Speaker: Helen Jenkinson
Welcome to the 8th week of our series about the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you but I have been really challenged in my thinking about who He is and what He does. I always tend to want to think I have my theology worked out. To put it in a file that says ‘sorted’ and this series has been encouraging me to think about what I think I believe regarding the Holy Spirit and why. In other churches I have been part of, although absolutely acknowledging the Holy Spirit, they always tended to focus on the Father and the Son. Things of the Spirit were treated with caution. And I suppose those ideas have stuck with me. Maybe with you too. But the more I have studied in preparation for this talk the more I recognise that we can’t pigeon hole the Spirit. As soon as we think we have Him worked out, He shows us a different side of His character and work. And a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work either. He works in different ways in different people, which is exciting (if we let it be….!)
We learnt in the first few weeks that in Hebrew the word for Spirit is RUAH. Wind. Breath. Even the word wind can have so many manifestations can’t it? There is the breath of a whisper. There is the refreshing gentle breeze on a hot sunny day. But then there is the force and power of a gale force wind. All of these are wind. And so it is with the Spirit. Sometimes we hear His voice like a whisper in our ear. Sometimes we feel His presence as a breeze that refreshes our tired souls. But sometimes He comes in power like a hurricane and we see the effects of His work clearly. This is what we are going to focus on today. In the New Testament, the word Spirit is often translated as PNEUMA. It gives the idea of a powerful breath. A powerful wind. It is the root of our words like pneumonia or pneumatic. Breath. Wind. We have already seen in previous weeks that in the Old Testament the Spirit came upon various people for particular tasks. Think of the judges: Deborah, Gideon, Samson. Of kings like Saul or David. Of prophets like Isaiah or Ezekiel. But there was always the expectation that God’s Spirit would be poured out on ordinary people.
Joel 2:28 I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy; your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days
So when we come to the early church we see this actually happening. We see the amazing events of Pentecost when the Spirit comes as a rushing wind to the disciples in the upper room. We see these ordinary people doing extra ordinary things all through the pneuma power of the Holy Spirit as Tristan spoke about a few weeks ago. How were all these things possible? Because instead of the Holy Spirit being upon people, the Holy Spirit was actually living INSIDE people. And we are living in those times. It wasn’t just a phenomenon for the early church. The same Spirit that empowered them is the same Spirit who empowers us if we are IN CHRIST. God’s pneuma is in us! As breathing is essential to our bodily survival, so is the Holy Spirit to our spiritual survival.
As I’ve been pondering this truth of Holy Spirit being IN us, and Him being like breath I’ve had this analogy in mind that I hope will help you think about the Spirit being like a powerful breath. In the world of music there are ok singers, there are good singers and there are great singers. I want you to think of a great singer. Who might you think of? Luciano Pavarotti? Andrea Bocelli? Or you might think of a singer of more modern music. Frank Sinatra? Whitney Houston? Celine Dion? As I thought about the Holy Spirit as pneuma I thought about watching a great singer. Their voice is controlled, yet powerful. You watch them as they reach a top note. Their rib cage rises, they take a deep breath and it’s as though the sound that comes out of them has come from deep within them. That is what the Holy Spirit wants to do inside of us. He wants to fill us so we breathe Him out!
I want you to keep this analogy of a great singer in mind as we read our key verse today.
2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
What is the context to this verse? Paul was most likely in prison and writing to his son in the faith, Timothy who was in charge of the church at Ephesus. Timothy was being faithful to his calling as a leader but he was young and probably feeling overwhelmed by his role and maybe a bit discouraged. So Paul sends this letter to encourage his son in the faith. To remind Timothy of this pneuma power that he possesses, not in his own strength but because he is in Christ.
For the Spirit (pneuma) does not make us TIMID. The Greek word for timid is DI-LEE-AH which means cowardice. But gives us POWER ( DOO-NAM-IS), LOVE (AGAPE) and SELF DISCIPLINE ( SO-FRON-IS-MOS).
Let’s spend a bit of time looking at these 3 words.
