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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - The Holy Spirit

Chris Hodges - The Holy Spirit

Chris Hodges - The Holy Spirit
TOPICS: Let's Talk About It

It's so good to see everybody here today. Who's glad to be in church? Anybody? Come on, anybody? Really good to see you. And you can hear the keys playing behind me, and that's because before we get into our time in God's Word today, I just want to have a time of prayer together. Of course, we have a crisis going on, a war going on in Israel, and I just thought it'd be appropriate for the church of the living God to intercede for Israel today. Amen? And I think you guys, most of you would know this. You know, the Bible actually tells us, those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed. And we are a blesser of Israel and are praying for them.

And of course, Psalm 122 says, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem". And we're going to do that today, just out of obedience to God's Word. And I wanted you to know that people always ask, when there's any type of a crisis, you know, "What is Highlands doing"? Just always know we're doing something. I mean, we move, in many cases, faster than some of the relief organizations. We actually have aid to different partners in Israel that are actually ministries that bring the gospel to Israel, and we give to the gospel in Israel, and I've been on the phone with all of them, and we are already on the ground serving families that have been affected and also giving them Jesus. Amen, everybody?

So, I just wanted you to know that, that you're well represented, everybody. I wanted you to know that. And I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your faithful giving to your tithes and offerings, because we work very, very hard. This is not something that we take casually at all. We work very hard to find effective places to invest, so that you get a high, what I call the EROI, the eternal return on investment, so that we're touching people's lives and seeing people in heaven.

And so every time we bring any type of relief, it's in Jesus's name, and I just wanted you to know that, and I wanted to thank you for that. About 65% of the budget comes right back to all of us. We're able to run this whole thing on about 65%, which means that's coming back to you in church services, in children's ministry, in students and all that, but we work hard so that other parts are building buildings with cash, and actually have a robust, in fact, this year, can we celebrate together that we're gonna give over $20 million to missions? Just this year alone, can we praise God for that?

So, anyway, I just wanted to thank you. And if you'll allow me to lead you in prayer, if you're with your spouse or somebody you know or love, and you want to join their hand, and as just kind of join our faith together.

And Father, we thank you, Lord God, for the way you love us and protect us. And God, I thank you for your presence that's in this place right now. And Lord God, we are asking you, Lord, just to move in a great way in Israel, Lord. We pray for Israel. We bless Israel today, God. We're praying, Lord God, for a quick resolution to the crisis and to the war, Lord God. And in the meantime, God, as we go and serve people, God, let the light of Jesus shine brightly in that great nation, Lord. And God, for all that we invest in around the world, that you would use it. And Lord, we know that eternity is near. God, we even sense in the middle of this, Lord, just the ramifications of what you say about the end of time, Lord, and we know time is short and that even in times like this, it gives us great opportunity, though, Lord, that you do your best work when we're in crisis, God. We're praying, Lord, that you do your best work now, Lord, you move not only in Israel but also in America, God, that you would bless America and bless our churches, God. And we love you, we honor you, and we give you all the thanks and praise, in the mighty name of Jesus. And everybody said a good...?

Come on, give God praise one more time, everybody. That's good. Thank you, Tyler, appreciate it, all right? And I want to take this opportunity to look straight into the camera and say hello to all of our campuses, our locations that are now just joining. We are now one, you know, one church, just meets in different rooms. And of course, we are in 22 of Alabama's Department of Corrections facilities right now, and not only on Sundays, but between Sundays, bringing small groups and life groups. All that we do together as a church we have the honor of bringing into those facilities as well. And then there are people that are watching online from Texas A&M or wherever you are. Like, we're so glad that you're along for the ride, as well, glad you're happy today. I think most of you are. That's always a good thing.

All right, so we are in week number five of a series called, "Let's Talk About It". And this series, we've done probably ten times, I think, in the 22-year history of the church, where we take the occasion that is Easter to ask you some questions that we can actually help learn from, as a staff team, a survey, if you will. And this past Easter, one of the questions that I've asked, and asked it on many occasions, what are some of the topics that you would like to hear messages on. And we do that because Jesus did that too. A lot of his sermon content came from questions the crowd posed. The rest of the year, I pray, and we work to bring you what we feel like you need, but you get to kind of control the series here. And these were your top six answers.

