You Asked for It 2008 part 3
The Shyness of God
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 31 2008

At the beginning of the Service:

Play Song – “HOLY SPIRIT” by Third Day

Later on this morning, we’re going to be talking about the Holy Spirit. Often it seems like the Holy Spirit kind of gets pushed to the shadows. He doesn’t get a lot of mention. He doesn’t get the air-time that Jesus does, or that God the Father does. We’re going to talk a bit about why that is.

But right here off the top, I thought we’d take a few minutes to talk about who the Holy Spirit is. Because there are some common misconceptions about the Holy Spirit.

One misconception is that the Holy Spirit is referred to as the third person of the Trinity, so He must be third in importance. But is that true? Of course not. As we talked about last week, all three members of the Trinity are equal… God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We’ll talk a little bit more about that later this morning.

Another misconception, and perhaps the biggest one, is that the Holy Spirit is not a person; the Holy Spirit is just some sort of impersonal force. In fact, over 60 percent of people believe that that the Holy Spirit is just a symbol of God’s presence or power.

Take a look…


So according to what the Bible teaches, the Holy Spirit is not just some impersonal force. He feels, He thinks, He listens, He guides, He instructs, He can be grieved, He can be lied to, He can be spoken to… He has all the qualifications of personhood.

And He’s essential to the life of the believer, because He guides us, He convicts us, and He transforms us into the people God has called us to be.

We’ll get more into that a little bit later. Right now, I’m going to invite Derek to lead us in prayer…


Last Sunday, in case you missed it, we all came to a perfect understanding of the Trinity; now there’s nothing left for us to learn.

Okay, maybe that’s not true. No, we didn’t fully explain the Trinity. We didn’t fully explore everything there is about the Nature of God. We didn’t totally define who God is in His very essence.

No, we didn’t explain away the mystery of the Trinity; we merely articulated it. You and I will never fully understand God and what His nature’s like. If we could, that would make us gods ourselves. God is simply too vast, too grand, too great for you and I to fully comprehend.

But what we did discover is that the Bible describes God the Father as being God, Jesus the Son as being God, and the Holy Spirit as being God. And yet the Bible clearly tells us that there is one and only one God. That’s what the Bible tells us, that’s what the early believers believed, and that’s what Jesus Himself taught. Three persons, but only one God. And we would eventually come to call this understanding of the nature of God: The Trinity.

But how can this be? Isn’t that a contradiction? I mean, there are three, but there’s only one? Does that really make sense?

Well, what we discovered last week is that it may be a mystery, but it’s not a contradiction. Because we’re not talking about three and one in the same sense. If we were talking about three persons and one person, that would be a contradiction. If we were talking about three natures and one nature, that would be a contradiction. But we’re not talking about them in the same sense. We’re talking about three persons, one nature. Three persons, one essence. Three persons, one God.

And these three persons exist within the community of the Godhead as One.

Now, I know that even with that explanation, it’s still difficult to grasp. And it always will be. And that’s because we’re trying to describe God. We’re trying to define the undefinable. To contain the uncontainable. So what we realized is that even though the doctrine of the Trinity may go beyond our reasoning, it doesn’t go against reason. It may go beyond logic, but it doesn’t go against logic. And that’s okay.

So that’s what we talked about last week.

Now, you know that every year here at Sunrise during the month of August I’ve taken requests from you to speak on various topics or passages of Scripture, and we generally get a wide range of requests and I do my best to address them here on a Sunday morning.

This year, though, we had a couple of requests that were closely related. So we talked about the mystery of the Trinity last week. This week, we’re going to talk about the other request: we’re going to talk about the Holy Spirit.

And specifically, we’re going to talk about why the Holy Spirit always seems to be in the background. Is He not as important as the other two? Is He not as powerful? What’s the deal?

Well, imagine what conversations must be like within this community of the Trinity. God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are having a conversation… what are they going to talk about? Are they going to argue about who’s the greatest of the three?

In the 20th century, there was an athlete who was famous for saying he was the greatest. Who am I talking about? Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali always boasted that he was the greatest. Well, there’s a story about Muhammad Ali getting on an airplane one day, going to his seat and sitting down and waiting for the plane to take off. One of the flight attendants came over to him and politely said to him, “Sir, you’re going to have to fasten your seatbelt.” Muhammad Ali didn’t want to do that, so he said, “No, I’m not going to.”

“But sir, you have to fasten your seat belt.”

“No, I don’t want to and I’m not going to.”

