We are not left alone
Christianity is not a religion of self-effort or self-improvement. It does not require people to do certain things to find God or to please him or to get his forgiveness - perhaps by praying or doing good works or obeying certain religious rules. From start to finish, Christianity is about what God has done for us, and goes on doing for us! We are not left alone to struggle on in self-effort. God himself has made provision for us to know his presence and receive his help through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ disciples were once anxious when he started to talk about leaving them. He met their fears with a promise – a promise that they would not be left alone, because he was going to send God’s Spirit to them.
Read: John 14 v15-18, v25-27
Ask: What promises does Jesus make here?
If you are going to live the Christian life in the way that God intends, you too need the Holy Spirit. Without him, you will end up frustrated, weary and defeated – living life at a level below what God has planned for you. But with him, life is transformed.
The Holy Spirit is not some ‘optional extra’ to help us in our Christian life – he is what makes the Christian life both real and possible! In fact, without him, there is no Christian life.
He has always been there
However, the Holy Spirit didn’t suddenly appear when Jesus returned to heaven – as a kind of ‘Jesus substitute’. The Holy Spirit has always been there and has always been at work, right from the very beginning.
1. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
As we look at the Old Testament, it is clear that the Holy Spirit has always been involved in a wide range of activities.
Look at the following passages (there are lots more we could have looked at) and note down how the Holy Spirit was involved:
Genesis 1 v1-2
Exodus 31 v1-5
Numbers 11 v16-17, 24-30
Judges 15 v14-16
Job 33 v4
Ezekiel 2 v1-2
2. The promise of something better
While the Holy Spirit was clearly at work in Old Testament times, it seems that he was only given either to ‘special’ people or for ‘special’ occasions. However, some of the prophets saw that a day was coming when God was going to do something amazing – he was going to give his Holy Spirit to all his people. And this would lead to a change in their very hearts!
Read: Joel 2 v28-29
Ezekiel 36 v26-27
Ask: What stands out to you about these promises?
Peter quoted from Joel’s prophecy on the Day of Pentecost – the day when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples – to show that what they were experiencing was simply what God had promised long ago and that therefore no one should be surprised by it.
Read: Acts 2 v1-18; 36-39
We are certainly among those whom Peter described as being ‘far off’ (v39). That means that this promise is for us too!
But before we look at how we can receive this promised Holy Spirit, there is one more thing we need to look at; and that is – exactly what do we mean by the Holy Spirit? What – or who – is he? We'll look at that tomorrow.
Pray: Ask God to grow your sense of expectancy that you will fully encounter the promised Holy Spirit.
© Oxfordshire Community Churches 1999