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Friday, May 30, 2008

The Center of the Story

"And here's the marvelous thing: we enter the center of the story without becoming the center of the story."

[Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology, pg. 199]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Everyone Should Read and Heed This

Byron Harvey is concluding his series on relationships with two messages about Genuine Peace:

Genuine Peace: Part One
Genuine Peace: Part Two

If all Christians (me included) followed the Bible's prescriptions for relationships, imagine what impact we could have for Christ in our conflict-soaked culture.

And what personal joy would result!

[P.S. Byron loves it when I link to his sermons. It really drives up the web-traffic (wink, wink). Go ahead and click over there. It makes the poor guy feel good...]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How We Got Here: AD Church Planting

Jim Culbertson, EFCA Allegheny District Church Planting Director, shares the history of church multiplication in our region.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Running Scared (Again)

Things are humming along for my CCEF classes; I just haven't found the time to post about it.

Since I last posted about my progress (and my procrastination), I've completed reading 2 books and almost completed 2 papers!

The books:

Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest

and

Where Is the Mango Princess: A Journey Back from Brain Injury.

Running Scared is one of the best books I've read in the last year. Dr. Welch shines a biblical light on anxiety, fear, stress, and worry. He uses the biblical theme of "Kingdom allegiances" as the key to understanding the worst parts of fear.

Like the other Welch books I've read for this class, Depression & Addictions, he does a masterful job of showing how these problems are present for all of us and how the Bible understands and addresses them. It's very winsome, descriptive, and experientially rich.

Unlike the other two books, however, Dr. Welch considers himself an expert on this one from the inside. He calls himself a "fear specialist." Not clinically--experientially. So he writes as a fellow sufferer (criminal?) to fellow sufferers (partners in crime?).

Admission: I am a fear specialist, as well.

Even though I've just finished reading it for the second time this year, I recognize my need to read it again and apply the scripturally rich counsel it offers to my fearful tendencies (It is about 30 chapters, that easily could make daily doses for a month). Heather has agreed to read it with me next time--both to understand me better and to hold me accountable for further growth.

Here is a video (from Vinegar Hill Productions for a sermon series by Joshua Harris on the Psalms) that, I think, captures the feel of the problems in the book:



Where Is the Mango Princess? is a totally different book. It is a memoir of sorts, by a humor writer about her husband's slow recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This is for the part of my class that deals with the interplay between psychiatry and biblical counseling. We are exploring the body/soul relationship with a focus on the brain.

The book is painful to read because of the trauma of the injury both to the individual and his family--they will never be the same.

It's also very funny (though unfortunately crude enough at times that I cannot recommend that anyone read it) and hard to put down. It was also sad, because none of the people in the book are Christ-followers. Reading about their lives (and their intepretations of their lives) would have been sad even if there wasn't a closed-head injury that was taking them through the valley of the shadow of death.

My forthcoming paper on the book will focus on the pastoral/theological issues that arise from ministering to a TBI patient.

Soon, I'll post some excerpts from the papers I'm working on.

Mitchell Poetry

We've been learning about poetry. Here's our most recent attempts at being poets ourselves (we've gotten the repetition thing down):


Robin Joy Mitchell:

The Zoo

The zoo is fun!
The zoo is fun!
The zoo is fun!
Come with me to the zoo.
Come with me to the zoo.

The end.


Andrew Charles Mitchell:

Horses

Horses, horses all around
They like to be ridden
And they have horseshoes.

I like to watch them and
I like to watch them and
the babies are cute.


Matthew Charles Mitchell:

Mud

A muddy thing
Is a child in Spring

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Studying Spiritual Gifts

In preparing for the last two messages on spiritual gifts [One, Two], I've done a LOT of reading and wrestling. Here are some helpful resources (certainly not everything I would recommend reading, but some of the most helpful and accessible items):

Web-Based Articles:

Using Our Gifts in Proportion to Our Faith, Part 1.
John Piper wrestles with the different interpretations/definitions of the gift of prophecy.

When Will Prophecy Cease?
John Piper addresses this difficult question.

Are Signs and Wonders for Today?
A series of messages by John Piper that is careful and exegetical and yet answers "Yes."

Why the Gift of Prophecy Is Not the Usual Way of Knowing God's Will
A helpful reminder that even if prophecy exists, it's not the main way that we know what God wants--wisdom is.

Modern Spiritual Gifts As Analogous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinatry Works of the Spirit Within Cessationist Theology
Vern Poythress lays out a gracious paradigm for unity across the divide between cessationists and continuationists. This helped me to get over some of my struggles.

The Nature of Corinthian Glossolalia: Possible Options by Vern Poythress
Graciously but carefully dealing with the various options.

Also see: C.J. Mahaney's Recommended Reading List on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
C.J. and his fellow Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors believe in the sufficiency and ultimate authority of Scripture and the continuation of the miraculous gifts. They have come up with a very careful practice of encouraging the gifts following Paul's rules.

Most Helpful Books:

Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 by D.A. Carson
I've read this book 3 times and each time learned more than the last. I basically follow Carson's exegesis in my exposition of these passages. Very wise.

Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, especially pgs. 1016-1090.
Dr. Grudem has thought about these things very carefully and yet writes in a way that anyone can read. Good summary.

The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today by Wayne Grudem
This is the fullest explanation of the view of prophecy that I take. Almost comprehensive and deals with objections and problems. Wise.

Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Edited by Wayne Grudem
An excellent collection of essays from 4 different views (Cessationist, Open But Cautious, Third-Wave, and Classic Pentecostal). I would characterize myself as trying to be "Obediently Pursuing But Cautious."

Charismatic Chaos
John MacArthur tackles the excesses of the Charismatic movement. We don't agree on every point, but he has done the church a service by showing where this movement has gone off the rails.

For the best defense of cessationism, I recommend To Be Continued? by Sam Waldron. He presents a cascade argument that goes from the cessation of apostle to the cessation of all miraculous gifts. Ultimately, I was not persuaded (however much I wanted to be!), but it is well done and good for food for thought.

Marks of a Mature Church

Jack Brooks with 3 Marks of a Mature Church from Romans 15.

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ [Part Two]

“The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ {Part Two}”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
May 25, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:1-14:40

We’re almost at the end of our study on the Holy Spirit. Lord-willing, next week will be the very last message on The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Last week, we began learning about spiritual gifts.

“The Holy Spirit Gives Gifts to Us to Cooperate as the Body of Christ.” Last week, was “Part One.”

We learned a LOT about these gifts. Probably still too much to digest in just one message.

We learned that God doesn’t want us to be ignorant about spiritual gifts.

That “A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.”

And that our gifts do not determine our godliness!

We learned that there are different gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit.

Each believer gets the manifestation of the Spirit.
The gifts are for building the body of Christ so that we cooperate together.
Some are more miraculous than others.
And the Spirit decides who gets what gift.

We also learned that the body of Christ needs all of its parts to cooperate.

We are a body.

We’re not allowed to be proud of our gift over someone else’s.
Or to be envious of someone else’s gift.
We’ve got to see that we all need each other.

Because the Spirit doesn’t give all of the gifts to the pastor.
He gives all of the gifts to the Body.
And we all need each other.

We were encouraged to find out what our gift(s) are and use them in ministry.

And the key to the healthy operation of gifts within the Body is Christ-like love which we saw in the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13.

That’s where we’re going to start this morning, and then we’re going to go all the way through chapter 14.

This week is part #2.

“The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ. {Part Two.}”

Chapters 13 and 14 are closely linked with what we saw in chapter 12. They are about these spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit that are used to build the Body of Christ.

Now if you remember, the Corinthians were all messed up about spiritual gifts. It’s not that they didn’t have them. They did, in spades! But they didn’t understand what they were for or how they were supposed to be operating. And they had attached WAY TOO MUCH significance to some of the gifts, especially the gift of languages (tongues).

And Paul has been trying to fix their mental messes about gifts. But he’s still got some work to do.

And as he provides correction to the Corinthians, he’s providing instruction to us.

Paul answers at least 3 important questions about these gifts that I think we would do well to absorb:

When Will These Gifts End?
Which Of These Gifts Are Greater for the Gathered Church?
How Should These Gifts Function in Our Meetings?

Let me read both chapters to you and then we’ll see if we can answer these questions.

1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 1.

[scripture reading, prayer]

Let me see if you’ve been paying attention:

Here’s a question for you: Is LOVE a Spiritual Gift?

No, it’s not.

Love is part of the fruit of the Spirit. But it is not a spiritual gift.

Love is the key to the healthy operation (and cooperation!) of the gifts.

