Who or What is the Holy Spirit?

Bible Book: John  14 : 16-20
Subject: Holy Spirit

John 14:16-20

16 – I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever—

17 – 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.

18 – I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

19 – Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.

20 – On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.”

While surfing the net this week I came across a list of things a guy called Lou Goldstein says are confusing to him. They were confusing to me as well. If you feel the same way—raise your hand. Here goes:

  • Why is the word “abbreviated” such a long word?
  • Why is a man who invests all your money called a broker?
  • Why is Lemon Juice made with artificial flavor and dish washing liquid made with real lemons?
  • How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
  • Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard?
  • Why is the third hand on a watch called a “second” hand?
  • If pro is the opposite of con, then what is the opposite of progress?
  • How did a fool and his money get together in the first place?
  • What is another word for “synonym?”

I enjoyed Goldstein’s list—but I confess I’m a little surprised that he didn’t include the question that is our focus this morning—because many people—our neighbors included—are confused when it comes to the Holy Spirit. They wonder who or what we are talking about when that subject comes up. The really sad truth is that many of us would have a hard time answering their questions because this confusion is not limited to non-Christians. In spite of the fact that God’s Word has a great deal to say about the Holy Spirit it is still a subject about which many of us remain ignorant. I mean, most Christians understand God the Father. His power and grace are quite clear to them. AND—they have high clarity of understanding when it comes to God the Son—but their understanding of the Holy Spirit is vague and fuzzy at best.

There are several reasons, but I think the main one is false teaching. Over the years many churches and denominations and para-church ministries have warped the Bible’s teachings about the Holy Spirit. They have taught untruths like the one that says that when a Christian is under the influence of the Holy Spirit he or she is out of control. In recent years we’ve even seen supposed movements of the Holy Spirit in which Christians barked like dogs or laughed uncontrollably—or fall on the ground and growl like wild animals.

A. W. Tozer once wrote that when the average Christian thinks about the Holy Spirit, “…he is likely to imagine a nebulous substance like a wisp of invisible smoke which is said to be present in churches and to hover over good people when they die.”

People who have spread nonsense like this have given the Holy Spirit a bad rep, so to speak—and have caused many sincere believers to steer clear of the third Person of the Trinity all together. So, before we talk about how to help our neighbors in this area—let’s do a quick condensed review—a sort of “crash course” on the Holy Spirit to help correct our OWN misconceptions about the third Person of the Trinity.

  • First the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is a GUARANTEE.

Ephesians 1:13–14 says that the moment when we trust in Christ, God marks us with a seal. It’s like the diploma you get when you graduate from High School or College. That piece of paper has an official seal on it that authenticates a diploma as genuine.

Well, the Holy Spirit is God’s authentication of our Christian faith. When we repent of our sin and ask Jesus to come into our hearts and lives, He does—and that indwelling marks us as authentic Christians. As 1st John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” So—every Christian has the Holy Spirit living in them. If you are a Christian—the Holy Spirit lives in side of you. The fact that He does is proof of your conversion experience.

  • But the Bible also talks about the Holy Spirit being a DEPOSIT.

Ephesians 1 goes on to say the Holy Spirit is, “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.”

Think of it this way. The Holy Spirit is the first installment or down payment of God’s pledge to complete what he started in our lives when we put our faith in Jesus. As Paul says in Philippians 1:6: “He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” But we must be careful when we use these words “guarantee” and “deposit.”

Be careful though—because those are things—and the Holy Spirit is not a “THING.”

Look at how Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit in our text. In verse 17 He said, “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.”

What word did our Lord use? RIGHT! “HIM” — not “IT!” Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit as a PERSON because that’s what HE is! He’s not an “It” or a “thing.” Tons of texts in the Bible emphasize this fact by showing the Holy Spirit DOES things only a person would do.

Acts 8:20 says that, the Holy Spirit SPEAKS. This is where the Holy Spirit told Phillip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Philip obeyed that command—the command of the PERSON of the Holy Spirit—and because he did that day a man with great influence in the Ethiopian government became a Christian and was baptized.

