Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
"GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT STRENGTHENS GODíS PEOPLE IN THE FACE OF THE SATANíS HATRED."
53. Q. What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit?
A. First, He is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God. Second, He is also given to me, to make me by true faith share in Christ and all His benefits, to comfort me, and to remain with me forever.
 Gen. 1:1, 2; Matt. 28:19; Acts 5:3, 4; I Cor. 3:16.  I Cor. 6:19; II Cor. 1:21, 22; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:13.  Gal. 3:14; I Pet. 1:2.  John 15:26; Acts 9:31.  John 14:16, 17; I Pet. 4:14.
I Corinthians 6:9-11
I Thessalonians 4:1-8
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Psalm 118:3 & Hymn 62:4
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!
With Lordís Dayís 18 & 19, weíd confessed that the Lord Jesus Christ had ascended into heaven. And heaven is a long ways away from Kelmscott. Yet weíd hastened to add in both Lordís Days that the ascended Savior is not absent; instead ĖLordís Day 18- "with respect to His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit He is never absent from us." More, Lordís Day 19, "by His Holy Spirit He pours out heavenly gifts upon us, His members."
With Lordís Day 20, now, we open our Bibles to learn what the Lord God says about the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. Then we repeat after God what the Lord has told us about the Holy Spirit. We confess first of all that the Holy Spirit "is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God." And we add that the Spirit, "true and eternal God," is also "given to me" Ėwhy?- "to make me by true faith share in Christ and all His benefits", to "comfort me," and third, "to remain with me forever."
The reference here to comfort arises in the context of Satanís rage against the church of God. Jesusí promise to send the Holy Spirit - Jn 15:26- came in the context of His talk about the worldís hatred against Godís people. Christ keeps His word, and so, after the Spirit was poured out and the church was persecuted by Saul, the brethren received "the comfort of the Holy Spirit" Ė I read in Acts 9:31.
This afternoon I want to draw out draw out the work of the Holy Spirit in the context of the worldís hatred. I summarize the sermon with this theme:
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT STRENGTHENS GODíS PEOPLE IN THE FACE OF THE SATANíS HATRED.
1. The devilís rage
2. The Lordís gift
3. My own responsibility
1. The devilís rage
Jesusí promise to send the Holy Spirit was given in a particular context. We read it from Jn 15; Jesus spoke of being hated by the world, hated to the point that the children of God would even be killed for their faith.
Behind that hatred of the world is another reality, and thatís the hatred of the devil and his demons for the people of God. Concerning this devilish hatred our Lord says this to us through John:
"Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time" (Rev 12:12).
The apostle Paul fleshes out this hatred of the devil when he speaks of "deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (I Tim 4:1), and Ėin II Tim 3Ė of "evil men and imposters" (vs 13). The point is that the devil is very angry, and therefore pulls out all stops in order to trip up the people to God, to tear Godís own from the hands of God. We donít hear much of persecution in our society, for weíre freely permitted to serve the Lord, to go to church, to send our children to reformed schools and catechism classes; the term Ďpersecutioní makes us think of places as China. But weíre certainly hated by the devil, despised, and therefore tempted and cajoled to transgress the commandments of the Lord our God. So in the face of unemployment the devil would have us trust in ourselves. And in the face of a broken washing machine (just when the pressure is on to get things done!), the devil would us blow a fuse, swear. In the face of family friction, the devil would have us think that the problem is the other person; certainly not me!
I can go on mentioning evidence of Satanís hatred. Australian society hasnít much tolerance for people who are straight; these Ďstraightsí are considered backward, out-dated, narrow-minded, intolerant. So itís not easy on the work place, with the workers around, to speak in defense of Jesusí name. Similarly, in the boardrooms of the business world itís not at all easy to keep your transactions above board and pleasing to the Lord. To be expecting child number 7, or to be pregnant at age 40, is to invite comments of disapproval Ė both from outsiders and from those in the church. And who can stand above the certain derision of the boys when youíre offered a joint and want to turn it down? And who of our youth is left cold when you see the pornography in the News Agent? No, weíre not dragged off to prison on account of the faith, but suffer because we do the Lordís will: Yes. From every side sin stares us in the face, and from every side temptation is laid before us to relax the norms of Scripture and go along with the trend of society. And thatís persecution, spiritual persecution. It is as Paul wrote to Timothy: "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Tim 3:12). Thatís the reality of this life.
