Theme: Who is the Holy Spirit, how does he empower and transform Christians and how can we be filled by the Spirit.
and Ezekiel 37:1-14
Let us look at the New Testament lesson first from John, Chapter 15, the last two verses and then Chapter 16, Verses 5-15.
“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
Verse 5 of Chapter 16:
“I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ” Where are you going?” Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:. in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” Amen.
There are times in all of our lives, and I remember especially when I first came to understand what it meant to be a Christian. When our Christian life could be considered as not so hot, and I don’t just use that as a phrase, it’s a very biblical way of expressing it. Because in Revelation the Lord says, “I would that you were hot or cold, but you’re lukewarm.” And there have been times in my life when I have felt very much like lukewarm. Not so hot. And that’s in many ways because I was like ancient sailors who traversed the South Atlantic. Ancient navigators would many times be caught in the windless waters of the South Atlantic, right near the mouth of the Amazon River. The Amazon River goes 200 miles and it’s current can be measured 200 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. And these ancient navigators would be stuck in that area and they would be dying of thirst. And then along would come another ship that was familiar with the region, and the people from one ship would yell to the other, “Please give us some water, we are dying of thirst.” And then from the native ship would come the word, “Just lower your buckets, you’re in the mouth of the mighty Amazon.”
In many ways that is the way it is today in the church. A similar confusion exists. We drift around. And God through his ever present, ever lasting Holy Spirit is all around us, accessible to quench our thirst, every thirst, simply by lowering our buckets, as it were. But we are unaware of the reality and the power that exists right around us. Many attend church regularly and still suffer from spiritual dehydration. People stand in the church and recite the creed, I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit and yet if you ask, Who is the Holy Spirit? They might say, “I am not sure, but I believe it.” One little kid one time, who was in catechism class, they were trying to teach the children the creed. They gave each child a phrase from the creed. They were practicing. They started. They went and right at the point where it says I believe in the Holy Spirit, nobody said anything, until one little kid piped up, “the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit isn’t here today.” I wonder how often that is repeated as we come to church. How different from Jesus’ own words, when on the last and great day of the feast, he stood up and said with a loud voice the scripture says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me,” as scripture has said, “from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” See we are not just dipping buckets here. Jesus said rivers of living water will flow from the innermost being. The scripture goes on to say, “this he spoke of the Holy Spirit who had not yet come because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Two Thursdays ago we remembered Ascension Day, when Jesus was ascended into heaven. Now they were told, the disciples, wait for power from on high. Don’t go out of Jerusalem until this power comes, and they were praying and waiting. In Acts, Chapter 2 we read of the account of the rushing wind and the tongues of fire and how the people of God were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach and teach the word of God with boldness. The Holy Spirit has come to fill us for the empowerment for witness and to show forth Jesus Christ in our midst in a way that we could not do it on our own.
The question is, who is the Holy Spirit? Star Wars movies are popular again these days. The Holy Spirit ain’t the force. It’s not some buzz, some general ____ spirit that can’t be named. The Holy Spirit is as the scripture teaches, the third person of the trinity. It says that if anybody does not have the Spirit of Christ, they are none of his. Jesus said from John, Chapter 15, “I am going to send another Comforter, one just like myself.” In affect he is saying, I can’t live in you here, I am confined to my body and my body is ascended. But I am going to send a Spirit and the Spirit will not only be with you, the Spirit will live in you. You can’t get past Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 2 without learning of the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the whole earth, creating, stirring up, putting in order that which was chaotic, and in the New Testament it says, “If any person is in Christ, he or she is a new creation.” You see the same Spirit that made order out of the world comes into our life and creates order and a likeness to Jesus because of faith.
John, Chapter 3 says, “unless one is born from above, unless one is born from the spirit, they can not see the kingdom of God.” We must have the Holy Spirit living in us by faith in Jesus Christ. So the Holy Spirit of God is the ever present God in our hearts and bodies, in dwelling in us, comforting us, counseling us, guiding us as Jesus teaches in these texts. Think about how the Spirit and Jesus’ life were so intertwined.
