Come, Holy Spirit
May 27, 2012
What an eerie – and yet tremendously exciting – description of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost our passage in Acts 2 gives!
What an eerie — and yet tremendously exciting — description of the Spirit of God bringing life to lifeless, dry bones our passage in Ezekiel 37!
Eerie – yes – even scary – and yet intriguing – and indeed exciting.
But still scary.
Today is Pentecost — one of the three most important days in the church year – along with Christmas and Easter. This is the day we celebrate the coming and power of the Holy Spirit – and yet we seem to be uncomfortable with it. We don’t quite know what to do with it. It’s hard to generate enthusiasm for Pentecost.
Why do we not celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in the same way we celebrate the coming of Christ – or the resurrection of Christ?
I’m not sure – - but I’m afraid it has something to do with the fact that we are scared.
We are comfortable with looking back at the Bible and saying –
“Yes – how wonderful the coming to the Holy Spirit was ” – -
or “Yes – how wonderful it was that the Spirit of God brought life the dry bones” –
but yet – - what we would do if it happened here and now?
The very thought of the Spirit coming into our lives and this Church right now scares us – doesn’t it?
We want to be able to look back and admire the coming of the Spirit – while keeping it at a safe distance from us. Like a lion or tiger in the zoo or a shark at an aquarium. It’s great to look at – but don’t let it get up close and personal.
The coming of the Holy Spirit is scary.
It’s risky business!
We don’t know what might happen if the Holy Spirit were to suddenly come upon us – do we?
We don’t know what might happen if we were to experience the renewing — life giving work of God’s Spirit — here and now – do we?
We don’t know what might happen if we were to experience a Pentecost of sorts here and now – do we?
And that can be scary!
We just might get excited.
We just might start worshipping like we really mean it.
We just might start really loving each other.
We just might become excited about doing God’s will.
We just might start really wanting to do something – to really make a difference for God’s glory.
We just might start wanting our faith to really mean something to us – and make a difference in how we live.
Wow! We’re talking about scary – risky business here – aren’t we?
We may not want any of this to really happen!
We may not really want to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit – - the new life offered by the Spirit of God — because we may be scared of what might happen if we do.
Let Pentecost just be something that happened “back then” – let’s just observe it as a historical event – but let’s not get carried away with it. Let’s not act like it could happen here – and now.
Let the vision of the dry bones receiving life be just that — a vision — don’t let it be reality — especially not reality for us!
But — guess what — while we try to avoid getting the Holy Spirit as if we were trying to avoid the plague we also bemoan the fact that we just can’t get anything going – we bemoan the fact that we can’t seem to grow as a Church!
Well, friends — maybe – just maybe — we should re–think Pentecost.
Maybe we should re-think our attitudes about the life changing – Church changing power of the Holy Spirit.
Do you think that maybe we should take another look at Pentecost – and what the Holy Spirit can do for us – here – and now?
Do you think we should take another look at the life-giving power of God’s Spirit?
Should we take another look at the excitement and enthusiasm of the disciples – the new life of the dead bones – and maybe take the coming of the Holy Spirit more seriously – and see if there is a chance it could happen again – now?
What do you think can really make a difference in our lives and our Church?
Friends – it’s the work of the Holy Spirit that can make a difference in our lives – and the Church – so we need to see what the Spirit can do for us – pray to be filled with the Spirit – and learn to walk in the Spirit all our lives.
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, said that if there was one message he could preach to the church, it would be a message about how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That’s how much of a difference the filling of the Holy Spirit can make in a person’s life.
Many people give up on trying to live the Christian life because it’s too hard. The fact is, it’s not just hard—it’s impossible.
It’s impossible to live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit’s power.
If we are going to be the Christians God wants us to be – and the Church God wants us to be – we had better start praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
You see — the Holy Spirit is the oil that makes the machinery of your life run smoothly. Have you ever tried driving a car without oil? You know what happens, don’t you. The engine locks up and breaks down. It’s the same way for a Christian who lives without the oil of the Holy Spirit in their life.
