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Entries in Pentecost (5)

Thursday
May242018

O, How We Need the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:12-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Pentecost Sunday May 20, 2018.

Today we are celebrating the truth that God has given the Holy Spirit to those who have put their faith in Jesus as His Anointed Savior for the world.  But, even more than this, we celebrate the truth that the Holy Spirit wants to fill the believer’s life in order to empower us to follow Jesus.

Over the years the Holy Spirit has been compared to nearly every power source you can think of: a battery, gasoline, dynamite, and the list goes on.  These things are good as far as they can go.  Yet, the Holy Spirit is more than just a power source.  He is a genuine personal being who can be grieved, and yet who is sent to teach us, lead us, comfort us, help us, and spiritually gift us in order to serve God.  Just as the first disciples found out that they could not follow Jesus without the help of the Holy Spirit, so we too cannot follow Jesus without the help of the Holy Spirit.

In the New Testament we see the apostles and other believers listening to and following the Holy Spirit.  They were a people who were daily being filled with the Holy Spirit, and so it must be with us today.  I pray that you will be encouraged to be a person who is listening to and following the Holy Spirit, a person who is daily being filled with the Holy Spirit, as those early Christians were and as countless Christians worldwide are giving testimony today.  We need the Holy Spirit!

We are in debt to the Holy Spirit and not our flesh

In Romans 8:12-17, we are reminded that we don’t owe anything to our flesh, but rather to the Spirit of God.  Do you tend to pay bills that you know you don’t owe?  We might be tricked into paying such a bill, but in the end we tend to only pay bills that we properly owe.  Of course this is a metaphor.  Following the metaphor, our flesh is like a scammer who keeps telling us that we owe it something, when in fact we do not.

Paul next says that if we follow the flesh (i.e. give in to the things our flesh says we owe it) we will find death, but if we follow the Holy Spirit (i.e. give in to the things that we properly owe the Holy Spirit) then we will find life.  So what is exactly meant by “the flesh?”  In this passage it is clear that Paul is not just talking about bodily needs such as: food, clothing, and companionship.  Yes, we do need to eat and sleep.  But Paul connects “following the flesh” to the “deeds of the flesh.”  The deeds of the flesh are truly physical deeds, but they refer to the tendency of our fleshly desires to lead us into sin and thus ultimately death.  Galatians 5 further explains this concept of the “deeds of the flesh,” and says that they are obvious.  “The works [deeds] of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you  beforehand, just as I told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

The believer is a person who has come to see that the flesh hasn’t done anything for them.  In fact, it has been a pipeline of sorrow, pain, and death.  Moments of pleasure and ecstasy are followed by years of pain and sorrow.  However, when the Holy Spirit opened our eyes to Jesus, we not only found the way to life, but we found life itself and have a relationship with it.  It was the Spirit that led us to Jesus, and we owe a great debt to Him for opening our eyes.  Jesus is life, and those who follow Him will find life in many different ways every day, until we open our eyes in His presence and we fully experience life everlasting.  This is all the Holy Spirit’s doing.

It is important to recognize in verse 13 that the deeds of the flesh can only be put to death through the help of the Holy Spirit.  The believer has to learn how to live within a body whose desires continually try to wrestle control of our life from that part of us that has become spiritually alive to the Spirit.  This “old man” and “new creation” battle within us as we follow Christ.  Thus, Christ truly does expect those who follow Him to put to death the lusts of their flesh, every day.  If we obey the flesh, it will only bring more pain and sorrow (i.e. the seeds of death).  But, if we obey the Holy Spirit, we will find life even in the midst of the pain and sorrow of this world.  We do this not because we are slaves under a system that rewards those elite who are capable of doing it.  Rather, we do this because we have been saved and placed within the family of God.  We do this because we want to be like the our Father in heaven.

