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TEXT: I Corinthians 3:16, 6:19
SUBJECT: The Holy Spirit #3: His Work in the Church
The theme of this year's Family Camp is The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. As the words indicate, the Holy Spirit is a Person, and not an influence, a power, or an energy. At the Lord's baptism, He took the form of a dove; on the Day of Pentecost, He came as the sound of a mighty rushing wind. But He isn't a Dove and He's not the wind. He is a Person, a Divine Person, no less Divine and no less personal than God the Father or His Son, Jesus Christ. Because He is a person, we have a personal relationship with Him. Notice, I didn't say, 'We can have one', but 'We do'. For better or worse.
Before we go any further, let me ask you: How's your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Do you love Him, serve Him, think about Him, and talk to Him? Or do you ignore Him and break His heart?
The title also suggests that the Holy Spirit does something. He's not up in heaven sleeping in a recliner with the TV on. The Holy Spirit is alive, alert, and active. What He's up to on Mars or in the earth's core, we can't say, but we can say what He's doing in the world of men. To some degree, of course.
The Holy Spirit is giving life to the world-physical life, mental life, moral life. He's doing this for everyone-both saved and otherwise.
But He's doing more for the Church than He is for the world. This doesn't make us proud of ourselves because what He's doing for us, He's doing because He wants to and not because we deserve it! The work of the Holy Spirit, like the work of God and Christ is a work of grace-top to bottom!
This brings me to today's topic: The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Before I get to His work, I'll say a word or two about the Church. I use the word in both senses: The Church (with a capital 'C') meaning the People of God, and also the church (with a lower case 'c') meaning an assembly of God's People, such as Grace Baptist Church of Fremont, California.
The Holy Spirit works both in the believer personally, and also when believers go to church. The two verses I read a couple of minutes ago teach this: in I Corinthians 3:17, Paul says You (plural) are the Temple of God and the Holy Spirit dwells in you (plural). The KJV says, 'ye' which is plural and down south we'd say, you all. It is the church he has in mind. I Timothy 3:15 teaches the same:
I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
The Church of the Living God is the House of God and God dwells there by His Spirit. Ephesians 2:22 calls it the habitation of God in the Spirit.
In I Corinthians 6:19, however, Paul says the Christian's body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The reason you're not to fornicate with your body is because God's Spirit lives inside of it! Would you commit fornication with Jesus Christ standing alongside your bed? If not, don't do it with the Holy Spirit even closer than that.
I don't want to get off on a jag, but here, the Spirit's temple is not the Church, but the believer himself.
The topic is big and unwieldy, but I'll try to organize it under three questions. Here's the first one:
WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT DO TO BRING PEOPLE INTO THE CHURCH?
What does the Holy Spirit do to bring people into the Church?
Bill Hybels and Rick Warren are two of the best known pastors in America. They've been at their churches for a long time, and as far as I know, they never been accused of heresy, immorality, or dishonesty. Thus, what I say about them is not an attack on their character or their intentions. It is only their method that I object to. These men are leaders in what's called Seeker Sensitive Churches. If the only thing they wanted to do is be sensitive to visitors, then by all means, I'm for them. But they mean a good deal more than this.
Knowing that most people don't like traditional worship, they poll their neighbors asking people what they want in a church. What's interesting about the poll, however, is that you don't have to be a Christian to take it. They want to know what everybody wants in a church-saved, unsaved, theologian, heretic, Calvinist, Catholic, Charismatic, Muslim, Atheist, you name it and they're in the survey.
I'm not creative myself, but I admire it in others. What I don't admire is discarding God's Way of bringing people into the Church in favor of other ways! What is the Holy Spirit's way of bringing people into Church?
The short answer is: conviction, faith, and a credible profession.
By 'conviction', I mean the conviction of sin. Since our Lord came to save sinners, no one will be saved until he knows he's one of them. The degree of conviction differs from person to person, and so does its time span. John Bunyan spent years in the agony of a bad conscience and fear of damnation. But, on the Day of Pentecost, all that was compacted into an hour or two. But, whether the sinner sinks deep in despair or feels guilty for five minutes, he must be convicted of his sins or he will not be saved.
Who convicts the sinner? Some preachers and other Christians think they do it-by sermons full of fire and brimstone, or by years of nagging. But the Bible says the Holy Spirit does this work-John 16:8,
When He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.
He did just that. Read the sermon on the Day of Pentecost, and you don't find Peter railing on the people. Yes, he confronts them with their sin, but the sermon is not a long scolding affair. And what happened?
They were cut to the heart.
By the fiery preaching of a fisherman? No. By the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.
