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Take the Holy Spirit Seriously

27 May 2012.  Pentecost Sunday.  Ezekiel 37:1-14

Last week I asked you to take yourself seriously, and I trust you’ve done that during this last week.

The mistake of our era is to replace our God-given importance with our own self-importance. Because of God’s design on our lives and God’s interest in our eternal potential, we are important. Apart from that we are just another creature devouring the earth.

Being Pentecost Sunday, this week our attention shifts to the Holy Spirit. We have read Ezekiel’s prophesy on its own today, as is rarely done. In its time this was a prediction that God would yet breathe life into his people, then in exile in Babylon. Beyond Pentecost it is also understood as God’s plan to do something new and wonderful in the world.

What was God planning? “I will put my Spirit within you, and you will live.”

Clearly we are already alive, as are all who have been born and have not yet died. That is not the point.

Firstly, Ezekiel sees a valley of dry bones. They are dead, and have been resting there for a while.

Ezekiel prophesies as instructed and the bones are joined together and the bodies are made whole. They are whole and apparently ready for life, but there is no life in them. Still they are resting, and have been for a good while. Though they look ready to go they are quite dead.

Ezekiel prophesies again and life comes into them.

It is a dramatic vision, as Ezekiel was prone to have, and its meaning is allegorical.

No one came back to life, but the people were restored to the land of Judah and their precious Jerusalem. The people of Israel were no more, but they were restored.

We hear this prophesy a little differently. We are spiritually dead but God’s intention is for us to be spiritually alive.

Like the physical interpretation I wonder if perhaps we are all spiritually alive but not in the way or to the degree that God wants for us.

The difference is the Holy Spirit – nothing more and nothing less. True it is because it is the desire of God the Father, and because of the victory won by Jesus in his death and resurrection; but being fully alive spiritually is the business of the Holy Spirit.

This is what I’m asking you today to take seriously.

  1. It is God’s desire for you to be fully alive by the Holy Spirit; you don’t earn it or deserve it.
  2. This is a big part of what Jesus died for. The completion of his mission on earth was that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all of God’s people.
  3. This is meant to make a noticeable difference. You are meant to notice the difference. Not that you are some supernatural spiritual guru, but that you are spiritually fully alive in God.
  4. It seems that we are capable of letting that spiritual life fall into the background by distraction or disobedience, and equally capable of living with the spiritual life in the foreground. It is up to us.

It is on the basis of all this that I ask you to take this seriously. This is something to be lived in the foreground.

Let me ask you why God has deigned to invest the greatest possible gift in this life in you? Is it because of your rugged good looks or your sparkling eyes? Is it because you are so smart or so darned impressive?

It is none of those things. It is because this is the way God planned to reach this world. God is taking a risk on you.

You are offered forgiveness and life through Jesus. With it you are given a new, extra purpose in life – you become a member of God’s family; a participant in God’s Kingdom in this world. Do you accept it, or will you let that one go?

If you accept it you are given the gift of all gifts – the Holy Spirit. All other gifts come through this gift. The nearest thing we have to this is the modern wedding vows – “All that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you.”

The Holy Spirit is the gift of God from God. The very ability to live a God-honouring life is burns within you courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

As I said before, it lies within our ability to let this incomparable presence and power of God lie in the background of our lives, or in the foreground.

But it will sometimes be unsettling and often unpredictable. The Holy Spirit will quite likely tell you things about yourself that you need to know, but my not want to. The Holy Spirit will draw you toward things that matter to God, but may be very challenging for you.

The Holy Spirit is God’s way. The question is, will you have it? Will you embrace it?

I am going to pray, and I invite you to pray privately yourself. If anyone feels the need to come forward for prayer, either now or after the service has concluded, the space is here for you also.

I am going to invite the Holy Spirit. If you wish, you do the same.