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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Do We Serve Christ Publically?

Do we serve Christ in public ways?

If so, how do we do it that we don't attract attention to ourselves, but to Him?

John Piper lays out the two ditches to steer away from and highlights the middle way in between:

Acclaim for Christ vs. Craving Praise

Loving People More, Loving Jesus Most

On Sunday, as I was preaching about the Holy Spirit at work in the Body of Christ, I remembered this email from my good friend, and former MBI classmate, Tony Ross. I included it in the audio version of the message.

Tony is re-planting an EFCA Church in Brighton Colorado.

This is his most recent prayer-letter (posted with his permission)--what an encouragement (Acts 9:31)!
Dear Friends,

So many things have happened since our last update...it is hard to know where to begin. I guess the best place to start is where we last left off and to go forward from there. In January, we had isolated a key problem with what Grace Church had become...we had become a church that repelled people. With the clarity that often comes after a serious look within, we began to move forward addressing these problems:

Grace Church had become a place where people quit caring about each other.

The Grace Church building looked like a place where people quit caring.

The history of Grace Church left a trail of wounded people who remembered this as a place of pain instead of peace, memories of hurt instead of healing.

The solution was to quit being “Grace Church.” We made it our mission to love people more and to love Jesus most. Grace Church was a place where children had become unwelcome, but at our new church, Bridge Church, children were going to have fun and learn about God. Each person put their hand to the work, to help teach weekly children’s classes during the worship hour. As Bridge Church grew, people began to engage one another...week after week, we began to hang around after service, standing and talking with each other. God had worked in our hearts and we were starting to love people again.

Then we began to take a fresh look at the cold and unfriendly walls of the church building that God had given to us and we began to clean, to paint and to decorate in order to create a more warm and welcoming space. For several weeks, we tackled the task of transforming the old Grace Church building. Again, God began to work in incredible ways as the members of Bridge Church banded together, spending weekends and weeknights at the church—seeing vibrant, new life emerge out of the dust of the old.

Finally, on March 9th, Grace Church did, in its last moments of its life, what it had failed to do for years— it became a place of healing. We invited every former member we could find to a Reconciliation Sunday —a chance to make right the wrongs done in the past. Restoration bloomed as God brought together the hurting, the wounded and the outcasts in renewed communion. Grace Church’s last service was the largest, most glorious it had seen in years.

On Sunday, March 16th, Bridge Church was born. On March 23rd, while we celebrated resurrection, three children entered into a new relationship with Christ. On March 30th, yet another accepted the gift of salvation. On April 6th, we welcomed our new worship leader, Ben Zornes—a very talented and exciting young man who has been the answer to many months of prayers. On April 13th, yet another child was drawn into a relationship with Christ.

God has done marvelous things. He continues to draw new families to our church and to draw new children into His family. Please pray that God will continue what He has started in Bridge Church.

Loving people more,

Loving Jesus most!

Tony
If you'd like to know more about Bridge Church, or send a gift to encourage them in the work, you can find out more at their website: lovingpeoplemore.org.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ

“The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
April 27, 2008
1 Corinthians 12:13

Last Sunday, we talked about the Power of the Holy Spirit.

We said that you could sum up the person and work of the Holy Spirit with a three word phrase: God’s Empowering Presence.

We’ve seen His power all along in this series:

His power to bring us to Christ.
His power to assure us our relationship with God.
His power to guide us into truth.
His power to indwell our hearts and lives.
His power to produce His fruit in us.
And His power to make us witnesses for Jesus Christ.

God’s empowering presence.

Today, I want to talk about His empowering presence, not just in individuals’ lives, but in the life of the Church as a whole–the Body of Christ.

Because, this is also His ministry:

“The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ.”

The word “incorporate” doesn’t mean a business corporation here.

It means to take parts and bring them together into a body. “Corpus” is the Latin for “body.” We get the word “corpse” from it. Or the “marine corps” is the body of the marines. To “incorporate” means to “in-body” something. To include it, to join it, to involve it, to vitally connect it to the rest of the body.

And that is another vital ministry of the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ, the Church.

He doesn’t just come along and save us as individuals.

He also grabs us and incorporates us into something bigger than ourselves–the Body of Christ, the Church.

And one of the biblical words that points to this spiritual reality is the word: “baptism.”

Remember back in our first message on the Holy Spirit, we looked at Matthew chapter 3, when John the Baptist dunked Jesus in the water of the Jordan River?

And then the Holy Spirit came down like a dove and God the Father said how pleased He is with His Son?

That’s water baptism. But there is another kind of baptism, that John predicted just a few verses earlier. Turn there quickly with me. Matthew chapter 3. Starting at verse 11.

John the Baptist is describing his ministry and calling people to repentance. And he says this: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with [what?] the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

And then Jesus comes on the scene–and John baptizes Him.

And remember what we saw last week in Acts chapter 1? Turn back to that real quick. Verse 5. Acts 1:5.

The Lord Jesus was about to ascend to His Father. And what did He promise? V.5

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

And then, Pentecost happened!

We talked about it last week. The Spirit “blew in” like a tornado! And He “burnt in” like a purifying flame! The new era of the Spirit had begun!

The disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire and the church was born that day!

Now, this language of “baptism in the Holy Spirit” occurs again and again in the book of Acts. It happens again in chapter 8, chapter 10, and chapter 19.

In each of these occasions, a new group or class of people is being dramatically incorporated into the Body of Christ.

In chapter 8, it’s the Samaritans. Imagine those dirty Samaritans getting baptized by the Spirit like the Jews had in chapter 2! But they were! They were a part of the church, too!

In chapter 10, it was...the Gentiles! The uncircumcised heaven were believing the gospel and trusting Jesus Christ–and they too were baptized in the Spirit.

And then in chapter 19, it was folks who had only received the baptism of John, and hadn’t yet heard about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They, too, received the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit! They were included in the Body of Christ. Dramatically!

Now, what about you and me? Have we been baptized with the Holy Spirit?

Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?

Some people will try to tell you that you need to have another experience beyond becoming a believer in Jesus Christ called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” which only some Christians (higher level Christians) have experienced.

What does the Bible say?

Turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 13. This is actually our key text for today though we’ll still be jumping around some more.

Verse 13 catches the apostle Paul in the middle of an argument about spiritual gifts.

We’ll be handling those in a few weeks, but the force of the argument is that everybody’s contribution to ministry of the church is important–everybody’s!

