things – it’s like the Bible comes to life and jumps off the page at us. And God will speak to you directly because you have God on the inside of you. If you don’t know this amazing power of the Holy Spirit then ask God to reveal more of this Holy Spirit, to fill you with the Holy Spirit and get a God-filled upgrade!
‘Robed’ with God’s Power – Mark 5.27-29
“She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.”
If you are a believer in Jesus (a Christian) then you have the power of the Holy Spirit in you. The Holy Spirit is the power of God to help us in every day life to be filled up with God and then let that power work its way into our own lives and people around us too. Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 10.19 that he had given them power and authority to see people healed and to see miracles happen, so people would be pointed to God. The word ‘disciples’ simply means followers of Jesus, so that includes us today. The power that Jesus talks about is his power that is on the inside of us through the Holy Spirit.
In Mark 5, a woman had a serious problem. All the doctors had been unable to treat her and she had heard that Jesus could heal her. She knew that if she even touched his cloak (his ‘robe’) then she would be healed. She understood that the power that Jesus had meant she didn’t need to touch him. She knew that a touch of something that was touching Jesus would be enough for her healing and she was right – she was healed by touching the robe of Jesus.
Today, as believers in Jesus with the Holy Spirit in us, we are like the ‘robe’ of Jesus. We are the ones who have the power of Jesus in us. We are ‘touching’ Jesus because he lives on the inside of us. So we are carriers of his power and Jesus has not changed. We need to know and understand the incredible power of the Holy Spirit in us. So when we ‘touch’ people’s lives or pray for them or speak healing, we should expect God’s miraculous power to work through us. The Bible says God’s power in us is greater than anything in the world, so we should expect amazing things. Not because we are great (we’re really not!) but because God in us is great.
The Bird Feeder – Genesis 1.22
God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’
I’m not a bird watcher but as part of caring for the environment and nature, I’ve got a few bird feeders in the garden. There are huge numbers of birds that use the feeders – greenfinches, goldfinches, blue tits, great tits, long tailed tits, coal tits, robins, blackbirds, pigeons (!), magpies, bullfinches, ciskins…
Each of these birds have different times and ways of feeding. The long tailed tits can swarm in with a mob of 10 of them descending and squeaking away. The greenfinches come en masse and are often pecking at each other – they hog the feeders for long periods of time and are messy eaters. The blue tits and great tits zip in for a quick meal (through the day but often early and late) and then scurry back to the trees, often alone or occasionally in pairs. The goldfinches come in pairs quite often and are sing away. The robin is always on the lookout for where you are and will eat pretty much anything put out for it. The pigeons generally walk along the ground under the feeders as the food falls onto the floor, hoovering it up like vacuum cleaners.
Each feeder has to be constantly filled up as the food in the feeders gets eaten – birds take from what is provided. As a Christian full of the Holy Spirit you’re a bit like a bird-feeder. You need to be ‘topped up’ by God all the time so you can give out God’s love to all kinds of ‘birds’ (people) around you. It’s also important that the feeders are cleaned out – otherwise food gets blocked, can get mouldy and some birds can get ‘finch flu’ which kills them. In the same way, we need to stay ‘clean’ (that means we live pure lives, working with God to do what’s right and not what’s wrong). When we’re as clean as we can and full as we can, then we can ‘feed’ good seed to the many people who need to hear and know about God’s love.
The Holy Spirit works – Proverbs 4.18
“The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.”
When we say yes to Jesus and to him being the one at the centre of our lives, he doesn’t just say ‘thanks’ and then walk away to leave you to get on with it. Instead the Bible says that God never leaves us or forgets about us. He is always with us. How does that work?!
What God does is give us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is able to live on the inside of every person who believes in Jesus. You don’t need to know how this works but believe me this does work. Then over time, God changes people who believe in him. Sometimes we don’t see the change but others will! This is one thing that the Holy Spirit does. Proverbs 4 talks about how the lives of Christians shine brighter and brighter over time.
I saw an illustration that someone used once which may help you understand this. A friend took a glass of Ribena and put it down in a very large glass tray that you’d use in the oven. Then he took a jug of water and slowly he poured the jug of water into the glass of Ribena. The Ribena represents us without God. The water represents God and pouring the water from the jug into the Ribena shows what God does through the Holy Spirit. What happens is that slowly, the Ribena comes out of the glass as the water is poured in. The Ribena left in dilutes and becomes more water-like in colour until the Ribena is gone from the glass. Meanwhile the Ribena that has gone into the glass tray also gets diluted. This is what happens when we let the Holy Spirit work in us and through us to reach other people around us. This is what the Holy Spirit does. Just ask him to help you. If you’re anything like me, you’ll need the Holy Spirit’s help every day! (Thanks to ST for the illustration)
The oil of the Spirit – Psalm 23.5-6
“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
There was a news story in 2020 that was a bit sad but had a happy ending! A dog was found in Argentina covered in tar (a kind of thick sort of oil). The other dogs in the pack were barking and attracted the attention of some children who quickly phoned for help. The dog was rescued and after 9 hours was completely back to normal. Yey!
In Psalm 23 we read that God will ‘anoint our head with oil’. So God will pour ‘oil’ over our heads – a bit weird? Not really. It’s an example of what God does for us when we become a Christian. God covers us with his ‘oil’ (which represents the Holy Spirit). He changes our mind to think in the right way by covering us with his goodness. He literally pours his life into our life so we can go around pouring out God’s life into the lives of others. It’s like someone giving you some water which you drink and then go and share with others who need water.
If you imagine someone pouring some water over your head, it would make you wet but would also splash around you and impact others near you and your whole body. If you walked off, you’d be dripping water everywhere. This is an example of the kind of life God calls us to live. Now imagine the water that you were covered with didn’t run out, so you could pour it out whenever and wherever you were. That’s the kind of Psalm 23 life where God covers you with his Holy Spirit and then you become someone who carries this goodness and love all the days of your life – for when you need it and for when others need it. Don’t be a polluter of oil like evil people do. Instead, be someone who pours out God’s Holy Spirit and brings life wherever you go.
The water and the Spirit – John 13.35
” Then Jesus poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the [servant’s] towel which was tied around his waist. “
This Bible verse is about when Jesus served his disciples by washing their feet. This is a good example of the kind nature of Jesus and a pattern of being a servant that he helps us to follow. It sounds a bit crazy but there is an amazing power in serving and helping other people. It’s not about being abused by people and being naive, it’s about choosing to help others and choosing to love. But for this quiet-time we’re going to focus on how it teaches us about the Holy Spirit.