Several passages of Scripture say that the Holy Spirit DOES THE WORK OF A PERSON. A good example of this is Romans 8:26, where it says that the Holy Spirit, “helps our infirmities and makes intercession for us.” Another is 1st Corinthians 12:11 which says that the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts, “to each one, just as He [the person of the Holy Spirit] determines.”

The Bible also teaches that the Holy Spirit can be QUENCHED or stifled. In other words, you can say to the Holy Spirit—as you would to any person, “Be quiet…stop talking to me.”

And I wonder—have any of you ever done that? Have you ever said, “Now, Lord—I don’t want to hear anything more about tithing. Quit telling me I should!” Or “Lord, stop telling me I need to serve as a deacon. I know today is the deadline. I know they need servants to minister to this church—but I’m just too busy.” Or, “Stop telling me to go help that neighbor who’s taking care of his invalid wife all by himself.” Or, “Get off my case when it comes to witnessing to that guy in the cubical next to mine who’s obviously interested in spiritual things.” If you’ve ever done this then you have quenched the Holy Spirit—something you would not do to an “it” or a “thing.”

So—the Holy Spirit is not an “THING.” He’s not an impersonal force that we would call on like a genie in a bottle. He is a Person—THE person of God. This is an important principle for us to understand because as R. A. Torrey writes, “If you think of the Holy Spirit as a ‘thing’ — a mere influence or power, then your thought will be, ‘How can I get hold of the Holy Spirit and use it?’ But if you think of Him in the Biblical way—as a Person of divine majesty and glory, your thought will be ‘How can the Holy Spirit get hold of me and use me?’”

Here’s something else the Holy Spirit is NOT.

  • He is not a SUBSTITUTE for God.

No—He is just as much God—as Jesus is. Look back at verse 16 of our text. Jesus said, “I will ask the Father and He will give you ANOTHER Advocate or Counselor.” The word “another” is the Greek word “allos” and it literally means, “another of the same kind.” So, Jesus was saying, that the Holy Spirit would be just like Him—GOD. He’s no substitute. The Holy Spirit is God. Over and over the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit possesses attributes that belong only to God.

For example, Hebrews 9:14 says that the Holy Spirit is ETERNAL.
Psalm 139:7 says, “Where can I flee from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?”which tells us that the Holy Spirit is OMNIPRESENT.
The Holy Spirit does WORK that only God would do. He was involved in creation. Genesis 1:2 says, “The Spirit of God moved upon the waters.”
He is involved in regeneration—or the new birth we experience when we become Christians.

This is what Jesus was teaching in John 3:8 where He said that every Christian is, “…born of the Spirit.” One thing I learned in preparing for Paul Purcell’s funeral is that his twin brother, Phil, became a Christian the same day Paul did. So—they were born of water on the same day—and born of the Spirit on the same day. I think that is very cool!

But I think one of the clearest text that show us the Holy Spirit is God is found in Acts 5. Here we read of the time that Annanias and Saphira sold property and brought some of the proceeds and laid it at the feet of the Apostles. They lied—saying they were giving all of the funds from the sale to the church—when in reality they were holding some back for their own selfish uses.

When they did this Peter confronted them and asked, “Why have you allowed Satan to fill your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? You have not lied to men, but to God.” (Acts 5:1-4). Did you catch it? Peter equated the Holy Spirit with God.

So, the Holy Spirit is completely PERSONAL and completely GOD. He is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is as much God as is the Son or the Father is. He is distinct from God, yet essentially one with God. This is an important point for us to grasp—because any study of the Holy Spirit must be understood in the context of the oneness of God. God is ONE God—not three—not two—but ONE. As Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “The Lord our God is One Lord.” This is the way we must understand Jesus Christ. Jesus is not a second God—nor just one third of God. He is the eternal God uniquely present in a truly human life. In Christ we encounter God Himself—not just an emissary from God. Jesus is not God’s “secretary of state.” No—in Jesus Christ, God is doing His own speaking. He is doing His own work. Jesus Christ IS GOD—uniquely present in a truly human being. And the same thing is true of the Holy Spirit. I mean—The Holy Spirit is not a third God nor one third of God. The Holy Spirit is God Himself in His nearness and power, anywhere and anytime.

