This blog post is Part 11 of a series entitled "May I Ask A Question?" by Pastor Jeffrey Dean Smith of Donelson First in Nashville, TN.
Message Date: August 6, 2023
Listen to a few of this week’s headlines:
1. Trump Arrives at DC for Arraignment on Federal Charges
2. Fuel Costs on the Rise
3. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Wife of 18 Years are Divorcing
4. The CDC Advises Shot For Infants
5. Man Attacks Shoppers at a Mall
6. Cheese IS Bad For You!
I am sure you will agree with me that we all are in need of wisdom, much wisdom and discernment, and direction in the midst of a world that seemingly continues to spiral deeper and downward into darkness.
How amazing would it be if you had someone available to you to offer:
Comfort during hurt. Wisdom during confusion. Peace during pain. Confidence during times of uncertainty.
Well today as we continue our enlightening and super-thought-provoking series, May I Ask A Question?, you will each be reminded that, as a follower of Jesus, you in fact do have a spiritual companion who is walking step in step with you as you journey life.
This companion is one that Jesus Christ stated would forever be with you. This spiritual being to whom I am referring - - the Holy Spirit.
This week, I want to present several really provocative and super-stimulating questions about the Holy Spirit.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
1. The Holy Spirit is a divine person.
There are, I presume, many misconceptions about who or what is the Holy Spirit? Some believe the Holy Spirit is as a wind moving in our lives with very little control or knowledge on our end as to its movements or presence, and then, even less knowledge or abilities on our own as to how long such a spirit stays or to where and how it moves next.
Others envision the Holy Spirit as a mystical or magical force that can only be summoned on special occasions or by certain people who possess such abilities to communicate with spiritual forces.
Still others say the Holy Spirit is not an actual real being, rather, the Spirit is instead a “good feeling” or an “idea” from which we can receive positive vibes.
None of these thoughts are true; none whatsoever! And to the contrary, such teachings are simply false doctrine.
The Holy Spirit is a divine person – a Spirit who is available, ready, accessible, and intricately and intimately involved in the life of a Christ-follower.
Jesus Himself confirmed multiple times that the Holy Spirit is a person rather than an impersonal force.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and 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
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. John 15:26
The word “testify” that Jesus uses here in John 15 is a Greek word which means to:
Testify /Greek/ martyreo Speak well of; to vouch for; to strongly spread the word
It is from this Greek word in which the word “martyr” is derived. When one would testify to truths in which he or she believed, such a person would be willing to die for their testimony. Through such firmness or boldness in “vouching for” another, a martyr would be willing to “strongly spread the word” even unto death!
The Holy Spirit is a divine person who has come to testify, to “vouch for” the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus also says this about the divine person of the Holy Spirit:
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7
The Savior of the world calls the Holy Spirit an “Advocate,” and the one who comes to “testify” about Him to the world.
Advocate /Greek/ parakletos = counselor; intercessor; helper; one who encourages and comforts.
I find it extremely fascinating that the only time the word “advocate” is used in the New Testament is when it is reserved exclusively in reference to either Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. This Greek word is never used at any other time in describing or referencing any other person or divine being.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
2. The Holy Spirit is God.
God is three persons – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Along with God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, God the Spirit is the third member of the Godhead, that is, the Trinity.
All three Persons Jesus mentions are God while being distinct from each other within the Trinity.
As the Trinity, we see that each person of the Trinity is distinct. And each is fully God. As finite beings, this can be mind-boggling for us. Nevertheless, this is true.
At some point, we shall take a deep dive into the Trinity. But that will be a theological teaching reserved for another time. The first time we read of the Spirit of God, we do so in the beginning of the Creation of the world story in Genesis 1: Genesis 1:1-2
We see from the very beginning of time on planet Earth that the Holy Spirit is present. At such a moment when, as the Bible states, the present state of the Earth is “formless and empty,” as well as immersed in “darkness,” God’s Spirit is here.
In the New Testament, Paul makes this statement about the Lord and the Holy Spirit being one: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
Do you remember the final words of Jesus spoken before He ascends back to heaven? He, in this moment after His resurrection, could have made any number of statements or directives to us as His followers. He says this: Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus does not tell His disciples, “Go and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of you, my disciples.” He, too, does not say, “Go and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the archangels Michael or Gabriel.” No! Jesus tells His followers to, “Go and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit!”
