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Entries in Holy Spirit (21)

Friday
Nov102017

Elijah, the Prophet of the Lord

1 Kings 17:1-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 05, 2017.

Today we are beginning a series looking at the Old Testament prophet, Elijah.  Prophets in the Bible always appeared when God’s people needed instruction, or when they needed correction.  Always, they prophets would declare to the people what God was saying, whether about past, present, or future events.  That said, the prophets are most concerned about the present.  Knowing what God says about the past, present, and future, will you not walk in faith now, in the present?  We should never lose sight of this prophetic imperative.  It comes to us in the now in order to encourage or change our present activity.

Historically, this idea that God does speak through individuals to the greater body of believers has led to lots of abuse by false prophets who had not been sent by God.  Instead they are enamored with the idea of having power and wielding it over those around them.  Their inflated egos lead them to do what no normal person would do, pretend that they have a word from the Lord for other people.  That said, it would be easy to reject the idea of prophets altogether.  Some do this completely by rejecting the idea that any person has ever really had a “word from the Lord.”  Thus they view the Bible as a man-made document that is only worthy of respect as a specimen of literature.  Others will say that God no longer uses prophets.  Thus they accept the Bible as the proven Word of God, but reject the idea that God speaks through others today.  I would challenge you to recognize the spiritual maturity that we are called to.  The spiritually immature easily accept everyone who comes along with a “Word from the Lord.”  But to reject the idea of prophets out of hand is no great maturity itself.  It refuses to deal with the hard issues of spiritually mature individuals recognizing the Holy Spirit (or lack thereof) in another person’s words.  False prophets always have red flags that the spiritually mature will pick up on.  More than this, the words of a prophet of the Lord will always prove true in the end.  Otherwise they have not spoken from the Lord, but in presumption have made up words from their own mind and heart.

Elijah is one of the true prophets whose declarations of God’s Word proved to be true in the end.  As we will see throughout this character study, the prophets were rarely well received and respected by the people during their life time.  Instead we find them harassed and threatened, rejected by the powerful of their day, and often by the average person too.

As we walk through the ministry of Elijah, we want to focus on what God is telling us and not what our flesh wants to focus on.  In this way we will be led by the Spirit of God and not by our flesh.  Let’s look at our passage today.

Elijah confronts King Ahab

In verse 1 we find two characters, Elijah and Ahab.  Although we are jumping into a running account of the Kings of Judah and Israel, this is the first point that we see the prophet Elijah.  So let’s remind ourselves of the setting of this meeting between Elijah and Ahab.  Israel had existed as 12 (13 counting Levi) tribes under the help of judges whom God raised up for their help.  Until King Saul, Israel did not have a king.  Eventually, though, God allows them to have a king, but warns them that it will not lead to good things in the end.  So Saul became the first King of Israel, followed by David and then his son Solomon.  After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam took the throne.  Through poor counsel and poor character, Rehoboam threatened to raise the heavy taxes that Solomon had levied, which led to the 10 northern tribes breaking off from the tribe of Judah (only the tribe of Benjamin remained with the tribe of Judah).  This split in Israel wasn’t healed over time.  Thus the two Kingdoms were referred to as Judah and Israel.  It is important in the Bible to pay attention to what is meant by Israel in the context.  Sometimes it refers to all 13 tribes and sometimes only to the northern 10 tribes that broke off from Judah.  This split happened roughly around 930/925 B.C.  Ahab is a king of Israel, as in the northern 10 tribes, about 70 years after this split.  Due to wickedness and power plots there have already been 6 kings and thus Ahab is the 7th king of northern Israel.  We are told in 1 Kings 16:31-33 that King Ahab was very wicked.  “And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat [the idolatry of the first Northern King], that [Ahab] took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.  Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.  And Ahab made a wooden image.  Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”  Under Ahab, the northern tribes had not only mixed the worship of God with idols, but had now completely gone away from God; and had begun worshiping a foreign God called Baal (typically pronounced in English as the word “bail”).  It is in this context of a King of Israel who is leading the nation away from God and towards a false God that prophets like Elijah stepped forward on the scene.  God was not going to just lay down without confronting such betrayal.  However, we don’t see these prophets in league with each other like some kind of ancient “Occupy Samaria.” The prophets were not a human, conspiratorial group, but rather, a group of divinely instigated individuals who remained true to God as the One to whom all allegiance should be held.

Elijah does not rebuke Ahab for his idolatry at first, at least not as we see him in the Bible.  Rather he first establishes that he is a prophet of God by giving Ahab a powerful sign.  Elijah tells Ahab that the country will not have rain or dew until Elijah commands it to come.  Now this would be an incredibly arrogant statement to make, but it is also the type of thing that a false prophet would be very cautious about saying.  Who can control the weather?  Definitely, a person can’t do so.  Notice that Elijah warns him in advance and not after the fact.  So there is nothing right off the bat to make Ahab think there is anything to this.  However, over the years to follow (the famine would last over 3 years) Ahab would have to face the fact that Elijah claims to be able to make it stop.

