The Gift Of The Holy Spirit
What does the Bible says concerning God's provision for our future? See, we, as human beings, have basically two problems. All human beings have the same problems, whatever our religion, our culture, our language, our education, our temperament, or anything. We could simplify these problems by putting them into two categories: one is a problem relating to our past - our guilt, our failure, our sins. And the other is, problem relating to the future. How are we going to deal with what comes forth from our nature in the future? Is it going to be a repetition of the same old failures from our past? Do we have to keep on going to God again and again, asking Him to forgive us the same old sins that we have asked for many times in the past? Or, has God made some provisions so that we can overcome in the areas where we failed in the past?
The good news in the Bible is that God has made a provision. He has not only made a provision for our past failures through Christ's death on the cross of Calvary (that was a complete and total taking care of our past failures), but He has also provided for this problem of the possibility of our failing again and again in the same areas in the future by offering us the gift of His Holy Spirit. Now, Jesus said to His disciples, when He was on earth, just before He went up to heaven that, "it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you." (John 16:7). In other words, The Holy Spirit will not live in your hearts until Jesus ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit is the very person of God, the Spirit of God, and this is the gift freely given by God to us, just as much as forgiveness of our sins.
The first day that the Christian message was preached in this world was 2000 years ago, and it is described in Acts 2. It was the Jewish feast of Pentecost when many people had come together in Jerusalem. The apostle Peter got up and proclaimed the Gospel message: that Christ had died, that He had risen again from the dead, and then ascended to heaven. And that He has poured out His Holy Spirit that had filled the hearts of those 120 peoples, who were praying that day in Jerusalem. Then Peter said to all the thousands of people who were listening to him (Acts 2:38) these words: "repent, and be baptized". And through your baptism you break with the past, you become "buried with Jesus... in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God" a new man. That is what happens when we enter into a sacramental baptism - my old man is dead and is buried and now I am a new man in Christ. And then he said, 'if you do that, you will receive two gifts: one, "the remission of your sins" (that deals with our past), and second, you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.' That is God's provision for the future. So, both of our problems are dealt with; our past, as well as our future. We have taken care of the guilt of our past and the provision of strength to overcome when we are faced with temptations and problems in the future.
Now many Christians think that God has only dealt with our past problems. You can receive from God only what you have faith for. If you don't believe, you cannot receive. If you don't believe, for example, that God will give you strength to face your problems in the future, you won't receive it. You may desire it, God may also desire to give you that strength, but you still won't receive, if you don't have faith. Every gift of God is received by a simple act of faith. It is not because we deserve it. None of us deserve even the lowest of God's gifts. We don't deserve anything but hellfire. All of us deserve judgment. All of us deserve to burn in hell for eternity because we have sinned. We have sinned deliberately, we have dishonored God. So God places all humanity - the entire human race under sin so that He can have mercy on everyone. This is God's way - to put us all under sin so that we all are in the same category, so that no one can boast over another, saying, 'I am better than you.' You know how many people there are out in the world, who think they are superior to others?
It is because they haven't seen themselves in God's eyes. The child who gets 20% thinks he is better than the child who gets 5%. And worse than that, the child who gets 20% thinking he is superior to the child who gets 19.5%. How much superior is he really? That is the height of foolishness of one man who thinks he is better than another. It all becomes relative. In God's eyes, we are all failures and He gives us a promotion to the next class freely, i.e. forgiveness. Then He gives us strength to face the problem of our own sinful nature, the problem that we can face living in a world that is still under the curse, and that is through the gift of his Holy Spirit. It is His own presence coming in and dwelling in our hearts, filling our hearts, giving us strength from within.
You know, when Jesus was on earth, He could only encourage people and strengthen them from the outside. He walked with the disciples, He talked with them, but He could only be in one place at a given time. If He was in Galilee, He could not be in Jerusalem. If He was in Jerusalem, He couldn't be in Galilee. If He was in Palestine, He couldn't be in Australia or the USA. That would have been terrible, if it had continued like that forever. Because, then all of us would have to be where Jesus was. Even that wouldn't help us because how many thousands could get near Him in any case? And so, Jesus said to His disciples that, "It is better if I go away, because if I go away, I will send My Holy Spirit who will come and dwell in your heart and that will bring my presence." All the disciples could receive this Holy Spirit in every part of the world and have the presence of Jesus with them wherever they are.
And even better than that, not just wherever they are, but instead of having Jesus outside of them, they could have Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit inside of them. You know that is far better. Because with the disciples, even though Jesus was with them for three and a half years, and even though He taught them, encouraged them, challenged them, rebuked them, blessed them in so many ways, yet we see that, at the end of three and a half years, they were still competing with one another to see who would take over the leadership after Jesus died. They were still competing with one another for honor and position. That inward problem could not be dealt even with Jesus' physical presence. Jesus' physical presence only dealt with external problems around them. If there was a storm in the sea He could still it. Or, if there was not enough food to feed them all, He could provide it. Or, if there wasn't enough wine at the wedding, He could change the water into wine. External problems could be dealt with, but the internal problem - which is far more serious - of sin within could not be dealt with as long as Jesus was outside.
And that is another reason why it was good that Jesus went away to heaven. Because He sent the Holy Spirit through the third person of the triune God to come and dwell in our hearts, so that the presence and the power of Jesus comes to us through the Holy Spirit within. Now how do we receive this gift? Exactly the same way we receive the forgiveness of sins. Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38). There is no extra condition required. It is not some post-graduate degree. No, it is the beginning of Christian life. Many people have thought that, to receive the Holy Spirit, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, it is something which has to come many years after we begin the Christian life. No. On the very day that you begin your Christian life, you have to receive forgiveness for sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. You open your heart and receive it. It is like going to a shop where somebody has already paid for a two-volume encyclopaedia for you. If you come home with one volume, and there you discover that you don't have the whole thing, what would you do? When you discover that both volumes are paid for, you go back to the shop and you say, 'well, I am sorry, I didn't take the second volume. That is paid for too.' And you take it, it is free.
So Peter offered forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit to those people who repented and were baptized. That is what God offers us today. In Hebrews, 4:16, we read, "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may receive two things: mercy, and grace." Mercy and grace are not the same. Mercy is referring to the forgiveness of our sins, dealing with our past. We have all sinned, we need mercy. Grace is referring to God's power that He can give us to help us to be overcomers in the coming days - it is referring to the future. And it says here in Hebrews, 4:16, that let us come with boldness to God's throne, so we can receive mercy to deal with the past and grace through the Holy Spirit to help us face everything that we can face in the future: temptations, problems, trials, whatever it is. Isn't it wonderfully good news that God has provided for our past as well as our future?