Allen Jackson - In The Power of the Spirit
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We're gonna start a new study this weekend. I'm excited about it. We're gonna talk about life "In the Power of the Spirit". Thank you for that enthusiastic response. I can tell you're excited too. My goal is really simple. We're gonna take a few weeks, I don't know how long until we feel like we finished it. My goal is simple to encourage you to arrive at a place where you're willing to say, "Holy Spirit, you're welcome in my life without any preconditions". Holy Spirit, you're welcome in my life. If you've been around church, all of us come from traditions that talk about the Holy Spirit in one way or another, but oftentimes we do so with very limited language and we don't really intend for him to be a part of our experience.
Well, I feel like a very significant part of my assignment as pastor is to help you do two things; have the Word of God in your heart, and that you be familiar with, comfortable with the person of the Holy Spirit. If you can do those two things, if you have the Word of God in your heart and you are at peace with the person of the Holy Spirit, I trust God to take you through whatever life brings. If you don't have those two things, sitting in church won't keep you safe. It's more important than a systematic theology or knowing the group to which you believe or the right translation to read. You need the Word of God in your heart and a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
So if you wonder what I'm up to, that's it. Here we go. Luke 4, in verse 14, says, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside". Jesus lived in Galilee, it's the northern part of Israel. It's a regional statement. It's like saying he returned to Middle Tennessee. He returned to Galilee, Jesus had spent almost 30 years in Galilee, and he had been for the most part anonymous. They all thought he was Joe and Mary's boy. He played soccer with their kids, they went to school together. Nobody exceptional, he grew to adulthood, he worked in the carpenter shop, he filled his place like all the other young men in the village. And when he was 30, he made a trip south to be baptized by John in the Jordan River. And when Jesus was baptized, all four gospels record that the Holy Spirit descended upon him. And God said, "That's my boy and I'm pleased with him". And then it says, "The Spirit led him into the wilderness," where for 40 days Jesus fasted and prayed, and at the end of that, he was tempted by the devil.
Do you remember the story? And then Luke records next that he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and the news about him began to spread all over the whole region. There's a marked change in Jesus's life once the Spirit of God descended upon him. It began his public ministry. It was the three-year window of time that's gonna lead him to the cross on Golgotha. Now, I would suggest to you that if Jesus needed the power of the Spirit to accomplish or to fulfill God's assignment for his life, that the same might be true of you and me. That Jesus didn't just rely on his awareness of heaven or some other aspect of his personality, he was dependent upon the power of the Spirit, that you and I are equally dependent upon the power of the Spirit. So we've gotta learn a little bit more about this, it's not optional for us if we're gonna fulfill our God assignments.
So I wanna take a few minutes and just offer you some ideas to get a bit more acquainted with the person of the Holy Spirit. He's a person. The Holy Spirit is not like Casper the Friendly Ghost. The Bible refers to him as a person. The Greek language is highly inflicted it's not accidental, it very intentionally refers to the Spirit of God as a person. In fact, let's start in Genesis 1, in verse 1, that's very near the beginning of the book. The only thing ahead of that is the table of contents. It says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the Earth was formless and void, and the darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters".
Now, I'm not a Hebrew scholar. I've studied Hebrew and I know a little bit about it. I know just enough of Hebrew to get in trouble when I'm on the streets in Jerusalem, but I can tell you this, that in Hebrew, one of the plural endings is I-M, "im". In English to make a word plural, we add an "s" or maybe an "es," while in Hebrew, one of the ways, you know the word is plural, is it ends with "im," I-M. There are three words in those two verses that are plural, maybe unexpectedly. Says in the beginning, God and the word that's translated God there in Hebrew is Elohim, it's plural. El is God in the singular, Elohim. So in the third word of the Bible, in the beginning, God, we have the first hint, the first opening of this idea of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It'll be presented more fully later on in scripture, but in the third word of the Bible, it's introduced to us.
