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2006-03-19_Unfinished Project_Sermon On The Mount Intro 4_Present Work of HS

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Unfinished Project?

The Holy Spirit, Part 3   |   Shaun LePage   |   March 19, 2006

I.  Introduction

A.   What projects have you left unfinished? You know what I’m talking about! You got started on it but never got back to it.

1.     You started redecorating a room and you just can’t seem to find the time or energy to get it finished. You started a building project and it exhausts you to think of trying to finish it so there it sits—unfinished. You decided you were going to learn a new skill so you invested some money on a new piano or a guitar, a pile of books, a set of CDs or DVDs, but it was a lot harder than you thought it was going to be and that investment just sits there on the shelf. You know what I’m talking about. I know what I’m talking about. All of those things are vague descriptions of things I’ve done.

2.     At TradeMe – a New Zealand version of eBay mickd was at one time supposedly selling a time machine. This is the description he put on the website: “Unfinished project. Started making a machine to facilitate time travel, unfortunately I just don’t have the time to complete it. Have had mixed results, so no guarantees. Would consider swap for anti-gravity machine.” Someone sent him this question: “Question: If I am successful with my bid, do you think there is sufficient grunt in the machine to go back to the beginning of this auction, wipe out all memory of it, so I don’t have to pay you?” mickd’s reply was: “If the auction doesn’t take place, you would never have the time machine, so you would be stuck in the past, with no machine to get back to the present. Time is a dangerous thing to play with, and you really need to carefully consider the consequences, before you start mucking with the past and breaching time continuation.”

3.     A British web developer has figured out a way to capitalize on the human tendency to give up in the middle of a project. He started “”. Discouraged consumers can try to sell their unfinished projects or get help in trying to finish them. Most of the projects are unfinished attempts to rebuild cars. But there are also building projects, real estate developments and various other unfinished projects listed. The home page of that website asks a question all of us face with our unfinished projects: “Would you like to get rid of a project or find someone to help you finish it?” In other words, do you want to give up or do you want to get help?

4.     I believe the same kind of discouragement—on a much larger scale—characterizes the spiritual lives of many Christians. Sadly, too many Christians feel like unfinished projects. They’ve just given up. They still go to church. They still participate in religious activity. But the pursuit of God? The excitement of reaching greater heights of maturity? The determination to grow in their faith? It’s gone. They’ve tried—even given their very best effort—and failed. Many times. Maybe they didn’t consciously give up. They’re just beaten down and not sure they can muster up the strength to try again. All of us will be at this point sooner or later. All of us will be discouraged from time to time in our spiritual life. We will have to answer that question: “Would you like to give up or get help?”

5.     In Philippians 1:6, Paul told us, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” This means God has no unfinished projects. You and I will never be left unfinished. No matter how bad we mess up. No matter how discouraged we get. God will finish what He started in you.

6.     Dr. Bruce Wilkinson writes, “Think of Christian growth as a rope with two ends—and a hundred and fifty feet of vertical rock face between them. On one end of the rope is you. As you grasp the possibilities and strain toward maturity with all your might, you’ll fear failure, discomfort, opposition, the unknown. Your head will spin. Your knees will quake. But here’s the great news: You never have to get up that rock face of change alone. God is always at work on His end of the rope. You can reach for change with full confidence in the Person above you…This is the part of personal change that never appears in most teaching. ‘Spirituality’ has never been more popular, even in secular circles. But it seems to be taken up less and less with God and what He has said, and more and more with human-centered techniques. But these approaches gloss over a big problem—the spiritual climber is trying to make a breakthrough alone.” (Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs, pgs. 22,23).

B.    In our study of the gospel of Matthew, we’ve come to the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is a mountain. If we try to climb this spiritual mountain alone, we will fail. We may fall. So, we are taking a few weeks to reintroduce ourselves to the Holy Spirit.

