Good morning to you all. Hope you are doing well. Welcome to the First Presbyterian Church of Seattle where coffee just tastes better when it’s raining, doesn’t it? Well, you know one of the things that I like about preaching to you guys or talking with you guys and having these conversations, is every time I get to do it you get to know me a little bit better, and one of the things you can find out about me right from the front is, I like bumper stickers! I like bumper stickers! Not so much what they say, I don’t agree with them all the time for sure, but I like the concept of a bumper sticker. I love that fact that something so small can be concise, to the point, makes you think and sometimes can be really funny, which means that this sermon won’t be a bumper sticker at all. But, let me in fact share some of my favorites with you and no, none of these are on my car. I may like them, but I am not crazy. Like this one: “The gene pool could use a little chlorine.” I like that. I have as you have probably heard me say I have four boys, ten and under so I probably resonate with this one. “I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.” There you go. “Give me ambiguity or give me something else.” “He who laughs last, thinks slowest.” Yeah, good job. “Always remember, you are unique, just like everybody else.” “There are three kinds of people, those who can count and those who can’t.” I like this one. Maybe this says something sick about me. “Diplomacy is the art of saying nice doggy until you can find a big rock.” And then my all time favorite: “Forget about world peace, visualize using your turn signal.” Isn’t that a classic? Well, let’s use our turn signal and merge into our talk here. Could we?
You know, why would I bring up bumper stickers? Well, for one thing I like to start these things with a chuckle, rather than to dive right in. I wouldn’t want you to pull a theological muscle too quickly here, come up grabbing the hammy here before we go into the talk. But, let me ask you a question, “Do you ever feel like church signs read a little bit like bumper stickers?” Now, of course, never here at Central, we would never have that. But, when you did pull in this morning off of York Road and you saw the sign there say, “Walk the Walk,” what did your heart do? No, not the part about my name our there, I know probably what your heart did then, but when you read, “Walk the Walk,” how did your heart react? We all know the well-used cliche, “don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk,” but what does that have to do with church and Central this morning?
Now, think back just a few weeks, maybe in a month or so now, 40 Days is fading in our recent history of our church and I want to say just a few words about that. I am amazed by you and this church for what happened here. When I came to this interim position at Central, the first message I heard George preach was about getting prepared. It was about getting ready for prime time. Remember that message that George did and he talked about getting ready for the 40 days and how it was going to help us spiritually and corporately get ready for the next chapter that the Lord was going to bring here in the life of Central? And now, here with the announcement from the pastor nominating committee and our 150th year behind us, it’s like we are right at the doorpost of that next chapter, so it is pretty exciting isn’t it? It says a lot about George for leading us in that direction, doesn’t it? And, frankly when I accepted this position, saw the workload ahead of me for that 40 day campaign and the deck that needed to be cleared for what was going on, I was slightly skeptical. Not only did a lot need to happen, but you all had to say yes to a lot to make it happen. The ministries and programs and activities had to kind of be put to the side, and we really had to embrace it for it to be a success. And, then you really surprised me and not only me, but others as well. There was a buzz out there about Central as I talked to other folks at other churches. They knew something special was going on here. And, I hope it surprised you too. That we surprised ourselves by making room for God to move in our midst and surprised us in new and old ways. But I want to thank you mostly because I haven’t had a chance to do it to all of you yet. I want to thank you for faithfully giving it a try, for diving in, for participating in a move of God and to be willing to be surprised. I have been involved in full time Christian work for 18 years now and through this program, I was surprised and amazed in ways that I have never been before in ministry. I got to see lives change and moved in ways that really showed me that God is at work in this place. So for John Schmidt, who is on his way here, he was here for actually one of the weeks of that and he knows what’s going on here. He is very excited. So thank you very much for your faithfulness and your willingness to follow your leaders here.
But, as a leader, part of our responsibility is to somehow keep looking ahead, down the road a few miles, even while we got one eye back celebrating what just happened in the past. So back to the sign out front, “Walk the Walk” and how did it make you feel? If you saw that title and felt like a weight of a kind of responsibility land on you, and you know what I am excited about our conversation that we are going to have this morning. If you saw that sign and the category you put it in this morning was rules or behavior that suddenly now you have to adopt, I am excited about having our conversation this morning. If you saw that title and got curious about where we are walking or how to walk, well even better. But first before we go any farther, let’s pray okay?
Lord, thanks for these folks. Thanks for this morning. Thanks for your love for us. Would you show us Lord this morning through your Spirit and your Word, how to walk with you? We are eager to hear from you. Use me Lord and these words I have on paper to inflame these folk’s hearts to do that with you and it’s in your name we pray. Amen.