Then I would submit that we want a relationship with God, the Father, with God the Son, and with God the Holy Spirit. It's not unique to this passage of Jesus's baptism. When Jesus presents himself to be baptized by John, it says the Holy Spirit descended upon him in a physical form and then a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son and I'm pleased with him". So in one scene, we have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the Trinity. Now, there are parts of the Trinity that are beyond my intellectual capacity, but I've never felt that it violated my intellect, it's been pretty easy for me to accept. The technical language for it is one essence in three persons. Libraries written with books about this, but I think there's a physical expression of our lives that make it pretty simple to get to, help me even know what water is.
You know the chemical composition of water? It's H2O, a bunch of scientists in the house. Okay. It's one compound but it comes in three different forms. In one form, it's a liquid which is essential to your wellbeing. Won't make it without H2O, but if you freeze it, it takes on a totally different set of physical properties, doesn't it? Or if you heat it up enough, it becomes a gas and has a whole other set of physical properties. So you can have steam or ice or liquid water, same exact chemical composition but three very different physical expressions. I know it's not the same, but it helps me get my head around at least the periphery of this idea of God the Father, God the Son, then God the Holy Spirit. You wanna know each one? And then if you leave any aspect of the Trinity out, you forfeit a significant part of how God would interact with you in your life.
And I think we've tended, we kinda have an idea of God the Father and Jesus is much simpler, we have the gospels but when it comes to the Holy Spirit, we have treated him more, I think, with fear and anxiety. He will never violate your will, he'll never make you do something you don't want to do. He'll never force you into a behavior that you don't choose for yourself. If the Holy Spirit were gonna violate your free will, how many of you know he would've stopped you from sinning long before you engaged in that choice? So you don't have to be afraid. If you meet somebody says, "I didn't wanna do it but the Holy Spirit made me". No he didn't.
People said to me, "Pastor, I really hate, hate to say this to you, but the spirit's making..." No. I think you're pretty much surfing that wave all the way home because I don't believe the Holy Spirit will violate your will. You don't have to be afraid of him. That's Elohim was the... there's a second word there. It says, "God created the heavens," plural in Hebrews Sham-aim, there's more than one heaven. There's the heavens above the earth when you look up in the night sky and you see the stars and the planets and the wonder of God's creation, but there's also the heaven that is God's home. Only God's dwelling in the midst of the stars, it's a different location altogether. It's the seat of his kingdom, the spiritual kingdom, God as Spirit, the Bible tells us, created the heavens and the earth.
So the word heaven can have more than one meaning, not spooky. We have many words that have more than one meaning. And then it says, "The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters". Waters is plural in Hebrew, Mayim, "mime". Is more than one implication for water. We'll do that on another day. Then the purpose for the Holy Spirit. Why do we find him doing in scripture? Jesus was our redeemer, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. What's the role of the Holy Spirit? What does he do? How does he interact with human beings? It's an important question to have an answer to. And one of the things we see consistently through scripture is the Spirit of God empowers people, human beings, for God's purposes. He brings God's power to bear in the life of human beings so that God's purposes are accomplished in us and through us.
Outcomes beyond what we can do in our strength, with our own intellect, with our own power. We get help from Almighty God through the presence of the Holy Spirit sounds pretty intriguing to me. I give you many examples, but I chose one from the Old Testament in the book of Judges. It's not a book about courtrooms and long black robes. The book of Judges is... the judge is a title for a leader of the tribes of Israel, no central government. When they needed a corporate response, God would raise up a leader, a judge. Gideon was a judge, Deborah was a judge, Barack was a judge, Samson was a judge. The adversary confronting the Israelites in Samson's generation were the Philistines, they would attack the Israelites, they would plunder their crops. They kept them in a humiliated place. So God raised up a leader to defeat the Philistines, and he gave Samson crazy strength. Crazy strength.
