Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Holy Spirit - How Do I Relate?

The Holy Spirit – How Do I Relate?

Intro.: Relationships are strange.
  1. Take sisters for example.
    1. Sisters
    2. Friends
    3. Confidants
    4. Advisors
  2. Similarly, we relate to God in different ways
    1. God loves us
    2. God saves us
    3. God guides us
  3. Today, I want to focus on one specific person of the Godhead – the Holy Spirit
Read: John 16:5-15
Trans: The Trinity is never mentioned in Scripture, but five key ideas help us to understand the Trinity.
  1. There is one God
  2. The Father is called God
  3. The Son is called God
  4. The Holy Spirit it called God
  5. No other person or thing is called God
Hey, I'm a pastor, I don't understand it all. But, if I hang onto these five truths, I can believe it, even if I do not understand.
T.S. In the next few minutes, I want to look at three relationships that define our connection to the Holy Spirit.
  1. The world relates to the Holy Spirit as God
    1. God is God – regardless whether I believe in Him or not.
    2. And regardless of who we are – the Holy Spirit is God
    3. And whether you or your neighbor is a believer or not – that fact does not change.
(Ill.) Let me give you a real life example of this – I have never seen the Grand Canyon. People talk about it, I have seen pictures of it, but I have never seen the Grand Canyon .
        And because I have never seen the Grand Canyon, I don't believe it is there. And because I don't believe it is there, I am going to live my life as if it were not there.
        Now normally, that would not make any difference – but if Sandra and I decided to visit Arizona later this fall and I started out on a walk one afternoon, it could make a big difference whether my belief in the Grand Canyon was valid or not. Because, whether I believed in it or not, it is there. Whether I believed in it or not, there is a big drop off. And whether I believed in it or not, I would fall in.
        Whether I believe or not makes no difference – the Grand Canyon does exist.
    1. The Holy Spirit is God – I have to relate to Him as God.
    2. What does that mean? Let me suggest four basic truths that can be derived from the fact that the Holy Spirit is God
      1. The Holy Spirit loves me – God Loves me, the Holy Spirit love me
      2. The Holy Spirit convicts me of sin – You have heard me say it often enough, “I am broken. We are broken. You are broken.” But it is not just a theory – and when the time comes, it is the Holy Spirit's job to convict us of sin. Jesus was discussing the Holy Spirit when he told his disciples, “I will send Him to you, and when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
      3. It will be the Holy Spirit that will shape me into what the person that He wants me to be. Peter understood this – listen to the words of Peter as he writes his letter, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” (NIV84) - that word “sanctifying” is exactly what I am talking about – it is God shaping us into what He wants us to be.
    3. Each of us has to face the Holy Spirit as God – And when we honestly allow Him to speak to us, He will transform us.
  1. The Christian relates to the Holy Spirit as He indwells us
    1. At the point that we begin to trust Christ – a number of amazing things happen.
    2. We are forgiven – all of our sins, past, present, future – all of our sins are forgotten.
    3. We become members of the family of God – we become brothers and sisters, not because of where we grew up, but because we are now children of God.
    4. But the most amazing thing that happens is that the Holy Spirit enters into our lives. Theologians call this “the indwelling” of the spirit.
    5. God is always here (in the world), but for the Christian God is always here (in the heart).
(Ill.) I am told that a forester have three ways to apply pesticides to a tree. They can whitewash the tree or they can spray the tree. The problem with these two methods is that they merely coverup problems – they leave the core of the tree still susceptible to the pests. So the forester bores holes into the heart of the tree into which to insert chemicals needed to fight the pests. The chemicals mix with the sap and are spread throughout the entire tree to fight the infection which has also spread throughout the tree.

         Is this not exactly the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers—to so indwell them as to render them safe from their foes? His ministry is very much like that of the antiseptic. To be effective the antiseptic must come in direct contact with the putrefaction in the flesh. Just so the Holy Spirit must be permitted direct access to the innermost secret sins of the believer if there is to be real spiritual blessing.i
    1. As a believer, God is right here – from the minute you put your faith into His Son.
  1. The committed Christian relates to the Holy Spirit as He fills us
    1. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian church, tells us about another relationship that the believer has with the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul writes, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
    2. The Holy Spirit must not only indwell us – he must also control and empower us – he must fill us.
    3. When you came to believe in Christ, you said “Yes” to the invitation to believe. Similarly, we must learn to say “Yes” to the Holy Spirit.
(Ill.) F. B. Meyer illustrates being filled with the Holy Spirit with the following anecdote: “Let there be no thought of what you can do for God, but all thought of what God can do through you.”ii
    1. Like, believing in Jesus, allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us is an act of faith
    2. You have said “Yes” to Jesus, now it is time to say “Yes” to the Holy Spirit.
iAMG Bible Illustrations. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000.
iiAMG Bible Illustrations. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gentleness - A Fruit of the Spirit

