Ephesians 1:13&14 “Having 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.”
Some Christian men and women have had breathtaking religious experiences. I have been reading the life of the American preacher Jonathan Edwards, and there were times when a new delight in God was given to him. He had such experiences when he was a student, and again at a few other times in his life. He describes some of them in these ways:
“I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the Holy Scripture, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt an harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light, exhibited in every sentence, and such refreshing ravishing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading. I used often to dwell on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders. Sometimes only mentioning a single word, caused my heart to burn within me; or only seeing the name of Christ, or the name of some attribute of God.”
This experience was directly related to God’s special revelation in his word. It was a response to that. It was no new revelation. Then Edwards speaks of the fruit of meditation on the Word: “Heaven appeared to me exceeding delightful as a world of love. It appeared to me that all happiness consisted in living in pure, humble, heavenly, divine love. . . I have loved the doctrines of the gospel: they have been to my soul like green pastures. The gospel has seemed to me to be the richest treasure; the treasure that I have most desired, and longed that it might dwell richly in me. The way of salvation by Christ, has appeared in a general way, glorious and excellent, and most pleasant and beautiful.”
Edwards’ experiences are all the fruit of deep reflection on the Bible. There was an occasion when he was reading these words in I Timothy 1:17, “Now unto the king eternal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen.” He had heard these words countless times. They were a proof text for the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but here the implications of the incomprehensible greatness of the Lord of the universe, the truly eternal One and all wise One leaped out at him. As Edwards read these words, he recalled, “there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the divine being; a new sense, quite different from anything I ever experienced before.” He was so much enraptured that, as he put it, “I thought with myself how excellent a Being that was; and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be wrapped up to God in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him.” He kept repeating the verse, “Now unto the king eternal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen.” He says that he was as it were singing over these words of Scripture to himself . . . “and I prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do; with a new sort of affection.”
Edwards wandered in the fields, woods, and hills near his home for his meditations and he saw in a new way the glory and beauty of God’s love in Christ. He experienced an “inward sweet sense” of Christ’s love expressed in “the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him.” He spent much time reading the Song of Songs. In the fields he would often contemplate the words “I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley” (Cant. 2:1). He said, “The words seemed to me, sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ.” Such contemplations would carry him away “from all the concerns of the world” into “a kind of vision… of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapped and swallowed up in God.” This new sense of divine things “would often, all of a sudden as it were, kindle up a sweet burning in my heart; an ardour of my soul, that I know not how to express.”
One day in the spring he came home from college and he’d been talking to his father about what had happened to him. Jonathan recalled that he was “pretty much affected” by this conversation, and when it ended he walked alone into the fields for contemplation. “And as I was walking there,” he reported, “and looked up on the sky and clouds; there came into my mind, a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express.” What overwhelmed him were two seemingly opposite attributes of the triune God in conjunction, “majesty and meekness joined together: it was a sweet and gentle, holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness.”
So there is Edwards trying to describe this deeply personal religious experience without falling into cliches, and he does so wonderfully well. They are all his response to what God has said to us in the Bible. The danger of these stories is to suggest that they are common, and are the proof of the Spirit in a ordinary believer. If that is suggested then they can depress Christians. The fact is that such experiences are abnormal. They were unusual even for Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. I quote them to emphasise that in times of unusual blessing God works in unusual ways, and to plead with you to find a place for them in your theological universe. I quote them to emphasise the deeply experiential nature of the indwelling Spirit. His presence is not like having the English language inside you, or the flu injection, or like being a British citizen, – that is, something non-experiential of which we are rarely conscious. God the Holy Spirit leads us and enlightens and energises us every hour of the day, and there are these rare times when he will make his presence known in our lives in such ways as those beautiful experiences of the divine. We also must do our part, not grieving his Spirit and in the law of the Lord meditating day and night. There is no other way to such heights of blessedness.
