Follow Along

Get new posts by email:

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Incendiary Fellowship

Quoting Elton Trueblood, Ray Ortlund Jr. writes, "Hyper-individualistic Christianity, however intense and euphoric, does not catch fire. It is churches that spread the prophesied fire."

Amen, and let's burn together!

The Shelby Flood

In the current issue of EFCA Today, my church-planting pastor buddy, John Stevens, has written a little article [pg. 4 of the .pdf] about how his newly planted church CORE Community Church responded to a devastating flood in my home town--Shelby, Ohio.

I'm so glad John has planted this gospel-centered missional church in Shelby!

By the way, reading the small print, I see that my brother's father-in-law, Steve Haverfield, snapped the picture of Shelby underwater!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Faith Is Not Our Savior!

"Faith is not our saviour. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Saviour is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God.

Our security is this, that it matters not how poor or weak our faith maybe: if it touches the perfect One, all is well. God has asked and provided a perfect righteousness; He nowhere asks nor expects a perfect faith. So a feeble, very feeble faith, will connect us with the righteousness of the Son of God; the faith, perhaps, that can only cry, ‘Lord, I believe; help mine unbelief.’"

- Horatius Bonar, “Not Faith, But Christ”

[HT: Of First Importance]

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I Blog

I gave my answer to that question on an EFCA bloggers round-up for EFCA Today.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Assures Us Of Our Relationship with God

“The Holy Spirit Assures Us Of Our Relationship with God”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
February 24, 2008
Ephesians 1:13-14, Romans 8:15-17

This is the third message in our series on the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit–our relationship with the Third Person of the Trinity–God the Holy Spirit.

The first message was about Who the Spirit is. We learned 4 things that we’re going to see again, and again, and again:

The Holy Spirit is God, worthy to be worshiped.
The Holy Spirit is a Person, able to be related to, to fellowship with.
The Holy Spirit is Mysterious, beyond our comprehension and out of our control.
And the Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered, intent on “spotlighting” the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s Who He is.

And then last week, we began to talk about what He does. What the Holy Spirit does in our lives. His precious ministries to us.

And the first was: The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ.

The Holy Spirit Brings Us Conviction. [Of Sin, Righteous, and Judgment]
And the Holy Spirit Brings Us Regeneration (New Birth).
And the Holy Spirit Brings Us Conversion–turning from sin and turning to Jesus Christ.

If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t have a relationship with God.

Around here, we talk about “Glorifying God Through a Love Relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Well, that relationship is only possible because of and through the Holy Spirit.

But how certain is that relationship?

How certain is our relationship to God?

How sure is that relationship that we have with God?

How sure are you of your ongoing relationship with God?

How sure are you of your salvation?

How sure are you that you are going to heaven?

How sure are you that are a child of God? And why?

Those questions brings us our next ministry of the Holy Spirit:

THE HOLY SPIRIT ASSURES US OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

He doesn’t just bring us to Christ and then leave us there.

He carries us through.

He doesn’t just bring us to conversion and then leaves us up to our own devices. “Good luck!”

He is careful and powerful to provide assurance to all Real Christians that their relationship with God is real and ongoing and unbreakable and safe and secure and sure.

The Holy Spirit Assures Us of Our Relationship with God.

We’re going to see that in three main ways this morning. Two from Ephesians chapter 1.

We’re going to read verses 13 and 14 before we pray.

This is the end of a long and powerful paragraph about what our Triune God is up to in the world and in our lives–His plan to bring Himself glory through saving us.

I wish we had time to review the whole thing–how God the Father chose us and how God the Son redeemed us–but we’re going to skip down to verse 13 and see what God the Spirit is up to in assuring us. Verse 13.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession–to the praise of his glory.”

Notice how Paul begins with the Gospel.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”

Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel.

That’s the starting point of the Christian life. And last week, we saw that this is also a ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings us to Christ through that gospel.

But Paul picks up the Holy Spirit’s ministry here. Second sentence of verse 13.

“Having believed [the gospel], you were marked in him [Christ] with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit...”

When you believed the gospel, you were marked with a seal.

Not the sea animal that barks and has flippers and loves to eat little fish!

Not that kind of a seal. This is a seal of ownership.

Like one of those old time wax drops onto a envelope and then a special ring is pressed down onto the wax to “seal” the envelope until the appointed person and no-one but the appointed person opens it.

