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I Believe – The Apostles’ Creed – the Holy Spirit | Sermon from 7/2/2017

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Today our study of the Apostles’ Creed turns to the Holy Spirit and while with the creed gives us some information about God the Father and Creator and then a lot of information about Jesus, we get next to nothing for the Holy Spirit.  This is what the Apostles’ Creed says I about the Holy Spirit.  I believe in the Holy Spirit.  That’s it, six words.   I believe in the Holy Spirit.  It doesn’t tell us what we believe about the Holy Spirit.  It doesn’t tell us who the Spirit is or what the Holy Spirit does or the impact of the Holy Spirit in our lives or in our world; just that we believe in it.  While this really does not tell us very much, if we dig a little deeper we can learn a bit more.

If we go back to what the creed tells us about Jesus we learn that it was the Holy Spirit that gave life to Jesus.  If Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit then there is a connection between the life and work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  They are connected and committed to the same thing.  If the Holy Spirit was at work in Jesus then we know that the Holy Spirit will be at work in all that the followers of Jesus will do.  In many ways, it is the Holy Spirit that makes possible everything else we will hear in the creed.  Forgiveness of sin and our ability to forgive others is possible because of the work of the Holy Spirit.  The church was formed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection from the dead is connected to the Holy Spirit that brings us life.  So while we may not learn very much about the Holy Spirit specifically in this one line, much of what we affirm in the creed is only made possible because of the Holy Spirit.

The challenge with trying to clearly identify and talk about the Holy Spirit is that it is just that – spirit.  It is easy for us to focus on Jesus because he lived in this world and left us a record of his teaching and ministry that we can see and learn from.  Even God the father gives us something tangible to look at and learn from because we can look at the world around us a learn about God from what we see, but the Holy Spirit is spirit and so who it is, what it does, how it moves and the impact in our lives and world is much harder to explain because it cannot be seen, but it can be experienced.
Just as we can feel the wind blow and see the effects of the wind in our world, so we can experience the Holy Spirit and both see and feel how it moves in us and in our world.  It is this experience of the Holy Spirit that helps us to believe.

So who is the Holy Spirit?  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and in the OT there are close to 90 references to the work of the spirit.  In Genesis 1 we hear that it is the spirit of God that is hovering over the waters and so it is the spirit of God that helps bring forth life.  The spirit of God also gives gifts to specific people in the OT to be used for God’s purpose.  When the Ark of the Covenant was being made during the time of the exodus, it was the spirit of God that filled a man named Bezalel with many different skills so that he could make articles out of silver and bronze, wood and stone for the tabernacle.  So we learn from the Old Testament that it is God’s spirit who not only brings forth life but provides the gifts needed for our lives to be full and complete and it is the work of God’s spirit to help us accomplish God’s purpose for us.

The Spirit of God also gave strength to the leaders of God’s people.  In Deuteronomy 34 it says that Joshua was filled with the Spirit of God which is why he was chosen to be the leader after Moses died.  Several times in the book of Judges the prophet Samson was said to be filled with the Spirit before he went out with great strength to defeat the enemies of Israel.  The spirit of God also spoke to the people through the prophets and it was through them that God gave guidance and direction to his people.  King David said, The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. 2 Samuel 23:2

So the work of the God’s Spirit in the Old Testament was to help bring forth life and then to give gifts to the people of God but it was also the spirit that gave wisdom, guidance and strength to God’s people so they could be and do all that God had for them.  But in the OT the Spirit of God always seemed to rest on, fill and work through specific people and leaders.  In the New Testament, however, things changed.

While at the beginning of the New Testament the Spirit of God rests on the prophet John the Baptist and then rests on Jesus at his baptism, in time we see that the Holy Spirit comes and fills all of his followers and all of God’s people.  Jesus told us this would happen in John 14:16-18.  Jesus not only promises us the Holy Spirit but he begins to tell us about the Holy Spirit by saying it will come to be advocate.  This word in Greek is paraclete, which comes from the word para – which means close by and kaleo - which means to call.  The Holy Spirit is the one who has been called on to be close by us to help us.  The word was most often used in a legal setting and might be thought of as a defense attorney – the person who comes along side someone when they were in trouble and needs help.  So the Holy Spirit is an advocate for us or a helper.

Jesus also said here that the Holy Spirit will not only live with us but will be in us.  John 14:17.  This is the biggest difference between what we see of the Holy Spirit between the old and new testaments.  In the OT the spirit filled certain people for a specific task but in the NT the spirit was going to fill all those who trusted and followed Jesus.  The Holy Spirit was for all of God’s people and the Spirit was going to keep doing in God’s people all that it has been doing in Jesus and all it had been doing from the very beginning.

The Holy Spirit was going to bring life to God’s people and to the church.  It would give gifts to be used by God’s people for God’s purpose.  The Holy Spirit was going give strength to God’s people and speak words of truth that would not only remind them of all Jesus said but give them direction and guidance.  The Holy Spirit was going to empower the followers of Jesus to not only experience life and life abundantly but to help them keep the life and work of Jesus going in our world.