We are children of God because of the Holy Spirit

In verses 14-17 we see that the Holy Spirit is an important part of being a child of God.  In first century AD Israel, they believed that they were children of God because they had been born into a particular genealogy.  Of course the Old Testament prophets had made it clear that this was not the case, but the first century Israelites were generally not listening to the prophets.  When the Holy Spirit lead people to follow Jesus and put their faith in Him as God’s Anointed savior of Israel and the world, many of them refused to believe.  Jesus challenged Israel with the truth that those who rejected Him were not children of God.  God’s children are not those who are naturally born, but rather those who are spiritually born again by putting their faith in Jesus.  John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Here Paul reminds us that it is those who are following the Holy Spirit who are the children of God.  The Holy Spirit is faithful within every generation to be working every day to lead people to believe in Jesus and to follow Him.  It is easy to think that the Holy Spirit has become less and less active, as we see more and more people rejecting Christ and living for their flesh.  However, this is a misunderstanding that has to do with where you are.  We need to have our eyes opened to the reality that the Holy Spirit is always working to convict the world of sin, judgment, and the need of salvation.  Many people are believing in Jesus Christ every day all around the world.

Paul also points out that the Holy Spirit leads God’s children to adoption rather than into slavery.  Those who come to Christ are not being led into a legalistic system.  The first century Church had to wrestle with the reality that they were not being saved by their great ability to keep the Law of Moses.  The Holy Spirit was leading them to keep the spirit of the Law, not in order to be saved, but because they had been saved through Jesus.  Thus the Holy Spirit teaches us the truth of our adoption by God to be His sons.  He leads us to become like the Father and to join Him in His work of saving people.  This is as opposed to being slaves who try to curry God’s favor through our good works.  Instead of the cry of a slave who is fearful of the master’s wrath, we are filled with the cry of a child saying, “Daddy!”  That is an amazing truth, yet, it is the work of the Spirit in our life, not an accomplishment of our flesh.

A follower of Christ should never be deceived on this matter.  The Father is not a sinner and He does not want His children to be sinners.  Similarly, Jesus is not walking in sin or walking towards it.  If we are following Him then we will be leaving sin behind.  Praise God that He has given us His Holy Spirit to lead us in becoming like the Father, not out of slavery, but out of the fact that we are His children.  Many who claim to be Christians today have believed the lie that God is no longer concerned about sin in their life.  Thus they live each day obeying the lusts of the flesh and denying the very Lord who saved them with His blood.  It is not enough to slap a thin veneer of good works over the top of a life that is lived for self and the lusts of the flesh.  Today, hear the Holy Spirit calling you to life and freedom from sin’s destructive hold and influences.

Lastly, Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God.  In fact, He is not the only witness of this fact that we have.  We have the person or people who have led us to Christ.  They are witnesses to us that we belong to God.  Also, we have the Word of God that is written in black and white, which tells us so.  When you add the inner witness of the Holy Spirit it can seem strange that we ever doubt we belong to Jesus.  The spirit of this age has a vested interest in trying to undermine your confidence in Christ.  We need to listen to the Holy Spirit daily, as He tells us that we are children of God.  And, as a true child of God, we need to desire to be like our heavenly Father.

Let me close by reminding us that we cannot follow Jesus in this life without the help of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore let us wake up every morning and pray that God will fill us with His Holy spirit so that we can be enabled to become like Christ, and to seek and save those who are lost in this world, those who are in bondage to the lusts of their flesh.  We can only do this as we let the Holy Spirit set us free.

We need the Holy 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

Tuesday
May302017

The Promise of the Father II

Joel 2:28-32.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 28, 2017.

Today we will look at another Old Testament passage in which God promised that there would come a day when His Holy Spirit would be given to His people wholesale, as they say.  Of course, Peter quotes from this passage in Acts 2:17-21, to demonstrate that the passage was indeed talking about the events of the upper room.

As we look at this passage, I pray that you will be encouraged and prompted to action.  This is not a day for taking it easy, and seeking our own desires and comfort.  This is a day when destinies can be changed, a day that is before “it's too late.”  So let’s look at the promises from God’s Word.

The Promise of Restoration

This chapter opens with a warning to the people of Israel of God’s judgment upon them by an army that would be coming.  In verses 12-17 there is a call to repentance.  They need to turn away from their sin and back towards the ways of the Lord.  Then verses 18-27 speak of a restoration that would happen to them.  In some ways it is presented as conditional upon their repentance.  However, in other ways, it is declared as definite for those who belong to God.  This leaves room for what actually happened in the decades following Jesus and his apostles.  Israel as a whole came under the judgment of God and saw their nation and capital destroyed by Rome.  Yet, in the midst of this, God poured out refreshing restoration upon those who put their faith in Jesus.  So this sets up the part of the chapter that we will be focusing on, vs. 28-32.