You know, whenever I baptize someone, I do so speaking these exact words as I immerse my brother or sister in Christ into the water. I speak the very words Jesus spoke:
“I baptize you, my brother or sister in Christ, in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit!”
Believers throughout all ages and all times can only be baptized into the name of God Himself... God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Go to the book of Acts – Acts chapter 5. Here is a story recorded of a husband and wife who lied about their finances. Now let me first insert this reminder to you of the importance of giving to the Lord the first of your wealth. We have had this very conversation around the house this summer as both Bailey and Brynnan have worked several summer jobs. We’ve discussed how important it is to give back to the Lord a portion of how He has blessed you. I will say, during this summer, your contributions to the Church have been staggeringly low. I just want you to remember that as we continue to grow, our needs continue to grow, and Donelson First needs your support. I do implore you to pray as a family, as a believer, that the Lord will lead you in your giving, and that unlike Ananias and his wife Sapphira, when the Lord blesses you with income, or when you make a return on your investment, do not lie nor steal from the Lord.
Let’s read: Acts 5:1-11
What a staggering reminder to us of the importance of giving back to God what is already His!
Do you see to whom Peter states that this couple lied? Look at Verse 3 again: Acts 5:3
Peter sternly calls out Ananias for his deception to... the Holy Spirit!
Sadly, Ananias’s wife does the same thing her husband did... which too leads us to another reminder men...
Men... My family is not merely watching my lead. My family is too following my lead. As I lead well, my family will live well, love others well, and honor God well.
Look at what Peter says to Sapphira! She does not even know that her husband, for his discretions towards the Holy Spirit, is dead!
What I want you to see this morning is that Peter is equating the Spirit of God with God Himself!
And this is not merely a theme we see throughout the New Testament. No! Too in the Old Testament, the man whom God says is “... a man after God’s own heart,” King David, asks this question in what I believe is one of the most beautiful and genuine and authentic of prayers ever recorded: Psalm 139
Oh, what eloquent words to our Creator from a man truly desiring to honor God. Did you notice the question David penned in verse 7: Psalm 139:7
Here we find the great King David acknowledging that to be apart from the Spirit of God is to be apart from God Himself.
I, too, will add this final thought on this point that the Holy Spirit is God. Jesus stated in John 3: Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:5-7
The process of salvation, one stepping from death to life, is a supernatural moment that only can happen as one is reborn into the Spirit of God residing within. So... 1. The Holy Spirit is a divine person. 2. The Holy Spirit is God.
Let’s discuss this next question you have submitted: What is the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit in my life?
I am so very glad that someone submited is this next question. Because everything that we have discussed this morning prior to this question is manifested in the impact the Holy Spirit has on our lives when we are attuned to the heart of God. There are many, many purposes of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. I want to offer to you five!
1. The purpose of the Holy Spirit in my life is: To encourage me.
Look at the promise Jesus make to His followers in John 14. I am going to show you in just a moment why this promise is so very important... and the key to unlocking the path to seeing this promise become a reality in your life!
Jesus promises to His followers that His Father, God, will send an advocate who will help us and be with us forever! Forever!
Help /Greek/ parakletos = one who encourages
This is exactly what each of us needs... am I right? Encouragement! Do you need this today?
Here is a critically important question: How do I receive the encouragement of the Holy Spirit?
I tell you... this very well might be one of the most important questions I answer for you. It is important for two very critical reasons: First, we all need encouragement, as I have just noted. There is not a person here today who, on some level, is not in need of being encouraged...
Encouragement over a trying marriage. Encouragement with health issues. Encouragement needed due to the loss of a loved one. Encouragement to stay the course even though life so very much feels out of control. Encouragement over the feeling that life has not measured up to what you had hoped and dreamed that life could be.
We all are in need of encouragement!
Secondly, this question of “How do I receive the encouragement of the Holy Spirit?” is so very important because the answer unlocks the door to a life of so very much more; a life free of the bondage of sin; a life that frees the soul of one in need of peace and hope and restoration and joy and contentment... even in the midst of life’s tremendous challenges.
So, Jesus makes a promise! John 14:16-17
You see... Jesus, when making this promise to His disciples, knew something His followers at this moment did not. He knew that He was about to go the cross and die a most horrific death, lie in a tomb three days, and come back to life forever conquering sin and death... And in doing so, Jesus knew that a chain reaction would begin for all of humanity that an enemy, Satan, would now until the end of time be on a rampage to destroy the lives of countless people by deceiving them into believing that what Jesus is about to do on the Cross is all for nothing.