Now we don’t typically think of famine as a miracle.  We tend to think of miracles as good things.  In this case the lack of rain would be a powerful sign to Ahab that God was backing up what Elijah was saying.  All this time their prayers for Baal to help them would be impotent.  Thus it is a miraculous work of grace to get Ahab’s attention and draw him back to repentance towards God.  Not every prophet of the Lord did powerful miracles, other than speak the truth and have it prove true.  There are no such stories of signs and wonders surrounding Jeremiah.  However, the Word of the Lord that he proclaimed proved very true and this is what is most important.  Elijah is what God has called him to be and Jeremiah was precisely what God called him to be.  In this case God gives a powerful witness of who is on the right side through a time of famine in the land that starts and stops at the command of his prophet Elijah.

 Now in case it looks to you like Elijah is just saying this and hoping God will back him up, notice the words, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand.”  To stand before the Lord was a clear term that is synonymous to being summoned before the king.  Elijah had been brought into the throne room of God surrounded by powerful spirit-beings.  This heavenly or divine council of God is what we see in places like Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4.  Most likely this would be in a dream or vision.    So was Elijah really entering into the divine council of God and hearing God’s words and decrees, or was this all in his head?  Though it sounds like the perfect con (anyone can claim to have been in God’s council chamber and have a word from him), it would also seem to be a dangerous thing to say that you speak on behalf of God.  Throughout the Scriptures the prophets would sometimes do something miraculous to prove that God was with them.  But always, the things they said that God said would always prove true.  It wasn’t enough to be right part of the time, or at least better than 50/50.  It wasn’t enough to be right over 75% of the time.  If God really spoke the words then they would be right 100% of the time.  Though a prophet can mature in how to be a better prophet, there is no maturing of how accurate the words will be.  You either are hearing from God, a deceiving spirit, or your own imagination.  You don’t mature in that.  When someone is actually led by God, the things they say will prove to be true.  Sure they might make a mistake like getting angry at the resistance of those you speak to and strike out in anger.  But the words themselves will prove 100% accurate.  Elijah didn’t just arrogantly assume God would back him up.  He is a man who has stood in the presence of the Lord, and is now confronting King Ahab with a powerful sign that only God could decree.  Now at first Ahab has no reason to fear Elijah.  Who does this guy think he is?  Don’t you know who you are talking to?  At this point in the story Elijah has only made a bold claim. 

Now regardless of whether you are a great prophet of the Lord or not, this is a thing that God is doing.  If He calls a prophet or many of them, it is for His purposes not ours.  We must recognize that the United States of America is not Israel and God is not giving us more Scripture in the present.  However, it is important to learn how to spend time in God’s presence and to be led by His Spirit and His counsel.  It is irrelevant whether we have had a dream or a vision of the throne room.  What is important is that by the Spirit of God we have entered into His presence and have received His word to us.  This isn’t just something intended for men like Elijah who are doing powerful things.  It is also for people like you and me who are just trying to raise our family for the Lord and be a witness to our friends and neighbors.  We must be led by God’s Spirit and not our own fleshly desires.

Now in verses 2-7 we see again the leading of the Spirit of God.  As the famine begins, Elijah is to go out into a wilderness place where God will take care of his physical needs.  Also, he will be out of touch of Ahab’s power and control.  When God makes things tough, He always has a plan for His people.  It may not be the plan you were hoping for and at the level that you were hoping, but it is His plan nonetheless.  He leads Elijah to a small brook that keeps running during the first part of the drought.  He is also miraculously fed by ravens that bring him bread and meat two times a day.  We are not told where they are getting this food, but I keep having this image of ravens descending on the table of Ahab and plucking food for Elijah.  However, where they got the food is immaterial.  This humbling means of being fed seems to be contradictory to the powerful prophet of God.  But Elijah knew that he had no power but what God gave him.  Elijah was not a superman.  He was a normal man who was called by God and also believed God.  It was God who was doing the heavy lifting of blocking the rain and dew for over three years.  Remember that no matter how greatly God works through you, in the end you are simply a servant.  It is God who is doing the hard work.  You are simply trusting and obeying.  That is nothing to get all high and mighty over.  A lack of humility is a red flag that a person is not as close to God as they are putting on.  Can I give thanks for God’s provision no matter how it comes?  All throughout the Bible God keeps trying to teach us that those who belong to the Lord will be fed though they are surrounded by a desert, and they will drink though there is no water in sight.  Yet, there is a spiritual lesson here as well.  Lack of water and dew is a symbol throughout the Bible for a lack of the word of God.  Amos 8:11 says, “’Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD.’”  Perhaps this is why Elijah doesn’t say anything other than announcing the famine.  It would be symbolic of God’s anger with Ahab and northern Israel.  God was pulling away from them as a discipline upon the people.  Even when a nation and its leaders are going the absolute opposite direction away from God, those who trust God will always find a place of grace in which He speaks to them and cares for them.  This is the place we need to be.

Yet, even with all that said, we find in verse 7 that the brook eventually dries up.  God does not always care for us the same way all the time.  We can get so used to God caring for us in a particular way that we freak out when that particular source of grace dries up.  God hasn’t forgotten about you and your needs.  You do not need to fret.  If one source dries up, God will provide another.  Just trust Him and listen to His Spirit. 