Some of you have been walking in the Spirit for many years – but for some of you the idea of being filled with the Holy Spirit is a new concept. But the fact is that all of us need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The fact is that – if we are going to be the Christians God wants us to be – and the Church God wants us to be – we are going to have to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
On this Pentecost – let’s look at a passage of Scripture that teaches in plain detail what the Holy Spirit can do for you, how you can be filled with the Holy Spirit, and how you can live a Spirit-filled life. The passage we’re look at is in Ezekiel 37, the story of the Valley of the Dry Bones. This passage teaches us a great deal about the Holy Spirit.
If you can turn to your Bibles or a pew Bible that might be helpful – because we are going to be referring to Ezekiel 37 a lot. It’s on page 1315 in your pew Bibles.
Look at the passage.
What can the Holy Spirit do for you?
Well – let’s look at some things the Holy Spirit can do for you:
One thing is: He can revitalize your life.
Take a look at verse 5 in Ezekiel 37 –
(v. 5) This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will come to life.
Then — skip down to verse 14…
(v. 14) I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live.
That’s what the Holy Spirit does for you.
The Holy Spirit revitalizes you.
The Holy Spirit takes you from the point of merely surviving to the point of truly living.
The Holy Spirit changes your life from “black and white” to the “wonderful world of living color” – so to speak.
The Holy Spirit changes your life from “mono” to “stereo”.
It’s as if your life were changed from a moped to a mercedes.
The Holy Spirit changes your life.
The Holy Spirit infuses you with freshness and newness.
Another thing the Holy Spirit can do for you is that it can renew your hope. Take a look at verse 11 – 12:
(v. 11-12) Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord days: O My people I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord.”
What’s God doing here?
He’s sending the Holy Spirit and renewing the hope of the Israelites.
Have there been times in your life when you felt like the people of Israel felt here?
Have there been times when you have said:
“My bones are dried up and my hope is gone”?
I think we all have.
The presence of the Holy Spirit changes your perspective on life. One of the benefits of life that is filled with the Holy Spirit is that the Spirit renews your hope.
In Ephesians 1 Paul says that the Holy Spirit is given to us as…
…a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession…(Ephesians 1:14)
Paul’s saying that the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life guarantees that you will get through this life—no matter how dark it may seem, no matter dry you may feel, no matter how desperate things might be—the Holy Spirit will keep your hope alive. A benefit of the Spirit filled life is the absence of despair.
Another thing the Holy Spirit can do for you is that it can restore your dreams. Look at what Ezekiel writes in verse 14:
I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. (vs. 14)
The people of Israel had a dream of living in their own land. When Ezekiel recorded these words from God they had been living for years in exile. God was saying to them:
“Do you know that dream I gave you? Don’t give up on it. I’ll restore it.”
God will do the same for you.
Too many of us go through life like we’re living in exile. We live like we’ve been banished from our homeland, banished from the benefits and promises that all children of God can claim. If you’re not walking in victory, you’re living in exile. If you’re not experiencing power over sin, you’re living in exile. If you’re not filled with joy, and peace, and hope, and love—you’re living in exile.
God didn’t create you to live in exile. He created you to experience the benefits of our heavenly citizenship here on earth. It is through the fullness of the Holy Spirit that you experience the fullness of life. In Him you experience life as it should be lived.
That’s what the Holy Spirit can do for you. The Spirit will revitalize you, renew your hope, and restore your dreams. The Spirit will give you life as it should be lived.
Now, maybe you’re saying,
“I want that. I want to go from the Valley of Dry Bones to the Valley of Life. How do I get there? How do I experience this difference in my life?”
Let’s take a look at how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
First of all… you have to ask for it. In fact, “asking” may not be a strong enough term. A better term might be “speak it” or “claim it.” Take a look at Ezekiel 37:4:
(v. 4) “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life…’”
The fullness of the Spirit is God’s promise to all believers. It’s a promise that we can all claim; it’s a promise that God will certainly deliver. But here’s the thing — if we don’t claim it, if we don’t speak it, if we don’t ask for it—we’ll never experience it.