The seal was a mark of ownership.

#1. THE HOLY SPIRIT ASSURES US OF OUR OWNERSHIP.

Notice what Paul says. He says that when we believed the gospel (v.13), we were marked with a seal (what is the seal?)–the promised Holy Spirit.

The Spirit had been promised in the Old Testament to come in new and broader ways.

The Spirit had been promised by the Lord Jesus to take His place in His disciples’ lives.

The Spirit came at Pentecost and the New Covenant Church was born.

And when people come to believe the Gospel, they get the promised Holy Spirit.

He comes into their lives and takes up residence in their hearts.

And He acts as a seal.

“You were marked with a seal–the promised Holy Spirit.”

Did you know that you are marked man?
You are a marked woman?
You are a marked boy or girl?

If you have come to believe the gospel and have come to Christ, the Holy Spirit has come to mark you and seal you–a seal of ownership.

The Holy Spirit Assures Us of Our Ownership.

I think of it as like a brand.

Anybody here branded a cow before?

What does that white-hot-seared mark mean on the back-side of a steer?

This animal is marked. It is owned.

Do you think of yourself as owned?

Do you think of yourself as “God’s possession?” (That’s in verse 14!)

I think that Americans especially have a hard time with this idea. We think of ourselves as free and independent.

“Nobody owns me! I’m my own man! This is a free country!”

But that’s not Christianity.

Christians are owned. We are marked. We are sealed.

God says about us, “Mine!”

How does that make you feel?

It should give you some great assurance in your relationship with God.

When you believed the gospel, you were marked as belonging to God.

And God doesn’t take that lightly!

He doesn’t lose track of His possessions. He doesn’t leave them lying around.

He greatly cares about them.

And He protects them from all others.

Be glad that you belong to God, because everyone belongs to someone–and if you don’t belong to God–beware of who you would belong to.

If you read the book of Revelation closely, it becomes clear that in the End, there are only two marks. The mark of the Beast and the mark of Christ. Which would you rather have?

When you believed the gospel, you got the Holy Spirit.

And that means that you are sealed, marked, owned.

Because of the Holy Spirit, God is saying, “Hands Off! She’s mine! He’s mine!”

Isn’t that reassuring?

It is when you realize who else might try to have a claim on you.

But it gets better than that. He’s not just a sealing mark.

He is also a deposit. V.14

“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession–to the praise of his glory.”

The Holy Spirit does more than just mark us as a seal.

He also serves as a down payment.

That’s what this word the NIV translates “deposit” means–a down-payment.

The King James has “an earnest.”

You know what that is?

Let’s say that I want to buy Jeff’s house.

How much do you want for it, Jeff?

Let’s round it off to, say, $100,000. I’m sure it’s worth a lot more.

I tell Jeff that I want to buy it. And I promise to buy it. And as a down-payment, as an earnest payment, as a deposit, I give him $25,000. One quarter of the whole.

Have I just committed myself to that purchase, or what?

I sure have.

I’ve said, “Here is a deposit, there is more just like it coming. Guaranteed.”

Well, that’s what the Holy Spirit is.

He’s a down-payment. A deposit. Guaranteeing that there is more to come.

But He’s not guaranteeing a payment of us. He’s guaranteeing our inheritance. V.14

“[The Holy Spirit] is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession–to the praise of his glory.”

Because of Jesus and the Cross, God has made us precious promises as heirs.

What promises?

Total Forgiveness.
Eternal Relationship with God.
Unspeakable Joy.
Pleasures at God’s Right Hand.
Resurrection Bodies.
Power for Holy Living.
Experiencing the Unending Love of God.
Seeing God and Gladly Worshiping Him Forever!

And so much more.

How do we know? How can we be sure that we’re going to inherit these promises?

We’ve got the Holy Spirit as a deposit.

He’s the earnest money, guaranteeing what is to come.

#2. THE HOLY SPIRIT ASSURES US OF OUR INHERITANCE.

The logic is this: If He gave you His Holy Spirit (God Himself coming to live with you and in you!), how will He not give you everything else He has promised?

He will!

It’s guaranteed!

How does that make you feel?

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Maybe you’re feeling like the promises of God are unfulfilled in your life.

Maybe you feel forgotten, left behind, abandoned.

When you believed the gospel, you were marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance until that day when you are fully redeemed to praise of God’s glory.

We live between the “already” and the “not yet.”