Of course, we're in a 5-week series, but we started off with stress. We defined that as all these external factors. What do you do when all hell is breaking loose around you on the outside? The message of that basically was you can't change it. You can only make your capacity to handle it stronger. Then we talked about spiritual warfare, and then I brought a message on anxiety, which is the opposite of stress. And that is even when things are great on the outside, I've got all this garbage going on, on the inside. I mean, my soul is messed up. And I hope you get a chance to see that message. If you missed it, I got pretty vulnerable in that one.

Last week, Pastor Mark brought a message on forgiveness. And today, I want to talk about the Holy Spirit. And you're saying, "You missed one". I did. Actually, your second most requested topic was "Help Me Understand the Bible". And so instead of bringing you a single message on that one, next Sunday we're starting a four-part series called, "What the Bible Is All About". And obviously, we can't cover the entire Bible in 4 weeks, but we can give you enough to help you understand it better, so that you can study it, and I think it's going to help you make it make more sense. So, that's next week, but today we are going to talk about the Holy Spirit. And honestly, this is one where one message is not enough.

And so, if you go back into the archives of Church of the Highlands, there are several message series where we've done whole series just on the person of the Holy Spirit. This has been an interest in our church and in our region since the beginning. In fact, I'll never forget, in the second year of the church, 2003, I was teaching verse by verse on Wednesday nights. We used to meet every Wednesday night back then. And in the summer of 2003, I announced that I was going to do a verse by verse study through the book of Acts and talk about the gifts of the Spirit, and talk about miracles, and the power of God, and just kind of really go through every verse of the book of Acts, and the place was packed. I mean, we just had this little, we called it the office complex, and we had this little room that we met in, and people were coming.

In fact, they were sitting on the floor, sitting on the stage. We had little wired speakers out. This is before we had technology like we do today. We just had wired speakers out in the parking lot. They were sitting in their cars like a drive-in movie theater listening. Show them this picture. This is one of my favorite pictures from the history, in the history of the church, and it is my favorite picture. It kind of reminds me of where we all came from. And so there's always been this great hunger for the Holy Spirit. Well, I'm going to do the best I can in one single message, actually, just to whet your appetite, make you want to be in a relationship with the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. And so I want to offer you a short message, but I'm going to give you a lot of tools.

So, one of the things I would encourage you to do, if you want to dive deeper, one of our overseers, Pastor Robert Morris, wrote a book called, "The God I Never Knew". You would love that book. It'll help you understand. Our dear friend, John Bevere, wrote a book called, "The Holy Spirit," and it is very verse by verse. It's more from an explaining standpoint. I think you would answer a lot of your questions. And then, honestly, just about any book that Pastor Jack Hayford, who's now in heaven, wrote, he wrote a lot of books on supernatural power, the power of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite is called "The Beauty of Spiritual Language," and I would highly recommend that one to help you understand some things that in many places I think have misrepresented it in a way that scared a whole lot of people off.

And then we have two message series I would point you to at Highlands if you go to the archives. Go back to 2017. It's simply called, "The Holy Spirit". I think it's a four-part series. And then back in 2021, we did a series called, "By My Spirit". And again, I think it's a four-part series that dives just a little bit deeper. But who is this Holy Spirit? I want to begin by telling you that that word "Spirit" is mentioned 800 times in the Bible, so this is not a small thing, and sometimes it's not the word "Spirit". The King James actually uses the word "Ghost". I hope this doesn't disappoint you, but neither word "Spirit" or "Ghost" totally describe who he is. So, when we try to understand anything, one of the things that we do is we go back to original language, and that's hard for you to do. I went to school to learn Hebrew and Greek.

Old Testament manuscripts, the original manuscripts are in Hebrew, and the original manuscripts of the New Testament are in Greek. And so what we do, as a teacher, I'll go back and study original language or go back to the old languages and study them. And every pastor in the world has these same tools. We all have a Strong's Concordance or a Lexicon, where you can get the definitions to these words, and I want to give you those to help you understand it a little bit better. In the Old Testament Hebrew, it's the word Ruach, Ruach, and it's pronounced like that, like you've got a popcorn kernel stuck in the back of your throat, Ruach. You've gotta say it like that, right? And it means a wind, a breath, a violent exhalation, a blast of breath.

