Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
" GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT HELPS US TO SURVIVE SATAN’S HATRED."
53. Q. What do you believe concerning the Holy
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.
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!
We have in the last weeks been speaking about the ascension of our Lord into heaven, and the effects of that ascension upon us today. Lord’s Day 18: Christ’s ascension means that He intercedes before the Father, acts as lawyer in heaven on our behalf, so that we can pray openly and boldly. Lord’s Day 19: Christ’s ascension means that He rules all the world for the sake of the church – and so we today need not be alarmed at the developments of world history, for our Savior has all things firmly in His control. We understand: it’s indeed to our advantage that Christ ascended into heaven.
As it is, brothers and sisters, Christ’s ascension into heaven has further implications for us. Christ’s ascension means –says Rev 12- that Satan has been cast out of heaven, and now stalks the earth, hunting down the children of God. In the words of that chapter: "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." It’s the material of Jn 15: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you" (vs 18). And vs 20: "if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." That’s life today, brothers and sisters: live in a world with devils filled, each threatening to undo us, and this is a direct consequence –says Rev 12- of Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
What, now, does our Lord Jesus Christ do about this state-of-affairs? Does He from heaven on high leave us to fight the devil and his army on our own? The answer, of course, is No. Jn 15: Jesus describes the hatred His people will experience in the course of history, and then adds the words of vs 26: "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth…." You see: the Holy Spirit is the gift the ascended Christ has sent to earth to strengthen His people in the face of Satan’s hatred (cf Lord’s Day 19.51). As we live our lives in this world of devilish hatred, we do well to understand what God has revealed about the Holy Spirit.
I summarize the sermon with this theme:
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT HELPS US TO SURVIVE SATAN’S HATRED.
1. The Identity of the Holy Spirit.
I ask your attention first for the identity of the Holy Spirit, and do so on purpose. Allow me a comparison to make my point. If your Datsun 1200 is bogged in 10 cm of sand, you’ll have to cast about for help. So too: if your cement truck, fully loaded, is bogged in the mud of a construction site, you also need to look for help. But we understand: you need a different sort of tow truck to free your cement truck than you need to free your Datsun. The size of your problem dictates the size of your answer.
The ascended Christ knew that the Satan He cast out of heaven was very angry at the church and the people of God, would hate His church and His children with hellish hatred, and so would persecute cruelly. The ascended Christ knew also that His redeemed people remained weak, could offer no real resistance to that rebel of rebels. In a word: the problem for God’s people on earth was enormous. Town’s smallest tow-truck might suffice to pull your Datsun out of the sand, but to free your cement truck you need something significantly bigger. So too here. The rage of the devil requires no dinky-toy help; the rage of the devil requires –by God’s judgment- the presence of none less than the Holy Spirit on this earth.
Who is the Holy Spirit? Says the church in Lord’s Day 20: "First, He is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God." "True and eternal God": really?? Is the rage of the devil so great that we need "true and eternal God" in our midst to cope with this rage?!
Yes, brothers and sisters, that is the revelation of Holy Scripture. Christ after His ascension sent to earth none less than one who is "true and eternal God" "with the Father and the Son"! Consider the proof-texts mentioned in our Lord’s Day. Gen 1:1,2:
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters."
The point of the proof-text is to show that the Spirit was involved in creating the world. Yet only God can create; no creature can fashion the world. That is: the Spirit is true God, Creator. Mt 28:19:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned here on a level; indeed, a baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son is to include also the Holy Spirit. That is: whatever is to be said here of the Father and the Son is to be said also of the Holy Spirit. As the one is God, so the other is God. So too Acts 5:3,4:
"But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? …You have not lied to men but to God.’"
Here Peter simply calls the Holy Spirit ‘God’.
Who is the Spirit our exalted Savior sent to earth? Let it be fixed in our minds, beloved: the Holy Spirit is not a power, not an ‘it’; the Holy Spirit is a Person, true God, "He". From eternity He has been one God with the Father and the Son, in no way less than the Father and the Son. In the words of Art 11 of the Belgic Confession: "of one and the same essence, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son."