But what we have “already” in the Holy Spirit guarantees that the “not yet” is the “will be.”

The Holy Spirit Assures Us of Our Ownership, and the The Holy Spirit Assures Us Of Our Inheritance.

And it gets better even than that!

Why are we heirs? Why do we have an inheritance coming from God?

Because we are the adopted children of God.

#3. THE HOLY SPIRIT ASSURES US OF OUR ADOPTION.

Turn back to Romans chapter 8, verse 15.

There’s so much in that chapter to see, but what I want us to catch this morning is that we are not marked as owned and guaranteed our inheritance, we are assured of being God’s adopted children. Romans 8:15.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear [nothing to fear], but you received the Spirit of sonship [Or the Spirit of Adoption–another name for the Holy Spirit]. And by him [by the Spirit] we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ [Listen to this!] The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

So much here!

When you and I believed the gospel, we received the Spirit.

And He’s not a spirit of fear or of slavery.

He is the Spirit of Sonship or Adoption.

And as that Spirit, He has this ministry: He testifies to our own spirits that we are God’s children.

The Holy Spirit speaks to our human spirits and tells us that we belong to God.

“You are a son of God!”
“You are a daughter of God!”
“Jesus is your elder brother!”
“You are adopted into God’s family!”

Now, there is more to Christian assurance than that. The Bible has several lines of teaching to develop assurance of our relationship with God.

I highly recommend two books on the subject, How Can I Be Sure I am A Christian? by Donald Whitney and Do I Know God? by Billy Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian.

They go into other ways that we know that we are God’s children–including whether or not we bear the family resemblance! We learned all this Fall about how to tell the Real Christian from the fake.

But this is a sweet fundamental reality–the inner witness of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are God’s children!

Verse 17 aims again in the direction of our inheritance. We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ–and we will share in the “already” in His sufferings–and some day soon in the “not yet,” we will share in His glory!

But what I want to end with is to see how this affects us in verse 15.

The Spirit Assures Us Of Our Adoption.

And that means we can call God, “Abba, Father!” V.15

“And by him [the Holy Spirit] we cry, ‘Abba [Daddy! Pa!] Father!”

The Holy Spirit tells our hearts that we have a Father/Child relationship with God!

That’s amazing!

What do call God when you pray?

Do you know that are invited to pray, to talk to God?

And not just as King of the Universe? Not just as Lord of all Creation.

But as Father? As “Abba?”

Because you have the Spirit of God, you can cry, “Abba, Father!”

And there is no greater privilege!

How do you know? One way is that the Spirit speaks directly to your spirit.

The Holy Spirit Assures Us Of Our Adoption.

Did you need to hear that this morning?

I think probably a number of us did.

Maybe things are going really poorly right now for you. I don’t know.

But I know that I regularly need to be assured of my relationship with God.

Because my feelings go up and down and up and down like a roller-coaster.

We’ve had 3 months of sickness in our house. When you’re sick, you often don’t feel all loved and happy and good with God.

But I can call God, “Father!” “Father, I feel awful!” “Father, Help us to get past these illnesses.” “Father, I love you.”

Why can I say, “Father?” Because His Spirit testifies to my spirit that I am His son.

Now, you only get this assurance if you have believed the gospel.

Remember Ephesians 1:13, “You were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”

That’s the good news of Jesus death to pay for sins, His burial and His resurrection to give us new life! You’ve got to turn from whatever you have been trusting and trust in this message.

“Having believed this message, [you get the Holy Spirit]...”

Have you believed the gospel?

Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your King and Rescuer?

If you have, if you are trusting in Jesus Christ:

The Holy Spirit Is Assuring You of Your Ownership. You belong to Christ!

The Holy Spirit Is Assuring You of Your Inheritance. It’s guaranteed. Everything that He has promised you will come–because you have the down-payment now.

The Holy Spirit Is Assuring You of Your Adoption. You are a child of God.

Believe it. Know it! Be sure. Rejoice. Relax! Obey!

Look forward to your inheritance.

And cry out to God as Abba, Father.

Be assured of your relationship with God.

Because of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Church Planting in the Allegheny District

My friend, Jim Culbertson, our EFCA district church planting director has started a new blog about what God is doing in new churches in our area. Exciting!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

God Speaking Through Other People

Abraham Piper puts a feeling I've often had into words.

