Charles Stanley - The Holy Spirit, An Absolute Essential
Have you ever wondered why you don't make any more progress than you do in your Christian life? In fact, you look back last month or last year or ten years ago and you have to ask yourself the question, "Well, why don't I love God any more than I used to? Why don't I have a deeper hunger for Him? Why don't I read the Bible any more than I used to? Why don't I give more than I used to give? What's happening in my life? Am I stagnant? What's going on in my Christian life that I don't seem to make any progress"?
In fact, you look at your life and you realize that you are still hesitating to share your faith. You still hesitate to take a place of service in your church. You still hesitate to tithe. You're still battling over the same old habits that you used to battle over a long time ago. You're still wondering why God doesn't seem to answer your prayers as you'd like. You know that you're saved. You go to church, you read your Bible, you pray at times. And yet you know that something is missing in your life. What is it that's causing you to realize in your life that there's probably more stagnation than growth, more failure than success, and more emptiness than joy?
Well, I think there probably could be a number of reasons, but there's one primary reason I believe that most people continue failing in all those areas, and that's what I want to talk about in this message. And I want you to listen very carefully, because if you'll listen carefully and apply this message to your life, then you're gonna get out of that stage of stagnation. You're gonna begin to see God work in your life in a different kind of way. That emptiness is gonna get full of joy. And you're gonna begin to take on a whole new perspective of the Christian life. You're going to begin to experience the thrill of knowing who Jesus Christ is personally and the thrill of serving Him and the thrill of watching Him bless you in ways that you have never been blessed before.
So, I want you to turn if you will to Luke chapter twenty-four. That's the last chapter in the Gospel of Luke. And I want us to turn if you will to begin in the thirty-sixth verse. And let me give you a little background of what's happening. Jesus has risen, and the passage before this, He met those two disciples on the Emmaus road. And you recall, they were walking along and Jesus appeared with them and began to talk with them and explain to them what had happened when they asked him, "Well, haven't You heard about the crucifixion and so forth"? And so He began to explain to them what happened. And then toward the end of the journey He reveals Himself, and then He disappears. Well, they are back now with the other disciples, telling them what happened.
So verse thirty-six says, "And while they were telling these things, He himself appeared in their midst. But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.' And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, He said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'"
Referring to all of those prophecies in the Old Testament. "Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.'" And then listen to this forty-ninth verse, what He said to them. He said, "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city," that is, the city of Jerusalem, "until you are clothed with power from on high".
Why in the world would He say to these disciples, "You're to stay in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high"? Well, you know, one of the amazing things, when I think about how many people sit in church week after week and they listen to sermons and they sing songs and pray prayers and go through all the things that people usually do in different types of churches, and somehow, they're still not growing. Because the natural normal thing would be for us to grow in our relationship to Him and our love for Him, our devotion to Him, our gifts to Him. We should be more excited, for example, today about sharing our faith than ever before. But oftentimes that's not the case. Well, the reason is because oftentimes people will go through their whole life and never understand the absolute essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in their life.
The title of this message is "The Holy Spirit: An Absolute Essential". Now, one of the things that I'd like to do is to answer several questions about the Holy Spirit in this message, several questions that oftentimes people sorta overlook. And if you ask the average person today, who is the Holy Spirit? I guarantee you most people would stumble around trying to define who He is. So what I'd like to do in this message is first of all answer this question: Who is the Holy Spirit? First of all, the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity, that's who He is.
And if you'll turn to Genesis chapter one and you'll recall in the very first chapter of the Bible, first book of the Bible, and the second verse, here's what you'll discover. You'll discover the scripture says: "And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was upon the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters". Then if you'll notice in the twenty-sixth verse of the same chapter, again the Bible says, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'" Who is "us"? Us is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
And for example, if you will recall also, there are many, many passages, but if you'll look in John chapter fifteen for a moment, and if you'll notice in this fifteenth chapter, there's a verse here I want you to notice. Because here is, here is the Trinity all in one verse. And the twenty-sixth verse says, Jesus speaking in the upper room, "When the Helper," capital H, "comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me". God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, all in this one verse. And notice, "when the Helper comes". A helper couldn't be a something, He is a somebody. When the Helper, who is the Spirit, whom I, Jesus, will send to you from the Father. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, all at work.
