“Did you Receive the Holy Spirit?”
Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord and we hear Paul ask a group of believers who had been baptized, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?”
The believers respond, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.”
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he talks about a group of believers who were claiming that they were baptized by and follow different people.
He writes, “One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
We tend to think of the one Holy Spirit, but there are many spirits out there. There is the spirit of fear, the spirit of confusion, the spirit of anger. There are many spirits out there that try to distract us, bring us down, and make matters worse, but Paul in his second letter to Timothy tells us that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
In his letter to the Galatians Paul explains that Christ frees from “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy.” And when we follow the Holy Spirit we experience “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
So Paul asks us today, What spirit do you follow? Do you follow the Holy Spirit or do you follow the spirit of fear? Do you follow the Holy Spirit or do you follow the spirit of anger or the spirit of discord or the spirit of jealousy?
We know that in our baptism God makes us into a new creation, Jesus frees us from our sin and temptations, and the Holy Spirit leads us to joy, peace, love, power, and self control… but this question Paul asks us today “What spirit were you given? What spirit do you follow?” This is a question that we need to ask ourselves every day and perhaps multiple times a day.
When we are baptized, we are made a new creation, but living into that new creation is a lifelong, daily and sometimes moment by moment process.
When we are baptized, we do not automatically stop hating, stop envying, stop our selfish ambition, stop our fits of rage, stop being jealous of others forever. We are still tempted, still tried, still stressed and pushed to our limits. We need to again and again and again choose faith, choose Christ, choose to follow the Holy Spirit.
Faith is a process, a journey, and a choice every day and every moment. As Lecrae and Kirk Franklin put it in their new Christian worship song this year, “Every time I wake up, I get a chance to wake up.”
But here is the question Paul is asking us today … every time you wake up, when you get a chance to wake up, what spirit are you following?
When you are pushed to your limit, what spirit are you following? When the world is in a state of despair, what spirit are you following? When there is fear all around us as variants of the virus spreads and ICUs are overcrowded in California, what spirit are you following? As our country seems to be in a state of chaos and the fragility of our democracy is exposed, what spirit are you following?
In these moments, in this new year, during this week and on this day who do you want to be, how do you want to react, what do you want to see in yourself and in the world?
I am always impressed by the audacity of some product advertisements. There is a recent one I heard for a fitness watch that promised you could gain freedom and inner peace when you buy this device.
The world, all of us are longing for freedom and inner peace. All of us are longing for that “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” And we know that no device is going to give us what we really want.
But when we are baptized into Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we are given true freedom and real, everlasting inner peace. When we are baptized, we are no longer bound up, chained to all the spirits that will bring us down: fear, anger, rage, envy, jealousy.
We are freedom from all of this. We still can be tempted by it and fall into it, but when we are baptized Jesus ultimately frees us the hold these spirits can have on us and in place of these chaotic spirits, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit who leads us to what we truly want and who we truly want to be and what we truly hope to see in our world … “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Faith is a process. We will fall sometimes, we will be tempted sometimes, but remember who you follow. Christ is not divided. You have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self control.
So in the week and weeks ahead I urge you particularly if you experience fear… if you are downtrodden… or angered by all that is going on in the world… Turn to Holy Spirit in your prayers. Unlike a plastic device, Holy Spirit will in fact help you experience unconditional love, joy unspeakable, deep inner peace, real goodness, and powerful self-control.”
And as we move into our reflection and discussion on our church mission and vision, let’s remember who we are. We are a new creation in Christ. Let’s not walk in fear, let’s walk in the power and love that God has given us and remember all that we have to offer a world that is desperate for true freedom and real inner peace.
Let’s live and walk as the new creations we are made to be in our baptism Choosing every day, every moment to turn Holy Spirit who leads us to love, joy, peace, and self-control.