Today is a big day here at MRC.  It’s a combined service, which is awesome because we have the opportunity to worship together, we are one church in two locations and as we plant churches, we have always wanted these moments where we come back together and worship and celebrate what God is doing together.  That is very meaningful for us.  This is also a big day in our God Questions conversation because we start a three-part conversation on The Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is so important, literally essential to our Spiritual Lives.  So important that Jesus told us that He needed to go and that it was better for Him to go so we could have The Holy Spirit in our lives.

John 16:7 But I am telling you the truth: it is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you. But if I do go away, then I will send him to you. GNT

Jesus wants us to understand that The Holy Spirit is incredibly important, it’s essential to our Spiritual Lives.  But while most Christians would say they know how important The Holy Spirit is, there aren’t too many people who clearly understand who The Holy Spirit is, what The Holy Spirit does, and why The Holy Spirit is so important in our lives.  I would take that a step further and say that while we Christians know how important The Holy Spirit is, it is rare to see people living a Spirit-filled life.  So, this is an incredibly important conversation, and over the next three weeks, we will set out to answer three very important God Questions on The Holy Spirit.  Today, we answer The God Question – Who is The Holy Spirit?  Next week will start two weeks on what The Holy Spirit does in our lives, I will be answering the question – What Does It Mean To Be Filled With The Holy Spirit?   Then Ken will wrap up this miniseries inside our series by answering the question – What Does It Mean To Be Empowered By The Holy Spirit? 

So, before we get any further into this talk today, let me answer the question, Who Is The Holy Spirit?  Let’s start here.  The Holy Spirit is God.  Remember God is three in one.  The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity of God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not an aspect of God, He is God, and He wants to live in you.  This is a powerful thought, that God can reside in us.

Romans 8:11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. NLT

Ok, think about that for a moment.  This same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you.  So, there is power, energy, and life in the Holy Spirit.  This is a big deal, and honestly, it may lead to more questions, but I want you to grab hold of a few thoughts on who the Spirit is as we will keep building on it today.  The Holy Spirit is God in us.  The Holy Spirit is essential to our Spiritual Lives.  Why?  Because the Christian life is just that, a life and how you live it, and The Holy Spirit is what takes all you learn, and know about this God Stuff, and empowers you to live it out.  There is no action or life change without The Holy Spirit.  Read your Bibles, it’s all through Scripture, when do people live differently?  It’s when The Holy Spirit comes.  When does Jesus’ teaching make sense and become actionable?  It’s when The Holy Spirit comes.  We want our faith to be real.  When is it real?  It’s real when we live it out, and that only happens when we receive The Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God, and He wants to dwell in you, and when He does your faith is complete and real.

Let’s go back to that very emotional moment in John 16, it’s emotional because Jesus’ time on this Earth is about up, and He made that statement about The Helper that He would send to us.

John 16:5 “But now I am going away to the One who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. 6 Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. 7 But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. NLT

So, Jesus has just laid a lot on the disciples, and they are hurting over this news, that Jesus is going away.  Notice Jesus points out they are grieving over it.  But Jesus just says, He must go, because then He will send us the Holy Spirit. Now, imagine hearing that as a disciple.  Well, that clears it all up, doesn’t it?  Thanks, Jesus, we feel so much better now.  Ha, not really.  They couldn’t have even remotely fathomed what this meant at the time, but as we read in the book of Acts, they will!  At this moment, they are devastated, and I’m sure incredibly confused by what He is saying, which is typical for His followers as He speaks to them.  But Jesus knew something they didn’t know. God was about to share Himself. No longer was God found in one person. Jesus was saying that God is now a gift for everyone, and He goes on to lay out so much of what The Holy Spirit will do for them which we will get into over the next few weeks but for now, let’s just try to let this first thought resonate.  Who is The Holy Spirit?  The Holy Spirit is God, and He wants to live in you, and when He does He makes your faith real because you can live the very life you were called to live.

You know, I was praying a lot about how to answer this God question “Who is The Holy Spirit” today, because it’s so important and just difficult to comprehend and understand.  It’s also such a broad topic that we need to focus it on something that we can truly get our hearts and minds around.  I mean the Holy Spirit is labeled well over a hundred different things in our Scriptures, from Counselor to Friend, to Guide, to Advocate, and on and on I could.  Not only is The Spirit called many things, but it does many things in our lives which can almost make it more confusing than it does clear.  And for people, we often grab hold of some part of The Holy Spirit and take it to extremes, or crave certain aspects of it, while missing so much of who The Holy Spirit truly is for us and in our lives.  For today’s purpose let’s stay with the fact that The Holy Spirit is God and He wants to live in us and when He does, we live out our faith, it becomes real.

