Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Promise of the Holy Spirit--Acts 2

The past couple of weeks, we mentioned wisdom as a prayer that God will always answer. Last week we identified the Holy Spirit as the source of wisdom.
The Holy Spirit is a promised gift. Peter lays out for us how we received Jesus’ promised gift. After preaching what is perhaps the most perfect sermon, Peter tells those who have been convicted by the preaching and by seeing God’s mighty acts through the apostles to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The results of baptism and repentance are the forgiveness of sins and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Peter says, “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” not “you might receive the Spirit.” It’s a given. In fact, Peter goes on to say that this is such a sure gift, that it’s not just for the people present, but for their children, for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Him. That means us. We are ones far away. We are ones whom God has called. As Charles Spurgeon says, “if you have repented of having done wrong because you see that you have sinned against your loving Lord, and if you come to Him repenting and believing, and confess Him as he bids you confess Him in baptism; then you have full remission, and you shall be partakers of the gifts and graces of his Holy Spirit, and henceforth you shall be chosen witnesses for the Christ whom God hath raised from the dead.”
Calvin defines repentance as a person renouncing self and “taking his farewell of the world, then addicting oneself wholly to God.” Repentance is continual, not so much because we have to start over and over, but so that we can continue moving forward. Professor Matt Skinner of Luther Theological Seminary adds, “The resurrection and ascension of Jesus require from ignorant humanity a new understanding of who he is and an embrace of his authority to exercise God's rule within creation.” This new understanding is repentance.
The Spirit marks us as sons of God; thus in Romans 8, He is called the Spirit of Adoption. The Spirit is the seal of our salvation; thus the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Life and the Spirit of Grace. What has been a sign that the Spirit is working in your life? For some it is overflowing joy; for others it is an overwhelming awareness of God’s love. For some it is a dramatically transformed life or liberation from the bondage of a particular sin or consequence of the Fall. For some it is illumination—actually understanding Scripture perhaps for the first time or in a new way. This is why the Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth. For others it is awareness of one’s spiritual gift and the ability to operate out of that gift; for others the ability to live the way that God intends. The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Holiness. The Holy Spirit does all of this and more. The Spirit reveals the Godhead to us; He is the Spirit of Glory. The Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray; the Spirit is called the Spirit of Supplications.
There is an interesting thing that happens in the grammar in verse 38-39. The call to repentance and baptism is in the singular. In other words, Peter is saying that each individual is called to repent and be baptized to receive forgiveness of sins. But the promise, “You will receive the Holy Spirit,” is in the plural. In other words, the Spirit is given to the community of which an individual is called to be a part. The Holy Spirit is not a power to be used for our own. He is the power we do not have to live. We can do no good apart from the Spirit. We can bear no fruit apart from the Spirit. He empowers the community through individuals. And part of the given work of the Spirit is to make us witnesses to the risen Christ. It is the Spirit Himself who makes us Christian. Without the Spirit, we do not belong to Christ. The Spirit marks us as Christ’s own. It is the Spirit who baptizes us into Christ’s Body. The Holy Spirit separates us from the world and unifies us in the sure hope of an eternal inheritance. It is only as each of us lets the Spirit come to expression in word and deed as a member of the body that the body grows towards the maturity of Christ.
The Holy Spirit has been given to us. No gift of the Spirit is lacking in this body. The Spirit has equipped us fully to do what God is calling us to do. It’s just a matter of whether we are submitting ourselves to His power and His plan. Are we aligning ourselves with His gift, or are we quenching the Holy Spirit? Are we still trying to do things on our own? Sometimes we attend church to keep what we've got and add a little more. We disregard anything in worship that challenges us to cast aside our self-interest and shift our loyalties. Make us feel good the way we are! Patch us up so we can return to the life we've chosen! Perhaps this is why what occurs in Acts 2 doesn't happen in our churches. But it could! The promise and person of the Spirit has been given to us. God has equipped us fully and completely.
The Spirit is analogous to the wind for good reason. The Spirit will not be tied down to definitions or conventions or institutions or formulae that we dream up. The Spirit is free. The Spirit can be unpredictable. We don’t own the Spirit, the Spirit owns us or “possesses” us. We are possessed by the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit is good. If we are willing to surrender to that power, we will experience the freedom that Spirit offers. In being bound to the Spirit, we become truly free to be all that God intended for us to be. Just as we are promised that if we pray for wisdom, God will grant it, we are exhorted in Scripture to be filled with the Holy Spirit. God also loves to do this! Although we have received the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit never leaves us, we can quench the Spirit. If we refuse to submit to the Spirit, the Spirit in humility does not always force us to comply with God’s right to ownership of us. But if we desire to be filled with the Spirit, and led by the Spirit, then God is happy to fill us and lead us.
May we live as Spirit-filled people of God.

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