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Ghost Walk

Part 1 - Walking in His Presence

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(10/11) Welcome to our new series "Ghost Walk"; this morning I am going to share with you about "Walking in His Presence" and we will be looking at the Holy Spirit and the role that he plays in the life of the believer. So, if you have your Bible today letís open up to the Gospel of John in the New Testament and weíre going to read from John chapter 14. As you find your place I want to share this storyÖ

Once there was a man who accidentally called the wrong number. As soon as he recognized his mistake he quickly apologized, but the woman who answered wasnít about to let him off that easy. She said, "Thatís okay, but please donít hang up. Iím 83 years old and I am all alone. Can you please talk to me?"

In this day and age, it seems like an impossibility with our worldís population exploding and most people living in crowded urban areas, yet millions of people are feeling isolated and lonely, almost as if they were the only person left on earth. And yet this isnít a new problem, it is as old as the human race, because this problem can be traced all the way back to Adam and Eve. If you remember, in those days, Adam and Eve had each other, they walked and talked with God daily, and so they werenít lonely socially or spiritually. But then they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit from that one tree, spiritually they lost the comforting presence of the Lord. They still had one another, but sin created this great vacuum spiritually in their lives, and mankind has felt this spiritual emptiness ever since. Yet God in his mercy, had enacted a plan to restore this relationship, to restore this fellowship through his Son, Jesus Christ, so that no matter what their social situation, people who know Jesus Christ need not ever be lonely. For God promises, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). You see, unlike the founder of every other world religion who came and taught before going on their way, Jesus Christ came to stay.

In the Gospel of John at chapter 14, Jesus had been comforting his disciples, he was explaining to them that he was going away, he was going to prepare a place for them, but that he assured them that he wasnít leaving them alone. In verses 16 and 17, he said this:

"I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you foreveró the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:16-17, NIV).

The Lord Jesus Christ was just as committed to the care and concern for believers here as he was when he gave himself on the cross. He committed himself to us as believers when he promised to send the Holy Spirit and I want you to understand who the Holy Spirit is. You see, the Holy Spirit isnít just a force, he isnít just a theological fact, and he isnít just a divine being who is out there somewhere in never-never-land. The Holy Spirit is the actual literal presence of Jesus Christ living inside of those who would receive him and receive him we must. The Bible tells us, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ" (Romans 8:9). "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). So we donít have to beg the Holy Spirit to fill us, but instead we simply invite him and welcome him to fill us.

Now I donít know if youíve noticed, but in some churches there is a great under-emphasis of the Holy Spirit. You know, God the Father and God the Son are okay, but when it comes to that other guy, no one wants to talk about Him. They profess to believe in the Trinity, they know that there is a Holy Spirit, but heís kind of like that eccentric uncle that nobody talks about. However, the Bible doesnít hold back when speaking of the Holy Spirit, in fact the Spirit of God is mentioned about 500 times in the Bible. The very first mention of the Spirit of God is in the second verse of the Bible, Genesis chapter 1, where it says, "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (Genesis 1:2). And as we continue flipping through the pages of the Old Testament we find the Spirit of God resting on priests, prophets, and kings. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove; he falls on the people of God at Pentecost, he empowers the Church to speak in other tongues, and do all sorts of miraculous signs. And book after book of the Bible you see the Holy Spirit empowering believers with spiritual gifts to live a successful, victorious, supernatural life. Theyíre empowered by the Spirit to serve and glorify God. Theyíre manifesting the fruit of the Spirit with "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23), in a world that "cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him" (John 14:17). And yet today in many churches you find people living a Spirit-less life when God wants you to live a Spirit-filled and Spirit-empowered life.

1. The Mystery

My goal over the next few weeks is that we would get a biblical understanding of who exactly is the Holy Spirit and the role that he plays in our lives today. First weíre going to look at the mystery of Christ in you. The Bible tells us in Colossians chapter 1 that, "God has chosen to make knownÖ the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27). Concerning our great salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come, searched intently and with the greatest care, the Bible says in first Peter, "Trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1 Peter 1:10-11). Now to us today, a mystery is considered something creepy or frightening, but in the first century the word "mystery" was used to describe the sacred secrets of religion, those things hidden in the past, but now revealed by the Holy Spirit.

