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“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 4:13.

Yesterday we talked about how when questions about the reality of our salvation come that the true response of faith is to ask those questions of God. Today, let’s look at a piece of the evidence the Holy Spirit will use to demonstrate the reality of our salvation experience.

“If we love one another…” Weeks ago, as we were considering the fruit of the Spirit, we spent a day talking about love and how we are incapable of producing true love without God. But what is true love like? The Greek word translated love in 1 John 4:13 is agape. Agape is a selfless love that does not count the cost. It is truly other focused. For the greeks this kind of love was only producible by the gods. But when you read the accounts of the activities of their gods your driven to wonder if even divinity knows what truly selfless love is.

And then we turn and look to Jesus. In him we see true love demonstrated and the apostle John tells us that when this love starts to flow from our lives that this is evidence that the Holy Spirit is abiding in us. For most of us this love isn’t going to be first seen in how we love our closest friends and families. Most of us are already, for self serving reasons, trying to be loving toward them. It’s our loving attitudes toward neighbors and coworkers that we truly dislike where the Holy Spirits presence begins to reveal itself first. Because God loves everyone his love will shine forth from our lives if he’s abiding in the heart. And this is evidence that we are children of God.

But if we can’t be forgiving. If kindness has to be forced out of us against our wills. If the prospering of an adversary is capable eroding the joy in our lives. If we can’t even think about the person without hatred and anger beginning to well up. Then we have evidence that selfless love is not present in our lives. And this tells us that God is not there.

Fortunately, that condition is simple to remedy. Just ask God to give you what you need. Luke 11:13 tells us that like every good father would, our Heavenly Father will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask him.

“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 4:13.

Some of you may be asking a question that almost inevitably gets asked when a person sets out to journey on the way of salvation. How do I know if this is real? How do I know if the changes are the result of faith and submission and not the product of my own concentrated effort? Is there something that will give me confidence and assurance that I’m really saved?

Some people would discourage you from seriously entertaining such questions. To them these questions reveal a scarcity of faith that is to be rejected and avoided and to this end they spurn even the presence of the questions.

But I’ll be honest with. You can’t avoid the questions. Read the Psalms and you will hear David asking some of these questions. And our focus text, while not asking the questions, is providing an answer to an unasked question. I think it’s spiritually unhealthy to avoid the questions. You see faith is not demonstrated so much by the total absence of questioning as it is by the way you pursue the answers. Questions are inevitable. Faith is the godly way in which you find the answers.

The first step of faith is turn and ask your questions of God Many times we make the mistake of asking the questions of ourselves. This is an understandable yet backward way of trying to find out if God’s saving presence is in our lives. Far better to claim his promise and knock on his door and ask him for the assurance you are looking for. Jesus promises that if we knock he’ll answer and if we seek we’ll find and if we ask we’ll be given what we ask for. Matthew 7:7-8. Friends, when the questions come faith leads you to ask them of God.

Don’t make turning inward your first response. Don’t make asking another person your first response either, even if this is a godly person whom you trust and respect. 1 John 4:13 tells us that we’ve been given the Holy Spirit. Take Jesus at him word and turn to him first. He’ll almost certainly lead you to talk with others but that’s also part of a journey of faith best taken with Him.

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,”. Titus 3:4-5

How do you know that God loves you? How do you know that you’ve been accepted by God and are saved? How do you know that you’re a son or a daughter of God? Ordinarily, if we wanted to test the validity of something, anything, we would look for changes in abilities. Some evidence of improvement relative to a desired standard. And this is a reasonable, valid approach even regarding the questions we’ve just asked about our salvation, provided you have a good understanding of what the desired standard is.

But how do you measure changes you don’t really understand? I find it interesting to note that when the apostle Paul gives evidence for the presence of sin in people’s lives he has no problem writing lengthy lists of behaviors to substantiate his assertions. But there are very few lists detailing righteous behavior and the best and clearest of them are not so much lists of behaviors as they are traits of character. And this makes sense since salvation is not so much changing what you do as it is changing who you are. It changes not only what you do but why you do what you do. And this renewing, this cleansing of self of even the motivations of a sinful character isn’t something you or I can do for ourselves. Titus 3:5 tells us that this profound, fundamental change comes by the working of the Holy Spirit.