The Holy Spirit is God living in us.  It’s The Spirit of God that makes your Faith Life real.  The Holy Spirit completes your Spiritual Life.   Remember, how often we bring this up around our Spiritual Family, that your Spiritual life should be seen, felt, and heard.  Your life and how you live it, your actions, should reflect your belief and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  This is important, but so many people can’t seem to take what they know and apply it to their lives, well, it’s The Holy Spirit that allows this to happen.  I want you to understand that the action step, which is the thing so many lack, while struggling to experience their best lives, that action step of faith, which is so essential to Christianity…it DOES NOT happen without The Holy Spirit, living in you!  The Holy Spirit is what transforms us from the inside out.  He is what takes knowledge and brings it to life in how we live our lives.  Without the Holy Spirit your faith life, your Christianity, or whatever you would like to call it is empty because there will be no life change, no action.  It’s the Holy Spirit that takes things that we know in concept, even like who Jesus is in our lives and makes the ideas and concepts realities in our lives.  It’s The Holy Spirit that makes it all real, literally bringing concepts and teachings to life.  The Holy Spirit, God in us completes our faith and makes it real.

If you think back over your Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is always the action part…from Creation being created to countless examples in Scripture, The Holy Spirit comes, and things happen.  I mean what kicked off Jesus’ ministry?  It was when his cousin John baptized Him and The Spirit descended upon Him.  Think about the disciples, never understanding Jesus, always confused, waiting in a room, when did their ministry and the church come alive?  When the Spirit came upon them.  When we think of Paul’s life and ministry we often focus on Jesus, knocking him down, and blinding him, while telling him that he is now working for Jesus, but when did his ministry begin?

Acts 9:17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  NLT

He was baptized and dove into the mission of sharing Christ with the world.  While we often miss it, it is clearly in Scripture, repeatedly.  It is The Holy Spirit that empowered them to action, and Christianity is not what we know, or what we say, it’s how we live, and it’s The Spirit who guides, directs, motivates, counsels, and empowers our lives.  So, the Holy Spirit activates our faith, making it real.  The Holy Spirit completes your faith because He allows your faith to be lived out.

The section of scripture we are studying today is found in Acts 19.   It’s a moment where Paul is in Ephesus, he spent a lot of time there, and He runs into some followers of Christ, and asks a pointed question about The Holy Spirit.  We will walk through seven verses in total, but we will stop and talk along the way and I believe it helps us see who The Holy Spirit is in our lives.

Acts 19:1-2 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” NIV

This is an interesting interaction, isn’t it?  Over the years I would read this and be a bit confused with what we are to see here.  I would think to myself, why would Paul even ask this question?  I mean, nice small talk, right?  What a direct and I would think somewhat challenging even awkward conversation starter.  But let’s think about what is happening here.  Remember, The Holy Spirit makes your faith real, it brings it to life.  It is God in us that allows your faith to be seen, felt, and heard.  This means that if someone has The Holy Spirit in their lives you know it.  It is clear, and if someone does not have The Holy Spirit living in them, that is clear as well.  Let’s talk.

Remember, a few weeks ago we talked about the major blocker for so many of us experiencing our best lives is the action step of our faith?  If we are connected to The True Vine, we can’t help but produce the life we are called to produce.  Remember that?  It’s The Spirit who makes this happen.  You may not feel like an expert on The Holy Spirit, but I promise you, you will know it and feel it when you are around someone filled with The Holy Spirit.  There is just something about them.  They bring life, joy, energy, peace, they have patience, and love, humility, sincerity, and they are the kind of person you want to be around…you may not put your finger on it, but they make life and their Spirituality look so easy, or natural.  They just seem to make it all fun.  You also know and feel it when you are around those who are not filled with The Spirit.  They may say they love God, and they mean it.  They may have knowledge about God and His Word, and they may have a lot of it.  But they don’t bring life, they tend to take it from you.  They seem tired and live a frustrated life where they seem to work so hard and always come up short, and I will just say this, their Spirituality looks really hard.  When someone is filled with The Holy Spirit you know, because they are living that abundant full life that Jesus said He came to provide, which is completed through The Holy Spirit which spurs action in our lives, making our faith life real.  When you are filled with the Holy Spirit it’s known.

