I loved preaching about the Holy Spirit this past sunday, and enjoyed praying for people at the end of each meeting even more. There is simply nothing like witnessing the Holy Spirit revealing the love of the Father and empowering people on Jesus' mission.
I've found it helpful, when talking about the most misunderstood person of the Trinity, to begin with His work in Jesus' life, rather than in the early church's life. After all, it's Jesus that we are following. He is our ultimate model of life and mission, and He lived in humble reliance on the Holy Spirit. Luke's Gospel describes Jesus as being conceived by the Spirit, baptized by the Spirit, led, filled, empowered and anointed by the Spirit.
So many theologians have depicted Jesus as a kind of hybrid, almost like a Toyota Prius, swapping between gas and battery, or rather, humanity and deity depending on the need. When hanging with the disciples or teaching He was doing it in humanity, but when he needed a miracle he would dip into his deity. Although Luke's Gospel is clear that Jesus was fully God, it doesn't depict Jesus like a hybrid at all. Luke wants us to be clear that Jesus, in willing humanity, was reliant on the Holy Spirit for power even though He was fully God by nature. He was more like a fully battery-powered Ford F150! Luke re-affirms this in Acts 10 when he explains that "Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, went around doing good and healing all those who were under the power of the devil."
Why is this important? It's important, because if Jesus lived in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, then we as Christ followers cannot see the Holy Spirit as an optional extra. He is completely crucial to our life and mission as Christ's followers.
Here are four aspects of the Spirit's work in Jesus' life that we see in Luke, with vital parallels to His work in our lives.
The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and conceived Jesus. He was born of a virgin, born of the Spirit.(Luke 1:35) Although none of us were physically born of a virgin, we are born of the Spirit, our hearts regenerated from spiritual death so that we could believe and repent. At the point of regeneration, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us. We are born again.
The Holy Spirit baptized Jesus, descending on him like a dove, and covering Him with the love of His Father. Each of us need the Spirit to consciously bear witness with our Spirit's that we are children of God, deeply loved by our Father. This can take place at salvation, but often happens subsequent to it, as we see in Acts 2 and 19. Who does not need this?
The Holy Spirit then led Jesus into the wilderness. The dove becomes a war bird! The Holy Spirit has a sovereign will, and He sometimes leads us where we don't want to go. Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness but overcame by the Word and the Spirit. His leading is not always to bigger houses, better schools, higher paying jobs and safer cities. Because He is the Holy Spirit, he is more concerned about our character than our comfort. Are we willing to be led to discomfort? As we follow His leading, resisting the comfortable option every time, that's when we experience the Comfort of the Comforter!
Jesus returned from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit. He said that He was empowered to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and set captives free. The Spirit's work is never merely personal. It is always missional. Jesus was unrecognizable to his hometown. "Isn't this the carpenter's son?' He walked with a new capacity, much greater than his natural ability. So can we. So must we. For our own sake and for the sake of the world.