But it is not a “charismata” (a grace gift) itself.

That’s why Paul begins like he does. He’s trying to elevate love over all of the gifts.

He’s saying that we could have the gifts on steroids, but if we don’t have love, then we have nothing.

Speak in tongues of men (or even of angels!)...
Gift of prophecy, fathoming all mysteries and all knowledge...
Faith that moves mountains...
Amazing philanthropy and even martyrdom and yet if there is no love...

We’ve got squat!

And then in verses 4-8, there is that exalted poem describing love in action that we looked at last week and we’ve all heard read at nearly ever wedding!

And rightly so, this is Christ-like love: patient, kind, envy-less, boast-less, humble, non-rude, non-self-seeking, not easily angered, etc, etc.

And then at the end of this chapter, Paul goes one step further. He is not just saying that love is the way that we use the gifts, but that love continues on even after the gifts cease.

Did you catch that as I read it? Paul says that there will be a time when the gifts of the Holy Spirit that He gives to us to cooperate as the Body of Christ will end. They won’t be needed any more.

Question #1. WHEN WILL THESE GIFTS END?

What do you think is the answer? I think it’s WHEN CHRIST RETURNS. V.8

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Paul’s point here is that love continues even after the gifts end. So it’s more important the gifts. And it’s the more excellent way that we’re supposed to use our gifts, lovingly.

And in saying that, he lets out that spiritual gifts have an expiry date on them.

Now, we might get a different set of gifts in eternity, I don’t know. But they won’t be imperfect gifts like the ones that we have now.

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

There is an expiration date on our current spiritual gifts.

When will these gifts end?

That’s a tough question, really.

I was taught, and many of you may have been taught that at least some certain gifts, especially the more miraculous ones (sometimes called the “sign gifts”) have expired already.

Things like languages/tongues, miracles, healings, prophecy, etc were, perhaps like training wheels for the early church and authenticated the gospel of the apostles and then had a built in termination mechanism so that they died out in the first century, once the apostles were gone and the gospel had taken root in the world.

That was what I was taught at Moody Bible Institute and by several of my professors at Trinity. And here are a stack of books that I’ve read in preparation for this message that make that argument. I have HIGH RESPECT for pastors and scholars that have taken that position. My respect can’t hardly get any higher. Many of the men who taught me to love Jesus and His Word believe that.

The most powerful argument for this interpretation (that the miraculous gifts have already ceased) is that it often doesn’t seem like the operation of the gifts now is like the operation of the gifts that we read about in the New Testament. I certainly haven’t seen many of the things like I read about in the book of Acts, have you?!

But, you know what that is? It’s an argument from experience, not from Scripture.

And here’s a stack of books that I’ve read to prepare for this message written by men that I highly respect that argue that Scripture teaches that these gifts continue into today. And that their expiration date is when Christ returns.

Let me tell you. I have the heart of a cessationist.

I’m leery of some of these gifts. They seem a little spooky, and when misused, they’ve been used to hurt a number of Christians and churches.

But, having studied this for over a decade, I don’t see in Scripture that they are all over, either.

Instead, I see here that “when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” And v.12

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.”

When is that? That’s got to be when Christ returns.

“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

I think that these gifts will end when Christ returns.

And until then, as the Spirit sovereignly wills, we can expect them to show up in the Church so that we cooperate as the Body of Christ.

[The exception to that, is the gift of Apostle, which Paul seems to indicate clearly that He was the last one (1 Corinthians 15:8). At least, of the “Big A” apostles who had true apostolic authority from Jesus Christ.]

Now, at the end of chapter 12, Paul had said that he wanted the Corinthians to “desire the greater gifts.” “The greater gifts?”

Which ones would that be?

I thought that we aren’t supposed to consider one gift more important than other!

Well, we aren’t. That was actually part of the Corinthians problem.

But some of the gifts are GREATER for when the church gathers than some of the others.

Here’s question #2: WHICH OF THESE GIFTS ARE GREATER FOR THE GATHERED CHURCH?

Paul is actually going to put two gifts on the table and compare and contrast them:

Languages/Tongues Versus Prophecy.

Now, the Corinthians loved the gift of tongues. They were so impressed with their own abilities to speak in tongues.

Remember, last week where Paul put tongues on the two lists? Last each time.

And he reminded them that not everybody speaks in tongues.

Those are problems that the “charismatic or Pentecostal” churches have today!

Elevating the gift of tongues and pressuring everybody to speak in tongues.

Well, Paul has a different take on that. He says that prophecy is a greater gift when the church gathers.

Now, let’s define what those gifts are.

Which is, actually easier said than done.

Here’s what I think these gifts are after about 17 years of studying them:

Tongues or Languages is the spiritual gift of praying to and/or praising God in syllables not understood by the speaker.

Now, that could be unlearned human languages like it was at Pentecost. Or it could be something else, including some other supernatural kind of speech, but I doubt that it is just plain gibberish.

Praying to and/or praising God in syllables not understood by the speaker.

What is prophecy?

Well, prophecy is a BIG category in the Bible that relates to God speaking to us in some way, but the kind of prophecy we’re looking at here is not like the Old Testament prophecies like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel that are Scripture-level prophecies, “Thus Sayeth the Lord!”

I think that the kind of prophecy we’re looking at here is a lower-level kind of way of God speaking to us that is through a fallible human report.

At my ordination council, I defined it like this: “Prophecy is a report of what God has spontaneously brought to mind, which could include things that could not have been otherwise known.”

Not at all like Scripture. The equivalent of the Old Testament prophets is the New Testament Apostles. They have all gone. But this kind of prophecy, I think, remains.

And my guess is that we’ve all experienced at some point. Someone has said just the right thing at the just the right time for what we needed and it was from God.

It wasn’t Scripture, it wasn’t binding on all people all the time, maybe some of the little details were wrong, but God was speaking through someone else in a powerful way.

I remember, years ago, the women’s ministry leader at our last church told Heather, “I see you standing up in front of a large group of ladies and teaching the Bible.” And if you’d known Heather at that point, you would have laughed (with her!) out loud!

But if you were at the Ladies’ Spring Banquet a month ago, you’d have seen that prophecy fulfilled.

Prophecy is not just fore-telling. It’s not always aimed at the future. We often talk like that. But prophecy is actually more forth-telling. Often, it’s just the right words of strengthening, encouragement, and comfort at just the right time.

And it’s from the Spirit.

Now, given those definitions–and if you want to talk about different definitions sometime, I’d be glad to! That’s what I’m here for.

But given those definitions, which is greater for the gathered church? Tongues or Prophecy? V.1

“Follow the way of love [agape love] and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” V.2

“For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God [tongues are Godward]. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit [strangely, even he doesn’t understand!]. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. [That’s the effect of congregational prophecy: strengthening, encouragement, and comfort. I want that for us!]”

So, which is better? Talking when no one else gets it except God or something that everyone benefits from? V.4

“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself [which isn’t bad itself], but he who prophesies edifies the church [the whole church].”

Which would be more important when the church gathers? V.5

“I would like every one of you to speak in tongues [not that you will, not everyone does!], but I would rather have you prophesy. [He comes right out and says it:] He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.”

Question: WHICH OF THESE GIFTS ARE GREATER FOR THE GATHERED CHURCH?

Answer: PROPHECY; BECAUSE IT BUILDS UP THE WHOLE CHURCH. Because all can understand it.

Paul gives some illustrations to drive home his point. Verse 6.

“Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues [unknown languages], what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? [Answer: None.] Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? [If there’s no tune, there’s no music!] Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? [Nobody!]”

“So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts [and they were!], try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”

That, of course, is the application for you and me.

Even if we don’t end up pursuing prophecy, we need to heed Paul’s instruction here and try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

Have you thought this last week about your spiritual gifts and how you’re going to use them in ministry to the Body of Christ?

Last week, I said about 15 times, “We need you. We need you. We need you.”

The body of Christ only grows as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16).

Are you excelling in your gifts to build up the church?

There were some men with some gifts out here yesterday. They worked most of the day putting down those new wood chips out on the playground. Doesn’t it look great?

Lita has a team of people taking their positions to build up the Body of Christ at Family Bible Week. Do you know what you’re going to do?

Are you using your gift to excel in building up the church? We need you to!

Paul isn’t disparaging the gift of tongues. He’s just putting it in rightful place. Uninterpreted tongues aren’t a help to any listeners. So, verse 13.

“For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.”

And this includes Paul.