And so, verse 13, Paul argues, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body– whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

How many people have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit (the word “by” in verse 12 could easily be translated “with” or “in.” It’s the same Greek word as in Matthew 3 and Acts 1 and so on.)?

How many? 1 Corinthians 12:13...

“...We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

Now, it may not have been flashy!
It may not have included rushing wind or flames of fire or speaking in other languages!
It might not have included a blinding light and being knocked off my donkey!

It was probably much more subtle for most of us.

But we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–the body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ.

Don’t let someone divide the church up into those who have had the experience of the Spirit and those who haven’t.

Those who live on a higher spiritual plain because they have had some mystical experience of the Spirit and those who haven’t.

The Holy Spirit incorporates all of us into the body of Christ.

And nowadays, He does it when we are converted and believe.

Now, when I say that the Holy Spirit does this, I want to emphasize that really Jesus does it!

He’s “Jesus the Baptist!”

John baptized with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Spirit.

As usual for the Spirit, this, too, spotlights the Lord Jesus Christ!

We are baptized in the Spirit, but this places us into the Body, and it’s not called the Body of the Spirit (even though it could be), but the Body of Christ!

Which is another biblical name for the church.

Now, I want us to think about this for a little bit. ...

This is big.

Our salvation, therefore, is corporate.

We are a part of something BIG.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We don’t get saved by joining the church. Impossible. Mistaken. Big problem if that’s your thinking.

We don’t get saved by joining the church.

But, when we are saved, the Spirit joins us to the Church!

We don’t lose our individuality or our individual relationship with God. The rest of this chapter talks about us as very individualized body parts, hands, eyes, feet, etc.

But, our individualities are FITTED to one another so that we are interconnected.

It makes us ONE. Notice that word ONE in our verse. V.13

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body– whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

E Pluribus Unum.

That’s not in your Bible. It’s actually on your dollar bill. It’s the motto on the Great Seal of the United States.

It’s Latin for: “Out of the Many, One.”

I don’t know how accurate that is about our country right now.

But I do know that that is an accurate description of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the Church!

We are all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, Democrat or Republican, man or woman, African or Australian or Asian or American–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Out of the Many, One.

I think that Christians in America have too overly individualized our relationship with God and missed the corporate dimensions of our faith.

There is a movement of Christ-followers with George Barna as their spokesman that are claiming that Christians don’t need the church any more.

That if it’s helpful to you, then great, but we don’t need it any more as an institution.

But Paul says that the Holy Spirit is incorporating us all into one body.

There is a very corporate dimension to our faith.

God lives in the church!

Remember a few weeks ago, we saw that God lives in believers?

And we are called temples of the Holy Spirit?

Well, Paul also says that the church together is a Temple of the Holy Spirit.

He says that in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, and also in Ephesians chapter 2.

Let me read to you Ephesians 2:21&22.

“In [Christ the cornerstone] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Together!

In some special way, the Holy Spirit lives in the church incorporated, not just individual believers’ lives.

The church is a “Holy Spirit Community!” And we are, by faith, a part of it.

Again, this is a ministry of the Holy Spirit, that we don’t always think of.

But it’s so important! We aren’t just Christian Lone Rangers, slogging it alone, just me and Jesus. We are in this together.

And we’re a part of something BIG!

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ.

Now, I want to give you 8 biblical applications of that truth this morning.

As we think about this spiritual reality, this corporate reality to our relationship with God, I came up with at least 8 applications for how this should change our thinking and our lives.

#1. BE BAPTIZED IN WATER TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR SPIRITUAL BAPTISM.

One scholar that I interacted with this week on this text, thinks that water baptism is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 12:13. And I think there’s something to that.

This being included, incorporated, identified with the Body of Christ, is one of the things that is being illustrated when we undergo Christian water baptism.

It’s not just our identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, it’s also our identification with the rest of God’s redeemed people.

I know that a number of you have not yet been baptized as believers in Jesus Christ.

And there are probably a number of reasons for that–some of them better than others.

But, as your pastor, it’s my job to try to help you to see that you are being disobedient if you don’t get baptized as a believer, because you are missing part of the corporate nature of your faith.

We have a baptism class forming right now, that’s going to be scheduled at a time convenient for each student.

Let me help you with your hang-ups about baptism. Because it’s an awesome picture of a spiritual reality.

Jesus said to do it!

And Paul says that it pictures our being placed into the Body of Christ.

#2. JOIN A LOCAL BODY OF CHRIST TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR MEMBERSHIP IN THE GLOBAL BODY OF CHRIST.

The Holy Spirit incorporates us into the Body of Christ. We are called to make that personal and local so that we join with a faithful local church to work out the implications of that corporate dimension to our faith.

We are going to have a membership seminar here this coming Saturday, and there’s still room to sign up.

I invite you to come and take part in the seminar. Bring your questions!

I know that many of you have some hang-ups that keep you from joining.

But I think that it is simply a matter of faithfulness to apply this teaching to ourselves personally and locally.

He joins us to the church globally, and we make that personal locally.

#3. LIVE IN HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERED COMMUNITY.

Yes, it’s possible to get baptized and join a church and miss the whole point!

We are incorporated into something bigger. And that should shape our lives.

Discipleship is a community project.

We need to get into each others’ lives and help each other to grow.

That’s one of the reasons why we have Link Groups at LEFC. Our Link Groups, at their best, aren’t just Bible Studies with information poured into our brains. If we wanted to do that, we could just read books or watch TV programs.

Our Link Groups are little tastes of biblical community. They all have a time for sharing, for finding out what’s going on in your life, maybe a time for confession, a time for building each other up.

They are for the purpose of “doing life together.”

They all include Bible and prayer, yes, but they go further, they go into biblical community.

Are you connected to other believers? Do they have access into your life?

We need each other.

Don’t drift away. Get deeper into relationship with other Christ-followers.

I love my Link Group. And not just because they come over to my house and help me build a chicken coop.

They also confront me when I sin, and they check on me to find out how I’m doing spiritually, and they pray for me and encourage me to persevere in the Christian life.

That’s from the Spirit!

He’s building us together into a temple where God dwells!

And we need to lean into biblical community like that.

#4. USE YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFT TO BUILD UP THE BODY OF CHRIST.

We’re going to talk about that more in a couple of weeks, but it’s Paul’s application here. We need each other to minister to each other. Every one of us!

