31st May 2020 APC
“The gift of the Holy Spirit”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our special service of worship. Today is a high point in the Christian Year. It is Pentecost Sunday. On this day, Christians all over the world celebrate ‘the great beginning of the Church’, the day the Holy Spirit first came to confused and frightened disciples. So this morning we join to praise God for this great Gift, and to ask for a new outpouring of His Spirit in our day.
So let’s begin by doing what we always do - let’s talk to God, let’s pray…
Almighty and loving God, we gather together today as those joined by your Holy Spirit. We come remembering your ancient promise to send your spirit upon all people, young and old, male and female, Jew and Gentile.
Move within us we pray
We come remembering that first Pentecost when your spirit was given to the apostles, renewing their faith and transforming their lives.
Move within us we pray
We come on this Pentecost Sunday, reminded of the constant work or your spirit – inspiring, guiding, challenging, refining.
Move within us we pray
Almighty God, Spirit of truth, come as you promised and reveal to us more of the way of Christ. Come and fill us with deeper faith and greater love. Give us the gifts that we need to work for your Kingdom. Inspire us with new vision and purpose and breathe your power into our lives.
Move within us we pray
Almighty and loving God, open our hearts and minds and souls to your spirit, whoever we may be, and so equip us to live as your people not just this day but every day our lives reflecting your glory and proclaiming your love.
Move within us we pray to the glory of your name, Amen.
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
John 14: 15-27 Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And 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. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 16: 5-15 The Work of the Holy Spirit
5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 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. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Reflection “The Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
What makes Christianity so different from many of the other religions in the world? There are a number of answers to that question. But I think two of the most important are these:
Firstly Christianity is not a do-it-yourself religion. It’s not a case of trying as hard as we can, to be as good as we can be, in the hope that at the end of the day when the scales are weighed our good works will out way the bad so that God will accept us into His Kingdom. No, Christianity is a religion where God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
That’s why Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life. It was so that He could offer His perfectness to God the Father on our behalf as a life that is acceptable to be in God’s presence.
That’s why Jesus died on the cross, so that He could bear the full punishment for all our sins so that we could escape that punishment. And when we turn from our sin and trust in Christ an amazing transaction occurs. Our sin is transferred to Him and His perfectness is put down to our account. That’s the only reason any of us will be in heaven. Not because of anything we do! Only because of what Christ has done for us! This is very different from so many other religions of the world. Most of them are based on the concept that if we follow a list of principles or teachings that we will better ourselves until eventually we will make ourselves acceptable to the Divine.
The second reason Christianity is so different from the other religions of the world is that Christians follow the teachings and instructions of someone who is still alive and is still actually with us. Jesus isn’t on a cross this morning. His bones aren’t rotting in some Israeli tomb. He is alive! Not on earth but in heaven. But so what? Why is that so significant? Well let me illustrate the answer with a short story.
There was once a photographer who was taking photos of a raging bush fire in South Africa. Eventually the fire became too hot for him to bear so he radioed for a small plane to pick him up and take him over the fire. He was assured a plane would be waiting for him at the nearby airstrip. Sure enough, when he got there, he found a small plane on the runway exactly as he had been told. He jumped in and said to the pilot, “Take her away.” When they were in the air he said to the pilot, “I want you to swing left and go low over the fire.” A little later he said, “Now I want you to dive down onto the top of the smoke.” The pilot turned to him and said, “Why are you asking me to do this?” And the photographer replied, “Because I’m a photographer and I want some good photos.” In horror the pilot looked at the photographer and asked, “You mean you’re not my instructor?”
(Illustration taken From Christianity Explored)
Jesus’ disciples must have felt a bit like that leaner pilot when Jesus told them that soon he would be going back to heaven. They were terrified and couldn’t understand why He would be leaving them. Who would teach them when He was gone?
Who would guide them when they were not sure what to do? Who would encourage and help them when things got difficult? Would they ever see Him again? John records in His gospel how Jesus tries to calm their fears. He tells them not to be afraid. He assures them that He will prepare a place for them in heaven. He tells them that if they continue to follow Him that one day they will join Him there.