This means—and please catch this—this means that the very divine presence incarnated in Jesus Christ is now present in His people—YOU and ME. I think Adrian Rogers said it best when He described the Holy Spirit as, “Christ in the Christian.” And—I want us to try and understand for a moment how wonderful this is. In fact, “wonderful” is an understatement because having Christ in us through His indwelling Holy Spirit makes it more advantageous for us to live NOW—-than it would have been to live in the days when Jesus walked bodily on the earth.

Yes—you heard me correctly.

You and I—right here and now—are actually better off than the people who looked Jesus in the face and heard His voice. Look perplexed and say, “Why Mark?”

Thanks. I’ll tell you why.

When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He limited Himself to living in the physical body that was born on that first Christmas night. And as a man, Jesus could be only in one place at a time. But through the gift of the Holy Spirit, He is with—or rather WITHIN—each and every Christian, no matter where they are. He is now able to be WITHIN us, “always—even to the end of the earth.” (Matthew 28:20) Jesus is not just near us like He was to His disciples as they walked side-by-side along the shores of the Sea of Galilee—JESUS is IN us—as He promised in our text.

To show you what I mean, imagine Jesus was physically in Jerusalem right now. Once word got out, I’m sure all the airlines would be applying for routes to the Middle East. You would not be able to book a seat on a plane. Cruise ships would all weigh anchor and head for Israel—and again all the cabins would be booked. Even if we ever managed to get a ticket there would be long lines and great crowds of people. The paparazzi would be everywhere. We would come to see Jesus, but it would be nearly impossible to get within arm’s reach of Him much less have a conversation with Him. But because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to do that because He’s with us—in us right here—right now! Always!

Did you know our English word for “Holy Ghost” has its roots in an old Anglo-Saxon word from which we also get our word, “guest?” This should remind us that the Holy Spirit is indeed an EVER-PRESENT Holy Guest in the lives of all believers—for the Holy Spirit comes to live inside each of us the moment we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Now—isn’t that AWESOME!? No matter where you are, if you are a Christian, God is there IN you. When you are trying to explain the Holy Spirit to your neighbor—the Holy Spirit is right there in you and He will help you! In John 14:18 the word translated “orphans” was often used to speak of students or disciples who were “orphans” —in the sense that for some reason they were deprived of the presence and teaching of their beloved master or rabbi. Well Jesus’ promise then was that His followers would never be like this. Thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit—we would never be without our divine Teacher—and we aren’t! He goes with us everywhere we go.

I think Emerson hit the nail on the head when he said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies WITHIN us…” for as 1 John 4:4 says, “Greater is HE Who is IN YOU, than he who is in the world,”

Wouldn’t you agree then—that we have the advantage over those disciples who were with Jesus when He was limited to the confines of an earthly body? We do—because God is not just WITH US but IN US! You can tell your neighbor that—tell them that because of the Holy Spirit—God is literally always with you. I think that will impress them—because all people long to know God. All people have a God-shaped hole in their hearts—and the Holy Spirit fills that hole!

In the time left I want to share three words pictures that I hope will help explain Who the Holy Spirit is to your confused neighbor.

(1) The first is “Enabler.”

With God’s Spirit in us—we are enabled—empowered—to do things we couldn’t do on our own. And a great example of this is what happened on the day of Pentecost. Remember, Jesus’ first followers had been hiding in fear behind locked doors. They were afraid they were about to be arrested—and perhaps crucified like Jesus.

