Power of the Holy Spirit
A few years ago, we had just arrived back in Port Canaveral from our February cruise and had taken the shuttle to the Alamo car rental lot.
We did all the things we needed to rent our car. We showed them our licenses and declined seven upgrades, three insurance offers and the chance to pre-purchase our gas, and we were finally given the keys to our car.
We went out to the lot and there it was a brand-new Ford Fusion. So, I did the walk around, making sure that there were no dings or scratches and that everything that was supposed to be there was there, and what wasn’t supposed to be there wasn’t there.
I popped the trunk and stowed our luggage, jumped in the car, adjusted my seat and pushed the button on the dash to start the car, and nothing. Not a sound. The tachometer didn’t move. Nothing. So, I pushed the button again, and still nothing. Hmmm, I thought, there seems to be a problem.
Now I’m not a Ford guy, but as my dad used to tell me, “All cars are nice when they are new”, and this car only had 700 miles on it.
After I pushed the button the third time and nothing had happened, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to ask one of the employees what I was doing wrong. It was then I noticed the hybrid designation on the dash. I had been turning the car on and off, waiting for an engine sound that wasn’t going to come.
This is the third week of our Holy Spirit series, and we’ve covered The Promise of the Holy Spirit and the Presence of the Holy Spirit. As we continue today and into February, the preaching team will take you deeper into the attributes of the Holy Spirit.
Today I’d like to take you back to the scripture that was read for us, in particular verse 8 where we read, Acts 1:8 Jesus said “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
This morning, I’m going to focus on the Power of the Holy Spirit. And here is the last promise that Jesus made to his apostles before he returned to his Father. And it was a promise of power. Jesus didn’t say they might receive power, or they may receive power, but that they would receive power. He didn’t say that their receiving Power from the Holy Spirit was a possibility; he said that receiving power from the Holy Spirit was a certainty.
Let’s go back to the story I started with. When I sat in that Ford Fusion in the Alamo parking lot, I thought it was powerless. I was convinced that I was sitting in a car without power, but the reality was that the power was there. All I had to do was claim it.
If instead of pushing the button again, which simply turned the car off. If I had put the car into gear, I would have been able to utilize all the power the car had to offer.
And once I claimed the power that was there, it was an awesome car. Even if it was a Ford.
Because to quote my father again, “All cars are nice when they are new.” Now, dad usually made that statement whenever I spoke about my non-Ford car.
My teen years were full of rebellion. My father was a Baptist and a Tory, who drove Fords and cheered for the Leafs. If you cut him, he bled blue.
By the time I was 19 I was attending a Wesleyan University, had a poster of Pierre Trudeau on my dorm room wall, drove an Oldsmobile and was a Habs fan. I’m sure I caused Dad a lot of sleepless nights wondering where he’d gone wrong.
In my last message, I spoke about how The Holy Spirit was present at the creation of the world; He was present at the conception of Christ; He was present at our conversion, and how He will be present at the conclusion of the world.
But sometimes, looking at the big picture can be overwhelming. The fact that nothing exists without the Holy Spirit is the truth, but it’s such a big truth. And while we understand we wouldn’t be here without the Holy Spirit, how does that affect our day-to-day life?
This promise of Holy Spirit power is a personal promise. It is an intimate promise, and it is a promise for every believer.
And the promise of the Holy Spirit isn’t simply a promise of companionship and comfort, it is a promise of power. But what does that mean for us today, January 30th, 2022?
The Collins English Dictionary lists 25 meanings to the word power, but for our purpose today, the first definition will suffice.
1. ability or capacity to do something
So, what is it that the Holy Spirit gives us the ability or capacity to do?
Let’s start with a Scripture from two weeks ago: Job 33:4 For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Moving away from something as immense as the creation of the universe, let’s make it personal. It’s Through the Holy Spirit’s Power We Live.
We are alive because of the Holy Spirit. We are who we are because of the Holy Spirit. You don’t exist because billions of years ago, a single cell something began to inexplicably divide and multiply. You exist because the Spirit of God made you and his breath gave you life.
