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Creed: (3) Do We Believe in the Holy Spirit?

March 19, 2017

     Acts 2:1-4

    1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

 

     Entering

 

     Today’s topic is about the Holy Spirit, which is read in the third part of the Apostles’ Creed. (The first part of the Creed is about God, and the second is about Jesus Christ.)

 

     In the Creed, there is a single line about the Holy Spirit, and some might think that it’s imbalanced: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” But, as we would have thought, it’s huge and profound statement in our confession with this single line statement.[1]

     

      “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

     

      It’s the most mysterious confession that we have had in our heart and the most practical and powerful declaration of our faith in God.

 

      Today, however, we should often ask ourselves:

      "Do we really believe in the Holy Spirit?"

      "Who is the Holy spirit?"

      "What does the Holy Spirit do?"

      "And Why does the Holy Spirit matter?"

     These are the questions that we have for today’s biblical exploration.

 

      The voices that influence and shape us

      Pretend that you have been asked to introduce a very special guest to a group of people. Though you have heard about the guest, you suddenly realize that you really don’t know about the guest. You know about things that the guest does, but you can’t describe the guest as a person.

This is the way many Christians feel about the Holy Spirit. Although the Bible tell us about the Holy Spirit about five hundred times, it’s still not easy to introduce the Holy Spirit to others. This is not because the Apostles’ Creed has only one line about the Holy Spirit in it, but because we might not know who the Holy Spirit is.

 

      Let’s begin from the original words that refer to the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments. “In the Old Testament the Hebrew word usually translated as “spirit” is ruach. In the New Testament, the Greek word is pneuma. The words have multiple meanings including breath, air, wind, and of course spirit.”[2]

 

      Spirit in the Old Testament

      In the Old Testament, sometimes the Spirit—ruach—of God works to be an ultimate source of strength, wisdom and leadership. Deuteronomy 34:9 says, “Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him.” Later, it was God’s Spirit that “rested on” the judges, great warriors, and leader of ancient Israel.[3]

       One of the beloved stories of the Judges is the story of Samson who “had superhuman strength and was great warrior delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”[4] Judges 14:6 (NRSV) says, “The spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart barehanded as one might tear apart a kid.”

       “But while the Spirit often is described in the Old Testament as empowering and giving special gifts and abilities, the Spirit’s most frequent work is in enduring that God’s voice is heard, so that God’s purposes and will can be delivered. We see this work of the Spirit in 2 Samuel 23:3, where David declares, ‘The Lord’s spirit speaks through me; his word is on my tongue.’”[5]

        We all have voices we hear in our heads or deep down in our hearts—some good voices, some not so good. Sometimes we hear voices telling us to hate others, judge others, curse others, and break off relationship with others. These voices tell us that there is no reason to love your neighbors who come from different culture, religion, and political opinion, and also these voices keep pushing us to wander on a path of bitterness and resentment. Especially, before and after the presidential election, we have heard the voices forcing us to hate our neighbors. While we are talking about the Holy Spirit which refers to the God’s voice in the Old Testament, I can’t help thinking how we react to the voice of hatred; the voice of division; and the voice of destruction.

        As we study about the Holy Spirit, we should reflect on which voices we listen to. Do these voices—friends, media, politicians, even preachers—lead you to become more like the person God wants you to be, or less? [6]

        The Apostle Paul speaks of “spiritual warfare,” the battle that goes on for our hearts and minds. In this regard, we should pay attention how the Bible begins its first story of human beings. It’s a story of temptation and the relationship between God and human being. It’s about the voice of split and the voice of union. The voice of split tempted Adam and Eve to break the covenant between them and God, and finally, evicted them from the Garden. They listened to the voice of destruction and the voice of split.

        Like the story of Adam and Eve, many parts of the Old Testament teach us to listen, trust and follow the voice of the Spirit—ruach—; the voice of love; voice of service; voice of union; and voice of obedience guiding our life to the path of righteousness and goodness.

        But as Adam and Eve did, we sometimes would feel that the voice of the Holy Spirit is not attractive or make us uncomfortable, not because the voice is unhearable, but because the voice sounds so clear and directs us to the way that we don’t want to go.

 

        The voice comes from the intimate relationship

        I sometimes ask my wife after Sunday worship service, “How was my speaking?” “Did I speak well?” and “How was the service today?” Mostly she gives me positive comments and encourages me with some nice reflection. Her admiration is always the best and a yummy cookie for my soul and ministry.