Look in your notes, Judges 15, in verse 14, says, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power and the ropes on his arms became like charred flax. And the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men". When the Spirit of God came upon Samson, it gave him physical power. He could bind him with ropes and the Spirit of God would come on him and he would snap him as if they were burned in two, or he could take the bone of an animal and overcome 1,000 trained soldiers. Dude. What enabled him to do that? It says the Spirit of God came upon him. So the question understandably, the obsession of the Philistines is what is the secret of Samson's strength. How can he do that?
Now, that's a very insightful piece of information because if Samson had been 6'8" and 260 with 2% body fat and biceps that look like my legs, they would've known why he was doing that. He's bigger than us. He's stronger than us. I don't think Samson was looked like some inhabitant of the gym, it was pumped up with steroids. I think Samson looked a lot like one of us. What do you think I meant? In fact, I think it'd be really funny if we get to heaven, Samson's about this tall, squeaky little voice. "Hi, I'm Sam watch me pick up a boulder".
Philistines had no idea how he could do it. So they recruited somebody to betray him. They didn't know he had a covenant with God. They didn't understand the source of his strength was the Spirit of God. They thought he had to have some secret water source or some vitamin. He'd ordered some cream off late-night television. And Delilah betrayed him and he finally told her the source of the covenant he had made with God that he was a Nazarite. It was a commitment his parents had made before he was ever born. And when Samson was asleep, a part of that vow was, you wouldn't shave your head. She shaved his hair. We're gonna step back into it, it's in your notes. If the Holy Spirit brings empowerment to our lives, there's another aspect of his relationship with you you need to know. He gives you an awareness of spiritual things. And Delilah awakens Samson.
It's the same chapter, Judges 16, verse 20. "She said, 'Sampson, the Philistines are upon you.' And he awoke from his sleep and he thought, 'I'll go out as before and shake myself free.'" They had caught him many times. They'd bound him with new ropes and old ropes and they'd done all sorts of things to limit him. And every time the Spirit of God would come upon him and he would free himself. Says, "But he didn't know that the Lord had left him. And the Philistines seized him and they gouged out his eyes and they took him to Gaza. And they bound him with bronze shackles, and they set him to grinding in the prison".
Usually, would use an animal, a beast or bird, an ox, or a donkey to turn a millstone to grind the grain and to mock the enemy of their people. They used Samson instead of an ox. And it says, "The hair on his head began to grow after it had been shaved". It's one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It's an expression of the Grace of God. Samson was not the most moral character, had many weaknesses, and in his own unbridled choices, he forfeited the blessing of God upon his life that he paid an enormous price. But the commentary in scripture is that the hair on his head started to grow again. God hadn't forgotten his covenant with Samson.
Let's start with the first expression of the power of the Spirit, the power of transformation. The power of the Spirit of God to bring change to your life internally. To be a Christ follower is essentially the story of being transformed from the inside out. It's not about joining in the right organization or building the right systematic theology, it's a story of transformation from the inside out. That's what the spirit of God does, but we need a power greater than ourselves. It's more than the exertion of our will or the force of our character. We need a power to help us overcome the more unseemly parts of ourselves. Amen. Well, that power is described as the fruit of the Spirit with a capital "S".
Look in Galatians chapter 5, "I say live by the Spirit". That's a capital "S," it's the Spirit of God. You understand that you are a spirit, right? You are a spirit, you have a body, but you are a spirit. God knew you when you were being knit together in your mother's womb. He knew you before the creation of the world. Your spirit is eternal, your body, your earth suit is on a countdown clock. Suckers have an expiration date just like milk at the grocery store. "It's better if drunk by this day". And we have some better buy dates. That's another discussion. You are a spirit, you live in a body and you have a soul, your mind, your will and your emotions, but the Spirit of God relates most directly to which part of your person do you imagine? Your spirit. It's the part of us that is most directly in God's image.
So here this discussion. "Live by the Holy Spirit, and you won't gratify the desires of your sinful nature". How many of you know you have a sinful nature? If you don't know you have one, how many of you know you live with somebody that has a sinful nature? Don't raise your hand or you'll see it on the way home. "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other so that you don't do what you want". Isn't that our story? Well, we come to church and go, "Oh, I'm gonna do the right thing". And you don't even get out of the parking lot. Or how many times have you said, "I'll never do that again," and you do that again.
