The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
About the Guest
Can you sense the Holy Spirit's leading? Pastor J.D. Greear reminds believers of their calling to be participants in The Great Commission. J.D. shares how acquainting ourselves with Scripture is essential if we are to grow in our faith, walk in the Spirit, and witness to a lost world.
JD GreearJ.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church in RaleighDurham, NC and the author of Jesus, Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You (2014), Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013), and Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011). Greear and his wife Veronica live in Raleigh, NC with their four children.
Pastor J.D. Greear reminds believers of their calling to be participants in The Great Commission. J.D. shares how acquainting ourselves with Scripture is essential for our growth, our walk and our witness.
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
Bob: In John 15, Jesus told His disciples, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Pastor J.D. Greear says, “Our union with Christ is inexorably tied to our understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.”
J.D: What was so important about the Holy Spirit that even the Great Commission itself could wait? What it was that was so important is that Christianity—the power of Christianity—is not me doing things for Christ—it’s Christ working in and through me. Effective ministry is not me laboring for Christ—it is Christ in and through me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk to Pastor J.D. Greear about why our understanding of the Holy Spirit and His ministry in our lives is key to just about everything. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, would you say, as you look at your own walk with the Holy Spirit—and I think we need to back up here because being a part of Cru, as FamilyLife, has been throughout our history—you were working in the high school ministry of Cru before FamilyLife got started.
Dennis: Back in 1970, I started to work for Cru and worked with them until ’76, when we started FamilyLife as a ministry of Cru.
Bob: You heard, early and often, about the ministry of the Holy Spirit from Dr. Bill Bright.
Dennis: Oh my goodness! In fact, it was so often that sometimes we thought: “Bill, you’ve only got three or four messages. [Laughter] Don’t you know any other passages in the Bible?” He just kept teaching it over, and over, and over again.
In fact, when he was doing this, I don’t really recall any other teaching that had ever occurred in my life about who the Holy Spirit is, His work in our lives, and how we could be filled with Him, walk with Him, and experience Him, day-in and day-out.
Bob: Did you see people get off balance on the ministry of the Holy Spirit?
Dennis: Oh, sure. In fact, that’s occurring today. There are all kinds of extremes, but I love something that Bill Bright said. He said, “The Holy Spirit did not come to glorify Himself.” He said, “The Holy Spirit came to glorify or to show off Jesus Christ.” And that has always been a centering point to me is: “When the Spirit’s work is occurring, is He showing off Himself or is He showing off the Son of God, Jesus Christ?”
And I think we have a guest here with us today, J.D. Greear, who agrees with what Dr. Bright taught, back before the earth’s crust hardened, a number of years ago. [Laughter]
J.D. —welcome to the broadcast.
J.D: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: J.D. has written a book called Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You. J.D. and his wife live in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He’s a pastor of the Summit Church there. They have four children.
This book is about the Holy Spirit. You share, in the book, about how you learned your sacrifice of yielding to God, the Father—how yielding to the Holy Spirit ultimately brought forth life from your heart and really set you on the right course.
Bob: Now, this was back when you were in high school before you went to college; right?
J.D: Right. So, yes; if the Holy Spirit is a person—if it’s not a doctrine that we are just supposed to believe and a chart we are supposed to follow—if it’s a person, then, the most important response we give that person is surrender. You know, where we say: “Here I am, Lord. Send me,”—
—where we look at what God is doing in the world and we say, “How has God equipped and gifted me to be a part of it?” In the church, we talk a lot about who’s called the what?—we’re all called. We’re all called to be a part of the mission of God. The question is not “If we’re called;” it’s only, “Where and how?”
It was in high school that I began to understand what it meant for there to be 6,400 unreached people groups. I almost felt like I was saying to God—imagine you were walking by some railroad tracks—there was a kid that was on the railroad tracks. The kid was crippled and couldn’t move, and here comes a train. You get down on your knees and say: “God, what is Your will in this situation? Will You move in my heart?”