1.     We looked first of all at our need for grace. The Sermon on the Mount is law—a higher law. A law for those who have been ushered into the kingdom of Christ. We cannot hope to obey these commands apart from the grace of Christ. The grace of Christ provides the strength we need to live out the Sermon on the Mount. Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” As we trust Christ and follow Christ and obey Christ and abide with Christ, we are made strong in the grace in Christ Jesus. We are empowered to live spiritual lives. How does this work? Faith. As we abide with Christ, we trust Him more and ourselves less. To be strong in the grace of Christ means we recognize our complete dependence upon Him and obey Him in faith that He will lead and guide and protect and provide.

2.     Not only do we need to be strong in the grace of Christ, we also need to walk in the Spirit.

a)    We began our refresher course on the Holy Spirit by looking at His nature. He is a Person (not a force) and He is God. Therefore, we can have a relationship with the Person who connects us with God at this time in history.

b)    Last week, we looked at the past work of the Holy Spirit—that which the Holy Spirit does the moment a person trusts Christ.

(i)   Before we became believers, the Holy Spirit convicted us—convinced us of our need for a Savior.

(ii) Then, when we trusted Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit flooded us with supernatural work:

(a)  He regenerated us—caused us to be born again.

(b) He baptized us—united us with Christ.

(c)  He indwelt us—came to live within us permanently.

(d) He sealed us—guaranteeing that we will always belong to God.

(e)  Finally, He gifted us—supernaturally gave us a spiritual gift we are to use for the good of others.

(iii)    So we are forever changed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are new creations in Christ because of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our lives at the moment we believe.

II.  Body—That’s past tense for the believer. All those things have happened and will never change. But what about daily living? What does the Holy Spirit continue to do in the believer’s life after salvation? Latch onto that title Jesus gave the Holy Spirit in John 16:7: “Helper…Paraklete.” The Holy Spirit is given to us as our Advocate, our Intercessor, our Comforter, our Helper. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have the help we need to live the God-glorifying lives we’re called to live. On our own, we couldn’t do it. But God didn’t leave us on our own. He gave us the Helper.

A.   The Holy Spirit guides believers.

1.    He provides guidance by teaching.

a)    Remember that according to 2 Peter 1:20,21 the Holy Spirit moved the pens and hearts and minds and mouths of men to inspire the Scriptures in the first place.

b)    But He also helps us understand it correctly.

(i)   John 14:26; 16:13,14

(ii)  1 Corinthians 2:9-12

2.    He provides guidance by directing.

a)    Romans 8:14. The Spirit leads us. Many decisions we make will not be spelled out clearly in Scripture. For example, who we marry. We’re told that men should marry only women and vice versa. We’re told that a marriage should consist of only one man and one woman. We’re told that Christians should only marry Christians. That’s a lot of solid, general direction to work with, but the Bible will not tell you the specific name of the person you should marry. But, the Spirit will lead in that kind of decision. How does He do this? It’s not as black and white as we might wish, but that does not make it any less real. The Holy Spirit directs us.

b)    Acts 16:6,7. The Holy Spirit was forbidding these missionaries to go one place, closing doors to keep them from going to another place, directing their steps toward Europe. How did He speak to them? We’re not told.

c)    So, to apply this to our marriage question:

(i)   The Holy Spirit may direct you through your feelings. You may spend time with a person, but then just not feel compatible. Nothing’s blatantly wrong—you just feel this would not be the best choice.

(ii) The Holy Spirit may direct you through the counsel of a trusted friend. That friend may have seen another side of the person or may just be older and wiser.

(iii)    The Holy Spirit may direct you through your own wisdom, which is developed as you abide with Christ and spend time in the Word. In other words, the Spirit sometimes gives us an extra measure of discernment. For example, maybe the guy you want to marry has been married 7 times and never longer than six weeks. The Holy Spirit prompts you to discern that this guy may not be the right choice for you. Maybe the girl you want to marry has $120,000 in credit card debt and the Holy Spirit is telling you, “This is not a good idea.”

(iv)    The Spirit may direct by closing a door—that is, the lady says “no” when you propose. The Spirit may open another door—that is, she says “yes.”