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. [I guess it’s helpful to tongues-prayer. I’ve never experienced it. Maybe some of you have. But the mind doesn’t know all of what’s been said. V.15] So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. [And in church?] If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? [He can’t!] You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.” And that’s the point.

V.18. Paul drops a bomb: “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. [Have you ever thought about that verse? Paul had the gift of tongues. Did he ever use it? Probably not in church. V.19] But in the church [the church gathered] I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

The more intelligible the words are, the more they strengthen, encourage, and build up the church. The more they do that, the greater the gift they are.

Now, in the next section, Paul considers how evangelistic these two gift are, too. Prophecy is better than tongues for evangelism, as well.

V.20 “Brothers, stop thinking like children. [Ouch.] In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. In the Law [Isaiah chapter 28] it is written: ‘Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,’ says the Lord. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.”

Paul quotes Isaiah to prove his point.

God told the people through Isaiah that when they heard men of strange tongues speaking, then they knew that God had passed judgment on them. Assyria had come to take them into exile.

So tongues are a negative sign to unbelievers that God’s judgment is here.

If you don’t know what’s going on, you won’t be getting the gospel! V.23

“So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”

Ever been in a meeting like that? I have. Back in high school, I used to date a girl who was a member of the Church of God of Prophecy.

Now, those were some interesting church meetings! All kinds of crazy stuff going on.

And I’m sure that if an unbeliever walked into those meetings, they would think they were crazy and that Christianity is crazy.

And they wouldn’t the gospel. V.24

“But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying [this kind of careful, controlled speech, where we’re hearing from God spontaneously in words that are fallible but are meant to strengthen, encourage, and build-up and maybe something gets said that nobody would otherwise know...], he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’ [That would be a positive sign to believers, wouldn’t it?!]

Properly understood and practiced, prophecy is greater than uninterpreted tongues for evangelism.

Because it goes right along with the gospel.

And that’s what we want people to hear.

Not gibberish. Not lots of noise. Not crazy stuff.

But the good news about Jesus Christ.

That He lived a perfect life.
That He died on the Cross as a perfect sacrifice for my sin.
That He rose from the dead to forgive and give eternal life to all who turn from their sins and trust in Him.

We want a church meeting where that happens!

In fact, it could happen right now.

Maybe you are still an unbeliever, not yet trusting in Jesus Christ as your King and Rescuer, your Lord and Savior.

I pray that God would bare the secrets of your heart.

And that you would fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you, at Lanse Free Church! I believe! I want Jesus!”

That’s my prayer.

That’s what we’re hoping all of our gifts cooperate together to accomplish in many lives–salvation, bringing people into a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

The last question is simply this: HOW SHOULD THESE GIFTS FUNCTION IN OUR MEETINGS?

And the answer is WITH ORDERLINESS AND SUBMISSION. V.26

“What then shall we say, brothers? [How do we apply this?] When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. [Notice that theme again and again and again. Strengthening. Everybody brings something, but its not for ourselves, it’s for the Body.] If anyone speaks in a tongue, two– or at the most three– should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. [Those rules alone would cut out most of the funny business at many over-the-top Pentecostal meetings.] If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. [Notice the self-control here. True tongues are not ecstatic speech. They are controllable.] Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. [This is very different than Old Testament kind of prophecy! Isaiah wouldn’t have been told to sit down!] For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. [Again, this is not an uncontrolled trance that comes over someone. This is just people sharing something that it seems God has laid on their hearts.]

Why these rules? V.33

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

God loves order.

He loves for things to fit together and to run well. He doesn’t take over a meeting and send everybody up in a frenzy.

If God shows up through these kinds of spiritual gifts, they will be very orderly.

He’ll stir things up in our hearts! But it will still be orderly.

That’s not the way that we normally think about the more miraculous gifts, but it’s the testimony of Scripture.

“God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

And one more rule. Women are not to publically weigh the prophecies. V.34

“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

Now, this is part of the larger section. It’s not teaching that women shouldn’t speak in church.

If it did, then we wouldn’t have Lita up here sharing like she did this morning.

Paul had women sharing. Earlier in this letter he says that they are able to pray and to PROPHESY in the gathered church!

The key is that they must be submissive.

I think that the being silent here is a time when the elders need to weigh out a prophecy and test whether or not its content is good (like it said back in verse 29).

And that job rests with the leadership of the church and the mantle of responsibility for leading the church family are the men called the elders.

So, this is another way of saying that men are called to the heavy responsibility of leading the church. And godly ladies will be submissive to that.

The whole church needs to be submissive and orderly.

The Corinthians weren’t. That’s why they were getting this rebuke. V.36

“Did the word of God originate with you? [No.] Or are you the only people it has reached? [No.] If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. [Submission is required.] If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. [That’s a scarey thought!]”

So Paul concludes: “Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

Now, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Paul draws it all together.

These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit so that we cooperate as the Body of Christ and reach people for Christ and build people up in Christ.

These gifts are here until Christ returns.

Tongues, apparently, are here. I’ve not experienced them. And I’ve never yet seen them operate under Paul’s rules. But, if they show up and are willing to be submissive to Paul’s rules, then we won’t forbid them.

If you speak in tongues in your personal prayer times, then you’re in good company. Paul did, more than anyone at Corinth!

We called to be eager to prophesy. If you think that’s for today, as I have grown into thinking, then we need to obey it.

I’ve begun to pray, like Baptist Pastor John Piper prays that I would be given some word of prophesy when I get up to preach that would strengthen, encourage, and build up the Body of Christ. Maybe I’ll say something I hadn’t intended to and it will be used in someone’s life. I hope so.

If you think you’ve got something to share from God, let me know, and if there’s a question about it, our elders will weigh it out. Our elders take church leadership very seriously.

We are not a charismatic church. We are not a Pentecostal church.

We are EVANGELical church. We are all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And the Holy Spirit gives us gifts to cooperate as the Body of Christ to shine a spotlight on the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Orderly. Submissively. Seeking to excel in building up the body.

So that Jesus gets all of the glory.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Chicken Run!




The hens have been in their house for about 2 weeks now. Heather has built them a temporary outdoor run which they love. They don't want to go back in the house!

Pictures 1 & 2 by Robin Mitchell
Pictures 3 by Heather Mitchell

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ruthless

Randy Alcorn on a skill that I need to sharpen: Planned Neglect.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ [Part One]

“The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate As the Body of Christ {Part One}”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
May 18, 2008
1 Corinthians 12:1-13:13

We are coming down to the end of our study on the Person and Ministries of the Holy Spirit. We’re on message #11 of 13. This week, next week, and then, Lord-willing, the last one will be on June 1st.

Let me put a chart up here to show you the titles of our first 10 messages, to show you the big-picture of where we’ve been:

1. Who Is the Holy Spirit?

This was the kick-off message where we summarized His Person by seeing 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 how many times have we seen these truths again and again as we’ve learned together about the Spirit?

He is God, worthy to be worshiped! We just sang, “The Godhead, Three in One, Father, Spirit, Son! ... How Great Is Our God!”
He is a Person, One with whom we can relate, we can have fellowship with Him.
He is Mysterious. We don’t control Him. He is not “The Force.” And we can’t fully comprehend Him. He’s like the wind!
And He is Christ-Centered. His ministry is not, ultimately, to bring glory to Himself but to shine the spotlight on the Lord Jesus Christ!

And then, for the last nine messages, we’ve been learning together about His ministries:

2. The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ
3. The Holy Spirit Assures Us of Our Relationship with God
4. The Holy Spirit Guides Us Into Truth
5. The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside of Us
6. The Holy Spirit Produces His Fruit In Us
7. The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to Be Witnesses for Christ
8. The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ
9. The Holy Spirit Influences Us to Live the Christian Life
10. The Holy Spirit Involves Himself In Our Prayers

He is God’s Empowering Presence, doing all of these things and doing them all well!

Now, if you thought that some of those sermon titles were long, wait until you see today’s!

There is at least one more major ministry of the Holy Spirit for us to consider together.

It’s probably the first thing that most of us think about when we think about His ministries, maybe because it’s been the most controversial in the last few decades.

I’ve saved it for last in this series because I wanted us to see the grand sweep of things that the Spirit is “up to” in our hearts and lives before we get into these matters. Often those other ministries of the Spirit don’t get the attention that they deserve.

But this ministry is also very important, and so, we’re going to spend two Sundays on this one ministry:

“THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVES US GIFTS TO COOPERATE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST. [PART ONE]”

How’s that for a title?

And there is no better place to learn about these gifts than 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14.

The Corinthians had major problems with spiritual gifts. It’s not that they didn’t have them, they did have them–plenty of them, but they didn’t completely understand what they were for or what they signified. They had the wrong mindset about spiritual gifts.