But see: when Christ ascended into heaven He directly sent this Third Person of the holy Trinity out of heaven again, directly poured out His Holy Spirit upon the earth – Pentecost. Why He did so? The reason given in Jn 15 is distinctly the hatred God’s children would experience in the world! The rebels in Christ’s kingdom would not be neutral to the obedient citizens of that kingdom, would instead be filled with hatred against the obedient citizens and persecute them. So Jesus promised His disciples a "Helper", the Holy Spirit – true and eternal God.
The point, beloved, is significant, for it highlights the depths of our problem. By the judgment of the ascended Christ we were not a little-bit-stuck (so that a small tow truck would suffice); given the hatred and the wrath of the devil and his hosts, we needed more than an angel, more than a host of angels, we needed none less than the Holy Spirit – true and eternal God!
That’s highly instructive for us. In our tolerant Australian society we don’t experience much true hatred from the rebels against the church of God. But the Lord, congregation, tells us that that hatred is there nevertheless, and so intense that we need none less than the Holy Spirit to survive the attacks of the devil and the world. So: let us not be lulled into a false sense of being accepted in our society. Satan is so crafty as to present himself as tolerant of faithful Christians, but the Lord tells us he is not tolerant at all. It is for us to bear in mind that Christ’s kingdom –this world- comprises obedient citizens (who acknowledge Christ’s kingship) and disobedient citizens (who do not acknowledge that kingship), believers and unbelievers, loyalists and rebels. And between these two groups God has placed enmity, hatred, an antithesis. Let none of us think that the world is a friendly place, that here we can somehow be at home. God says we need none less than the Holy Spirit –true and eternal God- in order to survive! Shall we disagree with God and smudge the difference between rebels and loyalists?? God forbid!
At the same time we recognize that we have here a source of very much comfort. That our ascended Savior would send us no less a Helper than the Holy Spirit Himself: how encouraging for God’s people in the face of Satan’s attacks! We need not fear the evil one, for with us is more than with them. Indeed, what love the Lord has shown in giving so much to preserve His own from the evil one. How marvelous, Lord, are Your works and how wonderful Your grace! We thank You that the help You give is so great!
We come to our second point:
2. The Work of the Holy Spirit.
The ascended Lord, then, has sent His Holy Spirit –true God- to earth to help the church in the face of Satan’s rage. How, now, does the Holy Spirit help us? Does He, for example, stand between the rebels and God’s people, and so shield us from the rebels’ attacks? Or does He stand beside us to help us resist the devil?
Both answers, brothers and sisters, are wrong. The Lord Jesus Christ has sent His Spirit not to stand between the rebels and us, nor to fight beside us in the battles of faith; the Lord has sent His Spirit instead to dwell within us. I think of that passage of Scripture where the apostle says that God’s people are temples of the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit is "in you" (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). It’s a thought beyond comprehension, but true nevertheless: true and eternal God, the Holy Spirit, has made His home in us, dwells in us! God the Son ascended into heaven, but God the Holy Spirit descended from heaven; God the Son is busy in heaven for our benefit, but God the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts for our benefit! This is the gospel of Immanuel, God-with-us: true and eternal God dwells in human hearts – Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! To be temples of the Holy Spirit: what in all the world equals that in privilege!!
That’s the more so when we consider what the Holy Spirit does in those whom He indwells. These persons in whom He dwells were once all rebels, for all of us had fallen into sin – and so were all by nature dead in sin, subject to God’s wrath, on Satan’s side. But the Father had chosen certain persons to salvation in Jesus Christ, and on the cross of Calvary the Son of God paid for the sins of these people so that God saw these sinners as righteous before Him. These are the ones for whom the Son intercedes before the Father. And these are the ones in whom the Spirit makes His home. That is: all those whom the Father has given the Son, all those for whom the Son died, are also indwelt by the Spirit (cf Rom 8:9ff). And these people He changes, He makes them spiritually alive, works faith in their hearts, regenerates. As the Spirit was involved in creating the world in the beginning, so the Spirit is involved in recreating the people of God today. The people of God: while they were still dead in sin, still rebels, they produced works of the flesh – "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like." But now that the Spirit lives in their hearts, they are changed, renewed so that they produce "the fruit of the Spirit": "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:19ff).
