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The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
Breath of God
Play video clip
The clip we just watched is from the movie, “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” which was based upon the book written by C.S. Lewis. In the show we are introduced to four children, Peter, Susan, Edman, and Lucy.
On a rainy day, while at their uncle’s house, they decided to play hide and seek. Lucy picked an old wardrobe to hide in and to her amazement she stumbled into a doorway to another world, the magical kingdom of Narnia.
Later, after initial disbelief, the rest joined her and began a wonderful and dangerous adventure into a land under the curse of winter. A land populated by some really remarkable creatures.
The land was under the dominion of the great emperor across the sea and His King, Aslan, a lion. But at this time it was ruled by a wicked queen who was an usurper to the throne, who held Narnia under her spell and curse of perpetual winter, where it was always winter but never Christmas.
While the children were moving toward Aslan’s castle the queen was chasing them, and on the way they saw signs that the landscape was changing. The curse of perpetual winter had lost its grip; therefore they knew that Aslan had returned.
Now, to understand this story, it’s important to understand that C.S. Lewis was writing a children’s story to parallel the real story of the coming of Jesus Christ. Aslan represents Jesus, whom the Bible refers to as the Lion of Judah. The wicked queen represents Satan, the present ruler of this world.
Towards the end of the movie, Aslan allows himself to be killed taking the place of one of the children, Edman, who had deserted to the wicked queen. Aslan sacrificed Himself, and was killed upon the stone table. But at sunrise, the table cracks and Aslan is resurrected, risen from the dead.
But a fierce battle was being fought between the forces of good and evil, between the forces of Aslan and those of the wicked queen. With Susan and Lucy, Aslan travels to the wicked queen’s castle where there was an army of good beasts whom the queen had turned stone.
Seeing this, Lucy and Susan despaired until they saw Aslan breathe onto Mr. Thmnus, and as Aslan’s breath touched the statue, the stone melted away to become flesh, and that, which was stone, was now made alive. Aslan then leads this army to battle and Aslan Himself defeats the wicked queen.
Now, it was this last part of Aslan breathing on these stone statues and them coming alive that really stuck out to me as we have been looking at a series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. And it reveals a truth of how God turns hearts of stone into heart of flesh.
This is seen throughout the Scriptures, but no place better than what is recorded for us in Ezekiel chapter 36.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 NKJV)
In this chapter, God reveals His future plans for His people. How He will ultimately destroy Israel’s enemies, make the land productive and fruitful again, rebuild the ruined cities, and bring back His people to the land. And to confirm this promise, the Lord lifts up His hands and swears an oath to its reality (Ezekiel 26:7).
But why do the people have a heart of stone to begin with that needs reviving. In a word, “disobedience.” Instead of following God’s word and ways, the people ignored God by doing what they wanted they way they wanted to do it. So God removed them from the land. But His promise was that they would once again be restored.
So what can we learn from this. In 1 Corinthians 10:1 the Apostle Paul says “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”
What we see is God’s desire to restore and revive His people, who through disobedience has hardened their hearts against Him. But for His name’s sake, a name by which we are identified with, but a name that humanity has profaned through sin, but for His holy name sake, He will turn our hardened and stony hearts into hearts of flesh, where we will no longer walk separate from God, but will walk in all of His ways. And God does this through His Spirit, by breathing into us His breath of life.
God breathes within us His breath and turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, and brings us out of death and into life.
However, before we continue, there two words we need to know when it comes to the Holy Spirit and Breath of God. The first is the Hebrew word “ruach,” and the second is its Greek counterpart, “pneuma.” These both mean ‘breath,’ ‘wind,’ and ‘spirit.’
So, what does the Breath of God accomplish in our lives?
1. God Breathes Into Us Physical Life
We see this happening in the very act of creation when God created humanity.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7 NKJV)
Here we see God Himself directly imparting life into humanity through His breath, through His “ruach,” where humanity now possessed a living soul, that is a spirit that links humanity directly with God. We see this as God communed with Adam and Eve in the Garden.
