Presence

  • Presence
  • Psalm 139:1-4, 7-10
  • Bill Couch
  • September 27, 2015
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9-27-15 sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

This morning we begin a new series of messages entitled Holy Spirit 101. We believe that God is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are more familiar with the Father and the Son than we are with the Holy Spirit. This series is intended to give us an introduction to the Presence, the Person and the Power of the Holy Spirit. Today we will talk about the Presence of the Holy Spirit in our world and in our lives.

King David describes the pervasive Presence of the Spirit of God in our world and within us.

 

1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139: 1-4 & 7-10

Children’s Video

Where is the Holy Spirit? How do we experience his presence in our world and in our lives? What does the Old Testament and the New Testament have to say about our experience of the Holy Spirit? Sometimes I think we make contrasts between the Old Testament and the New Testament that are not valid. I’ve heard people say, “The Old Testament is about the law and the New Testament is about grace.” “The Old Testament presents a God of judgment and wrath and the New Testament presents God as loving and forgiving.”

Actually all of those are over-simplifications. The Bible makes it clear that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His character is consistent eternally. God is who he is—always. When we label the God of the Old Testament as being different from the God of the New Testament it creates some problems. Some people dismiss the Old Testament all together because of their misconception that it presents God only as a God of law, judgment and wrath. When we read the Old Testament we discover that God is presented as a God of grace, love and forgiveness throughout. Before he gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, he delivered them from slavery to the Egyptians—an act of love and grace before there was even the law! The majority of the book of Leviticus is about how God provides for forgiveness. Certainly the Old Testament also contains God’s laws, his judgments and his wrath toward evil. The fullness of God is presented in the Old Testament. But the same God is also presented in the New Testament. Jesus reveals God as a God of love, grace and forgiveness. But Jesus also encourages his followers to not only obey the Old Testament laws but to go beyond them out of gratitude for what God has done for us. He also talks about the judgment of God when he talks about how he will separate the sheep from the goats on judgment day. There is a balance between law and grace; judgment and forgiveness in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. God is the same—he is consistent in his character.

Now you may be asking what does that have to do with the Holy Spirit? Some people follow the same principle of contrast when it comes to the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard some people say that he Holy Spirit is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. Others say that the Holy Spirit is only “with” the people in the Old Testament and in the New Testament he is “within” the people. Again all of those are oversimplifications and inaccurate ones at that.

The term Holy Spirit is found three times in the Old Testament. (Psalm 51:11 and Isaiah 63:10 & 11) Other terms are used for the Holy Spirit such as “Spirit of the Lord”, “Spirit of God” and sometimes simply “the Spirit”. There are abundant references to the presence of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament. I want us to look at just a few to see the variety ways the presence of the Holy Spirit is described.

The first reference to the Spirit of God occurs in the second verse of the Bible: “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). He was present at Creation along with the Father and the Son. The Spirit is described as coming “upon” David when he was anointed by Samuel as the King of Israel. (I Samuel 16:13) Following David’s sin of adultery and conspiracy to commit murder, he pleaded with God not to take his Spirit “from” him. (Psalm 51:11)

We see also that even in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is present “in” people—not just upon them or with them. In the book of Genesis, Joseph is described as “one in whom is the Spirit of God.” (Genesis 41:38)

Joshua is described as “a man in whom is the Spirit.” (Numbers 27:18) Joshua is described as being filled with the Spirit: “Joshua was filled with the Spirit of wisdom.” (Deuteronomy 34:9)

The Book of Job proclaims: “It is the Spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.”

The Spirit is also present in the Old Testament providing guidance: “May your Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143:10)

The Spirit is also present to teach God’s ways. Nehemiah said, “You gave your Spirit to instruct them.” (Nehemiah 9:20)

Those are just a sample of the Old Testament references to the Holy Spirit who is present and active in the world and among, upon and within people—including a reference to filling them. The Holy Spirit is present in the same way in the Old Testament as he is in the New Testament.  The character of God is consistent.

