读经：诗104:1-18 林后2:12-3:6 代下33:21-35:19
Ministry of the Holy Spirit
I remember the first time I prayed ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ on an Alpha Weekend. I knew that the Holy Spirit had ‘come’ every time those who had led the Alpha Weekends before me had asked him to come. Even so, I did not think he would come in answer to my prayers – as I prayed ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ I shut my eyes, because I did not want to see him ‘not coming’!
When I opened my eyes, there was an amazing sight. The Holy Spirit had come in a powerful way – people were being filled. He was changing people’s lives. This was the ministry of the Holy Spirit. That is why at some point in virtually every one of our services we pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’. We always try to leave time for ‘ministry’ – for the Holy Spirit to minister to us.
We often associate the word ‘minister’ with leadership, whether by government ministers or by church ministers. In fact, the word really means ‘to serve’. Politicians are called to serve their countries. Pastors are called to serve the church. Doctors, who administer treatment to their patients, are called to serve the sick and the dying.
The Holy Spirit ministers to us. He brings authority greater than any politician, comfort deeper than any pastor, and healing more wonderful than any doctor. God ministers to us in the deepest part of our lives by the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul speaks of ‘the ministry of the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:8). Wonderfully, this type of ministry is available to us all. John Wimber defines this kind of ministry as ‘meeting the needs of others with the resources of God’. Paul writes about being ‘ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit’ (v.6). What is this ‘ministry of the Spirit’ that you have been given?
1. Ministry of ‘wind’ and ‘flames of fire’
Psalm 104:1-18This is a wonderful psalm praising God for his entire creation. Everything that God has created is good. I love the fact that in addition to ‘oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts’, he has made ‘wine that gladdens human hearts’ (v.15).
Of course, like every good gift from God, wine can be abused. The Bible often warns against drunkenness. However, wine, like oil and bread, is given by God for our enjoyment and to gladden the heart of human beings.
Earlier on the psalmist says, ‘He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants’ (v.4). The word for ‘messengers’ can be translated ‘angels’ (see Hebrews 1:7). The word for ‘servants’ can be translated ‘ministers’ (see RSV, ESV, KJV).
This passage is a fascinating Old Testament backdrop to the account of the day of Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit came, they heard ‘a sound like the blowing of a violent wind’ and they saw ‘tongues [flames] of fire’ that separated and came to rest on each of them (Acts 2:2–4).
‘Wind’ and ‘flames of fire’ are God’s ministers. They symbolise the power, passion and purity of God. When we pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’, we are expecting God to send the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit. Even if you do not see or hear actual flames or wind, expect the ministry of the Holy Spirit to be powerful and life changing.
Lord, thank you for the transformation in people’s lives as they experience the power, passion and purity of God. Come, Holy Spirit and fill me today.
2. Ministry that gives life
2 Corinthians 2:12-3:6How can you bring life to others? In this passage, Paul describes himself as a minister of a ‘new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’ (3:6).
- Through you, people smell the sweet scent of Christ
‘Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance’ (2:14b, MSG). Paul describes his ministry as being like that of a ‘perpetual victory parade’ (v.14a, MSG). When a king or general had won a notable victory, the whole city would turn out to welcome them home. They would bring with them the prisoners they had taken. It might well be accompanied by the ‘sweet smell of incense’.
For some (the prisoners) it was ‘the smell of death’ (v.16a). For others (the victors) it was the ‘fragrance of life’ (v.16b). Similarly, ‘We give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognised by those on the way of salvation… But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse’ (vv.14–15, MSG).
- Through you, people read about Jesus
The only Bible some people will read is your life. Paul writes that he does not need references. The Corinthians themselves ‘are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it – not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiselled into stone, but carved into human lives – and we publish it’ (3:1b–3, MSG).
Not everyone can or will read books – but everyone you encounter can, and will, read your life.
- Through you, people hear about a relationship with Jesus
You should never say, ‘I am useless’, ‘I can do nothing’. You are able, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, to bring the good news of Jesus to others. This should give you great confidence – not self-confidence but God-confidence.
‘Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God’ (vv.4–5).
The Holy Spirit gives you not just a new start in life, but also a new life to start with. The old covenant was the one made by God through Moses, but it did not have the power to make the people everything that God longed for them to be.
Because the people could not keep the law that was written on tablets of stone, ultimately it brought death – ‘the letter kills’ (v.6). On the other hand, the ministry of the Holy Spirit –written in your heart – is a ministry that ‘gives life’ (v.6).
The Holy Spirit brings a change in human nature. Never say, ‘I can’t change’. With the Holy Spirit you can change.
It is the difference between a religion of rules and regulations (which ultimately none of us are able to keep) and a relationship with God through Jesus, which brings life, and life in all its fullness (John 10:10).
Lord, thank you that the Holy Spirit brings life to people. Thank you so much for this ministry where time and again we see the Spirit giving life to people who were spiritually dead.
3. Ministers of a new covenant
2 Chronicles 33:21-35:19Tim Keller defines a covenant as ‘the solemn, permanent, whole self-giving of two parties to each other. It is a stunning blend of both law and love… a relationship much more intimate and loving than a mere legal contract could create, yet one more enduring and binding than personal affection alone could make.’
Paul writes, God has ‘made us competent as ministers of a new covenant’ (2 Corinthians 3:6). He contrasts this with the old covenant. Here we see something about this old covenant.
After Amon, who was an evil king who ‘did not humble himself before the Lord’ (2 Chronicles 33:23), Josiah became king at the age of eight (34:1). His faith came alive when he was sixteen years of age and ‘he began to seek the God of his father David’ (v.3). He cleansed Judah and Jerusalem of all the bad stuff and scrubbed the place clean (vv.3–7, MSG). He ‘repaired and restored the temple’ (v.10).
While they were doing so they ‘found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses’ (v.14). By looking at the old covenant they saw that ‘they had not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book’ (v.21).
God spoke to them through the prophetess Huldah (v.22). (Again, here in the Old Testament we see a woman in a prominent position in ministry.)
In the hearing of the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites, Josiah read ‘all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord’ (v.30). He ‘solemnly committed himself to the covenant: to follow God believingly and obediently; to follow his instructions, heart and soul, on what to believe and do; to confirm with his life the entire covenant’ (v.31, MSG).
The old covenant was a good covenant. But, it was written on tablets of stone.
The problem was that even when, as in the time of Josiah, the people did try to keep the law, it never lasted very long. The outward reformation lasted only as long as Josiah was there to enforce it. Ultimately, they failed to keep it (see Jeremiah 11–13).
The law shows us our need for a saviour. We can only keep God’s covenant when we receive forgiveness from Jesus and, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the law is written in our hearts.
Lord, thank you that we are ‘ministers of a new covenant’. Thank you that your law is not just on tablets of stone, but is now written in our hearts by the Spirit who enables us to walk in him and to minister in his power.
2 Chronicles 34:3
‘In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, [Josiah] began to seek the God of his father David.’
Josiah was sixteen. You are never too young to have a relationship with God or to have an anointing for leadership.