Allen Jackson - Welcome - Part 1
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It's a privilege to be with you today. We're continuing our study on the power of the Holy Spirit. Specifically, we want to talk about think a little bit about what it means to welcome the Spirit of God into our lives. So often I think we have language but no intent. We learn this with the Word of God, you can't just hear it, you have to welcome it into your heart. You have to decide to believe it and accept it. The same is true with Jesus, we can't just believe he was a historical figure, in order to be transformed we have to welcome him into our lives as Lord and King. Well the same is true with the Holy Spirit, we can't just know about him and give an assent, we have to welcome him personally into our lives. It's an exciting thing, it'll change the trajectory of your faith. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
We are working on a topic around the power of the Spirit of God and at the heart of this study is really a discussion about the gifts of the Spirit and what it looks like for them to be incorporated into our lives. Are they relevant for today? Are they something that were a part of antiquity, but they're no longer engaged in the life of the church? I don't believe so. Well, where do they fit and what do we do with that? Last weekend, we focused on the why component. Why do we need the gifts of the Spirit? Are they necessary or are they required reading? This week I want to focus a little bit more on the how part. How do we really open our lives to the Spirit of God? And I think for a beginning point, I want to invite you away from a passive response to this topic.
Sometimes when we read things in our Bible and we talk about spiritual issues, we have the attitude, well, if God wants me to have it, I'm open for that. If he wants me to have it, it's okay with me, but I'm content where I am, I'm not going to do anything about it. Well, I appreciate that attitude, but in spiritual things, it's not helpful. If you if you hold that attitude, you will miss the kingdom of God. Jesus died on the cross and was raised to life again so that anyone who would believe and accept him as their Lord could be a participant in the kingdom of God. But if your attitude was, if God wants me to be a part of his kingdom, he can come get me, you'll miss it because God requires something of us. And I have found that principle to hold true in all those points of discipleship and growth. God is waiting for our responses. So if we intend for the power of God to be a more prevalent part of our spiritual lives, we will have to engage in some choices that facilitate that, amen?
So that's what we're gonna unpack. And I'm gonna start with a couple of things we can do to open our hearts more fully to the power of God. And the first one is, receive the Word of God. This isn't beyond knowing. Sometimes it's the simple things we ignore. Psalm 107 and verse 20 says, "He sent his word and healed them, and he delivered them from their destructions". It's important to understand God sent his Word into the earth. I know it was delivered through people, it has been translated and retranslated and copied and recopied and we have it in a book. I'm not suggesting that you build your whole theological system around a single word or a verb or a verse, but the Word of God is important. And if you don't receive the Word of God, it's improbable that you will ever receive the Spirit of God, because it's through the Word of God we know his character, we know something of how he interacts with humanity, we under we learn how to worship, we understand what holiness is and purity is. There's some thou shalt's and though shalt not's. We need God's Word.
Look at John 1 and in verse 14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth". Who's John speaking of? It's not a trick question: Jesus. Jesus was the Word incarnate. We don't worship a book, I'm not suggesting that, but I am suggesting that your attitude towards the Word of God is an indicator of your attitude towards him, that if we don't routinely make time to read the Word of God, to meditate, think about it, to make space for it in our lives, why do we imagine the power of God would intrude upon us? The first step is saying, "God I care enough about you, I'm going to make an investment in your Word".
People say to me, "Well, you know Pastor, I appreciate that but I don't like to read". I got that. Change. Once Upon a time in my life I preferred cake over vegetables, and then something cruel happened to my metabolism, and I decided vegetables looked better, so there wasn't quite so much of me. So change isn't always an evil thing, and now we have so many ways to get at information, if you don't particularly enjoy reading, there are all sorts of ways you can have you can listen to the Word of God. You can get on you can take our church app and it will read it to you every day. But you need systematic, purposeful, intentional time with the Word of God if you have any imagination of ever welcoming the power of God into your life.