So, where do we get this term walk, this term walking? You know it is such a short verse, but really it’s just a glancing blow to the issue, but it is freighted with important biblical implications. Colossians 2:6, it is really short. It says, “Just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in him.” Now, each of us here has a story, a testimony about how we encountered Christ and came into a saving relationship with Him. We each have a starting point and each is unique. Like the delta of a mighty river, but kind of running backwards towards a central point. We each start at a unique point in our personal history where somehow, somewhere with someone or maybe even with many, we begin to notice some pretty basic and serious facts about God and ourselves.
You heard my story about a month or two ago. Sophomore year in college, I am in my next-door neighbors room in my dorm and he shares with me the four laws, and I am deeply convicted. Jesus was real before, but now my sin seems equally real and deeply, deeply troubling to me. I am convicted by that, and I know I am guilty. Now suddenly, like never before the cross of Christ means something and I have to have that payment. I just know that I can’t pay for it myself. That night, I can remember literally pleading with God to come into my life, to forgive my sins and to make me the kind of person he wanted me to be. His grace, his gift of new life in Christ activated through my faith makes me a Christian on January 18, 1982. That night I was completely dependent on Christ and I knew it. I absolutely needed him to forgive me of my sins if I was going to have eternal life. I knew that there was nothing that I could do. And here is where we are all alike. We all start at different places. We all in our hearts end up at the same place. We may have walked an aisle, come forward in a crusade, prayed a sinners prayer, tossed a pine cone in a fire at camp, whatever, but in our hearts we came to a place that we knew that without Christ, we face an eternity separated from God and Christ held the key to that rescue, not us. That faith, that trust, that dependence is how we receive Christ Jesus as Lord. So according to that verse, that faith, that same faith, that trust, that dependence is how you walk in Him.
Now, when you receive Christ Jesus as Lord some pretty amazing things happen, and they are just good for us to hear as a review if you have never heard them before or if you have heard them before. When you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, you are justified, which means you were declared not guilty. Literally, paid in full was written over your list of sins by the blood of Christ. Paid in full. You were sanctified. Now, there’s a funky religious word. It means declared completely set apart from the world, set apart from destruction, set apart from judgment and set apart for the purposes of God by God. But the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, God in the Spirit, he was doing some pretty amazing things at the same time you made that decision to trust Christ. Not only amazing, but absolutely essential for your walk with Christ. First, he indwelt you, which means He literally came and set up residence in your life. Next, if there even is a linear process to this, He sealed you, which means He literally protects you with his very presence keeping you secure in the family of God. He is the down payment scripture says of what’s coming in full when we go to be with the Lord or when Christ returns. Other things He does, He empowers us. He gives you power to live the Christian life. He guides you into all truths. He comforts you. He is called the helper and He encourages you.
But, let me say something just parenthetically here for one second. Obviously, I don’t know all of you, and so I can’t know where each of you are in relationship to Christ, where you are in that process. But, I do believe this, that you are not here this morning by accident or mistake. Maybe you have been listening to me so far, and you are not sure that you have started that relationship with Christ. You are just not sure if you have trusted him to come into your life and forgive your sins, and therefore you have not begun to enjoy these spiritual benefits that the Holy Spirit wants to bring in to your life. If this is something that you feel you want to do or even if you have questions about it, will you do me a favor? Will you talk to me after the service? If you feel like there are just a few things that I need to talk about before maybe I make that decision. Or even do something better, maybe somebody invited you here this morning, grab them and say, “We need to talk about that,” and they will be happy to do that. Would you do that? It is just too important to pass up.
But there is one thing that the Holy Spirit does in our lives that makes it possible to walk with Christ and I want to spend a moment on this morning. He fills us. This is key. He fills us. This is critical and must be correctly understood in both what it means and why the Spirit does it in our lives and it’s the key to walking with Christ, to walking the walk. Ephesians 5:18 is a great verse. That is where I want to direct you. And for many of you again this will be a familiar verse, but it says this, “Don’t be drunk with wine because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.” Now, why does it say wine in contrast to the Holy Spirit’s control? Well, I guess it should be pretty obvious. When someone is drunk, they are controlled by the wine. They are controlled by the alcohol. It’s influencing them. There is someone different and an almost alter ego comes over them and they do things and say things they would never naturally do. And, we probably maybe all of us have seen this. The same with the Spirit. When we are in his good control, we are going to do things and say things that we would never naturally do or say. Things that can be rather terrifying. Share our faith. Get involved in ministry. Speak in front of people. Yeah. You know. Why? Because we are going to live supernaturally because He is supernatural. But, Hey Mike, I don’t drink. So, what does that have to do with me? My question is then, what controls you? What seeks to control you? You know what it is for me? Two things really, when I think about it. First, my time. Particularly, my relax time. You know after a hard day being able to veg in front of the TV, you know, come on people, you know what its like. Can you relate? Is there anything better that getting the house cleaned up, the checkbook balanced, the kids finally down, even if you got to Dimetapp them to get them all the way down, or whatever. And you flop down in that chair and the remote control is in your hand, oh man. Let me have a moment, will you? Sorry, sorry, sorry.
