The Spirit We EmbraceErwin W. Lutzer | October 8, 2006
Selected highlights from this sermon
Jesus sent the Spirit to dwell within His people. But what is the Holy Spirit and what does He do?
By examining the phrase “We are the Spirit’s temple,” we will learn much about the Holy Spirit and, perhaps, even more about ourselves.
Let us become more in tune with the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives so that we can truly walk in the Spirit.
Let’s just take a moment to bow in prayer together, shall we? Before I pray I am going to ask you to pray in your heart that you will be open to whatever the Holy Spirit will show you today.
“Our Father, we come to you and ask that your Spirit might do within us what no words can do, what no message can do, and what no servant of the Lord can do. We ask that the word will go out not in word only, but in power and in much assurance. As we speak about the ministry of the Holy Spirit we pray that the Spirit may be here to enlighten and to instruct. Make this a transforming hour even in the lives of those who have come here today possibly expecting very little. We pray that you will surprise them with the power of your presence, in Jesus name we pray, amen.”
I think it was A.J. Gordon, one of the founders of Gordon Divinity School, who said that on one occasion he was walking along when he noticed in the distance a man pumping water. He was pumping effortlessly, tirelessly and consistently. As Gordon got closer he noticed that it wasn’t a man at all but a life size man cut out of plywood. The man was not pumping water. Instead, the man was being pumped by an artesian well.
Jesus said on one occasion, “He who is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me,” as the scripture has said, “from within him there shall be rivers of living water.” And then John adds these words: “But this he spoke of the Spirit that those which believe in him should receive, for the Spirit was given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” As Jesus said to the woman at the well, “You come to me and drink and you can have a well of water springing forth to everlasting life.”
Why is it that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is so critical for us as Christians? First of all, many people think that walking in the Spirit is something that belongs to super saints. They think it is something that is unattainable for those who have walked with God for many, many years. I am here today to tell you that the notion of walking with the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit, those doctrines actually apply to all struggling Christians. If you are here today and you are a struggling Christian, I’ve got good news for you!
There are also those who say, “It is too mysterious and controversial.” Churches have sometimes split over the filling of the Spirit and over the idea of whether or not there are certain manifestations connected with it. The devil has used all of these things to somehow blind us to the power and the intimacy that you and I can experience with the Spirit. So today we are going to think about the doctrine of the Spirit and it will be transforming. We will leave here differently than we have come because we have heard God’s word and God’s truth has changed us.
Have you ever thought to yourself how wonderful it would be if you had been with Jesus while he was here on earth? People want to walk where Jesus walked. Just ask Roy Schwarz sitting here in the front. He has taken many, many trips to Israel. People say, “I want to walk where Jesus walked. Show me the steps where Jesus once walked.” We all want to walk where Jesus walked. We would have liked to have lived back then.
Do you know that we have advantages today that the disciples didn’t have? Jesus said, “It is good for you that I go away, because if I don’t go away I can’t send the comforter to you. But when I send the paraclete, the comforter, he will abide with you forever. Now he is with you, but soon he is going to be in you.” Jesus thought it was good that he was leaving.
By the way, the word paraclete has been variously translated. Sometimes I’ve seen translations that call him the counselor. Some translations call the Spirit the Comforter, the Guide, others the Companion, the Advocate, the Encourager. I thought to myself, “What is the best translation of the word paraclete?”
Actually, all of those words fit because the Spirit is to us what we need every moment. Do you need encouragement? The Spirit is there to encourage you. Do you need guidance? The Sprit is there to guide you. Do you need an advocate with the Father? The Spirit is our advocate and so is Jesus. Your need is to be met by the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus said, “In Old Testament times the Spirit was with you, but now he shall be in you indwelling with you, and he will abide with you forever.” It’s the gift of the Holy Spirit to God’s people.