And this is the only thing that all humanity gets from the Holy Spirit. The gift of life. He not only created our bodies, but He also animated our bodies. Without the breath of the Holy Spirit, we would be, what’s the word? Oh right, dead.
And so, the very ability to be alive was given to us by the Holy Spirit. It didn’t happen by chance; you weren’t a cosmological accident. You were given life by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But that initial gift of life is the only universal gift given by the Holy Spirit.
It was John Wesley who wrote, “To explain this a little further: only the soul and the body are the natural constituent parts of men and women. The SPIRIT is not in the fundamental nature of humans but is the supernatural gift of God, TO BE FOUND IN CHRISTIANS ONLY.”
This leads us to the next thing that we are empowered to do by the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote to the early Christians in Rome telling them, Romans 8:10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.
This life, however, is different from the life that Job was speaking of. Listen to how Paul defines it in Romans 8:2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
So, not only does the Holy Spirit give us the power to live, The Holy Spirit Gives Us the Power to Live Well
We will go into more details over the next few weeks about what the means.
But listen to what Paul writes concerning the type of life the Holy Spirit offers Christians, Galatians 5:22–23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
That sounds like living well. And Pastor Deborah talked about the fruit of the Spirit before Christmas, and notice that it’s fruit singular, not fruits plural. It is one fruit, not a basket of different kinds of fruit.
We could preach a whole sermon on the Fruit of the Spirit, and before this series is done, I’m sure someone will.
And those attributes aren’t what we are naturally inclined to demonstrate. That behaviour is spelled out in the two verses prior to the one I read, Galatians 5:19–21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
The difference is the Spirit of God in our lives.
It was Henry Drummond who wrote, “The Spiritual Life is the gift of the Living Spirit. The spiritual man is no mere development of the Natural man. He is a New Creation born from Above.”
The apostle Paul tells the early church the same thing in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
As well as in Jesus’ words in John 3:6 “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.”
Over the next few weeks, we will delve deeper into what type of life the Spirit gives us the power to live, but this morning I want to focus on two things that I think are particularly relevant in the COVID culture we are living in.
You see, it’s not just the matter of character, as important as that might be, that the Spirit empowers us in. Paul told Timothy in a personal letter he wrote, 2 Timothy 1:6–7 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live a Life Without Fear
Fear can be all-consuming. The fear of what today holds. The fear of what tomorrow might hold and in some cases even the fear of what happened in the past and wondering if it will resurface.
And fear can be paralyzing, it can keep us from trying new things and it can keep us from living our lives well. And Paul tells Timothy that he has been given a spiritual gift from God. It is a gift of power, a gift of love and a gift of self-discipline. But Paul says what doesn’t come from God is the spirit of fear and timidity.
Now I’m not talking about being silly and taking risks with our lives, that sense of self-preservation has been instilled into all of us. God wants us to protect the gift of life he has given us.
But this fear that I’m talking about isn’t the fear of dying, it’s the fear of living. I don’t know how many people I have talked to in this post covid world who are afraid. They are afraid of the virus, they are afraid of catching the virus, they are afraid of spreading the virus, they are afraid of having to isolate if they come to close to someone who has been close to the virus.
I’m not a denier. I’ve had COVID, I know people who have died of COVID. I’ve had both doses and the booster, I’m waiting for my loyalty card from Pfizer that will entitle me to a free pizza after my tenth dose.
But I wonder how much we have given up because of that fear? How much love has been missed? How much life has been missed?
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be careful. I’m just saying that we can’t surrender our lives out of fear. I’ve said it before, it’s not the years you get in your life as much as the life you will get in your years.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power over fear, and gives us the power of love and self-discipline. And over the next few weeks we will look at both of those attributes in more detail.
Romans 15:13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, when we experience the power of a life well-lived, we discover it is A Life of Hope
I truly believe that fear robs us of hope, but the Holy Spirit fills us with hope. And sometimes, in these days of uncertainty, it seems as if people have lost hope or have had their hope stolen.
