If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
When I go back and read my journal one of these years, the end of 1983 and the beginning of 1984 will be dominated by two phrases: frontier missions and wartime mentality.
Frontier Missions and Wartime Mentality
More than ever in my life the stark reality of thousands of people groups unreached by a "peaceful" western church has been branded on my brain. More and more it troubles my heart. The logic of love is irresistible. If I love the lost, I will seek to save them from perishing. If I love the glory of God, I will work to overcome the worldwide ignorance and belittling of that glory. The blinders are beginning to fall off of my eyes and the bombshells of the unseen war are beginning to explode with terrible brightness all around me. I am coming to see the peacetime mentality that dominates our church and our conference as a tactical victory of Satan—the result of a kind of nerve gas from Satan's arsenal of chemical weaponry that gives the soldiers of Christ a kind of stupor in some and religious euphoria in others, and eventually puts them to sleep at the gates of the enemy, and makes them utterly oblivious to the cries of the P.O.W.'s behind the wall.
Who but Satan could devise a chemical weapon which when spread over the army of Christ would make them content simply to hold worship services and support groups at the door of Satan's dungeon? Picture the Allied troops landing in Germany, marching victoriously toward the smoke from the ovens of Dachau, and then stopping at the gates, setting up camp, and having a big Bavarian beer bust to celebrate while the Gestapo finishes murdering 5,000 Jews behind the gates. Satan is satisfied with all our religious activity as long as it does not move us to break down those gates to rescue the perishing.
Therefore, at the top of my agenda these days has been the question: how can I get myself and the church awake to a wartime mentality? Is there some way to break the spell? Picture a great army asleep with mighty weapons in their limp hands and armor in their tents. Picture them sleeping in the fields all around one of Satan's strongholds. Suddenly, an eyelid blinks, a head lifts and looks around. Then another and another. A strange awakening spreads through the field. Muscles are flexed. Armor fitted. Swords sharpened. Eyes meet with silent excitement. The light in the commander's tent goes on, the generals gather and the strategy for the attack is laid.
What has happened? The Holy Spirit has begun to move upon the armies of the Lord. "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light . . . Do not be drunk with Bavarian beer but be filled with the Holy Spirit . . . Put on the whole armor of God . . . and take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God . . . Keep alert . . . and help each other be bold" (Ephesians 5:14, 18; 6:11, 17–19). There is only one power that can break the spell of Satan, waken the armies of the Lord, and rout the god of this age—the power of the Holy Spirit.
Growing in Knowledge and Love for the Holy Spirit
On the morning of December 10 (about eight weeks ago) I was praying earnestly about these things and seeking the Lord for direction in my ministry. And the Lord gave me, I believe, the over-mastering conviction that I should preach on the Holy Spirit. I recorded three reasons in my journal:
1) If I am burdened for the vital experience of God missing in many of our people and for the present power of godliness, it makes sense to preach not just on what God has done or what he will do or what we must do, but on what God is now doing and how he is now experienced—i.e., the Holy Spirit. 2) The sentence is stunning and full of ominous warning: "If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live" (Rom. 8:13). The life of my people hangs on a vital experience of the Spirit. 3) There are miracles which God may be willing to perform if we sought his Spirit and were filled anew. And these miracles may win for him glory that is now denied him . . . Come, Holy Spirit, preach yourself to this people.
So for three days in the third week of January at Shalom House I spent about 30 hours praying and thinking about a series of messages on the Holy Spirit. The result is that today's message is the introduction to a series of 20 messages on the Holy Spirit that, Lord willing, I will preach between now and June 17.
My earnest desire and prayer is that we not just learn about the Holy Spirit, but that we come to know him and love him and enjoy him and be awakened by him and empowered by him to formulate and execute strategies to rout the forces of Satan and rescue hundreds from his captivity.
The Special Prominence of the Holy Spirit in This Age
There is a peculiar responsibility upon us today to know and experience the Holy Spirit. Here's why. John Owen in his work on the Holy Spirit (Book 1; chapter 1) points out something so obvious we may overlook it. The Bible portrays for us a history of redemption with three major divisions that reveal progressively the three persons of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Before the first coming of Christ, the great testing truth was "the oneness of God's nature and his monarchy over all," especially with respect to the person of the Father. When Christ came, the great question was whether a people orthodox on the first point would recognize and receive the incarnate Son of God in whom all the fullness of deity dwells. Then, after the Son had gathered a people who received him, he was put to death, raised up, and exalted to the Father's right hand, from which he sent the Holy Spirit with new prominence upon the church.
Before Christ's coming . . . the prominence of God the Father; during the days of Christ's earthly life . . . the prominence of God the Son; and since the ascension of the Son . . . the prominence of God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we live in a unique, climactic period of redemptive history, the days of the Spirit. Just as Israel of old had a special responsibility to know and honor God as Father in the oneness of his nature, and just as the people of Palestine had a special responsibility to know and honor Jesus as the Son of God in the days of his flesh, so now we have a special responsibility to know and honor the Holy Spirit. "The sin of despising His Person and rejecting His Work now is of the same nature with idolatry of old and with the Jews' rejection of the Person of the Son" (Owen).