As Joel declares the restoration that will be experienced by God’s people, he prophesies that God will pour out His Holy Spirit upon His people.  Thus this pouring out of the Holy Spirit is a part of the restoration.  Sin has separated God’s people from Him.  But the work of Jesus makes way for a daily experience of the Holy Spirit for every believer.  As we said last week, the idea of the Holy Spirit coming upon people is not foreign to the Old Testament.  We find it everywhere.  However, it might be described best in this way.  In the Old Testament God’s Spirit came upon certain people, at certain times, for certain works.  But, in this passage, we are promised a time when God will give His Spirit without such restraints.

Two aspects stick out about this and the first is that there will be no distinctions.  The Holy Spirit will be poured out upon “all flesh.”  Thus we get a series of opposites that are intended to reinforce this point.  The Spirit will be poured out on sons and daughters, old men and young men, and men servants and maid servants (male and female).  Age and gender distinctions will not prohibit people from receiving the Holy Spirit.  Other places in the New Testament also add slave and free, Jew and Greek, and circumcised and uncircumcised.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit would be a common experience of all of God’s people.

The second aspect is what the effect of the Spirit will be.  Essentially Joel says that they will prophesy.  Though the Holy Spirit would be constantly present, this does not mean that they will be constantly prophesying.  Rather, God would speak through anyone at any time as He wills.  It is our job to be so in step with the Holy Spirit that we will recognize true prophecy versus the false.  Not all people will prophesy. There are other gifts of the Holy Spirit that are not mentioned here but are pointed out in the New Testament.  Joel mentions dreams and visions.  However, we should see these as two methods by which God gives His revelation to prophets.  A dream is God speaking to us through a dream while we are asleep.  A vision, on the other hand, is more like a trance.  A person is awake and yet begins to have a “day dream” that is influenced by the Spirit of God.  Other methods are mentioned in the Bible of which having an angelic visitation is seen in both Testaments.  Now it is one thing to have a dream from the Lord and quite another to recognize it and also understand it.  We must be daily communing with God in prayer and in reading His Word.  This puts us in tune with what the Spirit of God is saying and helps us to recognize when He speaks to us.  Even when God moves upon us to give a prophecy, we should not assume that we now have the right to “make this happen” out of sheer will.    It is our job to be open to the Lord.  Some people have been led astray because they feel the pressure to have “a word from the Lord” all the time.  God may not have a new word.  He may simply want us to focus on what He has already said and be faithful.  There is also a prevalent problem for people who have been involved with heavy drug use.  These can so damage our brains that we have a tendency towards weird dreams or dreams that have supernatural elements to them.  Such a person needs to exercise extreme caution and seek godly mentors who can give them unbiased advice.  As a community, God’s people need to be open to these things and not afraid of them.  Yet, we should be open to them in a mature way that recognizes that not all that feels spiritual is really from the Lord.  Those who do not have the gift of prophesy still have the Promised Holy Spirit by which they can recognize for themselves if the Spirit is indeed speaking through a particular person.

The Promised Day of the Lord

In verses 30-32 the promise of restoration and pouring out of the Spirit is counterbalanced with the promise of judgment.  Only this time the phrase “Day of the Lord” is used.  The Day of the Lord is used in the prophetic books as a technical term that points to a day when God will judge all the nations of the earth and institute His millennial kingdom.  Thus we are moving beyond a judgment upon Israel only. Joel sees a day when God will judge all nations, but before that, He will pour out His Spirit.  The Day of the Lord is always a joyful time for those who are God’s faithful servants.  But, it is a fearful day full of woe for those who are not His faithful servants.