So, you can see how this would be difficult, because you wouldn't want to put holy breath, holy wind. It doesn't explain itself very well, but that's the word. It actually shows up in the second verse of the Bible. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless," verse 2, "and void or empty, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Ruach, the breath or the violent breath of God hovered over the waters". So, just hold that thought just for a second. In the New Testament, it's the Greek word pneuma, and it's kind of similar like to pneumonia, because we get the English word pneumonia, because it's a disease of your lungs or your breath, right? And it means a current of air, a blast of breath, a strong breeze.

So, probably the most accurate translation would be Holy Wind or Holy Breath, and that doesn't sing as well as, "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost". Right, everybody? So, but it helps us understand a little bit who he is. In fact, the word pneuma is in one of many places in the New Testament. It's one of my favorite. Jesus said, "The words I have spoken to you are... pshooo". And what does that mean? That means, "The words I've spoken to you, they don't just make sense to your mind. You can feel it, experience it. It'll refresh you in every way". I'll never forget, right back there at this little exit back here, I was one Sunday shaking hands, many years ago, shaking hands at the door, and a line had formed, and they were all coming by like good Alabamians do. "Good sermon, preacher. Good sermon, preacher. Good sermon, preacher".

And, you know, just meeting people was fun. About five or six people deep into the line, I saw this lady, probably mid-50s, early 60s, scowl on her face. And I thought, "Oh, dear Jesus. This is not good," you know? And so I was actually looking for a way to get out of the line before she made it up. Didn't make it. Sure enough, she gets up there. The scowl got a little stronger. She said, "Pastor, found something I don't like about this church". And when you hear that, as the pastor, you know, you have to act like you want to hear it. You know what I'm saying? Like, what I wanted to do is I wanted to slap her, but I couldn't do that, right?

So, let's just be honest. So, I had this fake smile on my face. I said, "Oh, well, then, tell me what that is". And she was messing with me, and I didn't know it. And she goes, "Well, the one thing I don't like about this church is I have to wait six days before I can come back". And I said, "Oh, that is the nicest thing ever. Don't you ever do this to me again. Like, you have no idea how close you were". Like, but anyways, and so she had my attention now. And I'm saying, "Well, why, why, why is that"? She goes, "Man, I've been in church my whole life. And for the first time in my life, the whole experience is like a breath of fresh air". She says, "I can breathe again". And I told her, I said, "That's not me. That's not even this church. That's the presence of the Holy Spirit".

That's what it looks like, everybody. Five people here want to clap. Y'all want to join them? Yeah, all right, yeah. It is. And by the way, I don't know if you know this or not, but that's what I prayed for you today. I didn't want you to experience Chris or Highlands. Man, I wanted you to experience God. I hoped that you came in here dry and weary, and you felt the Holy Spirit's presence in your life. I really want that. And so if that's what the word means, I'll never forget, the first time I studied this, I thought, well, if that's what the word means, it means wind or breath, what are the characteristics of a wind? And if we know the characteristics of a wind or a breath, maybe we can learn more about the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. Because, wouldn't you agree with me, that wind is unseen?

So, you know it's there, because you can feel it, and that's been something that Christians, some Christians say, "I don't know if I want to be a feel it". You know, we don't run on our feelings, but it sure is good to feel what you're running on every once in a while, right? It's okay to know the presence of God is here. And by the way, Jesus affirms that in John chapter 14. He says, "The world doesn't accept him, because they can't see him". Can you just time out right here and look up here at me for a second? Please don't make the condition of everything that you experience something you have to understand or see. If you limit yourself to that, you're going to limit what you can experience with God, everybody. So, he says, "They don't get him, because they don't see him or they don't know, but you know him," why? Because he lives on the inside of you, and you know he is in you.

And this is what I want for you. I want you to know that you're not a Christian just by your intellect, but by your experience, everybody. I was at that same door shaking hands, and this one guy walked out, and his eyes were big like this, and he wasn't smiling or frowning. He was just walking out slowly. I said, "Hey, my man. Did you like the service today"? He goes, "Pastor, something was in that room today". He was very Alabama, country as cornbread. I mean, "Something was in that room there today". And I said, "Well, did you like it"? He goes, "I'll be back". And it's important. It's important for you to have an experience with God. And not everything needs to file through the explainable.

