Let’s think about 7 stories:
- Genesis 1 v 1-7, the creation. In the beginning the Spirit of God hovered over the waters and separated the land and water. And God put the Spirit of life into man to give them life. The Spirit animates all creation
- Genesis 8 v 1. In the story of Noah, God has sent a flood, and there appears to be no hope. But then God “sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded”. The Spirit is again separating the water and land and giving hope for life
- Exodus 14 v 21-22. After God has sent 10 plagues on the Egyptians, the Israelites have made it to the sea. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land”. It’s the same story again, the Spirit of God separates water and land and leads the people to freedom and life
- Ezekiel 37 v 4-10. God tells Ezekial to “prophesy to the breath”. To call on the Spirit of God. God then breathes the breath of life into the lifeless bodies that are part of Ezekial’s vision from God. The Spirit brings life to the bodies
- Romans 1 v4; 8v11. In Jesus’ tomb, the Spirit of God blows through the tomb and breathes life into the body of Jesus
- John 20 v 21-22. Jesus appearing to his disciples. Jesus breathed and said to them “Receive the Holy Spirit”. The Son of God breathes the Spirit of God into the disciples. At Pentecost, a Wind comes over the crowd and they receive the Spirit
- Every Christian’s own story. When someone becomes a Christian, the Spirit or Breath of God breathes new life into their hearts. They become reborn. The Spirit breathes life into your heart, opens your eyes to the glory of Christ, and gives you the gift of faith
Raising our Expectations
What are your expectations of the Spirit of God? There are 2 dangers.
There are people who expect too much – they expect to receive the glory of heaven now in this life without any hardships. They expect now what belongs to the life to come. Or there are people who expect too little and take the spirituality out of Christianity. But Christianity is not just a set of beliefs, it’s a relationship with a living God. The Spirit, the Breath, the Wind of God still blows through people today to bring life, power, and courage.
It may be that we rarely experience the Spirit of God because we never need him. Our lives are too secure. Our prayers are too safe. Our expectations are too low. The key is to recognise why the Spirit gives life and power; to proclaim Christ and to die from self.
New Desires and New Power
Paul emphasises the life-giving work of the Spirit in Romans 8. The Spirit gives spiritual life in the present and physical life in the future. The amazing thing is that the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead also “lives in you”.
All the good that we do is done in the power of the Spirit:
- When you have faith in Christ, you’re enjoying the Spirit’s life
- When you willingly serve God, you’re enjoying the Spirit’s life
- When you joyfully sacrifice for Christ, you’re enjoying the Spirit’s life
- When you have any affection for your Christian brothers and sisters, you’re enjoying the Spirit’s life
- When you recoil from sin, you’re enjoying the Spirit’s life
- When you have any desire for holiness, you’re enjoying the Spirit’s life
Through the Spirit you can do something today that brings God pleasure. What you do may not be perfect but God will look on you as a father looks on a small child. When you risk hostility to speak of Christ, or when you choose to attend a prayer meeting, or when you decide to spend time with someone in need, or when you do any little act of sacrifice for Christ, then you experience the life of the Spirit in you. It may not feel anything dramatic but you know that left to your own devices you would be selfish, and do good only to feel pride. But God in his grace doesn’t leave you to yourself. He sends his Spirit to give new life and new desires.
Christians may experience our new Spirit-inspired desires alongside our old, lingering selfish desires as a form of struggle or a tugging between the two. But the struggle is itself a sign of the Spirit’s work. The Spirit is renovating you in order to make you more like Jesus. This means that you don’t have to sin. Maybe you have a sin you feel powerless to change. But you can change if you let the Spirit of life empower you to know God and follow Christ. So don’t give up the struggle. Instead of being tempted, enjoy the life of the Spirit (by focussing on the things listed above). Depend on the Spirit; say “No” to sin and “Yes” to God.
- Last week we ended with a challenge to think of Jesus looking on with sympathy whenever you struggle. How have you got on? What difference has it made?
- Is there a “story 8” that you could add to the 7 stories of the Spirit?
- Is your danger expecting the glory of heaven now or expecting too little from the Spirit?
- Think of some of the ways you no longer desire sin and some of the ways you now want to please God. Each of these is a mighty work of the Spirit in your life.
- Has there been a moment recently when you felt the need of the Spirit’s help? What’s the evidence in your life that you’re depending on God?
Take a risk for God this week. Maybe send someone the link to our Sunday morning gathering or church video, offer to pray with an unbeliever, talk to others about your faith, be extravagantly generous with your time or money – something that makes you feel your dependence on the Spirit’s help.