THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVES US THE EMPOWERMENT TO LIVE AS CHRISTIANS
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
18 MAY 1997
2 Timothy 3:2-5
I have heard more Christians express their weaknesses than their strengths.
They say, "I can't do that." "I can't speak in front of others." "I don't feel comfortable doing that." "You should do it."
All such expressions are denying the power of God which has been given to each of us.
Do you remember what Paul wrote to the Philippians (4:13)?
13. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
And this is true for each and every one of us.
Then why doesn't it work this way in and through every believer?
God's power is all around us, and it flows to us through His Holy Spirit; but it's our attitude, more than anything else, that determines whether or not this power infills us.
Our "can't do" attitude closes the door.
Our "can do" attitude opens the door.
Paul expressed this open door attitude: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
Listen to what we are told in Ephesians 5:18-21; and as we listen to these words, consider carefully the attitude differences.
18. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
19. speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
20. always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
21. and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
People who get drunk are interested only in themselves. It's a sign of their weakness.
They may claim it's for fun, or for some other reason, but it's really an attempt to hide themselves from the truth.
And this is exactly the attitude far too many Christians express, when they say they can't do something. They're hiding from the truth, for God tells us we can do it.
And in various ways, and to greater or lesser extents, we probably all do this.
This is why Paul is encouraging us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
This is not the same thing as having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which we receive when we truly come to believe.
Our infilling comes when we submit our will to the Lord, and open our hearts and souls to Him with a repentant and obedient attitude.
And as we do this we find our whole being singing and giving thanks, and really desiring to make a difference in the world to the glory of God.
Let me give you an example.
Many people will tell us that they love animals, and probably most of us gathered here would say the same thing.
But in reality, it's like the magnetic card that Mary put on our refrigerator, which says, "If you really love animals, you won't eat them."
This is just as unconditional and as much an attitude as our being infilled by the Holy Spirit with the power to serve God in whatever ways He desires.
We say we love animals, and yet we still eat them.
We say that we love God, and yet we don't do as He desires.
We limit or condition our love, and thus we limit the power of God in us.
Listen to what we are told in 2 Timothy 3:2-5:
2. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3. unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
4. treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God;
5. holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.
Now, I don't believe that any of us are this bad, but to some extent we participate in these things, and as a result, we, too, deny the power of God.
And the proof of this is, that if this were not so, we would be a lot stronger spiritually.
This is enough of looking at the negative side; let's look at the positive side, and how we can improve our relationship with God, and truly be filled with His Spirit.
One way is through prayer, and another is through reading and studying God's word, and applying it to our lives.
Note what Paul says about prayer in Romans 8:26-27:
26. And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
27. and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
It never ceases to amaze me how some people say they can't pray properly before others, and yet when they are called upon to pray without prior warning, they come forth with some of the most tender and most inspiring words I've ever heard.
And this happens because they are left with no other option but to go to God for help, and He does help.
Listen also to what Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:18:
18. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
We see that while we are to pray at all times in the Spirit, as we were instructed in the previous passage, here we are told that we can magnify our prayers by praying for each other at the same time we pray about our own concerns.
And this is when we really begin to be empowered.
Listen to what Micah says about having this power (3:8):
With the Spirit of the Lord—
And with justice and courage
To make known to Jacob his rebellious act,
Even to Israel his sin.
Micah is filled with the Spirit and power of God, and in that power, he has the courage to speak out against the evil around him, even to government leaders.
And Micah is no different from any of us, as far as our potential goes; for we, too, can do the very same things…that is, if we are willing.
It is only our fears that keep us from being like Micah; but our unconditional love of God will overcome these fears, and permit the infilling of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God.
We can do it ... that is ... if we really want to.
We can and should speak out against the evil around us, and encourage and support each other to do the same.
Listen to what the angel told Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, about his yet to be born son (Luke 1: 15-17):
15. "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb.
16. "And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.
17. "And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
And since Zacharias and Elizabeth were obedient to God's word, all this came to pass.
The whole family was filled with the Holy Spirit, and with power.
Now some of us might be saying, "If an angel or prophet spoke to me, I too could do more."
But, in reality, God has indeed spoken to us in this manner, and we have not fully responded.
Listen also to what Jesus told His disciples just prior to His Ascension (Acts 1:6-8):
6. And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"
7. He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;
8. but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
This is the power to fulfill the great commission given to us, as well: that we, too, would fulfill His desire; that we would all be His witnesses throughout the entire world.
This is all part of being a Christian.
And this happens only when we combine our faith and our prayers together.
Our faith opens the door to admit the Holy Spirit to indwell us, but our infilling occurs only when we clean out the junk within us, and are truly willing to have the Lord direct all aspects of our lives.
Lord forgive me!
Take away my anger!
Help me to grow in Your love!
Help me to become more sensitive and compassionate .
Lord, I'm willing to do whatever you want me to do.
Fill me with your blessings, Lord, that I can share them with others.
Lord, help me to spread love and peace and compassion wherever I go.
Lord, please remove anything from me that is not pleasing to you.
Thank You, Lord, for all the beautiful things You show me.
Thank You for all that You have given me, and please continue to help me be a good steward.
And thank You, Lord, for allowing me to be here, today.
There are many, many more things to pray about, all day long, as we go about our daily activities.
And the more we are willing to live this way, and unconditionally commit ourselves to the Lord, the more power we'll receive; and the more of a Christian we will become, and the more believable a Christian we will appear to be to others.
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