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Why I Believe In The Holy Spirit

Acts 1:1-11

Today I wish to speak to you from the theme, “Why I Believe in the Holy Spirit.”

Now let me acknowledge right here, at the outset, that my belief in the Holy Spirit is both a veiled mystery and a living reality. That is a baffling contradiction which I have never been able to resolve. I cannot explain it. I simply affirm it.
My belief in the Holy Spirit is both a veiled mystery and a living reality. You see, I cannot describe the appearance of the Holy Spirit, yet I can describe the way in which the Holy Spirit works in our lives. Therefore, I believe that Who the Spirit is is a veiled mystery, but what the Spirit does is a living reality. Let me spell that out for you…

I believe in the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit fills my life with purpose.

Many years ago in the first century in the city of Alexandria in North Africa, there lived a man who was to play a vital role in the history of the early Christian church. The man’s name was Apollos. He was by heritage a Jew. On the occasion of one of his return visits to his Jewish homeland, Apollos was exposed to the preaching of John the Baptist. Later on, he became much impressed by the teachings of Jesus. And Apollos then wound up becoming a missionary in the early Christian church. His work took him to Ephesus where, because of his immense talent as a public speaker, he was an immediate success. Great crowds of people flocked to hear him. Many people joined the church at Ephesus. Sometime later, Paul paid a visit to Ephesus, and Paul noticed that something was wrong with the church there. The words of Christ were taught, worship services were conducted, the people professed to believe, but something was missing. The church did not have the excitement, the energy, the enthusiasm, the dedication, the direction, and the decisiveness so typical of most followers of Jesus in that day. Paul recognized immediately that these people had no experience of the Holy Spirit. They had no deep profound personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. They had no consuming passion for the work of God on this earth. They were simply going through the motions of their faith. For them, faith was just so many words in worship services. It was all because they did not know the Holy Spirit. In the same manner, our lives, when devoid of the Holy Spirit, are meaningless and purposeless even though we may verbally confess our faith. But if we ever dare to open our lives up to the invasion of the Spirit of God, if we ever dare to pray, “Lord, fill me with Your Spirit,” then that Spirit will move into our experience. We will begin to discover that we identify ourselves with the agony of Christ on His cross, with the glory and joy of His resurrection, and we will begin to understand that life is nothing other than the sheer gift of God’s grace. And I want to tell you something that will begin to inject meaning, and purpose, and vitality into the lives that we possess.

Father Roland Rolheiser is a Roman Catholic teacher and writer. A few years ago he wrote an article containing what he called, “Ten Commandments for the Long Haul.” They contained some secrets for facing the challenges of life over a long period of time. Here they are:

  1. Be grateful. Never look a gift universe in the mouth.
  2. Don’t be naive about God. He will not settle for less than everything.
  3. Walk forward when possible. When it feels impossible, try putting one foot in front of the other.
  4. Pray that God will hang on to you.
  5. Put love first in your life. If a life is large enough for love, it is large enough.
  6. Accept what you are, and don’t be afraid to be who you are.
  7. Refuse to take yourself too seriously. Laugh at yourself regularly.
  8. Don’t be afraid to be softhearted. Redemption lies in tears.
  9. Stay with the folks. Remember that you’re on a group outing.
  10. Don’t mummify. Stay alive, alert, and celebrate life.

When I first discovered Rolheiser’s “Ten Commandments for the Long Haul,” I found them all helpful and thought-provoking, but the one that caught my attention most of all was that last one. “Don’t mummify. Stay alive, alert, and celebrate life.” In other words, don’t quit on life and walk through your days like a mummy. If you’ve ever seen a mummy, you know that there is something physical there. There’s a body there, but it is lifeless—no breath, no spirit, no heartbeat, no vitality, no soul, no strength, no life. Sadly, some people are like that. They become disillusioned with life. They’ve lost the fire that drives their hope. They just go through the motions of life. They exist but they are mummified. They’ve thrown in the towel. They’ve given up. They’ve quit on life. They have no zest, no joy, no spirit. They are lifeless flesh trudging through life toward death. They mummify. Please don’t let that happen to you. Please don’t quit even when the circumstances seem to be forcing you to quit. Ask God to invade your life with His Holy Spirit. For then, you will find in your life what I have found in my life. The Holy Spirit fills my life with purpose.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit fills my life with power.

In the book of Acts, we read these words, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That was the promise of Jesus Christ to His disciples then and to His disciples now. That promise was fulfilled when later on it happened. The power came from on high. Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, entered into the lives of these ordinary people—people who had been fumbling and stumbling through life, weak and afraid, selfish and confused. Then these ordinary people suddenly found the power to do extraordinary things. They became consumed with a burning passion for Jesus Christ bent on accomplishing God’s will in the world, dedicated to serving the Lord with others in the faith, committed to founding a church, a church which has now lived for more than two thousand years, the church of which today you and I are a part. Yes, these ordinary people suddenly were empowered to do extraordinary things. Why? Because, as Jesus said, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. How do we know when the Holy Spirit has come upon us? How do we know when we are possessed by the power of the Holy Spirit? It is when we become witnesses for Him. That’s the proof. That’s the confirmation.

That’s precisely what is happening right here in this church. A friend of mine from another town visited here one Sunday just recently and after that experience, he said to me, “There is an electricity in this congregation that I could feel. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.” He’s right. So many people who have joined this church when asked what led them to take that significant step say, “It is because I feel the Spirit in this place.” We cannot see the Spirit but we can see what the Spirit does. That’s why I can say to you without fear of contradiction that this is a church of the Spirit. This is a church where souls are going and growing, where regeneration is in evidence, where stewardship is taken seriously, where mission passion is on the increase, where personal piety is manifesting itself in social concerns, where men and women and young people are bearing witness to Jesus Christ in their lives and in this world. Here on this island, in our state our nation, yes even to the ends of the earth this is a church of the Spirit. This is a church alive.

If I were to make a list of the most beloved hymns of all time, certainly one of the hymns on that list would be “Just As I Am.” It is known the world over, no doubt, because of Billy Graham and his crusades. You see, Billy Graham walked to the altar in his own conversion as a young man to the singing of that hymn, and ever since, his crusades on every continent have used that hymn as the invitation hymn, but the real power in the hymn is found in the one who wrote the hymn many years ago. Her name was Charlotte Elliott. She was born in England in 1789. When she was 32 she suffered a rare illness that left her a permanent invalid. She sank into great despair. A year later her concerned father brought a minister into their house to talk with his daughter. God was with that minister that day. He said just the right words with just the right tone of voice and suddenly, the presence of God was felt in that room. Charlotte Elliott felt the power of the Holy Spirit touching her heart. She gave up her rebellion against God, and she placed her complete trust in Jesus Christ. From that moment on she did a very interesting thing. Until her death at age 82, she always celebrated her birthday on that day -the day of her spiritual birth. She said, “That’s the day I really came alive, and therefore, that’s my real birthday. Later still, she wrote the hymn which is her own spiritual autobiography. “Just as I am without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” Today, as we come to this table, I pray that you will experience the living reality of the Holy Spirit. When you do, you will find the strength you need for Christian living and you will find the joy that comes from Christian believing. So come, just as you are. The blood of Christ is shed for you…

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