Now if somebody says, "Well, now who is the Holy Spirit"? What are you gonna say? He is a person of the Trinity. The second thing I want you to notice about Him is He is the promise of the Father. And if you'll notice in this forty-ninth verse, listen to what Jesus said. He said, "Behold, I'm sending forth the promise of My Father upon you. But you're to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high". He's the promise of the Father. God promised to send the person of the Holy Spirit, and He promised to send Him as the Helper. Now, the very fact that He is called a Helper is an implication that He is certainly somebody and not a thing. And so He's a person of the Trinity. He is the promise of the Father.
And if you'll recall, for example, Jesus said in that fourteenth chapter of John, you may just want to put your blue ribbon somewhere in the fourteenth, fifteenth chapter. He said, "I will ask the Father," in verse sixteen, "He will give you another," and that "another" is "another just like me," "allos" is the Greek word. It means another just like this one. He says, "I'm gonna send you somebody like me". Notice what He says. "And He will be," He says, "another Helper, that He may be with you". You see, Jesus didn't call the Holy Spirit, He didn't say that it may be with you, but He may be with you. A person of the Trinity, the promise of the Father.
"That is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it doesn't behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you". And what He's saying is, this is not some force, some power. This is the person of the Godhead. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the three persons of the Godhead who make up the Trinity. And so therefore, when He said, "Let us make man in our image," God the Father, God the Son, Holy Spirit. And here He's saying, "Whom the Father will send in My name, He will be with you and He will abide with you". For how long? Forever. So He is a person of the Trinity. He's the promise of the Father. Listen, He is the gift to every believer.
Look if you will in Acts chapter two and verse thirty-eight. You'll recall in this passage that this is the sermon that Peter preached at Pentecost. And that sermon was so powerful, they said when he was about finished, "Men and brethren, what shall we do"? And here's what He said in verse eight, verse thirty-eight: "And Peter said to them, 'Repent, let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
The Holy Spirit is not somebody we pray to get. The Holy Spirit is not someone we work for to get. And growing up in the church that I grew up in, what happens after you were saved? You were to come to the altar at some time, whenever you were under conviction, and you were to pray to get the Holy Spirit. That's what they said. "Now you need to get the Holy Spirit. You need to get the baptism of the Spirit. You need to get this, that, and the other. But you're to get the Spirit". And somehow in their misconception of the work of the Spirit, they believe that you were saved and then, at some other point in life, you got the Holy Spirit.
Listen, when you were saved, the Spirit of God sealed you at that moment as a child of God. He came to indwell you. And the Bible distinguishes between believers and unbelievers as those who are indwelt by the Spirit and those who are not indwelt by the Spirit. Not by conduct, though that's important. Not by behavior, though that's important. But the fact that we are either sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit or we are not. Now when somebody says to you, without looking at your notes, when somebody says to you, "Well, tell me, who is the Holy Spirit"? You're first of all gonna say He is, what? He's the person of the Trinity, the promise of the Father, and the gift to every believer.
Now, you got a little weak on that last one. Give 'em to me again. First of all, He is who? The person of the Trinity, promise of the Father, and the gift to every believer. Which means that every single one of you who's trusted Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit. You don't have to get Him. The Baptism of the Spirit is not something that you get. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit at your salvation when He places you in Christ and makes you a part of the whole body of Christ. And so that's what he was referring to in First Corinthians chapter twelve when He talks about baptizing us into Christ Jesus, making us one of His. And in the third chapter of John, when Jesus and Nicodemus are talking and He says, "that which is born of the Spirit".
The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts us of sin. He's the one who brings us to the realization and the understanding so that you and I understand how to be saved, we understand what it means to believe in Jesus, we understand what it means that He died for our sins. That's all the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing, unveiling, and giving us understanding of His ministry. And so therefore, when somebody says, "Well, who is, who is He"? We know that He indeed, without a doubt, is not a thing, He's not a force, and He's not a power. He is a somebody. He is indeed the gift to every single believer. Well, the question comes then, "Well, if that's true of Him, then why did He come? That is, why did He come"?
So, I want you to go back to Luke chapter twenty-four a moment; look at that forty-ninth verse again. Why did He come? Listen to what He said to them. He said, "Now, behold, I'm sending forth a promise of My Father, which is the Holy Spirit". Now He says, "What you must do is you must sit down in the city of Jerusalem and just wait". Now I can imagine that they thought, "Well, that's a waste of time; You've given us the great commission and we ought to be out here doing the work". And He said, "You're not ready. You're not ready to do the work that I've called you to do. You're not even ready to live the life that I've called you to live".
