INTRODUCTION - - Because God is not a minimalist, but rather a maximalist – that is He is extremely thorough and thoughtful. Because He loves His Son, and wants us to know and love Him and follow Him. Because He knows many liars and deceivers will rise up and try to corrupt and distort the knowledge of His Son,… - - the Holy Spirit led four transformed men to write thorough, historical accounts of Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and His teachings.
All four of these accounts are different in size and scope and in what they emphasize. All four have clear distinctives, which contribute to their overall purpose in writing, or to their contribution to the full revelation of Jesus Christ and His kingdom.
Because we happen to be on a preaching/teaching journey through the gospel of Luke together, I want to talk to you about one of Luke’s distinctives today. And that is his emphasis or attention to the role of the Holy Spirit in this grand story of redemption that Luke unfolds for us from beginning to end.
Luke clearly speaks of the Holy Spirit more than the other three gospel writers. And thus we would be remiss to not give some attention to this emphasis or distinctive.
One of the reasons we would be remiss is because you and I cannot be who God has called and destined us to be apart from an ever growing relationship with and dependence upon and submission to the Holy Spirit. As Smith Wigglesworth – the great British Evangelist and revivalist of a century ago wisely stated, “It is impossible to overestimate the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit.”
We are going to look at six examples of this; six people who experienced the anointing and filling of the Holy Spirit in the first four chapters of Luke.
I. John the Baptist – Luke 1:13-17 “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
There is one primary reason why a man born in sin (like all men and women since Adam), and who was born to sinful parents, though in general they walked with God as best they knew how, and more importantly - who was born and raised in a generation of Judaism that was corrupt to the core (especially its leaders, who were lovers of money and man’s praise among other abominable things), and who had no human connections to commend him, no unusual talents or learned oratory skills, no budget or staff, though he did eventually have some disciples, nothing about his dress or diet or social status to gain influence or admiration, and everything to lose by coming against the religious establishment, not to mention repeatedly rebuking King Herod for his immorality and terrible example to the people - - there is only one primary reason how such a man could effectively prepare the way for the coming of our Savior and Messiah - - and that is that he was “filled with the Holy Spirit”.
It was the Holy Spirit who taught John how to cultivate an inner/hidden life with God in the wilderness. It was the Holy Spirit who gave him utterance and boldness and fiery zeal for holiness and truth amidst an unholy and perverted generation. It was the Holy Spirit who gave him revelation that his unusual cousin, whom he most likely had some occasional encounters with growing up, was in fact the Son of God and the Savior of the World - - for John knew this– before Jesus ever preached a sermon, healed the sick or cast out a demon, or did any other miracles. It was the Holy Spirit who used this simple but godly man’s words and exhortations to such an extent that corrupt tax collectors and tough hard soldiers trembled when he preached, and sincerely asked him how they should respond to his message. John the Baptist was a Spirit made man!
By the way, this is the first time we see this phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “filled with the Spirit” in the Bible. And it turns out all the references to these two phrases in the New Testament are either found in Luke’s gospel or The Acts of the Apostles (also written by Luke) except for Paul’s command in Ephesians 5:18 for all of us to “be filled with the Spirit”.
II. Jesus’s mother Mary – Luke 1:34,35 “Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
Mary was not only a virgin when this shocking announcement was made to her, but because of her commitment to walk righteously before her God, she was going to be a virgin for a while (until she was officially married) so practically speaking – 2000 years plus before artificial insemination was invented - - how in the world was she going to become pregnant? Well not only was the Holy Spirit the answer to that question, what about being worthy or adequate or prepared to mother and raise this God/man? The Holy Spirit was the answer to that question or that challenge as well.
When Mary asked how; the angel answered “Holy Spirit”.
Augustine said, “Without the Spirit we can neither love God nor keep His commandments.” But the good news this morning is, if you are born again, you have the Holy Spirit; and if you have the Holy Spirit, you can learn to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and thus you can both love God and keep His commandments and fulfill His assignments!
III. John the Baptist’s mother & Mary’s cousin - Elizabeth – Luke 1:41-45 “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
Mary most likely went to see Elizabeth because she was her cousin, but more importantly because she was one of the few godly women she knew, and she desperately needed some spiritual support to prepare to conceive and birth and raise the Savior and long awaited Messiah. As far as we know, Elizabeth had not been told of Mary’s encounter with the angel. So even though she was Mary’s cousin and a godly woman, she still could have taken great issue with such a claim and at least made the first hour or so together more difficult for Mary than it already was – once Mary told her her story.
But the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth and enabled her to see in the Spirit, so she immediately prophesied of the great blessing coming to Mary and through Mary. Please note: Elizabeth upon Mary’s greeting began to prophesy. This was clearly before she had any chance to hear of Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel.
Do you ever leave an encounter or an interaction with some individual or perhaps a group of people wishing you had handled it in a more spiritual and mature way? Do you ever wish you could have seen them in the spirit rather than in the flesh? Do you ever wish you could have been used by God to encourage them rather than to discourage them? Well the Holy Spirit specializes in enabling us to have supernatural encounters and supernatural interactions with people that bear fruit for the kingdom of God, rather than contributing to the contentiousness and fractions and fleshliness of this earthly kingdom of darkness.
