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THE SPIRIT OF LIFE

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE
HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

19 MAY 1991

By: Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 46:10-11
Psalm 104:24-30
Ezekiel 37:1-10
John 15:26-27

Preparation Verse (Psalm 46:10-11):

10. “Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

11. The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

When we talk about Pentecost, we usually think of the spectacular infilling of the Holy Spirit which enables the person so endowed to perform in miraculous ways and with supernatural powers.

And that may be true for some people, but for the rest of us, the Spirit of God is there simply to supply us with the power to overcome the evil around us, and to live loving, compassionate, and peaceful Christian lives.

Even with this, we quite often fail to live up to God's expectations for us, don't we?

Sometimes we just get lazy.

Sometimes we allow our lusts to take control.

Other times we get overworked, and become too tired to do any more.

Or even with having fun, we exercise to the point of getting out of breath and physically unable to go on.

Now, some of you might be wondering what being tired and out of breath has to do with not serving God.

So, in order to answer this, we should look at this view of serving God from the standpoint of the Hebrew writers who wrote most of the Bible.

In the Hebrew language, the same word can mean breath, or wind, or mind, or spirit. The word is roo-akh.

Now, we're not here today to have a word study in Hebrew, but to understand what it truly means to have the Spirit of life within us.

When we are overly tired and weak, we not only can have a shortness of breath, but also a weakness in our spirit as well.

This is true not only of humans, but also of animals, as the writer of Psalm 104 expresses. Let's begin at verse 24.

24. O Lord, how many are Thy works!
In wisdom Thou hast made them all;
The earth is full of Thy possessions.

25. There is the sea, great and broad,
In which are swarms without number,
Animals both small and great.

26. There the ships move along,
And Leviathan, which Thou hast formed to sport in it.

The psalmist recognized, as should we, that the Lord our God formed all of His creatures of the dust of the earth and breathed into them the breath or spirit of life, and they became living beings, or souls – the same for both, humans and nonhumans.

In this respect, we are the same.

And all of us, humans, as well as other animals, need the Lord, as we hear in the following verses:

27. They all wait for Thee,
To give them their food in due season.

28. Thou dost give to them, they gather it up;
Thou dost open Thy hand, they are satisfied with good.

29. Thou dost hide Thy face, they are dismayed;
Thou dost take away their spirit, they expire,
And return to their dust.

30. Thou dost send forth Thy Spirit, they are created;
And Thou dost renew the face of the ground.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about both humans and other animals.

It is God's Spirit that gives us our own spirit and life and breath and soul.

Without God's willingness to give us His Spirit, we would all expire.

And if you think that just because we don't seem to lack for food, that we do not receive it from God, look around the world and see all the hunger.

Not that God brought on the hunger Himself, for there is enough food in the world to feed everyone; in fact, there is enough food to feed the hungry in all of the countries where there is starvation.

The problem is unlove, or more specifically, not having the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we would end our fighting and wars, and help us to see through each others sins and differences.

We're physically and spiritually exhausted from having ungodly people around us, who are only interested in themselves, take advantage of us; so we in turn do less, and the ungodly become stronger.

Most of us have little trouble understanding that when something goes wrong in the food chain, many thousands of animals can easily die.

But we, who are supposedly so much more intelligent than the other animals, allow the same thing to happen to our fellow human beings.

And we are capable of preventing this.

We don't need to break five loaves of bread to feed more than five thousand, as Jesus did. All we need to do is get the food that already exists to where the hungry are.

But then, there are those in some places who, for their own selfish reasons, actually are preventing the distribution of this food.

The miracle of the Holy Spirit isn't needed to multiply the food. It's needed to multiply the witness of Jesus Christ to the ungodly people in this world.

And we don't have to get tired in this endeavor, either; for the Holy Spirit will take an active role and help us, as we are told in John 15:26-27.

26. "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me,

27. and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

This doesn't mean that we have the power to run around saying 'Halleluiah' or 'Praise the Lord' about everything; it means that we have the power to do the will of God, for our actions will be the best witness.

Even though we are not one of Jesus' original disciples, this passage still applies to us; for the same Spirit that was with them is with us today, and He bears the same witness to us.

And here is where the vast majority of the real miracles are to take place: That sinners, who are condemned to death, would receive new life in Jesus Christ, by hearing the Gospel from someone like us, and not so much because we read it to them, but because we live it.

This is why we are to take some time out to spend with the Lord, away from the cares and worries and activities of everyday life; so that while being physically tired, we might be refreshed and not become spiritually tired.

I can tell you first hand about this, for over the past several weeks, I have been going 7 days a week on business, with only Sunday mornings and it's preparation time, Monday evenings, and perhaps half an hour a day in reading my Bible and devotions.

I wasn't giving back to the Lord at least a tithe of my good time, 16.8 hours a week, and I was burning out spiritually.

