July 7, 2014

The Holy Spirit's over-riding joy

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19–21)

When I was a teen (and not a Christian yet), my dad often lent me the family car so I could take my friends to community dances. We didn’t drink, but we had a lot of fun. One weekend, an uncle happened to be at the event and afterward told my father that I was drinking. In his mind, no one could be having that much fun unless they were full of liquor.

I remember being angry with that uncle. My dad knew me well and didn’t believe the story, but it seemed such an unfair assumption. Later I understood that those who cannot be happy without drinking alcohol would think the same about others. Perhaps this is why those who observed the joy of the first Christians also accused them of being drunk.

Peter defended them. He said, “For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.” (Acts 2:15) This first strikes me as funny. No one gets drunk at 9:00 a.m.? But that is not the point. They had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, and when that happened, He also gave them deep joy, a euphoria that lifted them above all their concerns and fears.

They should have expected it. John the Baptist foretold this would happen, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11)

Jesus did too. He said it would happen and added that this was a good gift from the Father, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) Besides the wonder and the joy of it, being filled with the Spirit never leaves God’s people with a hangover.

Yesterday’s sermon was about the Holy Spirit and what it is like to be filled with Him. The term “filled” means that His person and personality overrule mine. That isn’t the best description since this is difficult to describe. It is like being so happy with Jesus and His goodness that nothing else matters. It is having freedom to consider others without thinking about me. It is exuding love, peace, faith and the other “fruits of the Spirit” without trying or even thinking about it. It is having such an infectious joy that others who don’t know this Holy Spirit think you have been drinking.

Being Spirit-filled isn’t limited to joy though. It is also about power. Jesus also said, “Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) The Holy Spirit gives a holy fearlessness, an incredible freedom to do and say what God prompts me to do and say. It is like the words of that chorus which come from a verse in Jeremiah: “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

This joy and power was the experience of the early church. We need more of it in the Body of Christ today.

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