Remember the guy in the book of John that was blind and could see? And the religious people came up saying, "How do you see? You were blind your whole life. How do you...and is Jesus God"? And he goes, "Look, I don't know. I don't know the answer to either one of those. All I know is once I was blind. Now I can see". And his whole belief in God wasn't based on an argument. It was based on an experience, and the person with an experience is never at the mercy of the person with the argument. Now, is the argument important? Sure, it is. Here I am making one. Okay, I'm teaching you the Bible, but I don't want it just to be that. Are y'all with me, everybody?

Second thing, wouldn't you agree with, that wind is unpredictable. So, we have a north, we have a south wind, a east wind, a west wind. We have, it's four roles. It was coming here. Now it's going there. And it's all over the place. And Jesus said, "That's how I operate sometimes". Because what I found out, I've been doing this 40 years now, Christians like their religion tucked in. They want it done the same way, same thing all the time. Now with regard to our doctrine, that is absolutely the truth. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change. But sometimes the interactions of the Holy Spirit in our life can look very different. Jesus said it this way: "The wind blows wherever it pleases". Time out right here and say, it's the only time in the English New Testament Bible that they translated the word pneuma to wind.

So, that is the same word, where every other place it puts spirit, there it fit so well that they just actually put the word wind, but the pneuma blows where it pleases. This is Jesus. "And you hear its sound, but you can't tell where it came from or where it was going". Look what Jesus said. "So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit". In other words, that's what your experience with God is going to be, that just when you, if you like it orderly, he'll kind of mess you up a little bit. You know what I'm saying? Like I always say, only one time did he speak through a burning bush. One time. And the people said, "No, no, no, that's how God speaks". They'd have made the First Church of the Burning Bush, right? And if your bush didn't burn, that wasn't God, you know.

And we like to create stuff like that. You've gotta be careful, gotta be careful with that. Third thing, wouldn't you agree that wind is powerful? So, it can propel a turbine and generate electricity. It can propel the sails of a sailboat. It can come in the form of a hurricane and create great destruction. Wind is powerful, and so is the Holy Spirit. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you". It goes on to say, "so that you can be my witnesses," that God, listen to me, church, always intended you not to be a natural follower of Jesus, but a supernatural one. He always intended for signs and wonders to follow our life, this is in the Bible, and that your experience does not need to be purely logical. It needs to be with the power of God, because honestly, the work that he's given us to do in this generation is gonna take more than what you and I have to offer.

We're gonna have to be able to look at people and say, "Man, we're praying for you, that God's going to touch and change your life by the power of God". I believe in the power of God. I've seen the power of God in operation. I love the story of Charles Finney, who's considered the father of modern evangelism. He was the main character in the second great awakening in America, a Presbyterian lawyer, very, very intellectual, had an experience with the Holy Spirit, and here's what he said: "The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression like a wave of electricity going through me and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God".

And if that freaks you out, listen to me. You probably have just experienced it in all the wrong places, that God wants to touch your life in the most beautiful way, that when you experienced it, it would be something very, very positive and powerful in your life. And lastly, wouldn't you agree that wind is refreshing? And so we just came out of three or four or maybe nine months of summer. Right, everybody? It's been hot. I went outside yesterday with nothing to do, other than to go, I just have to go feel that one more time. Wasn't yesterday absolutely stunning? I mean, and I just walked around, just put my face up, all up in that cool breeze. And it's refreshing.

And some of you need that spiritually, like your soul is sick, and your body's tired and what you've been going through lately. There's no handshake or counsel or human interaction that's going to be able to revive your spirit. I'm telling you, the Holy Spirit wants to come today and breathe on you in a fresh way and refresh you just like that cool breeze did yesterday. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians, for wherever that Spirit is, where the pneuma, pshooo. Wherever it is, there's freedom. And it goes on to say this: "And the Lord, who is the pshooo, makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image".