Now I would submit to you, we need the help of God's power. All right, a second component in this is learning to receive the Spirit of God. We receive his Word and then we make an equally intentional choice to receive his Spirit. In John 20 it says, "On the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews". This is evening of Resurrection Day and the disciples are hiding because they're afraid they're next. If they could take Jesus out, I'm sure the disciples felt very vulnerable. So they have the doors locked, they're afraid, they're discouraged, they're filled with despair. The most remarkable person they've ever known, they saw him suffocate on a Roman cross and it says that, "Jesus came and stood among them. 'Peace be with you.' And after he said this, he showed them his hands and his side".
Let me ask you a question. What do you think the attitude was in that room? It says that Jesus showed them his hands and his side. Why do you imagine he would do that? Last time they saw Jesus, he was on a Roman cross, gasping for a breath, beaten almost beyond recognition. They saw where he was buried, but when they came a day later to check the tomb, this it was opened and the body was gone and they didn't believe the women. And now Jesus is standing in the room with them. Can you imagine? I'm sure there were questions. Is it just a projection of our imagination? Is it a ghost? And Jesus shows them the marks in his flesh. "It's me, I'm back".
The next sentence is one of the most intriguing to me in the Bible. It says, "And the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord". Kind of a gift of understatement, would you think? They were over, I don't, I'm not sure how they reacted. It's not recorded. I don't know if they burst into laughter, I don't know if they wept, I don't know if they knelt, I don't know if they were in stunned silence, I don't know. But John says that they were just overwhelmed. That it was almost more than they could, that they were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. I don't think it was like, "Ah, hey J-man". I don't think it felt like that. Do you? But then watch what Jesus does. Says that, it says, "After Jesus said again 'Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
Now it's my opinion that if you died publicly and you were buried and you were raised to life again and you went to see your closest friends, that the first thing you had to say to them might be important. You with me? So I think there's a little heightened significance in this, a little added emphasis, that the first thing Jesus did was breathe on them and received the Holy Spirit. In fact, it's very similar language almost identical to what's in Genesis 1 at the culmination of creation when God fashioned man from the dust of the ground and he breathed in him and he became a living being. See, I would submit to you at that point the disciples were born again, they've had a personal encounter with a resurrected Jesus and the Spirit of God has come into them. Prior to Jesus's redemptive work, that was not a possibility. Everything changed, whole new covenant's in play now. And Jesus breathes on 'em and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit". You have to receive his Word and you have to receive his Spirit.
Now, I want to take the balance of our minutes and talk about a spirit-directed life and how you and I can position ourselves, what we do to cooperate with the Spirit of God in our lives more fully. I have this imagination that a healthy spiritual life is a lot like just choosing to be have a healthy life. It's not a single decision or a single experience that determines that. It's a whole, there may be experiences that are a part of it, that to have a healthy life you certainly, there's some things that are helpful. But there's a whole complex set of things that interact. If you're gonna be healthy physically, it certainly has to do with your diet and your exercise and your sleep patterns and your hygiene and the environment in which you live. And some of it's genetics, there's a whole host of things and there's not a single experience that's around that.
There's multiple experiences that are revisited. You may have been to the doctor and had a physical and he said you were healthy 15 years ago. That was good to know, but you need to take that report off the wall and revisit it occasionally. Well, spiritually there's not it's not about a singular experience or a single component, it's a complex thing and you you're going to need some experiences, but you're going to need a collection of decisions that enable you to thrive spiritually, and far too often, it seems to me that we get focused on an experience and we substitute that for a healthy spiritual life. We'll tell about an experience we had. And I'm grateful for those experiences in my own life. But I want them to continue to be a string of stories that are told by what God is doing in our lives.
So, I'm going to hand you some things that will be a part of some choices towards a healthy spiritual life. You have to be born of the Spirit, that's not optional. This is not simply a civic club, we're not just bound together by good deeds and kindness and expressions of generosity and love, there is something transformative at the heart of the Jesus story. In John chapter 3 and verse 5 Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit". Doesn't matter what group of people you're born to, doesn't matter what denomination you join, how many Bibles you possess, you won't enter the kingdom of God unless you are born of water and the Spirit. It's an essential necessity. Amen?
