As I understand it, when a baby is born these days it comes with a free smartphone. What is more, it is born knowing how to use it! For those of us who are older, is it not incredible that we can carry a computer around in our pockets? Whenever I want to, I can pull my phone out of my pocket. If I want to know how to get somewhere, I ask my phone. If I need some information, I google it on my phone. If I want to communicate with someone, I can choose between making a phone call, sending a text, writing on Facebook, Snapchatting, whatever. If I want to listen to music, it is all on my phone. Actually, probably it is in a cloud somewhere. If I want to take a photo or watch a video or read a book, it is all on my phone. If I want to read the Japanese writing on our car dashboard, my phone will translate it. If I want to organise my week or make notes for a sermon, I use my phone. My Bible is on my phone.
In some ways, the Holy Spirit is like that. In the same way that I have all these resources in my pocket, I have the power of God immediately available. The Holy Spirit is God with us and God has power. If we think our phones are amazing, God is infinitely more powerful.
READ Ephesians 1:13-23.
In Ephesians 1:18-19, Paul tells the Ephesian church what he always prays for them. Part of it is that they might know God’s incomparably great power for us who believe.
God’s power is incomparably great. There is nothing that can be compared to it. A smartphone does not even feature compared to the power of God. Think of the power of Mt Kalauea or the power of the sun. They are nothing compared with the power of God.
In fact, Paul tells us how great God’s power is. It is the same as the strength He exerted when He raised Jesus from the dead. This is death-defeating, Satan-defeating, history-changing, life-changing, eternity-changing, cosmic power.
And, mind-blowingly, Paul says the power raised Jesus from the dead is available for us. God is on your side and makes Himself available to you.
And we an experience it. Note that Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would know this power. Now, that suggests it is possible to be saved but not experience the power of God in our daily lives. Maybe we can identify. Do we know this power of God? Paul’s prayer is that we will.
There is a condition. This power is for those who believe – for those who have been born again.
Last week, we looked at some of the teaching Jesus gave the disciples about the Holy Spirit, during the Last Supper. Several times, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as an advocate. An advocate is someone who will argue your case, who will defend you, who will fight for you. If you were on trial, in a court of law, you would have an advocate arguing for you. In life, the Holy Spirit is your advocate. He is on your side. He will go into battle for you. He loves you and He will fight for you.
I tend to read from the New International Version of the Bible which, in John 14, 15 and 16, uses that word “advocate”. But other translations might use “helper” or “comforter” or “counsellor”. There is a variety of translations because they are trying to find a suitable term for the Greek word “parakletos”. Some translations just give up and say “Paraklete”. Parakletos means “someone called alongside”. So “Advocate” is a good attempt. An advocate is someone you call to stand at your side and support you or defend you. “Helper” is also a good translation. A helper is someone who comes alongside. “Comforter” also makes sense: the person whose presence gives you peace and strength. “Counsellor”, sure! The one alongside who advises and guides.
All of the different attempted translations shine light on a different facet of the Holy Spirit’s role. He will defend you, help you, comfort you, guide you, teach you, etc.
2 Tim 4:16-18 16 At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul had literally been on trial, in Rome. None of the Christians (God bless them) supported him. They disappeared when he needed them most – just like the disciples when Jesus was arrested. But the Lord stood at his side and strengthened him. This is exactly the role of the Holy Spirit. He will stand by our side whatever our need. Not only was Paul strengthened but we see the power of God at work in that the trial became an opportunity for the gospel. The gospel was fully proclaimed. Paul had the opportunity to speak and the Holy Spirit empowered him to speak with power so that all the Gentiles might hear it. Quite possibly many people in the city were talking about this trial and Paul’s proclamation of the gospel was spreading as people reported what he was saying. That is the power of God because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in that courtroom.
Furthermore, by the power of God, Paul was delivered. And he had confidence that God would always rescue him. That didn’t mean that he would never suffer. If anyone knew about persecution and suffering, it was Paul. He was on trial for his faith. But he knew that God would ultimately rescue him even if that meant – as it ultimately would – that he would be brought safely into God’s Kingdom.
It is almost as if the Holy Spirit is our personal butler. He is called our helper. If we need something done or we need some help, we just have to ask. We snap our finger and he is there to help. He is as close as our phones and under our control. Obviously that is not true. The Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit will never do anything contrary to the character or will of God. He is not obligated to do what we want. On the contrary, we are to do what He wants. Nevertheless, He is a huge resource for our help. He is God and He loves us and is there to help us.