One of the ways the Bible talks about the Holy Spirit is through the image of water. Let’s break down what we can learn from John 13.35. First we see that the source of the water was Jesus. When we need help, the best place to go is Jesus who helps us through the Holy Spirit. The water was poured (that means it was generously done – God isn’t stingy like some Scrooge in the Sky! God gives generously). The water was poured into a ‘vessel’ (that means something that could hold the water). The exciting news is that as a Christian you are the place where God lives and he pours his Spirit into you. In a way you (and me and all other Christians) are like God’s ‘washbasins’. Then this water (the Holy Spirit) comes out of us and gets used to serve other people. It is Jesus who is in charge but we are part of the process!
Jesus washed the disciples feet but the things he gets us to do will be different – but the inspiration is always Jesus through the Holy Spirit. But he needs our help and works through us. And the purpose is always to see God’s Holy Spirit touch other people’s lives (just as the water touched the feet of the disciples). And the heart is always serving and loving. And finally, we use what we have (just as Jesus used the towel he had). So whatever gifts and skills and resources God’s given you are there to be used positively to help other people (and you!) The end result are that people are changed, helped and cleaned up by Jesus working through. Everyone’s a winner!
In-out shake it all about – Ephesians 3.20-21 (Message)
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us…”
In an episode of the classic comedy ‘Only Fools and Horses’, Grandad and Rodney are worried about Del Boy. They’re concerned that he’s “caught religion.” What they meant was that he was going to church and they didn’t know why. Other times people lump all world faiths together and call it ‘religion’. Even atheists (people who say they don’t believe in God) can be very ‘religious’ with their own systems and ways of thinking – sometimes even saying they refuse to believe in God and wouldn’t even if God was proved to be real!
But being a Christian is totally unique. First of all, it can never be forced on anyone. You can’t make someone be a Christian. It has to be a personal choice that someone makes – they ask God to change them and fill them with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in us is God’s power that lives on the inside of people who make God the boss of their life. And this is where another difference between Christianity and other forms of religion and thinking. In most systems, you have to follow rules and do certain things. But not if you’re a Christian. Yes, we follow God’s Word and we live life like Jesus but not because we have to. Ephesians 3 is right when it says that God doesn’t push us around. He’s not some spiritual dictator! No, God works within us. He works on the inside of us (not our bodies but our spiritual side). He changes us bit by bit and as he does this, our behaviour changes to be more like Jesus. We don’t have to go around obeying mad rules but we do what God says because we want to. God works gently and deeply within us (usually!) So when someone asks if you’re ‘religious’ you can truthfully answer and say ‘no, but I’m a follower of Jesus’ and explain more!
Revelation comes from God – Matthew 17.5, 17.13
“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ … Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.”
One thing that the famous speaker Joyce Meyer says is that ‘we don’t need more information, we need more revelation.’ We live in a world full of knowledge and information where we are blasted with more info than any other generation by a long, long way. But information only goes so far. What we need is to hear from God and know him. This is what the Bible calls wisdom. To know God we need to have God revealed to us. We need to understand what God is saying (and do it!) rather than just have knowledge.
Many times the disciples didn’t fully understand what Jesus was saying. We sometimes think they were a bit slow and dull but how many times do we not obey or understand what Jesus says! We think that the disciples should have known – I mean, they had Jesus with them! But also remember that the disciples didn’t yet have the Holy Spirit in them revealing the truth about Jesus. We do have the Holy Spirit living in us if we’ve said yes to Jesus!
Back in the ‘Gospels’ (books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), Jesus struggled to get the disciples to understand things. After Jesus had fed the 5000 with loaves, fishes and thanks to God, they were faced with another crowd of 4000. Jesus asked the disciples what to do and they still didn’t know, so Jesus did the miracle again. So here we return to Matthew 17. The Bible tells us that God the Father appeared to the disciples and said ‘listen to my Son, Jesus.’ The word ‘listen’ used in Matthew 17 means to ‘hear God’s voice which prompts God to birth faith within a person’. So when God spoke that word ‘listen’ to the disciples in Matthew 17.5 it caused faith to rise within them to really hear what Jesus said. So then when Jesus spoke about the last days, the disciples understood the hidden meaning of what Jesus was saying like they hadn’t before. We need that same revelation and it’s available to us through the Holy Spirit in us. Just ask him.
Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here – Exodus 30.31-32
And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you.
I love the song ‘Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here’ by Bryan & Katie Torwalt. The start of the chorus says, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here, come flood this place and fill the atmosphere…” We sing loads of great songs like this but what we’re doing is asking God to flood us with his presence and his life. God sometimes turns up in very powerful ways. I was once leading worship at church when a song just came out of nowhere from people in the church after the first song had ended. This was such a beautiful moment and went on for about 5mins as the song moved around the room completely naturally with incredible sounds and harmonies that I’ve never heard before. In the band, we all just stood back and watched what God was doing (as it sure wasn’t anything to do with us!) Then the fear of God fell on the place with a holy silence all around the room that I can only describe as ‘weighty’ but not in a heavy way – just a serious presence of God moving in people’s lives. It was holy and gave us a glimpse into the powerful presence of a holy God.
Back in the Old Testament, God gave Moses the recipe for a holy anointing oil that Moses was to use to purify things in the temple of God and to use on Aaron and the other priests to ‘consecrate’ them to God. What this meant was the oil was a way of making things holy (acceptable to God) and to commit the lives of the priests to God. The oil was not to be poured on man’s flesh and was unique. The oil was holy and was to be treated as being holy. This ‘holy oil’ is a picture for us today (a representation) of the Holy Spirit. If we have given our lives to Jesus, he gives us his Holy Spirit who is God living in us (don’t worry it’s not creepy it’s just good!) Back in the time of Moses, the holy oil couldn’t touch flesh. The Bible explains that the word ‘flesh’ means bad and sinful things that aren’t from God. Holy things are pure, right, good and from God. So we learn that God won’t prosper the things we do that are wrong but he will prosper us when we do what is right. The life of becoming a Christian is where we work with the Holy Spirit to get rid of the bad stuff that doesn’t help us and let God fill us with the good stuff that does help us. We can be as full of God as we want to be because God prospers us in the areas that are holy and good. The bad stuff gets in the way of God and means that he can’t fill that part of our lives. So the way to be more filled with God is to ask God to get rid of the bad and fill you with his good.
The Dove of the Spirit – Genesis 8.9-11
“But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.“
This is a great picture of God leading us and guiding us by his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit s referred to as a dove at times in the Bible. Noah and his family had been in the ark for many days as the flood waters covered the earth (this worldwide flood is referred to across almost every tribal culture across the world and formed many of the geological features in the world today). Noah needed to find out if there was any dry land or whether they needed to stay in the ark longer as the flood waters went down. So he sent out a dove to see if it would come back with any vegetation.
