Today we give special honor to the Holy Spirit. It is Pentecost Sunday.
Fifty days after Jesus arose and ten days after He ascended into heaven, as He had promised, He poured out His Spirit upon the church. At the moment of His ascension into heaven He said (Acts 1:4, 5), “Wait for the promise of the Father which, saith he, ye have heard of me. …ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” And so it was, as we read in Acts 2, that fifty days after the resurrection and ten days after He had ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church of Jesus Christ.
We would be remiss if we would fail to commemorate Pentecost. If Christmas, Good Friday, and even the Ascension are marked on our calendars but not Pentecost, we show that we just have not gotten the point. For, it was for the Holy Spirit that all else was. The work of Christ in His birth, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven was exactly for the Holy Spirit. Exactly that the Spirit might bring His salvation to us. The great blessing is the blessing of the out-poured Spirit of Christ. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no church. For, Jesus said, He is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). As the Spirit of truth, He would guide the church into all the truth, illuminate and open our hearts and sanctify the Word of God to our hearts.
Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Christians. The distinguishing mark of the Christian is that he has been given, of God, by grace, the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” He is none of His! You do not belong to Christ if you do not have the Spirit of Christ. You do not have forgiveness. You do not have righteousness. You do not have the hope of heaven. You may be baptized. You may be a church member. You may consider yourself a Christian. But if you have not the Holy Spirit of Christ, you are none of His.
We want to approach the truth of Pentecost today from the point of view of our personal need of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We do not want to approach this truth merely as a historical fact, as we would say, “Well, in 1776 certain things happened,” and so on. No, we want to approach this truth as we experience it in our hearts. That experience is revealed to us in Psalm 51. This psalm is a psalm of David in which he expresses, from the depth of his soul, his repentance for his sin of murder and adultery.
You will remember the sad and almost unbelievable events of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah. It was during a time of war when David had remained in Jerusalem and had gone out at night upon his balcony and saw a beautiful woman. He took her for himself and killed her husband Uriah. Now David, convicted by the Holy Spirit, groans under the burden of his sin and is appalled by his evil nature and cries out for mercy. In the psalm he also pleads for the Holy Spirit.
The psalm contains a list of his petitions given at rapid fire, beginning at verse 7. Desperate, heartfelt, intense petitions. David prays as one who has been given to see his sin; given to see himself for what he is; brought to know his desperate need of the Holy Spirit. Do you pray that way?
Psalm 51:11, 12, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” He is pleading for the work of the Holy Spirit.
David writes in the form of Hebrew parallelism. That means that there are two clauses in each verse and those two clauses shed light upon each other or interpret each other so that they express one thought. From verse 11 we learn what is meant: “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”
To be cast away from the presence of God is synonymous with the Holy Spirit being taken. Placed in positive words, we may say: The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring to us the experience of God’s presence. The Holy Spirit brings into the believer’s heart and life the felt presence of God in Jesus Christ. Or, let me put it this way: It is the work of the Holy Spirit to work in our soul the joy of salvation. That is His work. And that is a very precious and sweet work. Jesus spoke of that in John 16. He said that it would be the Spirit of truth who would “take of Mine (My salvation, My word), and show it unto you.” We read, further, that it is the Spirit (I Cor. 2) that searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God; even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. That is the work of the Spirit. The work of the Spirit is to bring, through the Word, by grace, the consciousness of the presence of God’s favor in Jesus Christ, to the heart of the believer.
Today, the work of the Holy Spirit is supposedly this outward, dramatic work of miracles or healing or speaking in tongues. Not so, according to Scripture. The great work of the Holy Spirit is to bring the presence of God into your soul; to bring you into an intimate, personal sense of God with you in His mercy, so that you are filled with an awareness, with a reverence of His majesty, and are satisfied in God alone. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
What does David mean by the presence of God? He says, “Cast me not away from thy presence.” The presence of God here that he is referring to is more than just the truth of God’s omnipresence, namely, that God is everywhere present. David will confess this truth beautifully in Psalm 139: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” It was exactly God’s presence that made David’s life unbearable when he proudly walked in his sin. Psalm 32:4, “For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.” So it means more than simply the omnipresence of God. It means this: By the presence of God, David meant the experience of God’s favor and love. That is the work of the Holy Spirit – to bring us that, through the Word, by grace, and in Christ. There is nothing so precious as that. We read inRomans 8:15, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Again, Galatians 4:6, “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.”
To be brought into the presence of God’s grace and love is a wonder of His grace. God is the holy One. And it is the Holy Spirit who, through the Word, works in our hearts the assurance that we may come to God in the blood of His Son. The world of men are utter strangers to the presence of God. They mock. They fear when they are taken up into God’s hands. But the believer rejoices in the presence of God. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is to give to us that we experience the favor of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, then, brings Christ to us, and, bringing Christ to us, brings to us the assurance of the everlasting favor, the everlasting mercies of God.
You see, the work of the Holy Spirit is self-effacing. What does that mean? That means this: The Holy Spirit does not broadcast Himself. His work is to glorify the Father and the Son. He does so by shining the light of God’s grace into your soul (through the Scriptures), and leading you, by grace, to know the Savior, and, in the Savior, the love of God. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the only one who can do that. And what a wonderful work that is!
So David pleads, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” Take not, that is, do not remove, do not take away from me the experience of this work of the Holy Spirit. That does not mean that once the Holy Spirit begins His work in the heart of a child of God that He will abandon that child of God and depart. No, that cannot be. The work of God, Romans 11, is without repentance. That is, God does not change His mind. When He sends forth the Holy Spirit into a person’s heart, it will abide there forever. But to take away the Holy Spirit means that when the child of God goes in a way of headstrong rebellion and sin the experience of that favor of God is taken away.