His conclusion:

When I feel the remarkably immense love of my family—if I’m paying attention—I can finally hear God, and he’s saying, “I’m like that.”

Yes. Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You Must Be Born Again

On Sunday, I preached on the Holy Spirit's work of conviction, regeneration, and conversion--in us.

For more on regeneration and the new birth that the Spirit works in us, I highly recommend John Piper's most recent sermon series: You Must Be Born Again.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ

“The Holy Spirit Brings Us To Christ”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
February 17, 2008
John 16:5-11, Titus 3:3-7, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

A couple weeks ago, we began our new series on The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit–our relationship with the third Person of the Holy Trinity.

We saw the Spirit come down at Jesus’ baptism and rest on Jesus like a dove, and we said four things about the Holy Spirit which we will see again and again this Winter and Spring:

The Holy Spirit is God, worthy to be worshiped.
The Holy Spirit is a Person, able to be related to.
The Holy Spirit is Mysterious, beyond our comprehension.
And the Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered, intent on “spotlighting” the Lord Jesus Christ.

And for next few months, we’re going to spend time thinking about many of the precious ministries of this Christ-Centered, Mysterious, Divine Person to us.

Here’s why:

Because we need Him.

I want to say thank you to this church family for praying our family through our most recent bought with the flu.

If you remember, I had a bad cold and could hardly preach two weeks ago when we began this series on the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

And then on Wednesday the 6th, I came down with a high fever and the flu. And then it rushed through our family so that at one point, all 6 of us had fevers and flu.

And I am thankful for your many prayers, emails, cards, running errands, and bringing over hot and delicious meals. Some of those meals were so good, we’re considering getting the flu again just taste them!

As you can tell, I’m still not completely over it. I still only have about ½ of my voice, and I still have cough.

When the flu had passed by about Tuesday of this week, I found that I was lightheaded and headache-y, and short of breath.

My lungs had not yet recovered from the illness, and I was short of breath.

Just picking up one of the kids or making the bed would wear me out. And I was finding myself to be weak and lacking air.

I’ve struggled from time to time with what they call “chronic bronchitis,” but I’ve never had this before–especially for so long.

I have a new appreciation for what asthmatics go through.

And, as I was struggling to get my breath, I realized that it was a perfect illustration of why we need more teaching on the Holy Spirit. Because He is the Breath of God.

He is the “Ruach.” He is the “Pneuma.” He is the Wind of God. You can not see Him, but you can see His effects.

And when we don’t have enough of Him in the lungs of the church, we can see the deleterious effect that has on our Body.

Not that there is too little of the Holy Spirit to go around[!], but that we have neglected Him and not appropriated all of what He wants to give us, and have missed a good deal of what He wants to do in us.

We need the Breath of God. We need the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

And that’s why we are going to spend so much time considering His precious ministries to us.

And today, we start with this one:

The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ.

The only reason why you and I are Christians today (if we are) is because of the mysterious, miraculous ministry of the Holy Spirit!

He Brings Us to Christ.

I don’t think that we think about this enough.

Often, when we mention the Holy Spirit, we talk about Spiritual Gifts or about showy, powerful miracles that the Holy Spirit has wrought.

But in our lives, few ministries of the Holy Spirit are more important than His work in drawing us to salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.

That was part of what Jesus was teaching in the Upper Room the night that He was betrayed.

In John chapter 14 through 17, Jesus taught about the coming of the Holy Spirit–whom He called (in Greek) the Paraclete–the One Called Alongside.

And in chapter 16, verses 5 through 11, Jesus taught that one of the most important ministries this coming Comforter would have would be to convict the world.

#1. He Brings Conviction.

Jesus was teaching His disciples that it was better for Him to die, rise, and ascend than to stick around on Earth. V.7 “It is for your good that I am going away.”

And the reason is because of the Holy Spirit. “Unless I go away, the Counselor [Paraclete] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

The Holy Spirit has come because Jesus sent Him.

And here is His ministry: conviction. V.8

“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.”

Now, notice that this conviction ministry is one that the Spirit does to the world.

Remember who the world is?

It isn’t the creation here. It is the world-system, It is unbelieving society. It is those who are outside of Christ.

Remember, Real Christians Are in the World but Not Of the World.

But guess what? We used to be of the world.

How did we go from being a part of the world in rebellion against God to becoming a part of the church, someone saved out of the world?

It starts with conviction.