The dove came back the first time because there was nowhere to land. Yet the second time, the dove returned with a fresh olive leaf. Noah knew the time had come to come out of the ark and onto the earth. God will lead us through the Holy Spirit as we try things – it may be a new job, deciding on University or what to do about whether to go to a party or not. If we think of the dove as the Holy Spirit and the olive as the guidance of the Holy Spirit (olives were used for oil and oil is another picture of the Holy Spirit). We play our part – asking God, trying something (say, applying for a job) and then the Holy Spirit will lead us and show us what is right, what’s wrong, what’s the best way and what not to do! There will always be evidence of God’s guidance as we step forward by faith. For Noah, it was an olive leaf which would eventually lead to an olive tree. We know what God is in because it is always good, always right, always lines up with Bible principles and always leads to more!
Fragrance overflowing – Mark 14.3
“Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head.”
I was recently in a chemist and they were giving away very small samples of aftershaves. I got five different aftershave samples from five well-known companies. I mainly used them as air fresheners in my house rather than as aftershave (!) but when you sprayed them, the smell gradually filled the place. The same thing happens when you spray deodorant or other sprays. Sometimes you even end up coughing because of all the spray in the air! One thing is for sure – you know when something has been sprayed!!
The perfume the woman poured over the head of Jesus was valuable – more valuable than gold and over 2 times as valuable as the 30 pieces of silver that Judas got for betraying Jesus. But this perfume was freely given by this woman who broke the jar, poured it over the head of Jesus and released the perfume into the place where Jesus was staying. So this woman gave to Jesus; she touched Jesus and then Jesus touched what was released into the room (the perfume). This is how it works with us. God puts skills, ideas, gifts and good things into us. Then we should freely offer them to Jesus. We ‘touch’ Jesus in prayer, in hearing his voice, in knowing and obeying the Bible. Then after (and because) Jesus has touched it, what is released is a sweet perfume. The Bible tells us that when we bring things to God, he makes all things beautiful. And the exciting thing is that the more we offer ourselves to God, the more of us that God touches. The more of us that God touches, the sweeter and more effective the ‘smell’ (the things we do) is, as we release it into the world around us. So what can we give to Jesus and ask him to spray out into the world? Our gifts, our time, our praise. If you feel you can’t do anything then you can pray, you can love others and you can encourage others. Go for it and let the fragrance of Jesus in you touch the world around you.
God does things differently – Matthew 1.20-21
But after he (Joseph) had considered this (‘divorcing’ Mary), an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
Joseph had been put in a tricky situation. He found out that his wife-to-be was pregnant and knowing that he wasn’t the father! But then an angel appeared to Joseph, told him to take Mary as his wife and explained that Mary was pregnant through a touch of the Holy Spirit and not through the influence of a man.
Some Christians limit the power of the Holy Spirit. Some places don’t even teach about the Holy Spirit which is weird because when we become a Christian, the Spirit of God lives on the inside of us. He does so much – guides, helps, strengthen, comforts and points us to Jesus. But the Holy Spirit (and God) is beyond our definitions and human limits. Here, the Holy Spirit was the one who planted the ‘seed’ in Mary’s womb so she became pregnant. This supernatural act was done by the Holy Spirit.
God never changes in terms of who he is and his character. So we know that the Holy Spirit, who did supernatural things for Mary, who did incredible things through the whole Bible, still does these things today. I know someone who was prayed for and as a result gave birth to a daughter, even though they couldn’t medically have children. Across the world, God is doing incredible things. Don’t ever try to limit God to your understanding of him because the Bible tells us God is beyond our understanding. If God only did what some people think then Mary wouldn’t have got pregnant because it wasn’t what God had done before and at that time ‘wasn’t in the Word of God’! So expect God to do the unexpected! And remember that to know what is and isn’t in the Bible, you need to read it! And the Holy Spirit is there to help with that too!!
Nehemiah 2.1 – Carriers of the wine
“In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king.”
In Nehemiah 1, we find Nehemiah who was serving at the courts of the King of Persia, King Artaxerxes. When Nehemiah heard from some of his brothers that Jerusalem was in a terrible way with broken walls and a desperate people, he wept and was heartbroken. After much prayer and fasting he decided to go before the King and seek the King’s favour to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This was a risky thing to do. But Nehemiah did go in front of the King in Nehemiah 2 and the King granted Nehemiah’s request to go and rebuild the walls.
In Nehemiah 2.1, we find that Nehemiah took the wine and gave it to the King. We see times in the New Testament that talk about wine and the Holy Spirit. Jesus turned the water into wine in his first miracle in Cana (John 2.1) and we find that the wine that Jesus made was the best wine of all. Then we see in Matthew 9 where Jesus speaks about pouring the new wine into the new wineskins, not into the old wineskins. Finally Ephesians 5.18 says don’t get drunk on actual wine but instead be filled with the Holy Spirit ‘wine’.
When Nehemiah went in front of the King with the wine, the King showed him favour and granted his request. It is God in us by the Holy Spirit that changes this, brings favour, helps us, uses us to bring change and restoration to people and even nations. It is the Holy Spirit who does the work and brings glory to God. But we go as ‘carriers’ of the ‘wine’ and this is what God uses to make things happen – greater is the Holy Spirit in us than anything that is in the world (1 John 4.4)
Darkness and Drama – Genesis 1.1-2 and Exodus 10.21
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light… Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand towards the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt – darkness that can be felt.’
In Exodus, Moses was commanded by God to go to Pharaoh to demand the release of the Israelites who were slaves in Egypt. Now Pharaoh was the ruler of Egypt and thought he was the representative of God on earth (wrong!) In many ways Pharaoh thought he himself was a god who should be worshipped. Today we can see him as the reflection of evil and all that is against the true God. So God sent plagues on Egypt, partly to show them who was the true God! One of the plagues was a plague of darkness that was so dark it could actually be felt. Imagine that – it shows what happens when God steps back from the world and the physical and the spiritual goes dark!
In a way the darkness in Egypt represents the beginning of time and how in the beginning there was only darkness until God stepped in. Some people say that the world was created with a big bang. They believe that the physical world was made with this bang. But even if this were true (which I don’t believe), it would only have created a physical world – a world that we can see and touch. But God created mankind to be both physical (our bodies) and spiritual (our spirit, even our feelings etc). A big bang could not have created anything that was spiritual. No, instead in Genesis we read that the Holy Spirit was hovering over the waters. This is something far more than a physical event. When God steps in (or steps out) the effects are felt both physically and spiritually – just as it was for the Egyptians and just as it has been since creation!
