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Entries in Pentecost (6)

Monday
Jun102019

Will You Walk with Me?

Romans 8:1-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Pentecost Sunday, June 09, 2019.

Pentecost Sunday emphasizes the giving of the Holy Spirit to God’s people, which is described in Acts chapter two.  In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is very active.  However, He comes upon certain individuals, at certain times, for a particular work such as: prophesying, miracles, and even physical exploits in the case of Samson.  During this time, God promised that a day would come when His Spirit would be poured out upon all God’s people.  Thus, in the New Testament at the day of Pentecost, we see God’s Holy Spirit come: to dwell within believers versus come upon them for a moment, to do so with all believers versus a select few, and to do so continually versus at special occasions. 

As a feast in the Old Testament, Pentecost celebrated the middle of the Harvest and points to the great harvest of God among mankind.  In one sense people are harvested when they are taken from the field of the world, bundled together with other believers and eventually brought into the barn of God.  This analogy does miss the other sense in which believers are called to become fruitful in their life.  In that sense we are not harvested until we leave this earth.  Harvest points to God’s desire to have humans in His family.  It is His work of drawing mankind back to Himself.  Thus, it is all about relationship.

The title of this sermon comes from the fact that Romans 8:1 refers to walking with the Holy Spirit as opposed to walking with the flesh.  This ties back to the Garden of Eden where God would come down to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day.  This relationship between God and humans is adversely affected in Genesis 3.  What used to be a wonderful thing filled with joy (God’s presence in the Garden) had become a fearful thing filled with dread because of their sin.  Yet, God in His mercy speaks of help that will one day come to help them against their adversary the devil.

Our passage today is on this side of the cross of Jesus and a long history.  Today, I would like us to recognize that Jesus and his apostles continued this theme of calling people to quit running from God and walking with the devil by following the desires of your flesh.

Will you walk with me?  This is the question God asks every person today through the work of His Holy Spirit and those who believe in Jesus.  No, it won’t be easy.  Your greatest enemy will actually be your own fleshly nature, but it will give you life and peace with God rather than death and condemnation.  I pray that we will be a people who choose to walk with God.

Christ invites us out of condemnation and into life

Verse 1 makes a statement about those who are “in Christ.”  The statement is simply that those who are in Christ Jesus are not under condemnation.  Before we delve into the statement itself, it is important to recognize just how a person comes to be “in Christ.”

It is Jesus who first invites us to come to him.  In Matthew 11:28 he states, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  His invitation is for people who are in a place, or legal status, of condemnation before God.  Thus, in Romans 8, Paul is not talking about a feeling of condemnation, but an actual legal guilt before God.  Jesus calls people out of that place to himself.  Those who come to him leave their condemned state behind and enter into a place of forgiveness, life, and peace (again, this is about a relational peace between us and God, not a feeling of euphoria).

When Jesus went into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to continue this calling of people to Jesus.  Yes, the believers of Jesus also have a role in this, but they are to do so with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Only He can convict people of their sin and the judgment that hangs over them.  Only He can convince them that their righteousness is not good enough, but that the righteousness of Jesus was intended to give them freedom and life.  It really is a work of the Holy Spirit when a person comes to believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Without His gracious work, they would not choose to believe.

So, the Holy Spirit brings us to Christ and asks us to choose.  Will you walk with Jesus?  Those who choose to follow the Holy Spirit into Christ by putting their faith in Jesus enter into a new standing before God.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence within them and causes them to become spiritually alive, which means they can sense God and interact with Him).  They are saved from the judgment that looms over them because the righteousness of Christ covers any sins that they have.  Even more, they are adopted into the family of God and made co-heirs with Jesus. We become the children of God.

Having chosen to follow the Holy Spirit into the new place before God called being “in Christ,” our walking after the Spirit shouldn’t stop there.  In Romans 8, Paul is speaking about this new standing we have before God and emphasizing that we are those who keep following the Holy Spirit now that we are in Christ.  This brings up the issue of our flesh, which Paul also talks about in this passage.

The flesh can refer to muscles, bones and tendons.  However, in this context Paul uses the term flesh to refer to that part of us that is drawn away from God towards sin.  It is so connected to our bodily appetites that the simplified word is used.  Context helps us determine if the word merely means flesh, or if it is referring to the tendency towards sin within us.

In verse 6, Paul points out that this choice leads us into one of two directions.  If I follow the flesh then I will find death, but if I follow the Spirit of God then I will find life and peace.  The devil is good at using our past life in sin against us as a means of condemning us in our hearts and minds.  Through this, He is able to rob people of their inner sense of peace.  However, the devil cannot touch our standing before God.  He can only attempt to convince you to walk away from Christ on your own.  Yes, I was a sinner and unworthy of the grace of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit drew me to Jesus and says that I can be clean if I will only believe.  Remember this always.  If God has removed you from your deserved condemnation, why would you continue to participate in condemning yourself?  And, if God has declared us to be at peace with Him, why would I worry that He will change His mind and go to war against me at any moment?  Why would I interpret every bad thing that happens as proof God doesn’t love me anymore?