Alright, Romans 8 and verse 11 says: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you". If you are born again, if you accepted Jesus as Lord of your life, the Spirit of God lives within you. Hallelujah. Jesus said to his disciples, "If I go away, the Father will send you another Counselor. He will be with you and he will be in you". That isn't normal, that's a change in the story. The Spirit of God used to dwell in the Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies and then in the temple. But now the Spirit of God dwells in you, not in a building built with human hands. Being the church doesn't mean we're proponents for architecture or 11:00 o'clock on Sunday mornings.
I'm not opposed to those things, but the church is a people initiative, because God's Spirit is within us, not because you come to church, because you have acknowledged Jesus as Lord of your life. Because the Holy Spirit comes where Jesus is exalted. The doorway for him into your life as you acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Son of God, and you're willing to choose him as Lord and serve him as King. That set of choices attracts the Holy Spirit. That's really exciting, the power of God present within you.
That's an amazing statement. The same Spirit that brought life to Jesus's physical body, that brought him forth from the dead is present in you to deliver you from death, not physical death, but all those expressions of evil that diminish your life and bring death and destruction to you, there is power present within you to bring freedom. We need to know more about that and how to unleash that and cooperate with that but it begins with that simple invitation to Jesus, "Be Lord of my life". I wanna lead you in that prayer again this morning. You may have prayed it before. If you've never prayed it and meant it, today would be a good day.
See, I suspect all of us at one time in our lives or another have been guilty of praying it really with no intent. And I get that, I even understand it on one level but you need to understand, we don't hustle God. Fooling the preacher's not too hard but we don't hustle God. And if you've never really intent to honor him, to choose Jesus Lord, today would be a really good day. But I have a bigger agenda, I want everybody here to know how to help somebody else into the kingdom. In fact, I think we ought to take that on as a goal over the next 6 months. Everybody here be willing to help one person into the kingdom of God. Thank you for that enthusiastic response to the suggestion.
How many of you would be willing to be a part of that? Look at that, hundreds and hundreds of people, that's awesome. You see, the invitation, what we're talking about on the table is the cooperation of the Holy Spirit the power of God on our behalf. Well if our only interest in the power of God is to help me get my way, I suspect that's not the greatest point of invitation for us, but if we cultivate a legitimate intent to see the Spirit of God at work amongst us, folks the only solution to the problems we face as a people, will come from the expansion of the influence of the Spirit of God in our world. Our answers aren't going to come through a political party, or an ideology. The form of government we live under, and I'm grateful for it, it is representative. It means the people in Washington reflect the hearts of Main Street.
And if we want more truth and integrity in Washington, we have to have more truth and integrity on Main Street. Which means that you and I are the delivery system in your sphere of influence, your family, your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, the folks you hang out with, all of those people, you want to engage in dialogue about Jesus. Maybe you invite them to a group with you, maybe you bring them to a Wednesday night, I don't know. You can use church as a point of invitation, but the real issue is you use your advocacy and say, you know I'm really into this Jesus thing and I think he might be good for you. If we will do that, God shows up. If we could care less, we just want God to give us what we want when we want it, not so much.
So this really is a doorway, it's a doorway. The power of God comes into the lives of people who are interested in the purposes of God. So, we're gonna say this prayer together, but I want you have it in your experience so you can share it with somebody else. Let's pray this together. Just close your eyes a minute, forget the people around you. Say:
Almighty God, I'm a sinner and I need a Savior. I believe Jesus is your Son, that he died on a cross for my sin, that you raised him to life again, that I might be justified. Forgive me of my sins. Jesus, be Lord of my life. All that I am, all that I have, I want to honor you. And now I forgive anyone of anything, and I thank you that I belong to God. In Jesus's name, amen.
Wow, now that's a miracle. It changes everything about your life. It changes the authority over your life, the power available to you now that the Spirit of God is within you. I want to add to that, one more component of a healthy spiritual life, a willingness to give energy and effort to praise, thanksgiving, worship. And I'm not talking principally about the things that occur on a platform like this. Worship starts in your spirit. When you accept Jesus as Lord of your life, your spirit is made new. Now you still have your soul and your body, and those still have some components of the former life, they're not fully transformed yet, but worship begins in your spirit so we have to submit our soulish self to worship, my mind, my will, and my emotions. My mind says, I don't want to. My feelings say, I don't feel like it. I have to say, it doesn't matter. You're not in charge here. I appreciate your opinion, it has been duly noted, now hush and worship the Lord.