The work of the Spirit goes beyond changing hearts, making spiritually dead people alive. The Spirit also makes a point of directing our attention all the time to Jesus Christ and His work. He’s like the floodlight that lights up a building. A floodlight doesn’t draw attention to itself, but wants passersby to notice the building upon which the floodlight shines. The Holy Spirit does not draw attention to Himself, does not ask us to question whether we have the Holy Spirit; rather, the Holy Spirit wants us to look at the Christ and to believe in Him. He has changed us, He has renewed us so that through the eye of faith we can see Christ for who He is: crucified to pay for my sins so that now the Father now accepts me as righteous before God for Jesus’ sake. More, the Spirit makes us see Christ in His intercessory work in heaven, and in His governing work too – always busy for the benefit of the church, myself included. Always the Spirit directs us to Christ, and so the child of God learns to keep looking to Christ, and Christ alone. For there is his salvation and his victory.
Then it’s true: Satan keeps on attacking; he and the rest of the rebels hate God’s people with hellish passion. But what does the child of God do? Look at all the rebels, all the enemies, and become afraid? Let us be honest: that is human nature. We look at the rebels on the bus, at work, we count noses, and we feel out-numbered, and so we pull our heads in, and look for ways to be less conspicuous as loyal citizens of Christ’s kingdom. We say: maybe if we don’t speak the gospel so clearly they won’t notice us, and they won’t tease us. We say: maybe if we act just a little bit like the rebels, we won’t stick out as loyalists and they won’t persecute us. Sure, we’ll still go to church, and we’ll read the Bible at home, and we’ll send our children to God-centered schools…, but we can’t be too different…, because then we draw attention to ourselves….
But the Holy Spirit, brothers and sisters, would focus our attention onto Christ. That’s to say: He would have us see Christ triumphant in His work on the cross, so that sin is paid for and Satan bound. Then Satan may attack, and the rebels tormenting us may be many, but in the strength of the Spirit the child of God looks not at all those rebels –that’s too unsettling- but looks instead at the Lord Jesus Christ. So the child of God is encouraged to believe that there are more on our side than on the other side, yes, the victory is ours in Christ. You see: that’s how the Holy Spirit helps us in the struggles against the rebels. He helps us not be shielding us from the rebels, nor by fighting for us, but He helps us by directing our attention to Christ and His victory. We’re made to look to Christ, and so made to believe in Him, yes, to work with the faith the Holy Spirit has put in our hearts. We look to Christ, and so are reminded that for His sake we are children of God and therefore safe in the Father’s hands – no matter how much Satan and his hosts attack; none can pluck us from the Father’s hand. We look to Christ, and so are reminded that our sins are paid for and we are righteous before God; no sin on our part can prevent God from loving us – for Jesus continues to intercede for us.
It’s a perspective, congregation, we must keep in mind. Pentecostalists and charismatics keep having us ask whether we have the Spirit, whether we are filled with the Spirit, whether we are in tune with the Spirit. In a similar way, New Age mystics and Asian gurus would have us consider whether we are listening well to the spirit within. But, beloved, the Holy Spirit does not draw attention to Himself; He dwells in our hearts in order to draw our attention time and again to Jesus Christ. So the question is not: do you have the Holy Spirit? The question is rather: do you believe in Jesus Christ? Always it is Christ whom the Spirit puts center-stage, He who paid for sin and defeated Satan and now labors in heaven for the benefit of His people, yea, even poured out His Holy Spirit to help His people in the face of Satan’s hatred. That is the question: in the face of Satan’s hatred and the cunning and persistent attacks of the rebels around us, do we keep looking to Jesus Christ? Do we believe His victory – and therefore are unafraid of the attacks of the evil one?