John Maxwell wrote, “Where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.”
But when there is hope, there is power. It was Desmond Tutu who said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
We could paraphrase that to say, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the COVID.”
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Life may not be the same as it was in January of 2020, but the Holy Spirit offers us a confident hope. A hope for today and a hope for tomorrow.
We began with the beginning of life. Now let’s go to the end of life, what we often call death.
In this case, not any death, but the death of the first Christian martyr. The account is recorded for us in the book of Acts.
We find his story in Acts 7:54–60 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honour at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honour at God’s right hand!” Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
Stephen was selected to serve by the early church. We are told that he was a righteous man, who was full of the Holy Spirit. He was doing God’s work, and they killed him for it.
And yet there was no bitterness or anger at the moment of his death. No repercussions or if only.
Leonard Ravenhill wrote, “Everyone recognizes that Stephen was Spirit-filled when he was performing wonders. Yet, he was just as Spirit-filled when he was being stoned to death.”
It’s here we discover The Holy Spirit Gives us the Power to Die Well
Notice that I didn’t say that Holy Spirit gives us the power over death because we are all going to die.
We may have all been given the gift of life, but that gift is a gift with an expiry date.
So, it’s not the power to die, that is beyond our control. But the Holy Spirit offers the power to die well.
Death is the one thing in life that every one of us needs to prepare for because it is the only thing in life that is certain.
It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
But death is even more certain than taxes. You can find ways to cheat the taxman, you cannot find a way to cheat death.
Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1–2 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.
And the writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 9:27 . . . each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment . . .
I understand we need to prepare for retirement, but I’ve known people who have died before retirement. Retirement is not a certainty, death is.
And this doesn’t mean that through the power of the Holy Spirit that we will get to die a good death. My Dad passed away in his sleep. That’s not a bad way to die. Angela’s father passed away, surrounded by his family. That’s not a bad way to die.
But I’ve known Christians, good, Jesus loving, God-fearing Christians who have died long and painful deaths. Again, we don’t get a choice. It’s not like we’ll get an email or phone call asking for our preferences.
Often times at funerals I will hear the phrase, “theirs was a life well lived.” And that’s awesome. I want that to be said at my funeral. But I also want to die well. Not complaining, not demanding, “Why me?” Not making life miserable for those tending to me.
And not consumed with guilt, and regrets and fear.
The stoic philosopher Epicurus wrote, “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”
And that is true in many ways. If we live well, there will be less guilt and fewer regrets when we die.
But it doesn’t address the problem of fear and doubt. It doesn’t give us the power to die without complaint or blame.
When it comes to dying without fear, I’ve said before the two types of people who should be able to face death without fear are the Christian and the Atheist.
And I don’t mean the wishy-washy, casual too cool to believe atheist. I mean the hardcore, go to their death disbelieving atheist.
And they are hard to find. Most who profess to be atheists are really just agonistics.
If you’re not sure what the difference is, Collins English dictionary defines an atheist as a person who believes that there is no God. While they define an agnostic as a person who believes that it is not possible to know whether God exists or not.
And because the agnostic just isn’t sure, on the day of their death, they will be left with doubts and fears.
But if you truly believe that there is nothing out there. If you truly believe that there is nothing bigger than us, then there is nothing to fear. Because, for you, death is simply the end. It is the same as turning off a light switch or unplugging an appliance. You will be here and then you won’t be here.
But I don’t have the faith to not believe in something bigger.
And I lean into the truth and promise of 1 John 5:13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.
But as much as I want to die well, I don’t think I can. That’s not in my character, it’s not in my power. But it is in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And I’m claiming that power. Today I’m claiming the promise of the Holy Spirit to live my life well. That it will be a life of character, a life without fear and a life of hope.
And I’m not only entrusting the Spirit with my life, but I’m also entrusting him with my death and my eternity.