#5. BE THANKFUL FOR AND FOLLOW THE LEADERS THAT GOD GIVES TO THE CHURCH.

In Acts chapter 20, Paul is giving instructions to the Elders of the Ephesian church before he headed off on a journey.

And he tells them (Acts 20:28), “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

For those of us who are leaders, that’s a sober reminder that the church belongs to God, bought with the blood of Jesus.

This is not “My Church.” It’s God’s church.

But it’s also a reminder that God, the Holy Spirit places overseers in the church–elders, both vocational elders like me and non-vocational elders like the rest of our board.

And because the Holy Spirit gives this leadership, we need to be thankful for them and follow them when our leaders are following Christ.

I have so much to be thankful for in this category. Last Sunday was 10 years since I came to candidate as the Pastor here at Lanse Free Church.

I still remember that several day visit–meeting many of you–though many here weren’t here then. I’m going to talk more about that in June, when we celebrate our 10 year anniversary of our ministry here.

In the last 10 years, you’ve done a lot of following of me and our elders, and I’m very thankful for that, and I look forward to leading you further, into the next 10 years.

I’m thankful that God doesn’t just place us in the Body, He gives the Body leadership so that we can move together where He wants us to go.

#6. KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE BODY.

I get this from Ephesians chapter 4, verses 3 through 6. Listen to it. You can turn there if you want to, it’s Pew Bible Page #1158. And it emphasizes that word “One” again.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

You see, the Holy Spirit incorporates us into the Body of Christ. And that makes us ONE. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t also have to work at keeping that unity going. We do.

We have to make efforts.

We have to forgive each other.
We have to not gossip.
We have to not lie.
We have to not talk about each other.
We have not bite and pick at one another.

We can’t live with critical spirits, always judging other Christians.

We have to love each other!

We’re going to live together for all eternity.

We better start now!

And when we do, they will know that we are Christians by our love.

#7. BE ENCOURAGED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT’S ACTIVITY IN THE CHURCH.

Turn to Acts chapter 9. I found this little passage as I was studying the Holy Spirit and the church, and I fell in love with it. It’s just one verse, verse 31.

After Paul was converted and sent off for ministry training this happened:

“Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

I would love for this verse to capture what the Holy Spirit does in our church and our churches in the next season of our life.

Strengthened.
Growing.
Living in the Fear of the Lord.

And ENCOURAGED by the Holy Spirit.

He’s at work!
He’s doing stuff!

This last week, I was really discouraged about church. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I spent a good part of the day just down about how little gospel growth we’ve experienced in recent days.

But as I was praying and planning, talking with Super Jeff Powell and with Heather, and then when I prayed with the little group of Prayer Warriors that meets on Wednesday night, God lifted my eyes and the Holy Spirit encouraged me and told me that He is at work and He is Mighty God. I need to trust Him.

Do you need encouraged today?

You aren’t alone. You are a part of something BIG.

The Body of Christ!

All because of the Holy Spirit!

...Unless you aren’t, of course.

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ when we [#8] PUT YOUR FAITH AND TRUST IN JESUS AND WHAT HE DID FOR US ON THE CROSS.

Until then, we’re alone. We’re a part of the world, cut off from the church.

You might come and sit here and sing the songs, maybe even give money or attend other ministries of the church.

But you don’t get joined to the other believers in a deep and vital connection until you’ve been joined to Christ.

Jesus talked about trusting Him in this way in John chapter 7.

It was the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

And Jesus stood up in front of a crowd and yelled out in a loud voice:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified [crucified and then resurrected!].”

If you are spiritually thirsty, Jesus invites you to drink from Him.

That’s another way of talking about believing Him.

It’s deciding that He is the most satisfying person or thing in all of the universe and turning from whatever else you are trusting to drink in Him.

And when you do, you get the Spirit.

And your thirst gets quenched! And quenched! And quenched!

Streams of living water will flow from within you!

And when you do, you get connected, joined, included, incorporated into the Body of Christ.

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body– whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free [OR YOU!]–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

And drink and drink. Forever.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

One Down - Depression: A Stubborn Darkness

Yesterday, I finished my first book for my CCEF classes--Depression: A Stubborn Darkness.

It was excellent! I have read at it before, but never read all the way through it.

The book is biblical counseling at its best: wise, loving, careful, multichromatic, friendly, accessible, Christ-centered, helpful, and nearly comprehensive.

Welch has an amazing ability to describe the experience of depression in evocative metaphors while studiously avoiding the temptation to determine "the" cause of someone's depression. Instead, he gets to the heart of things and carefully helps a depressed person respond in faith to what they are experiencing because of the grace of Christ.

Most helpfully, he places the experience of depression in the biblical category of suffering--and suffering has multiple causes and multiple purposes in our lives--all of which he explores.

Our family has wrestled with this stubborn darkness in many ways both personally and in our ministry, and this is definitely the wisest book out there on the subject. The brief chapter for family and friends is worth the price of the book itself--each chapter is worth reading on its own.

Actually, this would be a good read for anyone--depressed or not. Because in many ways, it is really a study in how we can respond in faith through the experience of suffering, in this case, the suffering of emotional deadness and pain. While not usually a very depressed person myself, I found this book to speak directly to my experience, as well.

For more:

An Written Interview on Dr. Welch's book A Stubborn Darkness

A Video Interview with Dr. Welch on Depression

One down--about 11 to go...

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Power of Confession

From the rich reading I'm doing for my upcoming classes:

"Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. . . . In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the heart. The sin must be brought into the light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged. All that is secret and hidden is made manifest. It is a hard struggle until the sin is openly admitted. But God breaks gates of brass and bars of iron. . . . The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder. Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pages 112-113.

[ala: RCO]

Happy Birthday to Me!

Next Sunday, I will officially be half of 70.

Today, I got my first birthday present: Come Weary Saints, the new worship CD from Sovereign Grace Music. It's all about God as our refuge and shelter in times of storm. I can't wait to get it playing!

Thank you, My Sweet, for this gift! I know its going to be good.

They are currently giving away a free song from this album.

Here's a video from Bob Kauflin about the genesis of this project:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Newsflash: Dan Ledford Reads a Book

Dan is on study leave this week, and he just finished reading D.A. Carson's Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor - The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.

Dan writes:
This book convicted me of some of my sin, and directed me to the only Lord who can save me from my sin. This book, by God's grace, will make me a better pastor, husband, father and person - most especially by making me content to be an ordinary pastor who serves an extraordinary God.
Read his full review.