It is the breath of God that brings physical life as brought out by Elihu, one of Job’s counselors. He said,
“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4 NKJV)
There is an interesting play on words here. The Spirit (ruach) of God made Elihu and it was the breath (ruach) of the Almighty that gave him life. And so the Spirit of God and the Breath of God are one and the same.
But going back to our story in Genesis, that problem was that sin entered into the picture when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s word and succumbed to the temptation of Satan, and from that time forth death entered into the picture.
• Physical death in that humanity now grows old and dies, and
• Spiritual death in that our sins now separates us from God, as the prophet Isaiah tells us
“There is a problem — your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (Isaiah 59:2 NLT)
And this sin nature that kills physically and spiritually has been passed down from Adam and Eve to every generation that follows, that is, to you and me.
In Romans 5:12, the Bible says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12 NKJV)
When God breathed into Adam, humanity gained a spirit that God would inhabit and dwell within. But when sin came, the spirit of humanity became defiled and God could no longer dwell with man.
And so a void has been created within the soul and spirit of all humanity. But it is God’s desire to restore and to revive, that is to refill that void, to take the heart that is cold and hardened towards Him and bring it to life.
And so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to restore humanity’s spirit and that relationship with Him, just as Paul said in Romans chapter 5 verse 8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NKJV)
This brings us to the second thing that the breath of God accomplishes
2. God Breathes Into Us Spiritual Life
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesian 2:1 NKJV)
New life through the forgiveness of sins is at the heart of the New Covenant God enacted for His people. It was a new way, because the old way, that is, the law, could never, and would never, accomplish it.
This is what God brings out through the prophet Jeremiah. The Lord said He was going to bring about a new covenant, but not like the old one, that is the Law of Moses, which they broke (Jeremiah 31:32). And while there is more within this passage, let me give you the highlights.
“I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people … and their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31: 33b, 34b NKJV)
The covenant God had made with the Jewish people was through Moses, or what is commonly referred to as the Law.
From the beginning God has given His laws to humanity to live by, like the very first law, “Don’t eat the fruit from the tree of good and evil.” But they couldn’t even keep that one and now we are all paying for it. Then He gave the Ten Commandments, but they couldn’t keep those either, nor any of the other laws God had set down in the Torah.
And so God tells us in our passage in Ezekiel 36, and now again here in Jeremiah 31 that He was going to come in a new way.
• Where He is going to come and breathe His breath of life into our spirits
• Where He would now take up habitation within us, changing cold and callused hearts into hearts that are alive and pulsating with spiritual life
We see this new way enacted by Jesus after He died and rose from the grave. And as He came into the presence of His disciples He breathed on them and gave them this new life.
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22 NKJV)
And it was at this time that the disciples entered into this New Covenant relationship, and in receiving the Holy Spirit through the breath (pneuma) of Jesus who is God, the second person of the Godhead, and their hearts were changed and their bodies now became the temple of the God, the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). They became what Jesus told the religious leader Nicodemus what he must become if he wanted eternal life, and that is, “Born Again.”
Turn to John 3
Nicodemus was a Pharisee, that is, he was at the top of Israel’s religious and probably social order. If you asked anybody back then who Nicodemus was, they would have easily said “Sure,” and could point him out to you. And if someone asked if Nicodemus was going to heaven, people would reply, “Well, if Nicodemus isn’t going, then nobody will.”
As a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, that is, the Jewish High Court, Nicodemus would have been well known for his piety and the keeping of the Law. And so here you have Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night, probably because he was scared of what others might think.
Read John 3:1-2
Nicodemus is in essence here giving Jesus his seal of approval. Maybe he was thinking that Jesus would be sufficiently impressed with such insight, and may even reveal His purpose. But instead look at how Jesus replies.