I find it comforting and beautiful to note that this transformation doesn’t come to us because we’ve earned it. There is, in fact, no course of action we could take that would qualify us for the renewing accomplished by the Holy Spirit. God does what he does, provides what he provides, because of his own kindness, love and mercy.

But let’s go back to the change itself. God’s goal is not to merely change what we do. He wants to renew and regenerate us. He wants to restore his image in us. There’s nothing we can do to affect this change. We’ve all experienced the truth of this. Sometimes, for a period of time, we’re able to temporarily alter our actions but inevitably our inner nature returns. Law enforcement officials expect it. We’ve all heard experienced officers say that “people never change.”

And people don’t change. But God does change people. And he wants to change you. Not just what you do but why you do what you do. He wants to change you. Do you want that change?

“That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:4

Have you ever heard something described as “second nature?” We use this expression to describe something when, even though it’s new to us, it’s easy for us to learn.

The Bible tells us that those who are born of God have two natures. First, they have a carnal or fleshly nature that is theirs from the moment of conception. This first nature is also described as sinful and is the root of every desire that is contrary to God and his kingdom. The second nature is that of faith or the Spirit and this is the source of every holy and righteous impulse, inclination and thought.

The apostle Paul, in the verses surrounding our focus text, makes it clear that only actions coming forth from the spiritual nature can ever be holy because these have the Holy Spirit as their source. Even those things that we wouldn’t classify as “bad” would still be considered carnal and unholy if their source is the carnal nature rather than the Spirit. This is the primary reason why we must balance our message of living a life of obedience with our message of living by faith. For the Christian you can’t have one without the other. If we try and produce a garment of righteousness by obedience alone the result is filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6. Holiness can only come from a life filled with and submitted to the Holy Spirit.

But while this spiritual nature comes to us second, after we make the choice to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, it would be inaccurate to say that living according to it would be “second nature” to us. Just one chapter earlier, in Romans 7, Paul laments over the difficulty he has in living according to the Spirit. The flesh just doesn’t want to die and it keeps popping up and exerting its influence on the lives we live. And this must be guarded against because living according to the flesh results in death.

So living a righteous life means that we have to live a life where we consciously and deliberately nurture our connection with and relationship to Jesus through the Holy Spirit. In our devotions we ask for more of the Spirit. As we study scripture and live our lives we search for a deeper connectedness so that we can be more secure in Him. And when it comes to the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us the assurance that if we ask, we will receive, and if we seek, we will find. Matthew 7:7-8.

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17

We all encounter this situation at some point; our understanding of the Bible’s instruction is different from the understanding of our Christian brother or sister. This is the situational context that Paul is trying to address in Romans 14.

Some have used these verses to try and justify some form of situational obedience where we get to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. But let me make this very clear; Paul is not giving you or anyone else the right to decide for yourself what is right and wrong. He makes it very clear that we are sinful and, on our own, don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. Our only hope of knowing how to live a righteous life is to submit to the teaching of scripture under the instruction and leading of the Holy Spirit.

It’s, however, inevitable that the understandings of sincere believers would at times be different. There are so many variables that come in to influence our understandings: how we define words, personal experiences, various cultural influences, etc.; that it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise.

When he gets to verse 17 the Apostle is trying to remind us that the forest of righteousness and faith is much bigger that the individual tree or shrub of specific actions. And striving to be a Spirit led support and influence for righteousness, and peace, and joy in the life of our brother is our first focus. The priority of our consideration then is first God, then your brother and then yourself.

So many times when it comes to matters of faith we become selfish, dictatorial and judgmental. We stop heeding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and give no thought to being respectful and sympathetic to others, and think only of what we think is right. This shouldn’t be our attitude. Listen to Paul in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” We simply cannot truly live the righteous life the Spirit is trying to teach us if we don’t have loving consideration for others. And this especially applies where our life of faith intersects with the faith of others.

Father, through your Spirit, teach me to be loving and righteous in my relationships with the rest of your children.

“Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51:11

Different cultures have different forms of poetry. Our western poetry forms seem to be primarily characterized by the rhythm, meter and rhyme of the words. By comparison, biblical Hebrew poetry doesn’t rely as strongly on meter and rhyme, though rhythm may be important. Instead poetry in the Bible is often characterized by repetition of the points being presented. A good example of this is our focus text taken from Psalm 51,
“Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
In this couplet we hear King David repeating his request that God not remove His personal presence from his life.

From childhood, David had learned to rely on God’s presence in his life. At times God may have been his only companion for days as he tended his father’s sheep. On other occasions it was the presence of God that fortified him to defend his flock from the attacks of the lion and the bear. So much had David learned to rely on God’s personal presence, that when preparing to face the champion Goliath on the field of battle, he chose to refuse the armor and weapons offered by the king, instead relying upon the personal protection of God.

How much do we rely on God’s personal presence. David depended on it. Hear him plead, “Do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” But far to often our expectation of the Spirit’s presence morphs into taking it for granted. Respect for and submission to him and his influences are absent in our relationship with him. We just keep doing our own thing comforted that he is there. But the Holy Spirit isn’t a security blanket. He’s in our lives to change us, shape us, and transform us and we need to be actively cooperating with him if he is to accomplish his purpose in our lives.

We need the Holy Spirit far more profoundly than we realize. David is begging for his presence because he has been reminded of this truth by his own criminal choices. Friends, it’s far better to learn from the mistakes of others than it is to repeat them. So before we’re standing over another mountain of regret let’s learn to truly rely, moment by moment, and day by day on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. And morning by morning remind ourselves of our dependence by repeating David’s prayer. “Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”

“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

It would seem that we might be backtracking a bit but sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of basic simple truths along the way just to keep ourselves centered and grounded. And one important truth it’s good to emphasize is that the Holy Spirit has been part of our lives since long before we were alive.

Our focus text places the Holy Spirit on the scene at the very beginning when the Godhead was just preparing to begin to speak the world into existence. As we come to the end of creation week and God is preparing to create man we hear the words, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Genesis 1:26

Sometimes, with modern science, and taxonomy, and the evolutionary arguments and explanations it easy to just think about the nuts and bolts of our bodies and to think that, overall, we’re not that special when compared to the rest of the creatures that share our planet. But these eleven words reveal to us an important truth about us. We’re created in the image, the likeness, of God. As wonderfully made as all the rest of the creatures roaming this planet are the Godhead didn’t do that with them. And it’s not the nuts and bolts that set us apart. Our anatomies are comparably similar to many other mammals. What makes us different is the pattern. The template used to design us was God. And while we don’t specifically think about this very much the Holy Spirit’s part of the us that we’re created in the image of.

It’s easy to think of being like Jesus. He is after all the Son of Man. And since he said that if we have seen him we have seen the Father, John 14:9, it’s not hard to image our being like the Father. But the Spirit’s a different story. We’ve never seen him.

Yet, we’re created in his image just as much as we’re created in Christ’s. I make this point to give evidence for other even more important ones. The Holy Spirit, the Helper Jesus sent, is not indifferent to us. He understands us every bit as much as Jesus does; we’re made in his image. He’s also deeply invested in us; he helped to create us in his image. So while, yes, Jesus and the Father are said to have sent him to us I think it’s more like they’re all agreeing that the work of salvation up to that stage has been successful and now it’s the Spirit’s time to come and do his part.

So the simple truth is that God the Holy Spirit loves you every bit as much as Jesus does. So reach out to him. Let him in so he can give you every bit of the grace you need to become like Jesus

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

We live in a world where increasingly people consider it unacceptable to label their behavior as wrong or sinful. Behaviors that in the past were recognized as being sinful, even by those that habitually engaged in them, are now expected to be treated as normal, healthy, and even noble. It’s getting to the point that churches are beginning to be concerned that any preaching of messages that identify behaviors as sinful will be labeled as hate speech.