The Holy Spirit speaks to an unbelieving heart about sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Now, I think that’s the world’s sin, the world’s righteousness, and the world’s judgment.

The Holy Spirit is sent to convince the world of its guilt and perilous position. To press home how eternally dangerous their being the world is to them. The Holy Spirit convicts the world.

First “of sin.”

The Holy Spirit's job as the promised paraclete is to come to someone who is in the world and convince them, show them, press into them how dangerous is their sin, why? Because they are not believing. This is the root of all sin. All sin is tied to unbelief.

And I believe that He might be doing that in someone's heart right here today. You are an unbeliever, you don't belong yet to Christ. And the Spirit is saying to your heart, "You don't believe. You are sinning. Sinning earns Hell. Repent! And believe!"

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness.

Now, you need to know that the world has a form of righteousness that it is very happy with. And it's this righteousness that the Spirit must convict us of for us to be saved. It's what the Bible calls the righteousness of works. Thinking that some action or set of actions that we do in our own strength will earn for us favor with God.

Righteousness is divine approval through godly action. Paul tried to do this. He tried to follow God's laws and earn God's favor and approval. But he found out that that is impossible. Isaiah says that our righteousness, the unbelieving world's righteousness is as worthless as filthy rags! Look at v.10.

“In regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.”

Jesus was busy during his time on Earth convicting "Pharisee-types" of their empty righteousness. Now the Holy Spirit will come and take his place.

And the Spirit speaks to the heart of someone in the world and says, "Your righteousness will not cut it! You cannot reach the perfect standard for salvation. Repent of your attempts to get to God on your own, and rest on the work of Jesus on the Cross for your sin!”

And I believe that he's doing it right now among us. He's speaking to unbelieving hearts in this room. And he's telling you to repent of your own righteousness and trust Jesus for His righteousness to be given to you.

The Holy convicts the world of sin, and of righteousness....and judgment.

You see, the world has been judging. In the world's judgment, Jesus was not the Christ. Jesus was not Lord. Jesus was not the Savior. Jesus is not the Son of God. The world looks at Jesus and draws the WRONG judgment! Look at v.11.

“And in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

In just hours, Satan will lose his greatest battle. He will be defeated at the Cross. And all who believed his lies and made the judgments that Satan suggested will also be condemned.

Unless the Spirit convicts.

The Spirit comes along and whispers to the heart of someone in the world, “Your judgment is wrong! Jesus is who he claims to be. If you stay where you are, you will be condemned with Satan! Repent of your sinful, unbelieving, self-righteous judgment of Jesus and believe his claims. Put your faith in him. Believe! Believe!”

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of its wrongheaded judgment.

And I pray that He is doing that same convicting work right here, right now. Someone here is realizing that they have been wrong about Jesus. He is not just a good man. Not just a prophet. Not just a nice person. But he is the Living God who demands that we lay down our arms and adore Him. Surrender our lives and put our faith in Him alone.

And I join with the Spirit's convicting work right now and urge you if He's speaking to your heart to repent of your sin and your righteousness and your judgment and put your faith in Jesus right now.

He Brings Conviction. It’s the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

But that’s not all.

#2. He Brings New Birth.

Turn back to Titus chapter 3. Look at Paul’s explanation of where salvation comes from in verses 3 through 7.

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. [We were in the world!] We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us [HOW?] through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

“Through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

What was the Holy Spirit doing when you were saved?

You see the Holy Spirit did more than speak to you heart about your sin, righteousness, and judgment!

He gave you a new heart!

He gave you a new birth!

Remember John chapter 3 when Jesus met at night with Nicodemus? Nick at Nite?

He told Nick, “You must be born again!”

And Nick didn’t know what to think of that.

And Jesus said, “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. [You need a spirit-birth!] You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just bring conviction. He brings regeneration.

We were dead in our trespasses and sins. We had to be made alive again!

It’s mysterious how He does it. Our new birth is something that He does miraculously and mysteriously.

It involves our believing the gospel and trusting in what Jesus did on the Cross.

But it isn’t caused by our faith, mysteriously, is the cause of our faith!

And it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

He brings conviction.
And He brings new birth.

Another way of saying it is #3. He Brings Conversion.

Turn from Titus chapter 3 to 1 Thessalonians chapter 1.

This is Paul’s account of how the Thessalonian Christians became Christians.

Look at verse 4.

