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TEXT: Psalm 104:30
SUBJECT: The Holy Spirit #2: His Work in the World
The theme of this year's Family Camp is The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, equal to the Father and the Son in every way. He is both Creator and Savior. He is worthy of your faith and obedience and love. You ought to know the Holy Spirit and to worship Him for what He-not a power or influence or Energy or Process--but
Very God of Very God.
We ought to walk in the Spirit, not grieve the Spirit, and be filled with the Spirit. We ought to see the Spirit in other people-and love them for His sake-if not their own. We ought to attend church aware that it is the Habitation of God through the Spirit. We ought to work for the spreading of the Spirit. As Creator and Judge, the Spirit is everywhere, but as Savior, there are many places where the Spirit is not. He comes into those places through the Gospel which we're commanded to preach to everyone.
Though some of what I said earlier today was on the technical side, there's nothing academic or impractical about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is our connection to Christ, and through Him, to God the Father. Life in the Spirit, therefore, means life in God. And so, life without the Spirit means no life at all.
It is the Holy Spirit we aim to praise this weekend. And by His holy and powerful work in us, it is the Holy Spirit we will praise! So let's get at it.
THE TOPIC AND PROOF
Tonight's topic is The Work of the Holy Spirit in the world. By 'the world' I don't mean rocks, plants and animals (though He's at work in them too), but I mean the world of unsaved men. Whether these unsaved people are chosen by God for salvation is not at issue in this sermon. I'm speaking of the unsaved in general. The world, John says, that lies in the wicked one.
Does the Holy Spirit work in the lives of the unsaved-I mean apart from saving them? Yes He does. The Holy Spirit is deeply and personally involved in every human life and does a great many things for everyone, including those who never come to faith in Christ.
This appears to be the plain teaching of our verse (and the ones next to it). If the Spirit of God creates and renews the face of the earth, then everybody who lives off the earth shares in the work of the Holy Spirit. The five verses leading up to Psalm 104:30, confirm what I've just said,
O Lord, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.
The earth is full of Your possessions-
This great and wide sea,
In which are innumerable teeming
Living things, both small and great.
There the ships sail about;
And there is that Leviathan
Which You have made to play there.
These all wait for You,
That You may give them their food in
What you give them, they gather in,
You open your hand,
They are filled with good.
You hide your face, they are troubled;
You take away their breath,
They die and return to the dust.
All of this-creating, sustaining, giving happiness to, and so on-is God's Spirit creating and renewing the face of the earth. All creatures have a part in His good work, including the unsaved.
Other verses seem to contradict this. Jude 19, for example, describes some as Sensual persons, who cause division, not having the Spirit. Romans 8 assumes the lost Have not the Spirit of Christ and also lack The Spirit of Adoption. These seem to say the Holy Spirit is not active in the lives of the lost.
This is only a discrepancy, not a real contradiction. For in Jude and Romans, the Spirit means the Holy Spirit as Savior, the One who reveals Christ, who frees from the slavery to sin, and who makes one, well, spiritual and not a trouble-maker.
The Holy Spirit, then, is at work in the world, and not only in the Church and in the souls of the Elect.
What does the Holy Spirit do for the unsaved (apart from saving them)? The short answer is: He gives life. Elihu said,
The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty has given me life.
He is a life-giving Spirit. He gave human life to our Lord Jesus Christ; He gives Divine life to everyone who believes in Christ.
Without the Spirit, there is no life. Until The Spirit of God brooded on the face of the deep, the world was without form and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep.
Without the human spirit, the human body is dead. Without the Spirit of God, everything is dead!
THE LIVES HE GIVES
What life does He give to the world? All the life it has. Other than eternal life (which will come up tomorrow, Lord willing), the Holy Spirit gives three kinds of life to the world (that I thought of).
First, He gives physical life. God made Adam's body out of the dust of the earth. When He finished doing it, Adam was a magnificent statue. If we saw that perfect body, we'd probably mistake it for God and fall down in worship.
But that's all Adam was at the time-a splendid work of art. But then what happened? God breathed the breath of life into him, and the man became a living soul. 'Breath' is the Hebrew word for 'Spirit'. The Lord breathed His Spirit into Adam and the man became the Image of God, worthy and able to rule the earth for heaven.
Physical life was given by the Holy Spirit. And any physical life that now is still comes from Him.