You know, God would send an angel down from heaven to punch you in the throat if you asked that because He’s like, “You know what my will is!” We talk about finding God’s will—it’s not lost!
It was like, “Okay, Lord, how do You want to use me in the worldwide spread of the gospel?” Now, for me, that question led to the revelation of a spiritual gifting that now has me in fulltime ministry.
For the majority of people—that’s not where that question leads—it leads them to serve God faithfully as a dentist, to serve in a home, to serve wherever God is. What we say is: “Whatever you are good at, do it well for the glory of God. Do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God because the Spirit of God has intentioned to use you in His mission.”
Dennis: You say that there are a number of distinct ways that we experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and I love where you start. You start right where you were talking—the gospel.
J.D: Yes, in the gospel. So, probably the biggest surprise—if I could—of this book, as I studied it—was how closely the Bible ties the depth in the gospel to the fullness of the Spirit. Paul says in Galatians 3—he says: “Do you want more of the Spirit? Well, how did you initially receive the Spirit?—by believing the gospel.” Therefore, if you want more of the Spirit, you become more intimately aware of the gospel.
In Ephesians 3, Paul prays that we “would know the depth, the width, the height, and the length of God’s love because then we’ll be filled”—he says—“with all the fullness of God.” Depth in the gospel leads to fullness of the Spirit.
An old British pastor named D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say that probably the best example of the fullness of the Spirit in the Bible—it’s an unusual one. He said: “It was Moses. When Moses asked to be in God’s presence, and God puts him in the cleft of the rock, covers him with His hand, passes by,”—and this is the key part Lloyd-Jones says—“He declares His name to him.” He says: “What it means to be in the Spirit is the Holy Spirit has put you into Christ. He declares God’s name to you in a way that you begin to feel and to sense the beauty and the power of His name. Things that were doctrinal propositions to you become felt realities.”
He used the example of a father walking along with a five-year-old son—when he picks the kid up and he spins him around, then, he blows a raspberry in his neck and says:
“You’re my boy! I’m proud of you. I love you.” Lloyd-Jones said, “Is that boy any more that man’s son in that moment than he was the moment before?” The answer is, “Of course, no.” Legally, his son-status hasn’t changed; but in that moment, that son feels his sonship. He said, “That’s what the Spirit of God does—He makes it come alive to you.”
Dennis: Okay, there’s someone listening, right now, who heard you use the word, “gospel,” a half dozen times when you just explained that. They’re wondering: “Do I understand the gospel? Do I know God? Do I have the sonship that you are talking about there?” Introduce that person to the One who is his or her Creator and how he or she can have a relationship with Him.
J.D: The gospel is the finished work of Christ on our behalf where God, in His love, sent a Savior to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He lived a life that we were supposed to live—a life without sin—but then, He died the death we were condemned to die because we were sinners.
He traded places.
You know, at our church, we say, “You can summarize the gospel in four words: Jesus in my place.” What it means to become a believer is to believe that Jesus has finished the work of your salvation and to trust it as your own. In that moment, Scripture says, when you receive Him, you become a son or daughter of God. That’s when the Holy Spirit first enters your life. He—to use a theological term—baptizes you into the body of Christ. He uses the finished work of Christ to forgive you of your sin, to establish His presence with you, and make you a son or daughter that He will never leave nor forsake.
Dennis: And so, for that person who doesn’t understand or isn’t certain where they will spend eternity, what would you tell them to do as a result of hearing what you just shared?
J.D: Repent and believe are the two words the Bible always uses. Repent means acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord of your life and you are not. Believe means believe that He’s done everything necessary to save you just as He said He did. Repentance and belief make one born-again.
That’s when you are saved, and the Spirit of God comes into you.
Dennis: And I want to make sure our listeners heard that last little phrase he used, “And the Spirit of God will come in to your life.” It may not be a visible manifestation of the Spirit of God coming into your life; but the Bible promises whoever has believed upon Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord has the Holy Spirit.