We are celebrating the centenary of the 1904 revival in Wales, and though there were some sad aspects to that flawed work of God yet many Christians then began a closer walk with God. Their hearts were filled with the Holy Spirit. My grandmother’s brother was transformed at that time and he had an impact on the life of my mother a decade later. There were many like him. I would speak at the Bodlondeb home for the elderly here in Aberystwyth and pint-sized Mrs. Harris would regularly get up and thank me and turn to the other old people there and tell them to listen to what they had heard, because she had come to know the Lord in 1904 and he had been a faithful Saviour to her ever since. There were thousands of people like that. When Dr Gresham Machen came to Porth on his only visit to South Wales in the 1920s he was struck how the people he talked to dated things before or after the revival. It was a life-changing time. Before the revival the creation didn’t impress them with a supernatural splendour. The stars were just distant balls of burning gas, while clouds simply brought rain, and thunder was something that rattles windows and gives you a shock. But then God poured out his Spirit and everything changed: “Heaven above was softer blue: earth around was sweeter green. Something glowed in every hue Christless eyes had never seen.”. If, like Jonathan Edwards, you possess the Holy Spirit then there may come times of love, joy and peace in believing, but they can never be the definitive evidence that you are a Christian. That must always reside in the huge moral emphasis of the Christian faith, that you are seeking to live the life of the Sermon on the Mount and what is described in the closing chapters of a number of the Pauline epistles. Then also that you believe the doctrines of Christianity, that teaching found so comprehensively in the letter to the Romans. The ethical and the doctrinal tests are always the foundational marks of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, not the ecstatic, and not the presence of gifts. Both those tests come together in Jesus Christ. You want to live like him and you want to believe what he teaches because you love him for being your Lord and Saviour. That is the great mark that a person has the indwelling Spirit.
Let’s step back and go to the beginning of the Christian life. It all starts with the Spirit; our conception itself is spiritual It is not that after years with Christ in nursery school we advance to graduate school and then begin to deal with the Spirit. We are actually born into the family of God by the Spirit. Our first breath and first movement in Christ is by the Spirit. If any man has not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his. There cannot be a Spirit-absent Christian. Yet there cannot be a Christian whose life does not revolve around the Lord Jesus. Paul writes in our text that “Having 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” (vv. 13&14).
1. THE MERE CHRISTIAN HAS THE HOLY SPIRIT.
What is the mark of your having the Holy Spirit? You speak in tongues? No. You prophesy? No. You have experiences like Jonathan Edwards and his wife? No. You live in revival days? No. None of those things are the mark of having the Holy Spirit. Two things are in our text – first, ‘having believed’ (v.13) in Christ. He was all your hope and plea. You put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not perfect faith, nor infallible trust, but you believed right into the Lord Jesus Christ and you were saved. We receive the promise of the Spirit by faith, Paul tells the Galatians.
Again there is another way we know we have the Spirit; see those words “in him” in verse 13: “you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (v.13). How many people have the Holy Spirit? Everyone who is in Christ. It is impossible to be in Christ and not be in the Spirit also. If you know that there is no condemnation for you because you are in Christ Jesus then just as certainly you are in the Spirit, maybe not the most spiritually mature of Christians but a real Christian nonetheless.
So who is this Spirit who is active in the lives of his people?
i] He is the promised Holy Spirit (v.13). He is ‘the Spirit of the Promise.’ When I was a boy of 9 I longed to have a bicycle, but it was a tradition in the mining valleys of South Wales that you would have a bicycle when you passed to the Grammar School, that is, when you were 11 years of age. So I waited those two years for my own bike. When I got it, it was second hand and made up of spare parts, but it was my bicycle and I went everywhere on it. It was worth waiting for. My parents had promised me one and I received it. So God made promises through the Old Testament prophets that he would give all his new covenant people the Holy Spirit. He said through Jeremiah, “I will put my Spirit in you” (Jer.36:27); and he said through Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28). It is impossible for God to tell a lie. So on the day of Pentecost every single Christian in the world was filled with the Spirit of God, and since that time every single Christian who has ever lived has been given the Spirit as they believed. God has kept his promise. Repent and be baptized and you too shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, God promises you.