The other thing is my bike riding. Maybe many of you don’t know this, but I have raced bikes for 22 years and I love it. I love everything about it. Love the fact that this year is the 100th anniversary of the Tour De France. It starts on July 5th, by the way. Lance Armstrong is going for his record time; fifth victory and I just love it. Love everything about it. I race for a team down in Baltimore City, Lateral Stress Valom, camaraderie when you ride and yes, I even like the clothes, you know. It’s true. It’s true. It really does keep me happy and healthy. I pray more on my bikesometimes than I do in other things, so it’s amazing. But, you know how I know at times it can control me as much as any wine? When I can’t do them. Take them away, and I find out how much I count on them to give me life. How quickly I can get irritated. How quickly I can feel sorry for myself, and how quickly I can take it out on my wife and my boys because I will selfishly perceive them as what’s getting in the way of what I believe I need and deserve. And, you know what happens usually? I hear the small voice of the Spirit saying, “Mike what are you doing? Who is in control? What are you looking to, to give you life? Does a what give you life or a who?” And, when the Spirit shows me what I have done, then I need to confess that thing. And, all confession means, let’s demystify this word confession. Confession means to say the same thing about sin that God does. And, so what does God say about sin, our sin? He says two big important things about our sin. It’s wrong. It separates us from Him. So, when we confess our sins, we need to say God that thing I did is wrong. But, then the second thing we need to do that God does with our sin is He says, “It’s forgiven. It’s paid for by Christ.” And, so we need to thank Him in our confession that, that sin has already been paid for. Then when I do that, I need to walk in its forgiveness, and I need to give back in the same will, like I received Christ Jesus as Lord, I need to give back to Him with that same heart attitude, the control of my life, and ask the Holy Spirit by faith to fill me with his power and his presence again.
Author and professor J.I. Packer says that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, when we give him control of our lives by faith, just like we did when we received Him, the Spirit keeps doing three things in our lives. First, the most important thing that the Holy Spirit does is this. The Spirit presents the Living Lord Jesus to us as maker and friend. Isn’t that beautiful? The Spirit presents Jesus to us as a maker and a friend. So, that we may choose a path of sacrificial response to his love and call. We call this personal fellowship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit makes that happen in our lives. Second thing the Holy Spirit keeps doing in our lives when we are filled with Him is a personal transformation of our character into Jesus’ likeness starts to take place. As we look to Jesus as our model for strength, in wisdom and in adoration and we begin to lay down our lives for Him and others. In other words, we see the fruit of the Spirit come forth in our lives. The fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. That’s what Jesus was like. If we could have interacted face to face with him, we would experience those characteristics just coming out of Him and that begins to come out of us as we keep walking with the Spirit.
And then the third thing that the Spirit keeps doing in our lives is, in a word, makes us sure of our salvation in our experience. As Packer says, “The Spirit given certainty of our being loved, redeemed and adopted through Christ into the Father’s family, this assurance blossoms into our hearts.” Isn’t that great? And, you know what this is? When this is ongoing and this is growing consistently over time, this is what Jesus called abiding in him. Let me read from John 15:4-8. Listen for the echoes of what J. Packer just said about what the Spirit wants to do in our life.
“Jesus said, remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
And you know what’s wonderful here? You know what the great thing is? The vine is doing the work. The vine is supplying the nutrients. The vine is the source of life and strength. The branches are merely conduits for the light that is in the vine. Listen, that’s why Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 this important thing.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Can you imagine what a radical thought that was to Jews in the 1st century? Think about it. Jews for literally thousands of years in order to follow God had to bear all the weight of the whole law. Now if you understand the whole law, basically it was rules with rules about those rules. I mean they had a rule for how many steps specifically you could walk on the Sabbath day before it became work. Can you imagine having to relate with God under that weight? And yet Jesus offers this amazing invitation to take that weight for them.
But for you and me who know so little about this unconditional acceptance because it is not what the world offers, we continue to operate with God like the world trains us and has trained us. Do good. Work hard. Word hard and good and then you get accepted. Then you get to ask for things. Then you have earned things. But Jesus continues to stand and say these radical things to us, abide in me for my yoke is easy and my burden light. Jesus through his Spirit seeks to live his life in and through us as we walk moment-by-moment, situation-by-situation in dependent faith with Him.