In Acts 8, Simon the Sorcerer, wanted to pay money to have the power to pray for people so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. Peter utterly rejected that, condemning Simon and saying that his heart was not right before God, he needed to repent and pray hoping that God would forgive him. God was giving the gift of His Spirit to new believers. Clearly God wanted His people to have the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit is not something that can be bought and sold or just used by people. The Holy Spirit is God, with all the power of God, available to every Christian but He is God and we are not.
Acts 16 describes how Paul and his team wanted to go to certain places to preach but the Spirit of Jesus would not let them. Then, one night, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia asking them to come to his region. The Holy Spirit was Paul’s Helper, guiding and leading; opening and shutting doors but He remained the boss. He wasn’t being restrictive by stopping them go where they had thought. It was part of leading them into the much better plan.
But fancy having someone in your life who will lead and guide like that. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t God good? The Lord is my Shepherd; I lack nothing.
Some of the titles given to the Holy Spirit in scripture reveal ways that He helps. We have already mentioned advocate, helper, comforter, counsellor.
- The Teacher (). If you need to understand God’s ways better, the Holy Spirit is your teacher.
- The Spirit of truth who will guide you into all truth (). If you need discernment to know what is true and what is not, the Holy Spirit is your guide.
- A deposit. What? In Ephesians 1:14 (as well as 2 Cor 1:22, 5:5) the Holy Spirit is called “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance”. We have a part-payment. We do not yet experience the Kingdom of God in its fullness but we do have a first payment. God has given us the Holy Spirit now, as a guarantee of what is still to come. If you ever doubt your salvation, if you know that you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you can say, “This is God’s gift that tells me the rest is guaranteed. God has put His seal on me. I belong to Him.”
Ephesians 1:13b-14 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.
- In a similar vein, Romans 8 calls the Holy Spirit “the first fruits”. We do not have the whole harvest yet but we do have the first fruits.
- In fact, Romans 8 says a whole lot of things about the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit gives us new life (vv.2, 11)
- The Holy Spirit set us free (v.2)
- The Holy Spirit enables us to not sin (v.13).
- The Holy Spirit leads us (v.14)
- It was the Holy Spirit who made us God’s children and He testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children. Am I really God’s child? Have I really been saved? The Holy Spirit whispers to my spirit that it is true. He gives me reassurance.
- Romans 8:26 says that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Specifically, it says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray. That is pretty cool, isn’t it? Our prayers dry up but the Holy Spirit is still praying for us. And when He prays, He prays in accordance with the will of God.
- Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit giving us words to speak when we need them.
There is just a long list of ways the Holy Spirit is there for us. He brings the incomparably great power of God that is for us. The unlimited resources of God are available for us. Everything there is for us.
It might be tiny things. There have been times when I have forgotten someone’s name and I have prayed and the Holy Spirit has brought it to mind, and times when I have lost things and the Holy Spirit has led me to them. There have been times when I have had to speak and I have felt under-prepared or inadequate but the Holy Spirit has given me the right words – or has taken my inadequate words and used them nevertheless.
But, are they just occasional experiences or regular? What about for you? Paul prayed that the eyes of the hearts of the Ephesians would be opened and they would know God’s incomparably great power for us who believe. Do we need our eyes to be opened to the incomparably great power of God?
We need God to open our eyes until we fully understand this reality and we know that the Holy Spirit is there for us with incomparably great power available for us. We need to know that it is true but then we need to also walk in it – live this way. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to teach us or guide us or reassure us or whatever it is we need. Every day; every situation we go into; every relationship; every task, Holy Spirit help me. Holy Spirit give me the right words. Holy Spirit give me the strength to resist temptation. Holy Spirit give me wisdom for this decision. What is the right way to go?
For example, how did Paul know that the Holy Spirit was not letting him enter certain regions? Was he physically stopped at the border as if there was a glass wall there? Did the guards at the border post refuse him entry? Maybe but might it have been that he just sensed this wasn’t right because he had become accustomed to listening to the Holy Spirit – because he walked in the Spirit.
Peter and John had possibly walked past the lame man at the Temple hundreds of times before. How did they know that on a particular day, God intended to heal that man? I suspect the Holy Spirit told them. Can I encourage you to deepen your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Paul talks about walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16); living in relationship with the Spirit, so that you are led by Him and you hear His voice and you naturally call him alongside because you need His help? May it be as natural to call on the Spirit for help as it is to pull out your phone for help. And may it be a thousand times more significant. Over the next two Sundays we are going to talk about God’s power in us and God’s power through us but today it is God’s power for you. God has immense resources available for you – to help you. Walk in it.