Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Holy Spirit: Who He Is and What He Does

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
(John 14:16-17)

Speaking to a large audience, Evangelist D. L. Moody held up a glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass? One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Who is the Holy Spirit? The Bible does not assign Him a formal name, such as we have for the Lord Jesus Christ. However, we know him by many descriptive titles, such as the Spirit of God, the Eternal Spirit, the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Holiness, and the Spirit of the Lord.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word ruwach (pronounced roo’-akh) was used when talking about the Spirit. This word literally means “wind” … the type of wind associated with a breathe. In the New Testament the Greek word pheuma (pronounced pnyoo’-mah) was used, which means the “breathe” or a “breeze.” We can literally think of the Holy Spirit as the “Breathe of God.”

Today we will examine who the Holy Spirit is and what He does.

The Third Person of the Trinity

The first thing you need to know about the Holy Spirit is that He is one of the three divine persons of the Holy Trinity who make up the single substance of God. He is as much God as the Father is God. He is as much God as the Son is God. The Holy Spirit is usually referred to as the “Third Person” of the Trinity – with the Father being the First Person and the Son the Second Person.

For many of us, this is a difficult concept to grasp. The Bible declares that there is only one living God, yet we learn from Scripture that He comprises three separate personages. One way to explain this concept is to examine the nature of water. Water is a single compound that can exist in three states – liquid, ice and vapor. An egg is another picture. It is comprised of the white, the yoke and the shell, yet it is still one egg.  (These illustrations have their flaws, but I'm using them simply to give some idea of the concept.)

The next thing you need to know is that the Holy Spirit is a person. Many people throughout the ages have thought of the Holy Spirit more as a thing than a person. In fact, some falsely teach that He is only a force. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

What constitutes a person? Would you say that a person has intellect? Emotion? A will? Well, the Holy Spirit also has intellect, emotion and a will.

His intelligence is manifest in all His mighty works as illustrated by Romans 8:26-27, which reads, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” The Holy Spirit is able to interpret the believer’s innermost feelings, which cannot be put into words. That takes intellect.

Ephesians 4:30, shows us that the Holy Spirit has emotion. It reads, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The Holy Spirit can be grieved by sin, and as we all know, grief is a definite emotion.

We also learn that the Holy Spirit has a will. His will is shown in the sovereign bestowal of spiritual gifts on men, which is accomplished “as he wills.” First Corinthians 12:11 shows this plainly, “All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing (or distributing) to every man severally (or individually) as he wills.”

The Holy Spirit Is a Comforter

We have established that the Holy Spirit is God – the Third Person of the Trinity. We also know that He is a person by showing He has intellect, emotion and a will. But what does the Holy Spirit do?

Many books have been written about what the Holy Spirit does. I could easily spend hours explaining all that He does. However, today I am going to explain four things that the Holy Spirit does:

• The Holy Spirit is a Comforter

• The Holy Spirit is a Counselor

• The Holy Spirit is a teacher

• The Holy Spirit convicts

Let me begin by explaining how the Holy Spirit comforts us. In fact, Jesus called Him “another Comforter.” Look again at John 14:16. Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever...”

What did Jesus mean when He said, “He shall give you another Comforter?” Jesus said that because “Comforter” was also one of Jesus’ titles. He was saying that the Holy Spirit would be “another” like Jesus. Just as Jesus is our Comforter, so too is the Holy Spirit a Comforter. A comforter is a helper or an advocate who we can call on for help in time of need. The Holy Spirit is ever ready to strengthen and comfort us when we are in distress.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus used the title “Comforter” to describe the Holy Spirit? Is it possible that He used this term because Jesus understands how often we need comfort?

When do we need comfort?

• We need comfort when we feel alone.

• We need comfort when others turn against us.

• We need comfort when everything seems to be falling apart.

• We need comfort when we have to be separated from someone we love due to a divorce, a job transfer, a move, when military duty calls, or when death has touched those near and dear to us.