IV. John’s father Zacharias – Luke 1:67f “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,…” . This prophecy went on for a while.
Luke tells us in Luke 1:6 that both Elizabeth and Zacharias were “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord”, which includes confessing their sins and making offerings and sacrifices for their sins.
We should all be very thankful and observant that God didn’t choose just any old couple to parent John the Baptist. He sought and found a couple who feared Him and walked with Him as best they could. But they lived among a people who had minimal spiritual insight and understanding. Their spiritual leaders had long given into worldly pleasures and pursuits. While a decent Jew would have known there were prophecies about a Messiah who would come to earth some day and rule a kingdom, they had mostly wrong and self centered perceptions of what that might look like. So how could a couple as well meaning as Elizabeth and Zacharias were - under those circumstances - possibly understand what their son would pave the way for, and what this Messiah would be like, and what His kingdom would be like?
Well when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, what was once very murky and mysterious becomes clear, and all of a sudden makes sense. Plus when you are filled with the Holy Spirit like Zacharias was, you can even say things that you don’t fully understand but that are nevertheless fully true.
Only the Holy Spirit can take a man who was made mute for approximately nine months because of his unbelief, and turn him into a man who prophesied to all those around him soon after.
V. The Old Man Simeon – Luke 2:25-32 “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of Revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
What I find fascinating about this old man Simeon is the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit really hadn’t been significantly revealed yet. That would come a little later in Jesus’s ministry and teachings. But look at this: “ …and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit…” “And he came in the Spirit into the temple…”
Frankly I’ve not seen that many old men end well. But this guy – by the power and filling and revealing work of the Holy Spirit – knew full well why God was allowing him to linger, and he was fixated on God’s promise to him that he would see the Messiah – “the consolation of Israel” before he died.
What is the answer for seniors who often seem to be wasting their lives watching the same old t.v. shows, and complaining about the same old aches and pains, and telling the same old stories? The answer or solution is the Holy Spirit. He alone can give them life and purpose and fullness and meaning when all the seniors around them seem to just be hanging on. He can reveal to them the greatness of this Jesus, and give them a deep consuming desire to know and follow Him.
VI. Jesus – Luke 3:16 “John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
As powerful as John’s ministry was, it was nothing compared to what was coming once Jesus died, rose again and ascended to heaven, and according to His promise – poured out the Holy Spirit on His people in a way never seen before.
As far as we can tell, with most of the examples we’ve looked at so far, the Holy Spirit’s ministry to and through them was mostly occasional or maybe even a one time experience. But a day was coming when believers would be permanently indwelt by Him, and thus able to experience Him in ways no one would have ever dreamed before.
The power and purity of the first century church as chronicled in the book of Acts is what happens when God’s people get truly filled and baptized by the Holy Spirit and His purifying fire.
Oh God, baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with your purifying fire, we pray in Jesus’s name!
Luke 3:21 “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
Besides being a great example of our Triune God in action, this passage is important to mark what had to happen before Jesus began His earthly ministry. Because He had agreed to be conceived and born as a fully human baby and live a fully human life, which Luke brings out more than the other gospel writers. Because He chose to empty Himself and deny Himself of the right to draw upon His powers of deity, as Philippians chapter two explains, Jesus the man had to draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit to please and obey the Father. And it should be noted that the Holy Spirit came as Jesus was praying!
Let’s read on to see how this plays out.
Luke 4:1,2 “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil….”
“Full of the Holy Spirit”; “led around by the Spirit” why else would someone choose to spend 40 days in the wilderness, drinking water evidently, but without touching a morsel of food, and being frequently tempted and harassed by the devil? Why else would someone who knew their time on earth would be short - - hide for forty long days when there was a world to reach? Only the Holy Spirit would lead one to do such a thing. One of the wonderful things about the Holy Spirit is He leads us and empowers us to do things our flesh would never think of doing, nor could we ever do except by His power and enabling.
I personally would love more of the Holy Spirit’s power to fast from food when He tells me to and to fast from people for as long as He intends for me to. Its very possible that one of the signs that revival is coming is that more of us find ourselves able to fast from food and from people at His direction.
Luke 4:14 “And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.
This reference probably refers more to His preaching, teaching, healing the sick, casting out demons, etc., as does the next one.
Luke 4:17,18 “And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives…”
For my first 30 plus years of life I thought Jesus knew the things He knew and did the things He did because He was God. But then after having my eyes opened to Luke’s writings while in Hong Kong I began to see Jesus knew what He knew and did what He did while on earth, not because He was God, for He gave up the right to draw upon His attributes of deity, but rather because He was man dependent upon God.
Consider another writing of Luke’s from Acts chapter 10 verse 38, which bears this beautifully, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” I used to think that read, “….for He was God.” And because I believed that, I had no real expectation or faith that I could ever become like Jesus, think like Jesus, speak and minister like Jesus, heal the sick and cast out demons like Jesus, etc.
Corrie Ten Boom, who learned to overcome all odds by the power of the Holy Spirit in the filth of German concentration camps during the Holocaust, put it this way, “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus flows out of you.”
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