Water, Wine, Wind, Fire –
Four Pictures of the Holy Spirit
Sermon 6 of 6 from the What a Christian Believes series
November 2009 – Are you spooked out by the Holy Spirit?
Perhaps I should say, “Are you spooked out by the Holy Ghost?” Lots of Christians are, you know. They say things like, “I know about God the Father, and I know about Jesus, but the Holy Spirit is a mystery to me.” You may remember the story about the little boy who liked to scare people by saying, “Boo! I’m the Holy Ghost.”
That story is apt because the Holy Spirit (“Ghost” is the older term) scares many Christians. Maybe they’re heard things or seen things on TV. Or perhaps the idea of a “Holy Spirit” seems hard to grasp. We understand the concept of God the Creator, and we certainly know about Jesus who walked among us 2000 years ago. But the Holy Spirit is another matter. Where does he fit in?
Many years ago I was asked to write a book on the names of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it was the first book I ever wrote. Moody Publishers gave me the topic and turned me loose. Not knowing what to do, I scoured a few theology books and didn’t find much about the names of the Holy Spirit. And on my own I could come up with “Holy” and “Spirit” and “Comforter.” Knowing that three names wouldn’t make a very long book, I sat down at my desk with an open Bible on one side and a concordance in the other. And I just started in Genesis and went through the whole Bible, looking for names (or titles or symbols) of the Holy Spirit. I found my first one in the second verse of the Bible (“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" Genesis 1:2). I found another one in Genesis 2 and another one in Genesis 6. With that, I was off and running. When I was finished I had found over 100 names of the Holy Spirit, the last one being in Revelation 19:10, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
By the time I finished the book (Names of the Holy Spirit), I was amazed and overwhelmed by how many times he appears in the pages of Holy Scripture. I realized that God wants us to know a lot about the Spirit because he tells us about him in so many different places.
One of the oldest prayers of the church contains only three words: “Come, Holy Spirit.” Here is the ultimate irony of this message. Because the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see spiritual truth, we need the Holy Spirit to understand the Holy Spirit! So we pray “Come, Holy Spirit, and help us to know you better. Amen."
The Bible gives us many images, pictures and symbols of his work. In order to help us, I’ve chosen four of the best-known pictures of the Spirit. Each one reveals a different aspect of his ministry in our lives.
We need the Holy Spirit in order to understand the Holy Spirit!
“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).
These dramatic words came from the lips of Jesus as He spoke to a vast crowd gathered in Jerusalem for the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles. As the assembled multitudes strained to hear His words-some curious, others skeptical, still others moved by a deep inner need-Jesus offered them something that only God could provide-"streams of living water” that would flow from within them out to the world around them. Lest anyone misunderstand His words, John tells us in verse 39 that “He meant the Spirit.” In short, Jesus was offering something brand new in the history of the world, a complete inner transformation by means of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ words must have shocked His hearers with their stunning simplicity: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink" (v. 37). That short statement contains the essence of the Gospel message. It is centered in a person-Jesus Christ. It is offered to all without restriction-If anyone. It is predicated upon human need-If anyone is thirsty. It demands a personal response-Let Him come to me. It invites personal participation-and drink.
What a wonderful picture of how the Spirit works in the human heart. Those who come to Christ find “living water” that satisfies the deep thirst within. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, that “living water” produces a new life that eventually bubbles to the surface and becomes evident to others. Living water won’t become stagnant. It always produces a dynamic, abundant, exciting new life.
Those who respond to the call receive the Holy Spirit as a permanent, indwelling, life‑changing presence. To speak of “streams of living water” highlights four facts about the Spirit’s ministry in the believer:
*He takes up residence within the “inner being.”
*He “flows” with an inexhaustible supply.
*He brings the life of God to the soul.
*He satisfies the deep thirst inside every heart.
Finally, this word picture also seems to imply a “flowing out” from inside the believer to the lives of those around him or her. As the “living water” flows from within, other thirsty people will wonder, “He (or she) used to be thirsty just like me. Where did all that water come from?"
If we are dying in the desert, the most important thing in the world is a cup of cold water. Jesus promises more than a cup. He promises a never ending flow of clear, cool, clean living water. Streams without pollution. Rivers that will never run dry.
The Holy Spirit brings the life of God to the thirsty soul.
That’s what the Holy Spirit provides for us. He will fill our lives with living water. If we are thirsty, we are invited to take a drink and see for ourselves.
Have you ever felt like spiritually “dry ground"? Have you ever felt “thirsty” for more of the Lord? Have you ever felt empty and needing to be filled?
The Holy Spirit is God’s answer for our deep inner thirst. When He comes into our lives, He comes like a river rushing over dry ground. He pours out His blessings and our lives begin to blossom again.
No one need stay “dry” or “empty” or “thirsty” forever. We weren’t made to live in a desert. God’s river called the Holy Spirit can flow through our lives, slaking our thirst, filling our emptiness, covering the arid ground with the water of life.
