God’s Spirit is in us and is active, if we will let it be, Matt and Coren Miles of Finsbury Park ecclesia enthused the Horley Praise Day on Saturday.

What is a chicken Caesar salad if the chicken, croutons, Parmesan cheese and mayonnaise are left out? A bowl of lettuce!. Just a bowl of lettuce. Missing all the good bits. And we are the same, if we leave the good bits out of our lives, the bits God wants us to include.

So, what are those good bits? What guides us? What is at the centre of our lives? Is it God, Jesus, the Bible, belief, faith, family, culture, love? For the Jewish community it is the Law. But what about us?

In Jeremiah 31:33 God takes the Law, which had been written on stone, and puts His law in our minds and writes it on our hearts. In Ezekiel 36:26 God gives us a new heart and puts a new spirit in us; He removes from us our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. In 2 Corinthians 3:3 Paul explains how we show that we are a letter from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts, our hearts. The Law is transferred from being something outside us, on tablets of stone, to something inside us!

Turn to Acts. At Pentecost, the Jewish festival celebrating the giving of the Law, the Spirit came down on the 12 apostles, just as the Law had come down to the people from the mountain.

Peter recognised the change (Acts 2:37-39): “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Paul picks this idea up in Romans 7: 1-6. It can seem a complicated and confusing passage. But the gist is that we could find ourselves like an empty bowl of lettuce, no longer married to the Law, because it died. But the Bible says we are not committed to a bachelor life, the love is actually still there, but we now love somebody else, the Holy Spirit. We serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the Law.

The Holy Spirit is an important thing in our lives, it is guiding us and giving us our values. Without it our lives are like a Caesar salad with all the good ingredients taken out. Rom 8:1-2 –
the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free. And this theme recurs again and again in the Bible.

So, IF the Spirit dwells in you he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you (Rom 8:10-11). Why are we ashamed that the Spirit lives in us?

In Matt 5:17 Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” We still have a law, but it is now the Spirit. But our tradition omits it.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, Paul explains in 1 Cor 6:19. The Temple contains the Holy of Holies, in which is the ark of the covenant, in which are the tablets of the Law. In the same way, we have God’s Spirit inside us. Otherwise, we are a chicken Caesar salad with the good bits taken out, and we are to be most pitied of all, because we are trying to do it all ourselves and do not have the things God gave us at the centre: His Spirit in our inner being (Ephesians 3: 14-19).

God wants us to be eating the whole salad. If we live by the Spirit, we also walk by the Spirit.

OK. That’s clear. And?

The Holy Spirit is God’s power, to do. So, is the doing the problem, the idea that the Spirit does things? Indeed, it was not what Jesus said that wound up the Pharisees and Scribes, it was what he did, his miracles.

All through the Bible, when things needed doing, God gave people the Spirit to get things done. Noah, Moses, Samson, the Apostles. And interestingly it’s up to God who He gives the Spirit to, to get things done. It is not based on how good people are. In Acts, for example, some Greeks receive the Holy Spirit, before they have even been baptised.

So, the question for us, if the Bible says the Holy Spirit is inside us, is what is it doing inside us? It is not just making us feel good, it is there for a reason.

The parable of the talents tells how God chooses how much each servant should be given. The fact that he who received 10 coins produced 10 more shows His choice was right. And one hid his coin in the ground. So, the question for us is what is God’s power doing in us?

Look at the Acts of the Apostles, describing their works. It is actually the Acts of the Holy Spirit, and how it underpinned their actions, as detailed on almost every page. It’s not about the power to sit in an armchair and to not sin, to seek to really understand and to believe. It’s not for that. It is for us to DO.

It is strongly linked to the idea of whether we have been saved, are being saved, or will be saved. It is a debate that can split us. But Acts 2:46 says “those who were being saved.” Not had been, or will be. But are being.

A fluke? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18 “who are being saved.” And in 1 Cor 15:1-2 “are being saved.” And 2 Cor 2:15 “are being saved….are perishing” It’s a dynamic process.

2 Cor 3:17-18 – we are being transformed. It is a very present tense transformation, by degrees.

So, do you want to change? Yes, we become Christians by changing, through baptism. But does it then stop? We soon recognise that baptism is the beginning of the transformation process. The change is being caused by God’s power to do, through the Holy Spirit – to change who we are and what we do, our values, the very core of us and the fruits, the outpouring, that results from those changes. And that’s why it is written on our hearts.

Galatians 5:16-18 tells us how the bad things we hold onto stop us from being transformed. If we try to carry the old ways of doing things, the yoke Christ offers us is very heavy. It only becomes light if we throw those old things away.

So, which comes first, faith or works? The fruit (works) come as a result of a strong tree (faith). The good things we do are a result, not of us, but of the goodness God has put inside us. We can’t just create good works ourselves. That would be like creating plastic (artificial) fruit.

Galatians 5:24-25 “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Transformation pushes us way beyond where we are comfortable. So don’t try to transform your own life, by your own effort, even though it is something we are all tempted to try. It only happens by God’s power. The Spirit gifts (healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning spirits, tongues, interpreting tongues, administration, helps, wisdom, knowledge, faith) are not ours, but God’s, given to us. They help us to jump out of the armchair and leave behind the old ways, because Christ’s way is a better way than our own way.

Heb 11 lists those who acted by faith, by a gift from God, as God used the Holy Spirit to get things done, for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). Abel offered God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, and all the other examples cited in Hebrews 11, came from faith, from God, through the Spirit, not from people being good.

Those people in Heb 11 all provide signs of the coming Kingdom. So, what’s our sign? Three spring to mind: baptism, breaking of bread, and church unity. They show forth the transformation; the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection; and unity around the faith. Are they done by us, of ourselves? No, but because God has given these gifts to us, for others to see.

So, let us shine, like John wants the seven churches to shine, as vessels of the Holy Spirit on fire, showing the fruits: love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Eph 2:18-22 – For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.