Genesis 1:1-5, 26-31
Acts 1:1-5, 2:1-21

Today we begin a new series focusing on the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit, how do we receive the Spirit and what is the role of the Spirit in our lives? Along the way, we’ll be discussing what it means to be baptized in the Spirit, led by the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, sealed with the Spirit, and what it means to walk in the Spirit.

Today’s message is sort of an Overture. You all know that an overture is a selection of music that precedes a symphony and incorporates a slice of music from all the songs in that symphony serving to whet the appetite for what is to follow.

As we begin, I want to let you know that my source for this series will be The Bible; I am sure you wouldn’t want it any other way, right? And so I encourage us to drop all of our predilections and biases about the Spirit and be open to what God wants us to know through His word, the Bible.

In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:1-5)

On the day of Pentecost, all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!” Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy. And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
 will be saved.’ (Acts 2:1-21)

A children’s catechism class was learning the Apostles Creed; each child had been assigned a sentence to repeat. The 1st one said, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth.’ The second child said, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son.” When he had completed his sentence, there was an embarrassing silence. Finally, one of the kids from the back says, “Looks like the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit got spooked.”

How many of you believe in the Holy Spirit? How many of have a pretty good handle on the role/ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian? How many of you are feeling a little edgy right now that I am talking about the Holy Spirit?

Why is it we don’t have any problems when it comes to thinking about God the Father or God the Son, but when it comes to God the Holy Spirit we tend to be a tad jumpy? I have a theory: it’s because the King James translates Holy Spirit as Holy Ghost.

Many Christians tend to shy away from the Holy Ghost because of the Spirit’s association with some of the negative aspects of both the Pentecostal and related Charismatic movements. The Pentecostals talk about a Holy Spirit inspired ‘second blessing,’ a ‘baptism of the Spirit’ received sometime subsequent to salvation that is accompanied by speaking in tongues, and in some groups handling poisonous snakes.

And the health and wealth gospel preachers align themselves with the Charismatic movement, which places an emphasis on the sign gifts of miracles and healings. Most of us have probably seen one of those TV evangelists smacking the person who has come forward for healing on the forehead and encouraging them to fall backward into a state they refer to as being ‘slain in the Spirit.’

Don’t get me wrong. I do not wish to denigrate anything that God wants to do through the Holy Spirit. But the truth is some faith healers have been exposed as charlatans who get rich at their victim’s expense.

And so, it’s no wonder that some of us are a little edgy talking about the Holy Spirit.

But to ignore for whatever reason the presence, the power, the gifts and/or the fruit of the Holy Spirit would be to miss out on much that God wants to bless us with.

The last two times Jesus instructed His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, He spoke of the Spirit as ‘the promise of the Father.’

‘Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised’ (Acts 1:4)

When you make a promise to give someone a gift there’s a certain amount of thrill involved as you can’t wait for the moment of giving. My grandson, Alex, has a birthday coming up in July. I have had in mind for a couple of months now a gift I want to give him. I reminded him the other day that his birthday was coming soon. And he wanted to know if I was going to give him a gift. I said, ‘Yes, I promise I’m going to give you a gift.’ And I can’t wait to watch him receive the gift.

I know it’s difficult to speak for God and any emotion God might feel, but I gotta believe that God was looking forward to fulfilling the promise He made concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit. And in that vein enjoys seeing His people receive and appropriate what He so generously has blessed us with.

How sad it would be for me to see Alex unwrap the gift I will give him only to give it the once over and then ignore it.

The Holy Spirit is the gift promised by the Father. The gift of the Spirit was part of His divine plan for His children! If we can assign emotion to God, we can safely say He looked forward with great expectation to the day the gift would be given. And is deeply satisfied as those same children unwrap and begin to enjoy the blessing of that gift.

I say all of this as a way to whet our appetites for this series; to create in us a thirst for the Biblical knowledge about this sometimes neglected aspect of our spiritual Christian life and a hunger for allowing God to turn that knowledge into blessing after blessing

‘Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised’ (Acts 1:4)

Those disciples need that gift in order to become all that they could be. So do we!

The fact that Jesus said the coming of the Holy Spirit was the promise of the Father indicates that the promise was made long before He (Jesus) came on the scene.

Therefore we must begin this study by delving into the Old Testament.

As we do what a surprise that the first reference to the Spirit of God comes in the second verse of the Bible:

Genesis 1:1 says, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’
And verse 2: ‘And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.’

Thus setting the stage for a wealth of information about the Spirit. In fact, there is more about the Spirit in the OT than about the Son of God. The Spirit makes His appearance in 30 of the 39 books of the OT; the 9 missing out on the Spirit being the small books of Ruth, Esther, Song of Solomon and 6 of the Minor Prophets (Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah). I found 95 references to God’s Spirit in those 30 books of the OT.

So what does the OT have to say about the Holy Spirit? Well it agrees with the New Testament in a number of ways; and this listing kind of serves that overture purpose:

  1. The Holy Spirit is the source and sustainer of life.

    Job 33:4 says, ‘The spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life’.

    Psalm 104:30 says, ‘When you send your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.

  2. The Holy Spirit conveys God’s presence.

    Psalm 139:7: ‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?’