Scripture, however, is not sparing of our feelings when it comes to pointing out sin. Unhesitatingly God, through his pen men, warns that everyone is a sinner and then proceeds to illustrate his point by providing numerous examples of the kinds of behavior that constitute as being sinful. In his letters to the early Christian church the apostle Paul characterizes the Christian life as being one that is a struggle between a depraved sinful nature and a holy spiritual one with the Spirit guided choices of the individual being the deciding factor as to which nature rules the life. In Galatians 5 the impulses driving the sinful nature are called the lusts of the flesh and the impulses driving the righteous nature are called the fruit of the Spirit.

The consequences attending the choice we make as to which nature will have control are literally eternal life or death. Given this fact scripture and Holy Spirit don’t spare our feelings when it comes to pointing out sin. And sinners have generally not welcomed this revelation. Prophets throughout scripture knew that faithfulness in carrying God’s messages often meant that they were endangering their own lives.

But how do you help a person realize their need for help and healing if you don’t identify the illness? You can’t. So God, through the Holy Spirit, has been working in each persons life, for as long as they’ve been alive, to lead them to a knowledge of their sinfulness and his compassionate righteousness. Sometimes he adds the witness of your life or my life to strengthen his influence. He loves us. He desires us. He wants us to be with him but this can only happen if we’re willing to get rid of the lusts of the flesh and live only the fruit of the Spirit.

Ultimately, we make the choice as to whether or not God is worth the effort and the change. I think Jesus is more than worth it. How about you?

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

The word “fulfill” in this text helps us set our expectations about what it will be like to “walk in the Spirit.” It’s very tempting to think that when we unite our lives with Christ’s that everything will be different. I mean, Jesus called our entrance into a life with him the new birth and Paul says that when we’re in Christ we’re a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come. If all this doesn’t add up to the conclusion that everything is new then there must be something wrong with the dictionary or something.

Friend, if this is the conclusion we’ve arrived at the problem isn’t with the dictionary it’s with the fact that we’re adding information that’s simply not in the texts. We’re filling in some of the blank places in the word pictures the Bible is painting with our own ideas and this is giving us a mistaken idea of what’s happening.

When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord he forgives us, and gives us the Holy Spirit, and this gives us the opportunity to start our lives with God over. But it doesn’t remove the history, and the habits, and the tendencies we’ve been nurturing over the years. These are all still part of our lives. The real difference is that now the Holy Spirit is also part of our lives and he’s here to help us meet those temptations.

That’s why Galatians 5:16 says that when we walk with the Spirit we don’t “fulfill” the lusts of the flesh. The apostle didn’t say we don’t “have” the lusts of the flesh. Oh no, those desires for sinful pleasures are still very much present in our lives but now we have a competing influence working in our lives as well. The Holy Spirit is there giving us understanding about what sin is, reminding us about what we’ve learned regarding Jesus and his way of living, and convicting us that what we’re wanting to do is part of the problem that led to Christ’s death. If we’ll listen and submit to the Spirit’s influence James 4:6 tells us that he’ll also give us more strength so that we can stand victorious as overcomers over our sinful natures.

But it’s a mistake to think that we’ll stop wanting the wrong things. That desire is still there but there are new desires as well and, if we’ll rely on the Holy Spirit to help, we can cultivate this new set of wants and desires until we’ve left no room for sin in our lives. How do we nurture this new nature. One choice at a time. Leaning heavily on the Holy Spirit we choose what is good and reject what is evil.

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

This verse makes me think about the Genesis account of the patriarch Enoch. We don’t know much about him. Only three or four verses record the entire life of this uniquely remarkable man with Genesis 5:24 being, perhaps, the most exciting: “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

Enoch is one of my favorite Bible characters to think about and ever since I was a teenager the thought of Enoch walking with God has fascinated my imagination. Exactly what experience is the author of Genesis referring to when he uses the expression “walked with God?” Is it literal? Figurative? There is so little contextual data directly attached to the patriarch that we must go elsewhere in scripture to derive a definition and I think that Galatians 5 must be included when we gather information to give us understanding.

The apostle Paul exhorts us to “walk in the Spirit,” and since we know from our study that the Holy Spirit is one of the members of the Divine Godhead this expression must be synonymous with “walking with God.” So, through the sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has provided us with the means of having the same experience that was given to Enoch which resulted in his being received by God.