I fully agree and recently wrote about Dr. Carson here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Box of Chickens!




Our poultry adventure has officially begun!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Great Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Preach

As a preacher, I have a number of things I value in preparation for a message, things that I always want to be "in there" such as an invitation to respond to the Gospel, an understanding of the context, a sense of "place," some driving passion, something that connects and engages the listener, applications for everyone present, etc.

Joe Thorn has posted a list of questions that he asks himself of each message that he writes. They are worth asking--and answering!

Join the Rebelution!

I just finished reading Alex & Brett Harris' big/little book Do Hard Things, and I'm already giving away copies to teenagers!

Excellent!

These two teenagers, founders of the website: therebelution.com are calling on their generation to rebel against low expectations and do hard things for God. I couldn't agree more.

I previously wrote about their website and message in November 2006.

John Piper preached an entire message this Sunday about youth and godliness (and mentioned the Harris twins' book, too).

Joel Belz wrote about it in the most recent issue of WORLD magazine: Beyond Bed Making.

The twins have a tour coming this Summer of conferences based on the theme of the book.

The book is rated #275 right now on Amazon! Praise God! May its tribe increase.

Examples of CCEF's Biblical Counseling Approach

I'm really enjoying the reading for the classes I'm enrolled to take in August.

In the most recent email newsletter from CCEF, they included articles by two of my professors which give a flavor for the substance of what we'll be studying:

Self Injury: When Pain Feels Good by Ed Welch (which is actually assigned reading for the class)

Help for the Caregiver by Michael Emlet

Sunday, April 20, 2008

You're Not Crazy

Ray Ortlund encourages us to persevere in faith even when everyone (including our own hearts) is telling us we're crazy.

He ends:
This life is short, but it matters forever. And we have wonderful promises in the Bible, every one of which will prove entirely and gloriously true, promises of his presence now and his reward forever, promises which can hang like plaques on the walls of our minds every time we turn around, telling us this truth: "You're not crazy. Go for it, baby. You're not crazy at all. You are so smart to trust Jesus, lean on Jesus, obey Jesus, look to Jesus, live for Jesus, rejoice by faith in Jesus, promote the cause of Jesus. He's a good boss to work for. He rewards well. You are so not crazy!"
Read the whole thing.

Family Acoustics

Dan Ledford on Ephesians 4:1-6.

Great story from the sermon:

One day a dad sat down with his son and explained with great pride that his grandfather was a preacher, his great-great grandfather was a preacher, and his great-great-great grandfather was a preacher. To which his son replied, “Wow! We sure come from a long line of grandfathers.”

Read the whole thing.

Matt's Messages "The Holy Spirit Empowers Us To Be Witnesses for Christ"

“The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to Be Witnesses for Christ”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
April 20, 2008
Acts 1:1-11

We’re back to our study of the Person and Ministries of the Holy Spirit of God.

Ever since the first Sunday in February, we’ve been learning about Who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in and through us.

We’ve learned that the Holy Spirit Is God, Worthy to Be Worshiped as God.

The Holy Spirit is a person, with Whom we are able to have a relationship, to fellowship with. He is not the Force from Star Wars. He is a person.

The Holy Spirit is Mysterious. We can’t completely understand Him, and we can’t control Him. He’s like the Wind!

And the Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered. His ministry is to spotlight the Lord Jesus Christ and His Crosswork.

He doesn’t point to Himself. He points to Jesus!

And we’ve also learned about five precious ministries that He has to us:

The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ. He convicts, He draws, He regenerates, He converts us. If there was no Holy Spirit, there would be no Christians!

And then, the Holy Spirit Assures Us Of Our Relationship with God. He assures us of our Ownership, of our Inheritance, and our Adoption as God’s children.

Do you know that you are God’s child? That’s the work of the Holy Spirit!

And then, He doesn’t leave us alone. He continues to guide us. The Holy Spirit Guides Us Into Truth. He wrote a Spirit Book, the Bible (the doctrine of inspiration), and He helps us to understand it (the doctrine we call illumination).

The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.

And He does these precious ministries from within. The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside of Us! He lives inside of us making us holy temples of His presence!

What a thought that is! God the Spirit lives inside of all genuine believers.

And there, He does His work of purifying us. He makes us holy.

The Holy Spirit Produces His Fruit In Us.

Holy love, holy joy, holy peace, holy patience, holy kindness, holy goodness, holy faithfulness, holy gentleness, holy self-control.

The Holy Spirit makes us holy by producing His holy fruit in us.

But that’s not all!

In fact, we’ve got a number of ministries left to go in our study. I have seven more messages planned for this series, and we I’m sure we could do a lot more.

Today, I want to talk about power.

This week, I read every verse in the Bible that has the word “spirit” in it. Holy Spirit, or whatever kind of spirit. Every verse in the Bible.

And I was struck as I did that a great many of the passages that talked about the Holy Spirit emphasized the power of the Spirit. The power.

One leading expert on the Bible’s teaching about the Holy Spirit summarizes His person and ministry in these three words: God’s Empowering Presence.

That’s who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in 3 words: God’s Empowering Presence.

Now, we’ve already had a couple of weeks on God’s Presence in the Holy Spirit, now I want to shift our emphasis to talking about His Power.

And specifically today: His Power to Help Us to Witness.

“THE HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERS US TO BE WITNESSES FOR CHRIST.”

That’s what Jesus promised right before He ascended into heaven.

Let’s read Acts chapter 1, the first 11 verses.

Doctor Luke writes, “In my former book, Theophilus [the Gospel According to Luke],I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. [The Holy Spirit!] For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. [But catch this!] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”

These are some of the very last words that Jesus shared with His followers before He left this Earth.

He talked with them about the Kingdom of God and the Spirit of God.

The Kingdom of God is the reign of the King. And when its fullness would come is not something that He’s told us. It’s bound up with the timing of His glorious return which is also not something He’s told us.

But He did promise them something about the Spirit of God.

He promised them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

We’re going to talk about that more next week.

And He promised them that when they are baptized with the Holy Spirit, they would receive POWER from the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 (a very familiar passage).

“[Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Power.

Acts 1:8 was the theme verse for last weekend’s Allegheny District Conference of our EFCA family of churches.

And we were reminded of the awesome power of the Holy Spirit working within believers to reach our communities, regions, and world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to be Witnesses for Christ.