This is where we get our word dynamite from. In Greek it means miraculous power. DOO-NAM-IS almost always refers to new and higher forces that have entered and are working in this lower world of ours. It is power residing in a person or thing. When we know this, we realise that this power is not from us but from something, or in this case, someone, who is higher than us. The power is completely not of our doing but from someone else. Now that flies in the face of what our culture would say doesn’t it? Society says ‘search for the hero inside yourself’ to quote a M People song. YOU have the power. YOU can do anything, achieve anything you want to, because YOU have it inside of you. But here Paul is saying it’s not you, in your flesh that is the power. It’s the Spirit who is the DOONAMIS inside of you. If you want real power, stay in step with the spirit. Maybe this reminds you of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Remember He has been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights whilst being tempted by the devil. The second temptation is all to do with having power.
READ LUKE 4:5-8.
What the devil is saying to Jesus, paraphrased, is this: You can have all this power to do with what you will. It’s easy- just take your eyes off your Father and worship me instead. What is Jesus’ reply? It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only. Jesus is saying, the only power I have that will have any eternal value is that power that comes from the Spirit.
So the Spirit (pneuma) does not make us TIMID (or cowards). But gives us POWER ( DOO-NAM-IS). What else does the spirit give?
Agape love is not warm, fuzzy feelings. It is not hearts and flowers romantic love. It is a verb. A doing word. As God’s love is seen in the giving of His Son, Jesus, so it is demonstrated in us by the actions it produces. It is often a choice. It’s choosing to love when people are not showing love towards us. It seeks the good of all. We need the Holy Spirit’s power for that sort of love don’t we? A few weeks ago when we looked at the Spirit in Acts, we learnt that people who would normally have nothing to do with each other, who would normally mistrust each other, suddenly were fellowshipping together. Why? Because the Spirit had changed their hearts. That couldn’t be done without the pneuma, the breath of God filling them and it is the same for us. It’s relatively easy to love the people who love us. But to love those who ridicule us? Who ignore or disagree with us? Who put us down? We absolutely cannot love as God would have us love without allowing the power of the Spirit to flow out of us. On the other side of the equation, the Holy Spirit’s power is never for manipulating people, being selfish or for demanding our own way. 1 Corinthians 13 is a go-to reading at weddings. We had it at ours. But the whole context of that reading, beautiful as it is, is what was NOT happening in the church at Corinth. They might have thought they were showing the Spirit’s power in the gifts they were exhibiting but they definitely weren’t acting in love towards each other. In chapter 12 Paul talks about the gifts of the spirit, which we will look at in a few weeks but they weren’t exercising them in a loving, agape way. That’s why Paul writes in chapter 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Exercising the gifts of the spirit without the fruit of the spirit that is love, is not letting God’s pneuma life have its way in us.
So the Spirit does not make us TIMID. But gives us POWER (DOO-NAM-IS), LOVE (AGAPE). And
SELF DISCIPLINE ( SO-FRON-IS-MOS).
This word means having a safe mind that results in sensible behaviour that fits a situation. Acting out God’s will by doing what He calls sound reasoning. We need the Spirit to have a safe mind don’t we? Because we are constantly being bombarded with suggestions of how we should think about various things. And these influences are not just from the outside. Inside each one of us is the temptation to think that what I think about something is the right way. Here, Paul is saying that if we are allowing the pneuma power of the Spirit to have control over us, we will be thinking, saying and doing what God would want, what is on God’s heart.
So how can we apply all this to our every day Monday to Sunday life? At this point we might be thinking “well that is all ok in theory, but my life doesn’t operate like that. On a day to day basis I don’t feel full of power, love and self-discipline.” Could it be we know the theory about the Holy Spirit but we don’t experience Him in practice? As Olivier mentioned last week, there’s a tendency in all of us to want to do things in our own strength until there’s something we feel is a bit beyond us. Then we ask for his empowerment. I’ve been challenged by this quote by A W Tozer:
"If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the Church today, 95% of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference”
That’s a dig in the ribs isn’t it?! How often is that true of me? In my personal life. My family life. In my service for God? How true is it for our ministries here at MCC? It’s a sobering thought isn’t it? If we go back to our singer analogy, it’s as though we think we’re singing like Whitney Houston when in reality we’re doing life and ministry humming an out of tune song. The Spirit wants us to do a Pavarotti and sing out Him from the very depths of our beings. So how do we do that? How do we stop humming and start singing our hearts out?