When we combine the expression, “Walking with God,” or “walking in the Spirit,” with the instructions we’re given by Christ in John chapters 14 – 16, we learn that “walking with the Spirit” is actually referring to the abiding relationship with God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, that gives us the ability to day by day overcome the impulses of the natural, sinful human nature. The beautiful revelation of the Genesis account of Enoch is that this relationship has the capacity to so completely transform the life of the sinner that he or she is fully prepared to live a life in the very presence of God. This knowledge is tremendously comforting given that Revelation 21:27 tells us that nothing that defiles shall ever enter the City of God the New Jerusalem.

The Holy Spirit is given to us now, where we are, so that he can give to us every gift and grace necessary to prepare us for that day when when Jesus returns, so that he can receive us unto himself that where he is there we may be also. 1 John 14:3

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” 1 Corinthians 12:7

We’re not nearly as community oriented as we once were. Time was, and it wasn’t that long ago, when everybody knew who everyone in town or their neighborhood was. And it was only a very private person who kept their lives and business secret from their neighbors. It wasn’t so much that people were nosy, though some were, mostly it was that people cared about and relied on the people that lived around them, so they looked out for one another. But we’re not that way anymore.

We’ve become very private when it comes to our personal lives and this is spilling over into work and church and almost everything else. And the result is that we’re more alone and less supported than we ever were before. And this is not the way God wants us to be. Philippians 2 tells us that God’s way is to look out for the interests of others and this is the way of thinking the Holy Spirit is trying to instill in us. To this end he has given to each one of us resources, gifts and abilities so that every one will be profited by them.

Our first instinct, when it comes to these abilities and other resources, is to think how does this give me an advantage. But that’s the way the world thinks. If we’re led by the Spirit in the way we use the various manifestations of grace he blesses us with then our thoughts will be how can I use this to benefit everyone.

The early Christian church is an example to us. Acts 2:44-45 describes the culture of the church community this way, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” Imagine if this was the attitude of the church today.

But the generosity of heart that causes us to lookout for one another and then to care for the needs we see is a character trait that is born of the Spirit. So when we take stock of our lives and realize that we’re not yet who the Spirit is wanting us to be then what is called for is not merely more effort on our part. No what we need is more of Jesus and that means we need a deeper fuller submission to the Holy Spirit.

“…Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3

In John 17 Jesus is praying not only for his disciples that are with him but for everyone that will believe as a result of their witness. So, in a very real sense, Jesus is praying for you and me too. And what is he praying for? That we many be one, united, just like Jesus and the Father are.

I think it’s instructive to note that Jesus isn’t telling his disciples that they need to work on building unity. No, he’s praying that the Father will bless us with unity because if this oneness will ever be ours it will, like so many other important things in our lives, only come as a gift from God.

The Apostle Paul reflects this truth, in our focus text, when he writes that he’s, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit…” Notice he says he’s attempting to “keep” not “make” unity. And also notice that when he identifies the unity he’s trying to keep he also qualifies the object of his efforts as being “of the Spirit.” In fact, before the Apostle lists a variety of unique ways in which the Spirit works in our lives differently he first, very powerfully, drives home the point that we are being forged by the Spirit into a loving, peace filled church.

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6

Today, there’s a lot of focus on plurality, acceptance of diversity, accommodation for differences, and the rights of the individual. And while I believe that there is some value in recognizing the unique beauty that can come from each one of us; I believe that we need to focus much more effort on making sure that the unity that the Spirit is blessing the church with is preserved by us. In giving us the Fruit of the Spirit we’ve even been given all the tools necessary for this task.

And if you’re worried about your individuality consider this. In the same way that the human body beautifully celebrates the contributions of its various parts by the way they work so wonderfully together. The importance of our uniquenesses will be best celebrated if Christ’s unity is first nurtured in us

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. ” 1 Corinthians 2:14

I have a friend that had lived a life, before he gave it to Christ, that can best be described as hard and fast. Then Jesus took control and everything changed. So much so that there was one man in town that truly believed that my friend was, in fact, twins. One that was godly and the other that was profane. It never seemed to occur to this man that he had never seen the godly twin until after the profane one had dropped off the face of the earth.