I was thinking a lot about why Paul hits these poor people with this.  It says they are disciples, which means they love God and believe.  But when you realize who The Holy Spirit is and how it completes your faith life, bringing it to life, making it seen, felt, and heard, well, it’s easy to see what Paul sees in these people.  Their faith has not yet been made complete by The Holy Spirit, so while they believe in The True Vine, the fruit isn’t coming out of their lives.  This is why Paul takes them right to this question.  Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?  Paul did and gets it, and understands how essential this is.  So, while this may have caused an awkward moment, I do believe it shows us just how important the Holy Spirit is, and I also believe it shows who the Holy Spirit is and what it does in our lives.  Here’s why I say that because these guys don’t know anything about the Holy Spirit and tell Paul how they came to faith, they were baptized and taught by John.

Acts 19:3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” NIV

Ok, so what is wrong with John?  John The Baptist was awesome, we know him as an incredible man!  He was the forerunner who came before Jesus pointing us all to Jesus!  And he is all those things, for sure, but we need to think about something.  There was a major difference between the teachings and baptisms of John and the teachings and baptism of Jesus.  John even says so.

Matthew 3:1-3, 7-8 In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2 “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” 3 The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’…7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. NLT

The teachings of John were a warning.  He was shouting in the wilderness.  Basically, he was scaring you into the Kingdom!  The preaching of Jesus was good news, John’s preaching was a step on the way to Jesus. He knew that he only pointed to The One still to come!  I love this line from John here.

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” NLT

Now, listen, John is awesome, and there isn’t anything wrong with His teaching.  John’s preaching was necessary and hit on things that truly matter to us.  But remember what John is doing.  He is the Forerunner, pointing to Jesus coming.  So, in some ways, you could say that John’s teachings hit the first stages of the religious life.  But the issue is, it’s just stage one…it’s not complete.  Let me show you what I mean.  John was awesome at the first stage of our faith.  Sin, guilt, and the realization that we deserve Hell, but want to go to Heaven and can.  Many of us come to Christ this way.  We have this moment where we become very aware of our sins, our issues, and how short we have fallen when it comes to God’s glorious standard for our lives.  So, we have this awareness of our sin, and how undeserving we are of Our Father’s love.  We feel inadequate, and like less, trying to figure out why God would love a wretch like us.  We have this understanding that we come up short when it comes to God, so what do we do?  We set out trying our best to do better, to sin no more, to live holy lives, and to be the people we know God would want us to be.  The problem is we can’t get this done on our own.   But boy, oh boy do we try!  While we start there, we should remain there, the problem is that so many people stay stuck right there in their faith.  This is why we see so many frustrated, tired, Christians who just can’t see their value, or how God could accept and love them.  They burn out working so hard to do things and accomplish things that they just can’t accomplish in their own strength.  This is the frustrating and exhausting reality of so many people of faith…its religious duty, guilt-ridden obligation, rule-following, and hard work under the weight of our issues, sins, and the agreement of how disappointing we must be to God.  Sadly, this is such a tough spot that so many find themselves in.  I would say most stay stuck right at this stage of their faith, and why it is just so rare to see people experiencing their best lives possible!  They were scared into the Kingdom of God.  They were very aware of their issues and sins and set off trying to earn something that they simply could not earn.  They can know the truth in their minds and read in God’s Word that they will never get it done without the help of Christ, that they will always fall short of God’s glorious standard on their own, they will recite the verse that says, that while they were still sinners Christ died for them, but it never lands in their hearts and becomes part of their lives because something is missing.  What is missing is the thing that brings your faith to life…The Holy Spirit living and activating their faith!

You see when things get fun, when we begin to experience our best lives possible, only takes place when we move past all that religiosity and we see and accept the truth, that through the grace and loving work of Jesus, we don’t have to work to earn or accomplish what we cannot.  Our sins are forgiven, and we can walk in true freedom from the guilt and shame of what we can’t do, through His amazing grace!  This is huge, and as we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior we invite God into our hearts, to dwell in us.  What we are doing is inviting The Spirit to activate our faith lives so we can experience new life.  Remember, nothing happens until The Spirit comes!   This is when we find that all our efforts to do better, do live as Christ lived are strengthened, and we are led by The Holy Spirit (who is now living and active in our lives) allowing us to live and act differently.  Through the Holy Spirit, we can live in ways we could never live in our own strength.  We don’t just know things in our minds, they become a natural part of who we are.  Do you see it?  It’s the Holy Spirit that completes our Spirituality, making it real, because it’s now your life and how you are living it!