Let’s think about what makes a great singer great.
The first thing a great singer needs to do is to:
Listen to their voice coach.
Have you ever watched programs like the X factor? Each of these wannabe stars have a coach who will help them develop and improve their singing abilities, their vocal range and performance skills. The vocal coaches are older. They are wiser. They know what they’re talking about. Occasionally there is an act who thinks they are better than their coach. They ignore the advice given. We watch them and think “How stupid- fancy ignoring an expert like that!”
Let’s think about the spiritual implications of this. As Olivier said, the Spirit is called the comforter, encourager, counsellor. Our problem is that we hear these terms and we put our 21st century spin on them. We want the Holy Spirit to tell us what we want to hear. A counsellor gives advice that we can choose to take on board or ignore- just like the contestant on the X Factor but the Spirit is within us to guide us continually. He wants to direct us in EACH moment. Not just in the big, momentous decisions of life but in the mundane. The everyday. He wants to revolutionise our day to day living, but often we just want enough of Him to make our lives easier or to help us in difficult circumstances. We want Him safe and pigeonholed when really He wants to have free reign. Will that feel uncomfortable? Maybe! Will that inconvenience us? Perhaps! Will that require a reassessment of our priorities? Probably! But that is the life that the Spirit wants us to have if His pneuma power is at work in us.
So a great singer needs to listen to their coach. We need to be listening to the counsel, the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Remember we thought about the fact that wind can come in many forms. A gale force or a whisper. Often a whisper is how the Spirit communicates with us. Often not in the big noisy worship service, but in a still small voice. Maybe we need to block out the noises that prevents us from hearing His whisper.
So a great singer needs to listen to their voice coach. The second thing they need to have is
A great singer is single minded in their desire to be the best they can. This requires a great deal of sacrifice. Apparently an opera singer might practice 8 hours a day- that’s hard core isn’t it? It’s a full time job. Let’s think about the spiritual application of this. Our submission to the Spirit’s leading and guiding needs to be our priority. Paul, in his letter to the Galatian church says this- just after he has listed the fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This is what he says:
READ GALATIANS 5: 24-25.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
That seems pretty single minded to me! Too often I find myself drifting away from single minded devotion, being led by the Spirit to doing my own thing. Sometimes I want to do my own thing and expect the Spirit to catch up with me! As many of you know, we have a one-year-old border collie, Tess. Many of you have met her! When we are out walking, sometimes she lags behind so I don’t know where she is and I’m constantly having to look back to check she’s ok. Sometimes she runs off in front so I’m playing catch up. Sometimes when I call, she comes straight away. Sometimes it’s a minute or two. Sometimes I have to go hunting for her and I’m just hoping she’s going to be ok and not get lost. The best times are when we are walking side by side. She keeps in step with me. She can easily hear any instructions I give her to the way we should go. Those are the times when we are in sync. She’s not getting into any danger or trouble because she’s near me. That’s what it’s like keeping in step with the Spirit. Sometimes we run on ahead, or lag behind what He wants or is doing. Both of those can lead us into trouble. He wants us to keep in step with Him, so we can clearly hear his instructions. We can clearly hear his words of love to us. We can clearly hear his voice of warning if we need it.
So to really experience the pneuma power of the Spirit we need to Listen to Him. Not just hear what He says then choose whether or not to obey, but be single minded in our desire to stay in step with Him. It is a moment by moment, day to day choice. Imagine a church in which every person was singing out the Spirit of God like a great singer; continually listening and obeying the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Demonstrating power, love and self-control, all through the power of the Spirit. What an impact the pneuma power of God would have in the local area. In every town or city. In the world??!