3.     Follow the Spirit. Don’t get all worried and obsessive about this. In other words, don’t be paralyzed every time you make a decision, trying to interpret every feeling and every circumstance to determine the Spirit’s guidance. What I mean is, I believe the Holy Spirit has no preference when it comes to many of our decisions. Should you take a bite of your burger first or eat a French fry first? Should you take Clinton Parkway to church or should you take 6th street? Should you wear the blue socks or the black socks? Okay? If the Spirit desires to guide you in the little decisions of life, I believe He’ll make it clear. But don’t get paralyzed—get freed up! Ask the Spirit to guide you, and when He does, follow His lead.

B.   The Holy Spirit prays for believers.

1.     Turn to Romans 8:26.

a)    Here we’re told that the Spirit intercedes for us. Not only does Christ intercede for us—according to Hebrews 7 and 1 John 2—but the Holy Spirit also is praying for us constantly. Isn’t that encouraging? He knows we’re weak. He knows our prayers are never complete. He knows we usually don’t even know how we should pray. This is especially true when we’re going through suffering, which is the point of this verse in its context. I think the idea here behind these “groanings” is that the Holy Spirit translates for us that which our hearts are feeling and desire to pray but we just can’t formulate words.

b)    I think Eugene Peterson—in The Message—paraphrased this well: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.”

2.     But don’t think all this means we don’t need to pray.

a)    Ephesians 6:18. Jude 20 also tells us to “pray in the Spirit.” Here in Ephesians, we’re told to do so “at all times.”

b)    So, the idea is not that we would spend all our waking hours on our knees with our eyes closed in prayer.

c)    The idea—as we take into account the context of Ephesians 6, spiritual warfare—is that we should be constantly aware of the Holy Spirit. Constantly aware that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare, seeking to stand strong in our spiritual lives, seeking to be prepared and available and tuned into the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So, we should pray in concert with the Spirit. We should pray for the same things the Spirit would pray for—generally that means praying for God’s will to be done. It means praying that God would be glorified moment by moment in our lives as we stand strong in spiritual warfare.

d)    The other idea is dependence upon the Spirit’s power. Praying in the Spirit acknowledges our need for the Spirit to not only intercede, but also intervene. To help us stand strong.

3.     Pray in the Spirit. Pray—just do it in faith that those prayers are not bouncing off the ceiling, but the Holy Spirit is taking them directly to the throne of heaven for you. And, even if your prayers aren’t complete, the Holy Spirit will cover you. And, pray in faith that God cares about your requests and He always answers our prayers in the very best way. His answer may be “no” or “wait” instead of the “yes” we’re wanting but God always answers—He never ignores our prayers.

C.   The Holy Spirit fills believers.

1.     Read Ephesians 5:18.

a)    This is an imperative—a command to us. All the other works of the Holy Spirit we looked at last week, the Spirit just does—without our permission or cooperation. But “be filled” is a command. It is something believers are supposed to do. The verb could rightly be translated “be being filled.” It means we are to be filled constantly, hourly, daily. Many times—not just once. This is not just a one-time event, but a lifestyle.

b)    Notice that we are first told not to do something: “Do not be drunk with wine.” There’s a contrast here between being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit. What happens when we get drunk with wine? We turn over control. The wine controls the wino. So, being “filled with the Spirit” means, “be controlled by the Spirit.”

c)    This same idea is communicated in Galatians 5:16. The Amplified Bible translates v.16 like this: “But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]…” So here we have this same idea of being “controlled” by the Holy Spirit.

d)    Rodney-Howard Browne calls himself “The Holy Ghost Bartender.” He claims God gave him the power to make people “drunk in the Holy Ghost.” By laying his hands on them, he can “saturate” people in the Holy Spirit and cause them to have all the symptoms of being drunk with wine. (See Counterfeit Revival, Hank Hanegraaff)

e)    But that isn’t the idea at all.

(i)   Dr. Charles Ryrie explains it this way: “We might say that in both cases (the wino and the spiritual person) they lose their self-control and abandon themselves to the influence of either the liquor or the Holy Spirit. This is not to imply that the Spirit-filled life will be erratic or abnormal, but it is to say that it will be a life controlled or governed no longer by self but by the Holy Spirit” (A Survey of Bible Doctrine, p.82).

