This past weekend at Eastbrook we took a pause on our preaching series, “Who Do You Say I Am?”, in order to begin our annual MissionsFest. We had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Ed Stetzer for this kick-off weekend of MissionsFest. Ed Stetzer is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books.
In Scripture there are three basic descriptions of the Holy Spirit. These symbols of the Holy Spirit’s presence help us understand who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does.
The Holy Spirit is Like Wind
The first of these images or symbols is wind. We read about this on the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:1-2)
When the believers are gathered together in obedience to Jesus’ command to wait for the Spirit to come, they first of all encounter the wind or breath of God. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the Hebrew word that ruach is translated as breath, wind, or spirit. It is this word used in Genesis 1:2, where we read of God’s creative work in creation: “and the Spirit [ruach] of God was hovering over the waters.” This is the word used in Genesis 2:7 where we read: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath [ruach] of life and the man became a living being.” The Holy Spirit is the basic breath of life – the spirit – that animates all creation and human beings.
Beyond bringing natural life, the Holy Spirit also brings spiritual life in the midst of humanity’s spiritual death through sin and ruptured relationship with God. In Ezekiel 376, when the prophet preaches to the valley of dry bones, they represent the spiritually dead people of God spiritually dead. It is the breath and wind that blows this mass of death into a living army of God. This is likely the idea behind Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3:8: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The Holy Spirit is like wind that breathes life into us, spiritually restoring us with God through Christ. So, when the violent wind rushes into the house where the disciples were gathered on Pentecost Sunday in Acts 2 we see that the Holy Spirit is coming in fulfillment of prophesy to breathe God’s divine life back into humanity.
The Holy Spirit is Like Fire
Secondly, the Holy Spirit is described as fire. Here are the next two verses in Acts 2:
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:3-4)
Throughout Scripture, fire is a symbol of the presence of God. When Moses knelt at the burning bush (Exodus 3) or Elijah battled the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), fire symbolized the presence of God in holiness and power. Fire is a symbol of God’s leading presence, such as when God led His people out from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Fire also conveys God’s purifying presence, as when Isaiah had a vision of God and a coal was taken from the heavenly altar of God to purify Isaiah’s lips (Isaiah 6). Lastly, fire is a symbol of God’s passionate presence, seeking after people. When he received a message from God, the prophet Jeremiah heard these words, “I will make my words in your mouth a fire” (Jeremiah 5:14). Later on, Jeremiah exclaimed, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones” (20:9)
And so, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the early disciples of Jesus in Acts 2 in the form of tongues of fire, He is kindling His presence within His people. That presence is for guidance, holiness, and passion for people into the early disciples.
The Holy Spirit is Like Water
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is described as wind. Earlier in the book of Acts, just before His ascension, Jesus says to His disciples:
For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:5)
βαπτίζω (baptizo) means literally to immerse, and so Jesus is telling His followers that they will be washed or submerged in the Holy Spirit as we with water. The Apostle Peter echoes this later, after the Pentecost arrival of the Holy Spirit, when preaches with reference to the words of the prophet Joel, saying, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:17).
The Holy Spirit is like water poured into our lives from God. This reminds us of the Genesis account of Creation where the Spirit of God was hovering over the primordial waters of the cosmos that was still formless and void. The primordial deep was met with God’s Spirit to bring life.
It also calls to mind two episodes from Jesus’ life and ministry. The first is Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman by the well in John 4. Moving from the earthly waters of Jacob’s well, Jesus says:
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14)
The second episode occurs when Jesus is at a great Jewish festival, the feast of tabernacles, in John 7. Speaking in the midst of a great crowd, Jesus says, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John offers this explanatory statement immediately following: “By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believe in him were later to receive” (John 7:37b-39). The Holy Spirit is a gift like water that brings life to our souls and cleanses our dry and thirsty world.
These three images – wind, fire, water – help us understand who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does. If the church wants to live and thrive, we must seek to live by the Holy Spirit, who breathes life into us, who sets us ablaze with God’s power, and revives us with waters of life.
[This is an excerpt from my message, “Activated by the Holy Spirit,” preached at Eastbrook Church on September 6/7.]
This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, we begin a new five-week series called “Roots.” This series is an opportunity for us at Eastbrook as we celebrate 40 years as a church to look back at what have been the roots of our church. It also offers us the chance to look forward to how we can continue living from these roots as we move forward for years to come.
This weekend we looked at how the Holy Spirit activates the church. Since our inception, we have said that we wanted to be a church that could only be explained by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is really supposed to be true of any local church, and was definitely true of the early church in Jerusalem.
You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.
I continued our series on prayer, “Great Prayers of the Bible“, at Eastbrook Church this past weekend by looking at four themes on prayer from the early church in the book of Acts. I try not have a romanticized view of the early church that leads into an impulse to “recover the true church.” However, I do believe we can learn some important lessons on prayer from the earliest believers who walked with Jesus.
This Sunday, July 15, at 6 AM we begin a week of 24-7 Prayer here at Eastbrook. This is part of our Summer of Prayer in July where we are focusing on learning how to pray together with others. Holy Grounds Coffeehouse will be open for prayer with others during this entire week for prayer.
Participants can participate with interactive prayer stations (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) that will encourage personal prayer, as well as create space for groups (families, life groups, etc.) to pray together. Plan to spend about an hour in the various stations.
Holy Trinity Brompton shares this in their booklet History Belongs to the Intercessors:
Some of the most remarkable moments in church history have been marked by 24-7 prayer:
- When the Holy Spirit visited a 24-7 Prayer Room in an upper room in Jerusalem, the church was born!
- Monastic communities have practiced the laus perennis – perpetual prayer, for centuries
- During the eighteenth century, Moravians in the German village of Herrnhut prayed continually for more than 100 years. From that remarkable prayer meeting they sent out missionaries all over the world, even converting John Wesley
- The Pentecostal movement began in 1906 when the Holy Spirit was poured out on a multiracial 24-7 Prayer Room in Azusa Street, Los Angeles
If you want to dig more deeply into how to pray, you may enjoy accessing the resources pulled together from the 24-7 Prayer movement, including the Prayer Course.