And we should be glad that they had these problems.

Because they were so messed up over the spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul had to write several chapters of instruction and correction for them that helps us today.

This week, we’re going to look in-depth at chapter 12 and dip into chapter 13. Next week, we’re going to look in-depth at the end of chapter 13 and all of chapter 14.

And we’re not going to learn everything there is to know about spiritual gifts (that would be impossible!), but I think we’ll get a good overview of the subject and, hopefully, answer a few questions about them along the way. And! Be motivated to use our gifts in ministry.

I have four points this morning. Here’s number one:

1. GOD DOESN’T WANT US TO BE IGNORANT ABOUT SPIRITUAL GIFTS. That’s obvious from chapter 12, verse 1.

“Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.”

That’s pretty straightforward! Paul didn’t want the Corinthians to be ignorant about spiritual things, spiritual people, and especially spiritual gifts.

And I don’t think that God wants us to be ignorant today.

Wayne Grudem has defined spiritual gifts like this, “A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church” (Systematic Theology, pg. 1016).

That’s a pretty broad definition, but I think it’s helpful.

“A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.”

John Piper expands on that idea with this definition, “A spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to express our faith effectively (in word or deed) for the strengthening of someone else’s faith.”

So, the picture is this. The Holy Spirit gives these “gifts” (these abilities, empowered abilities) to believers so that they can minister to others within the church, the Body of Christ.

This is one of His major ministries, and God doesn’t want us to be ignorant about them.

Now, the Corinthians knew about spiritual gifts. They LOVED spiritual gifts! They loved them too much!

The problem with the Corinthians was that they had an “over-realized eschatology;” which is a $5 way of saying that they acted like all of the blessings of the Kingdom were here and now and theirs today.

And they thought that because they had spiritual gifts operating within the church (some of them, obviously miraculous), that that proved that they were spiritual themselves! That they were mature and godly.

Well, they were mistaken. Our gifts do not determine our godliness!

You can have very gifted people who are ungodly.

And you can have very godly people who only have very weak gifts.

The two are not the same and can’t be equated.

Our gifts do not determine our godliness.

They are a means of expressing our godliness in love, but their existence is no proof that we are godly.

And the Corinthians didn’t know that. The Corinthians needed to be corrected about that. They needed to be informed. They were ignorant.

And God doesn’t want us to be ignorant about spiritual gifts!

So, Paul begins to teach them. Here’s point #2. It’s his next point.

#2. THERE ARE DIFFERENT GIFTS, BUT THEY ALL COME FROM THE SAME SPIRIT.

Paul begins by pointing out that spiritual gifts are given to spiritual people, that is, people who have the Spirit. V.2

“You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ [and means it!] and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ [and really means it] except by the Holy Spirit.”

This is another way of saying that Real Christians all have received the Holy Spirit.

And that the Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ.

If we are Christians, if we proclaim, “Jesus Is Lord!” and believe that no one else is, then that’s the work of the Spirit. And it’s the most important work of the Spirit–bringing us to Jesus!

And it’s the same Spirit for all Christians!

And yet, He gives different Christians different gifts. V.4

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord [Jesus]. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men [which, here, means all men and women who belong to Christ].”

Notice the Trinitarian thought again! Same Spirit, Same Lord, Same God the Father.

Different gifts, same Spirit.

Why is this important to see? Well, when you begin to realize how incredibly different different believers are from one another and how different their gifts are from one another, then you might begin to think that there is a different Spirit operating here!

But no, the same Spirit is pleased to give different kinds of gifts (v.4–there’s the word “charismata” which could be better translated “grace gifts”) to different folks. V.7

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Notice several things here.

First, each believer gets the manifestation of the Spirit.

Each believer gets at least one spiritual gift. It might be different for each one, and even the same gift will look differently as it operates through each different believer, but each and every believer gets at least one spiritual gift.

Notice also, these manifestations of the Spirit, these grace-gifts, these different workings of the Spirit are given to believers (v.7) “for the common good.”

The gifts aren’t for show.
The gifts aren’t for self-serving attention to be brought to us.

The gifts are for building the body of Christ. They are for the common good.

1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.”

Spiritual gifts are God’s grace given to us to be used for others.

At least, that’s their ultimate use. They build up the body together.

If you see a group of believers where their gifts are being used to make a name for someone (like we often see on television), then you know that those gifts are being used wrongly. The gifts are given for the common good.

The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts to Cooperate in the Body of Christ.

Now, again, notice. All of these spiritual gifts come from the Spirit (actually from the same God, Father, Son and Spirit). But there are different gifts. V.8

“To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit [notice how he keeps saying “Same Spirit,” “One Spirit”], to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues [languages], and to still another the interpretation of tongues.”

Now, we don’t know that much about this list of gifts. The “message [word] of wisdom” and the “message [word] of knowledge” in verse 8–that is the only verse in the whole Bible that talks about those gifts! So, that’s not a lot of data to go on to know what they were or are. Could be very miraculous. Or could be the gift of having a wise word to offer or a knowledgeable nugget to share at the right time. We don’t know.

The gift of faith was/is probably the ability to trust God for things that seem impossible to others. A powerful sense of certainty that God is going to do something specific.

Notice that gifts of healing is plural. It’s actually doubly plural: “gifts of healings.” And I think that points, no so much towards one person who is a healer, but to many people who pray and then the Spirit gifts their prayers for healings so that they see people returned to health who wouldn’t have been unless the Spirit had given that gift. Not like Jesus did, not with awesome authoritative power, but people truly healed through the gifting of the Spirit.

“Miraculous powers” or literally, “the working of powers” would be the Spirit doing something we really didn’t expect! I’m sure we’ve all heard some story or another of God doing something through someone else that no one could have predicted!

And then at the end of the list come “speaking in different kinds of tongues [which is another word for languages]” and “the interpretation of” those languages.

And we’ll have a lot more to say about that next Sunday. For right now, I’ll just point out that there’s probably a reason that Paul puts that one at the end of this list. The Corinthians thought it was the most important gift of all!

Where’d all these gifts come from? The same Spirit.

And there’s a lot more gifts than these.

If my math is correct, when you start taking all of the gift-lists from this chapter, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, there are about 2 dozen gifts listed in the New Testament.

And none of the gift-lists are the same! Each list is different. And I think that points to the fact that they are not comprehensive. They are suggestive. They point to things that the Holy Spirit gives to believers to be used to serve the body of Christ.

Abilities that are empowered by the Spirit to do ministry.

Some of them are very miraculous. Like (v.10) “miraculous powers.”

But many of them don’t seem very miraculous at all.

Listen to Romans 12:6-8.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith [okay, that one may be miraculous, we’ll talk about it next week, too.] If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Those are spiritual gifts?

Serving?
Encouraging?
Giving?
Showing mercy?

I guess I could do that...

If we do it, empowered by the Spirit for the Body of Christ, and God uses it, I think that it was a “spiritual gift.”

And all of them come from the same Spirit. V.11

“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”

Aha. The Spirit decides who gets what gift.

That’s interesting. It’s not up to us.

The Spirit decides who gets what gift.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we can’t ask for a certain gift. It doesn’t mean that we can’t pursue or desire a different gift, but it does mean that we don’t determine what gift or gifts we have.

The Spirit does.

And that leads us to point #3.

#3. THE BODY OF CHRIST NEEDS ALL OF ITS PARTS TO COOPERATE.

The Holy Spirit Gives All of Us Gifts.

And All of Us Need to Put our Gifts Together to Cooperate in Ministry. V.12

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

We saw this verse a couple of weeks ago with verse 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.”

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us into the Body of Christ.

He takes us as individuals and baptizes us into a Body.

So, we are all now body parts in Christ’s Body here on earth, the Church.

Unity in Diversity.

Unity because we’re all in one body.

But diversity because we are all different parts with different gifts.

Like I said before, I like to think of myself as the stomach. All week long, I get to study the Bible, I get to digest it, and then on Sundays, I get to spread out the life-giving nutrients to the rest of the Body. {I think I got this idea from D.A. Carson, but I'm not certain.}

But we’re all body-parts and we’re all important. V.14

“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.”

Would it? I don’t think so!

“And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.”

“If the whole body were an eye [that’s quite a thought, kind of a nightmare! “Attack of the Eyebody!”], where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear [don’t think about that picture late at night!], where would the sense of smell be?”

Paul’s joking here. He’s having fun.

But there’s a serious point.

