Whether you've been a follower of Jesus Christ for a few months or a few decades, all of us have room for growth. For this reason and more, we're presenting a helpful topical series on Insight for Living called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. On this program, Chuck Swindoll begins message number 10 in this 22-part series.
Our goal is to gain a stronger grasp on the biblical doctrines that define the Christian faith. And sometimes when the subject is invisible and mysterious, that's a challenge. Today, Chuck is talking about the spirit who is not a ghost.
The Spirit of God is not a ghost. However, He is incessantly on the move. As with the air around us, we cannot actually see Him. Nevertheless, He's hard at work. He's doing things like teaching and convicting, guiding, instructing, disclosing, and glorifying.
These are just a few of His activities. He's so involved that He's active in the life of every believer. The basis for this is found in the Bible. Actually, in the words of Jesus, as they have been recorded for us in the 16th chapter of John, starting with verse 7, I'll be reading through verse 14. John 16.7, Jesus says, But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And he, when he comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment, concerning sin because they do not believe in Me, and concerning righteousness because I go to the Father, and you no longer see Me, and concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged.
I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever he hears, he will speak, and he will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for he will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. You're listening to Insight for Living.
To study the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insight.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck titled, The Spirit Who Is Not a Ghost. I did an unearthly thing last week. In fact, I did it twice. Now in my lifetime, I have done a number of adventurous things, some crazy things, some things I think would qualify as mischievous, risky, and on occasion, dangerous things. And to retain what little bit of respect I have built with you over the years, I'm not going to tell you all of those things that I have done.
Furthermore, I want to keep my job, so I'm not going to tell you all of it. But I have to tell you about this unearthly thing that I did twice this past week. And I checked Webster for unearthly to make sure it's the word I want. It means non-terrestrial, weird, eerie, not mundane.
So that's the word. I did that this week. Being an earthling, it was wonderful and it was even on occasion downright exciting. I defied gravity.
Now I have to confess, I didn't do it on my own because earthlings can't do that. I needed help from a power outside myself, but the problem is that power is invisible. And that's where it got eerie. Now the reason I know it is invisible is because I looked. In fact, I stared. I leaned over the fellow sitting next to the window and I watched the wings as we roared down the runway and the jets full throttle. And I kept looking to see if I could see it. Finally, the guy sitting next to the window said to me, are you all right?
I said, yes, I'm just checking. I like to say things like that when you take off on airplanes. And before long, he was checking with me as we, what are you looking for?
He said, I said, I'm looking for the stuff that holds us up. That led into a very interesting conversation I might have. Isn't it amazing?
You say, oh Chuck, now you led us on. We thought you did something spooky or really weird. You just flew.
I did. It's amazing. In fact, that invisible force held us 30,000 feet above sea level and more or over 2 hours each way. And not one of us inside the plane ever saw what did it. It's an amazing force, that stuff, that will demolish a landscape and clear out an entire mobile home park in seconds pushed by a hurricane or tornado. Amazing power in that invisible stuff. If you contain it in a network of hoses and valves and put it under enough pressure, it can bring a massive commercial bus or trailer rig to a screeching halt. It'll even stop a locomotive pulling 100 cars. It will break thick concrete on a freeway if it's pushed through the right tool.
It will loosen or tighten the lug nuts on your car's wheels if inside the right mechanism. Amazing power. In fact, it will lift massive weights. The manager of a granite quarry in North Carolina said, we supplied the granite for the municipal building in New York City. We can lift an acre of solid granite 10 feet thick to almost any height we desire for the purpose of moving it.
And we can do it as easily as I can lift a piece of paper. What is that stuff that will cause tons of weight to stay in the air, that will bring a truck to a stop in a matter of feet that was once traveling 50, 60 miles an hour? What will break through the solid cement concrete that's a part of the freeway system?
What will lift tons of granite, an acre of it? Air. Air.
That's all. You can't feel it. You can't smell it. You can't see it. You can't measure it.
You can't, except in most technical ways, weigh it, but it keeps you alive every minute. You take it away for five minutes and every person hearing my voice is damaged in his brain. We cannot live without it. And yet, when we fly or apply our brakes or watch a mechanic work on our car, we think nothing of it.
Amazing stuff. Never think that because something is invisible, it is therefore unimportant or weak. You may be surprised to know that the Bible talks a lot about this air. The Old Testament calls it Ruach. The New Testament calls it pneuma. We get the word pneumatic from the New Testament Greek word.
