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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Holy Spirit, Living Hope


 

"And you also were included in Christwhen you heard the message of truth,the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory." Ephesians 1:13-14


We’re leaving Mark’s Gospel behind for one more week to turn our attention to the work and person of the Holy Spirit this morning.


This is an installment in a series of messages I’ve been preaching this year on Riverside’s doctrinal statement of faith.


If you’re considering membership currently, then this is the document that sets out what we as church believe are the foundational truths of the bible. And I’m excited that some of you will be engaging with our statement of faith in the coming weeks.


Although these messages are not designed to be definitive, they are intended to underpin the doctrinal position we’ve taken in our statement of faith.

Why Now?

In Mark chapter 3, where we’re going in a few week’s time, Jesus says, ‘whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin’. That verse makes me take the person of the Holy Spirit very seriously and I want you to take him seriously too. So, I think now is a good time to turn our attention for one Sunday morning to the work and person of the Holy Spirit.


Co-equal

Depending on which part of the Evangelical Christian spectrum you come from, the Holy Spirit will probably have a greater or lesser significance in your Christian thinking.


But I want to tell you all, regardless of your background, that the Holy Spirit is the third co-equal person of the God-head. He is infinite, eternal and unchangeable like the other persons are. Yet, he has a distinct and vital role; the same as the Father and the Son have distinct and vital roles.


He is personal, he is real, he is effective, and he is defining - all the way from the creation of the world, to the resurrection of Jesus, to the salvation of our souls, to the consummation of all things.


The Spirit Of the Father and Son

According to scripture, he proceeds from both the Father and the Son. Jesus says in John 15:26 that the Spirit of Truth goes out from the Father and that he himself will send him.


And where is the Spirit being sent? He’s being sent to the disciples. He’s being imparted to people. So there’s a place where the Spirit of God resides, or lives, or dwells that’s different to where the Father and the Son dwell.


Though, in fact, the Spirit of God is so coincidental with the Father and the Son that Jesus is able to say, that by virtue of the Spirit making his home in us, the Father has made his home with us, and the Son has made his home in us. Listen to Jesus in John 14:23, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them’.


Jesus is going to leave his disciples - that’s troubling for men who have given up ‘everything’ Peter says, to follow him - but they won’t be left alone; the Father will send his Spirit to dwell with them.

So then, the person who is in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit is in-dwelt by both the Father and the Son also, because He is their Spirit. The fullness of God resides in the person that the Holy Spirit resides in.


Christians Alone, Have Him

But, this clearly this isn’t the case for all people. The Father imparts his Spirit to those who ‘love Jesus’ and demonstrate it by obedience. ‘My Father will make his home with anyone who loves me and obeys my teaching’ Jesus says.


Loving Jesus and obeying his teaching is one way of describing a true Christian. Someone who loves Jesus, and because of their love for him, does his commandments - that person is a Christian.


Which is why the bible talks of all humanity in just two essential terms. People are either characterised by the flesh (their natural human nature) or by the Spirit (God in them).

They are either governed by their own fleshly appetites, or they are governed by Spiritual appetites that come from the Spirit of God. Believer and unbeliever. Saved or perishing. So far as God is concerned there’s only two types of people. The ones he loves are the ones his Spirit lives in.


No Christian Conversion Without the Spirit

Daniel brought us last week the legal aspect of salvation, which was the focus of his passage in Romans. How sins are dealt with. How righteousness is imparted to our account. How we find ourselves in credit with God instead of deficit.


But that’s not all that happened when we came to faith in Christ. When we came to faith, Jesus also poured out his Spirit into our hearts - the bible calls it ‘new birth’.


Since the day we received Jesus, we have been in-dwelt by his Spirit. He has not left us alone for one single minute of our lives since that moment when we were born again. Paul says in Romans 8:9, ‘And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ’.


Christian salvation is marked by the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. No Holy Spirit, no salvation. No Spirit of God, no real Christian conversion!


Questions

Now that raises some questions, doesn’t it? Because let’s face it, if nothing less that God himself is residing in us, surely that is an experiential thing. I mean, surely we would know about that if it were true. It’s not like the bible is speaking metaphorically here. When it says the ‘Spirit of God lives in you’. It means it. The Spirit really is within a person.

So that raises questions like, how do we know we have the Spirit - what would the evidence be? Will our experience of the Spirit be consistent, or will it rise and fall? And if it does rise and fall, what kinds of things might influence our appreciation of the Spirit at work within us?


Doubts and Fears

In your Christian experience have you ever felt like you were hanging on by your fingertips? Do you ever feel like you’re so assailed by doubts and fears that you just don’t know how you’ll go on? Maybe you feel like that even this morning.


Maybe bad health is just crushing your spirits right now. Maybe every job you apply for falls flat on its face. Or you don’t know where the money will come from for the next bill. And you just feel overwhelmed in the face of life. That could be you this morning.

