The Holy Spirit: God’s Closeness

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey.  This morning we are beginning a new series.  We just spent five weeks answering questions that you all submitted to us about God and faith and everything else under the sun.  And we loved it.

But there was one question asked that we saved for today – knowing it was a good transition between that series and this one.  eries.  The question they asked was…  “Can you explain the Trinity?

Now if you are unfamiliar with this – the doctrine of the Trinity says that God is one.  But that God exists in three persons. – The Father.  The Son and the Holy Spirit.   The God of the bible has disclosed himself to be a tri-une God.  Trinity means tri-unity.- three in one.

Christianity does not believe in three different Gods.  Or that God created Jesus, and then created the Holy Spirit.  Christianity does not believe that God is schizophrenic – who is sometimes the Father and sometimes the son and sometimes the Spirit.  No – The doctrine of Christianity states God is one, who has eternally existed in three persons.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Now – explaining this is admittedly – difficult, because we’d like to be able to find illustrations to help us understand how this can be.  And some help a tiny bit – like maybe water – three forms – ice, water, steam.  Sometime people look at a three leaf clover and say it’s one clover but three parts – in fact – I use the sign of a clover in the side of my Bible when I come across passages that point to the Holy Spirit – and you might want to do the same thing if you brought your bible with you.

But these illustrations from nature are incomplete and fall apart if pressed on too strongly.  The fact is we don’t have anything like the Trinity that we can look to easy – and – to compound the problem – the Bible doesn’t even have a chapter or two dedicated to the idea to try to help us.

It’s just there in the pages and we are left to simply receive it – as something we can’t understand – but something that makes perfect sense.

First – let me show you some places in the New Testament and Old that hint toward this doctrine of the Trinity.

In the OT – we begin to see that something is up in the first chapter of the first book.  I showed it to you in my Bible.  Genesis 1:26

  • Gen. 1:2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
  • Note the Spirit of God already present at creation. He wasn’t part of creation…
  • Gen. 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. 
  • Gen. 3:22 22Then the LORD God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil.
  • And Isaiah, 6:8, God asks, Who will go for us?

These verses seem to speak for themselves – that there is something unique going on here…  But the Bible at the same time, also presents for to us the unity of God.

In Deuteronomy we find Moses teaching Israel Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 

If God is one – and yet – God- when speaking of himself – sometimes uses the pronoun ‘us”.

In the New Testament –  We see Jesus declaring himself – over and over again – to be equal to God the Father. John 10:30 – when he says I and the Father are one.  – in John 8:   58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 

Now in case you think – Phil you are reading into this – Jesus didn’t mean that he was equal to God – I’d say – check out both John 10 and John 8 – in both cases – when Jesus was finished speaking the crowds picked up stones to kill him because they knew exactly what Jesus was claiming, and if untrue it would be blasphemous.

John10:33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.

Now what about the Holy Spirit?  What biblical evidence to we find?  Well, we read about the time Jesus is baptized in Matthew 3, 16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

We have Jesus in Matthew 28 giving us the Trinitarian formula – Go into all the world, baptizing people in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Now there are many other verses than these but I wanted to give you some idea that the there is plenty of biblical evidence for God being one in three persons – the Father Son and Holy Spirit.

But I suppose the next question is – why does it matter?  Why is the Trinity important?

What it tells us is that for ever and ever, God has had someone to love.  And he has had someone loving him.

Think about it – what is love?  Love is to will the good of another.  To life another up – let them shine.   And to love requires more than one.  What joy to think of God as always being loving, and always being loved.  For ever and ever God has had a friend and been a friend.

Why three?  For ever and ever – I love you, and you love me, and together we love a third.

And this fact alone changes everything for us. Why?  Well, if God is a uni-personal God – in other words he is all alone – he has no peer – what does that make him?  Lonely.  Sad.  Unloved.

Why would a UNI-PERSONAL God create mankind?  Frankly, because he is starved for attention.  He needs a friend.  He can be nothing other than self- centered.  By Nature he must be Selfish.  And terribly sad kind of entity,  really.