ii] The Holy Spirit is the seal (v.13). When Iola and I were given the trust deeds of our house by the bank some months ago the assistant said how fortunate we were to have a document for a hundred year old house because they are much more interesting than modern house deeds which are one typed sheet of A4. “Your deeds have copperplate writing, and an architect’s drawing, and there is a seal of ownership,” she said to us. A seal is marked in molten wax. It is a sign of authenticity. “This is a true document'” it is saying. In Paul’s day a king would authenticate a decree by taking his signet ring and stamping it into warm wax. That seal represented that what had been promised would certainly take place. But a seal is multifaceted: a seal is a mark of ownership: “This house is your house,” the seal on our title deeds is saying. A branded cow or a certain colour dye on a sheep announces that that animal belongs to a specific person. You can buy special felt-tipped pens which write with invisible ink, and you write your initials or make a special mark on your computer or camera or laptop. Then when you shine a special light on them the invisible becomes visible and it announces that this object belongs to you. But there is also a seal whose purpose is to make something secure. The chain put on the stone covering the entrance to Jesus’ tomb was sealed.
All those meanings are found in the presence of the Spirit in the life of the Christian, but the chief meaning is that the Spirit in us is God’s assertion that we are his. Not us saying, “We belong to Jesus,” but God saying, “This person belongs to me: hands off!” God has signified that you are his by putting within you the seal of the Holy Spirit. Christians are described here as “those who are God’s possession.” (v.14). The seal of the Spirit is not an experience of the Spirit. It is not something like those episodes in Jonathan Edwards’s life, wonderful and desirable though they be. They are not the seal of the Spirit; the seal is the Spirit himself. A wax seal, or a branding, or a dye, or invisible ink are all something external, but God goes in and in to the very core of our hearts and there he applies his seal that we belong to him. “These are very precious to me,” God says. “I loved these from before the foundation of the world. I gave these to my Son to redeem and keep. My Son bore their sins in his own body on the cross. These are going to live with me for ever as my sons and heirs. I have put my Spirit within them. They are mine!” God says, “See I the King of the cosmos have taken out my own signet ring and seal and I have put my mark in their hearts. What a mark of ownership this is; God the Holy Spirit is the seal that they belong to me.” So how can anyone believe that a true Christian can lose his salvation?
iii] The Holy Spirit is God’s deposit and guarantee (v.14). You see the adverts in electronic shops for what expensive toys for men can be picked up for a small deposit. Supply the down payment and it will be legally yours. If someone takes it they will be stealing what is yours. It belongs to you because you have paid the deposit. It is guaranteed yours!
Paul is giving us this staggering news that this down payment is the Holy Spirit paid by God! His pledge to us that we belong to him, not for the years of time alone but for eternity. The N.I.V. phrase “a deposit guaranteeing” is one word in the original. The A.V. translates it the ‘earnest’. It was originally a Hebrew word, and then it came into Greek usage through Phoenician traders. “It is used in modern Greek for an engagement ring. But in ancient commercial transactions it signified a ‘first installment, deposit, down payment, pledge, that pays a part of the purchase price in advance, and so secures a legal claim to the article in question, or makes a contract valid’ (AG). In this case the guarantee is not something separate from what it guarantees, but actually the first portion of it . . . A deposit on a house or in a hire-purchase agreement, however, is more than a guarantee of payment; it is itself the first installment of the purchase price. So it is with the Holy Spirit. In giving him to us, God isn’t just promising us our final inheritance but actually giving us a foretaste of it, which, however, ‘is only a small fraction of the future endowment'” (John Stott, “The Message of Ephesians,” The Bible Speaks Today , IVP, Leicester, 1979, p.48).
Jay Adams says, “When I was a boy, Dad made a down payment on a wagon for me, but I didn’t take it home right away – you do now. No. Each week Dad paid something on the wagon until the whole was paid. Then I got it. In the meanwhile the wagon stayed in the store. But, so that no one else could buy it, a tag with my father’s name was tied to it. That tag served the same purpose as the ‘seal’ in our text. The tag or seal identifies the owner of the item tagged or sealed . . . God has paid the full price by Christ’s blood but only when he redeems his children will the possession of the inheritance be ours . . . The point is that now we are as surely his as when we shall be perfectly redeemed and glorified with him, entering our eternal inheritance in heaven. How do we know this? Because we have God’s own self – the Holy Spirit – to mark us out as his own, we who will at length enter into the heavenly inheritance” (Jay E. Adams, “The Christian Counselor’s Commentary, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon,” Timeless Texts, Hackettstown, NJ, 1994, p.73).