Jesus knew that His disciples would be marked, would be persecuted, and that many would be killed for their life mantra to be His follower... even unto death.
Jesus, too, knew that these disciples, and all disciples of Jesus Christ from this point forward, including you and me, would have bad, and even really bad days ahead, and He too knew that we... each of us... all of us would be in tremendous need of encouragement.
So... again, Jesus makes a promise! Look at it again: John 14:16-17
Again... the critically important question:nHow do I receive the encouragement of the Holy Spirit?
Well, the answer is found in the statement Jesus makes right before making this promise: The prerequisite to experiencing the encouragement of the Holy Spirit is founded upon three words Jesus says: “Keep my commands.”
Notice the one word here that connects the requirement with the promise...
It’s the word “AND!” Jesus says, “...Keep my commands AND I will ask the Father and He will give you an advocate!”
If we keep His commands, the advocate will come and will help – encourage – and also...
2. The purpose of the Holy Spirit in my life is: To comfort me.
We just read the Greek to see that the Greek word parakletos means “one who encourages.” We also know this Greek word for “help” means:
Help /Greek/ parakletos = one who encourages and comforts
I love my down comforter on our bed. I double it up at night. It completely consumes me!
Hurt and sadness and rejection and disappointment and loss and death are a part of life. We cannot, no matter how diligently we work, avoid such deep brokenness. What we can learn to do is to lean into the open arms of God in such moments. This is one of the reasons for which He has sent the Holy Spirit to us. I am confident that: God has sent to us the great Comforter because He knew how desperate we each are to be consumed by His comfort. And again, the key to experiencing such comfort...? Obedience. Think about it - - I know when I am outside of the will of God in an area of my life, I don’t feel comfortable at all! Instead, I feel the weight of my sin – disappointment, regret, guilt, sadness... all of these emotions can be the result of sin in my life.
But when I am, as Jesus said in John 14:15, “keeping his commands,” I feel free. I feel alive! I feel consumed in the comfort, like the comforter on my bed, to live and enjoy the comfort He offers to me.
3. The purpose of the Holy Spirit in my life is: To teach me.
The Holy Spirit teaches.
How does the Holy Spirit teach me?
The Holy Spirit can teach in so very many ways... For one, let me ask...
Have you ever been reading the Word and a verse, possibly that you have read many a time before, grips you in such a powerful way that you know, you just know, God is speaking to you in that moment through those words? If this has happened to you before, let me assure you... this was the teaching of the Holy Spirit in that moment as the Words of God became alive and active right there before you! For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
The Holy Spirit teaches by the Word.
He too teaches through prayer.
One question submitted in the May I Ask A Question? series about this very idea: I often do not hear the voice of God. Is He not speaking, or am I not listening?
My answer: I am not sure. I know there are times when God is silent. And I know these times can be frustrating. Remember, young David wrestled with this very reality when he prayed: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:1-2
There are times when God chooses to be silent. But even in the silence, His Spirit can whisper peace into our heart’s longings, if but only we choose to rest in knowing, even in the silence, He is a trustworthy God.
The other side of this dilemma can very well be evidence of one choosing not to listen to the Spirit’s voice. And such a reality may not even be fully intentional or known all of the time. Busyness. Laziness. Apathy. Pride. Selfishness. Lust. Disobedience... Each of these can be a detriment to my ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s teaching in my life.
If you believe you are in a season of life where you are having a difficult time hearing the teaching of the Holy Spirit, my suggestion is to pray. Pray this prayer:
Dear God, I realize I have allowed my ______________ to hinder my ability to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. I now want to listen to you and to hear what you have to teach me. Amen.
If this is where you find yourself, I encourage you to begin now praying this simple prayer every single day. And if you do, I am confident you will begin to hear the teaching voice of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Also, one more super important way in which the Holy Spirit teaches is through the time in community you and I spend with other believers.
I want to stress the importance of Life Groups, Home Groups and Disciple Groups here @ DF. We have so very many for every age.
My friend Greg Johnson was at my house last week and he said, “I can’t even find the words to say how beneficial my D-Group has been to me personally.” He went on and on about the community and love and accountability he has found since joining the DF family.
My propensity to be taught by the Holy Spirit is greatly shaped by my willingness to spend time with others longing for the same.
The more time Boone has spent in our home, the more he has become conditioned to our ways, our expectations, our rules and more!