At Christmas time, at conception the Word is the Holy Spirit, Mary will overshadow you. At Jesus’ baptism the Spirit came down and descended upon Him like a dove. Then is says that He was sent out in the wilderness by the Spirit to be tested. And after He was out there for 40 days, He came and the power of the Holy Spirit to begin his ministry. And even more than that as we go to the scriptures, it shows how Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. The same power that raised him from the dead, is the same power that lives in us, and will raise us from the dead, as we heard from Ezekiel today in the Old Testament reading. So the Holy Spirit is one who gives birth to us and gives birth to the church. The church was born on Pentecost Sunday. With the children at the 8:15 service we sang Happy Birthday to us because we are born anew of the Spirit of God.
What the church and the 20th century need to understand is how the Spirit can empower and control us. Sadly too many Christians are like dehydrated sailors in the Amazon River not realizing that this power is available. And this Christian anemia can be understood when we look at the sermon guide insert that I have handed you today. I thought it might be helpful if I use some of these drawings from Campus Crusade materials. If you have ever seen any of these, they will be very familiar, but maybe some of you haven’t seen them, and I find that this helps me to explain it a little bit better.
Where is says Sermon Guide, there are three types of people depicted by those circles. All of this is based on the teaching from 1st Corinthians, Chapter 2 and 1st Corinthians Chapter 3. And you see the first person is the Natural Person. We should really have gender inclusive language there, I am sorry for that. But it’s the Natural Person, one who has not received Christ. A natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. He cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised, because they have a spiritual value on them that the natural person cannot understand the things of the Spirit. And you can see from the diagram that, that person is represented by the “S” or the self. The ego and the control of like, the throne, a control center of ones life. Christ represented by the cross is outside and the dots are the interests in ones life, often directed by self and because that is so, they are often discord and frustration.
Then we see number two, the Spiritual Man. Totally different. One who has received Christ and who is empowered by the Holy Spirit. He who is spiritual appraises all things and Christ has taken over control. The interests are in order and harmony, and the self is yielding to Christ. God still wants to work through our personalities and who we are, but we are not holding the wheel anymore. We take the passenger seat as it were.
And then thirdly is the Carnal Person. And you will notice that the circle looks awfully like the first one except there is one major difference and that is that the cross is inside the circle instead of outside the circle. This is a person who has received Christ, but who lives in defeat, because he trusts in his own efforts to live the Christian life and that’s explained by Paul as he speaks to the Corinthians in the verse right below that third circle.
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to carnal men, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still carnal or fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? Like non-believers, that’s what mere men here means. Are you not walking like people who have never received the spirit of God.”
And you can see for a person, who has received the Spirit of God, that we can look like non-Christians, because we are not allowing ourselves to be controlled by the Spirit of God. Now the two larger circles beneath, I don’t have time to go into, other than to say that when Christ is controlling, these are some of the traits that will characterize us. You notice the right side of that circle has the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit. You see it is important to think fruit, because this stuff can’t be manufactured by our own effort. Fruit is born out of something that happens within, by God’s power. And then the Carnal man or the Carnal person, let me emphasize that these traits may characterize the Christian. I mean you look at the list and you see, worry, discouragement, etc., and you say, I am worried sometimes. I get discouraged sometimes. We all do. What I am trying to say and I think what this is trying to say is that these traits, or these characteristics, they characterize us. Not that we just experienced them, but that’s who we are and how we are known. And God doesn’t want that kind of life for us. And so if we turn over to the other side, the obvious question then becomes, how then can one be filled with the Holy Spirit?
