Derek emphasizes that the Holy Spirit is a person, the third person of the Godhead. He is just as much a person as God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are. He was sent to be with us forever and we need to acknowledge His presence and Lordship over our lives.
It’s good to be with you again sharing with you precious insights out of scripture that have made the difference between success and failure in my life and can do the same in yours. My theme for this week is, “How to be Led by the Holy Spirit.” Understanding and applying the truths it contains is essential for your success in the life of faith.
In my introductory talks yesterday I shared with you two essential roles of the Holy Spirit in connection with our place as children or members of the family of God. First of all, the Holy Spirit is the one who makes us God’s children through rebirth. Jesus said, “Unless a person is born again of the Holy Spirit, he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God.” He said, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Through our natural birth we become children of our natural parents, descendants of Adam. But that does not make us children of God. In order to become children of God we have to have a spiritual rebirth which comes through the operation of the Holy Spirit, who, on the basis of our faith in Jesus and the word of God imparts to us a totally new divine life from above, the life of God himself. And this life coming into us causes us to be born as children of God. That’s the first great role of the Holy Spirit. But that only makes us children, little babies. It’s not God’s purpose for us to remain children or babies. God wants to make us mature sons.
But this requires the second great ministry of the Holy Spirit stated by Paul in Romans 8:14:
“As many as are being regularly led by the Spirit of God, they are sons [mature sons] of God.”
So, in order to mature, to grow up to maturity out of childhood, we have to be regularly led by the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we remain simply spiritually retarded. We are children of God, we are born again but we never really enter into our full privileges, we never become mature.
Now, in my talk today I’m going to dwell more fully on a fact which I touched on in my talk yesterday but which requires much more emphasis. The Holy Spirit is a person. Let me just emphasize that. Until you learn to relate to the Holy Spirit as a person, not as an impersonal influence, not as a theological extraction, but as a person—a real person as God the Father and god the Son, as real a person as your husband or your wife, your father or your mother, your son or your daughter—until you learn to relate to the Holy Spirit in that way you will not succeed in being truly led by the Holy Spirit. I’m going to look at some words of Jesus in John 14 where he’s explaining the role that the Holy Spirit will play in the lives of the disciples when he comes. John 14:16B17, Jesus says:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper...”
Now, in the King James version the word is “comforter.” Some translations use the word “counselor.” Catholic translations use the word “paraclete” which is simply a transliteration of the Greek word meaning “somebody called in alongside to help us.” But whether you say comforter or helper or counselor or paraclete, this is what Jesus says about him:
“...that he may be with you forever; [and then he says] that is the Spirit of truth [the Holy Spirit]...” (NAS)
So, the Holy Spirit is to be the comforter, the counselor, the helper, the paraclete. And Jesus says, “that he may be with you forever.” What he was saying in effect was, “I’ve been with you just for a brief three and a half years. Now in my personal presence I’m going to leave you, I’m going to return to the Father. But, in my place another person will come.” That word “another” is very important. Jesus is saying, “You know that I’m a person. You know how real I’ve been to you as a person. As a person I’m going, but once I’ve gone then another person will come in my place.” You see how he emphasizes the personality of the Holy Spirit in all that he says. So one person left when Jesus ascended into heaven. Ten days later on the day of Pentecost another person descended from heaven. But the fact that Jesus emphasizes here is this other person, the Holy Spirit, is going to be with us forever.