  3. The Holy Spirit functions as a teacher.

    Psalm 143:10 says, ‘Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.’

  4. The Holy Spirit empowers individuals with gifts and abilities

    Exodus 31:3 says, ‘And I have filled him (Bezalel) with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability  and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.’

    2 Chronicles 24:20 says, ‘Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says.’

In other words, the Holy Spirit is the agency through which God most often worked His will.

However, the big picture in the Old Testament, as well as the New, is that the Holy Spirit creates and nurtures a special relationship with the people of God.

In the Old Testament it is the nation of Israel; in the New Testament, it is the church.

Notice the parallels to the NT. In the OT, it is the Holy Spirit who deals with Israel’s rebellion and sin.

  • Joel 2 and Zechariah 12:10-13:9 talk of the Spirit’s desire is to bring Israel to
  • As a result, Ezekiel 36:25 and Zechariah 13:1 promises cleansing of sin.
  • Then, Ezekiel lays out how the Holy Spirit desires to renew Israel by giving her a
    new spirit a new heart (Ezekiel 11:18-21; 18:30-32; 36:22-32).
  • Lastly, in that famous passage of the dry bones coming to life again, the prophet
    Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37) links the resurrection of the dead to the work of the Spirit.

In the NT, the Holy Spirit’s role is to create and nurture a special relationship with anyone who chooses to embrace God the Father through His only Son. In the NT, it is God’s Spirit at work within creating in us a desire to be forgiven. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to the Bible, or a church, or a person who shares that there is forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ alone. Once we have received that knowledge, it is the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts to cause us to call on the name of the Lord and be saved. And it is the Holy Spirit of God, who in some mysterious way that no one but God Himself will one day explain, who then indwells us; assuring us of God’s presence to comfort us in troubling times, enabling us to produce the fruit of good character (love, joy, peace) and filling us with God’s power to glorify Him in word and deed.

All of these blessings were based on an amazing promise of God in the Old Testament that was wonderfully fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, in which the disciples of Jesus received the blessing. And God continues to send His Holy Spirit to His people today.

If you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit of God abides with you.

The apostle Paul not only speaks of being in Christ and Christ being in us but also writes about the Spirit being in us:

Romans 8:10-11: ‘And Christ lives in you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 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 the same Spirit living in you.

When a woman first becomes pregnant, she may not know it, but as sure as the sun coming up tomorrow it won’t be long. The more the baby grows, the more obvious it becomes to everyone that she is indeed pregnant. The moment we come to faith, the Holy Spirit is in us, even if we can’t detect it. But as the influence of the Holy Spirit in our life grows, it becomes obvious to us and to the people around us that He is there.

Christian pastor and author, John Blanchard, writes, “A Christian may not always be conscious of the Holy Spirit’s presence, but he would not even be a Christian in his absence.”

The story is told about a little boy who was flying a kite. It was a windy day, and the kite kept going higher and higher. Finally, it got so high that it was out of sight. A man passed by and saw the little boy holding onto the string. The man could not see the kite, and he asked the boy, “How do you even know you have a kite up there?”

The boy replied, “Because every once in a while I can feel a tug.”

Although we cannot see the Holy Spirit, we should be able to feel His tug, sense His work in our lives providing us with blessing upon blessing. That’s what this series is about!

As I close I must ask you: do you have God the Holy Spirit dwelling within?

And the answer depends upon whether or not you have accepted God the Son.

Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. They traveled around the world, adding the finest art treasures to their collection. Picassos, Van Goghs, Monets. The son’s trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.

One day, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father was notified his son was missing in action. A week after that he learned he had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.

Six weeks later, there was a knock on his door and there stood a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, “I was the one your son rescued. I have something to show you. I’m not much of an artist, but I did the best I could, and I want to give you this gift.”

He took the wrapping off and revealed a striking portrait of the man’s son. Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier and promised to hang the picture over the fireplace.

True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, replacing thousands of dollars of paintings. The painting of his son became his most prized possession. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.

A year later, after it became known that the old man became ill and passed away, the art world was in anticipation of the coming auction of the paintings. The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many hoped to lay claim to having the world’s greatest private collection.

The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked. Minutes passed; no one spoke. From the back of the room came, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the good stuff.” More voices echoed in agreement.

“No, we will sell this one first. Now, who will take the son,” queried the auctioneer?

Immediately someone spoke up. Some of us have traveled half way around the world and we have thousands of dollars to spend on the masters, so stop wasting our time on this foolish painting of the man’s son.”

“Who will take the son?” the auctioneer asked again and finally, a man spoke, “Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That’s all I have. I was the caretaker of the old man and would like the painting of his son.”

“I have ten dollars; who will give $20?” called the auctioneer.

“Give it to him for ten dollars so we can get on with the business at hand.”

After more silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice. Sold.”

The gavel fell, cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can get on with it and bid on the real treasures!”

The auctioneer looked at the audience and solemnly announced the auction was over. Disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? What about all of the masterpieces? There are millions of dollars of art here! We demand an explanation!”

The auctioneer replied, “I am sorry, but it’s very simple. You see, according to the will of the father, whoever takes the son … gets it all.”