(ii)  So you see, the idea is not that we will be “uncontrolled” like a drunk who is under the influence of alcohol. It is that we will be controlled by the Holy Spirit as we allow Him to influence us more and more. We will relinquish our tendency to control God’s work in our lives.

(iii)    This is confirmed by the description of what happens to people who are “filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5 and Galatians 5.

(a)  Ephesians 5:19ff. Spirit-filled believers will be worshipful—real worship in the heart—and thankful and our relationships will be transformed and characterized by love and humility and Servanthood—Christlikeness.

(b)  Galatians 5:22,23 tells us what will result from Spirit-filled—Spirit-controlled—lives. Let me read from the New Living Translation to give this familiar passage a fresh hearing: “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.”

2.     Be being filled with the Spirit. Every morning, ask the Spirit to fill you as you relinquish control to Him. Ask Him to help you turn the wheel of your life over to Him. Let Him be in charge. This is a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment choice to let the Holy Spirit take the lead.

D.   The Holy Spirit strengthens believers.

1.     Very closely related to being filled with the Spirit is being strengthened by the Spirit.

2.     Acts 1:8. Jesus promised this group of weak, scared, confused followers that they would receive “power” when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

3.     Acts 2:4 says “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” and everything changed. They stood boldly before the same crowd of people that had demanded the crucifixion of Jesus. They spoke in languages they’d never learned, they did miracles, they turned the world upside down—after the Holy Spirit filled them.

4.     Now, I believe this “filling” of the Spirit was different. It was unique. It just happened to them. The Holy Spirit “came upon them.” It was not the same as the “filling” of Ephesians 5:18 because that “filling” is commanded. We’re told to “be filled.” Many things in Acts, though, are unique and we should not expect our experience to be the same. That was a transitional time when God was establishing His Church. We’ll talk about all that another time.

5.     But my point here is that the Holy Spirit empowers—strengthens—disciples of Jesus Christ for a reason. The presence of the Holy Spirit turns cowards into crusaders—for a purpose!

a)    Go back to Acts 1:8. Notice how Jesus linked the power of the Holy Spirit with being witnesses.

b)    Think about Acts 2. What did Peter do? He stood as a witness to the resurrection.

c)    Think about the fruit of the Spirit—the result of being filled with the Spirit. What is the ultimate purpose of fruit-bearing? To bring glory to God. All of those qualities listed in Galatians 5 are reflections of God’s character. When we bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we are becoming more Christlike. Our lives direct an unbelieving world toward the greatness of our God.

d)    John 16:13,14. “He will glorify Me.” The Holy Spirit’s main agenda is to glorify Christ. In your life that means He’s trying to grow you up to maturity—to bear fruit through you—so that your life will glorify Christ. He’s not trying to bear fruit through you to make you happy or to make you feel better about yourself. He’s working to bring glory to Christ through your life.

6.     Walk by the Spirit. That picture—walk by the Spirit—comes from Galatians 5. It’s a picture of going through life depending on Someone else’s power. If we try to do this on our own, we’ll fall. The other option is to walk by the flesh. This means we do what we think is right. What will feel best to us. What appeals to our appetites and desires. But if we depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction and patiently trust Him to bear fruit in our lives, we will be strengthened to be His witnesses.

III. Closing

A.   Be encouraged by this fact: We are all a work in progress—a work of God Himself. Ephesians 2:10 says “We are His workmanship…” We’re His projects. He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God has no unfinished projects—only projects in progress. We may feel like God’s given up on us at times, but He never will. He will perfect the good work He began in you.

B.    But that doesn’t mean we sit down on the couch and wait. We climb. The Holy Spirit pulls. We cooperate with Him as we climb toward maturity. It’s probably an imperfect metaphor, but the truth of the matter is this: We are saved apart from our works, but we will not be sanctified apart from our cooperation with the Holy Spirit. That cooperation is mainly faith. Trusting Him. That means we obey—not to attain spiritual maturity by our own power, but obeying as an act of faith that God’s way is the right way. Walking with the Spirit is walking by faith. As we cooperate, the Holy Spirit guides us, prays for us, fills us and strengthens us.

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