Michael Youssef - Until Christ Returns - Part 8
There's a story that was told about a wealthy lady who lived in the early part of the 1900s in one of the coastal towns in Scotland. Although she was very well off, she had a reputation in the town as being very frugal. And so, imagine the surprise of her neighbors when they heard that she was gonna be the very first person in town to install electricity into her house. It was a big surprise to them. A couple of months later, she had a knock on the door from the electric company representative. "Madam, is the electricity working okay"? She said, "Oh yeah, the electricity is just working fine". Then he said, "Well, can I ask you a question? Why does your meter show that you have hardly used any electricity"? She said, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I use electricity. When the sun goes down, I turn the lights on long enough to light all the candles in my house, and as soon as I finish lighting the candles, I turn the electricity off".
Now, I read this and I thought, "What an example of so many Christian believers today". They are connected to the power of the Holy Spirit, but they scarcely use it. Like this lady, they are tapped into the power, but they're living by candlelight. On a spiritual level, this is truly a picture of what is happening in our culture today among believers. They are living their lives quenching the Holy Spirit of God to whom they are connected. They are connected to the Holy Spirit by the very fact that the Holy Spirit indwelt them at the time of salvation, but then they choose to live by man-centered answers. They are indwelt of the Holy Spirit, and yet they follow man-made formulas and man-made steps and programs. They are given the power, and the light, and the fire of the Holy Spirit to light up the Word of God for them, and yet they choose to live on partial or dim light.
And that is why, my beloved friends, today there are many believers who are lacking discernment. That is the secret. Christians that are totally lacking in discernment of distinguishing between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong, discerning the difference between spiritual power and pragmatism, it's because of this. In his concluding words to the believers in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul gives them a series of exhortation. Turn with me please to chapter 5 as we finish the series together. In fact, in the last message, for those of you who were here, we saw three of these exhortations. He said to them to rejoice, what? Always. To pray without ceasing. And to be thankful in everything.
Today, we conclude this magnificent series of messages from the Word of God, this great epistle of the Apostle Paul. And he gives them series of imperatives. First of all, he said, "Do not quench the Holy Spirit of God". I know some of the translation doesn't use that word. That is a powerful word. Do not quench. "Do not despise the Word of God". He said, "Examine everything very carefully". Fourthly, he said, "Uphold that which is right". Hold on to it, hang on it, and reject, walk away, refuse to accept that which is wrong or evil. Then he prays for the power of God the Holy Spirit to sanctify them.
Now, I don't want you to miss the order here. Not quenching the Holy Spirit comes first. There's a reason for that, because not quenching the Holy Spirit is a key to all of the other things that they're gonna need, and you're gonna need, and I need in order that we might live a life of purity and holiness. To get back to the story of our Scottish friend, if you are not using the power of the Holy Spirit that you are connected to, you are quenching the Holy Spirit's power in you. But listen carefully, Paul is not suggesting, not for a moment, that any of us, or all of us, or anybody, or any force, or any power in the world can quench the Holy Spirit. Absolutely not and a million noes. He is talking about quenching the Holy Spirit's fire, and power, and light in our individual lives.
The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of God and nobody can quench him. Often, it's a figure of speech in the Bible, and when they talk about the Holy Spirit, remember on the Day of Pentecost, it came as tongues of fire. So, the fire and light is a figure of speech for the Holy Spirit and his presence. You see, when the Holy Spirit came an dwelt in us, when you were a new believer, you'll remember the excitement when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in you, when you gave your life to Jesus Christ. You remember how he came with glowing fire in our lives, how he came with a burning light in our hearts, how he came with powerful activities in our lives, how he came with purging and purifying power in our life, how he came with power to guide us in our lives.
And we didn't have to say, "Well, I don't know which way to turn," because the Holy Spirit is guiding us and revealing to us the will of God. But since that fire does not quench itself, does not get put out by itself, it has to be an outside force that douses it, an outside force that dampens the fire, it is us who dampens the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is us who quench the power of the Holy Spirit, how? By allowing ungodly thoughts to dwell in our minds and build strongholds in our lives, by allowing our emotions to get entangled with ungodly affections, by allowing our thinking to be infected by the world's thinking, by allowing our eyes to see and to dwell on immoral and ungodly things, by allowing our decisions to be infected by the wrong motives.
And when that happens, you slowly but surely start dousing the fire of the Holy Spirit in your life, by allowing a critical spirit to dwell in you, by allowing a rebellious spirit to live in you and inside of you day in and day out, by allowing an unrighteous anger to grow up in you and dwell in you, by allowing godless desires to dwell in you, by allowing selfish ambitions to be part of you. That's how you dampen the Spirit's fire in your life. This is a personal thing. That's an individual thing. I can let the fire of the Holy Spirit be quenched in me. I cannot do it in you and you cannot do it in me. She was connected to the electricity, but the light was seldom used.