You see, the Corinthians were a divided church. They had so many factions, they had so much disunity, that Paul had to deal with their party-spirit in several different ways.

One was, I think, that they thought they didn’t need each other because of their spiritual gifts.

“Oh, I can handle that. God’s given me this gift!”

And they were looking down on others who hadn’t been given the same gift that they had.

But we’re not allowed to do that. We aren’t allowed to act independently of each other. “Oh, I’m not a hand, I’m not in the body!” Uh uh.

And we’re not allowed to be proud of our gift over someone else’s.

“Oh, you’re not an eye. You’re not in the body.” No. We should be thankful for their gifts!

We’ve got to see that we need each other. V.18

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body [remember, that’s us], every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don't need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don't need you!’”

No. We need each other.
We need each other.
We need each other.

The Spirit is intentional about this!

He gives different gifts to each of us so that we know that we need each other!

Does He give all of the gifts to the pastor? No.

He gives all of the gifts to the Body. And we all need each other. V.22

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

That’s what we need in the church–equal concern for each other.

We need each other.

If you don’t get anything else out of this week’s message walk away with this:

We need each other.

The church needs you.

And you need the church.

God gave you a gift, the Spirit gives you gifts to be a blessing to others in the Body of Christ–so that we have equal concern for each other.

I love that phrase. See where he takes it from there? V.26

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

When Bob Owens goes in the hospital, we all suffer.

When our kids get dedicated or graduate, we all rejoice! V.27

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

We need each other!

Don’t just sit there week in an week out on the pew.

Use your gifts in ministry to the Body.

Don’t know what your gift is? Try some stuff out!

I’m sure that Lita would love to give some folks a first-time shot at using their gifts in ministry at Family Bible Week. That’s just one month away and there are still some key positions left to fill. And easy ones, too!

There are “spiritual gift tests” out there that you can take to get a better idea of what you’re good at. Maybe we’ll offer a seminar or something down the line.

But they didn’t have those spiritual gift tests back in the first century, and I think they could figure out what their gifts are.

You figure it out from serving. Trying things out, testing out what you might be good at. Take a risk!

And put your gift to use! We need you to!

No one has all of the gifts needed, except the Body together. V.28

“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? [Well? No.] Are all prophets? [No.] Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?”

The answer to those rhetorical questions is “No.”

Nobody has all of the gifts.

And notice that tongues is included in that list. A great many of the modern day problems associated with the Pentecostal movement could be solved by just answering that question “Do all speak in tongues” with a clear, “No.”

Tongues are not the definitive sign of Spirit Baptism, and are not a means to maturity, and are not for all believers. We’ll talk more about that next week, but it’s clear that Paul thinks that we shouldn’t make too much of that gift.

Or any gift. They are just gifts, anyways. And not everyone has the same ones.

But each one that we have, we’re supposed to use.

And we’re supposed to do it, in love.

That’s the last point, and it’s the key.

#4. THE KEY TO THE HEALTHY OPERATION OF GIFTS WITHIN THE BODY IS CHRIST-LIKE LOVE.

We need to love.

We need to use our gifts in love.

If we don’t these gifts can look great, but be ultimately useless. V.31

“But eagerly desire the greater gifts. [While each gift is important, some gifts are more important for the gathered church–we’ll see more about that next week.] And now I will show you the most excellent way.”

What’s that? Love.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

What’s he saying?

He’s saying that we could have the most miraculous gifts you could imagine. Spiritual gifts on steroids!

But if they aren’t exercised in love, then forget it!

And you know the rest.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

And the greatest example of this kind of love is the Lord Jesus Christ.

He truly loved the unlovable.

He used His gifts in ministry.

And then He died on the Cross to pay for our sins.

When we trust in Him, when we look to Him, we see the Love Incarnate, Love in the Flesh.

And we know a love that is beyond knowing!

And that provides us with the ultimate example of how we should love others–especially His people, the Body of Christ.

The key to the healthy operation [cooperation!] of gifts within the Body is Christ-like love.

He’s saved us for us to serve.

He’s blessed us to be a blessing to someone today.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Power of Procrastination

Procrastination has had a powerful effect on my life.

I'm not sure all of the reasons why, but when I know that I'm supposed to be doing something (like right now, when I'm supposed to be studying for Sunday's message), I have all kinds of attention and motivation for doing something completely different!

Back in college, I tried my hand at baking chocolate chip cookie bars when I should have been studying. Heather and I still call those particular delicacies "Procrastination Bars." And I still have some of the extra weight hanging around!

I just realized yesterday that I need to get on the stick with the stack of books and papers that I need to accomplish for my CCEF class. At my current rate, I'll get it all done about 2 weeks after the class; so I need to step it up.

While I'm re-reading my last book for the first paper: Running Scared (which is one of the absolutely best books I've read in the last 3 years!), I'm using the power of procrastination to read other books that I probably ought not to be making so much progress on!

For example, I'm half way done with Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin. This is, by far, the best single book I've read on worship and leading worship. It takes the best of the 2nd best book I've read on worship (Worship by the Book by D.A. Carson, read his definition of worship here.) and builds on it and makes the whole thing incredibly practical. Every worship leader should read and re-read this book.

Here's a video of Bob talking about the ideas in the book:




And then, I go and order MORE BOOKS!

I pre-ordered a copy of Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World by C.J. Mahaney and some other SGM pastors (which is, for a limited time, offered at 35% off!).

And while I'm pre-ordering that, I can't seem to stop myself from pre-ordering the ESV Study Bible from Crossway, too. Don't worry--I have birthday money to use to buy these items! I'll still be feeding my family.

I've been looking at that ESV Study Bible for a while. It's being put together by a host of men that I highly respect, including one of my favorite bloggers, Justin Taylor, managing editor.

But it was RCO's recent post on the ESV that pushed me over the edge:
The ESV Study Bible comes out this October. I see an opportunity here. Could we all give ourselves ESV Study Bibles for Christmas and then set 2009 apart as "Our Year of the Bible"? Could we all give less to other things so that we give more to the Bible? Could we bore down together and discover the wonders of this holy Book as never before? Could we acknowledge our spiritual hunger, and thoughtfully, carefully, attentively, daily feed our souls? Could we shut off the noise and listen? Could we re-set our focus from the voices inside our heads to the Voice in the Book? And if we did, is it even conceivable that we could then come to the end of 2009 and say, "Dang. I could have done more TV and more computer and more video games and more dumb stuff. What a loser year 2009 has been! Next year, man, it's going to be different. No more of this Bible-focus for me. I'm going to LIVE again"? Is there any chance, any chance at all, that could happen? Or might Jesus become more real to us? Might the Holy Spirit be poured out? Might we look back on 2009 as our turn-around year?

October 2008. The ESV Study Bible. Think of the possibilities.
That's right. Now, if only I can use the power of procrastination to read my Bible!

Modern Day Eric Liddells

Ian Campbell writes about a Scottish girls football (soccer) team that has risen to recent victory but has decided not to compete on Sundays, much like Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame.

I am personally not a Sabbatarian, believing that the Sabbath is no longer a day, but now a Person and His kingdom to come, but I highly respect these young ladies for taking the stand that they do. May their tribe increase!

Leading from the Sandbox

Here's a new blog on ministry leadership written by an EFCA leader. Definitely one to bookmark.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Caring Confrontation

Byron Harvey is continuing his series on Christians relationships. This one is on Caring Enough to Confront from Matthew 18.

Keep Asking

It's hard to change.

Sanctification is not easy.

But it is possible, by God's grace, and we need to keep striving.

John Piper writes today about God-glorifying change in the last 1% of our life--and how it's worth it to keep on asking.

Amen.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sabbathizing

"Sabbathizing" is my word for resting to the glory of God.

Today, Ray Ortlund muses about his day off:
"So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

On this day, my usual Monday day off, I will glorify God by redirecting my trust in him from work to rest. I work by faith in him, I rest by faith in him. On this day of rest, by his grace, I will ease back on the throttle, trusting in his all-sufficiency. I will pay more attention to my wonderful wife, mow the lawn, ignore my cell phone, try (at least) not to fuss in my mind, take a drive with Jani at dusk along the Natchez Trace Parkway to see if the deer are out, not shave, wear jeans, enjoy Camaros on youtube, linger over the Bible for an especially long quiet time, think carefree thoughts all day long -- in general, just let the world go by with a Sabbath-faith in God while knowing that tomorrow morning my work will be cheerfully waiting for me, demanding my full attention again, as it should, but none the worse for having had to wait.

It's Monday. I will glorify God.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eye Log

Byron Harvey continues in a series on relationships. This time it's about judgmentalism.