See, we've let worship deteriorate into something that is very soulish. We talk about it in terms of style and preference and I like this leader or that leader, or that person, or that whatever. And if it doesn't suit our style, we think we withdraw from worship. You're not withdrawing from worship. Worship starts inside of you. With that attitude, worship is distant from you. Now, I appreciate music when it suits a style that I like or it's a song that I particularly enjoy, or the words resonate with me, but the truth is you should be able to worship the Lord with a kazoo and somebody like me that sings off key because it's about what's on the inside of me and who God is. And we've let this get a little flipped and the reason, I think it's an attack from the enemy, from Satan himself.
Some have suggested that his assignment in heaven before he lost his place was music. And 'cause in scripture, worship and the Spirit of God are intertwined. And we allow worship to be separate from us over soulish things, we forfeit the power of God. Thanksgiving is an easier way perhaps to think about that. We choose to give thanks to God. Now that's a choice. It doesn't mean I feel like it. Everybody in the room, I'm quite confident, has some places today where our life is undone either relationally or emotionally or physically, or somebody you care about, you need God's help. So it's not that we give thanks today because everything's perfect.
Do you understand the refusal to give thanks to God is an expression of disrespect? Suppose teenagers in your house said, "I'm not going to be grateful to you until you do everything I want the way I want". Well, bless your heart, but that's a little bit of the attitude we hold towards God. I'm not giving thanks to you. You're not performing the way I want you to perform. And we withhold our worship and our thanksgiving. The Bible talks about a sacrifice of praise. Now, why would you do that? Because the worship of God and the praise of God and the Spirit of God are intertwined. In Psalms it says we come into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise. Don't let it be about style. You may have styles you prefer, I appreciate that, that's not wrong, but that's not the determiner. My decision is to give honor to the Lord.
All right. We welcome his Word, we invest some energy and effort in praise and worship and thanksgiving. And I want to give you one more component and that's prayer. Aren't you glad you got out in the rain for that nugget? I wanna suggest that you think about prayer in this way as an expression of an invitation and intent. If you don't pray, you fail to extend the invitation, and when we don't pray, we are declaring we have no intent of God being involved. See, when we fail to pray, we fail to extend the invitation to God, and we demonstrate this nagging lack of intent of the Holy Spirit's participation. I don't want to do that.
Look with me in John chapter 11, it's an event in Jesus's life. He's in Bethany, it's the village where Martha and Mary live with their brother Lazarus, but Lazarus has a new home, he's in a tomb, been there several days. He's not in good space. And Jesus goes, not to visit the cemetery, he has another assignment, you know the story. They took away the stone and Jesus looked up and he said, we get to listen to Jesus pray. You know, it's John 11:41. "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent to me". That's an intriguing prayer. "Father, I thank you that you have heard me".
I thank you in the present tense that you have heard me in the past tense. Jesus is referencing a prayer he's already prayed. I've already prayed about Lazarus, and God I've come here, I know what's about to happen. I knew, past tense, that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here. I want everybody listening and everybody that's gonna read this in the centuries to come to know I've already prayed about this before I got here. Then he says, "Lazarus, get out here". It says that Lazarus walked out bound with his grave clothes and Jesus said, "Set him free".
Let me ask you a question, it's not a trick question. What would have happened if Jesus hadn't prayed? Lazarus would have never needed a second tomb. The prayer changed everything, right? Not just the prayer of invitation out of the tomb, his prayer before he got there. Folks, prayer in your life and my life is far more significant than we've imagined.
I want to close our broadcast with a prayer of invitation. Will you join me?
Heavenly Father, we ask you to pour your Spirit out upon our lives. He is welcome in our lives. Illumine our minds, open our hearts, that we might cooperate with you more fully than ever, in Jesus's name, amen.