So, He says there are two reasons, two primary reasons, God the Father sent the Holy Spirit into this life. First of all, He sent the Holy Spirit into your life and mine in order to, number one, enable us to do the work God has called us to do. Number one, to enable us to do the work God has called us to do. When somebody says to you, "Well, why did He come"? What are you gonna say? To enable us to do the work that God has called us to do. Now let me say right up front, that does not mean just preach. That means that God, through the Holy Spirit, who has gifted you with your personality, your background, your birth and all that God fused into your being even before you were born and all that He has built into your personality, God, through the Holy Spirit, has gifted you.
We have different gifts. The gift of service, the gift of giving, exhortation, prophecy, mercy, teaching, all of these gifts. Many, many gifts in the scriptures. And so, every single believer has been gifted by the Holy Spirit. Now, just the fact that we have been gifted by Him does not make us adequate. He said to those disciples who had walked with Him, listened to Him, and watched Him, "Sit down until you be clothed with power from on high". That is, even though they had been in His school for three years, they were not ready. Listen, knowing what to do and how to do it and when to do it did not make them ready. Now, oftentimes we limit the power and the work of the Holy Spirit to some service inside the church. God has equipped you.
Now, probably some of you chose the occupation you're in. You didn't ask God what He wanted you to do. You went to college. You chose your own major. You never asked Him what it was He wanted you to do. You see, you and I do our best when we're doing what God has called us to do and when we're operating out of our spiritual gift. Now, for example, let's say that here's a person who has the gift of organization. A person with the gift of organization, that's their spiritual gift. You put them in some role where they cannot organize anything and cannot administrate anything and they're just shuffling paper, they won't last long, because everything in them wants to get in charge, wants to get in control. And they see things in confusion; they want to take charge. Why? That's their gift.
You can take each one of the spiritual gifts and you take a person, put them in their spiritual gift and help them understand how to operate out of that gift, you're gonna see a person who begins to reach toward the maximum of their potential to fulfill God's purpose in their life. That's why it's so very important you ask the Lord, "Lord, what would You have me to do? Where would You have me to do it? What vocation, what job would You have"? Because you want to exercise the gift that God has given you where He has taught you and where He has led you in your life. So therefore, He sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to do the work that God has called us to do.
Now, God is at work in the hearts of His people. And He does not want us doing it in our own strength. When we do it in our own strength, we get what we can do. When we do it in the strength and the power of God, we get what God can do. Supernatural work can only be done in supernatural power, and supernatural power only comes from the presence and the power of the Spirit of God in your life and mine. Now when somebody says to you, "Well, now tell me again: Why did He come"? What are you gonna say? He came in order to enable us to do the work that God has called us to do. Right, now, there's a second reason He came, and that is He came in order to enable us to live the life that God has called us to live. You see, one of the reasons that so many people fail in their Christian life over and over and over again is because they're trying to live it in their own strength.
Now as we've said before, all of us have that naturalness within us. We are the children of God, we have the Spirit of God living on the inside of us, but we also have our naturalness that's left over. I mean, it's there. We have our five senses. We have our desires, our natural, normal God-given desires which are to be exercised under the control of the Spirit. So, there we are. Now, somebody says, "Well, I have a difficult time living the Christian life". Join the whole crowd! Because the truth is, in this wicked world we live in, we all have difficulty at times. We run into situations and circumstances and temptations and trials and difficulties and criticism and gossip and persecution and trouble on the job, whatever it may be. There are all kinds of difficulties we have to face.
Well, how are we to live the Christian life? Well, we're to try hard and try harder and harder and harder and harder. And the harder you try, the more you fail, amen? The harder you try, the more you fail. You say, "I've tried and tried and tried and tried". And you know what God's waiting for? He's waiting for us to fall so flat, we won't even get up and try again. We'll say, "God, out of absolute desperation, if You don't do it, I've had it"! And I think when we say "I've had it," God says, "Praise, praise, praise! You finally got caught up with what I've been trying to do in your life all these years".
I believe one of the most freeing moments of my life, and I remember I was a pastor in Miami at that time. One of the most freeing moments of my life is when I realized that God did not ever intend for me to live the Christian life. Now, I know that sounds like a real contradiction. What do you mean He didn't intend for you to live the Christian life? What kind of life are you living? Well, because what I want you to see is this. Those disciples couldn't live it. They walked with Him. Look at Peter, for example. Jesus always having to say, "Peter, relax. Just take it easy". I mean, Peter's saying, "That's not gonna happen to You".