This is that one that Jesus called the Counselor and the Spirit of Truth. He is the third person of God in the Trinity; very literally God in Spirit form. And Jesus tells us here in verse 17 that the Counselor is him who comes alongside of or inside the believer in Christ. Heís the one who intercedes for and prays for you. Heís the Holy Spirit, your advocate before God the Father, your helper who comes alongside of you to be a comfort, and to be your friend; yet as I think of that it is often grievously understated.

If we could just imagine ourselves here with the disciples listening to Jesus words, to feel their confusion, anxiety, and fear of a future without Jesus. You know, Heíd just told them, "Where I am going, you cannot follow nowÖ" (John 13:36) and so they had no hope for tomorrow, but Jesus tells them not to be troubled, that heís going to prepare a place for them, and he assures them that they know the way. Yet, understandably they were brokenhearted, because they didnít understand, they didnít know the best was yet to come, they didnít know that there was actually something far better than him in the flesh, and thatís the amazing promise which he makes in John chapter 16, verse sevenÖ

"It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."

This is the Helper, the Intercessor, the Advocate, and the Comforter. This is the Spirit of Truth, the Counselor, the very presence of Living God. And Jesus says in John chapter 14, he assures them in verse 17, "You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." Thatís an amazing promise, but when you look at many Christians today what you often see is people who look no different from the rest of the world. Theyíre still in bondage to the same sins as other people, their prayer lives are monotonous, repetitive, or virtually nonexistent, and theyíre gripped by fear, worry, and anxiety. And though they believe in Jesus, their lives have no real power; because theyíre trying to make do in their own strength, and living apart from the promised power of Christ. Yet God has promised and intended to live in his children so that they may have a Spirit empowered life of victory in Jesus Christ. And yet the world finds that unacceptable.

2. The Misery

The world would rather live in misery then to rely upon the Holy Spirit. The world is content to live without the presence of Christ and it has crept into his Church. In our culture today we find that there is a great attraction to evil spirits, to the demonic, and the dead. Many would say, "Iíve heard of the Holy Spirit" but donít express any interest in learning more about him. For that matter, theyíre more interested in horror movies, mysteries of the supernatural, ghost tours, and things of the occult then they are in seeking God. So they donít really know who he is or what he does. And even in many churches today, they know there is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit but that is the extent of it. The powerful presence of the Holy Spirit remains a mystery and though there are many reasons one obvious reason is that some people are unaware of the Holy Spirit.

Thereís an interesting story recorded in the book of Acts in chapter 19, verses one through six, where the apostle Paul had arrived back in Ephesus and met some men who professed to be Christians, but whose lives gave evidence that something was lacking. Paul immediately asked, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit" (Acts 19:2). Reading further we discover that they were baptized by John the Baptist, theyíd heard about Jesus, they knew John the Baptist, but hadnít even heard of the Holy Spirit. And there may be some of you who may be in a very similar situation; where maybe youíve heard about him, but thatís about it.

Or maybe in all sincerity you might ask, "Who is the Holy Spirit?" because you donít understand anything about him. And let me assure you, that there are professing Christians all over the world who are going through life without Godís power, without victory, and without strength. Today you need to know that there is a spiritual power available to believers through God the Holy Spirit that is greater than you could ever imagine. The apostle Paul prayed in his letter to the Ephesians that this unknown power would be known in the church. He writes, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may knowÖhis incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the deadÖ" (Ephesians 1:18-20). This same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to fill you, to comfort you, counsel you, convict you, and empower you; yet so many people are simply unaware.

Others are trudging through life without the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit, because theyíve resisted the Holy Spirit and have grieved him (Ephesians 4:30). Heís like that uninvited guest who just dropped by, or that person who butted into your conversation, and yet youíve resisted that divine interruption. And this may be many of you, and I know, because there are times when I am guilty of this too, when the Holy Spirit has prompted you to do something and you resist. Or maybe you are about to do something thatís not right and the Holy Spirit convicts you, but you do it anyway because you want to. And some of you have resisted the Holy Spirit for so long that your heart has become hardened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts chapter 7, a man named Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest authority in all of Israel, to be judged for preaching that Jesus was the Christ. As he was given the opportunity to speak they were captivated by his understanding of the Scriptures. His message so powerful that they were spellbound, but as he got to his main point they were provoked to rage when he said, "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!" (Acts 7:51). At this point, they became furious and yelling at the top of their voices they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

Maybe this morning you are not sure if the Holy Spirit prompts you, leads you or speaks to you; but it could be that youíve become desensitized to Godís prompting. Youíve resisted the Holy Spirit so often that your heart has become hard. And Iíll admit, Iíve learned through my failures, to welcome the leading of Godís Holy Spirit, and to recognize and try very hard not to resist when I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me. And very simply, if itís something that is for the good of others and may bring glory to God I just assume that itís the Holy Spirit. If Iím feeling convicted not to do something that I know is wrong I assume that itís the Holy Spirit. If Iím prompted to do something that is going to be a blessing to others I assume that it is the Holy Spirit.