In other words a portion of heaven which is yet unbreakably linked to heaven has been removed and put within us. That portion of heaven is actually God the Spirit. “You are God’s possession. You belong to heaven, and that is where you are going. That is absolutely unavoidable. God has paid the deposit on you, and it is his Spirit that is the deposit or the down payment that guarantees your inheritance.” No bank in the world can give every customer an absolute guarantee concerning your deposit. Even bank can crash and go under. No government in the world can absolutely guarantee your investment or your inheritance. But when you believe on Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of God is there in your life, you have a divinely given seal which guarantees a glorious inheritance is yours. No eye has seen the wonders that lie before us, but God has told us about it not to tantalise us, but to inspire our endeavour, telling us he has made sure we will share in its joys. These are the joys of the renewed cosmos, and the little significant, constant and irreversible changes that have taken place in our own lives are a foretaste of something immensely cosmic, of the universal changes that are going to take place in the heavens and the earth
Today it is enough for you to have God’s seal. Often you may desire the experience of heaven too. You want what Jonathan Edwards had every single day. No one has ever had that or ever will. Paul spoke in a very reserved way about his one peak experience, but what we do have always is the seal of God, and that will be sufficient for all that God asks of us. Have you seen the fruit of the Spirit in your life – not necessarily in great profusion, but have you tasted a grape or two of peace and longsuffering? Do you believe in your heart and confess with your lips that Jesus Christ is Lord? Then you are heading for a heavenly inheritance.
2] THE MERE CHRISTIAN MAY HONOUR THE HOLY SPIRIT.
How should Christians respond to the seal of the Holy Spirit? How do we honour such a glorious Guest? [At this juncture I have had some help from The Radio Pulpit in the Back to God Hour, Volume 44, Number 11, November 1999, “Honouring the Holy Spirit” by David Feddes. I have had a week with unexpected pastoral matters and also a Saturday wedding, and I have not had the time to prepare this message as I would like. So I was glad to get this help, as I am always delighted to hear that ministers have found these sermons of mine similarly assisting them when they have been under pressure.]
Let’s consider three areas: recognition, communication, and participation.
i] We Always Recognise Him.
The first, most basic aspect of honouring the Holy Spirit is recognition: realizing he’s there inside you and recognizing him for who he is. Nothing is more grievous than to ignore someone as though he’s not even there. How do you like it if you’re around someone who acts as if you’re not even in the room? It’s upsetting, isn’t it? Well, how do you think the Holy Spirit likes it if you go about your affairs without paying attention to him, even though he’s actually inside you wherever you go?
Honour the Holy Spirit by realizing he’s present inside you. The only case in which he’s not present, is if a person does not belong to Christ at all and is walking the road to hell. The Bible says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). How do you know whether the seal of the Holy Spirit is yours? Certainly it is good to look at this negatively, that if you have no sorrow for sin, no faith in Jesus’ blood to cleanse you, no love for the Lord, no longing to serve and obey him, then you fail the test. But if these signs of true faith are evident, then Christ is in you by his Spirit. The promised Holy Spirit is your seal, the deposit who guarantees your glorious inheritance! So don’t grieve the Spirit by ignoring him. Honour him by always being aware of his presence in you.
As you pay attention to the Spirit’s presence, be sure also to recognize his personality. The Spirit isn’t just a thing or an abstract power; he is a Person, and we must relate to him as a Person. We must honour the Spirit by treating him as a real, personal companion and having a relationship of love with him.
Let us ask this question: are we to pray specifically to God the Holy Spirit? I once heard Professor John Murray thinking aloud about that question. He could supply no verses in the Bible to say ‘No’ but he found some reluctance to address directly the Third Person in the godhead. Prayer was generally made to the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit, and that was what Mr. Murray was most at peace with as the biblical way. Yet he couldn’t say, “Never pray to the Spirit.” We certainly sing to the Holy Spirit, and that is a communion of love – we sing to those we love. I love Joseph Hart’s ardent hymn to the Spirit:
“Descend from heaven, celestial Dove,
With flames of pure seraphic love;
Our ravished breasts inspire;
Fountain of joy, blest Paraclete,
Warm our cold hearts with heavenly heat,
And set our souls on fire.” (Joseph Hart, 1712-68).