And you wouldn’t be alone. The disciples were once in a boat with Jesus and they thought it was going to sink. They were afraid, and that prompted Jesus to ask them where their faith was.


The Apostle Peter feared for his life as he walked on the water and that prompted Jesus to ask why he doubted.


The Apostle Paul said that he and his companions ‘felt the sentence of death’ upon them. And, if anybody had cause to be despairing it was certainly him.


My family and I just saw where he may have been held prisoner for a time in Rome - cold, wet, dark, uncomfortable dungeon - it would have made me despair that’s for sure. And that’s not to speak of his beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, exposure, lashes and more.

The Apostle James says the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. He wouldn’t have said that if didn’t expect people to be like it.


The Apostle Paul exhorts in a similar way, ‘don’t be anxious about anything’. But surely, he said it because he knew we would be.


The Psalmist admits, ‘when I am afraid, I put my trust in God’. And Isaiah quotes God’s reassurance, ‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God’.


In short, God knows that we will be dismayed and despairing in our Christian lives, at times. He knows how overwhelming circumstances can be.

And this is where Ephesians 1:13-14 lands for us this morning. I hope you’re going to feel it!


Forgotten Spirit

The fact that Ephesians 1:13-14 takes the time to remind us that the Holy Spirit resides within us is a good indicator, I think, of how insensitive we can become to his presence in our lives.


Because, if we were always fully aware of his residence in our souls, based on what Paul tells us in these verses is the significance of Holy Spirit within us, we would never be downcast again! I don’t think.


In that case, no matter what prevailed against us, we would haveeverything we needed to overcome and not doubt, and not fear, and not be anxious, and not despair. The significance of the Holy Spirit in us is that profound and that deep.



The answer to our health-related anxiety is not better medication, it’s the presence of the Holy Spirit. The answer to our financial fears is notthe pay cheque at the end of the month, it’s God in us the hope of glory. The answer to our relational despair is not counselling, it’s the promised Holy Spirit.


That doesn’t mean that medication, or a pay cheque or a counsellor aren’t good things. The driftwood that carried Paul to shore when he was ship wrecked was a good thing.


It means that your hope isn’t in the right place if it’s in the likes of driftwood. Your hope is in the right place only when it is in God who lives within you - who hasn’t left you alone. So that, even when you draw your last breath, you can have unshakable hope. That’s what we’re going to see here.


So, I think we learn here that our appreciation of God in us by his Spirit is one that is easily obscured, for lots of reasons.


Sealed With the Holy Spirit

Let’s look at the text. Verse 13: ‘And you also were included in Christ, when you heard the message of the truth, the gospel of your salvation’. What does ‘included in Christ mean’? It means you were united to him. When you believed the message of the good news of salvation in Jesus, at that moment you were joined to him. Included in him. And according to the end of verse 13, ‘marked in him’.


When you believed, God gave you a mark of identity. It’s a mark that says one thing: you belong to God.

Paul calls the mark a ‘seal’. And for good reason.


The ancient seal was a mark of ownership, like 2 Corinthians 1:21, ‘He anointed us, set his seal of ownership, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come’.

So, this seal that God has set upon us speaks of his ownership of us - we belong to God. We belong to him who made and owns heaven and earth!


The ancient seal was also a mark of authenticity. Like in 1 Corinthians 9:2 when Paul calls the Corinthians ‘the seal of his apostleship’. He means they are the proof that he is a real apostle of God and not a phony. It’s the same here. God’s seal on us shows that we are really his people - we’re not fakes!


And finally, the ancient seal was a mark of protection or security. Like in Matthew 27:66 when the soldiers ‘went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone’. God’s seal on us protects us, keeps us, preserves us from the forces of evil arrayed against us.


And what’s amazing, is that according to verse 13, the seal God has placed on us is none other than the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the evidence we belong to God. The Holy Spirit proves to us that we are real Christians; not fakes. And the Holy Spirit protects us against the evil one – so that we can’t be snatched away.


Deposit

Paul elaborates in verse 14. He says the Holy Spirit is an advance payment that guarantees for us the fullness of the riches which are coming to us down the line.


If you want to buy a house but you don’t have all the funds, you can put down a deposit as security which guarantees that in the future the house will be yours. If you don’t do that, someone else can come and buy it.


Whilst ever the full amount remains outstanding, the completeness of the reality of ownership remains unfulfilled. But, nevertheless, the deposit guarantees that no one can snatch it out of your hand either.

That’s the idea. The Holy Spirit is an advance deposit guaranteeing the fullness of the inheritance which is coming our way in the future.


When will the fullness come? Paul says at the ‘redemption of those who are God’s possession’. By which he means at the point at which God’s people are redeemed from the earth; resurrected to eternal life; given glorified bodies; and made ready to reign with Jesus forever.


The Holy Spirit means that no one can snatch God’s people out of his hand. He is the deposit that preserves us unto eternal life.


Which is why the bible can speak of our salvation in terms of the present and the future, as well as the past. We were saved in Jesus. We are being saved (2 Corinthians 2:15). And we will be saved (1 Peter 1:5) because the Holy Spirit guarantees it now, until the day it happens.