Then He promises them something amazing- something that makes Christianity unique. He tells them that one of the reasons He has to go back to heaven is so that He can give them a very special gift. That gift will be the Holy Spirit. John records some of the words Jesus spoke to his disciples in Chapters 14 and 16 of his gospel. Jesus turns to his terrified disciples and says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another counsellor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.” … “If anyone loves me they will obey my teaching. My Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken to you while still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
“Now I am going to Him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going? Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth. It is for your own good that I am going away. Unless I go away the Counsellor will not come to you, but if I go I will send Him to you.”
This is what makes Christianity so unique, so very special and such a wonderful privilege to be part of. It is not a religion of trying our best to follow the principles of someone who is dead, it is a faith that enables us to enjoy a living relationship with the God of the universe. Because Jesus is alive and in Heaven He has been able to do something amazing. He, along with God the Father, has sent God the Holy Spirit to come and live in every true Christian. That means that through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ can be with every Christian in every part of the world at exactly the same time. Being a Christian means having the living Spirit of Jesus Christ inside us to guide and help and empower us to live well. It’s amazing!
It’s important for us to stop and actually think about the significance of that this morning. Do you realise that if you have turned form your sin and trusted in Jesus Christ to forgive you that He has given you the most amazing gift? He has actually sent His Holy Spirit to live within you so that He can be with you wherever you go?
Ok, now that we have begun to realise that the Holy Spirit actually lives inside us, it’s important for us to understand what He is like, how we can develop a relationship with Him, and how He can help us. So let’s begin by asking who is this Holy Spirit?
As we read different sections of the bible we discover that He is a person, He is not a force. So He can be lied to and He can be grieved. We also discover that He is Divine. He is God, the third person of the Trinity. We even find that He is none other than the Spirit of Christ Himself. In other words, to have the Holy Spirit living in us is to have the Spirit of Christ living in us.
Just stop and actually let that sink in for a few moments this morning. Do you realise that if you are a true Christian, that the Spirit of Christ Himself is actually living in you. That means that wherever you go, Jesus is there with you. Whatever you say He is there hearing. Whatever you do He is there watching. What an awesome and scary thought! But also what a privilege and what an encouragement!
For what that means, is that through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit we actually have the Lord Jesus Himself with us everywhere we go. And this Spirit of Jesus, God the Holy Spirit, will do for us what Jesus was able to do for His disciples when He was on earth.
So what exactly will the Holy Spirit do for us? Jesus Himself gives us the answer to this question. He tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of truth and that He will guide us into all truth.” He says, that “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”
Jesus also describes the Holy Spirit as the ‘Counsellor’. The word Jesus uses here that is translated ‘Counsellor’ is the word ‘parakletos’ which come from two Greek words- ‘Para’ meaning ‘alongside’ and ‘kaleo’ meaning ‘to call’. So the Holy Spirit, this Counsellor, is literally one who is called alongside us. The Greeks used this word to describe a friend who might come alongside someone who is bereaved. They also used it to describe how a pilot would steer a ship safely into port.
If we put these two titles for the Holy Spirit together we get a picture of what He can do for us. He will be with us just as Christ was with His disciples when He was on earth. And just like Christ taught and ministered to His disciples, so God the Holy Spirit will teach and minister to each of us. Just as He brought to the apostle’s memory the teachings of the master, so the Holy Spirit will teach us and help us to understand Christ’s teachings recorded for us in the pages of Holy Scripture. In that way the Holy Spirit will guide us into understanding what God is like and how we should live in order to please Him and enjoy our lives most fully. The Holy Spirit will also comfort us when we go through difficult experiences and give us the strength that we need to trust God and keep on following Him. He will also create within us new desires, He will motivate us to want to live in ways that please God and when we pray he will give us the power to do that. That’s why a real Christian lives a very different life from many people in the world that aren’t Christians. They have the power of Jesus helping them. Let me encourage you no matter how concerned or how stressed you are at the moment, to remember that Jesus is with you. He will help you if you will take the time to ask Him. Whatever habits or attitudes in your life that you are currently unhappy with – ask the Holy Spirit to help you to change. You will be amazed at what He can do in our lives if we will only be humble enough to ask Him for help.