There's this conflict in our lives, but the good news is there is a power present to help us overcome that sinful nature. And the more we learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, the more we can diminish the role of that ungodly part of us. We don't have to deny it, excuse it, justify it, explain it. It can be defeated. Hallelujah. What's the outcome of that? The fruit, the evidence of the Spirit's presence in your life becomes evident. It lists nine ways we see that happen. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires". We have to take those sinful desires and say no. Our soul is self says, "I think and I feel and I want, and I have to say no, but I really want". "I understand but no". "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit".
Now, that's a description of growing up in Christ. Allowing the Holy Spirit to call the cadence for your life walk. It's not just what I want or what I feel, but I will pause and say to God, "What do you want? How do you feel about this? Help me understand and I will do my best to yield my will to you". Now, here's the good news. The same creative power of God that hovered above the earth in Genesis 1, is present in you to help you overcome. Wow, wow. It's what makes Christianity different. It's why it'll improve the quality of our lives and our homes and our communities. It's not a political initiative or an ideological initiative, it's the power of the creator of all things present in his creation who will cooperate with him to let the character of God be expressed through us. That's an amazing thing. No wonder the devil hates the Jesus story. If you wanna destroy human beings, the best way to do it is to limit their awareness of Jesus and their participation with the Holy Spirit.
Now, let's look at a second expression of the power of the Spirit in the New Testament. This is about the power to flourish. The power for transformation is about internal change, how you and I become different persons. The power to flourish is about the power of God present in our lives to help us as we interact with the world around us, this is beyond us. Expressions of the power of God, expressions of the Spirit of God in the world around us. The Bible refers to these as the gifts of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12, "About Spirit of gifts, brothers, I don't want you to be ignorant". So we've got our first instruction. Ignorance is not an excuse. "Well, when I grew up, we didn't talk about this much". Okay. Maybe that was our passion, we don't wanna stay ignorant. "You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols".
Apart from God, you elevated things in your life to the role of God's mute things, things with no power but you served them, you gave them a priority as if they were the first priority of your life. Maybe the pursuit of pleasure or success or happiness or a relationship. It could be something or someone, but you served it as a God. But now we've chosen to worship the one true living God. "And therefore, I tell you that no one who's speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus be cursed,' then no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good".
The Holy Spirit, the manifestation means he's revealed, made evident for all of our good. And he's gonna list nine separate gifts or manifestations of the Spirit. "To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All of these are the work of the one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one just as he determines".
Nine manifestations of the presence of the Spirit of God. And in this context, it's in community. This isn't personal or private, it's in the context of the life of the believers. The Holy Spirit is made evident in these ways that there's two big rock ideas we want to take away. One, don't be ignorant. Don't say, "Well, it's kind of messy and I don't understand it, so I'm just gonna withdraw". Don't stay there. Say, "Lord, help me. I'd like to know". And then it says to us that the Spirit is given. In that last verse, it says, "They're all the work of the one and the same Spirit, and he gives them just as he determines". The Holy Spirit is the determiner of where these expressions of power will be released.
You know, in the past we've had the privilege of holding the Holy Spirit in a bit of a distance because we've been able to imagine we could secure our lives and stabilize them. Folks, the world's changed, we're not gonna navigate what's before us without the help of the Spirit of God. Jesus said when he left, he would send us a helper. Let's simply tell the Holy Spirit, he's welcome in on our lives without restraint or without condition. Are you ready for that? Let's pray:
Heavenly Father, I thank you that you've made provision for us through Jesus's sacrifice and through by sending your Spirit into our world. And we wanna welcome him into our lives now without any restriction, without any hesitation. Holy Spirit you are welcome. May we follow you, may we hear your voice. I thank you for your presence in Jesus's name, amen.