No sooner is something said to be impossible than somebody does it!
It was once thought impossible that anyone could run a 4-minute mile. Yet that goal, like so many more, has been reached and bettered. So it is with achievements in science and in many other areas of life.
Our text today is John 14:12-18. Read it carefully, prayerfully. Here we are taught that believers in Jesus Christ are to do great, record breaking things - things even beyond human strength.
Notice that Jesus says in verse 12 that all of this achievement is "because I am going to the Father." This means now that Christ has taken His position as our Mediator before the Father in heaven, we may get through to God in a new way when we pray, 13, 14.
Now, read on. It still further means that we can count on the counsel and support (the meaning of the term translated "Comforter") of the Holy Spirit to enable us to run magnificently for God.
One achievement which men have never accomplished is to change their own character. Wars, hatred and sins continue among the educated and uneducated, the rich and poor, strong and weak. "There is none righteous, no, not one," Romans 3:10. But what no man can do, God freely does through the Holy Spirit given to us.
Turn to John 7:37-39. Note very carefully the order of events in verse 39. Can you name each in its place? 1) Christ ascends in glory to the Father 2) The Holy Spirit is given to the church 3) Individuals come to believe in Jesus Christ 4) Believers receive personally the Holy Spirit into their hearts and lives. How wonderful is the full work of the Holy Spirit--God Himself--in our lives! This is our subject right now.
I. THE COMING OF THE SPIRIT INTO A LIFE
In John 1:29 and 33 we see the two-fold work of Christ. As sacrificial lamb, He removes our sin. As the "Baptizer," He immerses us in the Holy Spirit. Wonderful! Sin is not only cared for, but we are blessed with the very presence of God in our lives.
Hear what the Apostle Peter says to the thousands who hear his message on Pentecost: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38,39.
Peter is here promising all the ministry of Christ to all who believe: (Strikingly, this parallels John 1:29, 33.)
Now, notice that the Pentecostal gift of the Spirit is promised at the outset. The baptism of the Spirit is initial and universal, as one teacher puts it. It is at the first and it is for all. Do not let anyone make you believe that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is some special thing limited to special Christians.
Sadly, however, we must confess that very few enjoy the true filling of the Spirit of God. But it is not because God withholds that fullness until further down the line of Christian experience. It is because of ignorance or resistance to truth.
I Corinthians 12:13 teaches that all believers are baptized into Christ via the Spirit. Just as water baptism is the initial testimony that we are Christ's, so Spirit baptism is the initial, inner experience that makes us His. Let no one testify in water to that which He has not received inwardly.
After the Holy Spirit's outpouring on the Church at Pentecost, Christians are never instructed to seek baptism of the Spirit. Rather, they are taught that they have the Spirit (Romans 5:5, I Thessalonians 4:8, I John 4: 13) and need to continue claiming that fullness, Ephesians 5:18.
Water baptism is the sign and seal of both forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit. That is why the leaders of your church should gather with each believer on the occasion of their baptism and pray with them that they will indeed be filled with the Holy Spirit, nothing hindering.
II. THE WORKING OF THE SPIRIT IN A LIFE
Looking again at our text in John 14, notice that verse 17 indicates that the coming of the Spirit is virtually unknown to unbelieving hearts. They see nothing and experience nothing.
May it never be so with believers, however, says Jesus. "But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." His counsel and support lift beyond our own weak capabilities. Our very dispositions are changed when the Spirit has His way.
Not without deep meaning is the Third Person of the Trinity referred to here as the "Spirit of truth." See also verse 26. The characteristic of His work is not to give great elevation of feelings but to grant new insight into solid truth. That lasts.
III. THE RESULTS OF THE SPIRIT'S WORK IN A LIFE
In this study of the full work of the Holy Spirit in each believer's life we have looked at His coming into the life at its inception. Next, we studied the Spirit's work within each believer's life - a work that will be full and
continuous if there is earnest, enlightened cooperation on the Christian's part. We come now to examine the effects or fruit of the Spirit's work. In John 17:20-23, Jesus shares His deep, heart-desires for Christians everywhere. It is that we might know a unity, love and glory. That is what the Holy Spirit works for - to free us from disunity, hatred and shame.
Look at the opening verses of I Corinthians 3 where Paul explains the difference between Christians who are "spiritual" and, those who are "carnal" or "unspiritual." Those who "walk as men" (or, who are "behaving like ordinary men"--RSV) are the ones who are un-Spiritual. Their sinful willfulness is virtually blocking the Holy Spirit's work within their own lives. Their lives are marked by the evil spirit of this world. There is envy, strife, and division.
Now, in contrast, study the great aims of Christ for each of us in Philippians 1:9-11 and in Galatians 5:22,23. This can take place only when the believer is willing and hungry for God's way in His life. The Holy Spirit is given to you who believe wholly in Jesus Christ. Be filled with Him and move ahead!
John R. Stott cites God's three-fold plan for each Christian: 1) Receive the covenant blessings of forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit. 2) Receive water baptism as the sign and seal of these blessings. 3) Continue to be filled with the Spirit - and there will be bold testimony and a full and holy life.
Have you blocked God at any of these points? Talk it over in humble, definite prayer right now.