But then they were given the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were changed—empowered to be bold and fearless. With God in them they suddenly had the ability to speak in the languages of people from all over the world present in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Peter preached that day and three thousand people gave their lives to Jesus. Think of it—Peter—who had been afraid to speak in Jesus’ defense a few weeks earlier was given the power to preach boldly and without fear.

And the Holy Spirit STILL empowers Christians to speak—just as confidently as Peter did. So, you see, in this way not only does God’s PRESENCE dwell in the heart of every believer—His EMPOWERING presence does. In the Holy Spirit, God chooses to be a power-sharing God.

He cares enough about us to infuse us with His strength when we need it to live as He wants us to live. He enables us to say “NO” to temptation. He empowers us to do His will. As I said, He helps us talk to our neighbors.

But, I have to point out a sad truth. Too many of us limit God’s work in our lives by not allowing Him to empower us. This caused the late Dr. A. W. Tozer to say, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference.”

I have a question for you. What are you doing that you could not do apart from the power of God? What sin are you seeking to overcome? What difficult person are you trying to love? What are you doing that you couldn’t do apart from the power of God’s Spirit? Remember, the very power that raised Jesus from the Dead is available to us as Christians through the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. If you are a Christian, God—ALL-MIGHTY GOD—is living inside your being.

And that power is manifest in several ways. For example, as I said earlier, He helps us to pray.

This week I read something Sinclair Ferguson shared. He said,“When I was a little boy, I used to be taken in the summer to the Northern coast of Scotland to see my mother’s relatives. My mother had a cousin who had been grievously ill when he was just recently married at the age of 21, and he had become absolutely paralyzed. There was only one thing he could do with his body: he could move his head a bit, and if they put a cup of tea in his hand he could move the tea, and he could sip the tea. He used to sit in a wheelchair and from time to time he would make guttural noises: “Uuuuh … Uuuuh … Uuuuh.” And after I got over the fright, the fear of the unknown, and the strange, I began to notice that every time these groans came from him—the woman he had married when he was 21 would appear by some, it seemed, mystical gift of interpretation, and give him exactly what he wanted.”

Sinclair rightly pointed out that that’s how it is for us sometimes. We don’t know how best to pray but that’s okay—the Holy Spirit helps us. So—when we know a friend is suffering—but we don’t know exactly how to pray for them—don’t worry—the Holy Spirit takes our sincere desire to intercede on their behalf and focuses it on that person’s specific need. The Holy Spirit also empowers us to respond in a Godly way to the inequities of life.

This week I read about Pro baseball player R.A. Dickey. He was the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, the highest honor for a pitcher. But Dickey’s career almost ended before it started. In 1996, the Texas Rangers made him their #1 draft pick and offered him an $810,000 contract. All he had to do was pass a routine team physical. But unknown to Dickey, the physical revealed that his right elbow was missing its ulnar collateral ligament. As Dickey, a committed follower of Christ, entered training camp he uttered a prayer of gratitude: “Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings and for helping me get this far.” But shortly after that prayer, his agent pulled him into a meeting with Doug Melvin, the Rangers general manager. Melvin flatly said, “We are going to retract our offer. We think there’s something wrong with your elbow.” Dickey writes:

“I try to take in those words for a second or two: ‘We are going to retract our offer.’ I don’t feel devastation, or even anger. I feel rage. Complete rage. It feels as if it starts in my toes and blasts upward through my body like a tsunami, into my guts and right up through the top of my head. [I want to tell Melvin] about how this is the one thing that I can do right and that makes me somebody. I want to make sure he knows [that] he’s matter-of-factly dropped this atomic bomb on my baseball career. On my life. [But] it’s as if there’s a strong hand on my shoulder holding me back, giving me pause. In that instant I have a self-control that wasn’t there a moment earlier. I hear a voice: ‘Relax, I’ve got you. Relax, R.A. It’s okay. I’ve got you.’ The voice is the Holy Spirit. I was just talking to God in prayer and now he is talking back, giving me a composure that could not have come from anywhere else. The tsunami passes. I am crushed by Doug Melvin’s words but I am not going to do anything stupid.”

