Two weeks ago, we celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the birth of Preston Wesleyan Church. I don’t know about you, but it was a wonderful time of celebration and we had a great time of worship and fellowship as we celebrated an anniversary of a local church. Today, we want to broaden our scope, for today is the birthday of the church universal. About two thousand years ago, the Jesus’ followers were meeting in a guest room in Jerusalem. There were 120 followers who were following Jesus’ command to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit several times. The Holy Spirit’s coming is recorded in Acts chapter two and the church was born at this time. From this point the church grew and grew until it is what it is today.
Why is it so important that the Holy Spirit came? First, let’s go to John’s gospel. Jesus is speaking to his disciples shortly before his death.
26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry…I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.
5 “But now I am going away to the One who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. 6 Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. 7 But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’
Jesus tells us that he is sending the Spirit of truth to the disciples. This Spirit will come from Jesus’ Father and this Spirit will only come after Jesus returns to his Father in heaven. Many times in the gospels, Jesus tells his disciples to be witnesses to what Jesus did while he was here on earth. This Spirit comes to testify that Jesus is who he said he is. Jesus also makes it clear that the only way we will be witnesses is if the Spirit comes into our lives. Listen to Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus said that this Spirit of truth will be an advocate. What does it mean to be an advocate? It is defined as, 1: one that pleads the cause of another ; specifically : one that pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court2: one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal3: one that supports or promotes the interests of another. So the Holy Spirit is coming in Jesus’ place to do the things that Jesus did for the disciples. Jesus says that the disciples will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. When they receive that power, they will (not might, not maybe) but will be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
I am convinced today that the church does not realize the power that we have available to us. Even in The Wesleyan Church, we have churches that seem powerless. Perhaps it is because they need a fresh wind – a fresh fire – a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit in their churches. A church that is full of the Holy Spirit will be able to teach and preach and live the gospel. The holiness movement of the past is filled with people who not only preached holiness, but lived and breathed holiness. They were people filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit.
- Phoebe Palmer, who preached and prayed holiness but also helped those who were in need.
- William Booth and the Salvation Army – most think of the Salvation Army as an organization that seeks to help the poor, but the Salvation Army also has its roots in the holiness movement. They are a denomination that teaches holiness and then lives it out among the people.
- B. T. Roberts, Charles Finney, Orange Scott, Luther Lee, Phineas Bresee, Alma White, Seth Rees – all founders of churches that consider themselves part of the holiness movement understood that holiness was not just to be preached but to be lived out into community.
For more information, see this article by Dr. Keith Drury
John Wesley once said, “There is no holiness, except social holiness” — meaning that holiness is always lived out in community. Remember that most of the New Testament letters (or epistles) were written to communities of believers, not to individuals. It is the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives that gave them that power to preach and teach and live out holiness.
Seth Rees was the founder of God’s Bible School in Cincinnati, OH. To this day, the school is known for its strong missional emphasis to the city of Cincinnati. In fact, its influence is so strong that one of our current General Superintendents of the Wesleyan Church graduated from there, Dr. Joann Lyon. Dr. Lyon also founded World Hope International, which is a quality organization that helps those who are in need all over the world. It is an organization, in my opinion, that is full of the Holy Spirit’s power.
The Holy Spirit gives us power to live the lives that God has called us to live. The Holy Spirit comes as an advocate – a helper – for both the individual and the church. Pastor Greg mentioned it a few weeks ago that the time of Christ return is drawing near – with each day it is drawing nearer. Jesus warned his disciples about wondering what would happen next – He only told them to wait until they received the Holy Spirit and then they were to go – go – go – go!
There was a sense of urgency in preaching the gospel – we need to return to that urgency. Here is what Paul writes in Romans 8. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
What is the groaning that Paul is speaking of? It is the future glory that will be revealed when Christ returns. These groaning have been going on for a long time. He tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us a taste of what that glory will be like. I always love when the Holy Spirit comes in and sweeps through the church service. When He does, we get a glimpse of what heaven, the future glory will be like. Jeremy Camp puts it this way, “There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face.” That is the hope that we have as believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit – we were given this hope when we were saved, Paul tells us.
It is the Holy Spirit that works in our lives – he is an advocate – he is our supporter – he is our defender. The Greek tells us that he is our paracleat. I want you to think of it this way – when the whole world seems so confusing – when it pulls you in every direction imaginable – the Holy Spirit is our paracleat. So how does that help us you ask? To those of you who have played sports, you know that you usually don’t play competitive sports will plain old tennis shoe, no you where cleats. Why? It is because the cleats allow you to get a grip on the soil or grass that regular old tennis shoe won’t or can’t. Think of the Holy Spirit at the cleats for your feet that help steady you and help give you a grip, even when you can’t figure it out on your own. We read in Romans where Paul writes, “26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”
My prayer is that each person gathered here this morning would want the infilling of the Holy Spirit – even if you think you have it – you should want more. Why? Because we leak. The Holy Spirit helps us get a grip even when we don’t know what to do. They question is, “Does the Holy Spirit abide in you?”