You say, “When the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within us, is it right to say that Jesus comes too, along with the Father?” Now what we need to do is to think theologically. This is the fourth in a series of messages titled, “What we believe and the difference it should make.” Let’s think as theologians. Of course it’s not possible for the Holy Spirit to indwell us without the Father and the Son also coming to indwell us. You cannot ontologically separate the Trinity. Jesus said in John chapter fourteen, verse twenty-three, “If a person loves me, I will love him and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him.” The Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son are separated in scripture in certain ways.
But then the distinction between them is also somewhat blurred, at least to our way of thinking. The Trinity, while it is mysterious, is not a contradiction. How thankful we are that God is a Trinity. If you were here a couple of weeks ago when I lectured on the Trinity you know how important that is. It is correct to say that Christ is in you, the hope of glory. It’s correct to say that the Father is within us.
But the ministry that is emphasized in the New Testament is the ministry of the third person of the Trinity within us, the blessed Holy Spirit of God. That means that we have the companionship of God. God is with us no matter where we go. He’s with us when we drive along the Kennedy Expressway. He’s with us when we ride the train. He is with us wherever we go. This is the companionship of God.
There is also the power of God. The Bible says, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Often time’s pastors say, “The word ‘dumos’ comes from the word dynamite. The Holy Spirit is the dynamite of God.” Well, that’s true from the standpoint of the etymology of the word. However, dynamite is not a good way to illustrate the Spirit’s work. The Spirit works inperceptively, the Spirit works gently, and the Spirit works quietly. Sometimes we don’t even observe the work of the Spirit, but he’s working and he’s powerful because he is God of very God.
The Spirit of God also gives us the desires of God. When you got saved God gave you a new nature. That new nature comes accompanied with the gift of the Holy Spirit. You say, “Is it possible for a Christian to be genuinely saved and still walk in sin?” The answer is, “Yes.” I am sure we have all done it. There are those who persistently live in sin.
But listen carefully now. If you are a Christian and the Holy Spirit is dwelling within you, when you deliberately sin your misery index goes off the charts. You just can’t stand it because you are one person in Christ and you are living as if you are another person. You belong to God and you are living as if you belong to the devil. God implanted within you a desire for holiness and now you have chosen to live contrary to that and it is so unpleasant. In the end you feel so guilty and you have so much emptiness.
That’s why coming to Christ sometimes makes things worse. One guy said, “Before I got saved I was sleeping with my girlfriend and it never bothered me. We just thought we were fulfilling our desires. After all, we were adults.” After he gets saved he still wants to but he can’t. When he continues that lifestyle it is so miserable and unfulfilling. You don’t want to hear the Bible and you don’t want to go to church. Why? Because you are a living contradiction; you are contradicting who you have become in Christ.
The text for today is I Corinthians chapter six. Open your Bibles, because it is always important for you to keep your finger on the text. In I Corinthians chapter six the apostle Paul has three questions when he gets to verse fifteen. Question number one is, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Question number two is, “Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never.” By the way, I’m not going to preach on this today, though I could.
The next verse gives not only the most interesting but the greatest insight into sexual immorality that can be found in all of literature. All the wisdom of the world put together cannot equal what Paul says. He says, “If you are the member of a prostitute because you are involved with her sexually, you become one body.” It is that metaphysical relationship of oneness that has far reaching implications.
But then he says, “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one with him. Flee from sexual immorality.” Remember, Corinth was rife with homosexuality and prostitution. He then says, “Every other sin a person commits is committed outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” There is a kind of corrosion of the spirit that takes place in sexual sin that is unique.
And then Paul says in verse nineteen, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” He says, “Don’t you know that? You are not your own! You can’t live the way you please! “You have been bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.”
I am going to take the phrase, “We are the Spirit’s temple” and I am going to look at it in three different ways. Each way has a different aspect of the Spirit’s indwelling. First of all we take the phrase, “We are the Spirit’s temple.” The great emphasis is on the word “we.” That emphasizes the location of the Spirit. God has always wanted to dwell with his people. In the Garden of Eden he walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Then in the temple area God came to dwell in the Holy of Holies.