God has every intention of refreshing your spirit today for the purpose of giving you freedom in any area that has bound you up and for the purposes of changing you into his likeness, so that you can live with the peace of God in your life. I was talking to somebody the other day, and I don't even know why I responded this way. I just, they were having such a bad day, and I don't even know if they knew what I did for a living or what I do. I think they knew I was a Christian. And they just said, "My God, I just don't know if I can handle this anymore". And I heard this coming out of my mouth, and I just said, "Man, I wish you had my peace. I wish you have what I have, because I'm going through the same thing you're going through, but it's not affecting me like it's affecting you".

And what is that? Hey, everybody, it's the Holy Spirit. It's the Holy Spirit. And that's why I'm doing everything I can to make you want to be closer to him. And so I think the obvious question is how do we do that? How do we receive the Holy Spirit? Now, I want to do it in story form, but it's all in the Bible, but let me just tell you the story. Sometimes it's more fun to do that than to go to the screen. But on the Thursday night before Jesus would go to the cross, most of you would know that he actually had the Lord's Supper or the last supper with his disciples. This would've been a Passover Seder. And if you want to read about it, the most detailed content is in the book of John, the gospel of John, and he began in John 13. It's a quick read if you want to go home and just read this just one evening together.

But in chapter 13, he washes his disciples' feet, which is great content in that chapter. But in chapter 14, 15, and 16, you basically are getting the conversation at the table. It's very detailed. And you've gotta remember that Jesus is getting ready to go to the cross and die. This is the last day of his life on earth, right? And so he's having a conversation with a group of people that he's already spent 3 years with, and the most predominant topic at the table was the Holy Spirit. And I'm just pointing that out, that as Jesus is giving his final words, this is what it would be about. And so he talks about the Holy Spirit in three chapters. You can go read them. Go read them slowly. It's beautiful. And then he went to the garden of Gethsemane before he would be arrested, and he would be tried all night and, of course, go to the cross on that Friday.

And if you want the contents of his prayer in the garden, that's John 17, okay? So, I'm just helping you walk through your Bible here a little bit. But he, of course, he went to the cross, got arrested, went to the cross, paid for sins, buried, resurrected on that Sunday. And for about 40 days, he just appears in his glorified body to his disciples. And once again, every time he appears, he's predominantly talking about the Holy Spirit. I'm just trying to show you that this was a major thought and a major thing he wanted to make sure the church had. In fact, he was saying things like, "It was better for me to go so you could have him; because as soon as I go, I'll send him to be with you forever".

And on one occasion, they actually, the disciples were having a meal, and the doors were locked. And Jesus just pops right through the wall. And of course, his first line is, "Peace be with you". That's because they're all freaking out, everybody, right? And that's where you get the story of doubting Thomas, who said, "I won't believe that you're really him unless I can, you know, touch the nail marks in your hands and touch the spear mark in your side. And Jesus said, "Go ahead," and he did. He goes, "My Lord and my God," and all that whole experience, right? And they were sitting there at the table, and then Jesus said this, he said this: "And with that he," notice the language, "he breathed on them," and he said, "Hey, guys, receive the Holy Spirit".

And this is the moment that the disciples actually became Christians, became born again, why? Because they couldn't have done it before, because their sins hadn't been paid for on the cross yet, but this is the moment where they received Jesus. And when you receive Jesus, you receive the Holy Spirit. If you're a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit of God in you. But then Luke, this is John's account, Luke talks about the same night in the book of Acts. And he says, "And on one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them", and it's the one I just mentioned to you, "He gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised you, which you've heard me speak about. For John baptized with water'", that's salvation, "'but in a few days you will be'", notice the future tense, "So, you received the Holy Spirit, but I also want to baptize you in the Holy Spirit".

And sure enough, those disciples went up into that upper room. And in Acts chapter 2, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out. And of course, the word Pentecost scares a lot of people off. Do y'all want to know what the word Pentecost means? Get ready for it. Fifty. I know, it's pretty scary. It simply means, it's 50 days after Passover. That's all the word means. I just think that's hilarious. Anyway, because we let things that have been packaged the wrong way by others scare us off from everything that God wants for you. Just want to throw that out there. And so the Spirit was poured out, and then this happened, watch this. And then amazed and perplexed, the whole crowd was saying, "What in the world is going on here? What does all that mean"?