Hope

God has given us as his constant presence in the person of the Spirit of Jesus. And the Spirit does this vital and blessed thing in us - he works hope in us. Look at verse 17. ‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you’.


So, as we’re encountering anxiety-inducing circumstances – as we do. And as doubt arises in our hearts. And as fear sets in. Where can we derive hope from? God is telling us:

‘Don’t you dare hope in this world! I have given you my very own Spirit, who is always with you - a deposit guaranteeing an eternal future and a place amongst my eternal people (end of verse 18) and power greater than all the power of all the suns in the universe– ‘incomparably great power’ (v.19), that you may know the hope to which I have called you in my Son, Jesus Christ.

The inheritance that is waiting for you – my children - is so rich and soglorious that when you behold it you will consider your current troubles, in the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘light and momentary’ and ‘working for you an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all!’ (2 Corinthians 4:17).


Powerful Enough to Raise the Dead

How great is the power of the Holy Spirit? It’s as great, God says, as the mighty strength God exerted when he raised Jesus from dead, verse 20. Which is massively significant because, if it was the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead - and it was, Romans 8:11 says it explicitly - then the promise of Ephesians 1:14 takes on extra meaning.


Verse 14 has the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance throughthe resurrection of our bodies on the day of redemption. How is he a guarantee? He’s the one who raised Jesus from the dead!


If he could raise Jesus, he can certainly raise us too! ‘And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you’. Is that not amazing?


There is no doubt about it, the Holy Spirit is in you, confirming to you, that he will raise you with the same mighty power he used to raise Jesusfrom the dead!


That should make you feel so secure this morning.

How is it that I deserve to enjoy that kind of security? The answer is I don’t, but for some reason, in the inscrutable mind of God, the whole God-head loves me!


The Father loved me before the world. The Son loved me in the world and on the cross. And the Spirit loves me from within, securing me to the end of the world. How then can I not be full of hope?



Revealing the Holy Spirit

Sadly, there is an answer to that question. The answer is because of sin and Satan and the world. All three obscure the Holy Spirit in me. All three blind me to the awesome power we’ve just been talking about.


Sometimes I’m so dull to him that I wouldn’t even recognise he was with me! So, what can I do?


Well there’s plenty of biblical evidence telling us that we can resist and grieve and be less than full of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:20; Acts 7:51; Eph 5:18).


So, if there are things we can do to obstruct and obscure the Holy Spirit, then might there not be things we can do to encounter him; be filled with him; observe his presence? And there surely are.


John 16:13 calls the Spirit, ‘the Spirit of Truth’. It says that ‘the Spirit will guide us into all truth’. And we know that the Word of God is the Word of Truth. So, there’s a dovetailing of the Holy Spirit with the Word of God that brings truth the bear in our hearts.


As we pick up God’s word then, asking the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to speak to us, he can take the Word and confirm its truth to us; illuminate its meaning to us; apply its goodness to us. So as the scriptures light up our hearts, we’re encountering the Spirit of God, and in turn we receive the hope of our future inheritance.


And as you can hear, there’s the role of prayer too. The Holy Spirit is the ‘Spirit of Adoption’ according to Romans 8:15. As sons and daughters of God we have received the Spirit of Adoption and Romans 8:15 says that it’s by the Spirit that ‘we cry Abba! Father!

In prayer we become conscious of God’s Spirit communing with ours and even when we don’t have the words to speak, ‘he intercedes on our behalf with wordless groans’ Romans says.


Surely, we sense his Spirit when we pray, which means that prayer is as vital to Christian hope as is bible reading.


Then there’s the more passive ways we encounter the Spirit. Like the conviction of sin for example. In John 16:8 Jesus says, that when he sends the Advocate (that is the Holy Spirit) he will convict of sin, and righteousness and judgement.


I doubt we feel the Spirit’s presence more acutely or thank him more vociferously than on the occasions that he convicts us of our sin. I just know in those moments that I didn’t arrive at that conviction myself. I arrived at it because of God in me.


Galatians encourages us to look for the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control.

1 Corinthians 12 encourages us to seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

And 2 Corinthians tells us that the Spirit works in God’s people, transforming them into the likeness of Christ - so look for that transformation and you’ll find the marks of the Spirit within.


But let’s just spend the last minute thinking about one more evidence of the Spirit. Romans 5:5 says that ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’.


Love then is a key mark of the Spirit. First amongst the fruits. First and second in the greatest commandments. Love is essential evidence that we are children of God because love comes from the Spirit and only the children of God have the Spirit.


So, John says, ‘Love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God’. (1 John 4:7).


Love for one another then confirms the Spirit within us.

All these are manifestations of the Spirit of God - who is the Spirit of Hope.


What riches of hope God has deposited in us. May he be our steadfast security when our lives are assailed - which they will be this week. May he be our hope above all other hopes.

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