There are times when I wish we had such a prophet in our land.  However, as Christians we are called to something similar and yet different.  It is different in that we aren’t commanding it to quit raining or splitting red seas.  But it is similar in that our lives become the thing that the world around us can’t just ignore.  As much as the world plunges away from God and His Word and worships everything under the sun and in the heavens besides Him, God uses those who are in relationship with Him and receiving His word to be the stumbling block that brings the unbeliever up short.  God in His mercy always sends a person who speaks and lives out the word of God as a mercy to those who have either tossed it aside, or never knew it in the first place.  Let’s be a people who are standing before the Lord in prayer and meditation.  Let’s be a people who are being directed by the Spirit of God and not the spirit of this age.  The lives of others depend upon us.

Prophet of the Lord audio

Friday
Oct132017

The Cry of 'No H8'- II

Galatians 5:19-21; Proverbs 26:24-28; 1 Peter 4:7-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 08, 2017.

Last week we talked about the Christians duty to love their enemies and to reject hatred.  We are called to live our lives by the truth and the love of Jesus.  This is easier said than done when destructive events happen in the life of an individual or a group.  If we were to investigate the roots of those destructive events within the perpetrators, without doubt we would find hatred in all its forms.  Many events are physically destructive: bombings, shootings, kidnappings, etc.  But, hatred may also target a person for political destruction, relational destruction, destroying someone’s business life, or social standing within any group.  These things can be just as devastating in the life of those affected as if someone had tossed a bomb into our life.

Those who suffer at the hands of hate can easily give in to the desire of the heart to hate back and to get even.  Why does Jesus teach that this is wrong, and even further that we must love them?  Well, let’s go under the hood of hatred (so to speak) and walk through some of the biblical reasons why God is dead set against using hatred to accomplish justice.

Hatred is a work of the flesh

In Galatians 5:19-21 we are given a list that is referred to as “the works of the flesh.”  This list is contrasted with the “fruit of the Spirit.”  Hatred is in the first list, which is clearly not exhaustive.  Thus the source of hatred cannot be found in the Spirit of God.  It is found within the sinful nature of us humans.  We are the source.  It is easy to blame everything, but ourselves.  However, God’s Word does not leave that option open to us.

Last week we defined hate as an intense ill-will towards another person or group.  Though this is a motivation of the heart, it always leads to outward actions of some sort, even if it is merely avoidance.  So when a person first embraces the inner advances of hatred, it may seem innocent and justified at the time because we haven’t done anything, yet.  Human courts at this point in time do not hold people accountable for thoughts and feelings.  In fact it would be impossible to do without error at this time.  They are held accountable when the hatred breaks out into an illegal action.  Yet, God has gone on record that he will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16).  So we should not sit comfortably just because we “haven’t done anything.”  God calls us to a higher “righteousness” than not doing certain things.  Like a seed, hatred will not remain static.  It is extremely industrious and your flesh will keep pushing you until the wicked fruit of hatred is brought to maturity.

Now, the problem here cannot be solved with a law.  No law, whether from God, or mankind can get rid of all hatred.  We would have to get rid of all people.   Scientists are working on ways to figure out how to read people’s minds and thoughts.  But even if we were able to identify it with our technology, the truth is that all people at one time or another have thoughts or feelings of hatred.  There is much in our inner life that surface in our heart and yet we mentally reject as acceptable and something we want to embrace.  We would have to have a world where everyone is connected to an Artificial Intelligence that can alert the authorities to an outbreak of hatred within a person.  Such a world would be chaos instantly.  God’s Word does not point us back to the Law as a solution for our salvation.  The Law is helpful for helping us to see that we have problems.  But, it is powerless to help us heal or to give salvation.  At the best we can only cut off those actions of hate that rise above the surface.  However, the roots will grow increasingly large under the surface.  Your flesh wants to hate.  It will be drawn to that direction.  But, the Holy Spirit wants to lead you towards loving people in truth.  So the answer is to repent of our sins and turn to the Spirit of God for direction.  It requires saying, “No!” to our flesh and, “Yes!” to the Spirit of God.  Yet, even this is not the foundation of our salvation.  The foundation of our salvation is the fact that Jesus paid the price for our hatred and other sins at the cross.  Those who repent of their self-justified life and put their faith in Jesus have their guilt removed from them.  They are freed to follow the Holy Spirit and become progressively more like Jesus.  Now let’s look at a couple of proverbs to help us pull apart some of the inner workings of hatred.

Hatred deceives everyone

In Proverbs 26:24-28, we are reminded that hatred is deceptive.  When it happens in our heart, we embrace a life of deceiving others.  Because we fear others knowing what is in our heart and mind, we become deceptive in our life with others.  This can be simply for tactical advantage, or it can be because we know it is wrong and we fear others knowing about it.  Thus we are told that hatred masks itself or disguises itself.  We create a false persona towards those we hate, but it is often impossible to separate this false persona from the people we love.  Pretended love, pretended fellowship, pretended concern for truth, justice, and the good of all, are all deceits that make things worse for all.  Yet, it looks loving on the surface.