What Paul is saying is, “Do you not know that your body as a believer,” because this is post-Pentecost when the Spirit has come, “is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” In Greek there are two words for temple. One refers to the whole temple complex and the other refers to the inner shrine or the Holy of Holies. That’s the word Paul uses here. Do you not know that the Holy of Holies has been transferred to your body? When you go to work tomorrow morning you are taking God with you, the Holy of Holies? Do you not know that you are the temple of God individually?
Paul also teaches elsewhere that we are the body of Christ collectively as a church. That’s why he says, “Whoever destroys the temple of God, him will God destroy.” Here Paul is talking about congregations.
This sanctuary is just an ordinary sanctuary built of brick, steel, plaster and other kinds of materials. Yet there is a sense when we meet here that God meets with us here in ways that he does not meet with us when we are not in church. There is no question about it. When you come off of Clark Street or LaSalle Street on a Sunday morning, you are actually leaving that which we call profane to come to that which we call sacred. God comes here. The Holy Spirit of God is among God’s people.
A woman was bringing a trashy novel into a church service and an usher stopped her and said, “You shouldn’t bring that in here.” Maybe the usher was right. Normally we want the ushers to let people sit down. But here’s the question I have for you: if it wasn’t right for her to read it in the church service or even bring it into the sanctuary, how could it possibly be right for her to be reading it in secret and polluting her soul, where the blessed Holy Spirit of God has been pleased to dwell?
Paul says, “The Spirit of God dwells in you, and he who does not have the Spirit is none of his.” It shows you the location of the Sprit. The Spirit is within this body that you brought with you today here in Chicago or the body that you are listening with around the world. That is the location of the Spirit.
Now we are going to emphasize the word “Spirit’s,” and by that I mean possessive. We are the Spirit’s temple and that means ownership. We are owned by the Spirit. Paul says, “Don’t you realize you are not your own? You have been bought with a price.” Why is it that Jesus said that the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit? It is because the people of the world are not included in this phrase as having been purchased with a price. They can prove that they were when they believed, but it’s important to understand that we have been purchased in a unique way by Christ.
Now let’s suppose you’re driving through the neighborhood and you come across a house that you really like. You say to your spouse, “You know, I like that house. Let’s get a truck and a moving van and let’s take all of our furniture from our house and let’s bring it to this house.” Can you do that? Of course not! You’d be arrested and then you’d be tested by some psychiatrist to see whether or not all the lights are working. You have to buy the house first.
In the same way, before Jesus moved in by his Spirit he purchased us. We are his. That is why the world cannot receive the Spirit. The Spirit comes to those who have responded to Jesus and the Holy Spirit of God moves in and takes up residence. We belong to God by virtue of creation; we were created by God. In that sense everybody belongs to God.
But there’s a unique sense in which we belong to God as Christians. We not only belong to him by virtue of creation, but we also belong to him by virtue of redemption. We have been bought with the precious blood of Christ. You say, “Did God overpay?” If you know your own heart you know right well that he overpaid. That’s why we call it grace.
What the text is trying to tell us is that we belong to God. We aren’t our own. This impacts the use of the body. Where the body goes, what the body sees, what the body buys, what the body says, all of that is involved and under the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Everything that the body owns, whether it is in the bank account or a car, is owned by the person who purchased the body, namely Jesus.
It also affects the health of the body. One reason we should take care of ourselves and eat right and exercise is because our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. You will remember some time ago I told you about the man who stood on a bathroom scale and as he saw the numbers go by he said, “My body isn’t a temple, it’s a garage.” Don’t treat your body as if it is a garage. It is a temple of the Holy Spirit. When it comes time for you to die, as inevitably it will, you will say like one woman said when she was told she had cancer, “I struggled with it for a while until I realized that this body wasn’t mine. It belonged to God.”