In the last chapter of Luke’s first book, he quotes Jesus as saying “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

That’s quite an expression, isn’t it?! “Clothed with power.”

Jesus was promising that the disciples would receive a fresh endowment of potent mightiness that would enable them to be His witnesses in their capital city, their region, the suburbs, and the rest of the whole wide world!

Power!

The Holy Spirit is God’s Empowering Presence.

Empowering His Disciples to be Witnesses for Jesus Christ.

And that’s exactly what happened. If you read chapter 2, you discover what happened on the day of Pentecost.

The disciples were all together in one place and the Holy Spirit showed up like He’d never showed up before!

He blew in!

There was a sound like the blowing of a violent wind from heaven that filled the whole house where they were sitting.

And He burned in.

“They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (languages) as the Holy Spirit enabled them.”

And boy, did He enable them!

They whole city was full of people from every nation.

And the disciples ran out into the streets and began sharing about Jesus–and everyone heard the good news in their own languages!

And Peter got up, empowered by the Spirit, and he preached the Gospel!

And the Holy Spirit started to work, and He drew 3,000 people into the church right there, right then!

And lives were changed! Just read Acts chapter 2.

The Spirit came just like Jesus said and did just what Jesus said He would do.

He empowered the disciples to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

In Jerusalem.

But also in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

That’s like the table of contents for the book of Acts. That’s exactly what happens as the Spirit does His work in the church. The church expands and explores and evangelizes from the inside of Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the planet.

And He’s still doing it!

The same promised Holy Spirit is still empowering us to be Christ’s witnesses today.

Do you realize that you are a fulfillment of Acts 1:8?

Often, we like to use Acts 1:8 as a map for our evangelism. How are we doing at reaching our Jerusalem (our hometown), our Judea (our region), our Samaria (those we’d rather not touch), and our ends of the earth (global missions).

And that’s a helpful diagnostic question to use this verse metaphorically.

But Acts 1:8 wasn’t meant to be taken metaphorically by the disciples. This was the real Jerusalem, the real Judea and Samaria, and the real ends of the earth.

Where do you live on that map?

We live on the ends of the Earth!

Lanse wasn’t on the map!

The disciples didn’t even know about our continent when Jesus gave this promise and command!

But the Holy Spirit did! And He empowered disciples to bring the gospel to our land.

He’s still doing it today!

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to be Witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Now, what does that power look like?

What is bound up in that word: “power” that is available to us today?

I can think of at least 4 things.

#1. BOLDNESS.

The power of the Holy Spirit transformed Peter and the other disciples from scared-ey-cats huddled up in locked rooms into courageous evangelists that boldly shared the truth of His death and resurrection with thousands of people in a hostile environment!

Boldness.

Are you scared to share the gospel with other people?

I am, and I’m a pastor!

You know, I’ve been doing this meals on wheels thing for about half a year now. And one of the reasons I started it was to get me out in the community rubbing shoulders with lost people so that I could share Jesus with them.

It seemed to me that I could start some Jesus conversations with people as I smilingly delivered them a hot meal.

How many conversations like that do you think I’ve had?

I’ve had a few. But not very many.

A number of times, I’ve felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to say something and try to steer a brief discussion in a Christ-conversation direction.

But most of those times, I’ve chickened out.

I was reminded of that as I prepared this message. The Holy Spirit lives inside of me.

And that means that He will give me, as I yield to Him, the POWER to be bold.

The courage to say something.

Do you know, after you get started, it normally gets a lot easier?

Phil Alessi was here last weekend, and I listened to his message on CD. Lots of stories there, weren’t there, of his being used by God to start spiritual conversations?

Do you think he’s always been that good and wading in and talking with folks?

He might have a gift for it. But my guess is that it comes from yielding time and time again to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to make Him bold for Christ.

Power for boldness!

Even power to die for Christ. Remember that the same Peter who got up on Pentecost and led 3,000 people to Christ all at once, died hung upside down as a martyr for Christ.

The word translated “witness” in verse 8 is “martures” from which we get the word “martyr.”

It takes power to die for Christ. And the Holy Spirit is ready to give it to us!

#2. LOVE.

This power, I think, looks like love. Love for the lost.

The Holy Spirit transforms unloving people into people who not only love God but love those who don’t yet love God themselves.

He gives us to power to love the lost.

To love our enemies. To love God’s enemies!

The primary election is Tuesday, and if you’re a registered party voter, I encourage you to exercise your right and responsibility to go vote.

I’ve noticed something about the candidates. They don’t seem to love each other!

And Democrats don’t love Republicans. And Republicans don’t love Democrats.

And Independents (like myself) don’t love either of them and vice versa!

But that’s not true of Spirit-indwelt Christians.

We don’t hate our enemies. We love them. And we desire for them to come to believe in Jesus, too.

The folks in Judea didn’t like the folks in Samaria.

They would cross the road if they saw them coming!

But Jesus sent them with the gospel to Samaria.

And He gave them the powerful love to do it!

The folks in Jerusalem didn’t like the people at the ends of the earth.

They weren’t circumcised, they ate meat with blood in it, and pork sandwiches! They didn’t speak Hebrew and many of them had oppressed them!

But Jesus sent them to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

And He gave them the powerful love to do it!

Is there someone, a lost person, in your life that you are struggling to love?

The Holy Spirit will give you the power to love them!

Remember this fishbowl?

We started praying back in August for folks whose names were in here to come to Christ by Resurrection Sunday.

And that exercise is now over, but does that mean that we can just stop praying for and loving those folks?

“Well, God didn’t save them by Easter, so I’m done!”

Paul says that the love of Christ compels us to be ambassadors for Him.

The Holy Spirit will empower us to love the lost.

#3. WORDS.

This power comes in the form of words.

Witnessing is something that takes words to do.

You can’t be an effective witness unless you use words.

Sometimes we like to use the phrase from Francis of Assisi:

“Preach the Gospel Always, Use Words When Necessary”

And there’s some truth to that, in that our actions speak just as loud or even louder as our words in authenticating the message.

But the words are essential.

If the wind had come and the flames of fire had come and the disciples rushed out on the street and then they didn’t talk about Jesus, those 3,000 people would have stayed lost!

Someone had to share the gospel. And part of the power of the Holy Spirit is giving the words to the witnesses to speak to the lost.

Jesus promised his disciples that this would happen.

He said in Luke chapter 12, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t prepare. The Holy Spirit often gives me my words to speak to you on Saturdays when I’m in my study. And they are precious gifts then.