And then in John 16:7 Jesus goes on in the same theme and he says:
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away: for if I do not go away the helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (NAS)
Now that’s an amazing statement for most Christians. You often hear Christians say something like this, “Well, how wonderful it would have been to be on earth in the days when Jesus was personally present with his disciples. How much more we would have learned and understood.” Well, I agree it would be wonderful, I won’t deny that. But Jesus says wonderful though that was, it’s much more wonderful now that he is in heaven and the Holy Spirit is on earth. He says it’s to your advantage, it’s in your best interest. “If I don’t go away, the comforter won’t come. But if I go away, then the Father and I together will send the Comforter in my place and you’ll be much better off.” And the history of the book of Acts evidences that. The very moment the Holy Spirit came the disciples had a totally new concept of the work of Jesus, of his authority, of their own standing in God, of the message they were to preach, of the Old Testament prophets. Peter stood up immediately and began to quote the prophet Joel. I will guarantee a couple of hours earlier he wouldn’t have been able to say anything about the prophet Joel. Immediate light, understanding, boldness, and authority came upon them the moment the Holy Spirit came. And, as I’ve pointed out, and I want to keep on pointing out, Jesus always uses the pronoun “he,” not “it.”
Going over the laws of grammar because grammatically the word for Spirit is neuter, the pronoun should be “it.” But always throughout these chapters in John’s gospel the pronoun used is “he.” He is a person.
Listen, I just want to tell you some things that the Holy Spirit is not. He is not an impersonal influence. He is not a theological abstraction. He is not a system. He is not a set of rules. He is not an ecclesiastical hierarchy. He is not a half a sentence near the end of the Apostle’s Creed. He is a person. I have sometimes summed up my view of church history in this way. Nineteen centuries of trying to find a system so safe we wouldn’t have to rely on the Holy Spirit. But I want to tell you there is no such system. No system, no theology, no theory, no hierarchy, no human ministry can take the place of the Holy Spirit. He is indispensable. Therefore, we must cultivate a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.
What is the primary requirement for such a relationship? I would say it’s the same as the primary requirement for all successful relationships, whether it’s between parents and children, husband and wife, or friends. And the key word I would focus on would be the word sensitivity. I believe that’s the most essential feature that we need to focus on in cultivating a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Just recently I was interviewed by a Christian magazine and I was asked a number of rather good questions. Right at the end they just dropped in this question about my Christian ministry and experience: Do you have any regrets? And I paused for a few moments and then I said, “Yes, I regret all the times when I’ve not been sensitive to the Holy Spirit.” And really I think, in a way, that is my deepest regret as I look back over my Christian life. If there are things I would wish to change, and certainly there are, it would be the times when I failed to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
Finally, in my talk today I want to emphasize one more fact which again is of vital importance. The Holy Spirit is Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:17, Paul says:
“Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
Now in the New Testament, the phrase “the Lord” corresponds to the sacred name of God which we normally call Jehovah or Yahweh in the Old Testament. And it’s always a name of the true God. So when Paul says “the Lord is the Spirit,” he’s saying, “the Spirit is God.” He’s just as much God the Father or the Son. He’s just as much Lord. If you believe in the Lordship of the Father and the Lordship of the Son, you must acknowledge the Lordship of the Holy Spirit. Then he says, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is true liberty [or freedom].” That’s the key to true spiritual freedom. It’s not a set of rules, it’s not a kind of procedure, it’s not a clapping your hands or dancing or shouting or singing or falling on the ground or anything. It’s doing what the Holy Spirit directs to do at any time. If you get set in a rut, if you view liberty as simply one kind of expression, you’re not in liberty, you’re in bondage. You’re only in liberty when you let the Holy Spirit be Lord over every moment, in every situation. The services that succeed are the ones where the Holy Spirit is allowed to be Lord from beginning to end. Let me put it this way: Jesus is Lord over the Church, the Holy Spirit is Lord in the Church. The Lordship of Jesus over the Church is no more effective than the Lordship of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Only insofar as we allow the Holy Spirit to be Lord do we actually allow Jesus to be Lord. This is true of the church and it is also true of our individual lives.
Well, our time is up for today. I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this same time. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking about the kind of person the Holy Spirit desires to relate to. My special offer this week is my book, The Baptism in the Holy Spirit, which explains in clear, practical language how you can have a personal, supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit that can transform the rest of your life. Also, my complete series of talks this week on “How to be Led by the Holy Spirit, Part 1” is available in a single, carefully edited cassette. Stay tuned for details.