Familiarity Or Fear 11th May
Familiarity Or Fear 11th May
2 Co 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
In our quest to really know the Holy Spirit – to be able to immerse ourselves into Him for the Glory of God – to develop a sensitivity to Him indwelling, so clear and precise that we will walk in obedience – such a real obedience that we will be a delight to God and will be transformed from glory to glory becoming a reflection of the one we worship – becoming a praise to His glorious Name – this is our end really, that God in Christ might be glorified in us!
But although we know the W.O.G. and believe it, we do not see a consistent demonstration through our lives of the truth, that the very Spirit of the Living God the only Uncreated from everlasting to everlasting lives in us! Oh the wonder of this truth that Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour said it was to our advantage that He went back to the Right Hand Of God in heaven so that we might know this Holy Spirit and that He might dwell with us forever!
How often we try to work out our Christian lives with every sort of method and system and effort and works –striving to find a way to live righteous and holy lives – trying to evangelize and “reach” the lost – trying to be a “witness” in some way or another – to find a program, or courage, or purpose or a vision – anything we can to produce and somehow prove we are what we think we are meant to be – you know there is a very subtle but almost continuous undermining of our faith –
The whole performance based, excellence, program orientated emphasis of modern “church” purpose, vision, method, production, continually projects over us that we are not “doing enough”, that we need to be more involved in this thing or that and we must give more – money, effort, time --- and maybe there is an element of truth in all of those things for some of us. But if we could just KNOW the Holy Spirit and walk in Him, in obedience – there would be glory all around!
You know all of these things about performance and producing and the constant implication that we have to “DO” or “BE” more, creates a sort of Christian spiritual anxiety! *** Remember we are looking at this warfare – the battle of our age and our time, that warfare for our hearts and minds that divides our hearts against Christ – our minds are a battlefield of activity – a warzone of conflict between the flesh and the Spirit –
It is in our minds we build strongholds – literally fortresses of reason, walls of argument, that justify to us why this or why that, fighting against the knowledge of God, exalting themselves over the truth and obedience. These strongholds, instead of protecting us, actually take us captive! Deceiving ourselves we think we are “DOING” the right things, behaving the right way – but we are erecting walls of self deception and disobedience – generally in agreement with many others –
It’s as though “current” practice determines our faith more than the W.O.G. and obedience to it. Last week we looked at how we have become the centre of our own Christian lives and world. How we have made humanism the purpose of God as though we are the very preoccupation of His every thought and plan. But God is the centre, His glory is the most important thing to Him and therefore to us!
Mt 6:31-34 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
If we could only erect this stronghold as the great fortress of our minds! If we were simply to seek after the K.O.G. and His righteousness believing that He will add all the things necessary for our lives that will glorify Him – if we could only believe that all things work together for the good of those who love God – that He WILL add those things we have need of – because by so doing He is glorified! His Kingdom is established in us and through us!
And we do this, we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness by KNOWING His Spirit who already dwells in us. – Can you see this is a stronghold and a lie so many of us have listened to and built into our fortress - -and it is an enormous weakness that will one day cause the whole thing to fall down – one day the Holy Spirit is going to march around that fortress in our hearts seven times as it were – and the whole lie of works and performance and self is going to hear that trumpet –
that shout -- and come crashing down and we are going to stand vulnerable and exposed – so many of us have this whole performance and works thing built high enough for Rahab to build her house there!! We must pull it down because above all things the graffiti written all over that wall in a thousand different ways is constantly telling us the Holy Spirit is not enough I must “DO” more! I must perform! OH it is a lie – all we need in this life is to KNOW Him, the Holy Spirit –
He will guide us into all truth – He will teach us things to come, He will bring to our remembrance all the words of Our Lord! – He will glorify Christ to us and in us – and what more can we need than that? Oh if we could just know the Holy Spirit and walk in Him nothing else would matter. – But you see this whole stronghold allows another block to be built into the foundation of our fortresses – and don’t forget this is a battle and it will be waged until the end
so if the enemy cannot trip us up and kill us off he is cunning enough to plan our demise way off into the future when we think we have escaped him. If he can get us to build a weakness into the foundation of the walls of our Salvations walk – right when we think we are safe he can pull us down – so one of the things he has sown and is sowing along with this whole performance and program thing – is a little perception that if we are “DOING” all we can by system/giving/attending
God is pleased with us and we are okay. But there is not a system a program or a method of anything that can make us HOLY or righteous, and so there is this whole area of familiarity and like God’s my mate, Jesus is my friend type of belief – there is a very subtle underlying seed of God is really just like me – He understands my heart – He knows my struggles and as long as I tithe and attend and “DO” – I’m okay.