I have a few fill in the blanks for you here. First:
Sincerely desire to be directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. You know anyone who is willing to do God’s will, will know of the filling of the Spirit because God knows their heart. And so we have to have a desire to do it. We have to kind of be sick of being sick and tired. Albert Einstein, it was told of him that he didn’t speak until he was four or five years old, if you can believe that. I mean he is a genius, and you would have thought he would have been speaking at six months, but he didn’t speak until he was four, and the first thing he said at the dinner table of his parents was, “I don’t like peas.” They couldn’t believe it. They said, “he’s finally spoken. He can speak.” And they said, “Albert, why didn’t you say something before now?” And he said, “well, up to now everything was okay.” That’s the way it is for a lot of people who are Christians, “oh, everything is okay. I’m fine.” And then all of a sudden something happens and we realize, you know I am not hot at all, I am just lukewarm. I need God to control me.
We were at an Elder’s retreat yesterday. We were all sharing our faith stories and one of the elders said, “You know when I really understood when I said to God, I can’t do it.” She was a Christian for a long time. “I can’t do it Lord, you have to fill me.” That’s the first thing, desire.
Second thing is, confess your sins. That’s what the blanks read. Confess your sins because the Lord won’t fill an unclean vessel. You see being filled with the Holy Spirit is a matter of purity. Many of you have probably had a situation where your car breaks down. I know it has happened to me. One time I had a mechanic come and he lifted up the hood of the car I was driving, he looked around a little bit, he looked at the battery cables, he pulls one of the cables off and takes a little tool, scrapes out the corrosion, puts it back and the car starts right up. $50.00 please. I paid $50.00 to find out that I was a moron, that it was just corrosion on the battery cables. Well that’s the way it is in our life. You know, we wonder why there is no power, no life, no nothing, we turn the key and nothing happens, because there is sin in our life, because there is areas of our life that we have just not confessed and come clean on. God won’t fill somebody who compromises in that way.
Thirdly, present every area of your life to God. You know how they catch monkeys in Asia. They take a vase, and they put a tether around the vase and then they hide behind a tree. In the vase there is a little walnut and the monkey comes and sees the walnut and puts the hand in and grabs the walnut in the vase. Now the vase is tethered to another tree and there is person who is going to catch the monkey. The guy walks out and is going to capture the monkey. The monkey could very easily let go of the walnut and run away, but it doesn’t. It wants the walnut so much that it hangs on and because its got a fist, he can’t get his hand out. The person comes and picks it up and caught. This is the way it is with us. Sometimes there is an area of our life and we are holding onto them so tight, we don’t want God to deal with them. And all God says is, “look, present every area of your life. Let it go.” Open your hand and you can just pull it out and you will experience freedom like you would never believe. We must present every area of our life to God.
And then lastly, by faith claim the fullness of the Spirit. See it’s just a step of faith. Just like you came in. Nobody knocked on the pews to see if they would hold you up today. You just sat right down. As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord. How did you receive Christ? By faith, so walk in Him. And how do we do that? God’s command. We claim what is already ours according to God’s command. Ephesians 5:18, says, “do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation, wasteful and useless. But be filled with the Holy Spirit.” That’s a command. It’s not a suggestion. Be filled and keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit, is the way it reads. Notice how it says, don’t get drunk with wine. Why? Because wine, alcohol is a controlling substance and it’s not just that Paul has something against that, he does, but he also is trying to say to us, don’t yield the control of your life to anyone or anything other than the Holy Spirit of God. And when you are filled with Him, you will start to look like Jesus and your life will start to be transformed, because he is to come to point to Jesus and to teach us of the things of Jesus. I am not talking about ecstatic experiences. I am talking about transformed lives by the power of God’s Spirit. So to be filled with the spirit, simply means to be controlled by the Spirit. That’s the command. God’s promises that God will always answer when we pray according to his will. We know it’s his will to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If we meet the conditions and we pray in faith, God will fill us and control us. And we can pray this many, many times as we become aware of areas of our life that are displeasing to God. So I want to encourage you today to pray with me, to pray this prayer with me and to again, some of you may be at different places on the spectrum, some of you may need to deal with some of the prerequisites that I have talked about, but by faith so that we know when we are really are ready, how to do it. Let’s pray it, right here together. Let’s pray together shall we?
