WHEN THE SPIRIT LEADS
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
19 JANUARY 1992
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Preparation Verse: (Psalm 139:17-18)
How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
When I awake, I am still with thee.
There are those who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit.
And there are those who are led by the Holy Spirit.
And when we look at the lives of these various people, there can be striking differences.
Since God is always consistent, why do we act in such divergent ways?
It's because we are not all being led by the Holy Spirit, even though we may claim to be.
Now, let's use some common sense, and see if we can't discern who really is being led by the Spirit of God.
The Bible teaches us that the greatest of all commandments is to wholly and completely love God and our neighbor, and that this love will fulfill all of the Law and the things that the Prophets have taught us. (Matthew 22:36-40)
36. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
37. And He said to him, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
38. "This is the great and foremost commandment.
39. "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
40. "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
Therefore, the character of God, and of those who are really led by the Spirit of God, must be based upon love.
Doesn’t that make sense?
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and let's see what the character of love is all about.
4. Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5. does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6. does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8. Love never fails....
So when the Spirit leads us, this will be our character.
If this is not our consistent character, then we who call ourselves
Christians are not listening and allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy
In other words, if this kind of love is not our character, we are actually fighting with God.
And, most importantly, this kind of love has no limits; it is unconditional, and extends to the whole of God's creation.
Is this our character?
I pray it is.
In John 2:1-12, at the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus gives us a very practical example of living a life of love.
Let's take a look at these verses and see how we can apply these
characteristics to our own lives.
1. And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there;
2. and Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the wedding.
The way emphasis on the invitation is being made, it is quite likely that
Jesus and His disciples were being invited to add some importance to the
gathering, for He was just coming into His ministry, and there was obviously
some excitement connected with what was happening.
Also note the way His mother reacts:
3. And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."
4. And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come."
Mary wanted to show her son off, for she knew what He could do.
Jesus didn't get angry with her, but expressed a Hebrew idiom that implies, "We don't have to be like the rest of the people. We don't have to show off. We know who we are in God."
But Mary, in all her motherly pride and excitement, isn't really listening to
what her Son is saying.
5. His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."
Now, Jesus is in the middle of one of these real life situations when our love is tested; when our leading by the Spirit is tested.
Jesus loves His mother; thus, He shows patience and kindness towards her, even though she is wrong,
He doesn't want to make others jealous of Him because of what He can do; and this can happen if we brag or are arrogant.
Jesus doesn't want people to seek Him for what He can do, but to seek His Father who sent Him.
Yet His mother does want to show Him off.
So what is He going to do?
6. Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.
7. Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim.
The water in the pots was to cleanse the outer person, but Jesus was quietly showing them the way of inner cleansing.
8. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter." And they took it to him.
9. And when the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom,
10. and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now."
That which comes from the Lord is always better than those things we try to do on our own.
Mary wanted to show her son off to the guests, and the host probably had the same desire.
But Jesus limited the knowledge of His miracle to His mother and a few servants and disciples; to people who already knew what He could do, and to those who were considered unimportant by society.
11. This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
By quietly and consistently living for Christ, we can most often accomplish much more than by any large production, for others will see the true glory of the Lord in us.
They will wonder about us; as to why we do what we do, and why we live as we live, and why we don't do what we do for personal gain.
They will wonder and watch and, hopefully, believe.
12. After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples; and there they stayed a few days.
Jesus didn't stay around to soak up any personal glory from the people of Cana; He went on to share the good news with others, so that they would come to His Father.
This type of behavior is the behavior of love.
This type of behavior comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us.
This type of behavior will cause others to praise the Lord, because they will see the true love, peace, and assurance of His presence all around us.
They will see what they really want, and seek it; for when we take away all the hype from our daily lives, we will find that this is what we all really want.
We will see through the falseness of our human way of life, to the truth and lovingkindness of the Lord; for His presence will be in and around us.
We can say as the Psalmist says in 36:5f –
5. Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Thy faithfulness reaches to the skies.
To the degree that we extend this lovingkindness to others, and to the rest of creation, they will be able to see into heaven.
To the degree that we are faithful, others can see the faithfulness of God.
6. Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Thy judgments are like a great deep.
O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast.
The more unmovable we are from what we know to be righteous living, the more others will see that they can live the same way; and they will begin to understand the righteousness of God.
There are no limits to the depth of God's judgments, and they are always consistent; and remember that God would much rather judge us righteous and faithful and full of lovingkindness, than to judge the sins in our lives. As we do the same, so others will see this quality of God.
Also remember that the Lord has provided all that is necessary to preserve life for both man and beast. It is we humans who have devised ways of cutting life short. To the degree that we respect and preserve all life, others will see the true intent of God.
7. How precious is Thy lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings.
The lovingkindness of God is truly precious but, unfortunately, few of the children of the world understand this and seek the shelter that it provides them.
The more we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, the more we allow the lovingkindness of the Lord to flow through us, and the more we are consistent in our relationship with the Lord and others around us, then the more our children will come to seek the Lord.
And then, as the psalmist says,
8. They drink their fill of the abundance of Thy house;
And Thou dost give them to drink of the river of Thy delights.
This is the Spiritual infilling that can change the face of the earth and let
us experience a taste of heaven here on earth.
9. For with Thee is the fountain of life;
In Thy light we see light.
In the everlasting light of the Lord there is love and peace and compassion; and we should overflow with it.
With the Holy Spirit within us, the desire to get even or to hurt man or beast disappears, and His love becomes the central focus of our lives.
This is the natural way, the way life should be, when the Spirit leads.
Your Comments are welcome
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