But usually it doesn't translate either one air. Usually it's breath. God breathed into man the breath of life.
Or it's called wind. It's sometimes called spirit. A lot of synonyms are used for spirit, helper, advocate, comforter, convictor, restrainer, exhorter, reprover, even living water, living water, dove, fire. In John 7, we read of its being called living water. John 7, 37, Jesus says, if any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. And then he adds, he who believes in me, as scripture said, from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living waters. And in case you wonder what he had referenced to, the next verse, 39 in John 7, says, this he spoke of the pneuma, the breath, the wind of God, the spirit.
Let me paraphrase verse 38. From the believer's inner life there will be a reservoir of enormous, immeasurable power. It will gush forth.
It will pour out like a torrential river, creating rapids and waterfalls and movement to the oceans. That's the idea. It's not a picture of some blase passive kind of latent force that hopefully will be there. It is the dynamic of life called simply spirit.
Now we are so impressed with what we can touch and weigh and purchase and see that when it comes to something that is invisible, we pass it off almost like another flight on a Saturday afternoon. But I want you to know that the most powerful force in your life, Christian, is something you can't even see. And it is so powerful it holds you eternally till Christ comes and secures your destiny, ushering you right into eternity. I call that powerful. And in the meantime, he is ready to work and move and transform your life and others.
And you've got it waiting to be used. Now there are some things the spirit of God is not. While we're in John 7, let's turn to chapter 14 and let me point out three or four, not just facts, but sort of pet peeves of mine.
I get very uneasy when error is taught and one major area of erroneous teaching relates to the spirit of God. I have often heard him called an it, so let's start there. The spirit is not an it, but a distinct personality. He is a him, a he. He is a distinct person, John 14.
14. Jesus said, if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Now the verse, 16. I will ask the Father and he will give you another helper, that he may be with you forever. That is, the pneuma, the breath, the wind, the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not behold him or know him, but you know him because he abides with you and will be in you.
Is that great? The spirit of God, like a piece of paper that you may hold to your side while Jesus was on the earth, the spirit of God was with the men of God, the women of God. But when Jesus left the earth and sent another helper, another of the same kind, interestingly, when he sent another helper, the helper came and became a part of their lives within them.
No longer near them, but in them. That's a wonderful truth and notice he is called he, him, not it. John 16 is yet another factor. The spirit of God is not passive, but active and involved. John 16, 7.
I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the helper, again another synonym of the spirit of God, the helper shall not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. What will he do?
Sort of lay around, take it easy, relax, just be a latent force within us. No, watch what he says. He is actively involved in the world. When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment. We'll come back to this in a moment. Drop down to verse 13. When he, the spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever he hears, he will speak and he will disclose to you what is to come.
Furthermore, he shall glorify me, for he shall take of mine and disclose it to you. Never doubt that the spirit of God is always at work. You can't see him, just as you cannot see air, but you can feel him. You know he is present on some occasions, it is almost as though you can touch him, but you cannot. When he moves among a body of people, they are mobilized and empowered. They are motivated, they are cleansed, they are purged, they are en route to a proper destination. When he is absent, it is dreadfully dead.
Horribly, horribly dead. He's at work, he is involved, he's active. We'll return to this in a moment. Turn to Acts chapter 1. The spirit of God is not imaginary, but real and relevant is he ever. He is real and he is relevant, not imaginary.
Once again I remind you just because you cannot see him, do not assume he isn't there, he isn't real. Verse 6 of Acts 1, so when they had come together they were asking him saying, Lord is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel? He said to them, it is not for you to know times or epochs which the father has fixed by his own authority, but you shall receive power.
The word is dunamis. No doubt we get the word dynamic, even dynamite from it. You shall receive dynamic when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and the remotest part of the earth. That isn't an imaginary hope, that is a promise from our Savior. You will have his presence and wherever you go he will be in you, he will empower you, he will be a major force in my plan. Let me show you one more. Acts 5, he is not a substitute for God, he is God.
This will heighten your respect for his work, if nothing else. Acts 5, a certain man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and kept back some of the price for himself with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it he laid it at the apostle's feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?
And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Now watch the question. Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God. Remember what we just read in verse 3? Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.
And verse 4, you haven't lied to men, you've lied to God. Before going any further, let me ask you to imagine, just imagine what it means to have the presence of the living God within you. Just think.