The question is so important. Satan attacks, persistently, endlessly. We do not like it that way, but that is the reality of this broken life. How do we respond? By collapsing before his temptations, and so giving ourselves to fornication or to outbursts of wrath or to works of the flesh mentioned in Gal 5? By nature we’ll do that, particularly when the pressure of the attacks gets so strong – and Satan is a strong enemy. Or shall we respond to his attacks with the fruits of the Spirit: patience in the face of enmity, kindness in the face of evil, love in the face of hurt? The Spirit tells us to look at Christ, Christ has already defeated Satan and his rebels, and so there’s nothing hindering us from turning the other cheek. Why do we have to destroy Satan, if Christ has done so already?? Why do we have to get upset when sinners hurt us – given that Christ has already conquered sin and promises to execute justice on those who oppress us and guarantees us the New Jerusalem?
You see the point, beloved: when our eyes are off Christ, we’ve got every reason to fight our own battles, counting noses, pulling our head in when we see how many enemies we have and how strong they are. But when our eyes are on Christ, we’ve got no reason at all to fight our own battles, for Christ has defeated Satan, bound him. Then the fact that so many in the world are on the side of the rebels doesn’t worry us, simply because on our side is the King of kings, the victorious Christ. You see the riches of the work of the Holy Spirit? He has us look to Christ, and so be courageous in the face of Satan’s attacks.
So: let the devil attack. Christ has said he would, and so it shall happen; he’ll attack, he’ll incite our workmates against us so that we’re scorned, ridiculed. As they hated Christ, so they will hate us – Jesus said so, it be so. But be intimidated – No! For in the strength of the Holy Spirit we keep looking to Christ-who-triumphed, and so we take the sufferings of this life cheerfully. In time to come there is for us a weight of glory that far surpasses the troubles and tribulations of this life. I know it, I believe it, because my Lord Jesus Christ has given His Holy Spirit so keep focusing my attention on Him, on His victory. I look to Christ, and so keep speaking of Him too – even if the result may be more suffering at the hands of the rebels.
I refer here to the action of the early church shortly after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Acts 7 records the first martyrdom; Stephen was stoned because he spoke the word of the ascended Christ. That stoning was the beginning of a "great persecution" against the church in Jerusalem. So much so, says the passage, that the believers "were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria" (8:1). Here was fulfillment of Jesus’ word in Jn 15. Result? We’d expect these believers to pull their heads in, to zipper their mouths, to blend with the rebels, to look inconspicuous. But it did not happen. Why not? Because the Holy Spirit had been poured out, and this Holy Spirit caused these believers to look not at the people and people’s hatred, but to look instead at Jesus Christ and Him crucified, risen, ascended. They kept looking to Christ Victorious, and therefore also kept speaking of this Christ! That’s what the passage says: "those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (8:4). Preaching the word, says our translation. The Greek word is literally "evangelizing". They kept gossiping the gospel to their new neighbors, in their new shops, at work. Their eye was on Christ, not on the people who hated them, and in the strength of the Holy Spirit they were so taken by the wealth they saw in Christ crucified, risen, ascended, that they kept talking about His victory – and the salvation He obtained for them. The result: the word of God grew; more and more came to faith in Jesus Christ.
That, brothers and sisters, is the recipe today too for church growth. We don’t need organized outreach events, but we need people who heed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to keep their eyes so focused on Jesus’ work that they are filled with gratitude for His redeeming grace – and so talk of His work and live that gospel, irrespective of public opinion and the hatred of the world.
The ascended Christ has poured out His Holy Spirit into this world with devils filled, each threatening to undo us. With this gift of the Holy Spirit –true and eternal God!- the ascended Christ has equipped the church to survive every hellish effort to upset our faith. Blessed are the people who received the Spirit, for they keep seeing Christ’s work on their behalf – and so responding with abundant fruits of the Spirit. Amen.