        One day, after Sunday worship service, while my wife and I had a lunch together, I asked her again, “How was my speaking?” and “How was the service today?” She said nothing, but shook her head from side to side, which means “No good.” I looked at her. I started feeling angry, and breathed deeply and slowly.

         “Tell me more.” I asked her.

         She told me what she felt on that Sunday. She commented honestly about the service and my performance. Her comments were sharp, critical and correct. She was not wrong, but I got upset.

I know she is the one of a very few people on the earth that would tell me the absolute truth about me. However, I don’t want to hear all the time the truth about me. My inner-self works hard to listen to the voice that attracts me. But she might think that she needed to tell me the truth for me that makes me feel so uncomfortable.

         We know that the initiate relationship with others mostly can be proved through such a truthful and honest conversation (or advice). When we talk about the Holy Spirit, we might first imagine the one who comforts, empowers, counsels, and shepherds for our daily life. But, as we looked together above, one of the most important and powerful works of the Holy Spirit is to comment, reflect or criticize honestly our words and behaviors (through the intimate relationship).

         If you believe that you have an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit guides your words and behaviors, you should listen to the Holy Spirit convicting of your sins by your words and/or behaviors. The Bible tells us it vividly here and there that the Holy Spirit’s most important role is to convict of our sins. Remember that King David was accused by the prophet Nathan as he killed Uriah to take his wife Bathsheba. God’s spirit convicted of David’s sin.

         John 16:8 says, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.” But the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s conviction is to drive us to repentance and then we ask for forgiveness, so that we will bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit in us.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “The fruits of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” When I read these verses that comes from Galatians 5, I would think about how different are these fruits than the fruits my own heart and the culture of today’s generations tends to produce in this world.

 

        “What are the voices you listen to, and what are the powers that shape your life? You’ve no doubt seen images of people who have a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, with each seeking to influence them. Personally, whether it’s the devil or just my own shadow-self, I find there are voices in my own life that would lead me to give in to hate, indifference, desire, pride, infidelity, selfishness, or greed. But when we listen to the voice of the Spirit and open ourselves to the Spirit’s active work in our lives, we find that we are led to a very different place and to become very different people.”[7]

 

       Ending

       Last, I want you to remember this: Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem and he would send the Spirit. This scene is described in Acts chapter 2.

       “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”

         While the Old Testament mostly talks about the Holy Spirit working through a person for the entire community of Israel, now the New Testament begins to talk about the Holy Spirit working through a group of believers.

         It says, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” In the beginning of the Bible, God breathed into and filled a man and a woman, animating them and giving them life. Here God breathes upon Jesus’ followers and fills them and makes them new. This is the re-creation of humanity by the work of the Holy Spirit.[8]

     

         Yesterday, there was a memorial service for a lady who was a life-long member of our Church. I have officiated more than ten memorial services so far in my six years’ ministerial life, and half of the memorial services were for those whom I have never met. Nevertheless, the memorial services are the most powerful moment that I can experience the presence of the Holy Spirit working among the people: The people of mourning and the people of tears.

         Yesterdays’ funeral service was also for the one and family that I have never met before, but I could feel the Holy Spirit very strongly among the people. The Holy Spirit comforts people and recreates lives in them.

          I believe that the Holy Spirit is faithfully and powerfully working among us to recreate, revitalize, and reconcile when we gather together to do God’s works. As the Holy Spirit was descended upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is working for all of us. (Not only for a person) Now, all we have to do is listen to, trust and follow the Holy Spirit, so the Holy Spirit wins in our life to complete the goodness of God and manifest the love and grace of God in our life.

          At the beginning of this message I asked you what voices you listen to. As we close the message I invite you to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and to invite the Spirit to be at work in you, comforting, guiding, shaping, and empowering you.

          I would like to invite you to read this prayer on the screen which is our prayer to invite the Holy Spirit.

 

          Come Holy Spirit, I need you. Breath of God, fill me wholly and completely. Form and shape me into the person you want me to be. Lead me to do what you want me to do. Empower me and use me; speak to me and through me. Produce your fruit in me. Help me to listen to your voice above all other voices that clamor for my attention. Come, Holy Spirit, I need you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Adam Hamilton, Creed: What Christians Believe and Why, Abingdon 2016, pp 79-80

 

[2] Hamilton, p 82

 

[3] Hamilton, p 83

 

[4] Hamilton, p 84

 

[5] Hamilton, p 84

 

[6] Hamilton, p 81

 

[7] Hamilton, p 101

 

[8] Hamilton, p 87

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