But the TRI-PERSONAL God of the Bible?  Has always and forever had a friend, someone to love.  Someone to share joy with.

Why would a TRI-PERSONAL God create humanity?  It’s not because he was lonely.  He has never been lonely.  That we might share with them what they have always had… Love, joy, happiness, friendship

God created us in order to invite us to join the dance.  To join in on the love, and community and the joy that has forever been flowing through the father and son and spirit.  Loving and being loved.  Caring and being cared for.

The Trinity is three divine persons in one – each divine person seeking – not to be glorified but to glorify the other – they do not seek to be loved but to love others.

And for all of eternity they have been pouring love and joy and happiness into one another’s hearts.

The doctrine of the Trinity is difficult to understand – but don’t we see – it’s not only clear in the pages of scripture, but it’s beautiful!  It makes God eternally loving and beautiful.  It couldn’t have been any other way.  God has always been in a relationship where love flourished.  And he is the kind of God who says – come on in and join us.

So that’s the Trinity- let’s turn our attention now to the most mysterious member of the Trinity – the one we seem to know the least about – and that is the Holy Spirit.

I don’t think it helped that in old days they called him the Holy Ghost.  I’m thankful that someone had the sense to update the language.  I can’t imagine that even in the 1600’s when they first translated the Bible from Greek to English – they chose to translate the word Spirit as Ghost.  The Holy Ghost.  I can’t imagine that in the 1600’s that was a very endearing name for kids.

I saw a ghost – that’s okay honey – it’s the Holy Ghost!  It’s still a ghost – so let’s just be thankful we’re dealing with the Holy Spirit –

And for information on the Holy Spirit – we’re going to read what Jesus teaches us in John chapter 14.  John 14-17 are four chapters of Jesus’ last teachings with his disciples.  It’s what Jesus taught his followers on the night that he was betrayed.

And he’s telling them – the time has come for me to go away.  I’m leaving you all soon.  John 13: 1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father.

Now here is an interesting aspect of Jesus teaching.  On one hand he says things like – I will never leave you.  Matthew 28 – he literally tells his gathered group – And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20  Literally the last words of Jesus in the book of Matthew.  And they come just moments before – he leaves them.  In Acts 1:9  After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 

So – in what sense are we to understand Jesus?  I will never leave you – and zoom!  He gone!  What’s the story Jesus – are you undecided?  Should I stay or should I go?

No – the answer is he is doing both.   Let’s go back and understand what Jesus means – back to John chapter 14…

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[e] who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.

Now right away – the first thing we notice about the Holy Spirit in this verse is that

He is a person.  Jesus doesn’t say IT will lead you.  Jesus calls the Holy Spirit by a personal pronoun.

The Holy Spirit is not a force or a power or a manifestation – he is not an IT.

So – from this verse we’ll get our working definition of the Holy Spirit.  And so we start with – The Holy Spirit is God…

The reason Jesus can say that he is both leaving – and that he will never leave – is because – he tells us – that though Jesus will soon be going back to the father – that same father is sending from that place – the Holy Spirit.  I am leaving but the divine presence is not leaving.    Because – The Holy Spirit is God.

Now secondly – I want you to notice that there is a footnote indicator over the word that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit.

When you read the bible – and you find a word that has a footnote marker – it’s a good idea to find out why.  And so – on the online version of the Bible I use – there’s a giant blue “E” – and when I hover over it it tells me – that this word Advocate is also translated as “Comforter” or “Encourager” or “Counselor”.

Or some translations just give up and use the actual Greek word – which is the word Paraclete.  Anytime you see that many translations of one word – it’s a pretty good indicator that there isn’t a single word in our vocabulary that accurately conveys the meaning.

So what does Paraclete mean?  It’s an unusual word – it’s only used five times in the New Testament.  And it might be helpful for us to break the word down – what does Para mean?  Para means alongside.  With us.

But for us – it means the Holy Spirit is God with me...  Even better  – he is God in us – but that’s harder to visualize – so I’m going with the visual of the Holy Spirit is God with us.  You can’t get more with than to be in.  And through faith in Jesus we are filled with the Spirit of God.  We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  HE is God with us.