Here's God the Son speaking about what's gonna happen to Him, and Peter says, "It's not gonna happen that way". As if he knew better than Jesus! And finally, Jesus had to say to him, "You're acting like the devil". And then, of course, you remember, he wants to fight in the garden. Of course, any of us who'd have been loyal to Jesus should have had the same attitude. But he just, I think he enjoyed whacking off ears probably; but Peter, that's his personality. "Let's get out there and make it happen. We're gonna make it happen". And so, he wasn't ready to live the Christian life. He wasn't ready to do the work that God had called him to do until something dramatic happened to him. Brought to his knees by his own failure.
And the one thing, probably, the one thing above everything else Peter would have said. Well, he said to Jesus, he said, "Now listen. They may all leave You, but You can trust the rock". Can't you hear him saying that? You can trust the rock, Jesus. You can bet on Peter when everybody else is gone. What did he do? He couldn't even stand up to a teenage girl by the fire. He said, "I don't even know Him". Probably the one thing that the Apostle Peter never got over his whole life.
I imagine that ricocheted through his mind many nights when he went to bed. I remember no matter how much he knew that God had forgiven him and cleansed him and blessed him and how God was using him later on in his life, for him to recall that moment in his life when he weakened to the point that he even, listen, did not say "I'm not a follower". He said, "I don't, I don't know this man". That must have brought him to his knees, kept him on his face. It absolutely shattered him and broke him. He had to be broken before God could work in his life to the fullest. That broken, shattered Peter who sinned the sin probably above most sins, and that is to deny that you even know the Lord Jesus Christ.
What happened? Filled by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. He's the preacher of Pentecost. He's the man God uses when Pentecost comes, when the Spirit of God comes, to anoint and to indwell the church and every single believer from that moment on. But He had to take a man who was broken by his own sin. The one thing God hates is pride, and therefore, He's not gonna let any of us do it in our own strength. Failure after failure after failure, listen, is God's avenue to bring you and me to the point of recognizing that the Spirit of God came in order to enable us to live the life we cannot live apart from Him.
Now you say, "Well, now, but what's my responsibility? How do I get this to working in my life? What is my personal responsibility"? Well, first of all, I think there are two or three things here that I've mentioned, and if I'm going to live under the prevailing control of the Spirit, then I must be filled with the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit means that at that moment in my life I am living under His prevailing control, so it requires surrender on my part. Now, when somebody says, "What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit"? It means that the Holy Spirit who lives within you is in control at that moment. Well, how long can I live under the control of the Holy Spirit? As long as I choose.
You see, every time you and I make a decision, that decision determines whether I remain filled or not filled, because the Spirit of God can't be in control along with me. Either He's in control or I get in control. My flesh, my naturalness, naturally wants to be in control, but the Spirit of God desires to be in control. You and I are the ones who make the final determination. Will I yield to the Spirit, or am I gonna do what I want to do? So, if I'm going to allow the Holy Spirit to work in my life to accomplish what God has set me out to accomplish and to be the person God wants me to be, then first of all, I must be filled with the Spirit, which means I must operate on the basis of His prevailing control in my life. What is required of that? First of all, I must look at my life and see if there's any sin there, because you see, His prevailing control, I have to decide, am I in charge here or is He in charge?
So first of all, there is repentance of all known sin. As long as I hold any aspect of my life for myself, for me, in spite of everything else, then He is not in control. Well, somebody says, "Well, now, you know, I've given Him about ninety percent". As long as you've got ten percent, He's not in control, because your ten percent can lead you in all kinds of directions. The question is, do I want the Spirit of God to be in control of my life? If He's in control, then I've gotta surrender. Now, I'm not telling you that's easy. Sometime it's tough! Sometime it's difficult. Sometimes you say, may say, "God, I want to be full of the Spirit, but I'm not willing to go that route".
I want to tell you, there's only one route, hm, hm. There's only one route, and you know where that route is? God's route. Is it rocky? Yes. Is it rough? Yes. Is it uphill? Yes. Is it downhill? Yes. Can you fall off the cliff? If you're not careful, yes, you can. That is, I'm not saying that yieldedness to the will of the Father is easy. I'm not saying that. But it is absolutely required. If He's gonna prevail in His control, I gotta give up control. What does that require? Repentance of my sin, asking the Holy Spirit to fill me, and believing that He does. He says, "This is the confidence that I have in Him, that if I ask anything according to His will, He hears me. And if I know that He hears me, I know that I have the petition that I desired of Him".
