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Jack Graham - It's A Wonderful Life

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    Jack Graham - It's A Wonderful Life
TOPICS: Christmas, The Spirit of Christmas

Many Christians have been to Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Christ, have been to Calvary for the death of Christ, but they've never been to Pentecost where the power of the Holy Spirit came upon His people. And many Christians are not living in the fullness of an abundant life in Christ. I'm calling this message a wonderful life, "It's a Wonderful Life". And, obviously taking from the old movie, and if you don't watch "It's a Wonderful Life" at Christmas, you're doing Christmas wrong at some level. It's a wonderful movie about a wonderful life, and a man who discovers what life is really about. Well, what life is really about for the Christian is knowing Christ and being filled with Him. And amidst all the celebration, the pomp, the circumstance of this season and observance of the religious holiday. I'm grateful for a religious observance as compared to a secular observance of Christmas.

Some people try to have Christmas without Christ. Well, that's impossible because you can't even spell Christmas without Christ! And so, not a secular Christmas, but some have a religious experience and go to church at the Christmas season and we respect that and we appreciate that. But in the midst of a great celebration in the day of Christ, akin to the celebrations that we have at Christmas, to give you just a little background on this text that we are about to read: There was a celebration among the Jewish people of feasts, known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feasts of Booths. And it was a commemoration and then a celebration of Israel's time wandering in the desert, in the wilderness, when God provided water and food and sustenance as they lived in the booths, in the tabernacles, as they were moving from place to place in the wilderness over that generation.

And so from that time immemorial, the Jewish people had celebrated this event. And it was filled with a great deal of excitement. It was an eight-day festival. People would come to Jerusalem and there celebrate; there were parades and parties and religious observances. And in the midst of all of this, in the seventh chapter, the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus stood up, verse 37: "On the last day of the feast", in other words, this was like Christmas day. This was the big moment, the great day. And, "Jesus stood up and He cried out".

Now, you don't get the impact of those words "He cried out" unless you realize that actually Jesus shouted over all the noise of the observance, the pouring of water on the great altar from the pool of Salome. In the midst of all this festival, Jesus stood up right in the middle of it and He shouted out. And what did He say? "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink". What a powerful invitation this is! Because so many are thirsting for everything but Jesus, even at Christmas, chasing everything but Jesus. Even in the ceremony in that day, remembering religious observances and there the Water of Life was in the midst of them.

You know, it is possible that you can walk right through this Christmas season and miss Jesus. But Jesus is shouting out, and His message is, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink". And then He says, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said," and watch this, "'Out of his heart'", literally, out of his innermost being; more literally, out of the womb, the place of life, the place of birth, out of the inner person, "'will flow rivers of living water.'"

And what is it? What is this experience of the living water? "This he spoke about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified". Jesus gave us this wonderful promise that when we thirst for Him and believe in Him and receive Him, then out of the inside, deep within, the core of our being, down deep inside will flow rivers, not trickles, not streams, but rivers (plural) not one river, but rivers and rivers, multiplied rivers of living water will flow out of us! And then He explained by saying, "I'm talking about the Holy Spirit, flowing and flooding your life! Filling, flooding and flowing out of your life".

There are a number of illustrations, symbols, pictures of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. You could probably think of some. For example, there's the oil of the Spirit, speaking of the anointing, as in the anointing of a king. There's the spiritual oil that burns in the believer. Another is breath. A symbol of the Holy Spirit is breath. God breathed out His Spirit. In the Hebrew it's Ruach. You have to say the Ruach, like that, if you're a good Hebrew. But it even sounds like breath: Ruach! You have to breathe it out. That means breath. The Holy Spirit is like the breath, the very life of God. And, of course, on the day of Pentecost we discover that the Holy Spirit is like wind and fire, the Spirit of God descending upon them, burning in them, blowing through the very place, symbolizing just the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit of God. But when Jesus illustrated the Holy Spirit, He said the Spirit is like a river running through you, a river flowing through you.

"There is a fountain that flows from deep within. There is a river that saves the soul from sin". This river is the river of the Holy Spirit. It's speaking of the filling of the Spirit, as well as the flowing of the Holy Spirit. Are you overflowing with the Spirit of God in your life, your marriage, your family, your work, your witness for Christ? They say it's not polite to ask personal questions but I'm going to ask you a personal question, grade your own paper. Are you right now filled with the Holy Spirit? You say, "Well, I don't know". Well, we need to know if God's Spirit is in command and in control of our lives, because life in the Spirit is born not from the outside, but the inside, out of the womb. Out of the innermost being. And it is impossible for any of us to live the Christian life apart from the Holy Spirit.