So we two things that are coincident and previous to the Day of the Lord: the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and Signs and Wonders both in heaven and on earth.  The amazing or jaw dropping events would make it clear that God is keeping His promises.  Now the signs in the heavens, or celestial signs, are not a reference to astrology.  There is no sense that the sun, moon, or stars can affect mankind’s destiny or God’s actions.  Rather, God uses them to clue humans into the fact that He is doing what He said He would.  Thus they are attention getters that point us to God.  In this passage it mentions the sun being turned into darkness and the moon into blood.  Some have pointed out that this is more than likely speaking of a solar eclipse (dark sun) and a lunar eclipse (some can be blood red).  Now the historical testimony from the disciples of Jesus, and secular, non-Christian sources such as Josephus, tell us about weird things happening in the sky and on the earth.    Several things worth noting are the strange star that the Magi of the East recognized as pointing to the Messianic King of Israel being born.  Also, when Jesus was on the cross there was a darkness that lasted far longer than the longest solar eclipse (around 8 minutes).  We are also told of an earthly wonder of the earthquake during the death of Jesus.  This earthquake struck Jerusalem and tore the 4” thick curtain that was in the temple from top to bottom.  All these things are intended to get the attention of people who are thinking that things are “business as usual.”  They cause you to stop and think twice about what God is actually doing.  To those who would not listen to Jesus and his disciples, some might be persuaded by such signs.  The writings of John in The Revelation seem to point to more signs in the heaven and on earth that will occur before and during the Second Coming of Jesus.

Now in one sense the Day of the Lord cannot be avoided.  It will come upon the earth and all the nations at a particular time that God has set, but not revealed to us.  However, we can avoid the Day of the Lord as individuals if we put our faith in Jesus and follow Him.  Though it is a “Great and Terrifying” day to those who are under God’s judgment, those who have cried out to God will be saved from it (vs. 32).  For about 2,000 years God has been saving those who hear the bad news of judgment and the good news of Jesus, and then cry out to Him.  The fate of the repentant will be deliverance.  Thus the passage ends with a promise of deliverance for God’s people who are described as, “those who call on the name of the Lord,” and “the remnant whom the Lord calls.”

It is instructive to look at what Israel went through in the first century AD.  God had been faithful to send His Word to them over a long period of time.  This culminated with an outpouring of amazing grace in the person of Jesus and His apostles.  This powerful witness was then followed by judgment in which the wicked and their governments were removed.  But the saints were left unscathed by God’s judgment.  So we will see this same process globally.  When Israel was judged by God, He then sent His people to all the nations of the earth to proclaim the truth.  This mighty witness by God’s people will one day come to an end as God pours out His judgment on the whole earth, not just Israel.  If you are a believer, you are a part of this powerful witness that God is giving to the nations.  The long period of grace is in order for people to have time to respond and large groups of the world to respond.  But, the Day of the Lord is rapidly approaching.  Each day we are one step closer.  So Christian, we must be about our Father’s business rather than feeding our flesh with all that it desires, if we are to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  To those who are not Christians, recognize that God desires to give you the good promise of His Holy Spirit daily in your life.  Don’t reject God’s offer of His love and presence in your life.  Instead, put your faith in Jesus and come follow Him!

Promise of the Father II audio

Tuesday
Jun102014

The Greatest Birthday Gift

This Sunday is a celebration of the Day of Pentecost.  Some scholars refer to this as the birthday of the Church.  We won’t deal with that debate here today.  However, it is the day that God gave a great gift to His followers.  Just as Jesus was an incredible gift of salvation to the world, so the Holy Spirit is a similarly incredible gift to those who believe on Jesus.  In fact, Jesus had told his followers not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit would be taking the place of Jesus.  Just as Jesus taught, so the Holy Spirit would teach.  The Holy Spirit would also work through the Church to heal and do miracles.  The Holy Spirit would be a comforter just as Jesus was to his disciples.  Ultimately, the Holy Spirit would do all that Jesus did, but without the physical limitations and restraints.  Thus today, as hundreds of millions of believers awake, they are instantly greeted by the presence of God’s Spirit.  He who is called the Promise of the Father is with us.  So, today we celebrate that no matter how dark and difficult our situation is, God is with us through His Holy Spirit and that is more than enough.

We are going to look at Peter’s sermon following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2 and verses 36-39.

You Shall Receive The Holy Spirit

When the Holy Spirit is poured out on the disciples, they are in Jerusalem.  The resulting worship and praise of God in many different languages at the same time causes a ruckus that draws the attention of a large crowd.  At this point Peter begins to explain what is happening and why.  They are receiving the Promise of the Father because they are followers of Jesus.  The people recognize that they are in danger of missing out on this promise that they all had been waiting for and so they ask what they should do.  Peter’s answer gives them the hope that they can experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for themselves.  It’s not too late.