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
Wine is one of the most unusual symbols relating to the Holy Spirit. In two crucial passages in the New Testament, a comparison is drawn between the effects of wine and the effects of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came in great force on the assembly of believers. Certain supernatural signs accompanied the descent of the Spirit-a sound like a rushing wind, the appearance of something like tongues of fire, and the miraculous ability to speak in other tongues for the proclamation of biblical truth. It was this last manifestation that captured the attention of the multitudes of Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost. They were stunned to hear relatively uneducated men from Galilee speak fluently in foreign languages they had never known before. Evidently the disciples spoke in at least fifteen different languages or dialects that day. No one could deny that something unusual had happened.
But as is often the case when unbelievers encounter the work of God, they tried to explain it in purely natural terms. They thought the disciples had been drinking too much and were simply babbling under the influence of alcohol. The first words of Peter’s sermon confirm this fact: “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” (Acts 2:15) He went on to say that what had happened was a fulfillment (partially, at least) of Joel 2:28‑32, which predicted a universal outpouring of God’s Spirit in the “last days."
For our purposes, note that unbelievers confused the coming of the Spirit with the power of wine. A similar comparison occurs in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." What precisely is the point of comparison between wine and the Holy Spirit? Doubtless the issue is influence or control. A person under the influence of wine experiences altered behavior. He or she may say or do things he or she would not ordinarily do. Emotions may be heightened for a brief period, causing the person to experience anger followed quickly by elation followed quickly by depression. If the person drinks enough wine, his or her mental processes will be affected and decision‑making ability radically altered-almost always with a negative result.
The filling of the Holy Spirit produces a change in behavior.
Likewise, the filling of the Holy Spirit produces a change in behavior. In the Book of Acts, once-timid disciples became flaming evangelists for Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 5:19‑21, Paul mentioned three practical results of the filling of the Spirit: Singing, a thankful heart, and an attitude of mutual submission. The last result is most significant because true submission always involves giving up your right to be in control in every situation. When we submit from the heart, we are saying, “I don’t have to have my way all the time.” Only a heart touched by the Holy Spirit can maintain such an attitude in every relationship of life.
Two other biblical passages also shed light on this symbol. When Jesus warned against putting new wine in old wineskins (Matthew 9:16‑17), He was teaching us that the new Gospel of grace could never be contained within the old forms of the law. In John 2, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. This miracle not only demonstrated Jesus’ power over nature, it also confirmed the joy that Jesus brings to human life through the transforming ministry of the Holy Spirit. While Moses turned water into blood as a sign of God’s judgment (Exodus 7:14‑24), Jesus turned water into wine as a sign that salvation has come at last to the world.
Thus, there is both a positive and negative meaning to wine as it relates to the Holy Spirit. Negatively, wine may control the human mind and body, leading to drunkenness and debauchery. Positively, it pictures the joy that Jesus Christ brings when His salvation comes to the human heart. It also points to the change that is possible when the Holy Spirit fills us.
When the police arrest someone for driving while intoxicated, the charge is called DUI-Driving Under the Influence. Perhaps we should pray to be found LUI-Living Under the Influence of the Holy Spirit.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Wind serves as a particularly good symbol of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus points out to Nicodemus, wind by its very nature is invisible and unpredictable. The wind that blows today from the north may blow from the south tomorrow or from the east or west or not at all. We feel its effect and hear it whistling through the leaves, but the wind itself is totally free from man’s control. Wind exists everywhere on the earth, is continually in motion, and may be experienced in varying degrees-from a slight breeze to a mighty rushing wind to the destructive force of a tornado.
In a closed room, the air soon becomes stagnant. But when the window is open, the incoming wind blows out the stifling air. On a hot summer’s day, a cool breeze refreshes everyone.
In John 20:22, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:2, the Holy Spirit came with the sound like “the blowing of a violent wind.” Just as the wind filled the whole house where they were sitting, the disciples themselves were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter uses the imagery of a driving wind to picture the writers of Scripture being carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). As the wind moves, so the Holy Spirit moved the prophets so that what they said was exactly what God wanted.
The Holy Spirit leaves no footprints.
According to Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, “The Holy Spirit leaves no footprints." Just as the wind is everywhere in the world, even so the Holy Spirit’s work is universal, not limited to one country, region, or race of humanity. Similar to the unpredictability of the wind, no one can say for certain where the Spirit will blow in great power today or tomorrow. As the wind is beyond man’s control, in the same way no one can control the work of the Spirit. As the wind blows from the heavens, so the Holy Spirit is sent from heaven.
Have you ever tried to catch the wind in a bottle? When I was a child and we were taking a trip in the car, I would hold a cup outside the window, hoping to somehow catch the wind. But it can’t be done. The same is true of the Holy Spirit. He is sovereign and will not be taken captive by anyone. I spoke with a person who rejoiced that a friend had responded to the gospel after just one invitation. “Sometimes you have to talk to a person again and again, and even then, they may not respond. Do you know what I mean?” Yes, I do know. Why does one person respond immediately while others take much more persuasion? While there are many explanations, one part of the answer is the Holy Spirit. Like the wind, he blows where he wills, and no one can control his movements.