God wants to give every person a compete transformation. And we know that we need to let God take control and make something new of our lives but we never quite surrender to him. The results are comparable to the time I was tailing a table saw and trying to help the person feeding it guide the wood when all I was supposed to do was catch and support it. Instead of a straight cut we were only able to get a wildly wavy one because in addition to having to handle an unwieldy piece of lumber the operator also had to fight my interferences.

We’re continually interfering with what God, through the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in our lives. And some uneasiness is understandable. We don’t really understand what God is trying to do. The changes he wants to make are foolishness compared to anything we’ve experienced before. Added to this is the fact that Paul, just a few verses before our focus text, describes God’s plans for us with these words, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.

We usually use this text to qualify our descriptions of heaven and the new earth but I believe they apply equally to God’s work of recreating us. The truth is, we’re simply unable to visualize the wonder and beauty that God wants to create as he restores his image in us. And this leaves us in the unnatural position of having to choose to let someone else have complete discretion and control of our lives while knowing that he is going to change everything.

Well, I don’t know about you, but my life needs a makeover. So folks, I think it’s high time for us to trust God and let the Holy Spirit transform us into something unnatural.

“The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:17.

If there’s a break down in communication, a misunderstanding, or perhaps a fracture in a relationship, what is the best way to restore or at the very least put a relationship back on the path for restoration?

Quality time together. That’s what’s required. Quality time together demands communication. Which gives the opportunity to gain the knowledge needed to created understanding. Which can then heal the divisions that have fractured the relationship.

You’ll notice that I didn’t say it only took time together. It takes more than time. It takes quality time. Quality time is time that’s devoted to doing what’s needed to restore and build up a relationship. In the Holy Spirit, we’ve been given the very presence of God in our lives so that we can know him.

But here’s another question Do you want to know the Holy Spirit? Do you want to learn to recognize and understand his moods, his preferences and values? Do you want to discover what motivates and excites him? Do you want to learn to avoid what grieves him? Do you want to know the Holy Spirit?

If you’re like me you’ve never even thought of this before. You’ve never even considered what an enormously grand and wonderful opportunity we’ve been given. I mean, if we’d been given this chance with any number of our celebrities and heroes we’d have jumped at the it.

Jesus told us that we will know the Holy Spirit. He’ll live with us and he’ll be in us and we’ll know him. But it’s not enough to have time together. We need quality time and this requires that both you and I and the Holy Spirit be invested in adding quality to the time together.

Do you want to do that? Are you willing to take the time to read the Bible and pray like the Holy Spirit’s going to ask you to do? Are you willing to do those acts of service and speak those word of witness or encouragement that he’s going to prompt you to do? Are you willing to each day challenge those things you used to call risks and follow the Holy Spirit as he leads you through the baby steps of faith? This is what it takes if you’re going to be invested in quality time with the Holy Spirit.

Are you in?

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Mark 2:22

How do you know what you ought to do? I ask this question because when it comes to behavior the Bible generally only teaches us principles or values regarding behavior. Very rarely does it specify what actions we should or shouldn’t do. So how do we know what we should and shouldn’t do?

By the time Jesus began his ministry the Jewish people had solved this question by creating a collection of legal traditions expanding on the principles taught in scripture. These had been written by respected Rabbis, or teachers, and these traditions solved the problem of the lack of specificity in the instruction God had given.