In verse 24 we are told that the hater “lays up deceit within himself.”  Hate is a growing thing that we can harbor in our heart.  Every day a person can be making more and more deposits of hateful thoughts and emotions.  You cannot harbor these things without deceiving yourself.  You may at first understand that there is something wrong with hating.  But if we allow it to remain and grow we will become hardened to love and become convinced of the “noble causes of justice” that our hatred drives us to pursue.

We are also told that those who plot the harm of others will eventually be caught in their own plots.  Like Haman in the book of Esther, they will be hung on the gallows that they made for someone else.  I know that there are people who are consumed with hate and seem to get away with it all the time.  They have mastered the art of hatred.  However, it will get them in the end.  Don’t let yourself be fooled.  If you pursue a life of ill-will towards another, no matter how justified, you will find yourself standing before a holy God who will be just as stern with you.  Hatred promised you justice, but didn’t tell you that you would also be hung on your own petard.

Hatred stirs up strife and discord

Another proverb about hate versus love is found in chapter 10, verse 12.  The Apostle Peter quotes part of this proverb in 1 Peter 4:7-8.  So we will look at both. Here is the proverb.  “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”  Proverbs 10:12.  This statement about hate is very straightforward.  It will not leave well enough alone.  It stirs up strife and discord, first within the individual that gives in to it and second among those around us, who are often innocent bystanders.

Why is hatred so discordant?  It is because hatred has the ability to watch people like a hawk, and to watch the situation for any favorable edge to bring about the demise of another.  It seeks any occasion: of fault for accusation, of open ears for gossip, and of imagining the worst motives for others.  It does not remain solely focused on those who initially stirred it up within us.  Like a wounded animal, hate becomes a weapon and way of life that lashes out at anyone who gets too close.  Any person who is willing to listen becomes a sounding board for our inner discourse.  This litany of errors of the other person may have some truths in it, but hate drives us to propagandize such errors into far more than they usually are.  It always consumes us with the worst possible motives of our target.  In this sense hatred truly becomes neurotic.  For every time it is correct in its analysis, there are dozens of errors in our own thinking, and harsh judgments.

In this way hatred is the opposite of a peacemaker.  In the beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God.”  This will not be true for the person who embraces hate.  Instead of being a source of life and hope in a situation, the person of hate makes it worse and cuts off all hope of making peace.  They have become not like Christ, but more like the devil.  Now the passage in 1 Peter 4 only quotes the love side of this proverb.  He reminds believers that love covers a multitude of sins.  This is not the same as covering up sins.  This is not about avoidance, but about forgiveness.  Love forgives and moves on.  But hatred will never forgive and never moves on.  Peter warns believers that the end of all things is at hand, or near.  In other words, he is reminding them to love because the time of judgment is near.  Hatred makes us blind to our own coming judgment.  We can only see the judgment that we desire on the other person or group.  The judgment of God is coming upon this entire world, and we will want to be on the right side of that judgment.  The ends you were pursuing will not justify the means of hatred that you employed when you stand before Jesus.  Only the person who has trusted His way and followed the Spirit of God, who rejected hate and embraced love, who let the words of life flow through them to be a channel of the life of God, will be justified in that day.  Hatred blinds us to just how ugly our own sin is, and how dangerous a position we are in before God.  We become like the man, whom God forgave a gazillion sins, who then goes out to not forgive another who has sinned against us 100 times.  We undercut the mercy of God by our own lack of mercy.  It is only just that a person who has fed on hatred their whole life, be given hatred at the moment of their own judgment.

Peter also mentions the need for serious prayer.  The prayer is called serious in the sense that it is sober.  The restraint is in reference to our flesh and inner life.  God is not interested in prayer as a movement of your lips and the recitation of particular words.  He wants serious, sober prayers that are honestly wrestling with the inner life in response to the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  If you have been injured and hurt, do not embrace hurt.  Rather, through prayer, lay your petition before God.  Through prayer, calm your tumultuous heart so that you can talk with others about what has been done to you.  Through prayer, reject the tendrils of hate that seductively wrap themselves around your heart and let God’s Spirit replace it with His love.  Ask God to help you to guard your own heart and to love as He loved.  Trust completely in the justice that He has promised all who follow Him, rather than the deceptive promise that hatred gives to us.

No H8!-- II audio

Wednesday
Jun142017

Living in the Spirit

Various passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on June 11, 2017.

Over the last several weeks we have looked at some Old Testament passages that promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and at the actual event on the Day of Pentecost when it began.  Today we will look at the next step.  What does it mean to live your life in the Spirit of God?  Get ready to thumb through the Bible because we will look at 4 different passages to get an overview of what it means to live in the Spirit.

Recognize His Presence

John 14:15-18.  As Jesus meets with His disciples, he points out a sequence that He desires.  They will obey his commandments because they love him, and he will send the Holy Spirit so that they will not be left alone.   Though it seems simple, we need to start at recognizing that Jesus always keeps his word.  If you have put your faith in Jesus then the Holy Spirit is present in your life.  In fact, in 1 Corinthians 3:16 we see the Apostle Paul reminding the Corinthian Christians of this truth.  “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”   It seems impossible that someone could become a follower of Jesus and not understand this essential truth.  However, more than likely the problem is not knowledge, but recognition.  It is the plan of Jesus that each of his followers have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and filling their life.