Second, He gives mental life. Humans are not monkeys with less hair and better table manners! We are thinkers. Some of our thinking is pretty bad, yet for all that, we think. Where does intelligence come from? It comes from the brain. But where did the brain get it? From the chromosomes. Where did the chromosomes get it? From the gene pool. Where did the gene pool get it? From the Holy Spirit!
Examples can be found in the Bible. The ones I like best are the craftsmen who built the Tabernacle. Their names were Bezaleel and Aholiab. Exodus 31:1-6 says of them (and others),
Then the Lord God spoke to Moses saying: 'See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to workin gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood and to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, indeed I, have appointed with him, Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I shall put wisdom in the hearts of all who are gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you'.
Were Bezaleel, Aholiab, and the others godly men? We have no idea. I hope they were, but we can't say. For the Spirit of God (from what we know) was not given to convert them but to enable them to do the job God wanted done. The Spirit didn't fill their hearts with love, but their heads with knowledge! This was a marvelous gift to them, to Israel, and to the world. Without them, the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) would have been less than they were and-not according to the pattern shown to Moses on the Mountain.
Cyrus is another example. He was the King of Persia, and not a saved man! But God calls him My Anointed (Isaiah 45:1), and what does 'anointed' mean? It means Spirit-ed-filled with the Spirit. What did the anointing do for him? It didn't save his soul, but it caused him to end the exile for the Jews and to rule the Empire with great wisdom. Where did his governing wisdom come from? From the Holy Spirit.
Some scientific, artistic, and political breakthroughs have been made by Christians. I think of Johan Sebastian Bach, Blaise Pascal, George Washington Carver, William Wilberforce, and others. But most of them have come from the intelligence and hard work of unbelievers. Did they do in on their own? No, they didn't. They did it by the mental life the Holy Spirit gave them. It was in His light that [they] saw light.
Third, He gives moral life. Apart from Christ, man is totally depraved. But we all know unbelievers who are fine people: they are loyal, courteous, brave, generous, and patient; they work hard, pay their bill, and love their families. How do we explain this?
Pelagius, had an easy answer: Man is naturally good, and if he wants to he can live a life pleasing to God without any special grace. The Early Church called him a heretic-and rightly so, for that kind of thinking overthrows the Gospel!
Augustine was the bitter enemy of Pelagius, but the answer he came up with was only a little bit better. How do you explain the goodness of bad men? He denied the goodness of their good qualities, calling them splendid vices. A soldier dies for his country, not because he loves his country, but because he loves his reputation. I'm sure there's some truth in this, but it doesn't account for all the truth.
Here's a better answer: The Holy Spirit gives moral life. Way back in the days of Noah, God said, My Sprit shall not always strive with men. At his trial, Stephen said the ungodly rulers were Israel were always Resisting the Holy Spirit. It seems the Holy Spirit is wrestling with men. How is He doing that? He's not doing it physically, because He has no body. He's doing it morally by pricking their consciences and making them fear punishment.
In this way, He restrains sin and gets people into good habits. He doesn't save them all, of course, but every clean, honest, and generous life comes from the Spirit of God.
WHAT HIS LIFE MEANS TO THE WORLD
What does the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit mean to the world? It means God is good and generous and easy-to-make up with.
If you are not a Christian, you ought to think long and hard about the life God's Spirit has given you. Shouldn't you thank Him for it? Don't you have every reason to believe that-giving you physical life-He would also give you eternal life if you asked for it in faith? Shouldn't you use the life you have to honor the Holy Spirit?
WHAT HIS LIFE MEANS TO THE CHURCH
The life He gives to the world is meant for the happiness of the Church. Every good, true, and beautiful thing in the world comes from the Holy Spirit! This means we can enjoy good books or music or food without worrying about whether they were written, composed, or cooked by unbelievers.
If the commander of Islamic Jihad cooks me a lamb shishkabob with hummus, and black olives on the side, and baklava for desert, I'm going to eat them to the glory of the Holy Spirit. Because if they're yummy, He was behind it.
If the Holy Spirit is behind everything good in the world, I don't have to read Tim Lahaye and visit the Thomas Kinkaide 'art' gallery. I can read Leo Tolstoy without feeling guilty and put up the prints of Vincent Van Gogh.
Why? Because the world is not a bad thing, it's a good thing gone bad. But the Holy Spirit has been poured out, and He's setting things right.
Thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. Think of all the good done for you by unbelievers, and remember, the Holy Spirit inspired them to do it all.
Be out evangelizing the world because the Holy Spirit is here and He's eager to give the world eternal life to go with His other lives.
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