Many believers are connected by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but they keep his fire down. They are connected by the Holy Spirit, but they're constantly dousing his power. Just as she minimized the use of that power in her house that is available to her, we minimize the power of the Holy Spirit that is working in us and available to us. Just as light helps us read in the darkness, so is the Holy Spirit lights up the Word of God for us so that we understand it, so that we can comprehend it, so that we apply it in our lives and in our walk with God. Just as electricity guides our steps in the dark and to see where we're going, so does the Holy Spirit. He guides our steps and he will help us in our decision making so we don't live in frustration and say, "I don't know which way to turn".
The Holy Spirit will do that when he is not doused. Just as light warns us and reveals to us what we cannot normally see in the darkness, so as the Holy Spirit empowers us when temptation comes at us from a blind alley. Yet we often put out the fire and the light of the Holy Spirit. What often puts out the light and the fire of the Holy Spirit is an individual life of things like pride, overconfidence in our ability, cherishing a sin in our life. The psalmist said, "When I cherish a sin, God does not hear me". Unforgiveness, trusting a program instead of the power of the Holy Spirit working, and so we quench, we stifle, and we suppress. And that happens when our opinions and our ideas replace the Word of God. Why does he put it first? Why am I dwelling on it? Because Paul goes on. The next thing he says, "Do not despise the Word of God". I'm gonna explain that in a minute.
You see, when you quench the Holy Spirit, the Bible is gonna feel like a ton of brick. You can't even pick it up when you quench the Holy Spirit, minimizing the Word of God and the power of the Word of God. You say, "Oh, God gave me a mind to use". We'll follow. We consider it of little account. Oh, it's important, but it's not that important. We treat it with contempt. But back before the Bible was closed as a canon, as a measurement, as the Word of God, God used prophets who got up and said, "Thus says the Lord". And that was happening even at the time of the Apostle Paul until the canon was closed. Until the Bible became complete, prophets and apostles said, "Thus says the Lord". But now that we have the Bible to be complete as a finished work, as a Word of God, we are called upon not to despise it, not to minimize it.
And because the possibility of Satan being able to mimic the proclamation of the Word of God, he goes on the next one, he says... the third exhortation, he says, "Examine everything in the light of the Word of God". Examine it, not on the light of what Dr. Smellfungus said, but examine it against the Word of God. Test everything by the Word of God. Make sure it is the authentic Word of God. But I want you to think with me here for a minute. How are you going to test everything if you have dampened and doused the fire of the power of the Holy Spirit? How are you gonna distinguish between what is true and what is not unless you allow the Holy Spirit's fire to keep on burning day in and day out, moment by moment, unless you allow the Spirit's light to illuminate the Word of God for you? Can you see the Apostle Paul's logic? Can you see how not quenching the Holy Spirit is priority one?
The Bible said the Bereans in the book of Acts examined, tested. They examined the Scripture to see if what the apostles are teaching is consistent with the Word of God. I mean, if they tested the preaching of the apostles then you and I need to teach the preaching of everybody. That testing of all things must result on two actions. Verses 21 and 22, look at it in your chapter 5. Holding fast on what you're gonna discover to be true that measures up to the truth, and reject what is false. Reject it if it is not the Word of God. But when you hear the Word of God is preached, and expound, and you identify it as the authentic and consistent with the Word of God, hold on to it, learn from it, grow through it, share it with others, let it penetrate deep into your heart.
Let me remind you of this: almost right is wrong. Almost true is quite false. Near truth will lead you astray. Finally, Paul concludes his letter on a subject that most Christians find both challenging and convicting, namely prayer. Earlier, he said, and we saw that in the last message, to pray without ceasing. Here, he tells you how he prays. It's one thing somebody to tell you, "Do this," or "Do that," or "Do the other thing," and somebody would say, "Come and see how I do it". Here it is, verses 23 and 24, how you pray for others, how you pray for yourself. He prays for their sanctification.
Sure, we pray for the needs of others. I'm on my knees praying for people all hours of night. I pray for needs, and I pray for healing, and I pray, that's important, but the greatest prayer that you can pray for somebody, for other believer, is their sanctification. I know that's a big word, and some of you might not know what it means. A lot of you do. It means you pray that there'll be less of them and more of Christ, that they become more and more like Christ, they'll be more and more set apart for Christ's use, more and more be separated from sin. John the Baptist puts it best, "So that I may decrease, and he may increase".