The third member of the Godhead, the invisible albeit powerful representation of deity living inside your being. You think you can't handle what life throws at you? You think you can't stand firm or when necessary stand alone in your life? You think you can't handle its temptations? Well you alone can't any more than I can fly alone. But with the right kind of power put into operation, the very power of God surrounded by his presence, you can handle it. You can do it.
And as a matter of fact, the weight will all be shifted from you to him. It's wonderful. Now I'm sounding pretty authoritative about it. I'm getting way over my head to tell you the truth. When you talk about God, you're moving out of the realm of the familiar to that which is awesome.
And it's supposed to be. Reminds me frankly of a story of a teacher teaching a group of fifth graders. And the teacher looked around the room and he said, does anybody here understand electricity? And one rather anxious little boy named Jimmy, halfway down the middle aisle, pushed his hand up in the air and he said, I understand electricity. The teacher looked at him and said, Jimmy, would you explain electricity to the class? And he suddenly put his hand over his face and he said, oh, last night I knew, but this morning I've forgotten. The teacher with tongue in cheek said, now this is a tragedy. The only person in all history who ever understood electricity and this morning he forgot it.
I feel a little like Jimmy. I seem to have forgotten a whole lot of things that his book says about it. I therefore must come to grips with what I can understand and I must leave the rest with him. Like electricity, I enjoy it, though I cannot explain it. I need it. It is extremely useful in my life, but I have to confess once I've plugged in the socket, I've about run out of knowledge.
I just enjoy it. So it is with the Spirit of God. Don't let it trouble you that you cannot define and divide meanings of words and ideas and thoughts that are beyond you. This is in an invisible realm. This is a power and a force you will never see. That is the force itself. You will only see it's working, the power at work. But when he, the Spirit of God, is in control, it is awesome.
It is awesome. When he is absent, it is dreadful. Believe me, there is nothing worse than preaching a sermon without the Spirit's help. Well maybe one thing is worth listening to a sermon that is not being preached with the help of the Holy Spirit.
It is the longest, longest period of time you can imagine. What does he do? Now that the Lord tells us he has promised him and has sent him, what can we find out about him in this little bit of time we have? Back to John chapter 16. Let me sort of set the stage so you'll understand why these disciples seem so dull and unable to grasp what the Lord was saying.
First of all the time is about midnight. They're in a second story flat in Jerusalem. There are eleven men with Jesus. One has been dismissed, the unfaithful Judas. In this upper room they are sitting around a table and there's small talk and then the focus turns to the Lord himself. And in quiet tones he begins to communicate to them messages regarding life after his death. And they are seized with panic.
Why? Well understand now for three years, some of them more than three years, they've been following the man they expected to be the ruler of the world. They would be in the kingdom and he would establish himself as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
He would overthrow Rome, he would move out those who were hypocrites in the religious sense of the word and his rule would be an authentic rule of godliness and right. Now out of the clear blue he tells them he's going to die. In a matter of hours he will be taken under arrest, nailed to a cross nine o'clock the next morning. Three that afternoon he will slump in death. Before dark they will have taken his body down, wrapped him as a mummy, put him in a tomb and sealed it and he's gone.
Can you imagine the tension in the room while Jesus made these shocking statements? There's much more to this story that Chuck Swindoll wants to tell us. He titled his message The Spirit Who Is Not a Ghost, which is study number 10 in the comprehensive teaching series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. To learn more about Chuck Swindoll and this ministry go online to insightworld.org.
As your next step in growing deeper I'd like to tell you about a brand new resource that will challenge your outlook. It's a brief book by Chuck called Life is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React. If you're a longtime listener to Insight for Living that title might sound familiar to you. That's because it's one of the most highly quoted statements that Chuck has ever made.
Some have even placed that statement in a frame. While the quote is original with Chuck the wisdom is not. It's rooted in scripture and described in his new seven chapter book. He's written on topics such as freeing yourself from drama and overcoming envy. Another one is called How to Have a Joyful and Prosperous Life.
To purchase a copy go to insight.org slash store or you can call us if you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888. Let me remind you that Chuck's teaching on your radio station is made possible in part by those who give generously. And we're also grateful to our station partners who provide a platform each day. It's a collaborative effort between Inside for Living Ministries your radio station and the people in our listening family who faithfully support us. As we walk through this season together our focus on God's word will not change. In fact we're declaring this to be a time in which we're fully engaged in Bible study together. As God leads you to give and support this worthy effort we invite your financial partnership. So call us today. If you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888 or go online to insight.org slash donate. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us again next time when Chuck Swindoll continues his helpful series about growing deep in the Christian life on Insight for Living. you
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