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction [like John 16!]. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”

And verse 9 says that they turned “to God from idols to serve the living and true God...”

This was the work of the Holy Spirit.

He brings conversion.

If anyone gets saved, it’s because the Holy Spirit did it!

The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ.

What’s the application of that truth?

I can think of three things right away:

#1. Come to Christ!

If you are under conviction right now, give in and come to Christ.

You are a sinner.
Your righteousness won’t cut it.
Your judgment has been wrong so far.

Come to Christ.

Don’t resist the Holy Spirit and the message of the Gospel!

Listen to the Holy Spirit and believe the message of the Gospel!

Come to Christ.

I invite you right now, right where you are to surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit in conviction, new birth, and conversion.

Turn away from idols.
Turn away from your way of life.
Turn away from emptiness.

And turn to Jesus.

He saves us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy.

He saves us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Get washed! Get renewed! Get reborn!

He pours out the Holy Spirit on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

That’s what I invite you to right now.

Come to Christ!

And if you have (application #2), Thank God that the Holy Spirit Brought You to Christ!

He didn’t have to do it!

We didn’t deserve it!

But we desperately needed it!

And the Holy Spirit did it.

If you are saved today, it’s because the Holy Spirit brought you to Christ.

Thank Him!

When I was in Junior High School, an traveling evangelist named Earl Bailey came to our little Methodist church and held revival meetings.

And I remember Earl Baily preaching about sin, and righteousness, and judgment.

I remember that he said that closer we got to the light, the more we could see our imperfections, like looking into a bathroom mirror. The closer we got, the more we could see how much help we needed!

And I remember praying after one of his messages to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and the next day I told someone about it.

Was that because I was so smart?
Was that because I was so decisive that I picked Jesus?

No. It was because I had come under conviction.

And because the Holy Spirit was working on me.

And because He was giving me new life.

Are you convicted, regenerated, and converted to Jesus Christ?

Praise God for the Holy Spirit!

And #3. Relax and Tell Others About Jesus!

Why do I say, “Relax?”

Because it’s not your job to bring other people to Christ!

You can’t convict them. You can’t give them new birth. You can’t convert them!

But the Holy Spirit can.

It’s His job.

Our job is just to reach out and share the gospel with those who need to hear it.

The story is told of a drunken man who came up to D.L. Moody and said, “Hey, Pastor Moody, I’m one of your converts!”

To which Moody (ever quick on his feet) said, “You must be one of my converts! Because one of the Lord’s would not be acting like you are!”

Do you get all twisted in knots at the thought of sharing the gospel?

Relax. It’s not up to you. You can’t save anyone.

But the Holy Spirit can. And He will.

So let’s cooperate with Him and get the word out!

The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Under Siege

Since early last week, our family has been under siege from the flu. All 6 of us have succumbed. Hopefully we are all coming out of it, slowly but surely. Not all of us have fevers today!

To all who have been praying for us (and calling, emailing, sending cards & e-cards, running errands, sending in delicious food)--THANK YOU!

This morning, our family held worship in the living room. We gave thanks for threescore blessings that God has given us, and praised Him for His faithfulness.

"Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the LORD." [Psalm 144:15]

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bella - Take Two

Thanks to the good people at Salt & Light, people in our region will have the opportunity again to view the stellar movie Bella [see my post on this from December].

Highly recommended. Not for the faint at heart. Take Kleenex.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Danger of Going to Church

Have you ever heard of "the danger of going to church?"

Dan Ledford explains that one and 3 other dangers of false assurance in this "You Pick 'Em" message.

Matt's Messages - Who Is the Holy Spirit?

“Who Is the Holy Spirit?”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
February 3, 2008
Matthew 3:13-17

Last week, I told you of my Trinitarian prayer for you based upon 2 Corinthians 13:14. In 2008, I am praying that you would experience the fullest blessing of the Trinity–the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

It’s that last phrase, “The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit,” that describes the theme of our Sunday morning teachings together for the next few months. The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Communion with God the Spirit. Relationship with God because of and through and with the Holy Spirit of God.

For the next few months, we’re going to study the ministries of the Holy Spirit and find out what He does in and through our lives.

But before we get too far into that, we need to ask a very basic question: “Who Is the Holy Spirit?”

Who is this person that I am praying that you experience fellowship with in 2008?

For some of us, that’s a very basic question. We’ve known about the Spirit for most of our lives. But perhaps it would be good to be reminded.