People are still asking that. You asked it. It's in your series. "Some, however, made fun of them," and they do, and they will, "saying, 'They have had too much wine.' And then Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd. 'Fellow Jews and all who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose.'" It's only nine in the morning. They haven't had a chance yet. No, I'm just kidding. I threw that in there, sorry. And I want you to note this little phrase. He says, "No, this, this isn't that. This is that". And I guess if I don't say anything else to you, I want to say that to you, because people say it's this. No, no, no, it's not that. This is that.

And I say that to you to go on an exploration of your own with the resources, series, and tools that I've given you in just this small, little version of the topic to say please don't reject something that you actually had bad information about. "I don't want to play, I don't want to play basketball. I hate getting tackled. Oh, that's football". See what I'm saying? And he says, "No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel". And then he said, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. And then receive the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you". This is not just the book of Acts. Some teach, "Oh, no, that was just for the book of Acts". No, "This is for you, your children, and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God will call".

And so I close this with just a little encouragement. In fact, you could use what I'm getting ready to tell you in just about any area of your spiritual journey, that it's very important, number one, to let go of your fears and misconceptions. Please don't let something that you have bad information or you've allowed tradition or experience to tell you what it's all about when that's not what it's all about. It's my favorite way, by the way, to share my faith. When I share my faith with people, I say, "What do you think this is all about? Like, how do you think a person gets to heaven"? And they never answer the right way. And then I always go, "Well, no wonder you don't want it. But did you know that's not what the Bible says"? "It doesn't"?

And then it's so much fun to show them what it actually says. A lot of people have allowed misconceptions and perceptions or experience, bad experience, keep them from all that God has for you. I was raised in a church that actually I was taught, "You want to stay away from that Holy Ghost". That's words that came out of the leadership of our church. "Stay away from that Holy Ghost. Stay away from them Holy Ghost people". And when they said, "Ghost," I thought, I agree. I don't like a ghost. Ghosts scare you. I'm with you, like... but no, no, no. Listen to me. If God has it in his Word for you, it's good for you. Can I say that again? If God has it in his Word for you, it's good for you. Just a thought. Because "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows".

So, that's my first thought. It's just like remove your biases, your experiences, and just have what I call a fresh page approach to what God has to offer you straight out of his Word. Secondly is always ask God to give you all that he has for you. Why? Because all that we have, even I have, is not all that he has. So, don't settle where you are. Wouldn't you agree with me that none of us have all that he has? So, why in the world wouldn't we pray, "Well, Lord, I'll take all that you have then, if there's more."? Did you know that that was the major thesis of the beginning of Church of the Highlands? People ask me all the time, "What's Church of the Highlands? Are y'all from Scotland"? No, all right? We wanted to take people to higher heights. I was basically betting on a feeling that I was convinced that existed in the southern culture, that there were tons of people saying, "This can't be it. This can't be all there is".

I was actually betting on people knew there has to be more. And so we said, "Then let's go higher. Let's just keep going after all that God has for us," and that's why you hear language like next steps, spiritual journey. It's what this church has always been about, because God is calling us to higher heights or to deeper places in our relationship with him. Can I hear a good amen, everybody? And what I want for you, I'm just gonna tell you what I want for you. I want you to go on this journey. I want you to constantly, every one of you, constantly pursue all that God has for you.

One of my favorite illustrations of this is found in a prophecy in the Old Testament. They saw the Spirit moving in the New Testament, and Ezekiel saw it, and he describes it this way. He says, "I saw a man who went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, and he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me into the experience, but I only had an ankle deep experience. And then he measured off another thousand, and my experience went to the knee, and then I measured off another thousand, and that water now is up to the waist. And then finally he measured off another thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen deep enough to swim in and a river that no one could cross".