Do you remember just a few months ago when we started that 40 days? I am so appreciative that Rick Warren decided to start that whole book by giving it the context that it’s not about you. It’s about God’s glory. The same goes here for our walk with Christ and this filling of the Spirit. Jesus says something pretty important about the things that the Spirit wants to do in our life in the gospel of John. And this passage takes place at the Last Supper of Jesus. These are some of the most intimate words that Jesus said because he knew what was going to happen to him in the next 24 hours and so Chapter 13-17 is called the farewell speech or Jesus’ graduation address to the disciples. So listen to these words from verses 12-14 of Chapter 16.
“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.”
Did you see that right at the end there? He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. Here is the main ministry of the Holy Spirit. Here is the reason to glorify Christ. The Holy Spirit does all these amazing, wonderful eternal things in our lives in order to glorify Jesus. So how does he do it? Jesus said, by taking of mine and making it known to you. The thing the Spirit takes from Jesus and gives to us is the very presence of Jesus himself. Even though Jesus is with the Father, the Spirits’ mediating ministry brings his life into ours.
I love what J.I. Packer has to say about it. He says this,
“Think of it this way. It’s as if the Spirit stands behind us, shining and throwing light over our shoulder on Jesus who is standing in front of us, facing us. The Spirit’s message to us is never, look at me, listen to me, get to know me, but always look at Him and see his glory. Listen to Him and hear his word. Go to Him and have a life. Get to know Him and taste his gift of joy and peace. The Spirit we might say is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker whose role it is to bring us and Christ together, and ensure that we stay together.”
And, if we see Jesus this way, if we do that as the Spirit is directing us, and we see Jesus better and clearer, then walking after him is easy indeed for sin seems so unattractive in light of who Jesus is. We will eagerly say as we grow in to this, just as John the Baptist did, which I think listen to the attitude behind these words. I think it is so Spirit filled. He must increase, but I must decrease. Or as Mary said after the angel told her all the things that was going to happen to her. Again, here is a Spirit life, not so much the words, but the Spirit filled attitude behind it. I am the Lord’s servant. I am willing to accept whatever He wants. May everything you have said to me come true.
We see this same attitude in kind of a heroic figure, a heroic saint. This is someone we almost know more in terms of myth than in reality. His name is Dr. David Livingston and it’s where we get that phrase, Dr. Livingston, I presume. He was such a famous missionary in Africa that the main newspaper in England sent a reporter down into Africa to find out what he was doing because they hadn’t heard from him in a while. And, so after this reporter’s search, he stumbled onto Dr. Livingston and said that, “Dr. Livingston I presume.” But, listen to what it says about his life. What sustains men and women who leave behind family and comfort to go to another country for the gospel sake as did Dr. Livingston? More directly, what kept Livingston there when as a medical doctor he could have lived comfortably in his native Scotland? Livingston himself answered that question. After 16 years of service in Africa, he returned to Scotland and was asked to speak at the University of Glasgow. One of his arms had been rendered useless as a result of a lion’s attack. His body bore physical evidence of suffering he had endured with 27 bouts of jungle fever. His face a leathery brown from exposure to the elements, was creased from the cares of hard life battling the Turks and the slave traders. A hush crept over the students who listened to this man realizing that this was no ordinary person. “Shall I tell you what sustained me in the midst of trials and hardships and loneliness of my exiled life” he asked. “Yes.” And then he gave them the answer. “It was a promise. A promise of a gentlemen of the most sacred honor. It was this promise. Low, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” At Livingston’s death, they found his body bent in prayer as he knelt by his bed and beside him was a small, well worn New Testament opened to Matthew 28 and he had written in the margin next to verse 20 was the word of a gentlemen. Did Livingston feel that he had made a great sacrifice? Not in the least.
“People talk of the sacrifice, I have made spending so much time in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice, which is simply paying back a small part of the great debt owing to our God that we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice that brings in its own best reward of helpful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind and a bright hope of glory as destiny hereafter? Away with such a word. In such of you and such a thought, it is emphatically no sacrifice, say rather it is a privilege.”
Livingston realized as we will realize as we grow in this walk with God being filled with the Holy Spirit, that as we walk the walk, as we keep step with the Spirit, to glorify Christ there is no weight to responsibility, there is fullness of joy.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank you. Thank you that you care for us enough not to leave us alone, that you are with us moment by moment as you promise, through this ministry of your Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit would you fill us please? We need you. We need your filing in our lives. Thank you that you never leave us. But, show us where our sin is Holy Spirit, that we can confess it and remove it from our way, that we could experience Christ more completely. Thank you Holy Spirit that you want to glorify Christ, help us see Him better so that we may obey him better, that we could experience a joy of that relationship. And, it’s in his matchless name we pray. Amen.