J.D: Absolutely. Yes, in fact, it’s only by the Holy Spirit that we can acknowledge the truth of the gospel. It’s a beautiful thing when you see somebody understand that Jesus has died to save them—1 Corinthians 12 says that is the Holy Spirit inside of them.
Bob: J.D., you seem to be saying that our relationship with the Holy Spirit—the fullness of the Spirit—is tied to this message of transformation on an ongoing basis. I think a lot of people think of the gospel as that message that we need when we first become a Christian—that we then can set aside as we pursue deeper things.
How does our ongoing understanding of the gospel—how does that fit into all of this for somebody who has been walking with the Lord for 20 or 30 years? Why does he still need the gospel?
J.D: The gospel is not just the way that we begin the Christian life. It’s the way that we grow in the Christian life. I used to think—in fact, I learned it this way: The gospel is the ABC’s of Christianity—the diving board off of which we jump into the pool. The way that you grow in Christ is by learning doctrines, and the Old Testament kings’ names, and whether or not Kirk Cameron was going to get left behind—those things—that was depth. [Laughter] Really, the gospel is the A-Z—it’s the entire pool. The way that your affections for God grow / the way that your love for God grows is 1 John 4:19—by the awareness of the love of God for you.
Well, it’s the same thing with the fullness of the Spirit. The fullness of the Spirit—Paul says in Galatians—comes alive in us the more intimately aware we become of what God has given us in the gospel.
When we walk in the Spirit / when we walk in the knowledge of the gospel—that is when we are able to escape the lusts of the flesh.
Let me tell you one quick story where I saw this recently. A group of fraternity guys at a campus / college campus near where our church is asked me to come and do a Bible study for them. I asked them when I got there what they wanted to learn about; and of course, they said, “Sexual lust.” I made the statement, Dennis, that they could turn off their sexual desire on and off like a light switch. You should have seen the look on their face when I said that. They were like, “Bro, we knew that the male body changed when it got older; but we had no idea a 41-year-old would make that dumb of a statement.” I said, “I’ll prove it to you!” They said, “Okay.”
I said: “Alright, imagine you are with your girlfriend. One thing is leading to another—I don’t know what you call it anymore in college. It had something to do with a baseball diamond when I was in college—but there you are—you passed the point of no return, where you just feel like your sexual passion is uncontrollable.”
And they said: “Yes, that’s what we’re talking about right there. There is no possible way you can turn that off!”
I said, “Okay; in that moment, in walks that girl’s Navy SEAL father, who just got back from Afghanistan—bam!—off like a light switch.” One of the guys kind of nodded his head and said, “Yes, that’s a good point.” I said: “What changed in that moment? Is it that you lost sexual desire? No! What changed was your sense of your presence of the father; right? The presence of the father outweighed your sexual desire. You had a greater desire to stay alive than you did, sexually, for this girl.”
Well, that’s what the Holy Spirit does with the gospel—is He makes the presence of the Father become so real, and so personal, and so felt that the things of earth begin to grow strangely dim. The powers of sin lose their grasp over us because God is growing us in the knowledge of His love, which increases our love for Him, which frees us from the shackles of sin.
Bob: Well, the pinnacle of the expression of God’s love for us is the death and resurrection of Christ.
As we contemplate, and meditate on, and consider again—whether you’ve been a Christian 10 years, 20 years, 50 years—you go back and you stop and consider the cross and you consider the sacrifice of Christ—that will rebirth in you a fresher, deeper, new understanding of God’s love. That does drive everything.
J.D: Martin Luther used to say to progress in the Christian life is always to begin again—and he meant to go back to the gospel, and not go be—the gospel is like a well. You get the best water out of the well, not by going wider, but by going deeper into it.
Dennis: And the way you go deeper is you get in the Book that God clearly wrote—the Bible. And that’s another way you talk about experiencing the Holy Spirit because the Scriptures are the living words of the Father that the Holy Spirit uses in our lives to direct us, comfort us, teach us, convict us.