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to his followers and we believe that the spirit came on the day of Pentecost.  Acts 2:1-4.

Pentecost comes from the word 50 and it was a Jewish celebration of harvest that took place 50 days after the Passover which was always in the early spring.  Pentecost was a celebration of the first fruits and of life and it was to remind the people that it is God who gives and sustains life.  It is appropriate that it was on Pentecost that God chose to send the Holy Spirit because it is the Holy Spirit that gives and sustains both life and faith.  It is the Holy Spirit that brings forth the fullness of life in us and it is the Holy Spirit that created the church.  When God breathed new life into the followers of Jesus it gave them strength to live the way Jesus had taught them and showed them and as they came together to live this way in community – the church was born.

What was different about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was that it didn’t just fill the leaders or the disciples, it filled everyone.  A tongue of fire rested on all who were gathered and they all started to speak in other languages and they all started loving and serving and they all started living in ways that were radically different than the world and they all came together as one in the church.  The Holy Spirit was now filling all of God’s people and not just a few leaders.  Through the Holy Spirit, God has truly come for everyone and God is giving life to everyone and this is what we believe about the Holy Spirit.

When we say that we believe in the Holy Spirit, we are also stating that we believe in the Trinity which is our understanding that God is one but expressed and experienced in three unique persons.  While the word trinity is never found in the Bible, we clearly see God identified as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  There is God the father and creator of all things, there is the fullness of God in the person of Jesus and now we see God at work in us and the world through the Holy Spirit  One God but seen and expressed in the three unique ways.

The Bible affirms this idea when the Apostle Paul says, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.  2 Corinthians 13:14   Jesus also said that we should baptize people in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

So the idea of one God in three persons is biblical, but there is no good explanation of how God can be three in one.  While many people struggle with this idea, the reality is that there is much we don’t know about God and that is OK.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen.  We can’t see the Trinity, but we can trust that it is an accurate expression of God because we can see God the father in the creation around us, we can read about Jesus in the pages of history and we can experience God the spirit in our hearts and lives.

Let me share two more things we believe about the Holy Spirit and encourage you to check them out this week.  The first is that we believe the Holy Spirit helps us live more faithfully and more like Jesus.  The fruits of the spirit are the qualities and characteristics we see in Jesus that slowly emerge in our lives when we invite the Spirit of God to shape us.  In Galatians 5:22-23 we hear that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  The more we allow the Spirit of God to enter our hearts and lives the more we grow in these ways and the more we look, sound and act like Jesus.

The second thing to check out is that it is the Holy Spirit that gives us gifts to use to serve God.  Some of these gifts are teaching, encouragement, giving, leading, serving, healing and prophesy.  As we use these gifts, we further the work of God in this world.  The Bible says everyone has been given a gift and we are to use them not for our own glory but for the glory of God and the work of God’s mission in this world.  We have included in the next steps the scriptures to read to learn more about the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit and I would invite you to check those out this week.

So while the Holy Spirit may only get one line and two mentions in the Apostles’ Creed, the presence and work of the Holy Spirit is profound.  It is the Holy Spirit that enters our lives to empower and equip us to live with faith so we need to pray to the Holy Spirit more often.  Our prayer needs to be Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

We also need to ask the Spirit of God to fill us, maybe using this prayer/song.  
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.  
Melt me, mold me fill me, use me.  
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. 

As we share in Holy Communion, this is the perfect time to ask God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – to enter into our lives.  We see the fullness of God here as we acknowledge that this is the table of God Almighty and this is where we see Jesus Christ in the bread and the cup and we know that what makes this meal more than bread and juice is the Holy Spirit that fills us as we gather here.  The Holy Spirit is present in this meal but it will not force himself upon us.  The spirit of God waits for us to invite him in.  God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, waits for us to come to him with hearts, hands and lives open wide to receive the gift of faith and love and life.  Today, let us ask the Holy Spirit to not only enter our lives but to speak to us and fill us and to empower us so that we might experience the fullness of life and faith that God has for us.

Next Steps
The Apostles’ Creed – The Holy Spirit

1.  The Promise of the Holy Spirit – John 14:15-31
• What does Jesus tell us about the Holy Spirit?
• What words are used to describe the Holy Spirit?
• What work will the Holy Spirit do in us?
• How have you experienced the Holy Spirit in your life?

2. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit – Galatians 5:22-26
• Identify the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
• Which fruit is evident in your life?
• Which fruit is needed in your life?
• Can you identify the fruit of God’s spirit in the lives of others?  Share with them what you see.

3. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Romans 12:3-8
• Identify the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
• What gifts can you see at work in your life?
• How can use your gifts for the building up of the church both here and around the world?
• How can you intentionally develop the gift God has given you?

4. The Invitation to the Holy Spirit
• Ask the Spirit of God to enter into your heart and life.
• Pray for the gift and fruit of God’s spirit to grow in you.

A song to use as a prayer this week:
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Sunday Morning

8:15 am: Traditional Worship Service with Nursery
10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

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