That is a glorious prayer to the Spirit to come upon our gatherings. But perhaps you find the Holy Spirit’s personality mysterious and hard to know. In that case, keep in mind that the personality of the Spirit is just like the personality of Jesus Christ. In the mystery of God’s being, God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three Persons united as one God, the holy Trinity. One thing this means is that when the Holy Spirit lives in us, Christ himself lives in us. Jesus told his disciples that after he returned to heaven, he would come to them in the person of the Counselor, the Holy Spirit. “I will come to you,” said Jesus. “On that day you will realize that… I am in you” (John 14:18, 20). That’s why a biblical writer who had the Holy Spirit could say, “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20) and he could speak to Christians about “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). No Christian exists who lacks the indwelling Saviour. So if we’re unclear about what sort of personality the Spirit has, we just need to know what Jesus is like. Whatever offends Jesus offends the Holy Spirit, and whatever honours Jesus honors and delights the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit doesn’t just make himself known to us as the Third Person of the Trinity. No, he insists upon making Jesus Christ known to us (John 15:26). So Jonathan Edwards experiences a new delight in God, and it is by the Spirit; he is conscious of the creation that was made by Christ, and of the glorious attributes of God. Jonathan Edwards never thinks that he was envisaging the Spirit standing before him. It is never like that. What the Spirit does is to unite believers with Christ and, through Christ, the Spirit connects us with God the Father in a relationship of love. Knowing and reckoning on this is the most amazing, life-changing reality in the world. There is a rumour that the luxury department store Harvey Nichols is thinking of coming to Cardiff, and so a quiver of excitement runs through the capital city of Wales. That status store present in their midst! The city would go up market. What other stores will follow? If our own little town got a branch of Marks and Spencers how exciting it would be, men and women say. What other department stores would follow it? Thus the shopping populace of Wales thinks. Am I communicating? If a good and noble and holy and wise and handsome prince became your roommate in college, it might seem an amazing thing to you. What is all such earthly glamour compared to what Paul says here, the mighty God actually living in us? Nothing can compare to it! All the rest is dust and ashes! The Lord is far greater than any prince, and he doesn’t just live with us; he actually lives in us. So if you have the seal of the Holy Spirit you recognise his presence and his wonderful, divine personality. The work of th e Spirit is all “to the praise of God’s glory” (v.14) – that is how our text and this passage ends.
ii] We Always Communicate with Him
Another important way to honour the Spirit is communication. If someone lives with you and loves you, but you seldom talk to or listen to that person, you are wounding the relationship and grieving that person. When a couple come to you with problems, and say “We never talk any longer,” then there are difficulties in that marriage. When someone is always around you and is dear to you, you want to hear what that person thinks, and you want that person to hear what you think. So it is with the Holy Spirit.
According to the Bible, “no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God,” and the Spirit speaks to us “that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:11-12). As I am now preaching the word to you the Spirit is working, and he is helping you to understand the great blessings of grace. To know what is on God’s mind, we must listen to the Scriptures. The Spirit speaks to us from the Bible, which was written under the Spirit’s direct guidance. Think of how the New Testament writers quote an Old Testament Scripture and they say, “God says . . . ” They use the present tense. Then when we read the Bible, we find the Spirit impresses various truths on our hearts helping us hear him speaking to us personally. The Spirit also prompts certain thoughts in our minds to deal with particular situations in our lives. If we stay alert, we’ll hear his voice and feel his nudge. We grieve the Spirit if we neglect his words in the Bible or if we don’t listen for his leading in our daily lives. We honour the Spirit if, like the biblical psalmist, we love to hear his voice and consider God’s words to be “sweeter than honey” and “more precious than gold” (Psalm 19:10).
Communication involves listening, but speaking too. It involves talking to God in prayer and expressing what’s on our hearts. Does the Lord need us to talk to him in order to find out what we’re thinking? No, the Lord already knows us completely. He knows our thoughts before we speak them – God even knows our thoughts before we think them! But if God already knows what we’re thinking before we tell him, why would he still want us to talk to him in prayer? Well, smart Mums and Dads can often tell what’s bothering their children or what they’re excited about without the kids telling them, but they still want their kids to tell them about it and express their thoughts, feelings, and desires. This is good for the child, and it’s a pleasure for the parent, even if the child is saying something the parent already knows. So, too, although the Spirit knows everything about us, it’s good for us and pleasing to God when we express ourselves in prayer. And if we don’t know what to say at times, the Spirit himself speaks on our behalf in ways that no human language can express but which God fully understands (Romans 8:26-27).