“Sir, it’s federal regulation that you have to fasten your seatbelt. We’re not going to take off until you do.”

Muhammad Ali looked at her and said, “Look, I’m Muhammad Ali. I’m the greatest. I’m Superman, and Superman don’t need no seatbelt.”

At which point the flight attendant replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane.”

Muhammad Ali claimed he was the greatest. Even among the original followers of Jesus, one of the more common arguments they had was about who was the greatest among them.

But what would it be like within the Trinity? Do they argue about who’s the greatest? Do they bicker about who’s the most all-powerful, about who’s the most all-knowing, about who’s the most all-present, about who’s the most eternal? Are those the kinds of conversations they have?

No, I don’t think so.

There’s a New Testament scholar by the name of Dale Bruner who wrote a little book called, The Holy Spirit: The Shy Member of the Trinity. This is what he wrote…

“One of the most surprising discoveries in my own study of the doctrine and experience of the Spirit in the New Testament is what I can only call the shyness of the Spirit…
What I mean here is not the shyness of timidity but the shyness of deference, the shyness of a concentrated attention on another; it is not the shyness (which we often experience) of self-centeredness, but the shyness of an other-centeredness. It is in a word, the shyness of love.”
~ Dale Bruner, in The Holy Spirit: Shy Member of the Trinity

Let me show that to you. In the Gospel of John, just shortly before Jesus would be arrested and taken away and executed on a cross, He’s talking to His disciples. And Jesus knows that all of this is about to happen. He knows He’s going to die, is going to rise from the dead and come back for a short time, and then is going to ascend and rejoin His Father in Heaven. But He wants His followers to understand that He’s not going to abandon them. He’s not going to leave them alone. This is what He says…

John 14:26 (NLT)
“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

And then a couple of chapters later…

John 16:13-14 (NLT)
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me.”

So what was the Holy Spirit going to do? He was going to represent Jesus. He was going to remind them about Jesus. He was going to teach them about Jesus. He was going to glorify Jesus.

Some of you attended the Leadership Summit last year and you heard John Ortberg as one of the key speakers. Well, John Ortberg talks about this same shyness of the Holy Spirit that Dale Bruner talks about. Take a look at this…


[Alternatively, show this on flipchart…

Here’s a picture of Jesus. And what you can picture the Holy Spirit doing is this… Standing behind in the background, reaching around and pointing to Jesus. “This is Jesus. Look to Him. Listen to Him. Obey Him. Love Him. Worship Him. Follow Him. Serve Him. Be devoted to Him.”]

The Holy Spirit’s constant preoccupation is to help people become totally immersed in the person of Jesus.

But that doesn’t seem fair, does it? I mean, why should Jesus get all the attention? Well, Bruner writes about that, too.

“It’s often been said that the Holy Spirit is the ‘Cinderella of the Trinity,’ the great neglected Person of the Godhead. But the Holy Spirit’s desire and work is that we be overcome again, thrilled again, excited and gripped again by the wonder, the majesty, the relevance of Jesus. The Holy Spirit does not mind being Cinderella outside the ballroom if the Prince is honored inside his kingdom.”
~ Dale Bruner

But you see, the Holy Spirit points to Jesus not because He’s inferior but because that’s His purpose. He’s here to remind us of Jesus. He’s here to represent Jesus. He’s here to guide us to Jesus. Jesus is not greater than the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit willingly points toward Jesus.

So it seems like Jesus gets all the attention, doesn’t it? But here’s the interesting thing. When you look at Jesus, you don’t see someone who struts around declaring, “I’m the greatest.” No, what did Jesus say?

John 8:54 (NIV)
"If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing.”

Mark 10:45 (NLT)
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

So Jesus submits Himself to others. After Jesus was baptized, we’re told that…

Mark 1:12 (NLT)
The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness…

When He prays, He tells God the Father…

Luke 22:42 (NLT)
“I want your will to be done, not mine.”

So not only is the Holy Spirit shy, but Jesus is shy, too! He points to God the Father! And He submits to the Holy Spirit. And He came to serve others.

And we can keep going. How about the Father?

Well, twice in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) we hear the voice of God the Father… at the Baptism of Jesus and at what we call the Transfiguration. And both times the voice says [in brackets only in 17:5]…

Matthew 3:17 [& 17:5] (NIV)
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. [Listen to him!]”