Explain further how we experience the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.
J.D: Well, the Scriptures, as you said, are the very words of God. Bible, without Spirit, is dead Christianity / Spirit, without Bible, ends up being more like New Age mysticism. So, it is when you are seeking the Spirit of God in the Bible—that’s when Christianity really begins to come alive—it’s when it begins to explode. I mean, Jesus said it—He said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” He also said, “My Words are Spirit, and they are life.”
So, it is by reading the Scripture—and not looking at them as a textbook of something that an absentee teacher gave you and, then, left the room and told you to memorize—but something that Jesus says: “I will guide you through it, and I will make it real. I’ll make it come alive.”
Here’s something that, to me, is pretty awesome to consider. Right after Jesus gave the Great Commission—which is the most important assignment ever given to any group of people—the first thing He tells them to do is to do nothing and wait. I mean, you think about that for a minute—
—millions of people around the world dying and going to hell—and Jesus tells the only group of people who know anything about what the plan of salvation really is to do nothing until they receive the Holy Spirit. What was so important about the Holy Spirit that even the Great Commission, itself, could wait? What it was that was so important—is that Christianity / the power of Christianity is not me doing things for Christ—it is Christ working in and through me. Effective ministry is not me laboring for Christ— it is Christ in and through me.
Dennis: It is back to the subtitle of your book: “Why is the Spirit inside you better than Jesus beside you?” because, when He comes to work in us, He gives us the ability to go and to speak into people’s lives.
J.D: That’s right.
Bob: Well, and I’ve always been struck by the parallel between what we find in Colossians 3 and what we find in Ephesians 5. In both passages, it talks about speaking to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs—making melody in your heart—
—but in Ephesians 5, it says that you do that as you’re filled with the Spirit. In Colossians 3, it says you do that as you let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
There is a connection—we’re not saying / you’ve already made this clear—we’re not saying that the Word of God is the Spirit. There is a difference between God’s Word and God’s Spirit, but there is a connection between the ministry of the Spirit and the Word; isn’t there?
J.D: Absolutely! In fact, that’s a great passage you just cited. Paul, like any good preacher, ends up telling the same stories over and over again, using the same phrases. Well, Paul repeats these two phrases—except the one thing he substitutes is “Be filled with Spirit,” and “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly,”—which shows you that, in His mind, those are the same. Then, when the Word and the gospel dwell in you richly, that’s when you will be filled with the Spirit.
Dennis: You’ve mentioned this on a previous broadcast and hinted at it, even in this one, that you believe one of the ways we experience the work of the Spirit in our lives is through the gifting or the spiritual gifts God has given us.
Would you unpack that further?—because I don’t think many people in the church today, who are followers of Christ, really understand this discussion of spiritual gifting.
J.D: Dennis, this is what I think is maybe one of the most neglected teachings in the body of Christ. We know the proposition—God has given to every believer a spiritual gift. You cannot know what the Spirit of God wants from you until you know what He’s put inside of you.
One of the best examples of this—C.S. Lewis—Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. There is this mysterious scene where Father Christmas comes to the four children. He has presents from Aslan who is, of course, the lion who represents Jesus. He gives to Peter a sword, and I think it’s Lucy that he gives an ointment. They are confused: “What do these mean?” And Father Christmas doesn’t tell them—He just leaves.
They are staring at these mysterious gifts; but in just a little bit, in this battle with the White Witch, Peter realizes his sword was given so that he could lead an assault. Lucy realizes that the ointment was given to help her bind up the wounded in battle.
What C.S. Lewis was trying to show is that the way you figure out what Jesus wants from you is by looking at what he’s put inside of you. We ought to be a gift-driven people. When it comes to determining the will of God, you look and say, “What has God given me to use in His Kingdom?”