For others of us, we may never have received much teaching on the Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit. This might be really new to you. If so, I’m glad you’re here. I’m hoping this series of messages will really bless you.

The Holy Spirit shows up at the baptism of Jesus. We mentioned it last week. Let’s read about it today in Matthew chapter 3. Starting in verse 13.

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

#1. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD.

Jesus knew where John the Baptist was baptizing by the Jordan River. He came to see John and asked to be baptized himself.

John, realizing who Jesus is, God’s Son, the Messiah[!] doesn’t want to do it.

John thought that Jesus should baptize him. John knew that Jesus was greater than Him. And John probably knew that Jesus didn’t need a baptism of repentance.

But Jesus insists. He says that he should be baptized by John “to fulfill all righteousness.”

I’m not sure all of what that means, but I know that it at least means that Jesus was identifying with us in His righteousness.

Baptism is identifying. It is putting yourself into someone or something–identifying with that. When we get baptized, we are publically putting ourselves into Christ by repentance and faith.

When Jesus was baptized, it was going the other way. He was identifying with us.

It was right; it was righteous, for Him to get baptized, too.

And so, John took Him down in the Jordan River and baptized Jesus. And when Jesus came up out of the water, something amazing happened! V.16 again:

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

Here is the Trinity again.

I mentioned this passage last week when talking about the love of the Father. God the Father speaks from heaven and declares that Jesus is His own Son, beloved and pleasing to Him.

But there is someone else here, too. “The Spirit of God.”

The Spirit of God, also called the Holy Spirit, descends from heaven and lands on Jesus, in some way like a dove.

All three are present in one place, in one event, at one time. Father, Son, and Spirit.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

He is God.

Notice that verse 16 calls Him the “Spirit of God.” Now, that could just mean that He belongs to God in some way.

But other passages of Scripture clearly teach us that the Holy Spirit is fully God Himself.

For example, with Ananias and Sapphira lied about how much money they had made on the sale of their property in Acts chapter 5, the Apostle Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to LIE TO THE HOLY SPIRIT and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? ... You have not lied to men but to God.”

Lying to the Spirit is lying to God.

Or 1 Corinthians 2:11 says that the Spirit comprehends the thoughts of God. And only God Himself can fully know what God thinks!

The passages go on and on equating the Spirit of God with God Himself.

When Jesus gave the great commission, He told His disciples to baptize in the Name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We might think of that as three names. But Jesus saw them as co-eternal, co-equal, fully divine.

The Holy Spirit is God.

Now, you might think that this is just a settled fact. And it is, as far as I’m concerned, and as far a church history is concerned.

But there are still people who call themselves Christ-followers who do not believe that the Holy Spirit is God.

This last week, after I posted my sermon on the Internet, on my weblog, a man named Adam Pastor posted this comment to it:
Hi Matt!

The reason why maybe believers don’t talk enough about the Trinity ...
is because the trinity doctrine of a God existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three in One. One in Three. ...
is simply not scriptural!

The Scriptures simply teach that
there is solely ONE GOD, the Father.
Jesus the Messiah is the ONE GOD's human Son;
and the holy spirit is now the operational presence and power of both the Father and the Son.

Besides, Jesus was not a trinitarian!

And since you're recommending books, may I recommend a book by the same title ...
Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor
Yesterday I responded to Mr. Pastor with this quick note:
Adam,

Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate your passion for what you think is true. [And I really do! Not everyone is willing to speak out passionately for what they believe!]

However, I think you are terribly wrong. What you are saying is heresy and dishonors the Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.

The Bible does teach the Trinitarian reality of God.

Adam, I know that this teaching is mysterious and difficult to understand at first, but I believe that it is the truth and will continue to teach it and live out its implications.

My prayer for you is that you come to enjoy the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

-Matt Mitchell
Friends, this Spirit of God who descended upon Jesus at His baptism was God the Spirit.

Application:

We Should Worship Him.

We don’t just worship God the Father. We also worship God the Son. And our worship should embrace God the Spirit because they are Three in One.

When was the last time that you specific remembered in worship that the Holy Spirit is God?

I’m thankful for songs like Holy, Holy, Holy that bring out that truth!

We should worship God the Spirit.

Now, we’re going to see in just a few moments that the Spirit is self-effacing and loves to be in the background.

So, it’s not that strange that He isn’t at center stage in our worship all of the time.