So, basically, he was saying, there are going to be people, and there are in this room right now, ankle deep people. Now listen to me very clearly. If you know Jesus, love Jesus, you're in that water. If you're in that water, you're going to heaven. Jesus paid it all. There's no work, there's no experience that is needed. But I'm gonna tell you, God still has more for you. You can go to heaven with a bad marriage. We just don't want you to. You can go to heaven with a bad attitude. We just don't want you to. Like, there's more. And I'm asking you not to settle for ankle. And then for some of you, it's time for y'all to just crawl on out there. I'm not even asking for it all. I'm asking for your next step. Some of you need to take your next step in worship. You're worshiping in your heart, but the Bible says, clap your hands, lift your hands, shout. I didn't write it, he did.

And so at some point, you know, you need to think, I'll never forget I picked a Sunday. I'll never forget the Sunday I picked that I was going to do what I call the hand thing. Like, I put it up there, about that fast too. I thought I really jumped out there. But the Bible says old and oew, lift your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord. I didn't write that, he did. And some of you will go up to your knee experience, if you'll just step out in the things that God asks you. And watch the freedom. Watch the life. Just trust me with this. Waist deep. But would you agree with me that there's one unique thing about the first three that's different than the last stage? Because at ankle deep, I'm still in touch with the bottom, which means I am still in control. I'm in the experience, but I'm in control of the experience.

Even knee deep, maybe waist deep, I have to get a little wider stance, but I'm still touching bottom, and that river is trying to take me away, but I ain't gonna let it. But you get in the middle of that thing, and the river takes you where it wants you to go. And I'm encouraging some of you, it's time for you to get in the middle of the experience that is called Christianity and faith, and go into all that God has to offer you, and trust him to take you. I was always so afraid that if I really went all in with God, he was gonna send me into some mud hut, you know, as a missionary. I prayed prayers like, "Okay, Holy Spirit, I'm gonna invite you in, but you're gonna have to behave yourself now".

Like, you know what I'm saying? Just need to be a little careful. And that's why we at Highlands, we don't invite you to take them all. You don't have to go from ankle to the middle. Just keep taking steps, but give us a year of your life. You've heard us say this over and over. Give us a year of your life. Go all in with God and watch, we promise you, watch what'll happen to you. We want this kind of spiritual growth adventure for your life. If you'll give us a year of your life, watch what'll happen. Swarms of living creatures live there. In fact, in the middle of the river, everything lives. So, your marriage lives, your attitude lives, your, I just trust us in that. And here's the last one. So, I want you to let go of your fears, misconceptions about the Holy Spirit, really, about anything. Decide, "I'm going to the middle of this experience. I'm not gonna just be wet, just ankles". No, no, no.

And then I really want to invite you to pursue, constantly pursue an intimate friendship with the Holy Spirit, because that's what it really is, that's what it really is. I love the benediction of 2 Corinthians. It says, "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you". Here's the entire godhead, the three in one. And notice it starts with Jesus, because you can't have an experience with God the Father or the Holy Spirit without the cross. It always begins with Jesus. But then you can have the love of God in your heart, and that's who we have a relationship with, our Father, but it's facilitated through a friendship with the Holy Spirit. That's who he is, and that's what he does.

Here's what it says in The Message, which is not a translation. It's just a paraphrase. "May the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with you all". And I'm just going to give you what mine looks like, and I'm going to close, and that is my relationship with him, he's constantly convicting me, and I don't mean condemn. Condemnation is of the devil. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, but there needs to be a healthier dose of conviction in a bunch of our lives. And it's where he goes, "Ahhhh, uh-huh, uh-huh".

And then we listen to that. One place says we could invite the work of God inside of us. Search me, know me, see if there's any offensive way in me, and lead me to the right direction. For some of you in this room, I'll say it plainly. He's been telling you, stop that. If you keep doing it, it's going to cost you more than you wanted to pay. Jesus said this: "When he comes, the Holy Spirit, he will convict you. He'll show you what sin is". That's why I don't bark out sin at you every Sunday and tell you, because you have one inside of you who does a lot better job than I ever could. You don't need me to tell you what to watch or listen to or who to hang out with. Listen to me, church. The Holy Spirit is trying to get your attention. For some of you, he's even trying to get you closer to Jesus. Some of you need to get saved today.