To live a Christian life without relying on and listening to the Holy Spirit cannot last long.  It is more than forgetting that you have chains in your car when you are unable to get over a snowy pass in the winter.  The Holy Spirit is not some inanimate and impersonal tool that we can forget about.  Rather, it is like forgetting that the One who created snow is not only in your vehicle, but can also teach you how to drive in the snow properly.  He will even take over the controls if He has to do so in order to keep you safe.  So life in the Spirit begins by recognizing that Jesus has been faithful and the Holy Spirit dwells in me.  Though the Spirit dwells in us, He wants to fill our life.  For this to happen, there are some things to which we should pay attention.

We have to lose the idea that we can “go it alone,” or that we have to go it alone.  Jesus has a purpose in giving us the Holy Spirit.  The word in verse 16 that is translated “Helper” in the NKJV comes from the sense of one who comes alongside another.  Thus the help can take on many different forms: comforter, director, instructor, corrector, and defender.  If Jesus though his disciples needed the Holy Spirit, how can we think that we will fare any better?  Jesus didn’t just give us the Holy Spirit.  He also gave his disciples one another when he commanded, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  So clearly Jesus does not want us to do this all by ourselves.

So what tempts us to go it alone?  We are tempted to leave the Spirit behind because He often leads in a way that our flesh does not like.  The constant pull of our flesh away from the Spirit, and the constant pull of the world upon our flesh, makes it easy to say you are a Christian, but not rely upon the Holy Spirit.  We are also tempted to leave other believers behind because they are too much like us, not perfect yet.  Thus it seems to difficult to work out problems between one another.  Love challenges us on every front and we can walk out on that task.  Just as Eve was tempted by the things her flesh wanted, so we are tempted by things that our flesh want.  We must learn to say, “No,” to our flesh and “Yes,” to Jesus.

So recognizing that He is there should then turn to praying for His help every day.  The Holy Spirit will help you in many ways without you even asking.  However, there are some things that God, in His sovereignty, will not do unless we ask.  Recognizing His presence and purpose enables us to notice His help more often when we haven’t asked for it.  This is encouraging.  Also, praying for His help in both general and specific ways will open the door for Him to do more things in our life than if we didn’t pray.  So start your day with recognition of His help already, and with a heart of gratefulness ask for His help for today.  I am not saying to become some kind of greedy kid who wants everything.  But, rather to be a grateful child who is coming to a loving Father.  Holy Spirit, help me to face the difficult situation facing me.

We should also pray for a Spirit Baptism or Infilling.  As I said earlier, the presence of the Holy Spirit is a given when you are a believer in Jesus.  However, being filled with the Spirit is something that we need to seek for everyday.  These two words, baptism and filling, refer to two different metaphors.  Baptism refers to the picture of water and being completely immersed or dipped into the Spirit.  I am not just standing next to the water or ankle deep in it.  I am wholly surrounded by the Spirit.  There is no part of my life that is not impacted by the help of the Holy Spirit.  The second word “filling” refers to the metaphor of a house.  The human body is a house of sorts for the human spirit within that uses it to interact with the material world.  At salvation the Holy Spirit enters our “house” and lives with us.  However, there is a big difference between the Holy Spirit being in the house and filling the whole house.  The Holy Spirit wants to fill and influence every part of our life.  The truth is that this is not intended to be a onetime thing.  Our daily experience is that there are times that we are more open to the help of the Spirit than others.  Through prayer we are wrestling with our flesh and making room for the Holy Spirit to fill us.  Now some people historically have testified to a big, powerful experience.  Others have testified to a slow, growing influence in their life that began at salvation.  Regardless of how it looks, the focus should never be on what it looks like.  The focus is on the Holy Spirit actively working through us day by day.  Moses parted the Red Sea, but David didn’t.  David slew the giant Goliath, but Jeremiah didn’t.  So let go of what you think or others have told you it must look like and simply pray each day for the Spirit of God to come into every part of your life and fill you with Himself.  As you cooperate with the Holy Spirit, your life will present a unique and special witness of the power of God to the world around you.

Live Life for the Spirit’s Purpose

Romans 8:1-2; 5-10.  When I preached this on Sunday, I had this as my third point.  However, I now think it is more natural to be presented second.  Now that we know the Spirit is present and are daily inviting Him to fill our life, we must focus our life on the purpose of God.  In Romans 8 we see that there is a struggle within us between living for our own fleshly purposes and living for God’s spiritual purposes.  Jesus has a particular purpose that He wants us to accomplish by the help of the Holy Spirit.  So we should learn to focus upon it.  Now there will be some purposes that are specific to you and God will reveal them to you as you pray for the Spirit’s help.  However there are several purposes that He has for us all and they are a good foundation for our life in the Spirit.