As I spend time with God, and with people who do the same, my heart becomes more conditioned to the voice of God’s Spirit. As this happens, the Holy Spirit teaches me how to better hear and follow and trust the leading of God. I learn what God desires of me. I learn what God expects from me. And I learn to hear and trust His voice above all the other noises of the world.
Will you make this your prayer:
God, Teach me to hear your voice. May your Spirit teach me how to best align my heart with your will.
4. The purpose of the Holy Spirit in my life is: To search and reveal to me the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:7-16
Wow! What a marvelous passage for the Christ-follower. What a privilege. Do you see this? Do you hear this? Paul writes that, for those in Christ Jesus, we have this special and unique and “set-apart” privilege to be privy to the very mind of God! Look at: 1 Corinthians 2:12
Take this in Church! As a child of His, you are given a knowledge of the very deep things of God that the world will never have! And look at: 1 Corinthians 2:14-15
A Christ-follower has been given access to tremendous discernment and knowledge of such things that gives you a spiritual judgement that is far above and greater and more beautiful than any accolade or skill set or knowledge the world can offer.
This is why to the world: Integrity in the workplace seems to take a back seat to the mantra, “Every man for himself!” This is why to the world: Holiness in my private moments seems to take a back seat to the mantra, “I just want to feel good tonight!” This is why to the world: Purity in my dating life seems to take a back seat to the mantra, “Everyone else is doing it, so I will too!” This is why to the world: Faithfulness in marriage seems to take a back seat to the mantra, “I don’t feel like I am in love anymore.” Embracing integrity and pursuing holiness and living pure and remaining faithful seem to be, as Paul describes, “foolishness to the world” because look at what he says: 1 Corinthians 2:14
Such a way of living is only discerned through the teachings of the Holy Spirit! But for the Christian, such ways are attainable and available and right and honoring because Paul says that the Spirit offers to you the what...?! Look at: 1 Corinthians 2:16
The very MIND OF CHRIST!
What does this mean: To have the mind of Christ is to possess the knowledge of God’s plan and purpose to redeem the world.
As a believer, you share in God’s redemptive plan to bring glory to Himself, restore creation to its original glory, and to provide salvation for the lost.
This is what it means to have the mind of Christ.
The last purpose of the Holy Spirit in my life that I bring to your attention today:
5. The purpose of the Holy Spirit in my life is: To have fellowship with me.
2 Corinthians 13:14
Do you notice that Paul references the trinity in his closing remarks to the Church in Corinth? He mentions the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
As the Holy Spirit encourages me and comforts me and teaches me and reveals to me the very deep things of God, I become more keenly aware of the voice of God’s Spirit, and in doing so, I develop a richer and more profound position of fellowship with Him.
Should not this be the pursuit of the Christ follower - - to have fellowship with our Creator? I do think so! Lastly, this really good question was submitted about the Holy Spirit: Since the Holy Spirit is and always has been, is it necessary to invite the Holy Spirit into my daily life? And if I do not pray “inviting the Holy Spirit,” does this mean the Holy Spirit will not come or is not welcome?
I understand the thought process behind this question. Is it theologically correct to say “invite the Holy Spirit” when the Holy Spirit, as God, needs no invitation? Additionally, there is a worship song we sing here @ DF that speaks to this very process, as it reads: “Holy Spirit you are welcome here.”
Well... If you know my in-laws, Jim & Sue Bryson, you know they both have hearts to serve. They too love inviting people into their home. Now as their family, Amy the girls and I are always welcome in their home – we need no invitation. They love it when we stop in to check on them or to have dinner with them. And there is never a need or requirement of us to wait for said invitation before coming over.
However, there are times when they very clearly and specifically make a personal invitation to us to join them. This does not mean that, at other times, we are not welcome or cannot be in their presence. Of course we can.
But these times of inviting us are special and we very much look forward to them.
This same analogy speaks to those times when we, as followers of Jesus, both personally and privately invite the God’s presence and the presence of His Spirit to come and be with us.
God does not need our invitation. He does not sit and wait on our invitation to join us. Instead, when we invite His Spirit into our lives, or our day or our time of worship, we are simply acknowledging: Holy Spirit we need you. We long for your moving in our lives. We want your presence to consume us and to consume this place. Please know... you are welcome here!
Jeffrey Dean Smith is a husband, father to Bailey & Brynnan, author, and the Senior Pastor at Donelson First in Nashville, TN. If you are in Music City, meet Jeffrey and enjoy iced tea on the front lawn each Sunday at 10:30a.