Allen Jackson - Know The Right People
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It's good to be with you again, our topic today is, "Know the Right People". I bet you've heard the line, "It's not what you know, but who you know," and there's context, I understand, that's an important thing. Well I wanna see if we can reduce this notion of our faith through its simplest common denominator. When I don't know what I'm talking about, I use bigger words. And so I don't think our faith has to be complex. In its simplest form, the goal of my faith is to be Jesus's friend. When my days are spent and my strength is gone, and I'm about done under the sun, I wanna have lived my life as a friend of Jesus. Not overly casual, I don't want to presume upon it, I want to know what brings him joy and I want to know what brings him frustration, and I want to spend my life bringing joy to my friend. If you'll adopt that little paradigm, it will bring a lot of clarity to the clutter that often fills our theology and our Bible discussions. Practice being Jesus's friend. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, most of all, open your heart, let's see what God has for us today.
I want to suggest to you that the person you need a relationship with to flourish in the trouble, that is headed our way or that has begun around us, is a relationship with the person of the Holy Spirit. And I want to take our minutes together and see if we can unpack that in a little more detail. The Bible introduces us to a triune God in the opening verses of the Bible. The word for God in the first chapter of the Bible when it says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," the word for God is Elohim. It's plural, the ending I-M, in Hebrew, is the same as an S in English. So we're invited into this notion that there's more to the story. The Bible introduces us to this triune God, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In Acts chapter 10, in verse 38, all three are represented in a single verse. It says, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth". "God," the Father, "Anointed Jesus," his Son, "With the Holy Spirit and power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him". Do you happen to remember who the author of the book of Acts is? It's not a trick question, it's Luke. He wrote the Gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts, it's intended to be a two volume set. The book of the Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus's life and ministry, and the book of Acts tells the story of Jesus's closest friends and followers after he ascended back to heaven. And one of the themes in Luke's writings in both the Gospel and the book of Acts is that the Holy Spirit and the power of God go together, and it's even here in this passage.
It's not our focus, but it says, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power". And then, in Acts chapter 1, Jesus is saying to the disciples, again, Luke's the author, "You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you". Folks, when there's trouble around you and trouble seems to have enveloped you, you'll want to know there's a power greater than the trouble you face; evil will only yield to a power greater than itself. You can't negotiate with evil, you can't bargain with evil, you can't barter with evil, evil will only yield when there's a power greater than itself present. And so when I talk to you about the person of the Holy Spirit, what I'm really inviting you to is an imagination of the power of God at work in you, through you, and on your behalf. And that's gonna be an essential component for the season that we're walking through.
The way it's usually described, the Trinity is about three persons and one essence. It just isn't a problem to me, I can't explain it fully but it doesn't cause me any intellectual grief and I don't think that makes me any more country than I already am. There's a pretty simple analogy with something that's a daily part of your existence, and thats water. Water can exist as a liquid, you drink it. In fact, I hope you do with some regularity. It also exists as a solid, in ice, or as a vapor, in steam. Excuse me. The chemical formula for water, does anybody remember what it is? I took chemistry once upon a time. H2O, right? What's the chemical formula for ice? You sure? Yeah, it's H2O. What about steam? It's the same? Whether it's a liquid or a solid or a vapor, it's the same? Huh, how confusing. No matter which form it's in it's the same stuff, it has very different properties.
It provides some insight into the character of God for us. You often hear expressions, something like this. "Well Pastor, I just can't believe that a God of love would pass judgment upon people". Well, water provides very different experiences. On a hot summer day, a glass of cool water is not only refreshing, it's essential. Right? Hot water on the other hand serves some very different purposes, it's used for cooking or cleaning, it has a completely different set of functions. Well the God we worship is a God of grace and mercy, but it's equally true that he's a God of justice and truth. And if you only focus on one aspect of God's character, you won't be prepared to trust him fully, and you certainly won't be prepared to encounter him. We've lived with a lot of sloppy grace and it's given us a church that has, you know, we've kind of negotiated the commandments.
Well, maybe there's 10, but maybe there's only two or three that are important. I hear church leaders and pastors saying they, "Are evolving in their understanding of Scripture". Well when God evolves, we're free to move, but until he changes he's given us the guidelines. And to focus on the grace and the mercy of God without focusing on the truth and the justice of God is to leave yourselves incredibly vulnerable. It's not that one is more true or one is less true. In Romans chapter 1, in verse 4, it says, "Who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God," it's talking about Jesus, "By his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord".
The phrase that captured my attention is, "The Spirit of holiness". It's capitalized in your English translations, so it's a reference to the Holy Spirit. But the title given him, "The Spirit of holiness," in Hebrew it's, "Ruach ha-Kodesh". Ruach means Spirit, Kodesh is holy, so that the Holy Spirit is referred to as, "The Spirit of holiness". I'll give you the simplest definition I know. You want to know how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit? Holiness. Well, I thought it was about being goofy, I thought it was about making brash statements, predicting the future, delivering a, "Thus sayeth the Lord," statement, moving in the gifts, miracles. I believe in all of those things, I'm not in any way trying to diminish them, but if you truly want to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, give yourself to cultivating holiness. How much sin is in the presence of God? None.