But it does mean, “Don’t worry!” The Spirit will give words, especially if we are being bold to share the gospel.

On Pentecost, He gave them words in languages they had never learned! (At least, that’s how the people heard it!)

I think that the Holy Spirit can give you and me words in our own language to share with those around us who need to hear about Jesus.

Charlene Ball was in the hospital this week, and she had opportunity 3 times to talk about the Lord–and she did.

God gave her words.

We need to bake cookies for the gospel! Just like Phil Alessi said last week. “Bake to Make Disciples of All Nations.”

But we also need to use words. And the Spirit will give them to us.

A number of ladies came to the church last weekend and created “Outreach Prayer Cards” that are in the table in the foyer.

They are for us to grab and write a note to someone that we are praying for and send it to them.

Often, we pray for people here in the service who aren’t here physically. Many of whom we never see. This is a new ministry that we can use to grab a card and send a note to someone who is outside of our church.

Who knows, maybe the Lord will use those words to bring that person to Christ?

#4. HOLINESS.

Power for Boldness.
Power for Love.
Power for Words.
And Power for Holiness.

We’re back to the Holy Spirit makes us Holy, aren’t we?

Because there needs to be a fundamental connection between our TALK and our WALK, right?

If we are going to have the power to witness with words, our lives must witness, as well, with holiness.

One passage that I won’t get to preach during this series is 2 Corinthians chapters 2 through 4, which talks about how the Holy Spirit enables the New Covenant ministry.

The New Covenant, enacted by the blood of Christ, is a covenant that is more powerful than the Old Law Covenant. And it is administered by the Spirit who gives life–it’s more glorious!

2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is [that’s our lives!] there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory [remember Moses? This is even better!], are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Isn’t that awesome?

The Holy Spirit transforms us into holy people by His POWER.

And that authenticates the message of the gospel and makes us effective witnesses.

The power for Boldness.
The power for Love.
The Power for Words.
The Power for Holiness.

The Holy Spirit EMPOWERS Us to Be Witnesses for Christ.

You know what the application of this is, don’t you?

Be witnesses for Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit!

As we leave this place today, we need to go out of here ready to reach our community, our neighbors, our family, our friends, our enemies[!], our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the Earth with the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Holy, boldly, lovingly, verbally–in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Let the Fun Begin!

Exciting news! I've been accepted at CCEF's School of Biblical Counseling to take 2 intensive Doctor of Ministry Modules (which actually includes 4 classes: Counseling in the Local Church, Marriage Counseling, Counseling and Physiology, and Counseling Problems and Procedures. I get to sit under Tim Lane (CCEF's new director), Winston Smith, Michael Emlet, and Ed Welch! I can hardly wait.

And I don't have to wait to get started. The box of books has arrived, and I've already got to jump in. For a book devourer, this is delectable!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We're 3 Now!

This little blog turned 3 years old yesterday. My prayer for it is that wise and gracious words full of truth and faith will predominate (as well as some good old happy fun) and that those who read it will be encouraged, challenged, edified, inspired, provoked, poked, prodded, pointed, and blessed.

Thank you, faithful readers (both of you), for "listening" and sometimes chiming in. I'm looking forward to the next 3 years of promoting heat and light, truth and passion--hot orthodoxy.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

How to Pick a Preacher

Church shopping?

Joe Carter presents an outrageous list of things things to consider in How to Pick a Preacher.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, and Godliness

I just finished listening to a very good parent/teen talk by Pastor Kenneth Maresco on the social-networking phenomenon [.mp3 file]. Maresco presents good and godly wisdom for navigating the new waters. Highly recommended, especially to parents of teens.

[HT: Josh Harris]

A New Strategy?

This new book, Flirt to Convert, (hint: the book/site is an elaborate April Fool's joke) pursues a new strategy for both dating and evangelism--do them together!

[HT: Josh Harris, whose books suggest a very different strategy that is no joke.]

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Monday, April 07, 2008

Barn Raising (Part 2)



It's getting there! On Saturday, we got the entire thing sided and all of the doors on. My Proverbs 31 lady tells me that she could put the chickens in there if needed!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Matt's Messages "The Holy Spirit Produces His Fruit In Us"

“The Holy Spirit Produces His Fruit In Us”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
April 6, 2008
Galatians 5:16-26

We are continuing in our series on the biblical teaching about the person and ministries of Holy Spirit.

We’ve learned that the Holy Spirit is God, the Holy Spirit is a Person, the Holy Spirit is Mysterious, and the Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered.

And we’ve also learned that the Holy Spirit is incredibly important to us–even though His ministries often go unnoticed. The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ, the Holy Spirit Assures Us of Our Relationship with God, the Holy Spirit Guides Us Into Truth, and (last week) the Holy Spirit Dwells Inside Of Us. And we’re just getting started!

Last week, as we learned about His indwelling presence, I noted especially that this truth makes us holy.

Because we have the Holy Spirit within us, we are holy, and we are being made holy.

And I said that we are going to talk more about that truth in the these next few weeks.

So that’s what I want to do this morning. And I think that a key passage for understanding how the Spirit makes us holy is Galatians 5:16-26.

And I want to summarize it with this sentence:

THE HOLY SPIRIT PRODUCES HIS FRUIT IN US.

Let’s read Galatians 5:16-26. Now, I hate jumping in at the end of a book, but it would take too long to read the whole context.

Let me just say that Paul has been strongly confronting the Galatian church for thinking about submitting again to the Old Covenant Law as their path to holiness and requiring submission to the Old Covenant Law and its physical marker of circumcision as a requirement for entrance into the Christian church.

Paul has said that that would amount to another gospel, a false gospel that would not save and that must be opposed in the strongest way possible.

And then He has defended the gospel of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.

And He has also said that this true gospel leads to freedom, freedom from sin and from the law–and freedom (not to do whatever you feel like but freedom) to love. The church there apparently was struggling to demonstrate love among the members. They were fighting with each other.

And one of the key things that Paul has said is that when they believed the Gospel, they received the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:2).

Now, he’s going to say that they need to live by the Holy Spirit and allow Him to produce His fruit in them.

Now, there’s a lot here, but I want to boil it right down into three things I want you to see about the Holy Spirit.

His Fight, His Fruit, And His Fellowship.

Let’s take those one at a time.

The first is HIS FIGHT.

There is a war.