Be careful of looking back at your past life and dwelling there.  If we look back, may it be in order to learn from our errors and to draw strength in order to press forward in Jesus.  However, let us not look back and become stuck in the quicksand of fear and depression.  God has not led us to this point to abandon us!

My flesh tries to pull me back into condemnation

In verse 7 Paul speaks about the challenge that lies before the Christian each day.  The Spirit is faithful to lead us to accomplish those things in your life that He has for you.  Yet, our sinful nature (or flesh) keeps trying to pull away from Jesus and back towards that place of condemnation.  In fact, we are told that the flesh is hostile to God and the things of the Holy Spirit.  The word translated as “enmity” or “hostile” has at its roots in the idea that it hates the things of God.  My flesh wants me to follow its desires and whims, but when I follow the Holy Spirit, I am led away from pleasing my flesh and its whims.  This doesn’t mean that we never have any joys and pleasures.  It just means that those joys and pleasures are not my focus.  Rather, the Spirit of God is my focus.

I know that there is a part of us that wishes or thinks that God might zap us and make our flesh go away.  However, this is not His way.  He puts His Spirit within us to help us to say “no” to the flesh and to say “yes” to Him.  God’s way teaches us to become spiritual warriors against our own evil desires, rather than to focus completely on the evil of others.

Satan’s mindset is the way of death because it focuses on others and uses them as an excuse for its sin.  It is interesting that our flesh will focus on others when it comes to sin and yet, focuses on self when it comes to love.  The Spirit of God calls us to flip this and focus on ourselves when it comes to sin and to focus on others when it comes to love.  Our flesh hates this. 

In verses 9 and 10, Paul challenges us.  If the Spirit dwells in us, which He does if we have put our faith in Jesus, then we are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit.  This is just a different way of describing this new state in which we find ourselves before God.  Being “in Christ” is to also be “in the Spirit.”  Yes, we still have flesh to fight against and we will not feel like we are in the Spirit during those battles.  However, we are in His Spirit because that Spirit is within us working to help us overcome sin and our flesh.

This leads us to verse 11, which makes a powerful statement.  The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is dwelling in you and leading you.  It will give life to your mortal bodies!  Pause and meditate on that for a moment.

There are two ways in which this can be applied.  First, the Spirit gives us life spiritually in victory over our flesh in this life.  As we walk this Christian life, we are given eternal life by the Spirit of God and victory over the flesh (not without wounds and failures).  As we choose to follow the Spirit of God, or as some of the translations say “walking after the Spirit,” or “walking according to the Spirit,” we obtain a wellspring of life within our soul.  This life is experienced each day as He gives it to us in victories over sin, and spiritual accomplishments.  We grow spiritually and bear fruit in Jesus (a process that does not happen overnight).

However, just as Jesus was physically resurrected, so too, we are promised the same.  This is the second way in which verse 11 can be applied.  At the day of Resurrection, we will physically receive the eternal life of God in a new body.  Though it will be physical, it will not have the propensity to go towards sin, neither the physical decay and weaknesses of these mortal bodies we now have.  This becomes the capstone to our salvation as God completes every promise to us and then some.

Final Thoughts

The Holy Spirit is not someone that we can define and use against each other.  There is a lot of water under the bridge when it comes to the Holy Spirit and especially the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Too often, it has been used as a kind of badge of accomplishment against other Christians, particularly certain gifts including speaking in tongues.  However, in so doing we forget that the Holy Spirit is not an inanimate object or a force that we operate.  He is a person who is capable of being grieved and resisted.  Some of the fleshliest things that have happened in the Church were done “in the name of the Holy Spirit.”  We cannot follow our flesh and then call it the Holy Spirit.  This is the same kind of thing the Pharisees did.

So how should a believer navigate this area?  First, quit worrying about speaking in tongues and spiritual gifts.  Instead, focus upon the One who is busy working in your life and wants you to cooperate with Him.  Focus upon the Holy Spirit.  Were you actually led to believe in Jesus, or were you simply looking to use church for your own ends?  If you were actually led to believe in Jesus then the Holy Spirit led you to that place.  If you surrendered and embraced Jesus in faith then it was the Holy Spirit who made you spiritually alive and even now dwells in you.  No one can take that away from you regardless of what spiritual gifts may or may not have been expressed in your life.  Quit worrying about what others think and start listening to what the Holy Spirit thinks.  Choose to follow Him.

Lastly, recognize that the Holy Spirit wants to lead you and empower you to do the work that Jesus has given you.  Pray each morning for the Lord to fill you with His Holy Spirit and to help you to listen to Him.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will empower you so that you can be more effective in your own life and the life of others.  Be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but don’t focus on what that must look like.  Rather, keep surrendering to the Holy Spirit and being open to what He is doing in your life.  I know that people can take what I have just said and twist it to their own ends, but those people will one day have to give an account to God.  Today, however, the Holy Spirit calls out to you.  Will you walk with Me?

Will You Walk audio

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