This symbol of the Holy Spirit as God’s wind ought to greatly encourage us. How we need the fresh wind of the Spirit today! He alone can wake us out of our spiritual lethargy. He alone can dispel the toxic fumes of unbelief and carnality. He alone can bring the sweet aroma of heaven back into our lives.
“They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them” (Acts 2:3).
Fire is one of the most frequent biblical images for God’s presence with His people. The connection is made in such passages as Exodus 3:1‑5 (Moses and the burning bush); Exodus 13:21 (the pillar of fire); Leviticus 9:24 (fire from the Lord consuming the burnt offering); 1 Kings 18:24 (“The god who answers by fire-He is God.”); Isaiah 6:1‑8 (coals of fire from the altar in heaven); Matthew 3:11 (“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”); Acts 2:3 (“They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire.”); 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”); and Hebrews 12:29 (“for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ “).
God sent the “tongues of fire” on the day of Pentecost as a sign that He was about to pour out the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way. Just as the fiery pillar represented God’s personal presence with His people, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in all believers. But now God’s presence will be personal and individual-thus the “tongues of fire” rested on each person individually. Whereas God’s presence came to the nation as a whole in the Old Testament, today each believer has the great privilege of having the personal presence of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And just as the fiery pillar gave clear direction outwardly, even so the Holy Spirit gives each believer inward direction. This represents a tremendous advance in God’s program for His people. Where once He worked primarily in and through a nation, now He works in and through individuals.
In reference to the Holy Spirit, fire represents:
* God’s presence with His people.
* God’s protection of His people.
* God’s cleansing of His people.
* God’s judgment of His people.
* God’s divine enablement of His people.
* God’s gracious activity in the assembly of His people.
The Holy Spirit spreads like a flame.
Some applications quickly suggest themselves from this theme. First, the Holy Spirit is God’s divine cleansing agent, burning away the dross of sin and purifying us for service. Second, when we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit, He fills us with the fire of God’s presence. Third, during times of revival, the Holy Spirit spreads like a flame, igniting families, churches, communities, and entire nations. Finally, the Holy Spirit is the “fire” we need to let our light shine brightly for Jesus Christ.
When I was growing up, we often talked of being “on fire” for Jesus. It means to be so passionate about the Lord that he was constantly in our thoughts. Back then we would sing a song called Pass It On that began this way:
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
The song then says “That’s how it with God’s love, one you’ve experienced it. You want to spread the love to everyone. You want to pass it on.” Though the song is not deep, it actually makes an important point. When the Holy Spirit begins to burn within, we will be caught up in a holy zeal to share Jesus with everyone we meet. A few days ago I spoke with a friend who ministers thousands of miles away, on the other side of the world, in a land where Christians are not always welcome. One week ago as he gathered with his congregation for a prayer meeting, a police officer came to the meeting and began to ask questions. “What are you doing here? Who is in charge?” Later he sent word that he wanted to meet with the pastor. So in a few days my friend will meet with the police officer. Is he afraid? He told me that recently God has given him a burden to share Christ with everyone he meets. “I have led 3 people to Christ since the Lord gave me this burden.” Speaking of the police officer he said, “I am not worried, not afraid. I want to go and share the gospel with him for I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes."
How you ever thanked God for the Holy Spirit?
If you stand back and look at these four pictures of the Holy Spirit, they all lead in the same direction.
As water, the Holy Spirit becomes a stream within us, overflowing to the people around us.
As wind, the Holy Spirit blows across the land, awakening people to God in every nation.
As wine, the Holy Spirit fills us with new power.
As fire, the Holy Spirit burns away the dross of worldliness and fills us with a holy zeal to let our light shine for Christ.
How simple it is.
And yet how profound.
So we pray to know the Holy Spirit more deeply for he is . . .
Blazing Fire from Heaven.
He brings Christ to us and gives us all that we need. Have you ever thanked God for the gift of the Spirit? Why not do it right now?
Gracious Father, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. May streams of living water flow through us so that others may be thirsty to know you. Grant that the new wine of the Spirit would empower us today. May the wind of God blow through your church. Set us on fire, Lord, with holy passion for you.
Lord Jesus, fill us more and more with the Holy Spirit so that we can make your name famous throughout the earth. Amen.
Questions to Consider
1. Why don’t we know more about the Holy Spirit? What happens to a church when the Holy Spirit is ignored?
2. What role does the Holy Spirit play in evangelism? How should his work affect the way we share Christ with others?
3. Of the four word pictures in this sermon, which one speaks most to your own personal need?
4. What is the connection between being drunk with wine and being filled with the Holy Spirit?
5. What would happen if the Wind of God came blowing through your life this week?
6. Read Ephesians 4:29-32. What sins grieve the Holy Spirit?
Scriptures to Ponder
Flying Closer to the Flame by Chuck Swindoll
The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham
Mystery of the Holy Spirit by A. W. Tozer
Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit by Charles Stanley
The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson
Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit? edited by Daniel Wallace
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