O, how favored we are as a people to be living in the age of the Spirit. Spread out for us all to see and to marvel at is the history of revelation of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. How thankful we should be that we were born (owing to no virtue in us whatsoever!) in a day when the fullness of God's nature as three in one has been revealed and when the various ministries of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been displayed and offered for our experience. Surely everyone who loves God will be earnestly seeking to know and experience as much of God as possible—and in our day that means especially, as much of the Holy Spirit as possible.
If going hard after the holy God is priority number one at Bethlehem, you can see, can't you, how I have been led to direct our attention to the Person and work of God the Holy Spirit. Let's make the next 20 weeks a unique period in our lives—a period of unusual pursuit and openness toward the Holy Spirit. There are attacks to be resisted. There are strongholds to be taken. There is a spiritual war to be won. It may be that in these weeks the troops at Bethlehem will awaken, conceive a new strategy, and penetrate farther than we ever have into Satan's domain. If Jesus has sent us even as the Father sent him (John 20:21), then should we not be able to say with Jesus, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives" (Luke 4:18)? When the Holy Spirit falls upon this congregation, the undeniable sign will be the impulse and power to invade Satan's prisoner camps and release the captives.
Two Essential Truths About the Holy Spirit
Let me draw this introductory message to a close with two truths about the Holy Spirit that we need to have clear from the beginning.
- The first truth is that the Holy Spirit is a person not an impersonal force.
- The second truth is that the Holy Spirit is God not a creation of God.
1. The Holy Spirit Is a Person
The most important passage to support the first truth is John 14–16. At least three things in these chapters confirm that Jesus thinks of the Holy Spirit as a person not a mere force.
1) Jesus calls him "another Counselor" in 14:16, "I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth" (14:26; 15:26; 16:7). When Jesus calls him a Counselor or Comforter, he treats him as a person not a force. And when he calls him "another Counselor," he means, "He will be a counselor like me." The Holy Spirit is a counselor like Jesus is—he is a person.
2) In John 14:17, Jesus says, "You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." Then in verse 25 he says, "I have spoken to you while I am with you." Jesus virtually identifies the Spirit with himself. "I am with you and will be in you" is the same as saying, "I am with you and the Spirit will be in you." "You know me now as flesh and blood Son of God. You will know me soon through the Spirit who will be given to you." Therefore, the Spirit is no less a person than Jesus is.
3) The Holy Spirit is described not merely as the voice of God's teaching but as a teacher in his own right. John 14:26, "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things." And in 15:26 he is a witness in his own right, "When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me." And lest we think that the Spirit is just the extended teaching activity of the Father and the Son, John 16:13 says that the Spirit first hears and then teaches: "He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak." The Spirit is treated not as a force, or influence, or activity of another person, but as a person in his own right, hearing from the Father and the Son, and teaching and bearing witness to men.
It will make a great deal of difference in your own life if you believe that you are being indwelt and led and purified not by impersonal forces from a distant God, but by a person who in his essence is the love of God (Romans 5:5; 1 John 4:12–13). Handley C.G. Moule, the former bishop of Durham who died in 1920, gave witness to the importance of the Spirit's personality:
Never shall I forget the gain to my conscious faith and peace which came to my own soul, not long after a first decisive and appropriating view of the Crucified Lord as the sinner's sacrifice of peace, from a more intelligent and conscious hold upon the living and most gracious Personality of that Holy Spirit through whose mercy the soul had got that blessed view. It was a new development of insight into the Love of God. It was a new contact as it were with the inner eternal movements of redeeming goodness and power, a new discovery in divine resources. (Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 13)
2. The Holy Spirit Is God
When you add the second truth about the Holy Spirit, the first becomes even more precious. The Holy Spirit is God. The person who indwells and leads and purifies is no one less than God, the Holy Spirit. The simple evidence for this is the frequent designation "Spirit of God." The Spirit is "of God" not because God created him, but because he shares God's nature and comes forth eternally from God (see 1 Corinthians 2:10–12). If the Son of God is equally eternal with the Father, as John 1:1–3 makes clear that he is, then so is the Holy Spirit equally eternal with them both, because, according to Romans 8:9–11, the Spirit of Christ is one and the same with the Spirit of God. If this were not so, we would have to imagine that there was a time when the Son had no Spirit and the Father had no Spirit. But I want to try to show in this week's STAR that the Holy Spirit is essential to the relationship between the Father and the Son. He is, to use Moule's words again (p. 28), "the Result, the Bond, the Vehicle, of their everlasting mutual delight and love."
As far back into eternity as God the Father has been generating or imaging forth the Son, there has been an infinite Holy Spirit of love and delight between them, who is himself a divine Person. Therefore, as Jesus prays for the church in John 17:26, he asks his Father for nothing less than the Holy Spirit when he says, "I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them." The most glorious of all truths that we will discover in the next 20 weeks is that when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, he comes not merely as the Spirit of the Son, nor merely as the Spirit of the Father, but as the Spirit of infinite love between the Father and the Son, so that we may love the Father with the very love of the Son, and love the Son with the very love of the Father.