Saturday 5 August

Dave Richards is the Rector at St. Paul’s & St. George’s Church in Edinburgh.  He was speaking at the first evening of New Horizon 2017.  Here is a summary of what he had to say:

It really is a pleasure and a privilege to be with you this week. For the next few days, we are going to be looking at the person of the Holy Spirit. We will begin to think about what the Holy Spirit does within us, and what He does in sending us out into the world.

The Holy Spirit isn’t given to Christians so that we can feel warm and comfortable. Conferences like NH are times of refreshment. But the whole point of a conference like this is not that you come back to NH2018 but that you go home to your workplaces, to your churches and to your communities… to wherever God has placed you… equipped, encouraged, enthused and envisioned in a new way.

John 14:15 -31

It is no good showing me a life like Jesus and telling me to live like that – I simply can’t do! But if the Spirit of Jesus can come into me, empowering and enabling me, then I could live a life like that.

We are not simply told to do our best, to live good religious lives and to be the best we can. Somehow this idea has spread that Christianity is for “good” people and for “nice” people. That is not what it is about. That is bad religion and impossible moralism. This leads to stress, guilt and failure. It is not about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and making yourself good. The phrase “God helps those who helps themselves” is not in the Bible!

Christianity is a unique faith system where, rather than following rules or regulations, the very person and presence of the founder Himself lives inside each one of us. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is at work in you and me, if we are followers of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit is given to us, and comes and lives inside us. We cannot explain the Holy Spirit because this is God we are talking about and God is bigger than our understanding. If we restrict God to what we understand then we are not allowing God to be God. There will always be more of God that we can learn about and more than we can fathom.

Eugene Peterson said: “Our tendency is to treat God in one of two ways. One is to flatten Him down into an explanation and we lose all sense of mystery. The other temptation is to sentimentalise God into a diversion or entertainment.”

Has God become small, predictable or mundane to you? When was the last time when you were lost in wonder at God?When was the last time that God took your breath away? When was the last time that He surprised you? When was the last time when you were just blown away by the goodness, power, majesty or mystery of God.

Our prayer is that at different times this week God will blow your socks off and that God will recreate in you… ( and it will be different for different people)… a sense of wonder and awe and mystery at who He is. Maybe it will be through the reading of His Word, or through the collective worship, or in a seminar, or on a beach or up a mountain.

The early church did not invent the Holy Spirit. Right throughout the Old Testament, the Spirit of God was at work. The Holy Spirit came on kings, prophets and priests for a limited time and for a specific purpose, enabling them to do and say what God had called them to do and say.

The Holy Spirit was there at the birth of Jesus, at the baptism of Jesus, at the temptations of Jesus (the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness). After His temptation, Jesus returned in the power of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in a new way in fulfilment of prophecy.

In John 14, Jesus gave His followers their final instructions. These are His final words.

The Spirit gives power to believers

Jesus said, “You will do greater things…” We are the fulfilment of this promise as the church of Jesus Christ. We are the “greater things” that Jesus is talking. There is nothing like the church… where different people of different ages or backgrounds can come together as family, even when they have never met before.

The Spirit enables the followers of Jesus to live in an intimate relationship with Him.

He promises to send another advocate, counsellor or comforter. Often we miss that word “another” – it means another who is just like or identical to the first. Jesus says He will ask the Father to send a comforter… who is “just the same as me.”

The Spirit enables Jesus’ followers to know the Father

Because we have the Holy Spirit, we are not going to be left as orphans because the Holy Spirit lives inside us (picked up in Romans 8). There is a family likeness because the spirit of the Father lives in His children.

Everyone knows that my sons are my sons because they have my eyebrows! There should be a family likeness if we belong to the Father. People should see that family likeness in you and me. We call this the Fruit of the Spirit – it is the character of Jesus being reproduced in you and me because the Spirit of Jesus lives in us.

The test of whether you are growing as a Christian is not how many times you go to church, how long your prayers are or how well you know your Bible but how much more like Jesus you are becoming. Are you more loving, joyful, patient, kind…? Is the fruit of the Holy Spirit more evident in your life than it was last year? If you were to ask somebody who knows you well, what would they say? Paradoxically, as the character of Jesus works in you then you become more fully and distinctively who God made you to be.

The Spirit enables the followers of Jesus to obey Jesus.

I believe that God speaks to us today but He will never contradict His word. RT Kendall said, “If you want to get on good terms with the Holy Spirit then get on good terms with His word because He wrote it.”

God’s got a book out- why aren’t you reading it? One of the biggest concerns is that fewer evangelical Christians are reading the Bible. Our reliance upon the scriptures is decreasing. The spirit is there to prompt, guide and empower you and to remind you of what God has said. If you don’t know the Scriptures, the spirit cannot remind you because you cannot be reminded of something you do not know in the first place.

The Spirit will impart the gift of peace.

We live in a world of deep unease, disunity and division. We see it throughout the western world… we are in a society and a culture that is increasingly fractured and divided and at dis-ease with itself. People are desperate for peace.

People have different reactions to the Holy Spirit.

Some are fearful of being let down by God… of asking God for something and God not answering. Maybe you are coming with trepidation. Maybe your experience is that God has not given you what you have prayed for.

Other people are fearful that God might show up. They are fearful that God might do something that they don’t like.

The Holy Spirit is given to you so that you can live as a follower of Jesus.

But some people’s attitude is “I can do without all that stuff.” Something deep within says, “I’m fine with Jesus, with His death and resurrection… but I’m just not sure about this Holy Spirit stuff.”

Wherever you are… I believe that God wants to meet with you. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Jesus and He is the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. He is identical to the person of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is not an “it”. The idea of being filled by an impersonal force is strange. The Holy Spirit is a person. He is the third person of the trinity. The Holy Spirit is given to us to enable us to live the lives that Jesus always longed for us to live.

When working in a particular tribe in Africa, the Wycliffe Bible translators had struggled to translate the word “counsellor” or “advocate” (used in this passage in John 14 to describe the Holy Spirit) into the language. Returning to visit the people, the translators noticed a group of porters who were carrying things but one of them was not carrying anything. They wondered why this was. The tribe explained that they always took one extra porter with them who did not carry anything. When someone got tired, he would take over and carry the load. The called him “the one who falls down beside us.” The translators then realised that the tribe had used this particular title to translate the word “counsellor” or “advocate” as a description for the Holy Spirit.

Maybe you are tired and weary. Maybe you are in desperate need of refreshment. Maybe you are fearful that God will let you down. Maybe you are fearful that God might show up. Maybe you are fine with Jesus but don’t want this “spirit” stuff. The wonderful thing is that God can meet with you this evening.

Do you want the “one who falls down beside us” to carry you, renew you, refresh you, deep within? Put to one side some of the cultural expectations you have lived with and those labels that you have placed upon yourselves. You are a beloved son or daughter of the Father. He loves you. He wants to meet with you this evening. He wants to put more of His character, power and presence into your life.