Jesus knew first hand about separation. The time of His arrest and crucifixion was drawing near. As Jesus met with His disciples in the “upper room,” He explained to them many things. Jesus knew that He was about to be separated from His disciples, and He knew that they would need comfort during the trying times that lay ahead. Jesus promised his disciples the continuing presence of the Spirit as a remedy against the sadness caused by His departure.

Know that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer. He reminds us that we can depend on God’s Word in the difficult times of life, and He uses the Word to give us His peace, His love, and His joy. These are profound truths that comfort our hearts and minds as we attempt to live our everyday lives in this troubled world.

The Holy Spirit is a Counselor

The next thing the Holy Spirit does is counsel. John 14:26 records Jesus’ words concerning the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Jesus said, “He shall teach you all things.

When do we need a counselor? We need a counselor when we need advice. We need a counselor when we are confused. We need a counselor when we are full of doubt. We need a counselor when we simply don’t understand.

Many things in this world are just plain confusing. Why does evil seem to go unpunished? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? Why? Why? Why?

Perhaps you are troubled and confused today. You don’t understand why you can’t seem to find a decent job. You don’t know why the person you love left you. You are uncertain about your financial future. You don’t understand why things never seem to go your way.

The Holy Spirit counsels us in situations we don’t understand. He helps us and strengthens us. He understands each of us personally and intimately, and knows how to help us exactly the way we need Him to. That is why it is so important for us to listen to His guidance and counsel in every situation.

The Holy Spirit is a Teacher

Jesus was a Counselor to His disciples. He helped them understand many things, but His time on earth was drawing to a close. In John 16, Jesus speaks of leaving, but He has already assured them that the Holy Spirit will come to teach them.

So, what does the Holy Spirit teach? He teaches us all about God's Word. Second Peter 1:20-21 reads, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit shows us that the Bible did not come from man’s imagination. The words belong to God.

The Holy Spirit also teaches us about life. We read in John 14:26, “He shall teach you all things.” He teaches us how to walk, how to talk, how to live our lives, how to deal with difficult situations, how to handle our finances, how to handle our relationships. He teaches us all things … the Christian way.

The Holy Spirit also teaches us all about Jesus. Jesus said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all 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 bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:13-15).

The Holy Spirit Convicts

The final thing I am going to tell you is that the Holy Spirit convicts. The Holy Spirit reveals truth to the world. This is one of the primary reasons why the Holy Spirit is making His residence in the world in this age. According to the words of Christ, “When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).

This work of the Spirit is important, so let me break it down a bit. The first part of this threefold work is that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin.

People have consciences. We all have a sense of what is right and what is wrong. The Holy Spirit prods the conscience about sin. He let’s us know when we are doing wrong, and when we are doing wrong we usually feel guilty.

So, what is the purpose of conviction? The purpose of conviction is to bring us to Christ.

The Holy Spirit reveals that the greatest issue between the unsaved and God is “the sin of unbelief.” The destiny of an unsaved person is determined by whether he believes in Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals that it is necessary to believe in Christ to be saved.

The second part of this threefold work is that the Holy Spirit convicts of the lack of righteousness. This is necessary because Christ is no longer bodily present on earth. While Christ was on earth, His presence and His teaching demonstrated the righteousness of God. However, when Christ ascended into heaven, it was necessary for the Holy Spirit to undertake this ministry.

Christ demonstrated a perfect life, but we fall far short of this perfect standard. We are all sinners. Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

The Holy Spirit reveals to the unsaved that there is available through Christ an imputed righteousness which God gives the believer. In other words, the righteousness of Jesus Christ satisfies all the criteria necessary to share in God’s grace.

The last part of this threefold work is that the Holy Spirit convicts of judgment. The Holy Spirit presses upon the heart of the unsaved the fact of God’s judgment. Sin was judged at the cross, and for those who trust in Christ there is deliverance from judgment from sin and deliverance from condemnation.

Please understand that the Spirit does not coerce (or force) our conviction. There is no arm-twisting, trickery, or physical force involved in bringing us to faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit simply uses God’s Word to convince us that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

So there you have it. We have learned a little about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does. We have also learned that He is our Comforter, Counselor, teacher, and He convicts.

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you today? Have you already responded to His conviction? If not, it is not too late.

May God bless you!

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