What does your temple look like – 1 Corinthians 6.19
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.”
Back in the Old Testament, David drew up plans for an amazing physical temple located in Jerusalem. His Son, Solomon would build the temple because David had shed blood in his wars but Solomon would represent a new day and season of God’s peace. In 1 Chronicles 22.5 – “David said, ‘My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendour in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.’
When the temple was built it was incredible and the world has never seen anything like it before or after. It had all kinds of detail, the best of materials (cedar wood, gold etc). It had the most skilled craftsmen working on the project. The inner bit of the temple was called the Tabernacle and this was even more detailed with the walls and floors of the most holy place covered in gold. There were colours of blue to represent heaven, red to represent man and the earth and purple representing the meeting of God and man. It was carefully crafted according to God’s measurements and everything represented something to do with God.
So the challenge for us today is what kind of ‘temple’ of the Holy Spirit are we? What kind of representation of God are we? The temple showed the colour, the greatness, the riches, the creativity and the majesty of God. But what about us? Are we a bit lazy and casual, using poor quality or cheap materials? Or are we letting God build an amazing temple in us by the Holy Spirit? How big is the God that you represent? How amazing is he? Why not ask God to build in you something amazing to represent how amazing he is!
God’s Spirit unifies but is individual – Acts 2.1-4
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (NKJV)
In Acts 1.4, Jesus gave his disciples a command. He said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” So the disciples obeyed Jesus. They waited in Jerusalem in one place. In the New King James / old King James version of the Bible, it says in Acts 2 they were of ‘one accord in one place’. Most other translations simply state the disciples were together in one place. Sometimes people take this a bit too far – believing that everyone in a church (or in every church) should be of ‘one accord’. This means all thinking the same. If you’ve ever seen Star Trek you’ll have heard of ‘The Borg’ who are all ‘one’ and who all think the same all the time. But this is clearly not what Jesus wants. There are all kinds of people, ways of seeing the Bible, ways of living out our Christian faith. God has made us unique across time, cultures, countries and nations. In Ephesians 4.5 Paul writes that, “There is one body…” (meaning we already are one church if we believe in Jesus).
Does this mean that unity isn’t important? No! Matthew 18.20 tells us there is great power in agreement. Ephesians 4 sees Paul telling the Ephesian church to try their best to keep their unity. But unity doesn’t mean we all agree on everything. It does mean we should respect each other and not pass judgement. You may be Catholic, Methodist, Baptist or Charismatic (or have no ‘label’). But we are all one body – different expressions. Like John 15 we’re all different ‘branches’ on the same ‘vine’ who is Jesus. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit flame came on every individual, not as one ‘corporate’ fire for all of them. We are the same. One body, one Spirit but each of us an individual – all working together to see God’s Kingdom come.
The fire of God – 2 Chronicles 7.1-4
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”
The people had all gathered for the dedication of the Temple, which God had tasked King Solomon with building. The King and all the many hundreds of workers had finished the work so now it was time to commit the Temple to God. We read that when Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and the glory of God filled the temple. It must have been an awesome sight as God showed some of his glory and power visibly to all the people.
What was the reaction of the people? Awe and worship! The priests couldn’t get in the temple because of the thickness of the glory of God and the people outside saw the fire and knelt down on the ground worshipping God and testifying that God is good and his love goes on forever! This is the kind of reaction we should have when we meet with God. Not something forced or something fake, but a real understanding of who God is! Through history there have been many incredible moves of God. Often these have involved people being on their faces before God, unable to get up; signs and wonders like fire falling or a cloud of God’s glory. Each time, it has led to a change in the lives of the people there and those around who have turned away from evil and turned to God in new and incredible ways. Why not pray that God does this same thing by his Spirit in your life, your youth group, your church, your city, your nation? Let’s pray for that same fire and awe of God!!
Access all-areas – 1 Thessalonians 5.19
“Do not quench the Spirit”
In the ‘old days’ there used to be salesmen who would go round and visit people’s homes, selling different kinds of goods or services to people. I recently heard the story of someone who used to be a salesman selling central heating to people. He made some interesting points about selling and about the Holy Spirit…
When the sales person would go to a house – if the person wanted to chat more, he would be invited in to the house. He’d go and usually sit down in their living room with a cup of tea and a biscuit. This is what some of us are like with the Holy Spirit. We invite Him in to our ‘living room’ where it’s all comfy and polite, but no further! The salesman would then sometimes be invited to look at the rooms in the house to discuss where the heating would go. This meant a sale was a bit closer as he was allowed greater access in the customer’s house. He’d be allowed in the often messy kitchen, or untidy bedrooms etc to make heating suggestions. Some people are like this – they allow the Holy Spirit access beyond the ‘showroom’ living room (all tidied up carefully). They even allow the Holy Spirit into some messy ‘rooms’ or situations and untidy places in their life.
But if the customer wanted central heating in their house, this meant they would need an engineer to go in and make a bit of a mess in order to improve their heating and ultimately the house. This takes more trust and a deeper level of ‘intimacy’ if we think about this spiritually. If we really want God to use us in amazing ways, we have to work with him to allow the Holy Spirit to touch every area of our lives. Sometimes it’s a bit messy at first while all the old ‘pipes’ are thrown out and the new ‘system’ is put in. But eventually it produces a strong and steady heat that warms people up and improves the lives of others in the house. The same is true with God – as he transforms us, he can then use us to do incredible stuff for him and see other people change too!
Thanks to TS for the idea
The whole picture – Ephesians 5.15-18
Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…
Some people believe that Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol or shouldn’t get drunk and this is one of the verses that people use to make this clear. Alcohol causes great damage in every country, costing billions in medical and other help. But these verses aren’t really written to talk about alcohol. But verse 16 is also key, telling us to be careful how we live, to live wisely and to make the most of every opportunity. So we shouldn’t act foolishly, but need to understand what the Lord’s will is.
So we need to think of what Paul is saying in light of what he’s said! Sometimes in the church, people are very good at making new theories and new ways of doing things from a single verse of the Bible. But we can’t do this as the Bible is a complete picture. We can’t take a piece of a huge jigsaw and then tell what the whole jigsaw is! We need to see the whole jigsaw fitted together (or the picture on the box!) to then know what our bit of the jigsaw means in light of the complete picture. The same is true with the Bible. It’s important we learn single Bible verses, but let’s also learn what the Bible verses around the one we learn say or mean. This way we understand the wider picture.