That is the deceit of sin. That is the false promise of sin. Satan says, “Those friends, those unbelieving friends, are so entertaining and educated and stimulating. That lust is so satisfying, so gratifying. That movie is so entertaining. That music does something to you. That bed is so soft and that sleep is so pleasing, why go to church?” These are the things he sells to the wicked. And they know no better and perish.
But to the believer, all of those things come at a cost. The cost is the felt presence of God. No assurance of the approving eye of God. Do you live for God? Do you have the Spirit of Christ? Then the thing for which you will plead is that the Holy Spirit will maintain in you that sense of God’s favor, in the way of a life of repentance from sin. That is why He is called the Holy Spirit. He creates in us a thirst for holiness.
The work of the Holy Spirit, therefore, is a work which humbles. He creates in you a felt need for God by revealing the emptiness of all else around you and the emptiness of yourself. So we read in John 16 the words of Jesus, that when the Spirit comes, He will convict you of sin. He will open up the Word to you and will expose to you your own sins. He will show you the world of unbelief and expose its utter bankruptcy as being filled with vanity. He will expose to you the truth of sin and depravity in order that the Spirit might show us that God alone can be our portion.
You see, the presence of God is not for the indifferent and self-complacent and self-satisfied. It is not for the person who says in his heart, “Well, I’ll decide what part God will have in my life.” The person who thinks that way will not know the presence of the God of the Bible. He does not! The presence of God is not for the double-hearted, those who try to have both: the world and God, outward religion and yet a heart which is stuck upon itself and the world. No, the presence of God is for the desperate, for those who have felt the sting of their own sin, for those who know that they have no strength in themselves. That is why the Holy Spirit is doing more to teach us of God’s presence and favor when we are in the way of trial and difficulty than when we are in the way of ease and prosperity. The life of the child of God is like a wave. It has its crests and its bottoms. And God often leads us down into the bottoms in order that we might experience the wonder of the presence of God and His all-sufficient love. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Always the Spirit is working in order that God might be glorified, even as the Savior said: “He shall glorify Me.”
So David says, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” David had lost the joy of salvation because of his sin. There is no arguing with that. You can deceive your own heart if you want and say, “Well, I’m a Christian. I know my sins are forgiven.” And at the same time you live in a deliberate way of impenitence. You are deceiving yourself.
The truth is, for a child of God, that inwardly there can only be gloom and heavy despair when we continue in a way of wickedness, when we call our wickedness a weakness or a phase of life. Instead of calling it wickedness, we say, “Well, it’s a phase of life.” Then you can only have spiritual gloom. That is because of the Holy Spirit. He will not give the joy of salvation if we walk in a way of evil. He is the Holy Spirit. Not only is there a disruption in communion with God, but there will be a lack of joy, a heaviness, a weight. And often it will be seen by others who are around us.
Purity. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
There is another reason why we lose the joy of salvation. That is when we spend too much time in looking at ourselves instead of looking to the Lord. That is introspection. The Bible speaks of examination of ourselves. That is when we go to the Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to show us our sin, and then He leads us to the cross so that we repent and strive to put that sin away and walk as forgiven children of God. Introspection is to look at oneself rather than upon the completed work of Christ. It is a form of pride, not piety or godliness, but pride. Not humility but pride. It is not finding any good in self and thus despairing, rather than looking at Christ. It is holding out with God and saying, “Well, if I can’t find a shred of good in me, then I guess the only thing to do is despair. And I can’t be happy.”
The work of the Holy Spirit is to show you that there is not a shred of good in you. But His work is also to show you the completed work of Christ, and that you look to Christ and not to yourself. He is the Comforter. That is what Jesus called Him. Jesus said that He would give His joy to us, the joy of salvation. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” It is the Spirit who works in us to pray. It is the Spirit who works in us conviction. It is the Spirit who works all the grace of God in our hearts. Can you imagine anything so wonderful? Here is David: an adulterer, a murderer, and a liar who is now responsible for so much trouble in Israel and in his own family. How can a man like that ever be happy again, we would say. That is the wonder of the grace of God. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts. It is the Holy Spirit who humbles. It is the Holy Spirit who raises up again from the depths so low, to the joy and gladness of salvation. Because the Holy Spirit assures us of pardon in the blood of Christ. And, not only that we are pardoned, but that we are delivered. And that God is pleased to dwell with us in the blood of His Son.
Do you plead for this? Does the Spirit of Christ dwell in you? Do you have the Holy Spirit? The evidence of having the Holy Spirit is not in speaking in tongues. It is not a second baptism. It is not a wave of emotionalism. It is not rocking and swaying in a spirit-filled frenzy. No! The evidence of the Holy Spirit is this: Do you know that in grace God has forgiven your sin, blotted out your transgression, and washed you (a filthy sinner) clean? Do you realize how vile you are? How wonderful is the grace of God? And do you now say, “The only thing that matters is that I be pleasing to God in my life”? That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Does He dwell in you?
Then you have the joy of salvation. Then you have the assurance of the presence of God. There is nothing greater than that.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word so rich and so free. We thank Thee for the gift of the Holy Spirit. We thank Thee that He, by His power and grace through the Word, brings Christ to us. And bringing the crucified and risen Christ to us, He brings to us the assurance of the favor, of the smile, of the presence of our Father in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.