Like the best friend we could ever hope for, God always has our back.  He will never leave us hanging.

We can count on hi being there.  Whether there is green pasture or dark valley – God will never leave me.  I am with you always.   God is sending another Paraclete.  Para means to walk alongside.

What does clete mean?  Clete is something akin to someone who argues for you.  Or argue with you, if need by.  They are your defender – arguing for you – but they are also a good enough friend who will argue with you.

Even when He is arguing with us- it’s because he is arguing for us.  He wants the best for us and isn’t afraid to challenge us when we need to hear a challenge.

So a Paraclete is someone who walks alongside us and argues on our Behalf.  Which means the Holy Spirit is God with us and for us.

And that’s why this word Paraclete is difficult to translate – because he is for us – it means that sometimes he encourages us when he knows we need encouraging.  Sometimes, like a good friend, he comforts us when we need comforting.  Sometimes he counsels us.  And sometimes he convicts us – like a good friend – he is willing to challenge us at times and force us to get real.

Sometime the Holy Spirit is God arguing with us – but even when he is arguing with us he is always arguing for us.

The Holy Spirit is for us – and is willing to argue with us when we need arguing with.

What is the Holy Spirit arguing with us about?  Two main things, really.  Like a good friend, the Holy Spirit is with us and for us, and willing to say the hard things.

And that means usually – there are two errors your soul will likely gravitate towards – and like a good friend, he keeps you from going off the edge.

The two most common errors our souls make?  Is to either think too highly of ourselves or – too lowly of ourselves.

So when those times come along and we are feeling pretty high and mighty about ourselves – the Holy Spirit will convict us.  It’s what a good friend should do – not letting us fall into – Ain’t I something mode.

Lovingly – always lovingly – the Holy Spirit will challenge us – and when we get too high of an opinion – the Holy spirit reminds us of our sin.  When the seed of contempt begins to creep in our heart – when we see others as somehow beneath us – the Hoy Spirit will come alongside and whisper – did Jesus die less for you than for ‘them’.  Do you really think you are easier to love than that person?

Please tell me I’m not the only one in this room who from time to time in my mind creates a world and in this world, well, I’m pretty hot stuff.  I’m pretty pretty impressive.  And then the Holy Spirit – because he loves me 0 whispers in my ear – Phil, you turd.  Who do you think you are?

See the Holy Spirit knows that I will chuckle when I hear the word turd – but it will also cut through to the heart of the issue which is my pride.

See that’s a good friend.  The Holy Spirit is with us and for us and because he is for us he will challenge us when we start puffing ourselves up with our pride.

But see – because the Holy Spirit is God with us and for us – it also means that in those times when we fell lowest.  When we feel unlovable.  When we have messed up – or hurt people we love – or do something we are ashamed of – when we are low – the Holy Spirit whispers – don’t you know you are dearly loved.  You are God’s cherished daughter or beloved son.  Don’t you know the length that Jesus went to to show you just how much you mean to him?

For me personally – it was this message that brought me to faith in Jesus.  I was pretty much in touch with my turdness.  I had no idea how serious God was about his love for me.  And when I realized that Jesus would have gone to that cross if I were the only one in history to place my trust in his leadership for my life – well that changed everything for me.

How encouraging – how uplifting for my soul.  He loved me.  He loves me.  He is with me and for me.

Over the course of the next three weeks, we’re going to be talking about this friend – this paraclete – this encouraging challenging friend who is with us and for us always.

Next week we will talk about listening to the Holy Spirit.  So let me give you a moment of silence now to listen for yourself.  What, if anything is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

Do you have any friends you can count on to say the hard thing to you if you need to hear it?  Yes you do.  The Holy Spirit is always with you and always for you.

Are you able to hear him?  The challenge is that the Holy Spirit often speaks to us in a whisper.  And I heard someone say this week in a new album by Tauren Wells – why does God speak in a whisper?  Because he’s close.

Over the course of the next four weeks we want to press in on listening to the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God who is with you and for you.  And so – I want to review our note book.  Five steps.  Use this alongside your bible reading – or maybe before it.

The Holy Spirit is God with you and for you.

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