There is a war going on between the flesh (NIV translates it “sinful nature”) and the Holy Spirit.

And it’s a war that rages across your heart. Let’s read verses 16-18 again and notice the fighting words:

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

Here’s the truth: There is a war going on between the sinful nature and the Spirit. And this war rages across the hearts of Christians.

Now, we we’re getting to know Who the Holy Spirit is. Who is the “sinful nature?” Or if you have the King James Version, “The flesh.”

The sinful nature is the Old You. It’s your old way of life. Pre-Christian. What’s left-over of your old sinful self now that you have become a believer in Jesus Christ.

You see, believers are simul justus et peccator, right? Simultaneously righteous and sinner. We are declared righteous in Christ and given a new heart when we came to faith, but our new hearts are not yet perfected and sin still dwells within us.

Yes! The Holy Spirit dwells within us, and yet, so does sin!

Let me ask you a question...

How do you think the Holy Spirit feels about living in the same residence as the Sinful Nature?

Do they want the same things? V.17

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

So what do we have? We have a fight going on.

The Spirit and the Sinful Nature (v.17), “are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

Now, we all feel this, don’t we?

Don’t you often feel like there is a battle going on inside of you?

I want to be holy, but I don’t want to be holy. Right?
I want to be pure, but I don’t want to be pure.
I want to speak the truth, but I also want to tell little white lies.
I want to be a man of peace, but I also want to fight.
I want to be content, but I also want to be gluttonous.

You know how that feels, don’t you?

Well, I have two pieces of good news for you.

Number One. Praise the Lord! It’s a good thing that there is a war inside of you. Because it’s HIS War! If there was no battle, then you might have to wonder if you had the Holy Spirit inside of you!

You know, I’m not very worried about folks who come to me and confess terrible struggles with sin and the battle that they feel all the time to gain some victory.

I’m much more worried about people I see who have just given in to sin and aren’t struggling with it very much. Or who aren’t even aware of their indwelling sin because they don’t yet have the Spirit within to start the warfare!

So, praise the Lord for the war within!

And secondly, Praise the Lord! The victory is sure! Because this is His Fight, we know how it’s going to ultimately turn out.

Whose going to win the “cage-match” of your Soul? The Sinful Nature or the Holy Spirit?

Not “what does it feel like some times!”

Even the Apostle Paul felt sometimes like the Flesh was going to win (read Romans 7 some time!).

But Who do you really think is ultimately going to win?

My money is on the Spirit. Any fight that He seriously takes up is NO CONTEST.

That’s why Paul says to live by Him. V.16 again.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you WILL NOT (guaranteed) gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

And verse 18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” I think that means that you are now past the Old Covenant Law. If the Spirit is at work in you, then you don’t need that Old Covenant Law, you have something more powerful at work inside of you doing battle with the flesh and Who will win!

And what does His “winning” look like? He wins piece by piece by taking ground in your heart and life. What does that look like?

It looks like HIS FRUIT. V.19

“The acts of the sinful nature [the deeds that the sinful nature produces] are obvious [obviously sinful, that is]: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

As usual, Paul starts with the bad news.

If you live like verses 19-21, then you can have no assurance that you are going to inherit the kingdom of God.

Why? Because these things come out of the sinful nature and are signs that the sinful nature is all that there is to know about you: sexual immorality (which is sex outside of the covenant of marriage), impurity (not being pure) and debauchery (which is giving yourself fully over to your unholy sexual passions); idolatry and witchcraft (both of those are false worship–of other gods); hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy (those are all relational-type sins); drunkenness, orgies, and the like (which opens these categories up for expansion as we think up new ways to sin and new levels to take sin to).

If that’s what characterizes your life, then it’s pretty obvious what you are living from: the flesh, the sinful nature.

And Paul warns us that if that describes us, then we aren’t headed to heaven.

But that’s not what He expects of believers! He expects believers to live by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and produce the fruit of the Spirit. V.22, Famous words.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

My parents have a plaque with these two verses hanging in their kitchen.

When I was growing up on the farm, it hung over the stair steps. I used to just sit on the landing and read that plaque over and over again and commit it to memory.

I didn’t know then that it was in the Bible! But I knew that it was good.

That’s a great list isn’t it?

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Who wouldn’t want those 9 virtues to describe them?

What Paul is saying is that these character qualities are produced by the Holy Spirit when He comes to live inside of us.

This is HIS FRUIT.

“The fruit of the Spirit is...” these things.

Fruit is the product of some process, organically-tied to its source.

Apples are the product of apple-making trees.
Oranges are the product of orange-making trees.
Acorns are the product of acorn-making trees called oaks.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (and other such things) are the product of a Holy Spirit-making process in our hearts.

They are HIS FRUIT.

The Holy Spirit Produces His Fruit In Us.

His love, His joy, His peace, His patience (oh how I need that!), His kindness, His goodness, His faithfulness, His gentleness, His self-control worked into me.

The Holy Spirit Produces His Fruit In Us.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have any part in it. It’s not just automatic.

But this fruit doesn’t come from our own self-effort and independent hard work, either.

This is HIS WORK in us.

And our job is simply to repent, trust, and cooperate as He produces it in us.

I’ve made the mistake before of trying to make Galatians 5:22&23 a checklist of character items that I need to achieve.

Of course, I want these verses to be true of me!

They are a beautiful list of character traits that are exemplified by the person of Jesus Christ!

But I can’t just walk up to them and achieve them by myself or with a little help from my friends and then check them off of my list.

Love. Check.
Joy. Check.
Peace. Check.
Patience...Patience...Patience...

No, I need the Holy Spirit to create these things in me as I yield to Him.

And when He does, then I increasingly begin to look like Jesus–this is another way that the Holy Spirit spotlights the Lord Jesus Christ.

As He produces His fruit in us, we are increasingly restored to the image of Christ.

And that means that we are increasingly...holy.

This is what holiness is. These 9 things are holiness lived out in someone’s life.

Sometimes, we think that holiness is NOT doing certain things.

“I don’t smoke. I don’t chew. I don’t go with girls that do.”

And forsaking unholy things is a part of holiness. It’s saying NO to verses 19, 20, and 21.

But it’s so much more than that!

Holiness is being a loving person. Putting someone’s needs ahead of your own. I’ve seen that holiness at work in the last few weeks. We’ve been building a chicken-coop. And I’m in waaay over my head. I thought it would take a full day and half with a good crew to get it done. We’ve now put in 2 full days, and the end isn’t yet in sight!