But it is right and proper to worship Him, because He is God!

#2. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON.

Notice that I’ve said, “He” and “Him” and “His” instead of “It” or “Its.”

We don’t get that from this passage but when Jesus promises for Him to come in John 14, that’s how Jesus refers to Him.

In John 14, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit as not an IT, but a Person.

As the series unfolds, we’ll see again and again that the Spirit has emotions (you can grieve Him) and intellect (He knows things), and will (He decides things).

He is a Person.

And that’s important because that means that we can have a relationship with Him.

We Can Fellowship With Him.

Our fellowship will center on Jesus, we’ll see that again and again. But it will be fellowship with the Spirit.

He is not just an impersonal force.

Some people, I think, conceive of the Spirit as being like “the Force” in the Star Wars movies. [Did you know that there are 390,000 people in England who consider Jedi to be their personal religion?!]

But, the Force, is impersonal and can be controlled by Jedi’s.

"Use the Force, Luke!"

God the Spirit is will not be "used!"

He is free to do as He pleases.

He is a Person.

So we can fellowship with Him.

My prayer is that this series of messages will bring you a clearer, deeper understanding of His presence and power at work in us.

#3. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS MYSTERIOUS.

Why a dove?

I’m really not sure. From this point on, doves are a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

In the 2nd verse of the Bible, the Spirit is pictured as “hovering” bird-like over the waters. But that’s mysterious, too.

In fact, almost everything about the Holy Spirit is mysterious!

For example, He’s a Spirit!

The Hebrew word for Spirit is Ru-ach which means Breath.

The Greek word is Pneuma.

It’s supposed to conjure up the idea of wind blowing, the breath of God, the exhale of God huffing and puffing and working His power in the world.

Our word “spirit” doesn’t really cut it, but there are no good words.

He’s too mysterious.

When Jesus met with Nicodemus that one night, He said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

He is mysterious!

Wind is not the only picture. Hardly!

Water. Flames of Fire. Powerful Clothes.

These and more are all pictures of the Holy Spirit.

He’s too mysterious to capture with just a few words.

And I think that means that we need to wonder at Him.

We Should Wonder at Him.

Thinking about the Spirit should lead us in marveling at His amazing work.

He is not a hum-drum subject worthy of scant attention.

No, He is the mysterious, personal, God the Spirit worthy of our wonder and amazement.

Over the next few weeks and months, I hope that we wonder more and more at His presence and activity in our lives!

And #4. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS CHRIST-CENTERED.

I picked this passage to preach on the Holy Spirit, not because it is about the Holy Spirit, but because it shows the Holy Spirit in His dove-like-descending highlighting the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Even as He operates amazingly and supernaturally and mysteriously and miraculously, He is always pointing people to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered.

Jesus said that’s what would happen. In John 16, He said, “[The Spirit] will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

The Spirit is all about Jesus!

J.I. Packer calls this His Floodlight Ministry. He says, “I remember walking into a church one winter evening to preach on the words ‘he shall glorify me,’ seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is comign from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floolight shining on the Savior...[His message is] ‘Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him, and hear his word, go to him, and have life, get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace” [Keep in Step with the Spirit, pg. 66].

Some Christians have made the mistake of ignoring the Spirit.

Other Christians have made the mistake of focusing too much on the Spirit.

But He want us to be Christians, not Pneumians.

Not Holy Spiritists, but Christ-Followers.

The Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered, and So Should We Be.

The Spirit of God will be eternally happy if we are eternally focused on Jesus Christ!

It was right for Jesus to be baptized, to identify with you and me.

When He went to the Cross, He was identifying with us yet again.

He was taking our un-righteousness, and in the greatest exchange ever, He was giving us His perfect righteousness!

And to all who put their trust in Him and what He did on the Cross, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

And the Holy Spirit then continually shines His light on Christ in our lives so that He gets the glory forever.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Assurance Or Insurance?

Pastor Dan Ledford is preaching on assurance of salvation.

"When I came to Christ it wasn’t with much assurance – because I approached it as insurance, not assurance. I’ve told you the story about hearing and understanding the gospel in my 5th grade Sunday School class. And I asked one of the two teachers, “Do you need to trust in Jesus in order to go to heaven.” And she replied, “Well I believe you do, but the other teacher doesn’t.” That didn’t leave me with much assurance."

Read the whole thing.