This passage is pointing out that one of the purposes of the Spirit is to help us to be free from and have power over our flesh and sin.  Too many Christians think that Jesus has forgiven their sins, so it doesn’t matter how they live.  Whatever I do, it is okay because Jesus has covered it all.  But, this is just wrong-headed.  We need to learn to say, “No,” to sin.  Yes, we have been set free from the death that sin brings us, but Jesus also wants us to be free from its present tyranny in our life.  This is a spiritual battle, but it is not only unseen.  There is an outward and visible freedom that comes into the life of the person who has the Spirit of God helping them against sin.  The addict can become free from their addictions by the help of the Spirit of God, and the sinner can walk away from the sin that so easily ensnares him, by the help of the Spirit.  This is a battle that takes place over the course of our life and as the Holy Spirit directs us.  Now this passage not only points out the purpose of being free from the desires of our flesh, but also that our motivation must never give in to the flesh.  Our desire must be to walk in harmony with the Holy Spirit’s purpose and with the Holy Spirit’s help.  This is a daily battle of facing our flesh and its desires, and also listening to the Spirit instead.

Now let’s look at another passage in Galatians 5:19-26.  Here we see that another purpose of the Holy Spirit is to manifest evidence that He is inside of you.  If we do not follow the Spirit then our flesh leads us into being manipulated by the devil.  Paul makes it clear that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the works of the flesh.  He gives an extensive list, but not exhaustive.  The reality of the Holy Spirit within us works to make an inner difference.  But this inner difference will also have a surface expression within our life.  In the past, people have made the mistake of being to judgmental about what those exact changes should be.  But, they have also made the mistake of being to tolerant of things that should not continue in the life of someone following the Spirit.  It would be a tragedy if we had a single rose in the garden of our heart surrounded by weeds galore.  In this case we can use the old gardener joke, “the Garden of Weedin’.”  Our life is partly about weeding out those desires of the flesh and the things they have produced in our outer life.  Over time the fruit of the Spirit not only becomes visible, but also grows.  Just as the works of the flesh are obvious, so are the fruit of the Spirit.  I won’t go through the list, but I want to use several of them to recognize the difficulty of the day we live in.

You notice that Paul ends the list by saying, “against such there is no law.”  In other words, it is universal that you do not see laws in any society that say, “You must not love.”  That said, there are commands and laws that say, “You must not call that thing love.”  Thus societies have a tendency to redefine what they think is love, peace, kindness, etc…  Christians are to love, not as society dictates, but as the Spirit of God dictates.  So the world will tell a parent that they should not teach a child to worship Jesus only.  Rather, the child should be shown all the options and helped to make their own choice.  As nice as this may sound to some, it is a recipe for disaster and no true act of love.  So the parent who loves their child enough to teach them the truth about Jesus and this world, is seen as a child abuser and that is socially frowned upon.  Similarly, it is love that tells someone that God’s Word says their life of sin jeopardizes their future.  Yet, the world today increasingly calls this intolerance, and bigoted hate speech.  So the Christian has a tension of listening to the Spirit of God and producing fruit in their life that the world around them doesn’t always like.

It has been recognized by saints down through the ages that at the end of the day, I must be emptied of me and filled with Jesus.   Not in a way that erases my personality, but rather in a way that removes the works of my fleshly desires.  In order to fill something it must first be emptied.  Or, for those scientifically inclined people among us, when you fill a cup with a liquid, it will displace whatever is in it (including air).  Thus, to receive the wisdom of Christ, we must let go of the wisdom of ourselves, and the wisdom of this world.  To receive the life of Christ, I must first let go of the life I have created without Him.  This emptying and being filled is a daily part of life in the Spirit.  He will not conk you over the head and drag you somewhere.  He is not in our life as a tyrannical dictator, but rather, as a helper who cares about us.  In fact, He loves us.  As John the Baptizer once said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.  May God fill us with this attitude.

Live Life by the Way of the Spirit

Ephesians 6:10-18.  Now that we have a direction or the “what” of where we are headed, let’s talk about the “how.”  The Holy Spirit is not just taking us to a destination, but He travels in a particular way, that is the Way of the Lord.  We need to do life God’s Way as opposed to our way.  In Ephesians 6 Paul speaks about the spiritual warfare that is going on around us and how we need to be ready to participate in it.  If we are going to become more like Jesus then we are going to have to do so with recognition of the influence of the spirit realm.  Our battle is not against people, but those spiritual beings that are blinding and manipulating them.  Yes, the world is a bad place because people have trouble refraining from things that bring sorrow, pain, and suffering.  In this sense it is our fault.  However, we cannot ignore that the Bible makes it clear that these things are made worse by the work of these evil spirits.  They and their deceptions are the real problems.  So how do you fight against spiritual beings?  Of course you do so spiritually.