So bringing it home to Ephesians 5, we see that as Christians we need to understand the times we are in so that we get God’s wisdom, understanding what God wants so we can live for him and shine as lights in a dark place. The verses mention alcohol in this light: don’t get drunk and do the things that being drunk leads to but instead be filled with God! This is what it means to be filled with the Spirit – being filled with God.
The jigsaw explained – Ephesians 5.18-20
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul tells the Ephesian church to be filled with the Spirit because (like us today), the church needed to understand God’s will, so they made the most of every opportunity to live well for God. But more specifically, when Paul says ‘be filled with the Spirit’, what does this mean? The literal translation is a bit more like ‘go on continually being continually filled with the Spirit.’ So how do we do this?!
Here’s one way of looking at being filled with the Spirit: we are a three-part being – we’re made up of a spirit, a soul and a body. 1 Thessalonians 5.23-24 tells us this, “… May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” When we become a Christian, God puts his seal of approval on us by giving us his Holy Spirit and making us new. There are sometimes other experiences that Christians have in their lives where God does new things and gives new outpourings of his Holy Spirit.
But here’s another way of thinking… If our spirit is made completely pure when we become a Christian, it’s also possible that ‘being filled with the Spirit’ means allowing that God-filled part of us to be the leader of all that we say and do. So we let God be the one in charge of our lives and not us. When people dig for oil in the ground, they dig down and the oil eventually springs up onto the surface. We need to let God’s Spirit in us do the same in our lives and do our part too! Let the ‘oil’ of God (the Holy Spirit) spring up and cover all that we say, think and do!
Filled with the Spirit, Part 1 – 2 Corinthians 5.17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”
When we become Christians, God does something incredible on the inside of us. 2 Corinthians 5.17 explains it like this, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” So in a way, we become a ‘new’ creation. But we don’t change and suddenly start shining, our faces glowing with a healthy beauty that only Photoshopped pictures create! So what becomes ‘new’? Well, it’s our spirit. Humans are made up of 3 basic parts: the spirit, the soul and the body. The bit that God renews is our ‘spirit’ by putting his Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit is part of God and unlike when Jesus walked the earth and was with whichever disciples he was with at the time, the Holy Spirit is inside every person who believes in God. God puts his ‘seal’ on you (not one that flaps in the water), it’s like a royal seal that a King would stamp on an official letter in wax in the olden days. God marks you and says, ‘they belong to me’. The guarantee of this promise is the Holy Spirit who comes to make his home on the inside of you (Ephesians 1.13). The Holy Spirit helps us to be more like Jesus and more God-like in our thinking.
There are many people who believe that this unique and permanent experience of God putting his Holy Spirit in you, is not the only time that the Holy Spirit moves. Many believe and have seen the Holy Spirit do new things, give new gifts and abilities to people who believe in God. There is also the truth that in Ephesians 5.18 the Bible tells us to go on ‘continually go on being continually filled’ with the Holy Spirit. So we know that there are things that God does in our life by the Holy Spirit that go beyond when we become a Christian. I’ve experienced this – with God doing some incredible things in and through me. Never put God in a box, he’s not boxable and can’t be gift-wrapped to fit your ideas!
Filled with the Spirit, Part 2 – Luke 1.41-42 and 1.67-68
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!'” … “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.'”
There are some types of churches who teach that when God fills us with the Holy Spirit, the only evidence is that the person speaks in tongues. This this does happen, but there is so much more to being filled with the Holy Spirit than just this way of thinking. First of all, the gift of tongues is available to every believer. The gift of tongues is a supernatural ability to speak another language. It first happened in Acts 2 when the early disciples supernaturally started speaking in the language of the people around them and many came to believe in Jesus. Some people say the gift isn’t for today but this isn’t true – God gave me the gift of speaking in tongues as he has to millions and millions of others since the Bible time. The apostle Paul who wrote half the New Testament said he wished people could speak in tongues – see 1 Corinthians 14 and clearly these same truths apply to us today. Some people speak in other languages (I’ve heard this eg in Chinese and a Chinese there was able to understand it perfectly!) And other times it appears to be an unknown or heavenly language.
But let’s not get tied up in all this. Some teach if you ask God to fill you with the Spirit, God only does this by you speaking in tongues. As we’ve said, this is very narrow and isn’t even Biblical! Others say that you can only be filled with the Holy Spirit after you’ve been baptised but again this isn’t completely Biblical and God loves to amaze us and do different things! Here in Luke 1, we find both Elizabeth and her husband John later on, “filled with the Holy Spirit”. What’s amazing is that Jesus hadn’t even been born at this time; they clearly hadn’t ‘accepted Jesus’ in our way of thinking today (although they were Godly people); nor had they been baptised yet!! In another shot across some church’s religious ways of thinking, they didn’t even speak in tongues when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. But, the evidence of the Holy Spirit did come from their tongue, from their mouth. Elizabeth spoke blessings and John spoke prophetically. What can we learn? Being filled with the Spirit through the New Testament is evidenced by the tongue, but it’s not always ‘speaking in tongues’. God loves to break out of the boxes we try to neatly put him in. Ask God to fill you – with God inside you, God should burst out of you!!
The Spirit Moves – John 16.13-14
Jesus said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”
When you look at the Bible as a whole, we find that it is one complete picture and often the Old Testament and New Testament reflect each other. People that complain the Bible was written by man and put together by man are always those who either hate God or those who have never really read the Bible. You see, just as the Holy Spirit works in our lives, so he was at work throughout history, throughout the Bible and through man to bring together God’s complete and true Word, the the ‘logos’ (written counsel of God). Then God speaks to us through the ‘rhema’ word (the ‘now’ word like when a Bible verse ‘jumps’ out at you!)
For example in Exodus 12 (see verse 21) we find God speaking to the people of Israel about the ‘Passover’ (when God would ‘pass over’ the houses of Israel and not to kill them, as would happen to the Egyptians, because the houses of Israel were marked with the blood of a passover lamb). This would be the ‘first month of the year’ (Ex 21.2). In the New Testament (Matthew 26.17) we find that Jesus was killed on the same day as the Passover. Secondly, the crossing of the Red Sea (to escape Egypt and set out towards the Promised Land) corresponds to the resurrection of Jesus from the grave (Matthew 28 for example). Thirdly, in Exodus 19.1 we find the people of Israel coming to Mount Sinai and Moses going up Mount Sinai for 40 days (now that’s a mountain trip!) to receive the 10 Commandments from God. This exactly parallels the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, both being 50 days later than the Passover.
The Holy Spirit is deeply involved in history – His Story – God’s Story. And he will do the same for you. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you with his presence and pray continually to be filled with Him.