You know — there are times when I have to speak to myself the same way that Ezekiel spoke to the bones in the valley. I have to say:
Bill, hear the Word of the Lord. The Spirit of God is going to breathe life into you. Receive it! Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop doubting Him. Stop flirting with despair. Let God do His work.” Maybe you need to have a little talk to that effect with yourself!
In Ephesians 5: 18 Paul writes:
Be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
He writes it as an imperative command. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is an act of obedience on our part. It’s something we do; it’s something we initiate by asking for it…by claiming it as God’s promise. If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, then ask for it. Say:
”God, fill me with your Spirit.” – and God will!
The first step to being filled with the Holy Spirit is just that easy.
The second step is easy also. After you’ve asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you need to accept it. Another way to say it is “Receive it.” Even though we initiate the work of the Spirit in our lives by asking for it, being filled with the Spirit is not something we can do for ourselves. It is something that God must do for us — it is something we must receive. We receive the Holy Spirit by yielding to God and allowing Him to have His way in our lives.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is that simple.
You ask for it. You accept it – then you act on it.
Imagine with me if you will that your banker called you and said, “Someone has just deposited $10 million into your bank account. It’s there…and it’s all yours.”
What would you do?
You would probably start writing checks (10% going to the Church, of course). paying bills, making investments, giving gifts, and so on. Or you might say, “But I don’t feel like a millionaire. I don’t look like a millionaire. I don’t deserve to be a millionaire. I don’t see any of the money…where is it?” But the fact is, in this scenario you are a millionaire. You can live like a millionaire, if you’re willing to act on it. In the same way, God has placed a deposit into your spiritual account — He has offered you the Holy Spirit. In your account there is joy, peace, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. In your account there are spiritual gifts, there is power, there is life. They are yours, but you have to act on it. You have to start “writing checks”, so to speak. Don’t wait until you feel it—just do it.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not an elusive experience that we have to spend half of our lives chasing. It is the promise of God, it is the command of God, and it is available to all believers. If your heart is right with God, you can be filled with the Holy Spirit right now. Ask for it. Accept it. Act on it. It’s that easy.
There’s another thing about the Spirit filled life you need to know. In addition to knowing how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you also need to know how to walk in the Spirit.
Bill Bright, whom I mentioned earlier, taught a principle called “Spiritual Breathing.” His concept was that, as you go throughout the day, you can become aware of sins in your life, and can “exhale” them by confessing them to God. And then you can “inhale” His presence in your life by surrendering yourself to His control.
When you’re going through your day, and you realize you’ve just had a thought you should not have had, don’t wait to repent — don’t wait to confess it—take care of it right then. Breathe out – and ask God for forgiveness, — and breathe in – receiving the forgiveness God gives.
Do this all day long, every day of your life.
Whenever you think something or say something or do something that breaks the flow of the Spirit in your life, exhale — confess it immediately and surrender control to Him. You exhale what is impure in your life, then you inhale His presence. The idea is that you recognize and acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life throughout the day. You walk with him all day long.
Paul writes in Galatians 5:
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
I like that phrase—let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Walking in the Spirit is an all-day, every-day experience. And it’s the key to victory. It’s the key to a dynamic relationship with Jesus.
God’s promise in Ezekiel is:
(v. 14) I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.
Anything less is just existing. God wants to fill your life with living color. He wants to revitalize you; He wants to renew your hope; He wants to restore your dreams. He wants to fill you with the Holy Spirit, so that you can live in his power.
Is this what you want?
Then ask for it. Accept it. Act on it. He will do it: He will fill you with His Spirit. And then, start practicing spiritual breathing—keeping in step with the Holy Spirit throughout the day, every day. I can promise this: His presence in your life means that you will never be the same.
What might happen if we were to ask for God’s Spirit – act on God’s gift – and walk in the Spirit?
Let’s try and see!
Let’s take the coming of the Spirit off the pages of the book – and into our lives as we ask for – act on – and walk in the Spirit of God. Amen.