From the Gateway Austin website:
“We talk about Him like he’s not here, like He’s an ‘it.’ He’s the often misunderstood third party of the Trinity. He’s the one who brings the party – the love, the joy, the peace and everything else we long for and were made to experience. Join us as we explore the mystery of the Holy Spirit.”
You can watch or listen to my message here:
Here are some of the ideas I shared on the work of the Spirit of God:
We live in a very spiritual world with people who are very spiritually-minded. So many people would describe themselves as spiritual yet not religious. Lots of people attribute lots of things to the spiritual realm, but who is the Spirit of God really? Can we know the Spirit of God? Can we connect with the Spirit of God? Can we experience the Spirit of God in our lives?
To answer all of these questions, we have been looking at the last time Jesus shared a meal with His disciples. What He shared that last night together is one of the most important messages ever shared about the Spirit of God.
In John 16, Jesus explains why this message was so important and why they should be listening and even living out what He is sharing. Listen to Jesus’ words:
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away….
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:1, 33 NIV
Jesus is giving the people in the room with Him the path towards a life of peace and the ability to overcome the challenges of this world. We have the chance to listen in on this critical conversation so that we can know how to do the same.
Jesus warns His followers that some might fall away. Jesus was warning everyone who follows Him – whether in that room that particular night or in this room today or in your room at home watching this online. There are dark forces that will attempt to tempt you away, pull you away, drag you away from a life of peace.
So what are these forces that make it difficult to follow Jesus and experience the life of peace He promises.
There are external forces that make it hard to follow Jesus.
When you choose to truly follow Jesus
- you are confessing that you need God in your life.
- you are admitting that you need God’s forgiveness.
- you are acknowledging that you are living your life surrendered and led by the Sprit of God.
This is not about believing in a religion but having a genuine relationship with God.
When we choose to follow Jesus and live according to His ways, Jesus warns us that others will think we are crazy! Others will dismiss us. We may face prejudice, persecution, or even death because of our faith.
In our context, death threats for our faith may not be commonplace, but we face peer pressure to deny our faith or at least not to take our faith too seriously.
- Are you struggling to grow in your relationship with Jesus because of external forces?
- Do you face hardships or persecution for your faith?
- Are you more concerned with what others think than what God desires for your relationship with Him?
If so, connect with others who can encourage you. That is the power of connecting to a life group, a network, or a ministry team. Make sure you have people in your life who encourage you to go in the right direction.
If external forces are opposing you,
choose to influence the people in your life rather than be influenced by them.
For some of us, the struggle to walk in step with the Spirit of God is far more of an internal struggle than an external one.
There are internal forces that make it hard to follow Jesus.
Within each of us, there is a battle between our flesh and the Spirit of God. When we walk “in step with the Spirit” we overcome the flesh, but when we go along with the flesh we stop the flow of the Spirit of God in our lives.
To help us determine which is winning in our lives, think for a moment about this past week to determine which is winning in your life – the flesh or the Spirit.
First the Flesh:
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these….
– Galatians 5:19-21
It may be easy to dismiss this list because of some of the examples that may seem more extreme, but do you find yourself drifting towards impurity, idolatry, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, or envy?
Not sure, ask your roommate or your co-worker or your spouse.
Now a life where we are allowing the Spirit to win the battle:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…. – Galatians 5:22-23
The letter to the Galatians was a letter written by Paul who was the spiritual mentor to the Christ-followers in the city of Galatia. He was writing them to let them know. When you choose to follow Christ, you can live an entirely new life – a transformed life! You no longer have to suffer from the destructive patterns and habits that are common in this broken world or have been part of your past. Instead, you can live an entirely new life – one that is filled with the Spirit – a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control!
Paul ends that section with directions for experiencing this new life:
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
– Galatians 5:24-25
Paul echoes the words of Jesus in John 16. When we choose to follow Jesus, we die to our old lives so that we might live new lives!
The Spirit helps change us into the people God created us to be, but sometimes that is hard. We may lose friends. We may give up habits and darkness with which we’ve gone to for years for relief.
During that last meal, Jesus told His disciples in that room and all those who would eventually follow Him, that following Him is worth it!
You may be wondering: if following Jesus means I will face rejection or even persecution from the world, and some of what I enjoy doing now will become part of my past rather than my future, why should I follow Jesus?!?
The pay off Jesus says in John 16 is peace, His help to overcome the challenges of this world, complete joy, and intimacy with God.
Jesus explains that we will not have to live this life on our own. He will send His Spirit to help us face this internal battle and the external battle.
The Spirit of God is not the back up plan but the best plan.
7 But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come. 8 When the Helper comes, he will prove to the people of the world the truth about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment….
13 But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth… and he will tell you what is yet to come. – John 16:7-8, 13
To win this battle Jesus tells us that the Spirit of God will help us know which way to go, which move to make. The Spirit of God will warn us when we start heading in a destructive direction or start to veer off course. The Helper will prove to us the right way to go or “convict” us of the right way to go.