More powerful than we can imagine – Numbers 11.24-26
Sometimes God moves in power in really visible and clear ways. One time this happened was in Acts 2 when God sent his Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us there were what seemed to be tongues of fire on the heads of the disciples in the room. Imagine the sight! The experience was so dramatic that the disciples were completely changed! God has moved in this kind of way through history. Some people call these moves of the Holy Spirit, ‘awakenings’ or ‘revivals’.
In 1857, God used a guy called Jeremiah Lanphier who started a prayer meeting in a place called Fulton Street in New York. The place quickly filled up as the prayer meetings continued with 1000s of business men coming to faith. Beyond this, people were drawn in and all across New York (and even according to the New York Post), people were being saved (coming to know Jesus) and being transformed, with churches full and people worshipping God. Even a ship from Europe had its crew members all come to faith as a result of hearing what God was doing.
In a place in Wales called Ffald-y-Brenin (a retreat centre), God has been doing some amazing things over recent years. People have experienced God’s power with many stories such as one guy drawn to drive into the venue with his family and meeting with God. Even people walking past have encountered God and his presence. Many people have been set free from addictions and others come to faith.
Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again. However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.
In Numbers 11, we see that when God released some of his power by his Spirit, it wasn’t just those 72 elders that had come away from the Israelite camp that God touched. His presence and power was felt back in the camp by two people called Eldad and Medad. God’s power is so powerful that it doesn’t just stay on us – it goes out from us by his Holy Spirit to touch others. This needs to be our cry out to God – fill me with your presence and use me God!
Conceived – Matthew 1.20
But after (Joseph) had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” The Amplified Bible says, “for that which is conceived in her is of (from, out of) the Holy Spirit.”
In Psalm 127.1, King Solomon wrote, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and let him know that he was to marry Mary. He brought reassurance to Joseph that the child inside Mary’s womb was from the Holy Spirit. Joseph then did take Mary as his wife, in obedience to God. We’d do well to do the same – obeying what God says!
But there’s another important thing going on here. What was conceived inside Mary was from the Holy Spirit. Many of us have good ideas, creative ideas and say lots of things. But God has made us and prepared good works in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2.10). Our part is to partner with what God tells us to do. Whatever we do needs to come from God. It was God who had the idea of sending Jesus (who willingly came and died for us), it was the Holy Spirit who helped Mary conceive. We don’t understand how all this happen, but we have to recognise that the initiation came from God. We want God ideas, and we want God’s ideas for our own lives. He is the one that needs to ‘conceive’ the plans for our life, not us. We can’t tell God what we’re going to do and expect him to OK it. He often will, because he directs us by giving us passions and abilities for things. But we must allow God to be in all we do so he can direct us. We learn from the Bible that Jesus is the head of the church – that includes us. We’re not the head, no leader is the head. Jesus is the head, the inspiration.
And don’t forget that conception takes 9 months for a baby (normally). If God’s planted something in you (an idea, not a garden plant…) then you often have to wait and allow it to develop before ‘giving birth’ to it. So be patient, let God be God and work with what he’s doing. Even Jesus said he didn’t do anything except what he saw God doing (John 5.19).
New Wine – John 19.28-30 (Amplified)
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished (ended), said in fulfillment of the Scripture, I thirst. A vessel (jar) full of sour wine (vinegar) was placed there, so they put a sponge soaked in the sour wine on [a stalk, reed of] hyssop, and held it to [His] mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, It is finished! And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
In John 2, Jesus did his first miracle when he turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana. The wine that Jesus created was far tastier and better than the wine that they’d had at the start of the night. Even the master of the banquet noticed when he said to the bridegroom that people usually have the choice wine first then the cheap wine – “but you’ve saved the best till now!”
When Jesus died on the cross, he said ‘it is finished’. The world could now enter into a new covenant. In the past, people had to follow all the laws, but now God blew open the doors through what Jesus did so now through his sacrifice, we could all be restored to God (if we accept Jesus). On the Cross as we read in John 19, Jesus ‘received the sour wine’ and then said ‘it is finished’.
One of the titles of the Holy Spirit is the ‘new wine’. In John 2 with the wedding in Cana, Jesus pointed the way to what he would do on the Cross when he created the ‘choicest wine’. Then when Jesus died, he took away the old and brought the new. The people had been under the law (the sour wine), but Jesus would bring in the new covenant with his perfect sacrifice and release the Holy Spirit. Today, you don’t have to have ‘sour wine’ (the law), you can have Jesus and the freedom and new wine of the Holy Spirit!
Rested – Matthew 3.16 and John 1.32
These voices record the time that John the Baptist baptised Jesus in the River Jordan. In Matthew we read that, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.” In John’s Gospel, John records, “Then John (the Baptist) gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him (Jesus).”
So from Matthew, we find out that the Holy Spirit descended from heaven like a dove onto Jesus and then ‘lighting’ on him. This isn’t some kind of weird light show, but the Spirit coming / accompanying Jesus. But John the disciple’s account recalls John the Baptist’s testimony that he saw the Spirit come down from heaven like a dove and then remain (abide, continue) on Jesus.
What an incredible testimony. Jesus was the perfect Son of God, fully man and fully God so we’d expect the Spirit of God to remain with him, but this is a challenge to us. The Spirit of God is described as a dove. In Matthew 10.16, Jesus sends out his disciples into the world and tells them to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Right back to the story of Noah, we find that it was the dove who was sent out from the ark and returned to the ark (possibly a representation of the Holy Spirit). We know that the dove is a peaceful bird and one easily scared away. Yet the ‘dove’ remained on Jesus. If we are right with God, then the ‘dove’ of the Holy Spirit remains with us. But when we sin, the dove flies away until we’re right with God again by saying sorry. The lesson today is don’t frighten away the dove of the Holy Spirit.
Written on our hearts – 2 Corinthians 3.2-3
I heard this great point from Joyce Meyer recently.. In the Old Testament, we find Moses going up the mountain to meet God, to get the 10 Commandments from God. We find this in Exodus 19 and then the giving of the commandments in Exodus 20 (or Deuteronomy 4 and 5). These essential 10 laws were given by God and hand-written into physical stone (Exodus 31.18). But the stone tablets reflected the hearts of the people of Israel (and of all humans) in that they were / we are hard-hearted, with stony hearts towards God. Time after time, the people of Israel heard from God and then quickly ended up rejected him. Even when Moses had gone up Mount Sinai to meet with God for just 40 days, we find that the people gathered around Aaron and demanded, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron gave into their pressure and built a golden calf – one which Moses destroyed… “And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” (Ex 32.20-21). Aaron replied pitifully that it was the people who were evil – in itself showing how important that clear and Godly leadership / example is.