Do you know how valuable your body is to God? He thinks it is so valuable that someday it is going to be raised and recreated like unto the body of Jesus Christ. God says, “I redeemed you body, soul, and spirit. The day is coming when you are going to be totally and fully redeemed.” Even your body is going to be redeemed. Isn’t that wonderful?
The Bible says also that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. If you try to remember the four ministries of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian, think of the word “fibs.” Now you know that we are opposed to fibs. But if you think of the word fibs as an acronym it stands for filling, indwelling, baptizing, and sealing.
Today we are speaking only about indwelling. However, it does have implications for all the other ministries. He says, “You are sealed until the day of redemption.” This means that when we get to heaven we are registered mail. We will arrive safely because the Spirit has come to stamp upon us the purpose, the will, and the power of God all the way to the pearly gates. He never leaves us and he doesn’t forsake us, so why is it that you aren’t smiling this morning? All of us should be smiling; how privileged we are.
We’ve stressed the location of the Spirit. “We” are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We’ve stressed the ownership. We are the Spirit’s temple and we belong to the Spirit. Now we want to discuss the intention of the Spirit. We are the Spirit’s temple. What happens in a temple? Worship! Temples were built to house gods. That is why you were built, so that you could be a house for God in this world. This is the Spirit’s home. When you look at me you are looking at the Spirit’s home. As I look at you I am looking at where the Spirit dwells. The Spirit dwells in you, and in you, and in you. You are all temples if you have trusted Christ as Savior.
The question before us is this: how welcome is the Spirit in our homes? Have we welcomed him? Remember that you can see this juxtaposition. He’s not called the Holy Spirit just because he needs a designation. He is entirely pure and holy. There is no defect and no darkness in him. He is God. The Holy Spirit has to coexist in our lives with all of our self will, with all of our sin, with all of our compromises, and with all of our rationalizations.
Can you even imagine the grief of the Spirit? That’s why the Bible says, “Do not grieve the Spirit.” In context in Ephesians it is talking about bitterness, anger, evil speaking, and all of those things that you haven’t forgiven. You know those sins you have so conveniently rationalized all of your life? Do you think standing in the presence of Jesus sometime you will be able to persuade Jesus that it was okay to hang on to those sins? Do you have any sins like that? Do you realize the grief of the Spirit having to put up with all that?
That’s why when he is grieved he doesn’t leave or depart. He just pulls back. He is a gentleman. He’s not like demons who posses and control and are obsessive. He is gentle, and you sometimes have to be quiet and very honest before you know his work.
Why do we grieve the Spirit? Why does he experience such grief? First of all because of what he knows. Those of you who are parents of a teenager who has gone into the world and they’ve left the church and they’ve left you, you grieve. Why do you grieve? I can think of two reasons. First of all, you grieve because of what you know. You know that the far country isn’t good. You know that out in the world all of the wells are dry. You know that sin is never good. It always has hidden repercussions that boomerang in ways that are unpredictable and haphazard.
Think of how accurately the Spirit knows that. The Holy Spirit knows that sin is but a front to God’s sworn enemy, Satan. Satan hates God and Satan uses sin in the lives of believers to try and thwart God’s plan. He does this by trying to make sin look good so that we don’t fear sin. The Spirit knows that, yet there is the Spirit having to live with all of those compromises and the sins that we will not deal with in our lives. No wonder the Spirit is grieved by what he knows.
He is also grieved because he loves. You see the reason we grieve for a child is because we love that child so much. If you didn’t love, who is going to shed a tear over this? Why is it that David that grieved so long and hard after Absalom? The Bible says that David loved Absalom and after he had died David says, “O Absalom, my son, my son, would God I had died for thee.” You can see the grief of this man because he loved.