Paul speaks of putting on the Armor of God, which is: Truth, Righteousness, the Gospel of Peace, Faith, Salvation, the Word of God, and prayers.  We won’t extensively go through each of these.  But Paul takes the time to connect each of these spiritual things to a part of the equipment of a solder.  Thus he is emphasizing the importance of each one of these.  If we look at Truth, we should recognize that it is not only important to live based upon the Truth of God, but also to be a truthful person.  Similarly, we live based upon the righteousness of Christ, but also try to be a person who lives out that righteousness as well.  We are both prepared by the Gospel of Peace and prepared for helping others with it.  We also notice the protection that a soldier has for his brain, is spiritual in nature for the Christian.  In other words, the enemy often attacks our mind, through faith and trusting God’s salvation, we are able to resist and extinguish these attacks.  He ends with the offensive part of this list: that is the Sword of the Spirit (The Word of God) and prayer.  With the word of God we are able to recognize the work of our enemy and neutralize it.  In prayer we intercede with Heaven to overrule the work of these spirit-beings and take time to make sure that we are daily equipped with all that God has given us.

So Christian, take time to stop today and recognize that Jesus has made the Spirit of God available to you  in order to accomplish His purposes in the way that pleases the Father.  May God help us to start each day in prayer, inviting Him to fill us with God’s purposes and in His ways.  This is living by the Spirit.

Living in the Spirit audio

Tuesday
Jun062017

The Promise of the Father III

Acts 2:32-39.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 4, 2017.

Today we remember and celebrate the momentous event, almost 2,000 years ago, in which the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in Jerusalem during the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.  Though the Holy Spirit had been active throughout the Old Testament times, the prophets pointed forward to a time when God would pour out His Spirit upon all His people, to be with them and enable them for all of life, not just certain events. 

We should also notice that God chose a feast that celebrated the harvest as the day for pouring out His Spirit.  Thus, it pictures the great harvest of people, throughout every generation, who have become desirable to God by repenting of their sins and believing on Jesus as their savior and lord.  It also recognizes our need for the Holy Spirit in order to bring this harvest in.  When the Holy Spirit came upon those 120 disciples who were gathered in Jerusalem, they began to speak in other languages that they did not know.  However, other people who had gathered for the feast from all around the world recognized that they were praising God and speaking about His wonderful deeds.  This opens the door for a great harvest of 3,000 individuals who put their faith in Jesus that day as the Apostle Peter stood up and addressed the crowd.

The crowd was asking, “What does this mean?”  For the sake of time we will pick up half way through Peter’s answer.  Basically Peter explains that they are seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Holy Spirit.

The Fulfillment of the prophecies of David

Before verse 32, Peter had quoted from Psalm 16, a Psalm of David.  In this psalm David prophesies that the Father will not leave His Holy One in the grave to decay, but instead he will be resurrected.  It is easy to read this and think that David is speaking of himself.  However, Peter makes the point that David is speaking of the Messiah who would come from His lineage.  It was Jesus who had fulfilled this prophecy.  Now it is not every day that specific prophecies are fulfilled.  People had been hearing conflicting reports from some that Jesus had been resurrected, and from others that the disciples had stolen the body while the guards were asleep.  Peter stands up and publicly declares the truth about Jesus.  He had been raised up by God from death, and the 120 who were experiencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit were all witnesses of this.  It is worth noting that there were at least 500 witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus within the early church.  Over the course of 40 days following his burial, at a variety of places, and for extended periods of time, Jesus appeared to His disciples.  This was no hallucination or a made up story.  They witnessed it with their own eyes and felt him with their own hands.  So we have human witness to the resurrection of Jesus.  We also have a heavenly witness to the veracity of these claims in the amazing events that the crowd is seeing.  These Galileans, who did not know languages from around the world, were miraculously speaking the wonders of God in the midst of Jerusalem.  Of course this is not the end of it.  The book of The Acts of the Apostles could also be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Disciples of Jesus.   They would see miracles and powerful presentations of the Gospel by people who were not special by man’s determination.  This is precisely what the coming of the Holy Spirit was all about.  No longer would it be certain special people who would be used by the Spirit.  Now it would be all of God’s people, most of which were not anything spectacular by the world’s standards.

Next Peter states that this Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God.  Now the disciples did not see Jesus physically being resurrected.  But they did see him after the event.  They saw the effects of it.  In this case it is the opposite.  They had seen Jesus ascend in front of their eyes into the sky until a cloud obscured their sight.  Here they see the event, but not necessarily the effect of that ascension, which is Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father.  However, they are taking what they have seen, and adding to it what Jesus told them and what the prophets prophesied, and then trusting that what they can’t see has happened.  In fact the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is intended to be proof that Jesus had been accepted in heaven and now had all power and authority at his disposal.  Notice that it is Jesus who has received the promise of the Holy Spirit and it is he who pours it out on his disciples.  This is important for us to recognize.  Technically all of the blessings of God are given to Jesus.  He alone has merited the favor and blessings of God.  However, Christ shares this with those who belong to Him.  Thus all the blessings of heaven are available to those who are in relationship with Jesus.