God understands that all our hearts are weak, so instead of giving us written commands on stone tablets, God instead imprinting his life in our hearts by his Holy Spirit. We read this in 2 Corinthians 3.2-3 from Paul, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” Paul was affirming what God had said in Ezekiel 36.26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
It is incredible to think that God has now ‘written’ his love, character and life into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who he freely gives to us when we accept Jesus in our life. He then works in us through the Holy Spirit to change our hearts to become more like Jesus – although we should choose to work with God in this process and not harden our hearts! This is a lifetime process, although God does often separately pour out his Holy Spirit and fill us with the Spirit of God in ways beyond our understanding! God will change your hard heart, your stony heart and put a new spirit in you, a heart of flesh and make you a letter of love to a broken, hurting and dying world.
Preaching the Gospel, with signs following (Part 1) – Mark 16.19-20
There are some people who mistakenly say that what happened in the New Testament with miracles, signs and wonders, deliverance and healing were only for a certain period of time and don’t operate today. Unfortunately this speaks more about people’s inability to cope with something beyond their understanding than it does with what the Bible actually says! Matthew 28.19 is a famous Bible verse. In it, Jesus tells his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus had been given all authority from his Father in heaven and so he was passing this authority on to his disciples who would be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Many people agree with this and want to go out and preach the Gospel and baptise people (usually having baptism classes for weeks, even though the Biblical model was immediate baptism after becoming a follower of Jesus!) But the same people don’t accept that the Holy Spirit heals today or does miracles. Yet in Mark 16, we find Jesus telling his disciples a similar thing to Matthew 28. He says that in his name, his disciples will drive out demons, speak in new tongues, won’t be hurt by deadly poison, snakes won’t kill them and heal the sick. This is in the same part that tells the disciples to go and preach the gospel to people and baptise those who believe. The Bible carries on to confirm this: Mark 16.20 (in the Amplified Bible) says, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord kept working with them and confirming the message by the attesting signs and miracles that closely accompanied [it].” So Jesus clearly confirmed his Word (by the power of the Holy Spirit) by the disciples being enabled to do miraculous things.
Preaching the Gospel, with signs following (Part 2) – Acts 8.6-7
Then if we scoot across into the book of Acts, we find the only person in the New Testament directly described as being an evangelist – Philip (although, Jesus and the disciples were ‘evangelists’ as the same Greek word used for the word ‘evangelist’ is used often in the New Testament – eg. Luke 4.43, Acts 16.10). In Acts 8.6-7, we read, “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” So we know that after Jesus, miracles were still happening. Why was this? Because people still needed healing, deliverance and God was still confirming the preaching of his Word (the Bible). Unfortunately, people who claim miracles don’t happen today are wrong. People still need healing, people still need delivering from evil spirits and God is still in the business of confirming his Word. People have not changed. In fact, we know from the Bible that as time marches on and the second coming of Jesus gets nearer, things and people will become more evil. If anything, we need more miracles / signs / wonders / healings and deliverances today than ever before. And this is happening, across the globe. This is the power of God – “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty (Zechariah 4.6).
Whitsun / Whit Sunday – Jesus goes back to heaven – Acts 1.9-11
Jesus had completed his mission. Jesus came into the world to make a way back with the Father in heaven, if people accept him. He had been crucified on the cross and become sin so that through him, we could die to sin and be made right with God. He rose from the dead, to overcome the power of death and the evil one. This was a picture for all those who would follow him as their Lord and Saviour (saving one). Those who follow Christ will also overcome death through what Jesus did. But now it was time for Jesus to return to heaven. In John 16.6-7, Jesus said to the disciples that it was better that he went away so that he could send the counsellor, the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1.9 it was time for Jesus to return to heaven back to what people call his ‘high priestly ministry’ (see Hebrews 8.1 and Hebrews 10.12).
This means that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God in heaven, interceding for us. What is intercession? It is standing between God and us, pleading for us and crying out to God on our behalf (Romans 8.34). So, as he promised, Jesus went back up to heaven (the posh word is that Jesus ‘ascended’ – that means he went upwards.. must have been fun to watch, pity they didn’t have cell phones to video it!) But Jesus didn’t just go and leave the disciples with nothing. He promised his Spirit (Acts 1.7) and that the disciples would be God’s witnesses to the world. Jesus wasn’t going to leave them as orphans (John 14.18), but would send the Spirit who would always be with them.
In just the same way, we have God’s Spirit with us all the time if we know Jesus. Jesus has also given us a command – to go into the world and be his witnesses. A witness testifies about something that has happened. Through our prayers, words, actions and love – we are God’s witnesses on this earth. In a way, we are the ‘hands, feet and mouth’ of Jesus – representing him and being ‘Jesus to people’ by acting and loving with his love in us. Jesus went up and up when he went back to heaven. In the same way, we need to be growing more in Jesus and being increasingly like him. We don’t go up in the air as Jesus did, but our lives should go ‘up and up’ spiritually and in our love for people. Are you growing more like Jesus every day? If not, ask Jesus to help you, to change you and shape you. The more you become like him, the more Jesus can and will use you 🙂
In the beginning – Genesis 1.1-Genesis 2.1
We know that the Holy Spirit was at work in the beginning of time. The Spirit of God hovered over the waters of a formless, empty and dark earth. Then God started his work building the earth and all its elements, firstly saying, ‘let there be light..” Just as God created light from a dark world, the same is true of God’s work towards us as people. Let’s think about this further.. In the beginning of time, there was nothing. We know that the world was 3 things: dark, formless and empty.
So what did God do? First of all, he said, ‘let there be light’. We know that light cancels out darkness – so now there was no darkness. But that wasn’t enough. Just having light is great, but there is so much more to life. So, God started to form the earth and shape its foundations, using great wisdom, skill and knowledge (see also Proverbs 4.19-20). The earth now had a form. So there was light – and a formed earth. But again, more was needed. So thirdly, God filled the earth – with plants, creatures, and mankind. So what was once dark, formless and empty – was now light, formed and filled.
This is equally true of the life that Jesus gives us. In John 1, we find out that Jesus is the light of the world. Through God’s Holy Spirit, we are brought into the light by Jesus, where God forms us and fills us with his Spirit and all that he is, as we are transformed more and more into his likeness. The Bible is full of this kind of symbolism. God’s Word isn’t dull and lifeless, in fact it is the onlything that brings light and life. Are you feeling dark, lifeless and empty? If you are, then ask God’s Spirit today to bring you light, life and to fill you completely with him. Call out to Jesus, whatever stage of life you’re in. He will hear you. If you do, tell someone, find a church to support you, or of course, you can contact us 🙂
Why Do We Need The Holy Spirit?