D.L. Moody was a great Christian, a Spirit-filled Christian, an evangelist of yesteryear and he said this, "You might as well try to see without eyes, hear without ears, breathe without lungs as to try to live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit"! True! Impossible! Have you made, I've said this many times, have you made the discovery that the Christian life is not hard; it's impossible! Impossible for me, for you to live this Christian life that we've been given, called and commanded to live. This is impossible to do this by human effort.

Zachariah 4:6, "'Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord". And God knew, Jesus knew we would all need, therefore, the Spirit of God flowing from deep within to enable us, to energize us, empower us to live the Christian life. Once we believe in Christ, receive in Christ. He said this is not some religious experience; this is a relationship with Me. All this celebration you're going through, all this water on the altar and shouting and stomping. He shouted! He said, "Listen to Me, if you thirst, then come to Me because I'm the water of life and out of your innermost being shall flow these rivers of living water".

The simple thing is this: if you are a follower of Jesus and you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you don't have to pound your head on the floor and beg God's Holy Spirit to fill you. You only need to permit Him to fill you. Because I don't know how much of God you have, but I'll tell you this, you have all of Him you want! He said, "If you thirst". They say many people, most people walk around in a dehydrated condition most of the time. They say we don't drink enough water. You know that afternoon fatigue that you get? They say just drink a bottle of water; you'll feel a lot better. I don't know if that's true or not. I've tried it. But that slump you get in the afternoon, many times it's because we're dehydrated. Well, many of us have no spiritual strength or power because we're spiritually dehydrated. We have the Holy Spirit but the question is: Does the Holy Spirit have us?

Turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 5:18 because there is the classic passage on the Spirit-filled life. Ephesians 5. Verse 18 says: "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit". Now right there you have both a contrast and a comparison. A contrast between being drunk with wine, under the influence of alcohol, or being filled with the Holy Spirit, being under the influence, the domination of God's Spirit. There's the contrast. Don't be drunk with wine. I don't want to be under the influence of wine, of alcohol, of drugs. I don't need the buzz, by the way. Why? Because we have the Spirit! The contrast is don't be drunk with wine over here! You don't need it! "But be filled with the Holy Spirit"! Jesus said, "Take a drink of this! Drink this"!

If you want life, if you want life flowing from within, don't drink that stuff; drink this! "I'm the water of life"! And this He spoke of the Spirit. But it's not only a contrast; it's also a comparison. Don't be drunk with wine. So if you're under the influence, the alcohol takes over and if you're under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit takes over. So it's a comparison. If you're full of the Spirit, now your witness is bold because your tongue is loose if you will, to share Christ. You're no longer, you know, living loosely, but you're living in liberty. You have a different life now because this life, led by the Spirit of God. And the comparison is clear. Now you're under the influence.

I know that some Christians over the years have thought, "You know, I'm a little bit nervous about this whole Holy Spirit idea because we've all seen excesses and bizarre things done in the name of the Holy Spirit. Say I don't want any part of that". But let me remind you when you're under the control of the Holy Spirit, you'll not be out of control. That's alcohol! That's something else, out of control! When you're under the control of the Holy Spirit, you'll be in control of your faculties, of your mind, of your thinking, of your mouth and your heart! Under the control of the Holy Spirit. And if you really want to think about what the filling of the Holy Spirit is, it is this: It's perhaps better to say, "I'm living under the control, under the influence of the Holy Spirit in my life". Now "be filled with the Holy Spirit" is written in the imperative. You know what an imperative means from fifth grade English, correct? It's a command! So the Spirit-filled life is a command for the Christian. It's not optional. It's not a suggestion. Like all of the commands of the Bible, it is a command to be kept.

You know, if a person came in under the influence of alcohol and got up in this pulpit and began to speak, you would say, "What a... what a... that's bizarre, that's weird... You can't have someone drunk in the pulpit, preaching"! But it would also be a sin to have someone up in the pulpit preaching without the Holy Spirit, without the power and the filling of the Holy Spirit! I wouldn't dare get up here without asking the Spirit of God to fill my life. How dare any of us try to serve God apart from the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit within us! So I'm saying to you that it's a command for all of us, therefore, it is inclusive when it says, "Be you filled with the Holy Spirit". Or you be filled with the Holy Spirit. That's plural, that's in the plural tense; it's in the imperative plural! You be filled with the Holy Spirit, meaning all of you!