Now, let's take a minute and talk about some of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. Of the Godhead, I think he's the least familiar to those of us in the church, the one with whom we're the least comfortable. You know, we're having to make some distinctions these days between traditional Christianity and Christianity. You can have a church with Christians in it but not be a Christian church, and we're going to have to become a bit more aware. We can have rhetoric and language and dialogue and words around the Spirit of God without any intention of cooperating with him. And what I'm asking you to imagine with me is the cultivation of a personal relationship with the Spirit of God.
Again, not that you act in a bizarre fashion, not that you behave in a way that makes you weird. Being weird is not the equivalent of spiritual. You known those people, they only talk in a whisper? And when they tell you, you know, how they decided what to wear today it was because the Lord told them. By the time you spent 10 minutes with them you just feel like a complete failure because you're just picked something out of the closet because it was clean. And I want you to under, the best indicator of cooperation with the Holy Spirit over time is the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. It isn't weird, so don't strive to be weird. The most spiritual people I've ever known were some of the most practical, normal human beings I've ever been around. They were truth tellers to the point that it was awkward.
Anyway, I want to give you some characteristics that will help you develop a relationship, hopefully. It starts with the recognition that the Holy Spirit is a person, and I want to encourage you to think of him in those terms, not as an it. In the language of the New Testament, it's very capable of referring to the Holy Spirit is an it, and it consistently refers to him with pronouns so that he's a person. Genesis chapter 1, in verse 1, we've referred to it already, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". And the word for God there is plural, Elohim. "The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters".
It wasn't Casper, the Friendly Ghost, the person of God was moving over the chaos that was in the earth. The Genesis doesn't tell us the story of original creation, it doesn't tell us where the earth came from, it certainly leads us to believe that God's the creator. But it says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," but by the time we're introduced into the story, in Genesis chapter 1, the earth is chaotic, it's void, it's without shape, it's without order, and God begins to speak order into the chaos. It really suggests to us that something has happened that brought chaos and disorder to the earth, and the God of restoration, that we come to know as we move away from Genesis 1, is restoring order to the earth. But it's the Spirit of God that is the power of God bringing that order.
So begin to think of the Holy Spirit is a person, ask for his help. In John 16, Jesus is describing an exchange of persons, it's an important passage. It's frustrating and confusing to his disciples, they're frightened, he's telling them that he's leaving and that's not the bargain they've struck. He said, "Follow me, and I'll make you fishers of men," and for three years they followed him, up the hills and down the valleys, and into the crowds and into the lonely places; and they've learned a great deal and experienced a great deal. And now they're in Jerusalem and it seems to be they're right at the pinnacle of what they've followed him for, there's been a big arrival into town and a celebration and there's some enthusiasm. And privately, Jesus begins to say, "I'm going away, and where I'm going you can't come". And they were, "No, no, no, well you just tell us where you're going, we're in. Doesn't matter, we'll go".
And he said, "No, you can't come". And they're frightened and they're frustrated, and Jesus begins to talk to them. John 16, "Now I'm going to him who sent me; and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I've said these things, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth," you know now, right? When you read that, buckle up. "I tell you the truth, it's to your advantage that I go away". Can you think of any reason the disciples would believe that? Everything's better when Jesus is there, you can feed a multitude with a Happy Meal, dead people will come to life again, blind eyes see, he speaks to the storms and the demons and the demons leave. I mean, it's just better when Jesus is there. And Jesus looks at them, he said, "I tell you the truth, it's to your advantage that I go away". We better read on. "For if I don't go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I'll send him to you".
You'll be better off when I'm gone, because I'm gonna send you a Helper. Did they believe him? No, and I don't really think that we have believed him very well. Jesus goes back to the Father, that's the Ascension, Acts chapter 1, and the Holy Spirit, now, is the personal representative of the Godhead on earth. Jesus hasn't left us, he hasn't abandoned us, the Holy Spirit is Lord in the Church. Jesus is Lord of the church, he's the head of the church, but the Holy Spirit is Lord in the church in the earth.
2 Corinthians 3:17: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty". Not where you joined the right congregation or you believed the right doctrine or you read the right translation or you prayed the right prayer, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty". We talk about liberty and freedom for all, it will come when the church of Jesus Christ in a culture, ours or someone else's, has the courage to say, "Jesus, being Lord, will bring liberty to people, more than a government or an ideology or a political party". "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty". You oughta say that together with me. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty". We've gotta decide we're gonna welcome the Holy Spirit, treat him as a person.
Now understand, to welcome him, you'll have to be willing to take the nature of the Lamb; Jesus laid down his life, and the Holy Spirit will invite you to a similar behavior. Not to arrogance, not the pride, not to selfish ambition, not to the pursuit of your pleasure, but to lay down your life. The Holy Spirit will invite you towards things like purity. If you're not interested in purity, stop the language about the Spirit of God. It's foolish to not have the desire, and to think you can manipulate vocabulary words and arrive at an outcome.