Sure, I was giving back more than most people, even 12 hours a week, but it wasn't enough, and I was drying up spiritually.

I was spending about 100 hours a week on trying to solve my business problems; and that can really dry a person out.

And having to quiet down to prepare this service and this sermon has given me insight into what I was doing wrong, and what the Church has been doing wrong, and what Israel did wrong.

We were so busy doing our own thing, and in some cases doing "church", that we had little or no time left over for the Lord Himself.

We became bad witnesses for God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, because we didn't take the time to listen to the Holy Spirit within us.

And the more that we fail to listen to the Holy Spirit, the more we open ourselves up to the unholy spirits around us, and the peace of God begins to leave; and if we still don't return to Him, even what we have left will be lost.

But God is still there, when we return to Him.

Let's turn in our Bibles to the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, and beginning at verse 1, see what the Lord has done for Israel, and what He does for us:

1. The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.

Not only have we allowed our own lives to become spiritually dried up, but as believers, we also have allowed the Church to dry up.

Look around us.

How many of the churches you know are full?

How many of the people in our communities truly seek the Lord?

How many of the people in our community truly evidence the presence of the Lord in their lives by the way they live every day of the week?

Isn’t our nation becoming as spiritually dry as this vision that is presented to Ezekiel?

But God still cares about His people, and will again and again send His prophets, teachers, and pastors to prophesy the truth so that the people might respond.

Let's return to this vision of Ezekiel's and see what the Lord desires of Him.

2. And He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry.

3. And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" and I answered, "O Lord God, Thou knowest."

Does this somewhat reflect how you may have felt looking at our churches and society over the past several years, and at all the suffering being inflicted upon millions of humans and billions of animals?

Have you ever just cried out to God, "O Lord, what can we do?"

Basically, that is how Ezekiel is responding. He sees the dryness, and his heart aches over what he sees, but he doesn't know what to do about it.

I pray that you feel in your heart and soul what Ezekiel felt.

So the Lord tells him and us:

4. Again He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.'

5. "Thus says the Lord God to these bones, 'Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life."

6. 'And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.' "

Hasn’t each and every one of us heard the truth concerning the ways of God?

Haven’t we all seen the decay of our society, because of the lack of moral and compassionate teaching and standards?

Hasn’t each and every one of us, at one time or another, felt that we should speak out against what we see, or saw, going on around us, and yet have not done so?

We may have acknowledged the problem, and even said, “Someone should do something.” What we fail to realize is that we are the “some ones,” for we were given the insight.

This is what makes dry bones.

This is what dries up the Spirit of life within us.

Israel did exactly what we are doing, and after a period of perhaps 700 years, there was nothing left.

We think we are invincible, particularly after our war with Iraq when they invaded Kuwait, but we have only been here a little over two hundred years, and Israel won some battles then, too.

Ezekiel was told to do something about what he saw, just as we have. What is he going to do about it?

And this doesn't mean to go to war.

7. So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

8. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew, and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.

The Spirit of life is not in them.

They have everything they need to live again, except for that which makes us a living soul.

There are many, and probably it is safe to say, most people, who even have the breath of life in them, but are as these bones.

They are capable of eternal life, but they prefer to stay dry; or they are too busy with other things to take the time to receive of the Holy Spirit.

Haven’t we all heard words similar to those that the Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy? Let's listen.

9. Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life." ' ''

10. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

This prophecy seems to have been fulfilled in the year 1948, when Israel again became a nation.

But Israel hasn't learned its lesson any more than we have.

Let me give you an example.

We have talked before about the way Israel would not follow God's commandment to let the land rest every seven years.

They didn't trust God enough to produce enough crops in the sixth year, or to multiply the stores, so that they would have food in the seventh year.

Thus, Israel had to spend a year in captivity in Babylon for every sabbatical year they didn't observe.

Israel recognized this when they again became a nation, and they knew that under the law that they say they are to follow, they were to do this.

The other day, a friend of mine handed me a copy of their synagogue service from last Saturday, and as part of that service they talked about this very point.

They spoke about the fact that many of the agricultural leaders in Israel also recognized their responsibility to observe this sabbatical year again, but they argued that their economy could not handle such a drop in income.

So the Rabbis came forth with an interpretation of the law, and they stated that this commandment was only binding on the Jewish people, but didn't hold for non-Jews.

So every seven years they symbolically sell their land to a non-Jew, so that they can plant and harvest the crops for the Jews.

Bending God's laws dries us up.

It's time we quit playing these games.

We're too busy doing our things – me included, particularly in recent days – and its time we turn back to the Lord our God with a pure and whole heart.

It’s time we cease striving so hard, and realize that He is God.

It’s time that we again receive the power and benefit of the Spirit of life, and realize that we can't do it all on our own.

We all need the Lord in everything we do.

We need the Spirit of Life!

Amen.

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