Is feeling guilty a good thing? No, it's a bad thing, but it serves a good purpose. In bringing sinners to faith in Christ. Does God believe the Gospel for you? No. We believe, but we believe through grace (Acts 18:27). And how is this grace brought to us? By the work of the Holy Spirit.
When the Comforter comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify to Me (John 15:26).
The object of saving faith is Jesus Christ. Whom we know and believe in by the work of the Spirit.
Having humbled the sinner and enabled him to believe in Christ, the Spirit does one more thing: He gives him a credible profession of faith. What must you do to be saved? You must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. What must you say to come into the Church? Jesus is Lord. How do people come to say that, sincerely, I mean? By the work of the Holy Spirit-I Corinthians 12:3,
No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit.
How do sinners get into the Church universal and into a local church? By the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Bible says of the first church, The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. It wasn't marketing or leadership, it was the Holy Spirit!
This leads me to a challenge: Has the Holy Spirit saved you? If He has, what are you doing standing outside the church looking in--or maybe throwing bricks? Grace Baptist Church has plenty of faults, but faults and all, it remains,
The Temple of the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit brings people into the church by convicting them of their sins, enabling them to believe in Christ, and giving them a credible profession of faith.
WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT DO WITH PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH?
As individuals, He sanctifies us. To sanctify is to make holy, and that's what the Spirit does for us. He does it privately, by pricking our consciences when we sin, by opening our minds to receive the Word of God, by enabling us to pray, by giving assurance of our salvation, and so on.
But the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is not only private or mainly private. Mostly, it's a work He does for us in the church. Here, I don't mean 'in the church service alone', but in fellowship with God's People on Sunday mornings and at other times too.
How does He do that? He does it by giving gifts to the Church. In Ephesians 4, we find the gift of pastor/teachers. What do these men do for us? Bore us to tears for half an hour on Sundays? Or, maybe better than that, hold us spellbound with every word they speak? No. Boring or interesting, good teachers do a lot more than that. Paul says they are
For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ.
Good sermons (or even mediocre ones) give you what you need to serve God's People. Some tell you what to do; others how to do it; others why or when to do it; and best of all, they exalt the love of Christ which makes you want to do it.
The pastor is not an entertainer; he's a quartermaster. He's not helping you pass your time pleasantly, he's arming you for battle.
Pastor/teachers are not the only gifts the Holy Spirit gives to the Church. He gifts every member with things to help every other. This means He gifts you to help others and He gifts others to help you. This means, you need to use your gifts and let others use theirs.
I don't believe the Bible contains a complete list of Spiritual Gifts (some think so, but not I). The two best known lists are Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12. We tend to concentrate on the spectacular gifts they name (like tongues and miracles) and kind of ignore the humbler ones (like serving, giving, showing mercy and wisdom).
But whatever we make of tongues, miracles, prophecies, and so on, the Church has never depended on them! But we very much depend on the quieter gifts. And, while the lesser gifts have passed away, the greater ones remain. Who gave them to us? The Holy Spirit-There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
He gives them to each member of the church to be used for the good of the church. You have some of these gifts-every believer does. So why don't you use them? If you don't know what your gift is, just pick one at random and see if that's the one you have. How about giving? Or serving? What about showing mercy?
If the Holy Spirit is in the Church, you ought to come to church every Sunday-to every service-and receive the gifts He's giving you if only you'd take them! And not just receive them, but give your own to the ones who need them. And not just on Sundays, of course, but
As we have therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto those who are of the household of God.
And so, the Holy Spirit brings people into the Church by converting them, and in the Church He builds them up by Word, Sacrament, Fellowship, and Service.
WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT DO WITH THE CHURCH?
Finally, what does the Holy Spirit do with the Church? He dwells in it to radiate His heat and light to a cold and dark world. Israel did not exist for the sake of Israel, but to be a Light to the Gentiles. She failed in her task because she turned inward and forgot her calling.
Until the True Israelite came, our Lord Jesus Christ. He fulfilled that work in Himself, at first, and now He's doing it in the Israel of God, and that is the Church. He's doing it in us, but not by us. It is by the Holy Spirit that Christ is filling the world with His Light.
Let us remember what we are: Personally (if you're a Christian), you are a Temple of the Holy Spirit. Collectively, when we meet in that building or even up here on the porch of a mobile home, we are the House of God, holier than the Temple in Jerusalem ever was. And more filled with the Spirit.
Let us be mindful of the Holy Spirit and thankful. Without Him, the grace of God and the saving work of Christ are far removed and impossible to get. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who brings salvation to us.
Let us submit to the Lordship of the Holy Spirit and accept His friendship. In short, Walk in the Spirit.
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