Verses 34 and 35 are quoting Psalm 110 verse 1.  Here David is speaking of his lord being seated at the right hand of God.  He is basically saying, “The LORD (The Father) said to my lord (master) sit at My right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”  Thus Jesus is the Son of David by birth, but even David recognized the Messiah as his lord, or master, because of his divinity.  Now the verse also gives us a terminus or end point for this situation.  Jesus will be at the right had of the Father until his enemies are subdued beneath his feet.  This does not mean that God has been trying to subdue the enemies of Jesus for 2,000 years and somehow can’t quite get the job done.  What has the Father been doing for 2,000 years?  He has been offering terms of peace to the enemies of Jesus.  The grace of God made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus is offered to those who do not deserve it.  By the Holy Spirit the call goes out to the whole world, “Stop being a foe of Jesus and become a friend!”  All that said, this time of Grace will come to an end in an event referred to as “I [will] make your enemies your footstool.”  The Second Coming of Christ is the Father bringing the time of grace to an end as well as Jesus’ residence in the heavens.  At that point forward Jesus will dwell on earth with His Saints.  Today is the day of salvation, and the day of the Grace of God.  Seize it now, for the window of opportunity will not stay open forever.

So we see the pouring out of the Holy Spirit as God enabling the disciples of Jesus to be led by and empowered by the Spirit in order to be witnesses to the world and bring in a harvest of individuals who become believers in Jesus.

The conclusion of the matter

Verse 36 concludes the matter.  The leaders and people of Israel had crucified Jesus.  Yes, the Romans were involved, but they would have never done it without the pressure put on them by the Israelite leaders.  Yet, God disagreed with this rejection.  They killed Jesus, but God raised Him up and made Him both Lord and Christ.  We need to recognize today that there are two different things: what man is doing, and what God is doing.  We want to be a part of what God is doing because it will last and we will be blessed.  This reality puts them in a position of being an adversary to God and His work.  And, though we were not there to crucify Jesus, our flesh is just as hostile to God and His work.  This world actively rejects and fights against the work of the Holy Spirit in the followers of Jesus.  We have a choice to make.  We can trust in man and throw our lot in with them, or we can trust in God and throw our lot in with Jesus.

This conclusion cuts to the heart of many of the people there that day.  They were shocked by what Peter was saying.  The Old Testament was littered with the stories of those who resisted God and were destroyed because of it.  “What shall we do?”  Even today, we often go about our lives with all kinds of reasons why we are okay.  But the Word of God in the mouth of a Spirit empowered Christian can cut through all of that and raise the question, “What can I do?”

Before we let Peter answer that question, I want to spend a few moments talking about the spiritual work of conviction.  “Cut to the heart,” is a picture of the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  He is enabling them to understand their true condition before God.  On one hand there is fear as we recognize the reality of our sin and its consequences.  However, on the other hand there is hope because only God can open our eyes to our sin, and He does so in order to lead us to salvation.  It is easy when you feel conviction to accuse the other person of condemning you.  Condemnation can occur when we tell people they are lost without the second part of the message, the hope there is in Jesus.  Conviction feels as bad as condemnation, but it offers a door of hope for us to walk through.  It cuts through all the personal and cultural baggage that keeps the truth from reaching our heart.  This is a scary moment, but it is also a wonderful moment.  Conviction is a spring of life to a person stumbling in the desert.  There is a powerful picture here.  Before the Holy Spirit, Peter tried to help Jesus by using a literal sword to hack off the ear of one of the enemies of Jesus.  There was no life and no hope in such an action.  You could even say that his actions would affect the ability of that man to hear the truth about Jesus later (he damaged his ear).  In healing the ear, Jesus is telling Peter that there is another way.  Now in this episode we see Peter helping Jesus by using the Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) in order to cut to the heart of his enemies and leading over 3,000 of them to become his disciples.  The Spirit doesn’t just empower us.  He redirects us in a path that can actually help people.

Now let’s look at Peter’s answer to the question, “What shall we do?”  Peter tells them to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus.    To repent is to turn away from those sins and involves agreeing with what God calls sin.  To be baptized in his name is a purposeful and public declaration of a switching of allegiance.  The effect of these actions is to have our sins remitted by God.  Now the medical community uses the word “remission” for both permanent and temporary absence of disease.  So it could be easy to think that the “remission of your sins” might only be temporary.  But the word being translated does not have a sense of it being temporary.  There is another word that is used of the Old Testament era people.  Their sins were laid aside in order to be dealt with later.  That word had a sense that the sins were completely dealt with yet.  But this word means a separation between us and our sin, which also means that there is no longer any punishment.  So being in a state of repentance, identification with Jesus, and sins removed, they are told to then receive the Holy Spirit.  Of course receive is passive and active at the same time.  Jesus is the one who actively gives us the Holy Spirit.  However, we need to look for Him and cooperate with Him.  He takes up residence within all who put their trust in Jesus.  But, He also wants to fill us completely with Himself, which will direct and empower us with spiritual gifts.  This was not just for the first century.  Peter states that it is for all whom God calls to salvation.  Jesus is still calling people to salvation today, and thus He is still pouring out the Holy Spirit upon those who res pond in faith.  Let’s not settle just to be saved and have the Spirit within us.  He is seeking to do so much more in and through us.  Take time to wait upon the Lord in prayer, each and every day, asking Him to fill your life with His Spirit.  Let Him become your direction and power.

Promise of the Father III audio