Matt's Messages "The Holy Spirit Involves Himself In Our Prayers"

“The Holy Spirit Involves Himself In Our Prayers”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
May 11, 2008
Ephesians 2:18, Ephesians 6:18, Romans 8:26-27

For those of you who are visiting today, welcome! We have been studying the Bible’s teachings on the person and ministries of the Holy Spirit.

And that is incredibly appropriate today as today is Pentecost Sunday when the Church has historically celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit to create the New Testament church in Acts chapter 2. We’ve being celebrating Pentecost since February!

But today is also Mother’s Day.

And it’s also designated as the Global Day of Prayer.

So, I had a challenge ahead of me to try to figure how (or if) I could weave these three strands together into one message.

And what I decided to do was to preach on the Holy Spirit and Prayer together and apply that specifically to mothers. So, we’ll get a little bit of all three this morning.

We’ve been talking about the power of the Holy Spirit. We’ve said that He is God’s Empowering Presence. He is a major power living within each Real Christian.

Today, I want to talk about His power at work in our prayers.

Here’s the title: “The Holy Spirit Involves Himself in Our Prayers.”

The Holy Spirit powerfully inserts Himself, He deeply steps into, He dynamically involves Himself in our prayer life.

The indwelling divine dynamo that has been making us holy is dramatically involved in our prayers.

Point #1 of 3 this morning: THE HOLY SPIRIT IS INVOLVED IN OUR PRAYERS.

This is how involved He is. If there was no Spirit, there would be no Christian prayer!

Let’s look together at Ephesians chapter 2, verse 18.

This is part of a larger section where the Apostle Paul is teaching on the unity of the church between Jew and Gentile created by the Cross of Jesus Christ.

And in verse 18, He says this: “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

Now that’s a short verse, let’s read it again: “For through him [and that’s Christ in this context] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is Involved in Our Prayers.

We couldn’t pray without Him.

Notice that word “access.” You and I in our sinful, finite, creaturely status should not have access to God!

But we do!

God has made a way for us to access Him. To approach Him. To come to God and to pray.

And that way is Jesus and the Cross. V.18 again.

“For through him [Christ] we both have access to the Father...”

This is the Gospel! Jesus, through His death on the Cross opened up access between us and God.

But notice that little phrase there, almost hidden at the end of the verse in the NIV.

“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

If prayer to Father was the Internet, Jesus would be the Access Code, but the Holy Spirit would be the modem.

He isn’t drawing attention to Himself, but He’s being used by Christ to provide us with access to the Father.

Notice, again, the Trinitarian nature of reality! The Trinitarian nature of prayer.

Prayer to the Father, through Son, by the Spirit, Three in One.

The Holy Spirit is Involved in Our Prayers.

And He does it from within.

Do you remember the message on the Spirit adopting us and assuring us of God’s Fatherly love?

Romans 8:15 reminds us, “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. [You received Him. He’s in you!] And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”

You and I can pray to God and call Him Father because of the enabling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The application of this is obvious. We should pray!

We need to take advantage of our access.

We need to be thankful that the Spirit, however, He does it [there He goes being mysterious again! We need to be thankful that the Spirit, however He does it...] enables us to pray to the Father.

And we need to do it.

Mommas? You need to pray for your little (or not so little) buckaroos.

Kids? You need to pray for your Mommas (and your Papas, too for that matter).

Keith and Heather, Russell & Kelly, Todd and Heather, I know that you’re already praying for your little ones. Keep it up!

I’ll tell you one thing that I wrote in your kids’ letter. I promised them that you had been praying for them for the last 12 years. Don’t make me a liar! Persevere in prayer for your kids.

And of course, we need to pray for more than just our families! We need to pray for our church family. And our community. And our district. And our region. And our state. And our country. And the world.

And we’re allowed. In fact, we’re invited.

We have access to the Father, because of the Son, by the Spirit.

Notice again (in v.18) the communal aspect of this prayer. This is prayer together, not just on our own. We “both” have access, by “one” Spirit.

The Spirit is One and He invites us to pray as One.

I want to invite all of you to our Wednesday night prayer meetings. We have a one-hour meeting with God from 7 to 8pm. He shows up every week ready to listen.

Because the Holy Spirit Is Involved in Our Prayers.

#2 (of 3). WE NEED TO INVOLVE THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR PRAYERS.

Turn over a couple of pages to Ephesians chapter 6, verse 18.

The Holy Spirit IS Involved in Our Prayers, but catch what Paul says in verse 18 of chapter 6.

He’s been teaching on the Armor of God and how to fight spiritual battles. And the last weapon is the Walkie-Talkie of Prayer. V.18

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Now, the Spirit is already involved in our being able to pray. But Paul specifically says that we need to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

Is that a special kind of prayer?

Is that a real mystical kind of prayer? Maybe something that only really spiritual people can do? Is it kind of trance-like or spooky?

Jude in the second to last book of the Bible, says something very similar. He says, “[D]ear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.”

Is that a special kind of prayer?

I don’t think so. I think it just means that we need to involve the Holy Spirit in all of our prayers. Notice that word “all” in verse 18!

We need to remember that it’s the Spirit’s power that enables all these prayers.

We do it, in His power, in dependance on His indwelling potency.

And it also means to pray from the heart, a heart that is growing in holiness.

Wayne Grudem says it this way, “To pray ‘in the Holy Spirit,’ then, is to pray with the conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us and sanctifying both us and our prayers” (Systematic Theology, pg. 382).

That’s good! That’s helpful.

J.I. Packer adds this, “The Spirit leads the believer to concentrate on God and his glory in Christ with a sustained, singleminded simplicity of attention and intensity of desire that no one ever knows save as it is supernaturally wrought” (Keep In Step with the Spirit, pg. 79).

Have you experienced that in your prayers?

I admit to NOT having experienced that ENOUGH in my prayers.

This was very convicting for me to study this week.

I don’t involve the Spirit enough in my prayers.

What am I trying to do? Pray “in the flesh?”

The application is obvious. We just do what verse 18 says to do.

“[P]ray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying [in the Spirit!] for all the saints.”

Blair and I were talking this last week about prayer. And we talked about the phrase, “praying through.” Have you heard that phrase?

I’m not sure what all of the connotations are for that phrase, but I think the general idea is a good one.

I’ve heard another statement, and that is “Pray until you’ve prayed.”

And we need to do that in deliberate dependance on the power and holiness of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve found that that kind of prayer comes the most often for me when I’m (or someone I love) is in trouble.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why we get in trouble. God wants us to really pray!

One of my professors in a class I had on prayer once said, “Unanswered prayer may be God’s way of staying in touch with you.” He wants you to keep coming to Him.

We Need to Involve the Spirit In Our Prayers.

Part of this is that the Spirit often leads us into what we should pray for.

Have you had that kind of an experience?

You are praying for one thing, and then the Spirit seems to spontaneously bring to mind someone or something else and nudges you to pray for that?

At the Ladies’ Spring Banquet last month, Heather told the story of her being led to pray that I would choose the correct kind of postage to place on an envelope!

She’s never prayed for postage before and she never has prayed for postage since!

But the Spirit led her to do that then, and it was one of the things, humanly speaking that brought us here to Lanse.

That kind of thing doesn’t happen to us every day, and it’s not the main point, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit. V.18 again.

“[P]ray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying [in the Spirit!] for all the saints.”

Notice again the reference to community. “Always keep on praying for all the saints.”

We need to pray for each other. I’m happy to pray for Katelyn, Hayley, and Keagan and their parents today.

But we all need to keep on praying for each other. I’m so thankful for your prayers. I know that many of you pray for us, and I am deep grateful.

But what if you don’t know what to pray?

Have you had that experience? I’ll bet 100% of us have.

What if you don’t know what to pray?

#3 (of 3). THE HOLY SPIRIT INTERCEDES WHEN WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO PRAY. Turn back to Romans chapter 8, verses 26 and 27. Pew Bible Page #1119.

This is the ultimate in involvement!

He doesn’t just make prayer possible.
He doesn’t just insert Himself in our prayers and guide us into better prayers.
He takes over when we can’t seem to do it for ourselves.

Romans 8:26.

This is part of the “Great 8;” Romans chapter 8 is one of the greatest chapters in the whole Bible. And Paul has just gotten done saying that the Creation groans like in childbirth (there’s another Mother’s Day reference for you!), and that we groan, even though we’re God’s children, because the world isn’t what it’s supposed to be, and we’re not what we’re supposed to be YET. But as we groan (and how we often feel it!), we wait patiently. And we pray. We have prayer lives. V.26

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.”