So God the Father is shy, too! Bruner writes about this, too, and he says…

“It is worth noticing that the voice from Heaven does not say, ‘Hey! Listen to Me too! Don’t forget about me! Don’t be too taken up with my Son!’ …God the Father is shy, too. The whole blessed Trinity is shy. Each member of the Trinity points faithfully and selflessly to the other in a gracious circle.”
~ Dale Bruner


“I was raised in some ways to think of God as a proud, almost arrogant being who could get away with his pride because he was God. The doctrine of the Trinity tells me it is not so. God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit in a community of greater humility, servanthood, mutual submission, and delight than you and I can imagine. Three and yet One. Oneness is God's signature.”
~ John Ortberg, in Christianity Today

So every member of the Trinity is shy. Not a shyness of self-centeredness (as we often think of shyness) but a shyness of other-centeredness… withdrawing in order to point to the other.

So what does this mean for you and for me? Well, I think there are a couple lessons we can learn from this shyness that we see in the Trinity.

Faith Lessons:

1.    As children of God, we also must possess this shyness of other-centeredness.

So much of this world shapes us and expects us to be self-centered… to look out for ourselves first. But a distinctive mark of Christianity since the very beginning has been a willingness to submit to others, to love others, to honour others, to sacrifice for others even at great personal cost.

The Father showed this when He sent His only begotten Son to earth and learned what it means to be a brokenhearted Father. The Son showed this when He willingly gave up His life and died a painful death for you and me. The Holy Spirit shows this even now by agreeing to reside with us and risk being ignored, abused, misunderstood, slandered and grieved day after day, year after year, century after century.

The early believers showed this by selling their possessions and giving to those in need. By doing the dirty work of caring for the sick and dying while others ran away in fear. By risking their lives to spread a message of hope.

Philippians 4:1-4 (NLT)
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You know what we can learn from the shyness of the Trinity? We can learn to live, to love, to serve together in humility. How? By being willing to submit to each other. By being accountable to each other. By working together and not caring who gets the credit.

I came across a blog by a guy named Kevin Queen. I don’t really know anything about him, but I think he’s right on in what he says here…

“In the shyness of the Trinity we see perfect relationship. The Spirit points to Jesus. Jesus points to the Father. The Father sends the Spirit. There is not a hint of competition. No unresolved conflict. No undercutting. No clamoring for rights. No scrambling for center stage. Perfect unity.”
~ Kevin Queen

That’s the kind of unity you and I need to have. That’s the kind of unity Jesus prayed for us to have.

John 17:20-23 (NLT)
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you… May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”

2.    Since the Holy Spirit is carrying on the work of God today, we must listen and submit to Him.

If we are followers of Christ, we will be submissive to the work and leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Romans 8:14 (NLT)
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So conversely, if you are not led by the Spirit, then you are not a child of God. Because the Spirit is working in you to help you live as a child of God.

Okay, so if you want to listen and submit to the Holy Spirit, you’ve got to know what the Spirit’s doing, right? So how do you know what He’s doing?

What's in a Name?

•    He speaks in and through the Scriptures

This is the clearest and perhaps the most frequent way that the Holy Spirit speaks to us.

2 Peter 1:20-21 (NLT)
Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

The writers of our Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit. They were moved by Him. He spoke through them, and He continues to speak through them today. If you want to know how the Holy Spirit is leading you and what He wants to accomplish in your life, it starts right here. Read your Bible.

•    He guides us in the day to day business of life

Now, this is a little harder to describe. Because the Holy Spirit deals with each person individually. The way He communicates with me may not be the way He communicates with you.

Now, there are times when the Holy Spirit speaks audibly to people, like He did in the Bible with Phillip and with Peter. But that doesn’t seem to be the norm.

But I think most times He speaks to our hearts and our minds through impressions… through leadings. And these leadings will always be consistent with Scripture. So the more and more you get to know God and His Word, this more frequent these leadings will become in the day to day business of life. And the easier it is for you to recognize them.

1 Corinthians 2:10,16 (NLT)
For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets… We understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

And it’s the Holy Spirit who’s shaping the mind of Christ in you.

•    He convicts us of sin and convinces us of our need for God

He works in people’s lives even before they become followers of Jesus to show them their need for God. Now, He’s not pushy… He doesn’t force His way in where He’s not welcome… so people can reject what He’s trying to do. But He’s working hard to prepare people to receive Christ.

John 16:8 (NLT)
And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.

And even after you become a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit continues to work in your life to show you areas of sin that need to be dealt with… to convict you through your conscience of what is wrong.

Galatians 5:16 (NLT)
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.



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