Gentleness – Just How Gentle

Read: Galatians 5:22-23
Trans: Gentleness is the remaining Fruit of the Spirit
  1. This is the last sermon in this series
  2. I want to spend a minute reviewing the concepts that we have mentioned during the last few weeks.
  3. Any fruit - apples, oranges, what have you – come from a tree of the same type.
  4. The same is true of spiritual fruit – spiritual fruit comes because we are a part of a spiritual tree. Jesus knew it was true when he said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
  5. And any fruit tree only produces one kind of fruit. Apple trees produce apples, Orange trees produce oranges, etc. Likewise there is only one Fruit of the Spirit – but like some natural fruit, spiritual fruit has clearly identified parts or sections. We don't name the individual sections of an orange – but Paul has done that for the spiritual fruit that is produced in our lives.
  6. Finally, Paul makes a clear distinction between the Fruit of the Spirit and characteristics that come out of natural human tendancies.
  7. It is only those with the Fruit of the Spirit, those who have become part of what Jesus calls The Vine, what is the family of God, will enjoy eternal life.
  8. These principles underlie everything we have said about the Fruit of the Spirit – and they do so today as we discuss Gentleness.
Intro.: Some translations use the word meek instead of gentleness – it is the same word that Jesus used in His Sermon on the Mount, when He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
  1. A Brahmin, a member of the highest class in India, had taken time to observe a Christian missionary over a number of years. One day as they sat down over a cup of tea, the Indian compared the Christian missionary to the mango tree. All its branches hang with fruit. It is then assailed with stones and clubs by passersby. How does it respond—by dropping fruit at every blow at the feet of those who assail it. At the close of the season, it stands scarred and battered, its leaves torn off, its branches broken. But the next year it bears more fruit than the previous year.

    That is what our meekness should do in the world—not try to conserve its self-esteem but bear fruit, fruit that descends low at the attack of cruel words and actions. Christian meekness cannot be exercised in isolation. It must be manifested within the framework of society, a society that hates the Lord Jesus Christ, openly or subtly, and all who stand for Him.i
  2. Whether it is meekness or gentleness – it is what the believer will see in his or her life as a result of abiding in Christ – as a result of being a part of the family of God.
T.S. Gentleness or meekness presents two very different pictures in scripture.
  1. First, Gentleness is not as soft as you may think.
    1. Remember the quote I gave from the Sermon on the Mount earlier - “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
    2. Solomon is considered the wisest person in the Old Testament – he had a couple of things to say about the power of gentleness.
    3. Solomon was the author of the Old Testament book of Proverbs.
    4. Two texts caught my attention this week:
      1. Proverb 15:1 – A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
      2. Proverb 25:15 – A gentle tongue can break a bone
    5. Gentleness is not about sitting down and doing nothing – it is a powerful statement about the confidence that we bring to our situations.
(Ill.) There is an old Indian proverb that says
Conquer a man who never gives by gifts;
Subdue untruthful men by truthfulness;
Vanquish an angry man by gentleness;
And overcome the evil man by goodness.ii
Gentleness is not always soft; it can be a powerful force.
  1. But gentleness is also a quiet peaceful state that can bring us close to God.
(Ill.) I discovered a hymn this week that I have never heard – maybe some of you have. Entitled As Gentle As Silence, once I saw the words, I could not get them out of my mind. In fact, as I went to bed that night, they still stayed with me:

Gentle As Silence Hymn
Oh, the love of my Lord is the essence
Of all that I love here on earth.
All the beauty I see, He has given to me,
And his giving is gentle as silence.

Every day, every hour, every moment,
Have been blessed by the strength of His love.
At the turn of each tide, He is there at my side,
And his touch is as gentle as silence.