When you aren’t sure what to do – big decisions and in daily decisions, ask God to reveal His wisdom to you. Pursue Him. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Remove anything from your life that may be getting between yourself and Him. Trust Him. The Spirit will guide you.
Community with others following Christ can help you determine if what you are sensing from God is truly from Him.
The Spirit convicts. The Spirit of God is like the friend who loves you enough to have the hard conversation:
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth…. and he will tell you what is yet to come.” – John 16:13
A true friend tells you the truth – willing to have the hard conversation.
I find the fact that the Spirit will tell us what is to come fascinating! I think the Spirit reveals where the decisions we make will take us. We sense the need to hesitate when He is warning us not to move forward. We sense a need to go for it even when we are scared to do so when trusting Him is best.
As we respond to the conviction in our hearts, we experience the fruit of the Spirit. The direct result of being connected to God is bearing fruit. A tree doesn’t have to push harder to get a banana to pop out! It produces fruit naturally!
In that last conversation during their last meal, Jesus clearly communicates this mysterious relationship He has with God the Father and the Spirit of God.
God, in His Essence, is love.
God is communion in unity.
God is community – three persons yet one God.
This is hard for us to fully understand. We think in terms of 1+1+1 = 3. In God’s economy, the Trinity is 1x1x1 = 1.
As Ted described last Sunday, the word to describe the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit is that of a dance.
Listen to Jesus’ words:
“… the Spirit of truth… will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
– John 16:13-15 NIV
Here’s where things become even more miraculous in my mind. We are invited into this dance. We are invited into a loving and intimate relationship with God.
Jesus describes an intimacy between the Father, Son, and Sprit. He also describes an intimate relationship the Father, Son, and Sprit has with each of His children.
We find these words in John 14.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them…. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
– John 14:21, 23-24 NIV
Jesus invites you and me into loving relationship with God – a relationship where we experience joy, peace, and overcome the external and internal forces of this broken and messed up world.
The Father sent the Spirit in the name of Jesus to help each of us!
Jesus is in the Father, and we are in Christ and His Spirit is within us!
It is like we have a force field around us against the darkness! We are not alone! We are invited into communion with God – a loving relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit!
Every single one of us are invited into a relationship with God that is possible because Jesus came to save us – teaching with great authority, healing the sick, dying on the cross taking the punishment for our evil and wicked choices on Himself, yet death could not keep Him down. Jesus rose from the dead and offers new life and His Spirit to all who surrender themselves to Him.
Your relationship with God can become so personal and so real and so vibrant – just as real as any relationship with any person. In fact, you can grow so close to God that you will recognize the Spirit at work in your life and through your life. You will even develop private jokes with God.
So you may be sitting here today or listening to this online, and you are skeptical that a relationship with God can be that real and that personal. That’s because other people’s private jokes aren’t funny to us.
Other people’s relationship with God can seem odd or awkward but it is just the way they need Him to be for them.
The Spirit of God speaks in a “still small voice,” a “whisper” from the God who created us.
When you have a thought ask yourself:
- Is this selfless?
- Does this take courage?
- Does it match the character of God as shown in the Scriptures?”
If the answer is “yes” to all three then it may very well be God is speaking to you because that is not normally not how we think.
During that last meal together, Jesus goes onto explain the very essence of eternal life – the life we all long for and desperately need.
And this is eternal life: that people know you, the only true God, and that they know Jesus Christ, the One you sent. – John 17:3
This is so hard to understand if you’ve never experienced this.
You see walking in step with the Spirit is like swimming in Barton springs pool. It is an acquired experience. You may be scared to get in. You may be afraid to get in. You may even be uncomfortable getting in, but doing so will be one of the most refreshing experiences of your life!
Here’s the amazing thing: the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is the Spirit of God that lives inside of us when we surrender our lives to Jesus!
Some of us talk about God, but we’re missing the power of God!
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”
– 1 Corinthians 4:20
Missing His power? Surrender your life to Jesus and/or renew your commitment to Him!
In what ways do you need to declutter your life to be able to hear God’s Spirit more clearly in your life?
It’s time for spring cleaning!!
Another place with very specific intention stated:
Jesus did many other miracles in the presence of his followers that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Then, by believing, you may have life through his name.
– John 20:30
Skeptical? Doubts? Want the essentials of a relationship with God? Read through Gospel of John between now and easter and ask God, if you are real show me who you are!
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:7-8, 13-14, 16-17 NIV)
News fast – getting rid of the clutter
A couple going through a tough time, my prescription for them was to make coming weekly a priority. He said: “are you kidding? I need Sundays. Sundays at Gateway give me the boost I need to feel God and keep going the rest of the week.
Certainly an encouragement, but it’s just the beginning.
Sundays can become a celebration of what God has been doing in your life all week! You can feel His presence at work, at home, on the road, wherever you may be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sundays can become a day to celebrate that you know God and a springboard into helping you know how to make Him known in the lives of others!