Dennis: Okay; so, we’ve got swords; we’ve got ointment to proclaim the gospel. How do we determine whether we are holding a sword, ointment, another gift that God has given to us for this task? Help a mom / help a dad, not only for themselves, but also to equip them to help their children find out what their spiritual gifts are if they are a believer in Christ.
J.D: Yes, and that’s a great question. So, the—a spiritual gift is a manifestation of Jesus using you—there’s not like one chart in the New Testament, and you figure out exactly which one you’ve got. It’s just a manifestation where Jesus uses you to do part of His work. Now, there are different ones that are listed—from exhortation, to mercy, to faith—and all these different ones.
I would encourage somebody to get those lists, and to look at them, and see which one resonate. A tool that I’ve given our church—it’s not original with me—but to help them determine their spiritual gift is—picture a Venn diagram, which is three circles that come together in kind of one place—the three circles are affirmation, affinity, and ability.
Ability just means things that naturally you have a proclivity toward. A lot of times, preachers would make good vacuum cleaner salesmen because they—then, you’ve got affirmation, which is where the body of Christ is saying to you, “You know, when you do that, you really minister to me.” That’s how I discovered I had the gift of teaching—was just teaching a small Bible study—that people said, “Man, God really uses you in my life.” The third one, affinity, is things that you are really passionate for. The Great Commission is huge. The mission is large in the world; but God will sometimes take one part of it, and He’ll laser-like focus it, where it just becomes a passion for you.
Bob: So, I feel like I am good at this / I have a passion for it—and people say it’s effective / it’s being used in their lives. That tells you that may be a spiritual gift?
J.D: That’s a strong indication of spiritual gift.
Dennis: So, get busy using it.
Dennis: Yes. Get in the—
J.D: The way you figure it out is you start using it.
Dennis: Get in the game. This morning, I read about the good Samaritan and just how Jesus was teaching the Levites, really, how to, frankly, walk in the Spirit and reach out to people in need. Whether we are raising children or whether it is us, driving by a neighbor’s house that has a need—we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us—and stop our car, get out, and knock on the door / or stop and help someone who is in need—but use the gifts God has given you.
And here is the question: “Are you experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit in your life right now?”
If you aren’t, don’t settle for some second-rate experience of what is a so-called Christian faith because it’s not it at all. He came to be at work in you and through you to do what He wants done on this planet. Be a part of it—it’s the adventure of a lifetime.
Bob: And I think the key is—if you want to understand better the ministry of the Holy Spirit / who He is, how He’s at work in our lives—get a copy of J.D. Greear’s book, Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You. It’s a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” It’ll take you right to J.D.’s book, and you can order it from us on our website. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” to find J.D.’s book. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY; and ask for the book, Jesus Continued…. You can order over the phone—
—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Now, I’m just sitting here, thinking about how core this subject is to everything we do, here at FamilyLife. When you boil it down, FamilyLife Today is all about help—practical, biblical help for your marriage and for your family. And our conviction is that the real help we need in marriage is ultimately spiritual help. It has less to do with techniques or tricks for a happier marriage, and has a whole lot more to do with us understanding our relationship with God and walking with Him daily. Then, out of the overflow of that walk, will come stronger/healthier marriage and family relationships.
Everything we do, here at FamilyLife Today, is grounded on that basic premise.
I want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who share this vision with us—those of you who support this ministry—either as Legacy Partners, giving on a monthly basis, or those of you who will, from time to time, get in touch with us and say: “I think it’s important what you guys are doing. Your program has had an impact in my life,” “…in my marriage,” “…in my family. I want to just say, ‘Thank you,’ with a donation to show my support.”
If you can help with a donation today of, at least, $50, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a book for men and a book for women—two books—one from Dennis Rainey called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood / the other from Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian. It’s the new True Woman 201: Interior Design book. These two books will come as our thank-you gift to you when you help with a donation of, at least, $50 today.
You can do that, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE,” to make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue our conversation with Pastor J.D. Greear about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I hope you can tune for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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