This week, Pastor Mark preached about the theology of living Spirit-filled lives. In this post, Orange County Pastor Nick Bogardus writes about what he learned from the Bible and Martin Luther on how that happens.
There are two usual errors people make in regards to the Holy Spirit: they either elevate him over the other two members of the Trinity, or they ignore him altogether. On one extreme it becomes hyper-individualized, experience-driven charismatic chaos. The latter is as warm and welcoming as North Korea in December.
I pastor in the part of the country that birthed some of the largest charismatic movements of the past century, as well as some of the staunchest anti-charismatic. Most of the arguments that I heard involved the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until later in my 20s that I saw two aspects of the Holy Spirit work that helped me understand that being Spirit-filled is all about Jesus.
The Spirit Is All About Jesus
Before we get to that, I want to show that the Spirit is all about Jesus. We just spent the last two years as a church in the Gospel of Luke
. Let’s look briefly at the Spirit’s work in that book.
Luke 1:35 — Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary.
Luke 1:41 — The Spirit fills Elizabeth and she prophesies about Jesus as Lord.
Luke 1:67 — The Spirit fills the formerly-mute Zechariah to prophecy about God’s plan of redemption being fulfilled in Jesus.
Luke 2:25 — The Spirit was upon Simeon who prophesied about Jesus, that he brings salvation.
Luke 3:22 — The Holy Spirit descended as a dove upon Jesus at his baptism and the Father revealed him as his beloved Son.
Luke 4:1 — The Holy Spirit filled Jesus and led him into the wilderness and sustained him through temptation.
Luke 4:14 — The Spirit filled Jesus with power and he taught in such a way that he was glorified by all.
Luke 4:17–19 — The Spirit inspired Isaiah to write about Jesus and his mission of redemption hundreds of years before he was born (Isaiah 61). The Spirit is upon Jesus for the rest of his ministry to empower him to be able to do what Isaiah foretold and what he proclaimed.
Luke 10:21–24 — Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit about God’s plan for redemption being revealed to the disciples.
Luke 11:13 — The loving Father gives the Holy Spirit generously to those who ask him.
Luke 12:12 — Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would teach the disciples what they should say when they are called to testify before synagogues, rulers, and authorities.
What we see is that the Holy Spirit always reveals Jesus, in particular, is saving work. When you read Luke’s second book, Acts
, you see the Spirit doing the same things through the early church. He doesn’t exalt a human. He isn’t there to give an experience for experience’s sake. The Spirit is sent by the Father through the Son to reveal Jesus as Lord, God, Savior, and King! It’s not about you; it’s about Jesus.
The Hinge on Which All Turns
Martin Luther famously said that the church would stand or fall on the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. In his book, The Bondage of the Will
, he says to Erasmus, ". . . you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot."
What is the hinge he spoke about?
The hinge is regeneration: whether or not mankind is born dead in their trespasses and sins, slaves to sin, and entirely unable to choose God on their own (wills that are bound)—or whether we are born with an innate goodness and freedom to choose God. That monergistic, or one-way, act of God in regeneration is the Holy Spirit’s work (John 3
, Ezekiel 36
, Jeremiah 31
The Spirit Regenerates Our Dead Hearts
God sends the Holy Spirit to regenerate our dead hearts and give us new hearts, miraculously bring life where there was death, light where we loved darkness, and freedom where we were slaves. The Spirit then works to convict us of sin, point us to the cross, and give us faith in Jesus’ finished work in our place for our sins, whereby we are justified (Romans 3–4
). That work of convicting people of sin, leading us to the cross and repentance is what the Holy Spirit does in us until we die and meet Jesus face to face. The primary means through which the Spirit works is through the proclamation of the gospel (Romans 10:14–17
). This biblical imperative is why we put such a large emphasis on preaching the gospel at Mars Hill Church.
What I came to see through the Bible and Luther was that being Spirit-filled was to be all about Jesus because to be Spirit-filled is to be gospel and cross-centered. To focus on the gifts of the Spirit, while good things, was focus on secondary issues and to miss the Spirit’s primary ministry. Our justification and righteousness come from outside of us and in Jesus.
Our faith, conviction of sin, and repentance also come from outside of us, by the work of the Holy Spirit. Before God, there is nothing we can account for on our own. Because of this, we can sing that, when we stand before the throne
, we’ll stand in him complete, and we will lay our trophies down, all down at Jesus’ feet.
Nick Bogardus is the lead pastor of Mars Hill Orange County.