That we are all tempted to sin is something we all know. But let it be impressed on our minds, brothers and sisters, older and younger, that we all are hated, that we all are the focus of diabolic attack. Our "adversary the devils walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet 5:8), and heíd love to consume each and every one of us. No form of attack on ourselves and our families is for the devil too cruel, too hard; heíll try anything. Via the Womanís Weekly heíll sow his devilish thoughts in our homes, via TV heíll destroy family interaction, via computer games heíll make our children callous about killing, through the busy-ness of life heíll prevent parents from speaking with their children, and so on, and so on. Hated you are, my beloved, and pummeled from every side.
These are the things spoken of in LD 19. this is the era of "sorrow and persecution" described in Question & Answer 52. Because this is the context of our daily living we "eagerly await" the Lord from heaven, for at His return "He will cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation." That is: all who today put pressure on the children of God Ėand that includes the devil and his demons, it includes also the ungodly who would tempt us to sinĖ all who today put pressure on the children of God to make us sin will be swept off the earth, sealed in the eternal bottomless pit. Then the struggles of this life will be over, then the temptations gone, and then weíll be freed of the hassles that we now face as a result of Satanís fury.
But all of that, brothers and sisters, still lies in the future. Yes, itís a glorious future, and we look forward to it, but it remains future. Meanwhile, we live today. And today we remain very much under attack, are persecuted spiritually, emotionally, psychologically because we belong to Jesus Christ. We look forward eagerly to relief on the day of Jesusí return, but now we need to cope with the pressures of life, the pressures of Satanís attacks. And how, how do we cope with that?? How can our young people be encouraged to say No at a party where a joint is passed around? How can they keep their thoughts holy when they walk into a newsagent or, for that matter, go to the beach? How can our businessmen say No to under-the-table money? How can our mothers still dare to fall pregnant when they already have a sizable family? How, how can we survive in the battle against the demons of hell?!
There, brothers and sisters, is the place of LD 20. This world is filled with evil spirits, but in this sort of world God has given us His Holy Spirit! That, that is how weíre enabled to cope today. Thatís our second point: in the face of the devilís rage, the Lord gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Lordís gift
Concerning this gift of the Holy Spirit, LD 20 tells us immediately what we are to think about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not a thing, vague, indescribable. The Spirit is God, says LD 20, "true and eternal God, together with the Father and the Son."
This Holy Spirit ĖGod Himself!Ė (says our LD further) "is also given to me." Yes, we Ėyou and IĖ are sinful people, living under attack on this earth. But in this situation, congregation, God the Spirit is "given" to us. Specifically, God the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts. Paul says to the Corinthian believers this: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (I Cor 3:16). "You are the temple of God," he says, and with that phrase picks up on Old Testament vocabulary. Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem, and at its dedication the glory of the Lord settled upon the temple, ie, God Himself came to live in that temple built of wood and stone. So that temple Solomon built is called in Scripture the "temple of God". Yet with Jesusí triumph on Calvary, the curtain of that temple was torn; the point is that the temple had fulfilled its function, was no longer the place where God dwelt. Instead the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers on the day of Pentecost; God in the Spirit came to live in the hearts of His people. Thatís the point of the apostleís phrase in I Cor 3: he tells the saints of Corinth that each one of them is "the temple of God". That each is temple of God is pointed up in the second part of the verse where Paul says that "the Spirit of God dwells in you". As temple of God, each saint in Corinth is home to the Holy Spirit; He dwells in the hearts of each believer.
But if thatís true, brothers and sisters, of the believers of Corinth, itís equally true of each believer of Kelmscott. Every child of God is a temple of God, and that means nothing else than that God the Holy Spirit dwells in your hearts. Recall what we heard so often from the Form for Holy Baptism (and that form, remember, summarizes what God says in His Word to each of His covenant children Ė thatís all of us!). Page 584, last paragraph:
"When we are baptized into the Name of the Holy Spirit, God the Holy Spirit assures us by this sacrament that He will dwell in us and make us living members of Christ, imparting to us what we have in Christ, namely, the cleansing from our sins and the daily renewal of our lives...."
Says that Form: the promise of the covenant God made with each one of us includes this that God in the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Thatís Godís promise. Thatís in turn why the believer confesses in LD 20 concerning God the Holy Spirit that "He is given to me." In our LD we simply echo what God has promised to us in the covenant.