Because some Christians must think, "Well, the Spirit-filled life is for preachers and missionaries and super saints, and people who've really got it going! But, you know, I'm on plan B. I'm on the non-spirit-filled Christian life". Well, that's a disaster, because there should be no such thing as a Christian life not Spirit filled. Now it happens! In fact, it's addressed in the New Testament when the Corinthian Christians were in particular childish and carnal and selfish. A Christian can be in control of your own life. You can get on the throne of your own life, be in charge, calling the shots; Spirit of God, presence of Christ over here in the corner somewhere. Or you can allow the Holy Spirit to take His rightful place on the throne of your life, to be in command, to be in charge, and as a result of that, what happens? The character of Christ, the sanctification of our own spirit; our witness is infused and infilled with spiritual power and presence.

And so, "Christ in you, the hope of glory". Christ in you, alive in you, that's the character of Christ. As the Spirit begins to control us rather than self begins to control us, or sin unrepented of controlling us, then Christ begins to take over! And that doesn't happen just one time because, not only is this imperative and not only is it inclusive, it's for every Christian, every believer, but it is invasive, in that the Spirit of God invades your personality and it happens, saturated you every single day of your life. It's not one big cataclysmic, emotional, esoteric, experience that we need, but the continual filling of the Spirit each day. And the reason we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit again and again and again? We're baptized, quick theology lesson, you ready for this? So, quick theology lesson. The baptism of the Spirit.

And water is another symbol of the Spirit, by the way. The baptism of the Spirit is when we are immersed, submerged in Christ. We are water baptized as a picture of that spiritual baptism when we come to Christ. That's salvation. So everyone is baptized by the Spirit of God at salvation. There is one baptism and many fillings because it says all of you be (command) filled (continuously) with the Holy Spirit. That's why I'm saying it's invasive; it's continually. And the reason we need to be filled with the Spirit over and over again, again and again and again, is because we leak! And we pour out in our work, in whatever we do, we're pouring out every day! So when we're pouring out, we have to be taking in. As somebody said, "The problem with life is that it's just so daily"! And the problem with the Christian life, it's just it's daily!

And so what I do and what I've been doing since I was a young Christian, virtually all my life as a Christian, is that I have a time in my day where I am alone with God, open my Bible, I pray. Call it a quiet time, call it whatever you want, a devotional time, call it whatever you want, but a time alone with God. Now when I was a young Christian and getting out of bed wasn't that easy. You know, I heard these Christians talking about getting up at 4 o'clock and 5 o'clock and I'm saying, "Are you kidding me"? I could barely make it to class! And of course, now when you're at our ages, you know, you get up at 4 you think, Well, I might as well stay up! You're up at dark-thirty most every day! Zero dark-thirty! Some of you don't know that there are actually two times you see the sun, when it's going up and when it's going down.

Alright. And you've never seen the sun coming up. So, I'm not so concerned about when you do this, though I do believe it's best to do this at the beginning of your day, before the world's rushing in. Before it get's noisy. To get alone with God. And I've been doing this virtually my entire Christian life where I pray and I read my Bible, and I ask the Spirit of God to fill me for that day. I don't always use those words. Sometimes I'll turn my hands up like this and just say, "Lord, fill me with Your Spirit". And in that simple act of dependence and obedience to God. Again, you don't have to pound your head. People think, "Well, I've got to beg the Spirit of God to fill me". No. Yield your life, deal with any unconfessed selfishness or sin in your life, deal with that. And then open your heart to say, "Lord, You have my day, You have my life. Live in me, Lord. Fill me. I yield to You. I surrender to You".

And if you will yield to the Spirit of God, the Spirit of God will fill you and flood your life. And it's not just for you because Jesus said in Acts 1:8 before His ascension, "You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you and you will be My witnesses to the ends of the earth". When the Spirit of God fills you and floods you, it's not for ourselves, but out into the world. Does your family, your friends around you, your co-workers, do they know what a Spirit-filled Christian looks like because of you? The love, the joy, the peace and all the rest!? Well, it comes from deep within. And the Jesus who was born, "Now born to us this day", will fill us, so that it's (dare I say it?) the Spirit of Christmas every day because it's the Spirit of Jesus all the way.
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