I know one thing for certain. It's His will for every single one of us to be filled with His Spirit and live under His control. So I don't have to pray, "God, fill me with the Holy Spirit if it's Your will. Let me walk in Your Spirit if it's Your will". You can forget the "if" business in that request. That's the will of God for every single one of us. Being willing to walk yielded to Him. That's what He's after in every one of our lives. Because you see, in order for Him to accomplish His purpose for sending the Spirit, He must have control of my life. In order for Him to accomplish His purpose for sending His Spirit into my life to live through me His life, I have to be under His control.
So, the question is this. Are you happy where you are in your Christian life? Do you have a greater love for God today than you did a year ago? Do you love His Word more? Are you more interested in winning people to Jesus and sharing your faith with them? Are you more interested in giving more than a tithe than you used to be? Are you interested in serving the Lord? Can you, listen, as you look at your life, what are the evidences? Listen, what are the down-to-earth, practical, daily kind of write-them-down evidences that you and I can give that spiritually we are not where we were a year or so ago? We are further along in our spiritual growth and our love and our devotion to Jesus Christ. What evidence is there? If you can't write it down, more than likely you can't come up with any.
Now the question is this. He sent Him; He is absolutely essential for you to accomplish, listen, in your life, in your vocation, not just serving the Lord. Serving the Lord at church, yes, but in your vocation, if you want God's best, if you want His best, if you want to make progress, and in your spiritual life, you want to make progress in every aspect of your life? Total surrender. Is it easy? No. Will it cause weeping in some people's lives? Yes. Will it mean giving up some things you love? Yes. Who makes that decision? You do. And you know what? Not even you and I can make it apart from His strength. We may have to say, "God, I don't want to. Lord, I want to, but I don't want to. God, I want to, but I don't want to. Please do, but don't mess with this".
Back and forth and back and forth till finally we say, "God, have it Your way". And you know what? His way is absolutely the best! You can't beat the best. And whatever God does is the best. And I want to encourage you, if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your savior, you've gotta go it alone. Listen, you can't claim His strength, His power, His wisdom, His knowledge, His understanding. You can't claim anything. If you're not a believer, you can't claim anything. You've got to go life alone.
And some of you are single mothers or single fathers. And some of you are alcoholics, drug addicts, or you've got some other habit or major problem in your life. And you can't do it. You've tried your best and you absolutely cannot. Or you may be a believer and you've got a very poor self-image, and you've tried and tried and tried and you can't get folks to love you no matter what. Or you may have a great sense of rejection, and somehow you just feel excluded no matter what you do. You see, there's a thousand problems out there. And I'm here to tell you that the Spirit of God will zero in in your life in a loving way. And what will He do? He'll sift and sand and cleanse till He can get you absolutely surrendered to Him, and then you'll taste of life.
And listen, you'll get a taste of something you have never tasted of before, and this world can't match it! I want to encourage you to...you say, "Well, what do you mean, surrender my life to Jesus"? I mean simply this. You ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins. You tell Him that you believe the witness of scripture, that when Jesus died at Calvary, He took your sin-debt in full, and that if you ask Him to forgive you of your sins, He will on the basis of the death of Jesus who paid your sin-debt for you. And He said, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved".
You can be saved right now. All you have to do is to say to Him, "Father, I want You to forgive me of my sins. I do receive Jesus Christ as my personal savior. Here is my life". And that moment, you become a child of God, the Spirit of God indwells you, the Spirit of God seals you, and everything I've been talking about begins operation in your life. Now what about all of us who've been a Christian a long time? You know what, I look at my life sometime, I think, "God, I'm absolutely inexcusable". Cannot excuse anything but total surrender.
And I just ask you this question one more time. Do you have a greater love for God than you did a few years ago? Do you understand His Word better? Do you have a greater hunger to serve Him? Are you more available to Him than you used to be? Are you still fretting over, still struggling with, still stingy with God's tithe and keeping it for yourself? Are you still spending God's money on things for yourself and wondering why you don't get ahead financially? Are you still hesitating to tell anybody about Christ? Are you still struggling over reading the Bible daily? Are you still wondering why God isn't answering prayers, big prayers that you're praying and big needs that you have? Are you still wondering why God doesn't meet needs in your life that you know that are so absolutely essential? All those things you're wondering about.
Here's what happens. When you and I surrender ourselves to the prevailing control of the Spirit, then He takes control and He begins to straighten out all the messes we make in our life. And the question is, do you want the prevailing control of the Spirit of God in your life and see what He will do if you'll let Him have His way?