A quick study of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.
It’s too easy sometimes to forget how miserable life was without Jesus—without his Holy Spirit—when we have been following for a while, serving, and perhaps getting too far ahead even, of Jesus.
We get tired, discouraged and disillusioned—even cynical. It’s often because we lost focus. We stopped focusing on Jesus, started doing things in our own power, or we just simply allowed our joy to be stolen away and allowed the lies of this world to overshadow us.
This story told in the book of Acts, especially in the opening chapters, reminds us of the stark difference of life before and after the Holy Spirit, before and after being born again and then baptized in the Spirit. Rescued from death and despair, born again into eternal life and then supercharged by an immersion from head to toe with the same Holy Spirit that has just given us new life—if we’ll accept it all.
The story of the gospels and Acts is the story of our return to oneness with our creator. It is the restoration to wholeness, to completeness for mankind—the completeness that is still available to us. There is a stark black and white difference between the people who sought to know God, who longed for truth, before Jesus’ resurrection, and after, when the Spirit became available—when they could be born again, and then empowered.
We are privileged to live as recipients of the grace purchased by the blood of Jesus, of his giving the Holy Spirit to his church, to us, so that we are again able to be the people God created us to be. We are no longer just an empty shell full of echoes of what could have been.
“Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3) We no longer have to hide, we are no longer outcasts. We have been restored.
We see that being played out in the first followers of Jesus, and it is something that is still being played out today.
Let’s talk about this born again thing before we get into the baptism of the Spirit because I believe the scripture makes a clear distinction between the two. One is life—the other is power. Life, is of course the first and perhaps most important thing.
So that has to be the starting point.
Remember when Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to see the Kingdom of God?
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
. . . “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
. . .‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes. . .
That rebirth had everything to do with the Spirit.
So we see at the end of the same gospel of John, the fulfillment of that—the wind of the Spirit being blown where it wills by the mouth of God, right into the hearts of his disciples.
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
This happened in the room where Jesus met the Apostles as they were still hiding out after the resurrection.
They had the very breath of life blown into them by Jesus. The Son of God through whom for whom and by whom all things were created (Colossians 1) was breathing life back into his beloved. Just as he had done when he created Adam so long ago, making him a living being, created in his image. That was the life that was lost when Adam and Eve ate the fruit that they had been commanded not to eat, when they disobeyed and then hid from God.
They died. God had told the; “…on the day you eat of it you shall surely die” Well, they did, thus their spirits died, the breath of life from God replaced with emptiness and longing. Leaving them seeking restoration and life from there on out. Jesus, the Son of God, came to restore that.
Those who were dead inside could now be born again. All who believe in and accept that Jesus is Lord and that he rose from the dead, who recognize the emptiness and death inside caused by their sin— those who seek him—they receive the Holy Spirit, what we often call receiving Jesus. They are born again.
And what a feeling it is. When the Spirit comes in and breathes life into our weary and lonely souls, fills our hearts and our heads with joy and peace, a feeling of invincibility—that no matter what, I am his and he is mine and will be forever!
I remember well that feeling of suddenly knowing that I knew that there was a God in Heaven who loved me, of having that nagging doubt and emptiness in me replaced with the security of knowing and feeling alive again. I was thirteen years old and just reading the gospel accounts of Jesus on my own. I believed and was born again.
It would be several years later that I would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but the life that was breathed into me started me down that long, and very crooked, path to that point where I would trust the Lord enough to allow him to fill and empower me completely. But when I did get to that point, there are simply no words to describe. It is indeed power, it is so much more than just life—it is. . . —but we’ll get into that next week.
And Then Some
I just want you to understand that the Holy Spirit is not a one trick pony. The life he gives you is just the start.
It’s simple really—At the end of the gospel of John, after the resurrection, mankind is saved—they can be born again. But on the day of the feast of Pentecost—fifty days later, the church would truly be born; born of those who had been born of the Spirit, and now empowered to be the church, to be the bearers of good news, the champions, of the Kingdom of God.
And the world would never be the same.
I think it no accident of chance that John’s gospel immediately proceeds the book of Acts. Because it puts the two subsequent works of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the believers, one right after the other as they should be.
“Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. —John 20:21—22
He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”— Acts 1:4—5
Those same apostles who have received the breath of life, received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, are told to return to Jerusalem and wait for the power.
And the disciples of Jesus Christ, men and women both, have no idea what is about to happen to them. They are about to go from happy but timid born again believers who just want to be left alone as the gaze heavenward and wait for Jesus to return, to radical Jesus freaks who look at the Roman Empire, the entire known world for that matter, as one big revival meeting tent, and they will lead that crusade with a zeal that cannot be stopped except by pain of death, and even that, just stokes the flames of the Spirit.
Because death is no longer a factor. And if there is no fear of death, there is nothing that can stop you.
Stay tuned—it’s just getting good.