So, Paul has found these followers of Christ and sees they aren’t complete in their faith because The Spirit isn’t living and active in their lives.  This is so easy for him to see because their lives aren’t reflecting Christ, they are not free, they are stuck, and we know that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and the power to be more and more like Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. NLT

Those who are not experiencing The Holy Spirit, are not free.  Do you see it?  This is not a secret that a human can hide. The Spirit activates our lives, making our faith real because the Spirit empowers action.  The Christian life is lived, it is seen, felt, and heard.  We live our faith out when The Holy Spirit is involved.  These followers of Christ know of God and are very aware of their sins.  They get that and are working very hard at their faith.  They know the obligation or duty of being better, but it’s a hard life they are experiencing.  It is a frustrating existence to work so hard at something you just can’t do on your own.  They would have a lot of information about Christianity, but were missing the essential piece, they hadn’t invited the Holy Spirit in to do what only The Spirit can do in a person, which empowers us to live out our faith, making it real…making it complete.   Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom, and Paul is trying to get them freed up.  He wants them to live their best lives and knows that they need The Holy Spirit in their lives to do so.  This again how our Faith is seen, felt, and heard…when God is us He produces things in our lives…

Galatians 5:22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. NLT

Without The Holy Spirit, the God stuff is a struggle, it’s work, and it’s frustrating.  There is no freedom, no full life, no peace, and no joy.  It’s an empty, stagnant life without those fruit coming out of our lives. The Holy Spirit completes your faith life.  For so many Christians, we walk through life wondering why we aren’t experiencing this incredible life Christianity seems to advertise, and this is why.  Even though we love God, and see the error of our ways.  Even if we want forgiveness of our sins, and even if we are determined to change how we live our lives, we can never make these changes without help.  That help comes one way, and that is through The Holy Spirit in our lives. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Do you see it?  The Holy Spirit is the activator of your faith, and the essence of our belief system is how we live, it’s active.   The Spirit makes it all real, empowering you to live out your faith, without it, it’s always a tiring, frustrating, religion.

Acts 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all. NIV

Do you see it?  The Holy Spirit is desperately needed in our lives because it takes our faith and completes it.  It takes what we know and makes it come to life in action.  It’s the Holy Spirit, God in us that allows us to live the very lives we can’t live without Him!  Our Spiritual lives are completed through The Holy Spirit living and active in our lives.

You know here at MRC, we want your faith life to be real.  We want you to experience your best life possible, that very life Jesus said He came to provide all along.  This only happens when your Spiritual Life becomes active, and that only happens when you have God in you.  I wanted you to see this today, that living out your faith makes your faith real.  And that isn’t possible without The Holy Spirit in your life.  For so many people the big blocker to our best lives.  We know things about God, we love Him and want Heaven someday, but we don’t live out our faith.  The only way we live out our faith is through the power of The Holy Spirit in our lives.

As we close today, please take a moment, and ask yourself, have you personally asked God into your life?  Is The Holy Spirit living and active in your life?  Not sure, well take an honest look at your life.  How would you describe your Spiritual Life?  Would you describe it as a life of freedom and growing to live like Christ?  Remember, where the Spirit of The Lord is, there is freedom.  Is it a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control?  Remember, this is the product of The Holy Spirit in your life.  Is your Spirituality seen, felt, and heard?  Remember it’s The Holy Spirit that activates your faith, allowing you to live it out, which makes it real.

Have you ever invited the Holy Spirit into your life?  If you have, how did your life change? If you haven’t, what would change if you did?  Can you imagine what would happen if an entire Spiritual Family of people were living life empowered by The Holy Spirit?  Imagine what that community would look like inside the church, and most importantly, what the community around that church would look like.  Imagine the impact real Christianity would have on people in deep need of God’s love in their lives!  Have you ever thought about The Holy Spirit as this essential, as the thing that makes your faith real?  Could it be that the very thing you are missing all along, was just simply inviting God into your life, and allowing His Spirit to activate your faith and make your Christianity real?

We love you so much, and if there was one thing I wanted you to take from today is how essential the Holy Spirit is to us truly living the lives we have always wanted yet struggled to ever find.  Christianity is not what you know.  It is not where you spend your time on Sundays.  It is how you live your life, and it is the Holy Spirit that allows us to live that life out.

If you have never done so, this is a critical moment.  If you want to complete your faith and experience your best life, it’s time to invite The Holy Spirit into your life.  To dwell in you, to activate your faith, and to give you that love, love, joy, freedom, and peace we all want and struggle to find.  Please understand your desperate need for the Holy Spirit in your life and invite Him into your life.