“Why We Are, the Way We Are.”

The following sermon is based on Acts 1:4-8, 2:1-13; and Galatians 5:16-26.  It introduces the Holy Spirit as the One who enables us to live the Christian life.  This message was preached on Pentecost Sunday, May 27, 2012

A number of miles from the Los Angeles basin there is a river.  The river has been dammed up by man, and through the genius and innovation of engineers, they have put together a dam that has, in its process of working, housed electricity- hundreds of thousands of volts that are fed into the Los Angeles basin.  And if you were to go to the plant, the source, and follow the lines that come into the city, you would come to various transmission plants along the way that would be marked: “Danger.  High Voltage”  “No trespassing.  Danger.”  Hundreds of thousands of volts are available in energy for your home, but who needs a hundred thousand volts unless he wants to burn up his home?  Knowing that, the engineers have built transformers into the system- not transmitters, but transformers.  And the transformer does nothing more than break down into meaningful units just the electricity you need.

When the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life, He functions as a bit of a transformer.  He takes the majestic truth of God and dispenses it just the way that you need, give it to you with handles that you can take and use.  It is the Spirit’s delight to take the full truth of God and make one thing meaningful to that woman, something altogether different to that man, and something different again to that fellow down there.  That’s the work of the Spirit, and He never makes a mistake.  He gives you just what you can handle.

Without the Holy Spirit, we have no power to live the Christian life.  Paul in Romans 7:18 agree with our experience: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”  Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday.  It marks the coming of the Holy Spirit after Jesus ascended into heaven.  With Jesus’ departure, came the Holy Spirit in power.  Jesus promised in Acts 1:7 reads: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  He is the Giver of life, as the Nicene Creed teaches.  Christianity is a religion of dependence and indwelling.

What, or WHO gives rise to Christian behavior.  On this special Sunday let’s consider the One who influences us as Christians.  If we are not careful, we can see the Christian faith from only an outward perspective- a set of rules found in the Bible, with no life.  But the Holy Spirit brings a whole different identity to faith and character.  So how does one live out the positive character qualities that we think define a person who is “good?”  That’s what I’d like to talk about today in a message I’ve entitled: ““Why We Are, the Way We Are.”  We must first understand that within a Christian’s life …

THERE’S A WAR TAKING PLACE WITHIN OUR SOULS.

The Holy Spirit works in the Christian’s life.  There are two parts at work and two parties at war in how we live out our faith.  There is the flesh, where Satan is at work, tempting us, lying to us, wanting us to follow his “cleverly crafted schemes” as Ephesians 6 states.  He instigates those things which appeal to our sinful natures (James 1:14).  They are listed there in our passage.  There are various outplays of this.  The battle comes as they wage war against each other in our soul.  Verse 16: “Walk by the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”  What are the deeds of the flesh?  Paul lists them in verse 19: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  This is why Christian belief and Christian behavior must coincide.  There is no room for hypocrisy in the Christian life, though all of us struggle with hypocrisy to one degree or another, if we were honest.

You will notice that hear listed are a wide range of outward behaviors, from the worst, demonic type of actions to those things that we tend to think aren’t that bad, to those things that are hidden within the recesses of our mind, yet provide a struggle.  Hopefully, there would not be an argument here as to what is sexually perverse, or that witchcraft is wrong in God’s eyes.  But what about selfish ambition?  It can masquerade as goal setting and achievement, but if done with the wrong motives or if it hurts people in the wake, it is wrong.  Or what about jealousy or envy?  They are pretty private until acted upon.

And then there’s the life in the Spirit.  When our spirits are governed by the Holy Spirit: from which there is a host of qualities with various outplays.  Jesus said in John 15:5: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” So how can we live out our faith?

THE HOLY SPIRIT ENABLES US TO LIVE A TRANSFORMED LIFE.

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are available to every Christian.  God’s Sprit is the One who places these qualities within us and motivates us to show them. You might notice that these qualities are both related to a personal disposition that God give us, as well as skills for how we relate to others. All this comes through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.  It is good to memorize these: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.  It is good to memorize these.  I was at one of our prayer meetings recently and one of the attendees had these memorized.  She prayed, “Father, give us more, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  These are wonderful, admirable qualities for all of us, antithetic to the deeds of the flesh as stated earlier.

Let’s look at a few of these.  Consider patience.  The New King James uses the word, “long-suffering.”  “Long-suffering,” is not widely practices in our culture today.  We want things now and we want them a certain way.  To wait for something or to have things differently than one wishes is a cause of disappointment.  We believe we’re entitled whether that be material possessions or relationships. Calvin Coolidge said: “”There is no dignity quite so impressive and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means.”  Long-suffering is the ability to put up, to adapt, so the outward does not kill you.

Then there’s goodness.  You know, good people stand out.  I’m not talking about the regular, run of the mill “good,” the good that is tends to be labeled upon everyone at their funeral.  I’m talking about goodness that stands out.  I remember Chester Whitehead, who was my barber growing up.  His haircuts were not what made an impression on me.  Rather it was his integrity.  He was an elder at my home church.  He loved Jesus Christ.  Our church went through some troubling times, but Chester led our congregation by being an example of goodness.

Then there’s joy.  The Greek term is chara, which can denote gladness or happiness. Happiness is tied to outward circumstances, whereas joy is an inner satisfaction regardless of the conditions.  One can have joy, regardless of their job status.  One may have joy, even though they’ve lost someone very special to them through death.  Joy is attainable to the one who has experienced adversity.  James 1:2 states: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

All of this is related to the third person of the Trinity, working within us.  God gives us His Holy Spirit before we trust Christ, for we never could trust Christ without the assistance of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said in John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

Christians have the Holy Spirit.  That‘s the way we know God and know about God.  As a believer, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  He is the catalyst in our communion with God.

We need one who restrains us; one who convicts us; one who counsels us.  When our car breaks down, we call AAA and they send someone to help us. When our computer won’t work, we call the expert (Jeff Ost).  When our body hurts, we go see the doctor.  When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent the Helper, to assist us and the church, that we might live out the Christian faith with power.

What’s also important to note that the Holy Spirit convicts us when we do wrong or prods us when we ought to do something in accordance with the gospel  He is active in our daily lives.  Our culture tends to look at guilt in a negative way, and avoids it at all cost, even when our behavior would warrant some guilt.  We live in a guiltless society because many consciences are seared.  But only God can restore the human conscience.  David prayed in Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  Confessions is often called, “Agreeing with the Holy Spirit.”  He redirects us when we’re going down the wrong path and steers to the right one.

If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11).  If you have yet to decide to follow Christ, the Holy Spirit is available to you today.  God the Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.  In Luke 11:11 Jesus states: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  If you need more peace in your life, why don’t you ask Him?  If you need more joy in your life, why not ask Him.  Why not ask for the One who can bring His truth into your soul and change you forever?

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