That means in turn, brothers and sisters, older and younger, that God has passed none of you by with His gift of the Holy Spirit; to all His covenant children the Lord has given the promise that He "will dwell in us". In the midst of a world with devils filled, here is for each of us pointed comfort. None of us need ever to stand alone against the attacks and temptations of the devil; God has given His Spirit to all of us.
What, though, does the Holy Spirit do in our hearts? Does He just sit (as it were) in a corner of the heart, and leave us go as weíre inclined to go? The answer is No. Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there comes change. Think of what happened to the craftsmen instructed to build the tabernacle in Mosesí day (Ex 31:2ff). Think of the effect of the Spiritís coming on men as Gideon, Samson and David. On the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out on the believers, these new believers were changed so that they "had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need" (Acts 2:44f). The apostle Paul captures the changes resulting from the Spiritís presence in Eph 5. He says:
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord" (5:8-10).
You hear it: the Ephesian saints were once "darkness", but theyíve been changed so that now "you are light in the Lord". Thatís a change worked by the Spirit; now there is with the Ephesian saints "goodness, righteousness, and truth" and thatís in turn why these believers are to stay clear of the evils mentioned earlier in that same chapter. In similar terms the apostle speaks to the Corinthians. I quote from I Cor 6:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (vss 9-11).
There it is again: "such were some of you." Thatís past tense: such were some of you. But not anymore; "you were washed," adds the apostle, "but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (vss 9-11). Itís not just a matter of sins being washed away in the blood of the Lord Jesus; itís also, says Paul, a matter of the Holy Spirit at work in the heart so that one is sanctified. And with that work of Holy Spirit, things change; "such were some of you."
I need to make this element more personal. We said before: the Holy Spirit has been given to each one of us; part and parcel of the covenant God made with each of us (and signified in holy baptism) is the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in our various hearts. But if the presence of the Holy Spirit invariably produces change, then that means nothing else, brothers and sisters, than that we all should be changed creatures. That is: each one of us is to be different today from what we by nature are. By nature weíre dead in sin, given to all sin. The renewing work of the Holy Spirit implies that weíre changed so that we are no longer what we used to be. That is: the effect of the Spiritís presence is that we are now alive to God. That, beloved, is the promise that accompanies the Spiritís presence.
That is in turn, then, something we are to see in ourselves and in each other. The Holy Spirit came upon Gideon and Samson and David, and His presence was obvious. The Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, and His presence amongst the believers was obvious. The Holy Spirit is promised to each one of us in the covenant, and His presence cannot remain secret, hidden; the change resulting from His presence must be evident for both yourself and others to see. For where there is no change, there is no Spirit! Where there is no change, the Spirit is not present, not because He wasnít promised (He was promised, to all of us, for God made His covenant with all of us); the Spirit is not present because He is not welcome. "Every covenant," you remember, "contains two parts, a promise and an obligation." So it is for us to see to it that we "do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (as Paul writes in Eph 4:30), to see to it that we "do not quench the Spirit" (I Thes 5:19). After Davidís sin with Bethsheba, he made a point of beseeching God in prayer not to take His Holy Spirit from him (Ps 51). You see: you donít necessarily have whatís promised to you. That just depends on whether you want whatís promised.
Where the Holy Spirit is, there is change. This change produces results. That is: where the Spirit has worked change, that person no longer is dead in sin, no longer has delight in sin, no longer wants to sin. Instead, heís changed to a new live, regenerated, hates sin, flees from sin, resists and fights sin. Recall that passage from I Cor 6: Paul tells his readers that fornicators, idolators, adulterers, homosexuals, drunkards, etc, will not inherit the kingdom of God, and then adds: "such were some of you". So: this is no longer what the Corinthian saints are. They are changed, that is, they no longer give themselves to fornication, to idolatry, to adultery, to homosexual practices, to drunkenness, etc.
No, thatís not to say that theyíre never tempted to acts of fornication, never tempted to get drunk. But the thing is that they can now resist these temptations. The Holy Spirit of God dwells within them, this Holy Spirit has worked a change in them so that their appetites are geared to righteousness and not to evil, yes, this Holy Spirit strengthens them in the struggle against the temptations that be. And this Holy Spirit can strengthen in the face of Satanís temptations because this Spirit is God, is the Spirit of Christ (cf Rom 8:9). And Christ, we know, is the one who defeated Satan on the cross of Calvary. If He, then, has defeated the devil and his demons on Calvary, how much more than can that Spirit of Christ strengthen the children of God in the face of the temptations that be! See there the reason why the apostle Paul can say to the Romans that "sin shall not have dominion over you" (6:14). Thatís a promise, more, itís a statement of fact: sin shall not rule over the child of God. For not only has the devil been defeated on Calvary; the Holy Spirit has also been poured into our hearts so that today He strengthens Godís own in the battles we face.