There've been times when I've turned from his presence,
And I've walked other paths, other ways,
But I've called on his name, in the dark of my shame
And his mercy was gentle as silence.iii
    1. I was reminded of a favorite verse that I have quoted before. Matthew 11:30 “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
    2. There almost seems something wrong – to have a God who has the power to start with nothing and in seven days create this world we live in. This is no whimpy God.
(Ill.) In the movie that came out last week called the Avengers is a scene where a big ugly strong alien bad guy takes on the Hulk – by claiming to be a God. The hulk whips him good – and as Hulk walks away you him mutter to himself, “Puny god”.
    1. The God we serve is no puny god – but a powerful God.
    2. A God who ask us to follow him with a gentleness that allows Him to call us with the reminder, ““For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Ill.) And I am reminded of the words written by Ralph Carmichael

A Quiet Place
There is a quiet place
Far from the rapid pace
Where God can soothe my troubled mind

Sheltered by tree and flower
There in my quiet hour
With Him my cares are left behind

Whether a garden small
Or on a mountain tall
New strength and courage there I find

Then from this quiet place
I go prepared to face
A new day with love for all mankind.iv
    1. There is a gentleness in God that will pervade our lives as we live our lives in the presence of God.
Conclusion: Gentleness is part of the Fruit of the Spirit
  1. It is both powerful and soothing.
  2. I don't know what you need today, but whatever it may be, I pray that may experience the Gentleness that comes from walking with Jesus.
  3. Let my conclude with five ways suggested by Jerry Bridges to express gentleness in our lives – even when we do not always live in a gentle world:
  4. Jerry Bridges suggests these five strategies for obeying the biblical injunctions about gentleness:
  1. Actively seek to make others feel at ease. Be sensitive to other’s opinions and ideas, welcoming opinion.
  2. Show respect for the personal dignity of the other person. When you need to change a wrong opinion, do so with persuasion and kindness rather than domination or intimidation.
  3. Avoid blunt speech and abrupt manner. Be sensitive to how others react to your words, considering how they may feel. When it is necessary to wound, also include encouragement.
  4. Don’t be threatened by opposition; gently instruct, asking God to dissolve the opposition.
  5. Do not belittle or degrade or gossip about a brother who has fallen—instead grieve and pray for his repentance.v
iAMG Bible Illustrations. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000.
iiWater, Mark. The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations. Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd, 2000.

vMorgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (339). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fruit of the Spirit - A Responsive Reading

Fruit of the Spirit
(Galatians 5:22-23)
A Responsive Reading

LEADER:  But the fruit of the Spirit is love

Congregation:  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  
(John 3:16)


Congregation:  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  
(Luke 2:10-11)


Congregation:  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  
(I Thessalonians 5:23)


Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.  (Romans 15:5)


Congregation:  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  
(Colossians 3:12)


Congregation:  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
(Galatians 6:9-10)


Congregation:  And the master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”  
(Matthew 25:23)


Congregation:  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  
(James 3:17)

And self-control

Congregation:  Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.  
(II Peter 1:5-9)

Against such things there is no law.

Biblical text from New International Version (1984).
Arrangement copyright Floyd H. Johnson (2012).

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Who's In Control?

Who's In Control?

Intro.: A while ago, I came across a story of a man of the streets.

Johann Tauler was one of the most practical preachers of the early 14th century. He tells the story of how he, one day, came upon a beggar standing on the street corner. Greeting the beggar, Tauler said, "Have a good day." The beggar replied, "I thank God I have never had a bad one." Then the preacher said, "Have a happy life." The beggar answered, "I have never been unhappy." The man was puzzled. "What do you mean?" he asked. "Well," said the beggar, "when things are going well, I thank God and when things are not going well, I thank God. When I'm well-fed I thank God and when I'm hungry I thank God. Whatever pleases God pleases me. God's Will is my will. Therefore, why should I say I'm unhappy when I'm not." The man looked at the beggar with astonishment. He wanted to know more about this extraordinary person. "Who are you?" he asked. "I am a king," the beggar said. "Where is your kingdom?" the man asked. "In my heart," came the reply.i
  1. The beggar had learned something about self-control –
  2. One dictionary that I consulted defined “self-control” as being: the ability to exercise restraint or control over one's feelings, emotions, reactions, etcii
  3. The problem with this common definition is that I cannot control my feelings. Feeling are – I may feel mad, glad, sad, ashamed or afraid. I do have some choice over how I respond to those feelings. It is those choices over which we do have some control.
  4. As you may have guessed, self-control also part of the Fruit of the Spirit.
Read: Galatians 5:19-25