The Holy Spirit is indeed an ENABLER.

(2) Here’s a second word picture to use: “COACH.”

Like an athletic coach the Holy Spirit points out those things that are keeping us from maturing—holding us back from progressing on our journey to Christlikeness. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 16 when He said, “[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” With the Holy Spirit IN US—we have this 24-7 Coach—warning us of sinful thoughts and behaviors.

This week I came across an excerpt of an article that was in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. The article was about all the new gadgets that are designed to help us embrace good behavior.

For example, there’s a new smart-utensil called the HAPIfork that measures how fast you eat while it prods you to slow down and chew.
A company called Automatic offers a device that will chirp when a driver speeds, slams on the brakes, or does other things behind the wheel that your mother wouldn’t like.
For $50 you can buy a toothbrush that wirelessly tells a phone app how often and how long you brush your teeth.
A webcam software program called PostureTrack will catch you slouching,
A website called Beeminder will tally fines for undesirable behaviors like not flossing or staying up too late.

One device user said, “It’s now possible to have a device in the background of your life recording everything you do.”

Well, the Holy Spirit is like that—but He doesn’t nag—He lovingly prods. Plus, His coaching has more important benefits than protecting your teeth or your posture. The Holy Spirit’s coaching helps you grow to be more and more like our Lord.

How many of you have heard of Muhammad Ali? How many have heard of Angelo Dundee?

Dundee was Ali’s cornerman. For more than two decades, Angelo Dundee was in Muhammad Ali’s corner, literally. He’s the one who made Ali float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. He also coached fifteen other world boxing champions. Angelo Dundee described his job as a cornerman this way: “When you’re working with a fighter, you’re a surgeon, an engineer, and a psychologist.” As followers of Jesus Christ, we have something even better than a surgeon-engineer-psychologist in our corner—the Holy Spirit.

(3) Here’s a third word: “Guide.”

This word should appeal to your neighbor because we all need guidance. We need Someone to tell us where to go and what to do. Perhaps this is why counseling is such big business these days. Everyone knows that life is filled with challenges and difficult decisions—so they’ll pay almost any amount of money for expert guidance—someone to help them know what to do. The wonderful thing about the Holy Spirit is the fact that unlike human counselors who have to specialize in a certain area, He is an expert in literally every area. As Isaiah proclaimed, “The Lord of hosts is WONDERFUL in counsel and EXCELLENT in guidance.” (Isaiah 28:29)

Through His Holy Spirit, God gives us the specific guidance we need. He speaks to us inside our heads, providing supernatural “insider information” for life. This is a truly wonderful aspect of this gift because as a finite being, I have to use indirect means to guide your thoughts. I must express ideas in words so you can hear them or read them. I need to give them some physical form in order to communicate with you. But God does not. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit God can directly guide our thoughts without the aid of intervening sounds or images. This kind of communication reminds me of those little ear pieces that TV news anchors and reporters wear when they are on the air. These devices make it possible for the director to tell them when a commercial break is coming…and to inform them of breaking news developments. Well, through the Holy Spirit God’s voice can be in our ears if we are wise enough to listen.

This morning, let me ask you—would you like to have this built in Counselor? Would you like to have this inner and inexhaustible power source? Would you like to have God not just with you but IN you? Well, then you must first accept His Son, Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior—for when you do you will also receive the Gift of His Spirit. This was the main point of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost that day. Remember? He said, “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.” (Acts 2:38) And, if you already have this Gift, listen to God’s voice right now so you will hear how He is guiding you to respond to this morning’s worship. Perhaps He is leading you to share your faith with a friend or co-worker. He may be telling you that you need to become a part of our church family. However He leads, let Him have His way in your life.

Acknowledge Him as Lord through your response to His leading. If this involves a public decision then I invite you to come forward as we stand and sing now and share it with me.