Now think of how much the Holy Spirit loves you. The Spirit loves you in ways that no human being can love you. The Spirit loves you as Jesus loves you because the Trinity has taken up residence in you. Therefore, because he loves you he is grieved when you go your own way. At the end of the day when you actually think your way is better than God’s and you say to yourself, “I am going to do my own thing,” the Spirit has to put up with it. No wonder he is grieved.
There’s an interesting story in the Old Testament book of II Chronicles, chapter thirty-four, where the people want to fix the temple. In order to fix it they have workmen working, but they also have to carry junk out of the temple. The nation had fallen morally and spiritually and the temple was kind of like a garage. “You don’t know what to do with this? Just put it in the temple. There’s lots of room.” Here you have workmen carrying stuff out of the temple and they eventually uncover the law of God. They say, “Guess what? We found the law of God!” And they stand up and they read the law of God and people begin to repent. They say, “What do you know! We actually found a Bible in the temple,” and they began to read the Bible.
Maybe it is time that your temple was cleansed. If you begin to seriously cleanse your temple the devil is going to stand there at the door watching you carry out all the junk. He is going to say, “You actually want to get rid of that bottle, that secret addiction that you have, the alcoholism? Are you actually serious about that? Do you realize how dumb you are going to look tomorrow and how sheepish when you drag that thing back in here? You know that pornography that you want to get rid of? You’ve tried to get rid of that before. Sure, you are going to cleanse the temple and confess! Isn’t that wonderful! You know what? You are going to be dragging that stuff back in here. You can cleanse the temple all you like, but you’re going to need this stuff.”
I’m asking us today by the Holy Spirit to not listen to that voice. I’m asking by the power of God that we say we cleanse it, and if it becomes polluted we cleanse it again. We refuse to accept the idea that the blessed Holy Spirit has to live with the sins and the compromises with which we have become comfortable. You and I might be comfortable with our sin but the Holy Spirit is not.
When do you cleanse the temple? When do you cleanse your house? What about the Lutzer family? When does the place get cleaned up? It depends if you are talking about the standards of Mrs. Lutzer or Mr. Lutzer. But one thing is certain and that is when we have guests the house really gets cleaned. That’s the time when I get the vacuum cleaner out and we really begin to do some work at the house.
Princess Diana died a tragic death. She also lived a tragic life. Many of us grieve over her death because we think of all that could have been if she would have lived differently. But let’s suppose that at some point when she was alive she said she wanted to spend a weekend with you. Can you even imagine how your house would look as you prepared for royalty?
My Christian friend, royalty has taken up residence in your body. As God hath said, “I will dwell in them and I will walk with them. I shall be their God and they shall be my people.” It is tragic if we do not give the blessed Holy Spirit of God the kind of welcome and home that he desires.
There are three very quick life changing lessons from this message. First of all, we don’t have to beg the Spirit to fill us. It’s not as if the Spirit is reluctant. When we ask God to send his Spirit with power we aren’t begging. What we are asking for is for God to teach us the kind of repentance that would welcome him. He is resident with the desire to be president. It’s not as if he says, “I don’t want to fill these people, but they’ve begged me.”
Instead, the Spirit desires to reproduce the character of Jesus in us. It is not as if we have to beg the Spirit. If we’re not experiencing the Spirit’s power it is because we have not taken advantage of all of the different means that God has given us to prepare for the Spirit’s work, like through the cleansing and the word of God and other means. It’s not a reluctance of the Spirit. All of the responsibility at this point rests on our shoulders.
Second, walking in the Spirit is an exercise in faith and not feelings. There are people here for sure today who have never trusted Christ as Savior. In order to trust Christ as Savior you need to depend upon the work of Jesus. You need to transfer your trust from yourself to Jesus. You need to give up all hope that your works are going to save you and put all of your trust in what Jesus did and embrace that for yourself.
Now let’s suppose you do that. Yet after you’ve done that you say, “I don’t feel any different.” What we need to do is to make sure that faith has been transferred even if you don’t feel different. Whether or not you feel different is not really the issue. The real issue is whether or not you have savingly believed in Jesus.
