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Q&A: The Holy Spirit

Questions and Answers on The Holy Spirit

Bruce Stanley

May 10, 2022

Here are some very brief answers to our unanswered questions from Sunday - thanks for the enthusiastic response to Q and A on Sunday night! I have tried to keep the answers brief but if you want to discuss more, please call me or email at bruces@stphils.org.au

How do we know the difference between prompting of the spirit and the desires of our hearts?

The Spirit will always point us to glorify Jesus. With the Holy Spirit at work in us, that should regularly line up with our actual heart desires! But if you’re not sure, just ask yourself “How does this glorify Jesus?” Or at the least “does this detract from Jesus’ glory at all? Would it dishonour him in any way?” The Spirit always prompts us to actions that glorify Jesus.

In Mark 3:29 Jesus says whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit commits an unforgivable sin - what does that mean?

One helpful interpretation is that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is attributing his work to Satan. (In this passage from Mark, Jesus was accused of driving out demons by the power of the devil). If you attribute the work of Jesus to Satan, then how can you put your faith in Jesus? It’s equivalent to the rejection of Jesus as God himself. So you could say the unforgivable sin is rejecting Jesus as God.

Can our ordinary lives (work, friends, family etc) reflect the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit in our lives? If yes or no, how?

Yes! One particular way, for example, is grace. By showing grace (undeserved favour) to people, we are reflecting the very character of God. By loving our enemies. By defending the weak. By speaking the truth in love. By not gossiping, or slandering. By asking and allowing the Spirit to change our hearts so we reflect the character of Jesus, we can make a huge difference in our world every day by reflecting the character of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit pops in and out of the Old Testament for some people - and then after Jesus ascends, the Holy Spirit comes and stays for anyone who believes in him. How come?

You could say this is the next and final stage of God's plan. First, let humanity see the problem of sin (the Old Testament), and the failure to get out of it - the failure to even simply obey the law… again and again! Then, send Jesus, God in the flesh, to deal with that sin as a perfect sacrifice for sin. Then, send the Holy Spirit to change hearts from the inside out so we can accept Jesus as our Saviour. Jeremiah 31; 31-33 is God's promise to make the changes in us that we cannot make ourselves. See also Ezekiel 36:26. The Old Testament/Covenant shows us that we need a new covenant - that we need God to be WITH us and IN us to make the change of heart that is necessary.

If the Spirit is guiding me into truth, what is the role of my church community?

The role of the church community is to help each other mature in our faith - to remind us of the truth. If we are each led by the Spirit, then the church is a community of a whole lot of people led by the Spirit getting together. So if someone is wandering off the path of faith, it’s very easy to notice them and help them come back. Church life is so important to ensure we are walking the narrow path of faith - that we are essentially listening to the Spirit and not to our own ideas all the time. That's why we really encourage people to come to church gatherings every week, and join a growth group. (That’s why we call them “growth” groups!)

What would you say to people feeling the tension between devotion to Jesus and devotion to (eg. their career) and wanting to do that well too?

It glorifies Jesus when we live our life well, and when we use our life well. It’s great to work to be good at your career, for example, but we need to keep our priorities in order. If doing well at my job (not being lazy, or incompetent) shows that I respect my employer and those for whom I work, then that is a great testimony for a person of faith. If I work well to testify to Jesus’ influence on me as a person, that is a great thing. If I work hard just to make more money, that’s not really an eternal perspective. There’s nothing worse than the lazy person at work being a Christian. It doesn’t speak well for our faith. Nor does it look good for the Christian to always be concerned about making more money. But if displaying Jesus' character is our priority, to be a witness for him and a testimony to who he is, that is a great thing. We may still make lots of money or build great buildings in our job, or save lots of lives in the hospital, but the priority needs to remain our witness to Jesus. To display his character, his love, his grace and mercy.

And if our devotion to our work comes at the cost of not paying attention to Jesus, then it would seem that we have our priorities mixed up. For example, we all have two common resources that we use nearly every day - time and money - how do we allocate those things? Do we give to God first, or does he get the leftovers? It’s a good question to ask when we think about our devotion to other things. Am I devoted to God first - does he get the best of me? Or does he only get what's left? Matthew 6:33 - "seek first his kingdom…"

John 20:22 After Jesus' resurrection he appeared to disciples. Jesus BREATHED on them said receive the Holy Spirit. Significance? or is it Jesus ‘sending’ the spirit?

It seems to be an act that expresses a lot. First, the Hebrew word for Spirit is the word for wind, breath or Spirit - “ruarch”. (first written in Genesis 1:2) It is onomatopoeic - that is, it sounds like its meaning. Say “ruarch” as you breathe out! It’s a very “breathy” word. So Jesus breathing out his Spirit is, I would say, reinforcing the fact that: (1) the Spirit is unseen, (2) the Spirit comes from Him, (3) the Spirit is the very breath of God into our lives. Like with Baptism the water represents the washing away of our sin, Jesus breathing on them represents the breath of God into our lives.

How do we begin to talk about how the bible describes the roles of the trinity when other denominations have 'extra books' that may contradict what we believe?

The “Canon” - the books of the Bible that we have in our Bible - was established by the Church by the end of the 4th century. It was a long, careful and complicated process that took around two centuries. It was a distinct recognition by the whole church that although there are many “writings" that are very helpful, these are the ones we all agree on as being inspired by God. And God was with his church of course when this process happened! God was guiding the whole process. If others then decide to add more books, or write their own (like the Book of Mormon), then we must take into account the source of these books. They do not have the agreement of the church. Most Christian denominations agree on the 66 books of the Bible as we have them. Beyond this, there is great scope for error, especially if they contradict what the (agreed Canon) Bible says. So how do we talk about it? We can only talk from Scripture. The long way around is to investigate these “other books”. There are usually good reasons why they weren’t included in the Bible. Often these are good historical and authorship reasons.

What can we say about church to explain why we go?

I can only tell you what I might say. I go to see some friends of mine... who also believe in Jesus. And support them in their faith in Jesus. And get help from them for my faith in Jesus. And learn with them more about Jesus. And to worship Jesus with them in song. And to talk to Jesus in prayer with them. So I go to see my friends - who have centred their life around Jesus. And to help other people centre their life around Jesus. In other words I think the best explanation of why we go to church, for a Christian, has to have Jesus at the centre in every way. e.g. I like the music, because it helps me think about Jesus and glorify Jesus and honour Jesus. I like the seats at church because they help me sit comfortably while I learn about Jesus and pray. I like the building because it facilitates my time meeting with others to worship Jesus. ad keeps the rain out...

Click here to watch the questions answered during our live Q&A after the sermon at night church on last Sunday.

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