But they also created problems. You see, even the best and wisest among us don’t really understand God and his ways. So the expanded laws were frequently wrong. Just read the sermon on the mount, found in Matthew chapters five through seven, and you’ll hear Jesus comparing and correcting some of the mistakes made by these learned Rabbis. How true the words of Isaiah 55:8-9 are, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,So are My ways higher than your ways,And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

So if our best explanations of God’s laws fall short how do we know what we ought to do? In Mark 2:22, Jesus is explaining that our old way of relying on obedience to mans explanations of God’s instructions is insufficient. You cannot put the product of the new covenant into the container used to hold the old. It will be insufficient to the task. We need the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us in John chapter 16 the Spirit would teach us and guide us into all truth. And Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:30 that the Holy Spirit will be our “seal”, our mark of authenticity, the indication that the contents of ours lives have been uncontaminated, untampered with,

Over and over Jesus emphasized that we often just do get it when it comes to knowing and understanding God’s laws. We need to realize this, and expect, and be open to the correction the Holy Spirit will give us. The disciples started with nearly everything needing to be corrected in some way: how to worship, how to forgive, how to respect each other, what love means, what the sabbath is for, what constitutes honesty, how to pray. The list could go on. And we’re no better than they were. Let’s let the Spirit correct our mistaken ideas of what God’s instructions mean and allow Him to do his full work of sealing us unto the day of redemption

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” Ephesians 4:30

What is God trying to do in your life? Let’s be specific. We talked about the fruit of the Spirit. God through the Holy Spirit is working to grow these character traits in our lives. So in the circumstances of your life right now which of the fruit is God providing opportunity for further development? It could be he’s working on more than one.

Then there’s the gifts of the Spirit. I haven’t written about the gifts of the Spirit yet. These gifts are special abilities that are given to individuals for the benefit of the church. In addition to these gifts we can add skills and aptitudes that may be present in the life. These are also given so that they might be used to strengthen and equip the church. Has the Holy Spirit been prompting you, calling you, suggesting to you that you ought to be using abilities he’s given you to do a work for him but you’ve been putting him off?

Perhaps the Holy Spirit has found a willing soul that is stepping forward to do his bidding. But it’s not in a course that you would have chosen. Perhaps you even think it’s unwise. But are you certain that in the barriers you may be erecting to prevent, block or discourage this course of action that you are not working against the Holy Spirits purpose?

“Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” It humbles me to consider how easy it is to obstruct the working of God in my life, and his church, and by this grieve his Holy Spirit. It could be that I am thwarting him in ways no one will ever be aware of. Or it could be that others, my family, my church, my neighbors, they are aware that there is a lack but they don’t know that I was the one chosen by the Holy Spirit to fill that need. Or that perhaps I am the one preventing someone else from meeting that need. So many ways for me to grieve the Holy Spirit.

There is only one safe guard. More of the Spirit. More submission to his leading. More hesitancy to act without first seeking his will and guidance. More listening for when he might warn, counsel or forbid us from harmful actions. And more willingness to act when he says to go and to do. We know we can trust him. It’s time that we do what the old hymn tells us to do and “Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now

“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” John 14:16.

I’m sure that whoever it was that I heard say it first was just trying to be helpful. However, when you’re wrong it’s very easy for your best to be far from helpful. So what did they say? Something along these lines. “We need to let the Holy Spirit do a thorough work because after the close of probation, when his presence is removed from the world, we’ll have to be able to stand without him.”

What!? Conclusions like this highlight the danger of not gathering all the relevant data before making a conclusion.

All through John chapters 14, 15, 16; these are the chapters where Jesus teaches his disciples about the Holy Spirit, we’re told that we can do nothing on our own but to take comfort in the fact that we’ll be given the Holy Spirit and he’ll be with us forever. (That last word is taken from our focus text for today.) We become righteous because we have given our lives to Jesus, opened our hearts to the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and submitted our actions to his direction and control.

Space does not allow me to debunk all the errors that were made in creating the aforementioned erroneous conclusion. Suffice it to say that there will never come a time when the Holy Spirt is not present in the lives of the righteous, faithful on this earth. God created us with a need for him and it is impossible to believe that in a time when the world will be suffering under the greatest spiritual stresses it will ever experience that God would leave his children without the comforting support of his presence.

Jesus suffered alone on the cross so that you and I would never have to. Because he was victorious he is able to keep his promise to never leave us or forsake us. And Jesus fulfills this promise when he sends us the Holy Spirit because when the Holy Spirit comes he will be with us forever.