So it is that giving in to each temptation that comes your way is not at all inevitable for the child of God. The Holy Spirit has been poured out, and so, yes, we can fight against sin, can resist sin, can no longer say that Ďwe canít help but siní. LD 20: the Spirit is "given to me Ėwhy?Ė to make me...share in Christ and all His benefits." Those benefits include Christís triumph over Satan! In the Spirit that benefit is given to me. Let none amongst us, then, beloved, consider giving in to sin inevitable. That confession you make every week concerning the Holy Spirit does not allow for that sort of a conclusion! Because of Who the Holy Spirit is, fighting sin, resisting sin is definitely possible. That brings us to our final point today:
3. Our own responsibility.
The point is this: given that the Holy Spirit has been given to us, what do we do in the face of the evil spirits attacking us in the world of today? Is it for us simply to assume that the Holy Spirit will fight our battles for us, will apply to us the benefits Christ obtained, and so itís for us just to coast along? We all know the answer. Even though the Holy Spirit has been given to us, we still need to keep fighting. And that is because it is through our resisting temptation, our saying No to the lure of alcohol and the offer of a joint and the temptation to accept under-the-table money, etc, that the Holy Spirit fights our battles for us. It is not so that we can sit on our hands, and leave the struggle against temptation to the Holy Spirit; it is not so either that the Holy Spirit sits in the corner of our hearts and lets us struggle on our own. The Spiritís work and our work come together, need to be mentioned together, is a co-operation. Itís a co-operation not in the sense that the Spirit does His part and we do our part; itís a co-operation in the sense that the believer does what the Spirit works in him. The Holy Spirit works in and through the believer to curb sin and frustrate Satan, and at the same time itís the believer who is busy doing the work of the Spirit.
That means on the one hand, brothers and sisters, that we may be full of confidence in our resistance to sin and temptation. Weíre not left on our own, not dependent on ourselves, on our own inner strength. By the grace of the Lord God, God Himself in the Spirit is with us as we face whatever temptation there might be. So it may be fixed in our minds: succumbing to the attacks of the devil is not at all inevitable.
It means on the other hand that we need to make it our business day by day to fight. Exactly because weíve received the Spirit, exactly because weíre enabled by that Spirit to fight, need we consciously to make it our business to resist sin and to do the will of God in our every circumstance. The Spirit has been poured out, and therefore we may not be lazy in that fight. God the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, and thatís why it is for us to get off our backsides and very much battle against any and every temptation that comes our way. The Bible is full of that instruction; throughout the Scriptures the child of God is commanded to do this, commanded to stay away from that. Heís told to, itís his duty to. And the promise is that God the Holy Spirit does His work against sin through our struggles.
I Thes 4 gives us an example. Paul tells his readers to "abstain from sexual immorality", that is, tells them to make sure that each person "possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust." So no one is to take advantage sexually of a weaker person, none to hurt another by forcing his will on the other. Thatís the command. But notice what Paul says in vs 8: "he who rejects this does not reject man, but [rejects] God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit." Then the point is not only that a person who gives in to sexual temptation has rejected God in the sense that I Thes 4 is Godís command (and not just Paulís); the point is that the person who gives in to sexual temptation rejects the fact that the Holy Spirit has been poured out in his heart. That Spirit is there, and so (says Paul in this chapter) you are enabled to control your sexual drive, not succumb to temptation. It requires a fight, certainly, but the fight is possible and can be successful because of the Holy Spirit. Thatís the promise, the gospel of Jesus Christís victory over sin and Satan, a promise touching you in your specific circumstances today, tomorrow, Tuesday.
So, beloved of the Lord, fight on. Your responsibility is real, very real, and the battle not easy. But in this world with devils filled, your God and Savior has given to you the Spirit of the triumphant Christ. Work confidently with that reality. Soon, soon the Christ who gave the Spirit will return to earth, then to "cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation." On that day the temptations and the frustrations will be gone, gone.... And we shall be fully changed, perfectly enabled to do always the will of God our Savior. Amen.