Trans: Up till now we have spoken of the fruit of the Spirit as if it were an independent concept. 
  1. Yet Paul did not see it that way. In Galatians 5, Paul includes two lists. We are only looking at one of them.
  2. The Fruit of the Spirit comes as the result of our intimate connection with the Holy Spirit.
  3. And, though we are not looking at them, the other list is composed of the characteristics we see in those who have not surrendered to the control of the Holy Spirit: Galatians 5:19–21 (NIV84): 
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
  1. There is also a warning associated with this list. Paul writes, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
  2. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives does make a difference. It is distinguishes us from the rest of the world that has no connection the Holy Spirit.
T.S. Self-control is not something we have naturally, it comes out of our connection with the Holy Spirit.
  1. Self-control is something that we cannot really have.
(Ill.) Self-control has a connection to that old Lays Potato Chip commercial – “bet you can't eat just one.” Someone has defined self-control as the capacity to break a chocolate bar into eight pieces with your bare hands – and then eating just two of them.
    1. The minute I think I am in control, I am out of control.iii
    2. You know where I learned that first – it was when I first heard of the twelve steps. Step One says “We admitted we were powerless – our lives have become unmanageable.”
    3. It may be easy to say, “I am not an alcoholic, I am not an addict, this does not apply to me.”
    4. But the fact that we are not addicts, does not make it untrue. It is true for each and everyone of us. We are powerless – unless we recognize the power or the Holy Spirit in our lives.
    5. Are you trying to control your own life? It will never work – only when we are willing to trust God to control the events in our life.
  1. Self-control is requires a change of heart – not just a change of behavior.
    1. When it comes to overeating, there are two ways to approach the problem. They look similar on the outside, but they are vastly different on the inside.
    2. I can sit with food in front of me and just force myself not to eat it. I can fight the urge to eat. I can find tricks to insure that I will eat less –
      1. cut my quantities,
      2. order less or better quality food,
      3. plan in advance to take some home.
    3. I can do all this, but it takes a lot of energy. And it is based on a legalistic or ritualistic solution to my problems.
    4. There is another way – God's preferred way. He wants to make a change in me – a change to what I call my “want to”.
    5. Rather than my finding tricks or gimmicks that I can use to – my prayer is that God will change what I want, that he will change my “want to's” to more closely match what he wants for me.
(Ill.) In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything,
              Desire to have pleasure in nothing.
        In order to arrive at possessing everything,
              Desire to possess nothing.
        In order to arrive at being everything,
              Desire to be nothing.
        In order to arrive at knowing everything,
              Desire to know nothing.iv
    1. My prayer for me, my prayer for you, is that God will change not just my behavior, but also my heart – to be more like His.
  1. Let me finish by saying this – Self-control is not easy.
    1. I suppose I could base that on my own experience, but then I am not perfect, I might be wrong.
    2. It is far easier to find it in the scriptures:
      1. Adam and Eve eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil – even though God told them not to.
      2. Cain killed his brother
      3. Abraham and Joseph both lied about their wives – and called them sister in order to save their own lives
      4. Jonah disobeyed God and refused to go to Ninevah – a rash decision at the time.
      5. David committed adultery.
      6. Peter sliced off the ear of the centurian – rather than trust Christ
      7. Peter denied Jesus as He was being prepared to die
      8. Paul reminded us that he was the chief of sinners.
    3. You see, even the main characters in scripture lacked, at times, self-control. Self-control is hard – it was hard for the champions of the faith, it is hard for you and me.
    (Ill.) Bill Bright founded Campus Crusades. He confirms what I am saying, “You and I know from experience that it is not easy to discipline our emotions, our passions or our self-will. In fact, apart from God’s help, it is an impossibility.”v
    Conclusion: I suspect each of us have areas that difficult – for some it may be connected with self-control. But what ever it is, I am going to encourage you today, as we take communion, to commit one of those areas to God. In communion we are renewing our vows to be people that belong to Christ. As person who belongs to Christ, take time to give him that one area that seems to stand out to you.

    iAMG Bible Illustrations. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000.
    iiiIllustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively. Edited by Green, Michael P. Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989.
    ivJohn of the Cross quoted in Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (986). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.
    vBright, B. (1993). Promises : A daily guide to supernatural living. Orlando, FL: NewLife Publications.