“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” John 14:16.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “There’s a God shaped hole in each of us.” I’m inclined to believe that this is true. So since it’s true how do we fill this God shaped hole each of us have? For the past few weeks we’ve been answering that question; let Jesus come and live in your life through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Well, here’s a second question. Will there ever come a time when we don’t need to have the Holy Spirit filling a God shaped hole in our lives?

The reason I ask this question is because for a long time I had this idea that, because of sin, God was taking steps to make a special connection with us and that that connection wouldn’t need to be maintained after sin had been taken care of because we wouldn’t need that special connection with God anymore.

Here’s the problem. I think I was wrong. I now believe that the Bible teaches that we’re created to have God filling a God shaped place in our lives. And that’s why when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives Jesus promises that “he will abide with you FOREVER.” John 14:16.

I think this is beautiful. Sin didn’t create a hole that God needs to repair. Sin created a vacancy in our lives that only God can fill. Sin, in your life and mine, forced God out of his place in our lives. A place we’ve always had and we’ll always need him to fill. Or to say it another way; the Holy Spirit is not a crutch. I repeat, He’s not a crutch. He’s the new heart replacing the sin damaged one. He’s the new liver replacing the sin clogged one. He’s the new lungs replacing the sin polluted ones. These replacements aren’t crutches. We’re designed to need them.

And we’re designed to need God and He promises He’ll be with us forever

“The Spirit and the bride say, come!” Revelation 22:17

So what is it that the Holy Spirit does?  I mean, boil it all down to one central purpose and what do you have? I think it all comes down to one, simple, monosyllabic, command, “Come.”

That’s why he works so hard to convict us long before we’ve ever said, “Yes,” to Jesus. And after we do say, “yes,”  he continues to work, diligently, reinforcing our decision, giving us more evidence to bolster the convictions that convinced us to choose Jesus; and by reshaping our characters, ensuring that each day, no matter what trials may come, we continue to say, “yes.”

So what exactly are we saying yes to?  If we read Revelation 22:17, in its entirety, we find that we’re being called to come and drink of the water of life.

This invitation recalls a day, recorded in John 4, when Jesus met a samaritan woman, beside a well. There, he convinced her that he was more than a man and invited her to accept the water of life he was offering. The apostle John, later, makes it clear that the Holy Spirit was the substance of that life.

 Its wonderful to note that, in the gospels, Jesus is giving himself so that he can give the Holy Spirit. And in his turn, the Holy Spirit pours himself out so that he can offer us Jesus. Each pointing is to the other

But it’s not enough to say, “yes,” and then step to the sidelines.  If we say, “yes,” and accept the Spirit’s invitation, Revelation 22:17 tells us, we’re then called to stand with the Spirit and added our voices to the divinely led chorus calling out to this sin saturated planet, “Come.”

Knowing that, do you still says,  “yes?”

No

“…they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.” Acts 18:6

There is so much direction given by the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts that it’s possible to get the impression that every action the apostles took was dictated to them. But, in fact, the reality is much the opposite. While it’s true that the Holy Spirit was continually present prompting, motivating, and guiding; the disciples were given complete freedom in determining their own plans and deciding their own course of action. You see, God doesn’t want us to be passive and thoughtless in our relationship with him. Only genuine engagement, by us, in our friendship and our work for God will fulfill God’s plans for us.

Yet this must be balanced with the reality of our ignorance and the fact of our sinfulness. If we’re going to be protected from the dangers presented by these liabilities then we must also be willing to accept God’s directions when they’re given.

That’s why there are a few times in the book of Acts that you see a record of the Holy Spirit saying, “no.” The disciples understood the work Christ had given them and they were using their best effort, creativity, and judgement to see that work move forward. But like any good teacher or parent, God new that this freedom and independence couldn’t be total. It had to be combined with constructive interference to raise the work to the high standard God needed and to protect the work and the workers from dangers they were unable to foresee.

We don’t like being told, “no.” We’re selfish, independent, and stubborn. We have a high opinion of our own capabilities and resent being made to feel that we’re not all that we like to think we are. But working with God requires that we be willing to submit everything to him. He’s demonstrated that he doesn’t want to make robots out of us. We can trust him. The question we must ask ourselves is, are we willing to trust to him and submit when he needs to say, “no”?