What's the Holy Spirit here to do? It's an important question. We certainly can't fully explore that but we can begin. I would submit to you he's here to complete the ministry of Christ. Now don't misunderstand me, the work of the cross is complete and entire, there's nothing we can do to add to it or detract from it. The redemptive work of Jesus was an accomplished fact, but the training of the disciples was far from complete. The Lord goes away and entrusts the disciples to the Holy Spirit. You see, the Father had faith that the Son would do his job, and it's very clear from Scripture that Jesus had complete trust that the Holy Spirit would take over and bring to fulfillment what he had initiated. It's better for you if I go away.
John 14, in verse 3, you have it in your notes, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I'll come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also". "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, it doesn't see him or know him, but you know him because he abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you". Trying to live the Christian life without the person and the help of the Holy Spirit is to be orphaned, it's just not a great way to be. The context of the New Testament will help. This is a radical idea, this is a break from the rabbinic tradition that was filling the world when Jesus was there. And in many ways, it's a break from the traditional Christian attitude, that, if you find the right group of people and you join them, you're good to go, you can forget it.
If you've repeated the right prayer, you don't need to think about your faith anymore, your relationship with God is secure. If you've been through the right set of classes, if your beverage list or your wardrobe, you know, we find these reasons so that we can withdraw from the relationship. Well in the in the 1st century, when Jesus was there, the one who was called to prepare the way for the Messiah, who was that? Do you remember his name? John the Baptist, this is the smart group that came. Good, John the Baptist, and what was the primary activity that John was engaged in? It's not a trick question, he wasn't John the Auto-Dealer, he was John the Baptist, he baptized a lot of people.
What you probably wouldn't have a reason to know is that all around the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem, were places where you could immerse yourself in water for ritual purity. In fact, it was a requirement before you could go up onto the Temple Mount into certain segments of the Temple Mount if you were a religious Jewish person. So there was an abundance of places, dozens and dozens and dozens of places, right around the Temple Mount where John could've baptized people. On the day of Pentecost, it's where the apostles would've baptized all those thousands of people. But John invited the people to the Jordan River.
Now the Jordan River is about a 20-mile journey, at least, from where they would have been in Jerusalem. You had to make a 20-mile journey, one way, into the desert, and there's only two buses a day that ran to the Jordan River when Jesus was there so it wasn't an easy trip. It was a hot trip and an expensive trip in and timely trip, but you had to make the trip to the Jordan River. John was preaching repentance, a change of heart, and he wasn't inviting people towards the temple in Jerusalem; it was one of the wonders of the ancient world, it was a point of tremendous national pride. And John separated the renewal that they needed from the building in Jerusalem and said, "Come into the wilderness to the Jordan River and be baptized". And enough people were responding that the religious leaders in Jerusalem went to the Jordan River to see what he was up to.
In fact, Jesus went there himself. So it's not a real break of thought with what was happening when Jesus was ministering when he begins to say to us, "Don't you understand your body is the temple? You need to begin to treat your body, live your life, not as if when you're in a specific place that there's an attitude and a vocabulary, but 24/7, because what's coming on the earth, you can't afford to have a 90-minute relationship with God, you're gonna need to know how to hear his voice to help you understand and discern and to walk in the strength you need". John 14, in verse 25, Jesus is speaking, again to his disciples, "These things I have spoken to you while I'm abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you".
Listen to the value, the importance that Jesus keeps ascribing to the person of the Holy Spirit. The accuracy of the New Testament depends upon this, completely. Jesus never wrote a Word, we have no record anywhere that suggests Jesus wrote anything down. Now again, if you were going to launch an entirely new movement, if you were gonna launch something to transform the destiny of humanity forever and you're gonna send your incarnate Son, if you or I were gonna, how many of you think it's been a good idea if Jesus just would've whipped out his biography? Right? Signed it with a big J, woosh, boom. Right? It makes perfect sense to me.
Jesus didn't write anything down. Listen to what he said. "The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom my Father will send, he will teach you all things, he'll bring to your remembrance all that I said to you". Do you hear the trust, the confidence, Jesus has in the Spirit of God? Remember what God would say? This is my Son, with him I'm well pleased. And we have Jesus saying to these same disciples that have heard that voice, "When the Helper comes, he'll bring to your remembrance everything you need". The New Testament doesn't depend upon the accuracy of the apostles' memory, it was directed by the Holy Spirit.
Hey, as we close, let's give an invitation to the Holy Spirit into our lives without reservation. We're not gonna tell him what he can't do, we're simply going to say, "We'll say yes to him". You open? Let's pray:
Father, thank you that you love us enough that you've sent your Spirit into the earth, that the Spirit of the living God indwells us, that the same Spirit that brought Jesus out of the grave is at work within us and on our behalf. And our commitment today is to say yes to him. Give us listening ears and an open heart, a willingness to receive what he has for us, and forgive us when we've been reluctant. Thank you for your provision in our lives. In Jesus's name, amen.