Dear Father, I need you. I acknowledge that I have been directing my own life and that, as a result, I have sinned against you. I thank you that you have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take his place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as you commanded me to be filled, and as you promised in your word that you would do if I asked in faith. I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I now thank you for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit.
I close my sermon in a little different way in the first service and I think you will see after the sermon here, you will see two things. One is a hand and one is a moment for witness. I am closing the second sermon in a different way. I am going to ask Tammy Liu a new friend of mine to come up here and stand where I am standing right and share with you how God’s Spirit has touched her and opened her heart to understand what it means to know Jesus Christ. I think you will be encouraged by faith story.
Tammy: Hello everyone, My name is Tammy Liu and I am a pharmacy school student here in Baltimore, and I feel very blessed here and being here today to share with you about how I came to Christ and how he’s transformed me. My life before Christ I thought I was living a pretty happy life. I had gotten into a great college, and my parents were very supportive. I had a lot of friends, and I thought I haven’t really encountered any hardships in my life. And during college I had some questions that I felt nobody could answer. They were questions about, what is it to live a really happy life or why is there war and suffering in the world, and I didn’t know who to turn to, to answers these questions. During college I met someone who became one of my best friends, and she was a really dedicated Christian that just loved God and she seemed to really have a lot of faith in Him, so I went with her to Bible study a few times, but I didn’t really feel connected back then, but I feel that is when He started drawing me, is by placing people in my life that really love Him and encourage me to come to Him.
I came to Baltimore a few months ago for school, and I remember meeting someone here at school and she loved God and she shared the gospel with me and she was the person that actually brought me here to Central, back in the end of January. And I remember here the first day just feeling so loved and so overjoyed under Pastor George’s sermon and the worship and just feeling like this is something I could really find myself in. You know all the Sunday school ladies that I have been encouraged by and I have gone to a small group and just really encouraged by all the love and passion that people have for Christ and the faith and how he’s transformed them to be the person they are now. I remember feeling really emotional on Palm Sunday when I watched this short video on the crucifixion of Christ, and just seeing how much he suffered for our sins and what great mercy for God to give his only son to save us from our sins.
Another time I really felt close to God was when He answered my prayer. About two months ago I found out that my grandmother has cancer and I was just devastated. I applied for a job back on the West Coast so that I could be close with her this summer and take care of her and I was praying to God really hard one night. I was like, “God please place me where you think I should be and where I can serve you best.” And the next day I got a call from a regional manager and basically saying I had the job. So I just felt very overjoyed that as long as I put my faith in God, that He would place me where He wants me to be. And that day, I remember going to my room and turning on this song called, Come, Now is the Time to Worship and one verse that really touched me was, the greatest treasure comes to those who choose you now. And I know just how amazing that kind of faith is to be able to be touched and have that kind of faith in Christ. My life now I feel very overjoyed because He’s given me everything. I mean it is not my own doing, it’s not my parents doing, but it was him that gave me everything that I have now and I feel really grateful, and I am grateful for Him in my life while I am going through this hard time with my grandmother. I know that before He was in my life, I would have felt sad and bitter and I didn’t know who to turn to, but now I know that if I could share a gospel with my grandmother and the love I have for Christ that she will be able to spend eternity with Him and that’s something worth rejoicing about instead of something to be sad about. I just want to say that I feel very blessed for everyone here to have the ability to share with all of you how much Christ has changed me and how much I feel, I love Him and I want to tell everyone, and I hope you guys will also help me pray in the future for people who don’t know Him, because that’s the missing piece in their lives and if they could get to know Him, they would really know the greatest joy of their lives and I ask all of this in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen. And thank you so much for listening.
How many would be willing to respond to Tammy’s request for prayer to help her grow as a Christian to help others come to know Him. Raise you hand, would you. Look at that Tammy.
Tammy is going to be baptized at the next service, before she heads back to the West Coast this coming week, and we are grateful that God has called her into the fellowship here and she will be joining the new members class in the fall when she comes back. Thank you Tammy.