In the very same way sometimes we don’t experience the Spirit’s power. I have to tell you that often in the morning, especially because suddenly I have become so old, I get up and I don’t have a heart that’s hot for God. I’m just wondering if I can shuffle into the bathroom and shave. But that’s not the issue. The issue has to do with faith.
F.B. Meyer said that on one occasion he was saying to the Lord, “O Lord, if there’s anyone that needs the filling of the Spirit it is I. But I am too weary; I am too nervously rundown to agonize.” It was as if God told him, “As you received forgiveness from the dying Christ, so receive the Spirit’s fullness from the ascended Christ.” We depend upon the cross for our forgiveness and we depend upon the exultation and glorification of Jesus by faith, which on that basis sent the Holy Sprit, too. It doesn’t matter how we feel.
But I can say, “Father, I don’t feel filled with the Spirit, but at this moment I receive the Spirit’s filling in obedience by faith.” For those of us who sometimes experience jetlag and even though we get tired, I rejoice in the fact that the Holy Spirit is never tired. Isn’t that amazing? We are always dependent upon the work of the Spirit. Yet in order to experience the Spirit’s power amid all the noise of the world, he is so gentle that unless you are taking out time to be silent in prayer and in the word, you can just keep grieving him until the day you die. You’ll make it to heaven, but it will be kind of pitiful when you have nothing to show Jesus.
My time is over so I won’t give you the last point. I will simply tell you that many years ago in the pyramids in Egypt when the mummies were discovered they found grain that was put alongside some of the mummified corpses. How many years ago would that be? Let’s suppose that the pyramids were built 2,000 years before Christ and then you add another two or three thousand. We are talking four or five thousand years old. They took the grain, put it in soil, gave it some sunshine and some moisture, and the grain grew. Amazing!
There are Christians in whom the blessed Holy Spirit of God dwells. Jesus said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone.” All of that power, all of that life is confined because they march through life grieving the Spirit continually. They have no time for God, no time for the Spirit, and no time for confession of sin. They are their own and they march along because they’ve never taken the time to die to self will, to their own plans and their own ownership. Because we refuse to do that we abide alone.
I do have to tell you this in conclusion: the Spirit always points to Jesus. There is a story of a man who had a homing pigeon. He would take it into the desert and tie a string to its leg. The pigeon would circle and then head for home. He would gently pull it back because he knew that was the direction he was to go to get home.
The Holy Spirit is a dove that is very sensitive. If you let that dove go it will always keep pointing to Jesus because Jesus said, “The Spirit will not speak of himself, but he will testify of me.” The Spirit, within the members of the Trinity, is willing to do that. There is no great attention to him except to keep pointing to Jesus.
I end this message particularly for those who have never trusted Jesus Christ as Savior to point to Jesus. When you receive him as Savior, it is then that you are born again. In that instant the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell within you and take up his residence until the day you die.
Bottom line: we must have sensitivity to the Spirit. When we have noise and self will and struggle to get our own way the Spirit says, “I’m here but I am not doing what I can do.” Yielded ness, faith, obedience, confession - “You shall be a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Let’s pray. “Father, thank you for the blessed Holy Spirit. Forgive us Father for all the times that through what we have seen, what we have said and the way in which we have lived, that we have grieved the Holy Spirit so often and so continually. Make us sensitive to him, we pray. We ask that this afternoon wherever we find ourselves that you might grant us grace to spend time in confession, in brokenness and in humility, and that we might be fruit bearing Christians.”
Now before I close this prayer, what is it that you need to say to Jesus? Maybe you’ve never trusted Jesus as Savior. You can do that even where you are seated right now. Or maybe you are a Christian and God says to you, “Look, you know exactly what you have to do.” Are you going to trust God and be obedient to what he shows you? “Father, do all that and more in us and among us, in Jesus name we pray, amen.”