But as well as guiding us in God’s ways by helping us understand the bible, as well as comforting and strengthening us in times of pressure, the Holy Spirit will bring glory and honour to Christ. He will help us to see a beauty in Jesus. He will help us to understand and appreciate what Christ has done for us through His death and resurrection. He will help us to see and be thankful for what Christ is doing for us now in heaven as our great High Priest. He will cause us to want to worship Christ, live for Christ and seek to tell others about how wonderful He is. He will create in us a longing to be with Christ. There is so much more that we can learn about the Holy Spirit. Today we have only scratched the surface. So on Wednesday I hope to explain in a little more depth all the ways in which the Holy Spirit will do for us what Christ did for His disciples when He was on the earth. But for today, I simply want you to appreciate the amazing gift that God has given us this morning – the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus.
God has given each of us the very presence of Jesus in us and with us through the gift of His Holy Spirit. You may feel that you don’t deserve it. You may feel afraid or even embarrassed at what that means. But let me encourage you to believe that God the Holy Spirit is in you. Let me encourage you to accept that He is in you. Let me encourage you to think long and hard about the deep and revolutionary significance that can have for your day to day living. Let me encourage you to talk to Jesus by His Spirit every day to get the help and strength that you need.
And above all other things that you will ever hear or read about the Holy Spirit, let me encourage you to remember this:
He is a person. He is God. He is the Spirit of Christ Himself. And the most significant thing about why He has been given to us is so that in some sense Jesus Christ may be in us and with us everywhere we go, every day of our lives. Christ is in you! He is with you in every time and in every place. He can do for you what He did for His friends all those years ago. Amen.
Mighty God, come to us through your Holy Spirit, filling us with peace. Give us a love for all and a desire to serve, humility of mind and gentleness of soul.
Nurture your grace in our hearts
Mighty God, come to us through your Holy Spirit, setting us on fire with love for you. Fill us with a burning desire to work for your Kingdom, and cleanse us of all that is impure and unworthy in our lives.
Kindle a flame of faith in our hearts.
Mighty God, come to us through your Holy Spirit, breathing new life into our souls. Fill us with energy and enthusiasm in the service of Christ and sweep away all in our lives that keeps us from living as your people.
Instil a sense of expectation in our hearts.
Mighty God, forgive us that we so easily limit your Spirit, receiving His blessing for ourselves but failing to pass it on to others. Forgive us that we so readily quench the Spirit, resisting that which challenges and disturbs us. Forgive us that we are so often closed to the movement of your Spirit, shutting Him out by the narrowness of our vision. Come as the dove, the fire and the wind. Open our lives to the peace, the power and the inspiration you would give us.
Open our lives and touch our hearts trough Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Take a moment to pray for friends and family asking especially that God’s Spirit might work in their lives in miraculous ways…
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you’ve felt inspired and challenged to reflect on the amazing gift God has given us in His Holy Spirit.
Currently the government has set a provisional date of the 20th July for the reopening of Masses and church gatherings. Since that is a Monday we are currently considering reopening on Sunday 26th July. Please do pray for our church leadership as we pray and plan for this.
I hope you can tune in again on Wednesday morning as we reflect more deeply ion the role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives.
I want to thank Alison and our growing virtual choir for all their efforts recording this week. You will be able to enjoy them singing their latest piece “10,000 Reasons” in a moment. But first, let me share the benediction, after which I invite you to say the grace together…
Go out into God’s world filled with the spark of the Holy Spirit. Let love guide your actions. Listen for the Spirit of Truth. Spread the peace of Christ and remind everyone you meet that each one is a beloved child of God…
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.