What does that mean? It means that there'll be less of John the Baptist and more of Christ. And beloved God as my witness, that is my daily prayer. And as you pray for your own sanctification and the sanctification of others, remember this. The Bible teaches that there are three elements to sanctification, just as there are elements of forgiveness. When we come to the Lord in repentance in faith and become believers, we are positionally forgiven, eternally forgiven. But then, day by day, we come to him for forgiveness when we fail and when we sin. In the same way, there is three aspects of sanctification. It is past, it's present, and it's future. Past sanctification, the Bible says we are sanctified, positionally sanctified, in Christ the moment you came to him and received him as your only Savior and Lord. Hebrews chapter 10, verse 10 says, "We have been sanctified through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all".
Then there is a present sanctification. That is daily sanctification. That is growing more, day by day, in Christ-likeness. God, daily through the power of his Holy Spirit, he empowers us to be more and more like Christ. And then there is a future aspect of sanctification. That is the ultimate of all sanctification. That is the pinnacle of sanctification. And that's when the Lord makes the believer sinless like himself in body, soul, and spirit. So Paul's passionate prayer... and he does that not just in the Thessalonians, in many other times. His passionate prayer, which ought to be your passionate prayer and my passionate prayer, is for daily to be decreased so that Christ daily be increased in us.
And the word here, "holy," or "completely," it means that this sanctification process takes effect in us until it takes us all the way home. It is increasing day by day, day by day, day by day, until every inch in our life, in our minds, in our hearts, and our will is under subjection of Jesus Christ. Not an inch in my life that is not subjugated to him, that is the process of sanctification. And that's what the Apostle Paul meant when he said we take every thought captive. Not just 80% of the thoughts, not just 90% of the thoughts, not just 98% of the thoughts, but every thought captive for Christ. And sanctification begins from the inside out. Your spirit is the most distinct part of you and your spirit is what first connects with the Holy Spirit when you come to Christ, spirit to Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit dwells in you and your spirit begins to conform to Christ's imagine, your body is gonna follow, your body's gonna obey.
You see, Paul was preaching to a Greek culture, and in the Greek culture, they taught that the body is evil... that the soul is good, but the body's evil. In fact, the body is a prison holding the soul captive. So when you believe the body is evil, what are you gonna do? You're gonna do evil things. And that's why they were giving themselves to immorality and debauchery, even in the Pagan temples. The body evil, so let it do more evil. We have this Greek culture coming back now. And the Christian faith comes in and says, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no". The body can become holy, but only after the soul and the spirit become holy. I've seen it. Those people who follow behavior modifications and outward behavior changes, they fail again, and again, and again, and again. They get started and they get going, and then they crash and burn, why? They're going about it from the wrong end. It's when the mind, and the heart, and the will is sanctified, then the body's gonna follow. It is when the inside becomes holy, then the behavior will follow.
There's another important point here in verse 24. The Apostle Paul expressed confidence, not in our effort, not in our trying harder, not in trying to change our behavior. No, no, no, no. He absolutely expressed confidence that we can become holy because of the faithfulness of God. Look at verse 24 with me. And if you have it in front of you, let's read it together. "The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it". He'll do it. You see, Paul's confidence is in the faithfulness of God. He is saying God can be trusted completely. God is totally reliable. God never reneges on his promises. And God always, always, always, always finishes what he starts. Through the years, there are thousands of young parents who stood in this place, and they make a covenant with God. "God, we covenant with you that we're gonna teach these children your way, that they'll grow to know Jesus and love him".
And I often remind them that they are saying to God, "God, we have every confidence in you. We don't have a shadow of doubt that our children, no matter what happens to them, no matter how long they might wander off, no matter what circumstances they'll go through, we have every confidence that when we charged our responsibilities, you will", not may, or possibly, or probably, or please, "You will make sure that they're gonna come to know you and to love you, no matter what. That God, I know that you will see to it that they will come to you at some point, even if you have to drag them kicking and screaming". You see, that's the covenant.
See, that's why Paul's saying the faithfulness of God. It's the faithfulness of God that he's bragging about. It's the faithfulness of God that he's having confidence in the faithfulness of God. And just as he prays for them, he asks them to pray for him. Read the letter. Embrace each other with a holy embrace. My beloved friends, there may be somebody here who has never received the Holy Spirit, never even come to Christ. This is your chance. This is your opportunity. Say, "Lord Jesus, come into my life. I want your Spirit to dwell in me". There may be believers here, and you came even through the church, and you know deep down in your heart you have doused the fire of the Holy Spirit in your life, and you wonder why you're living in such turmoil and confusion, and why life just seems to be grinding. Ask yourself the question, "Have I quenched the fire of the Holy Spirit in me"?