When we look at the Bible as a whole—God is always the same. However we do see when we read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that God is progressively revealing himself in ways that the people could understand at their time in human history. Genesis chapters one and two paint the beautiful picture of what God intended for us in creation—the Garden of Eden—a paradise where there was no evil, no sickness, no death. In chapter three a liar shows up—Satan. He tells Adam and Eve a lie about God—that he can’t be trusted, he is only looking out for himself. “If you want to be all you can be, you will have to get away from this God.” They bought the lie and rebelled against God and became separated from him. As a result of cutting themselves off from the source of life, evil, sickness and death invaded creation—we call it The Fall. But because God loved us, he set in motion immediately a plan to counteract the lies of Satan, reveal the truth about himself and restore what was lost in the Fall. Over the period of about 3,000 years God gradually revealed to the people in Old Testament times the truth about who he was. In their fallen minds, they could only grasp so much. God did not send Jesus in chapter 4 of Genesis. Jesus would come 39 books later when people were prepared to receive the revelation of God face to face. The Holy Spirit was present throughout the Old Testament planting seeds of truth about who God is and about his plan to redeem and restore his whole creation. Jesus would accomplish that plan through his death and resurrection. He would conquer evil and sin and death. On the cross he proclaimed, “It is finished.” It is completed; it is done. Now he had to get out the word. And suddenly we see the Holy Spirit unleashed. He came upon the disciples for a specific purpose—to empower them to be witnesses of what Christ had accomplished and to spread the good news all over the world. Jesus said to them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Don will speak more about the power of the Holy Spirit next week.

Throughout the New Testament the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity is described in a variety of ways. The receiving of the Holy Spirit by the disciples is described in four different ways. At the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus “breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) In Acts 1:5, Jesus says you will baptized with the Holy Spirit. And in Acts 1:8 Jesus tells the disciples, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you.” Then on the day of Pentecost when they were all gathered together they heard the sound of a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire descended upon them and “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”(Acts 2:4)  They “received the Holy Spirit”. They were “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” The “Holy Spirit came upon” them. And they were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” What this says to me is that we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives in a variety of ways. There is no standard formula. Even the disciples experienced the presence of the Spirit in multiple ways. The key is to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life and not to focus on having an experience like someone else’s.

Here are other descriptions of the benefits of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul says, “We worship by the Spirit.” (Philippians 3:3) Our mind is controlled by the Spirit. (Romans 8:6) We are guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:18) “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26-27)

The Holy Spirit consistently reveals himself in the same way throughout the entire Bible—Old and New Testament. However, in the New Testament we see that he is unleashed to spread the Good News of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

So what difference does the Holy Spirit’s presence make for us today? The Holy Spirit is still present in our world, among us and within us the same way he was present in the Old and New Testaments. Let’s listen to how one of our members experiences the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life today.

Nancy Williams Testimony

The Holy Spirit is present all around us restraining the power of evil in our world. His presence is always with us, no matter what we are going through. You are never alone. God is present with us right now and will be with you throughout whatever you experience this week. Like Nancy said, we just wait on him in the morning and he will take us by the hand and lead us into our day. The Holy Spirit is present within you—he is at work deep within your soul transforming you into the image of Christ; shaping you into everything that God intended for you to be.

He is present in your mind guiding you in life decisions; should I do this or that; should I go here or there. He is nudging you to touch other people lives with his love and offer them hope. Sometimes in a conversation something will come out of my mouth and I think, “Where did that come from?” And it will be a word from the Holy Spirit to the person I’m talking to. They say that is just what they needed to hear. I never would have thought of it! The Holy Spirit just comes through. The Holy Spirit is present with us in courageous conversations when we have to deal with difficult topics like asking for forgiveness or expressing to someone how they hurt us.

Where is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is at work in our world. The Holy Spirit is in you if you have asked Jesus into your heart. Each week at staff meeting we pray for a different member of our church staff. Last week it was John Burk’s turn to be prayed for. I asked him what we could pray for and he said, “The Holy Spirit is my best friend. I just want to experience more of Him.” John has walked with the Holy Spirit for many years, but he knows there is always more of the Holy Spirit to experience. Let’s make that our prayer: “I just want to experience more of the Holy Spirit.”