But, in order to receive the Holy Spirit, the people needed to do some things.  First they needed to repent.  They needed to definitely repent of participating in the death of Jesus.  However, it was their sinful hearts that led up to this act.  They needed to see their own sinfulness before God and turn away from it- both the actions and the mindset that led up to them.  The beautiful thing is that they were “cut to the heart” by Peter’s words.  This is a way of saying that Peter’s words pierced their hearts with sorrow and grief.  I say it is beautiful because it is the very work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus said would be in John 16:8.  “[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world of sin.”  Though the Spirit is being poured out on believers in Jesus, He is also graciously working in the hearts of unbelievers to convict them of their sin.  Conviction of our sin enables us to desire something better.  The word “repent” literally means to turn away from one thing and towards another.  They needed to turn away from the way they were and towards the person and teaching of Jesus Christ.  Of course some will refuse this grace of the Holy Spirit.  Such refusal only hardens us further to His conviction.  At some point an individual can become so hard that they will never repent.

The second thing that is necessary is to identify with Jesus.  I say it this way because we can focus on being baptized all the while losing sight of Jesus.  Baptism is not the critical word in the phrase, “Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”  It is actually “Jesus Christ.”  They were used to being baptized in the cleansing rituals in response to the law.  But they were doing it in obedience to the Law of Moses. Now they are to do the cleansing ritual in obedience to Jesus Christ.  This purposeful identification with Jesus is the key point.  We turn from our sins and publically identify with Jesus and his people.  I am a follower of Jesus.  Today there are many baptized people who are letting their sins lead them to identify with the Spirit of this World, rather than picking up their cross and following Jesus.  We redefine who Jesus is and what he would do because we do not want to let go of our sins.  God’s Spirit is given to those who want to turn away from sin and towards Jesus.  In those days there was only one Jesus and the society was polarized as for or against Jesus.  But today we have many different images of Jesus.  This is why it is so important to go into the Bible for yourself and discover who Jesus really is; not what someone says he is.  Are you following the true Jesus or a politically correct Jesus?  Are you following the true Jesus or a socially acceptable Jesus?  Only the true Jesus opens the door for the Spirit of God.  Any other “Jesus” opens the door for the spirit of this Age.

If you do those two things, repent and identify with the true Jesus, God will keep His word.  He is not a liar.  God has been faithful to convict the hearts of people in this world, calling them out from this world to become a part of a community that is being saved from judgment.  Not just that, but, He is also empowering us to work with the Holy Spirit in this.  Peter is the prime example.  The Spirit came upon him and enabled him to preach the truth to his generation.  It was a hard truth and one that Peter would have ran away from in his own flesh.  But now he boldly proclaims to them that they killed the Messiah and need to repent and believe on Jesus.

Now God will always empower those He calls.  His will is two-fold.  Regarding me, the Spirit helps me to keep turning from sin and to strengthen my faith in Jesus.  This is more than maintaining a status quo.  But rather a day by day growing in our understanding of sin’s hold in our life and the trustworthiness of Jesus.  Thus our position in Christ should become stronger over time.  In regards to others, the Spirit enables me to love them with Spirit-filled actions that come from Spirit-led motivations.  Now for believers this is helping to build up their faith.  But towards the lost it is helping to lead them to Christ.

There has never been a time that Christians could do such a work without the Holy Spirit.  No amount of technology and psychological analysis will enable us to do what only the Holy Spirit can do.  We have been given the Holy Spirit because the work cannot be done without Him.  In fact, He is not just another component in this.  He is the Key component.  So what should we do?  We must first make sure that we are turning from sin and towards the true Jesus.  Then we must recognize that God is faithful and the Holy Spirit is with me.  You will not always feel like the Holy Spirit is present, but remind yourself that it is true nonetheless.  Then ask for His help.  Don’t wait until you have tried everything.  Instead begin each day by asking the Holy Spirit for His leading, help, comfort, correction, and guidance.  Then walk by faith.  Whether it is doing what God’s Word says, or responding to a prompting in our heart, we need to walk by faith.  Of course “promptings in our heart” are subjective.  But that does not mean they cannot be real.  God calls us to be mature children who are learning and have learned how to discern the difference between my flesh and the Holy Spirit.  If your heart is in the right place and you are carefully walking out what you believe the Lord is saying to you then God will help you.  Even when you make mistakes, He will help you to see that and grow, and learn.  Let’s be led by the Spirit of God and not the spirit of this world!

Best Birthday Gift Audio