But church our God is Holy and the Holy Spirit is Holy and in Him is no shadow of turning at all! There is not one area – not one tiny, minute little thing that might cast the merest glimpse of grey! God is awesomely gloriously HOLY and there is such a beauty of holiness – there is a glory of holiness that I truly don’t think we have yet apprehended – you know I talk often of the revival in Lewis – that great move of the F.O.G. and open public repentance – of remorse and salvation
But I think it was one of the great revelations of holiness – of God showing Himself Holy in the midst of a hungry and thirsty people and they responded to that Holiness in humility and fear – in awe and reverence and God came down! The more they saw Him as Holy God the more He was able to reveal Himself – you know on that island there was no agenda, no program, no works – it didn’t begin because they DID something – except pray! – It began because a few believed!!
But you see in a performance and works based, man centered expression of Christianity there comes a familiarity with God – a familiarity with the Holy Spirit and very quickly we begin to take charge and expect the Holy Spirit to do what we want, for our glory – we even command Him!
Do this do that – Oh I have done it myself and I see it and hear it so often these days – men commanding the Holy Spirit – heal now! Touch that person Now! Come now! Fill Now!! – But God is Holy and God IS!! Who do we think we are?? – This familiarity and – you know familiarity breeds contempt, and it does – and we begin to attribute to God the Holy Spirit, to Jesus, the things that are most comfortable for us – we allow compromise and all manner of ungodliness!!
As the church was born at Pentecost the Presence of God came down to earth in a powerful and corporate way – tongues of fire and signs and wonders the buildings shook and there was a mighty sound of the Spirit wind – then as the people were saved and came together into one place to worship and learn and understand the doctrine we read this :--
Ac 2:42-45 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 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.
As they gathered and met together and sought after God fear came upon every soul – not just one or two or the leaders but every soul! I think Lewis was like this the F.O.G. and with awe and reverence and humility it produced – God was able to do mighty works – I wonder about corporate belief and what power it allows? Jesus said that even in His own home town He could do no mighty works because of their unbelief --- here at Pentecost we see the exact opposite!
Then we know there were healings and miracles and the church began to grow and prosper because the people had favour with God and men! We know that the persecution soon followed and Peter and John were cast into prison – that the congregation responded with corporate prayer in and unprecedented manner and that God performed miracles of deliverance – we know that as the church responded to the apostles doctrine they were compelled to become separate
From the world and they formed a common banking system to help the poor and needy among them – that they all gave into the common purse as it were – we know the early church learned very quickly the power of prayer and agreement and they saw God answer their requests –
Ac 4:29-31 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
All the while God was confirming His word with the signs that followed – amazing and wonderful things – as the apostles preached God was glorified and the church just blossomed – the agreement and generosity of spirit was a tremendous vehicle for the manifestation of the power of God – you know where 2 or more agree on anything as being done on earth it will be done for them in heaven and we see the fruit of that truth in these early chapters of Acts – glorious birth!!
Ac 4:32-37 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
This was far more than we might imagine but the Holy Spirit was working powerfully upon their hearts – as always they could have resisted but there was a conviction upon them that they should give everything they had for the good of the Body of Christ – for Jesus’ sake for the glory of the church.
This wasn’t a spur of the moment rash decision, this was being led into all truth just as Jesus had said – this was the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit the anointing abiding within showing them how to take up their cross and follow Jesus. No one was compelled, no one was manipulated and it wasn’t even expected by everyone – as the Spirit lead – and you know He treats us all as individuals – each has a measure of faith and grace –
but for those who gave it as obedience without thought of reward – simply that by this will they know we are His disciples! It was a glorious time and the F.O.G. was upon every soul. Then we read this very interesting episode – one we don’t like to look at really – but just as the church is bursting into great life and power and witness –
Ac 5:1-11 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.
Soon afterwards his wife suffered the same judgment. I wonder if Ananias and Sapphira simply got caught up in the spiritual atmosphere, in the whole thing of community and the glory of God – the F.O.G. was real and tangible – so to gain the approval and acceptance of the people, to appear as though they fitted in they did some works, they joined the program of giving – it was not by conviction or revelation it was the “Practice” of Christianity – it was doing the right things!
But the motive was wrong, the desire was wrong and the revelation of God was wrong – they didn’t know the F.O.G. at all they copied what the “spiritual” people seemed to do. It wasn’t an act of reverence and worship, even of community it was a compliance with performance because of anxiety and the fear of failure – the fear of man – what people would think of them. It shows that right from the beginning there was a familiarity – a compromise and so God called them to account.
We have their story as witness against us – we have this W.O.G. to show us and teach us and we seem to think that if God would only do that again – if we saw God strike someone down like that in church we would all repent – but our God is Holy and the W.O.G. tells us exactly what He thinks. We don’t need another flood, nor another burning of prophets – we have the W.O.G. – and it is this W.O.G. that is mighty to pull down the strongholds we have erected in our minds –
Will we allow that this morning?
Anxiety – performance, acceptance, success --
Failure – useless –
Compromise and familiarity -- -God is a Holy God.
Do not be deceived God is not mocked for if you sow to the flesh or the spirit.