Read John 3:3-8
What Jesus was telling Nicodemus is that he had come as far as his flesh and intellect would let him. Jesus didn’t say, “Your right, now make a decision for me and pray this prayer and you’re in.”
You see our flesh and our intellect can only take us for far, even the finest decisions of the intellect, and the finest acts of the flesh still give birth to death.
What Jesus said was that a new birth was needed, when one is born again, or more literally, born from above, that is, a spiritual birth that comes from the Spirit, or Breath of God.
This is what happened to the disciples after Jesus’s resurrection. When then saw the risen Jesus they came to belief calling Him Lord and God. And it was then that Jesus breathed on them and they were filled with the Breath of God, that is, the Holy Spirit.
This is seen in Jesus’s description to Nicodemus of the wind, (pneuma), in that just as we can’t control the wind and where it blows, neither can we direct or control the Holy Spirit, who is the 3rd person of the Godhead. In other words, the Holy Spirit is God, and He cannot be controlled by anything we as humans can do.
We cannot say to the Spirit, “Wait.” The Spirit of God, the Breath of God comes as He wills. He is blowing through us even as we are sitting here this morning, convicting us of sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come (John 16:8). And as He is moving in our midst He is revealing the deadness in our hearts, hearts that are in dire need of new or renewed life, which is our last point.
3. God Breathes Into Us Renewed Life
Turn to Ezekiel 37
Remember the prophecy earlier in Ezekiel 36 where God would change people’s hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, now God shows Ezekiel in this vision of this work being accomplished.
Read Ezekiel 37: 1-14
In a vision, God places Ezekiel in a valley full of old dried up bones scattered from one end to the other. This is a place where there is absolutely no evidence of life.
Now, God is saying that these bones represent Israel, and in doing so was indicating that even though Israel was His chosen people, they now had become spiritually dry and dead.
To emphasize the hopelessness of the situation from a human point of view, God asked Ezekiel if these bones could live. We get the same sense from our scene in the show “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” as Susan and Lucy look despairingly upon the stone statues.
God then tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones so that they can live, indicating the miraculous power and life giving properties associated with God’s word.
And so, when Ezekiel speaks these words to these dried up bones, stuff begins to happen. All of a sudden bones start flying all over the place and start getting connected, and then muscle and skin grow and become attached. Like Adam, they had bodies, but something was still missing, and that was the breath of life.
And so God said to Ezekiel, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9 NKJV)
And so, Ezekiel said, “So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army (Ezekiel 37:10 NKJV)
Isn’t this a lot like Christians today? They look good on the outside, but the Breath of God is missing. There are many who have allowed the curse of Satan, which is sin, to turn their hearts into stone. And what Satan does is that he gets us to compromise our beliefs and gets us to look to our own ways and not the ways of God, just as he did with Adam and Eve.
What happens is that we become like those stone statutes in the witches castle, completely ineffective and nullified, no longer of any use to others or ourselves in this great battle that we are in.
What we need is for The Holy Spirit to breathe into us, to bring us back to life and to remove the heart of stone and give us again a heart of flesh.
And so God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the Breath, that is, to speak to the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit and say, “Come O Breath and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”
And now look at God’s promise.
I will put my Spirit in you and you will live (Ezekiel 37:14a NKJV)
The Lord is saying to us today, “Receive My Breath, receive the Holy Spirit you who are dead in your trespasses and sins, and live.”
Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to renew and empower us, to bring life to hearts that has become dry and without hope. Let’s ask God to breathe into us His Holy Spirit, the Breath of Life, and turn the coldness that has developed into a roaring fire.
• Come O Breath of God – breathe new and renewed life within me
• Turn my cold heart – into a heart that is on fire for you
• Turn my sin harden heart – into a heart that is in love with You
• Come Holy Spirit – make me into that new creation – designed by You and for You
• Breathe that new life within me – and I ask this now in Jesus’s name – Amen
Wednesday Evening Bible Study