So there’s no doubt that communication is a vital part of honoring the Holy Spirit. Listening to what he declares in the Bible as it is preached and as we read it, and those whispers to our conscience honours the Spirit by treating him as our most trusted Counselor. Speaking and pouring our hearts out to him in prayer honours the Holy Spirit by treasuring him as the perfect Listener and Friend.
iii] We Participate in Him
A third vital way to honour the Holy Spirit is participation. If you take part in the holiness and mission of the Spirit, you honour him. But if you resist his holy influence or try to accomplish things without his power, you grieve him.
It’s no accident that the Spirit is called the Holy Spirit. He is holy, and he intends for everyone in whom he lives to participate in his holiness. This means that in everything you think, say, or do, you must ask yourself how the Holy Spirit is affecting you and how you are affecting the Spirit.
For example, when you’re thinking about watching a TV programme or a movie, keep in mind that the Holy Spirit will be watching it along with you. Will he enjoy it? Or will he be grieved? You do the same when you go on line and think of all the porn on the world wide web. When you’re making decisions that involve sexuality, remember that whatever you do with your body doesn’t just involve you; it involves the Holy Spirit who lives in you, and it involves Christ himself. Do you really want to drag Christ into a house of prostitution, or invite Christ along as you seduce someone on a date, or take Christ with you to a filthy movie, or have Christ look with you at dirty pictures on your computer screen? That’s what you’re doing if you’re a Christian involved in sexual sin.
It’s not just that God always sees whatever you do. God isn’t just watching you; he’s living in you. You’re not just breaking his commands; you’re breaking his heart. The Holy Spirit is grieved and disgusted when someone for whom Christ died and someone in whom he lives drags the Spirit along to a sin-filled place or a rotten movie or anything else that’s repulsive to God. If a man goes to a brothel we would be shocked, but imagine him taking his little girl with him, and her witnessing the scenes of degradation there. That is like a Christian forcing the Holy Spirit to witness carnality.
This applies to all your actions, words, and attitudes. If you lie or say cruel things that cut others down, you’re grieving God’s Spirit in you. But if you say truthful things that build others up, you are honouring the Spirit and participating in his truth and holiness. If you have an angry, bitter, malicious attitude, you are grieving the Spirit. But if you are kind, compassionate, and loving, you are honouring the Spirit and participating in the love of Christ (see Ephesians 4:25-32). Don’t drag the Spirit into sinful activities. Instead, depend on him to lead you into imitating Christ.
Participation in the Spirit’s work also includes making use of the Spirit’s gifts and power in you. The Spirit gives every Christian many gifts and talents for doing God’s work. Every true Christian is a charismatic Christian. You find out what your spiritual gifts are by moving onto the front line of Christian service. We discover our gifts as we serve the Lord. Stir up your gifts. Don’t let them grow dormant so that you increase your abilities and the energy that the Holy Spirit may choose to give you. Also, respect and value gifts that the Spirit may give to other Christians which he has refused you. Don’t think that any spiritual gift is unimportant. Don’t despise true gifts of the Spirit, even though lots of claims to have gifts of the Spirit and the working of the Spirit are today just gibberish and fantasy, nothing to do with God.
Honour the Spirit by prizing his gifts in you and in other Christians. “There are different kinds of gifts,” says the Bible, “but the same Spirit . . . Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:4; 14:1). Don’t stifle the rightful use of any gifts in God’s service, and don’t be a wet blanket that smothers the fire and excitement others may have in the Holy Spirit. “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
The Holy Spirit is the One who gives life and power to each believer and also to the whole church. We grieve the Spirit if we act as though our own power is enough to make things happen or if we quench the fiery freedom of the Spirit’s power because we’re afraid to leave our comfort zones. We honour the Holy Spirit when we depend on his divine power and keep asking him to fill us with more. We honour the Spirit when we overflow with his love, joy, and peace and participate in the Spirit’s great work of making Christ known to the world.
18th January 2004 GEOFF THOMAS