In fact, Corinthians says, "No one can even say, 'Jesus is my Lord,' unless the Holy Spirit draws him". And he's at work in your life right now. He's talking to all of us, if you'll let him, if you'll just listen. He's also my guide. What I mean by guide, I make my decisions by trying to listen to the Holy Spirit. I follow God's Word first. But Jesus said, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he's going to guide you". You ready for this? He'll even show you what is yet to come. And I believe that. I've even asked the Holy Spirit, "Show me what's happening in Israel, God. How should I lead as a leader? Is this a sign of the end of time? How do I lead the congregation? How do we need to respond in these crises"? Isaiah said, "Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ear is going to hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way, not that way, this way.'" And you need to listen to that.

And lastly, if you told me to explain what my relationship with the Holy Spirit looks like, he's my best friend. You know why? Because he's the only one, not even Tammy is as close to me every moment of my life than the Holy Spirit, because he's right here with me right now. Do you know what his name literally means, by Jesus? "I'm going to ask the Father", this is the night before he went to the cross, "And I'm going to give you", and this it's a tough word to translate once again, and that's why if you read different translations, this word could be advocate, it'd be helper in one place. In the King James, it's the word "Comforter". It's Parakletos in the Greek. And do you know what it literally means? He's called right by your side, and it literally means in literature, it means if you pick up one end of the log, the Holy Spirit picks up the other end. What a beautiful picture.

And my God, how many of us needs someone just to help us? We need that Comforter, and that's why I love him so much. So, about every 6 months, Miss Tammy wants a new comforter. I don't know why the old one's not satisfying anymore. I don't know why anybody cares. We're the only two people in that room. But anyway, all right, so she'll like, "I think I want to get a new comforter". And not too long ago, she got one. And man, it was nice. I mean, it was like fluffy. And I never forget looking at that thing and "That's gonna be comfortable. No wonder they call it a comforter," only to find out that when I walked into that room that night, it was nowhere to be found.

Come on, ladies. Y'all know what you do. That beautiful, soft, wonderful thing now gets peeled away, and all we have is these ugly, old blankets. I'm like, "Where's the comforter"? And then women do this, they go, "Pfft," like we're supposed to know. And guys, right, we don't know. Just, we don't know. And she goes, "It's for looks, not for use". And for some of you, you've made your Comforter, the Holy Spirit, for looks. You like him in the songs: "Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost". But he's not for use. You need him for use too. Come on, everybody, pursue the person of the Holy Spirit, amen? All right, let's pray:

Father, I'm asking for everybody right now in their hearts to take steps towards you, get closer to you, and pursue all that you have for them. Lord, we make a commitment today to never settle in our current experience, but, God, to go all in with you.

With heads bowed, eyes closed at every location, if you're here today, and you're drawn to God, and you're not sure if you're a Christian, or maybe you're backslidden, you just know your relationship with God is not right, and you're under conviction, listen to me. Call out to the Lord. I want to encourage you right now to make Jesus the Lord of your life. I'm not asking you to join this church. I think that'd be a good thing to do. But I'm asking you to let Jesus forgive you of your sins, and you be a person of faith and a follower of Jesus Christ. And if that's you today, I want to lead you in a prayer right there where you are. I'm not going to have you stand up. I'm not going to call you to the front. But some of you, honestly, you need to be bold right now and say, "It's time, it's time for me to cross the line of faith and take this thing called Christianity seriously, and I'm going to give Jesus my life today".

Come on, get rid of your shame and your guilt, and leading your own life, and let Jesus be the Lord of your life. In a minute, I am going to ask you to raise your hand if you want to be included in this prayer, just right there where you're seated. But I think it takes an act of faith and some boldness, and that's why I do that. So, at every location, if that is you, and you'd like to be included in this prayer, without hesitation, come on, lift your hand as high as you can right now. Put it right back down and say, "Count me in". Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, all over this room, just literally hands lifted all over this room. Got a lady over here with both hands lifted, just, "I'm ready, I'm just, I'm ready". Thank God. Way at the top, God bless you today, all over this room. Slip those hands down and pray this prayer with me:

Jesus, thank you for going to the cross, paying for everything that I did, and today I receive you as my Savior, and I make you my Lord. Come live inside of me. Holy Spirit, breathe in me, because I believe you're the Son of God, who rose from the dead, and today I put my faith in you. Come on, whisper this to heaven: Thank you for setting me free. I give you my life. In your name I pray, amen.

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