And so I welcome the Holy Spirit ministering to me and working through me. I donít want to resist, because the power of the Holy Spirit is not something under my control, but instead I want to be under the Holy Spiritís control. I donít want to resist God or to grieve God, because I know that he wonít push himself on me, and I donít want my heart to become hardened, to become so hard that I no longer recognize the promptings of the Spirit of God. And so for the remainder of our time together, I want to share with you several different ways that the Holy Spirit can minister to us who believe.

3. The Ministry

The first thing I want to share with you regarding the ministry of the Spirit is that when you are hurting, God will comfort you. In the King James Version Jesus says, "I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever" (John 14:16). This is the presence of God, the Holy Spirit; he is called a Comforter, and he will comfort you when youíre hurting. And some of you right now know that, because youíre going through something difficult right now, and even though youíre hurting, you can sense his comfort. You know that heís here, you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit, and heís comforting you right at this very moment, heís comforting you with the peace which "transcends all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). Itís the Comforting presence of God the Holy Spirit.

And Iíll tell you, I cared for, prayed for, and supported my wife when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. We had so much of our lives ahead of us when we found ourselves facing this traumatic, life-threatening battle. She went through the whole mastectomy thing and we prayed, we read healing Scriptures, we listened to worship music, and the Holy Spirit comforted us every single day. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter and he can comfort you in whatever it is that youíre going through.

Secondly, right out of our text, in verse 16, he is our "Counselor." The Holy Spirit can counsel you, guide you, and direct you when you donít know what to do. The Bible says it this way in John chapter 16 at verse 13, "When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth" (NIV). The Holy Spirit, is the voice of God giving us direction, wisdom, and discernment. And long before anyone even dreamed about Global Positioning Systems the prophet Isaiah tells us, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). God the Holy Spirit is our spiritual GPS. He is that little voice that says, "This is the way; walk in it."

And so God is always ready to give us his wise counsel. He longs for us to tune in to his voice and allow him to direct us in the way of joy and victory. Itís an incredible thing to hear God say, "This is the way; walk in it." But that is Godís greatest desire that we would cry out to him, that we would seek him, not walking by sight, but walking by faith, and allowing him to work in our lives through the constant presence of his Spirit. The voice of the Spirit will comfort you and counsel you.

The third way that the Holy Spirit ministers to us is that he convicts us. Jesus said, "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8). Now you mothers are especially effective in this area. I believe itís a spiritual gift mothers have. You know, even if you havenít done anything wrong, one look from Mom will have you confessing something, right? That "look" is a unique ability that mothers have. And even today, there are those of you who are being convicted by the Holy Spirit that there is something in your life that is not as it should be. Youíre feeling this sense of guilt and I havenít even said anything. Thatís the presence of the Holy Spirit convicting you. And others of you are being drawn to God right now and you donít know why; but itís the Holy Spirit convicting you of your need for God.

Jesus said, "The Holy Spirit "will convict the worldÖin regard to sin because men do not believe in me" (John 16:9). Another way to translate the phrase "to convict" is "to convince." The Holy Spirit wants to convince us not just of certain sins, but to get to the root of our sin, and that is of not believing in Jesus Christ. You see, when we stand before God it will not be as much a sin issue as it will be a "Son" issue. And the beautiful thing is that there are those of you here today who are under that conviction.

The Holy Spirit is here and youíre being drawn to God. You can surrender to him or you can resist him, but God set a certain day saying, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (Hebrews 4:7). Donít resist that gentle voice of the Spirit of God that would draw you to himself. God the Father loves you so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, who lived a sinless life, who died and rose again, so that you could know him, be empowered by him through his Holy Spirit, to live a life that would please, honor, and glorify God. Would you come to Christ today and receive the Holy Spirit?

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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