Now, this might apply to all of our prayers. We don’t know how to pray right. And we aren’t right enough to know how to pray.

But I think that specifically here, Paul is talking about those times when we just don’t know what to say to God. We are weak. We are experiencing the difficulties of living in a groaning world.

We are weak. But He is strong!

“The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Now, it’s possible that the groans here are our groans. Some of the best scholars think that these are our groans that the Spirit then translates to the Father.

But I think that the groans are the Spirit’s groans!

The creation groans, the Church groans, and identifying with us and interceding for us, the Spirit groans, too.

And with divine communication that words cannot express.

Wow! Think about that for a second.

This is how much God loves us.

His very own Spirit prays for us. He appeals to God for us.

He translates our prayers, feeble and weak and ignorant as they are, into the very right thing to say to God!

And look at verse 27 again. It’s very encouraging.

“And he who searches our hearts [the Father] knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.”

I think that this is the corollary truth to what we saw before in 1 Corinthians 2.

Remember when I asked Mark DeLuca what city he was thinking about?

And I said that it was Columbus, Ohio, but it wasn’t because I didn’t have access to his spirit?

But he knew what city he was thinking of because his spirit knew what he was thinking!

And the Spirit knows God’s thoughts.

Well, this says that God knows our thoughts because His Spirit lives in us and intercedes for us in accordance with His will.

Of course, God is omniscient so He can know our thoughts anyway!

But still, He sends His Spirit to intercede for us so that He knows what we need!

Wow!

Why wouldn’t we pray?

And here’s how effective those prayers are. Look at verse 28.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

These prayers are effectual. They are used of God to work all things, every circumstance, every painful trial, every blessing, every difficult thing to our good.

To all Real Christians. To those who love God and who have been called according to His purpose to belong to Jesus.

Does that describe you? Do you love God through Jesus?

If you do, then this unbelievably powerful Spirit lives inside you and is powerfully involved in your prayers.

He makes them possible.
We should pray in Him.
And He intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray.

The application of all of this is obvious, but it still needs said.

We should pray.

And we should pray.

And we should pray.

Because of the Holy Spirit.

My prayer is that Katelyn, Hayley, and Keagan would grow up in a family and in a church that prays in the Holy Spirit.

Let’s do it right now.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

I've now read my second book for my CCEF classes.

This book is also by Ed Welch, entitled Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave.

I had read it previously, but thoroughly enjoyed and profited from re-reading it.

Addictions can be a daunting subject to tackle, but Welch does it with aplomb. He defines an addiction as, fundamentally, a worship-disorder, and shows how the Bible's category of idolatry most helpfully addresses the phenomena that we commonly call "addictions." He is conversant with the prevailing "disease model" of addictions, made popular by AA, and notes it (and AA's) helpful strengths, but also critiques it (and AA) with biblical wisdom.

Each chapter is addressed to both those who are struggling with an addiction (so put it in their hands!) as well as those who are helping other struggling with an addiction (so put it in their hands!). I think it's amazing how Welch can vividly describe what it's like to be in the throes of a disastrous love affair with something unhealthy.

But each chapter is also for those who don't think of themselves as "addicts." Reading it again, I was confronted with my "extra plate" addiction, and my "information-junkie" status. These, too, are worship disorders that need to be addressed with gospel sanctification.

As with Depression: A Stubborn Darkness, this book can also be read for profit by those who are not heavily into drugs, pornography, alcohol, or whatever. It is, at its core, a book on progressive sanctification in the fear of the Lord. But its potent stuff, applying the Bible's life-changing truth to some of the most change-resistant problems.

I highly recommend it. This little review hasn't done it justice.

CCEF has produced a DVD curriculum based upon the book and Dr. Welch's teaching.

Living Faith, the CCEF Annual Conference is going to tackle this subject this year: The Addict in Us All.

Monday, May 05, 2008

God & Tech

Dan Ledford tackles a question from one of his flock: What Does the Bible Say about God and Technology? The answers may surprise you.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Influences Us to Live the Christian Life

“The Holy Spirit Influences Us to Live the Christian Life”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
May 4, 2008
Ephesians 5:18-21

We’re still in our sermon series on the Holy Spirit. We will be all the way through May and the first Sunday in June, if it goes as I have planned.

Along the way, we’ve learned about Who the Holy Spirit is and many of His awesome ministries to us, through us, and in us.

Two weeks ago, we began emphasizing His power. We encapsulated His person and ministry into three words: God’s Empowering Presence, and we talked about His empowering us to be Jesus’ witnesses.

And last week, we talked about His power incorporating us into the Body of Christ–grafting us into the body of believers called “The Church.”

The chief biblical word for this ministry is “baptism”–the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

And we learned that this is something that all Real Christians have received, not just some higher-level Christians.

Last week, I said that it is true that some Christians have experienced more of the Holy Spirit than others, but it’s not right to divide up Christians into the Holy-Spirit-Haves and the Holy-Spirit-Have-Nots.

All Real Christians Really Have the Holy Spirit. (That could have been a sermon last Fall, huh?)

All Real Christians Really Have the Holy Spirit. But that does not mean that all have had the same experiences of His power and presence to the same degree.

Which leads us to today’s subject:

“THE HOLY SPIRIT INFLUENCES US TO LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.”

The biblical word for this is “filling.”

“The Filling of the Holy Spirit.”

And we are commanded to be filled with Him in Ephesians chapter 5, verse 18.

Let’s read it now down through verse 21. It’s part of a much larger section on living the Christian life. In verse 18, Paul writes: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Do you see why I use the word “influence” in our title for today?

The Holy Spirit Influences us to Live the Christian Life.

It’s because Paul contrasts being “filled with the Spirit” to being filled with “spirits,” that is, with being “drunk.” V.18

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

What we do call it when someone is arrested for driving drunk?

They were driving...what?

“Under the Influence.” Right?

“Under the Influence.” Swayed by the influence of alcohol, controlled by it. Not that alcohol by itself is a bad thing, but taking in too much of it definitely is!

Paul tells us Christians to not be drunk with wine which causes debauchery (“debauchery” is a big word that means “extreme indulgence in sensuality”), but instead to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

To not be unduly influenced by alcohol, but to be rightly and mightily influenced by the Holy Spirit.

This is another reference to the Spirit’s power.

This is the power to influence how we live our lives.

The power to obey His will.
The power to carry out His commands.
The power to live our lives as Christians, under the influence, not of wine but of the Holy Spirit.

It’s the Spirit’s control of our lives, swaying us, shaping us, acting upon us from the inside-out, influencing us to live the Christian life.

This is the third contrast in this paragraph which is part and parcel of a larger section on living as a Christian. Look up at verse 15.

“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. [Not as unwise but as wise.] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. [Not foolish, but understanding. And then our verse 18.] Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

Not as unwise but wise.
Not as foolish but understanding.
Not as drunk but Spirit-filled.

In many ways, this is just a description of what it means to live as a Christian.

And it’s empowered by the Holy Spirit.

When Wally was on vacation back in February he sent me this quote from Ravi Zacharias’ book The Grand Weaver: “The most important aspect of the Holy Spirit's presence is the power that He gives us to do God's will.”

And sometimes He does this in extraordinary ways!

In the Old Testament, He came upon people and they did big things for God. Like create Tabernacles and win battles and all kinds of stuff.

In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit fills the disciples, and they speak the word of God incredibly boldly.

Sometimes when the Spirit is filling someone, extraordinary things happen.

But, more often, this filling influence isn’t showy or outwardly miraculous.

It’s more quiet and not as flashy or ostentatious, and yet, not less powerful.

It’s the serene influence of the Spirit to live the Christian life.

“Be filled with the Spirit.”

That phrase, in the Greek original, is in the present tense.

We could translate it, “Be being filled with the Spirit.”

This isn’t a once-in-a-life-time, once-for-all experience.

“Yeah, I was filled with the Spirit, it happened February 29, 2004.”

Baptism in the Spirit is a once-in-a-life-time, once-for-all experience where we receive the Spirit and are incorporated into the Body of Christ.

But being filled is a repeatable experience and show be continuously repeated.

“Be being filled with the Spirit.”

Now, you might say, “Are you filled or aren’t you?”

I mean, a cup is only filled to the top, and then it’s filled, right?

This is another one of those mysterious dimensions of the Holy Spirit.

Remember that we said that the Holy Spirit is mysterious?

I think it’s more like this:

He’s less like water in a cup and more like air in a balloon.