Why Do We Need The Holy Spirit? … The Spirit is a person that we need in our Christian lives – he is the Counselor, a Helper, Comforter. The Spirit guides us to Jesus and prays on our behalf before God. The Spirit also leads us into all truth. John 16.13 says the Spirit will guide us into all truth and is ‘the Spirit of truth’. (Jesus is also the truth – John 14.6).
The Spirit cannot be fully understood by us but he reveals himself to us by speaking to our spirits, the bit of us that God has made new. We see in the Holy Spirit the great depth of God; a depth we can’t even begin to imagine but a depth that God has put on the inside of us. The Spirit of God gives life. He gave life in the beginning. You need the life of the Spirit in your life too!
Want a full, satisfying, wholesome life – then get filled with the Spirit! We need this power in our lives and the life of the church. But we can limit the Spirit by our choices and our unbelief. This may explain partly why the church in the West is so powerless. The Spirit also glorifies Jesus; unites all Christians in the local, national, worldwide church. The Spirit convicts us of our sin (John 16); causes people to receive the new life through Christ (John 3.5-6); the Holy Spirit is a witness to us getting saved (Romans 8.15-16). In the life of a Christian, the Spirit reveals God’s will to us (2 Peter 1.20-21) and gives us insight into God’s Word. In our lives it is the Spirit who gives us victory over bad stuff that tempts us, he helps us in our praying, and gives us guidance in life.
The truth is we all need to be continually filled as the Bible says in Ephesians 5.18. This means asking God to fill us and being open to the Holy Spirit. If you fit the Spirit into your small, neat theology, it’ll be no surprise if your Christian life is small and neat. And probably fairly lifeless too! Where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom and life!
The Holy Spirit is a person – read John 14.15-17
If we were to live our lives knowing that the Holy Spirit is a person, I think it would make a lot of difference. How do we know the Holy Spirit is a person? Well, the Bible tells us. But the Holy Spirit is not a person as we are people, but something much more. The Holy Spirit is God, part of the Godhead (that’s God, Jesus and the Spirit), he can be in many places at once and more, pretty cool.
In John 14, Jesus refers to the Spirit as ‘he’ – saying, ‘But you know him, because he lives with you and he will be in you.’ We also find a reference in Ephesians 4.30 in the NIV says, ‘do not grieve the Holy Spirit’ (do not make the Holy Spirit sad, upset). Then in 1 Thessalonians 5.19 we learn not to hold back the work of the Holy Spirit.
So what can we learn here? We are in a relationship with God. We need to treat the Spirit of God with respect, we need to be in relationship, we need to learn to hear, listen, obey, we need to not upset or grieve the Spirit. Just as you wouldn’t want to upset your best mate, so it is with God’s Spirit. Just as you need to give and receive in any relationship, so it is with the Spirit. Except the Spirit of God will always be with you to help, guide, discipline, challenge and comfort you better than any friend.
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty’ (Zechariah 4.6, NIV)
If we do things in our own strength, we often mess up and find things don’t seem to go right. Well there’s good news – the Holy Spirit!
In John 14.16, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to all his disciples and to us today! The Holy Spirit helps us to be more like Jesus. Jesus called his Spirit the ‘Counsellor’ or the ‘Comforter’ and promised that he would help us and always be with us. We can’t see the Holy Spirit but if you are a Christian he is always with you!
This week, ask God’s Holy Spirit to be in charge of everything you do and say. Try it! All you need to do is to ask and believe. (Read John 16.23)
GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT – read John 16.5-14
The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to you – it’s like having Jesus around all the time to advise you, help you and be with you. Before Jesus went back up into heaven he said to his disciples that ‘it is better for you that I go away. When I go away, I will send the Helper to you’ (YB). The Holy Spirit is working inside every Christian, changing them and using them for God’s work. How much is up to you!
Jesus said that his Holy Spirit is there to help you, always be with you and to show you what is true (John 14.6). The Spirit is there to come and help, to teach and to remind.
This same Holy Spirit radically changed the lives of a bunch of ordinary blokes so much that they preached without fear and the church spread across the whole world. Do you want to be a world changer? It starts with you. ‘Holy Spirit, change me to be like Jesus and use me.’
‘God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well’ (Romans 12.6, TLB)
If you’re a Christian, God has given you at least one gift which is distributed by the Holy Spirit for serving him, building up the church and spreading the Good News (1 Corinthians 12). You have each got at least one gift.
So what gift have you got and what gifts are there? Read 1 Corinthians 12.8-10, 1 Corinthians 12.28, Romans 12.6-8, Ephesians 4.11, 1 Peter 4.9-10, Exodus 31.3, 1 Timothy 2.1-2 and Psalm 150.3-5.
Take a look at what amazing gifts God has for you! Prayer, creative communication, leadership, teaching, prophecy (hearing from God and telling people what God is saying), healing, doing miracles, faith, giving, helping, being a pastor, setting up churches (apostle), telling people about Jesus (evangelist) and more!
UNDERSTANDING AND USING YOUR GIFTS – Read 1 Corinthians 13.1-3
Don’t forget your special abilities are God-given. Plus, you have to have do things in love. We all know the difference between being taught something by a teacher who enjoys their job and loves their subject, and a teacher who hates his job and can’t stand the subject. God wants you to be passionate about him and other people (Matthew 22.37-40).
Answer these questions to find out how you can use your gifts
a. If I could do something in my Christian life that I couldn’t fail at, what would it be?
b. At the end of my life, I’d like to look back and say I’ve achieved
c. If you talked to my mates, they’d say I’m interested in
d. What keeps you talking late into the night?
e. What kind of people would you most like to help?
‘Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.’ (Ephesians 4.7, TM)
We’ve looked at gifts already. How does it work? Jesus lets you ‘share’ in a measure of his power. It’s like the Internet – Jesus is like the Internet and you are like a computer hooked up to and ‘accessing’ the Internet/Jesus.
The amazing things is that Jesus freely gives gifts. You don’t earn it, you don’t deserve it. Jesus gives it out of his kindness.
What’s more is that right before time began Jesus chose you and chose you to serve him in a particular way, time and place (Ephesians 1.4). Amazing or what?
Jesus has gifted you but have you asked him what your gift is? Are you a bit nervous? Don’t be! The Holy Spirit doesn’t force himself on you – he won’t make you do what you don’t feel comfortable with. Today, thank Jesus for his kindness, ask him what your gift is, ask if there’s anything stopping you from receiving your gift, then ask God to give you his gift(s)!