But I’ve had some wonderful friends come over to our house and sacrifice their hard-earned Saturdays in loving our family. And that’s holy!

Holiness is being a joyful person. Someone who is filled with a happiness that isn’t tied to their circumstances and how things are going in their life. I have a buddy who has been going through a hard time in the last year, but his just exudes joy, and it’s a joy to see. It’s holy joy!

Holiness is being a peaceful person. Someone who isn’t ruffled by the difficulties of life. Not that they ignore them, but their boat isn’t upset by the wind and waves of adversity. They have peace with God, and they are peaceable with others, and they are at peace in themself. That’s holy!

Holiness is having patience. The King James Version translates this “longsuffering.” What a great description. That’s putting up with someone or something for a long time–longsuffering without complaining.

When you or I see that in another believer–we’re seeing holiness. His fruit!

Holiness is kindness. Being a person who finds something good to say to someone that will build them up and not tear them down–even when it’s hard to do. There are some really kind people in this church–and it’s holy!

Holiness is goodness. Wholesomeness, moral beauty on the inside where it really counts. It’s holy.

Holiness is faithfulness. Sticking to promises. That’s holy!

Holiness is gentleness or meekness. Strength under control. Strength used for someone else’s good instead of to overpower them. Power with the power to caress. That’s holy! And it comes from the Holy Spirit.

Holiness is self-control. Being a person who has himself or herself under command. And that’s holiness!

This is what holiness looks like! And it is His fruit.

The Holy Spirit makes us holy, and He does it from the inside out.

Now, again, what’s our part?

Simple repentance, faith, and fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

#3. HIS FELLOWSHIP.

And by that, I mean that as we turn, trust, and yield to Him, we will experience more and more fellowship with Him, becoming more and more like He wants us to be.

Look at verse 24.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

This is a description of all Real Christians, all true believers in Jesus Christ.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

This is another way of talking about repentance. When we became Christians, we were crucified, right?

When Jesus died, we died, right?

Well, at the same time, our sinful nature was crucified. We crucified it. We nailed it to the tree. We repented. We turned from being that person that didn’t have the Spirit, and lived for our own desires, and turned to trust in Christ and what He did on Cross for us and to His passions and His desires for us.

And that dealt a death-blow to the sinful nature.

Now, we just read that the sinful nature is still around. The death-blow was decisive, but its still staggering around trying to control things.

The sinful nature is no longer in charge. It’s dead in a legal sense.

I’ve heard it said that the flesh “is no longer president even though it’s resident.”

It’s a “squatter” now with no legal right. Its fight is an insurgency.

And it’s doomed to lose because it’s been crucified–at the Cross.

And there is also a daily killing that needs to happen, as well.

Daily, hourly, we “mortify” the flesh, killing it off with its passions and desires, remembering that it is ultimately crucified.

And we do that, by (v.25) “living by the Spirit” “keeping in step with the Spirit.” v.25.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

What this is talking about is a relationship. It’s allowing ourselves to be guided, led, and in step with the Holy Spirit.

This isn’t that strange and mysterious. It’s basically just turning away from sin (in righteous choices in the face of temptation and confession when necessary after giving in), and trusting in the promises of God, and living in fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit.

It’s leaning upon Him and leaning into what He is doing in our lives.

And as we do that, He produces His fruit in us.

Let’s make this personal:

What is coming out of your life?

Do you look more like verses 19-21 or verses 22&23?

When I read verses 19-21, I don’t immediately see myself there. I think of “bad people,” and I don’t automatically put myself in those categories. But I can see how I have been there, and how I haven’t completely escaped those verses yet.

But when I read verses 22&23, I don’t immediately say, “Yeah, that’s me!”

I’m the “poster child for the fruit of the Spirit!”

No, I say, “That’s Jesus! I wish it was me!”

My prayer is that verses 22 and 23 would increasingly be an accurate description of me, so that His fruit is what is evident in my life. So that I am more holy!

And it’s my prayer that it is increasingly an accurate description of all of us, as well.

And I believe it will be. Because it’s not, ultimately, up to us.

This is His fight, His fruit, and His fellowship.

We just get to enjoy it!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Friday, April 04, 2008

Trust God and Get Going!

"Passivity, which quietists think liberates the Spirit, actually resists and quenches him. Souls that cultivate passivity do not thrive, but waste away. The Christian's motto should not be "Let go and let God" but "Trust God and get going!" So if, for instance, you are fighting a bad habit, work out before God a strategy for ensuring that you will not fall victim to it again, ask him to bless your plan, and go out in his strength, ready to say no next time the temptation comes."

J.I. Packer, Showing the Spirit, pg. 157

Holiness Is

"Holiness...is the fruit of the Spirit, displayed as the Christian walks by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 22, 25). Holiness is consecrated closeness to God. Holiness is in essence obeying God, living to God and for God, imitating God, keeping his law, taking his side against sin, doing righteousness, performing good works, following Christ's teaching and example, worshiping God in the Spirit, loving and serving God and men out of reverence for Christ.

In relation to God, holiness takes the form of a single-minded passion to please by love and loyalty, devotion and praise. In relation to sin, it takes the form of a resistance movement, a discipline of not gratifying the desires of the flesh, but of putting to death the deeds of the body (Galatians 5:16, Romans 8:13).

Holiness is, in a word, God-taught, Spirit wrought Christlikeness, the sum and substance of committed discipleship, the demonstration of faith working by love, the responsive righteousness of supernatural life from the hearts of those who are born again."

-J.I. Packer, Showing the Spirit, pgs 96-97

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Church Discipline = Blessing?

Ken Sande says, "Absolutely!"

I am so thankful for Sande and the Peacemaker Ministries he leads. They have shown us how church discipline is good, loving, and peace-loving wisdom.

I preached on this truth in the Fall of 2005: The Search and Rescue Church.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Why Would a Pastor Blog?

Abraham Piper has suggested at least 6 reasons. I concur.

I've really been enjoying Abraham Piper recently. He has started a personal blog, called 22 Words, in which he attempts to say what's on his mind in 22 words or less (not including titles). Edifying and enjoyable stuff.

A recent example was this one the parable of the prodigal son:

Title: We were all either the prodigal or his older brother. (And some of us have managed both.)

Post: I generally prefer the prodigal to his sibling.

Apparently, a slovenly lech is more likable than a character that strikingly resembles me.