If I blow up a balloon, I can fill it up and it takes its shaped influenced by my hot air.

Is it filled? Yes.

Can I fill it more? Yes.

Now, there’s an upward limit to a balloon. Eventually it will pop.

But what if the capacity of the balloon expanded with the air?

So that it could be filled and more filled and more filled and grow in capacity with each filling? Like a baby’s lung can be filled but as it grows into a man or a woman, it is also filled but even more so.

I think that’s more the idea here, if we’re even supposed to think in spatial categories.

I don’t think that spatial categories are actually the point here.

The point is to be filled with the Spirit and under His influence like being filled with alcohol brings you under its influence: cause and effect.

When we are being filled like that, we don’t lose control.

When you are drunk, you’ve lost control.

But notice, Paul doesn’t say, “Get drunk on the Holy Spirit.”

I think that’s because it would indicate losing self-control.

But mysteriously, the more we are controlled by the Spirit, the more we are also under our own control. Remember, the fruit of the Spirit includes the fruit of self-control!
It’s another one of those mysteries about the Spirit!

And here’s another one.

By now, you’re probably wondering “How?”

Okay, already, Pastor Matt, I understand that I am supposed to not get drunk, but I am supposed to be filled with the Spirit.

How do I go about doing that?

Do you know what? It doesn’t say.

And there is no other passage in Scripture that gives a formula.

Most of the rest of the places where it talks about being filled with the Spirit are descriptions of faithful Christians doing God’s will and not commands like this one to come under His influence.

At my ordination council, I was asked this question, and it was kind of stumper, because it doesn’t say.

And I think that’s because being filled with the Spirit is not a technique.

It’s simply a yieldedness to His influence and a living out the Christian life dependent on His power.

I’m sure it includes the repentance and faith of “putting off” and “putting on” that you find in verses 20-24 of chapter 4.

I’m sure it includes the living differently than we used to that you find in chapter 4, verse 25 through chapter 5, verse 14.

I’m sure it includes the living wisely not unwisely, the living with understanding of God’s will, not foolishly in verses 15, 16, and 17.

I’m sure that includes knowing and believing the Word of God.

In the parallel passage to this one in the book of Colossians, Paul says, to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

Remember, the Spirit wrote the Bible, and I think that being filled with Him would also include being filled with His Words.

It probably includes walking by the Spirit and keeping in the step with the Spirit like we saw back in Galatians chapter 5.

It’s really just yielding to His influence and trusting Him to empower your life.

It’s not very mystical, really.

It’s not “let go and let God.”

It’s “Trust God and get going.”

It’s not how much of Him we have, but how much of us He has.

“Be being filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Now, it doesn’t give a formula or technique for being filled, but it does describe the inevitable results of it.

In verses 19, 20, and 21, there are 4 participles that flow out of verse 18. In the original Greek, this was all one sentence.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak[ing] to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing[ing] and mak[ing] music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [s]ubmit[ing] to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

You can know that you are filled with the Spirit if these kinds of things are true of you.

#1. A SPIRIT-INFLUENCED PERSON ENGAGES IN ENCOURAGING TALK. V.19

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”

Often we think about this as singing. And I think that pretty much, that’s what Paul is getting at. But, notice, it’s singing to one-another. See the word it starts with? Speak. Speak to one-another. A Spirit-filled person sings His Christian songs (that’s what psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are–all of the different kinds of choruses and hymns that we have), a Spirit-filled person sings His Christian songs in such a way that it encourages one-another.

Have you ever wondered why we have Special Music? Like what Amy Jo did for us today? It’s not just for a show, I’ll tell you that! Sometimes we need to sing songs about Jesus to one-another to encourage each-other in our walk with Jesus. We need to use inspiring words like psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to encourage each other along.

We need to listen to each other sing on Sundays! It’s not just “close your eyes and focus on Jesus.” We’re singing together and we really mean it!

If you are under the influence of the Spirit, you want to share it!

#2. A SPIRIT-INFLUENCED PERSON SINGS IN THEIR HEART.

Look again at verse 19. It says “Sing and make music in your heart to Lord.”

“Sing” is the first part. A Spirit-filled person uses his or her voice to sing to the Lord. My friend, Byron Harvey says, “If God has given you a great singing voice then sing loud and lead people! But if God has not gifted you with a great voice, then sing loud anyways and get even with Him!” Make a joyful noise! Spirit-filled song!

The second part is “make music in your heart to the Lord.” Even more important than what your voice does is what your heart does. You can sing with all your lungs and not be worshiping! Make music in your heart to the Lord. That’s what the Spirit does to you when He has control of your life. He plays a concerto of praise in your heart!

When we sing, “Jesus, Thank You!” do you feel it?

#3. A SPIRIT-INFLUENCED PERSON GIVES THANKS ALWAYS FOR EVERYTHING. V.20

“...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you are under the Holy Spirit’s influence, then you know the reality of Romans 8:28. All things are working to your good. Even THE bad things!

If you are under His influence, then you know the reality of Romans 8:32, God is graciously giving you all things with Jesus. Even trials, hardships, suffering!

If you are under His influence, then you can see life with God’s sovereign rule triumphing over everything and all the time you can find something to give thanks for.

I don’t mean to just grin and bear it and pretend that evil is not there. It is, and it is awful! Cancer is an enemy. Famines and earthquakes and evil are a reality. But God is on the throne, and if He is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Today’s my birthday and my favorite present so far has been a worship CD called, “Come Weary Saints” by Sovereign Grace Music. The whole theme of the album is songs for people who are going through hard things.

Listen to the words of the Song “Every Day:”

In Your grace, You know where I walk
You know when I fall
You know all my ways
In Your love, I know You allow
What I cannot grasp
To bring You praise

Thank You for the trials
For the fire, for the pain
Thank You for the strength
Knowing You have ordained
Every day

Your great power is shown when I’m weak
You help me to see
Your love in this place
Perfect peace is filling my mind
And drawing my heart
To praise You again

In my uncertainty, Your Word is all I need
To know You’re with me every day

[© 2008 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)]

Can your heart sing something like that? If so, you’re under the influence of the Spirit.

#4. A SPIRIT-INFLUENCED PERSON SUBMITS TO OTHERS IN THE PROPER RELATIONSHIPS.

Do you notice how communal this is?

Like we saw last week, the Spirit really as interested in giving us lots of isolated individualistic private experiences, as He is knitting us together so that we living in Spirit-influenced community!

Engaging in Encouraging Talk
Singing in Our Hearts
Giving Thanks for Everything
And Submiting to Others in the Proper Relationships. V.21

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Submission is simply putting ourselves under someone else’s authority. In the next passage, Paul applies that to wives, children, and slaves.

But verse 21 makes it clear that it’s for all of us. We all have relationships that should be characterized by submission.

And we should all have hearts that are willing to submit to others when appropriate.

To humble ourselves.
To not demand our rights.

When we do, it’s because we’re under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

He empowers Christians to live like only Christians can live.

How are you going to apply this teaching to your life this week?

My prayer is that you and I will be more keenly aware that the Third Person of the Trinity is not only living inside of us, but present to empower us to live out the Christian life.

He wants to influence us, to sway us, to control us, to act upon us from inside out sot that we grow in doing God’s will.

Sometimes, in extraordinary ways. But often, just in simple joyful obedience and wise-living characterized by encouraging talk, joyful song, pervasive thankfulness, and humble submission.

Is there an area of your life that you’ve been holding back?

Yield it and yourself to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

***

Worship at the Lord’s Table

One of the reasons why the Bible must tell us to be filled with the Holy Spirit is because we will not always be filled in the way we should be.

We are sinners.

And our sin deserves to be punished by God.

I imagine that if our first parents, Adam and Eve, had never sinned, they would have experienced the filling of the Spirit in ways unimaginable to us today.

But they sinned, and so do we. We all fall short of what we were made to be.

But God, in His grace and mercy, God in His love, sent One to live and to die in our place–His own Son, Jesus Christ.

And, the Bible tells us that He was given “the Spirit without measure!”

Think about that phrase in light of what we’ve just been learning about.

“The Spirit without measure” was given to Jesus.

No one in all of history was more influenced by the Holy Spirit!

His miracles were done in the power of the Holy Spirit!

“The Spirit without measure” was given to Jesus.

No one in all of history was more influenced by the Holy Spirit!

And that led Him to some strange places, didn’t it?

The Spirit led Him out in the wilderness to be tempted.

And the Spirit led Him to the Cross to die for our sins, in our place.

And then, on the third day, the Spirit brought Him back to life again!

1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit...”