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Jun 04, 2023

One Difference the Spirit Makes

One Difference the Spirit Makes

Speaker: Patrick Lafferty

Series: That’s the Spirit: Learning to keep in step with Him who indwells

Keywords: faith, spirit, water, baptism, repentance, heart, birth, hospitality, wind, opened

Few modern people would disagree that Jesus was a teacher of wisdom. But in that sense most would place him in the same category as others who stand as pioneers of various faith traditions: teacher. Such a category implies spirituality in any tradition is mainly an embrace of their wisdom. What distinguishes Christianity from that correct but imprecise characterization of the faith as a way of wisdom? What difference does the Holy Spirit make in not just following that wisdom but being convinced of its wisdom to begin with?

Readings & Scriptures

PREPARATION: Psalm 86:8-11
LEADER: There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.

PEOPLE: All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.

LEADER: For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.

ALL: Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name. 


LEADER: Ezek. 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezek. 37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

Ezek. 37:7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “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.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

CENTRAL TEXT: John 3:1-8; Acts 2:37-41; 16:11-15

John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”. . . .

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. . . .

Acts 16:11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

BENEDICTION: Hebrews 10:21-23

LEADER: since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

ALL: Thanks be to God


  • Ezekiel 36:22-27; Jeremiah 31:31-34
  • Joel 2:28-29
  • John 1:12
  • Acts 2:39
  • 1 Corinthians 7:12-14


  1. Quick–mention the phrase “born-again” in mixed-company and what words or ideas will be mentioned in association?
  2. Why does Peter refer to the Spirit as a “gift” (Acts 2:38)
  3. Lydia was a Gentile businesswoman and entrepreneur. She had become a “God-fearer”--one who had come to believe in Israel’s God as real, holy, powerful, and worthy of worship. Why not simply leave her to that humble posture before the Lord? Why would Paul see fit to add to her understanding of God in the person of Jesus? Why, notwithstanding our respect for the wisdom in all manner of faith traditions, would we refuse to pass up an opportunity to make Jesus known to someone who might show curiosity?
  4. Once Lydia’s heart responds to what she has heard from Paul about Jesus she soon after insists upon becoming a place of hospitality for Paul and others in his team. In fact it’s the first place Paul comes to after being released from an unjust jailing. How is this short episode about Lydia a picture of what it means to be inwardly renewed by the Spirit? While others’ response might not be identical to hers, why might what the Spirit persuades us of result in that kind of response?


  •  The Son has said everything that needs to be said, but the Spirit brings it to life. Robert Sokolowski
  • The reason why some despise, some oppose, some deride the work of the Spirit of God in our regeneration and conversion, or fancy it to be only an outward ceremony, or a moral change of life and conversation, is, their ignorance of the corrupted and depraved state of the souls of men, in their minds, wills, and affections, by nature. The Holy Spirit, who in his power and operation is more intimate, as it were, unto the principles of our souls than they are to themselves, doth, with the preservation and in the exercise of the liberty of our wills, effectually work our regeneration and conversion unto God. John Owen
  • The Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to Himself. John Calvin
  • Faith . . .is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit. John Calvin