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LIVING IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (PART I)
(A STORY OF ENCOURAGEMENT, COMFORT AND COMMITMENT)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
21 MAY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (John 14:26)
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
During our journey from Easter to Pentecost, we took a look at the work of the Holy Spirit, and in particular at the purpose for His power in our lives.
We have also been devoting our recent Bible studies to looking at Him and to receiving all that He has for us, so that we would be the Christians that God wants us to be.
Do you remember what the fruit of the Spirit is?
We are told in Galatians 5:22-23. Let's take a look at it again:
22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23. gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
This is the true fruit of the Holy Spirit.
It is the life we live in Christ, every day and every moment of the day.
It is not the miracles that we perform, or that are performed through us or around us.
Let me give you a simple example of how most people who consider themselves to be Christian fail to live this way.
Most Christians eat various kinds of meat, eggs, and dairy, but they ignore or are indifferent to the horrible suffering of the animals that brought these products to their plates.
There is nothing loving, or kind, or good, or gentle about causing an animal to suffer.
Thus, everyone who raises animals for food, or fishes for them, or eats them and their by-products cannot be living in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
If what these people are doing is not of the Holy Spirit, then it is of the deceiving spirit that rules the world, whose purpose is to lead people away from the true Christ and His teachings.
However, if people live in the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the miracles in their lives are real, they are truly from the Holy Spirit; but only for the purpose of leading people to Jesus Christ, and in producing fruit in our lives.
Miracles are not an end in themselves.
So with this in mind, let's take a further look at what it means to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Deuteronomy 33:26-29, we heard a message of encouragement.
Let's take another look at it:
26. “There is none like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to your help,
And through the skies in His majesty.
The vast majority of the Israelites were not living in the power of the Holy Spirit, even though their entire camp was in the presence of God.
They followed every whim of belief and did not trust in the Lord who was providing everything for them.
Yet, the Lord didn't give up on them, but continued to encourage them, so that they might return to Him whole-heartedly.
Israel was not upright; but God, in all His mercy and grace, begins this passage referring to them as being upright, for “Jeshurun” is a term for Israel meaning upright.
It is the same as calling all who go to church “Christians” or “Christ-like,”
when in "Christians are not always that way.
Thus, God encourages weak believers, and stronger believers who slip, to become stronger and trust in Him; for there is no other god in heaven that can help them, for there is only One God.
Nothing, or no one, can fully help us but God, and we can rest in that assurance.
27. "The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
And He drove out the enemy from before you,
And said, 'Destroy!'
God is not simply the One we call upon in our times of need or distress. He is ever present; in fact, He is our dwelling place where all evil is destroyed, for it cannot exist in the presence of God.
For if we truly believe in Him, God the Father – and today, in Jesus Christ – we shall live forever with Him, because we desire to learn from Him and live in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
We don't have to worry about the situations around us, for He will support us and carry us through all times, both good and bad.
He has driven away our enemies in the past, and He will continue to do so.
So Moses continues with this blessing of encouragement, not only to Israel in his day, but also to all of us today who call upon the Lord.
28. "So Israel dwells in security,
The fountain of Jacob secluded,
In a land of grain and new wine;
His heavens also drop down dew.
29. "Blessed are you, O Israel;
Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord,
Who is the shield of your help,
And the sword of your majesty!
So your enemies shall cringe before you,
And you shall tread upon their high places."
We are not to fear those who do not know God, nor are we to fear the things that they do or say.
For the truth of God's Word will cause them to cringe, and we who believe will walk upon all the works of their hands that they placed before God.
If we trust in God, the power of the Holy Spirit will help us to overcome all the evil around us, so that we may have peace and joy in our hearts.
And remember that no animal foods were mentioned in the blessing, because God will never bless the fruit of pain and suffering.
In our New Testament lesson, Titus1:1-9, did you also note the way that Paul began his letter to Titus?
He begins with a testimony of the relationship he has with God, so that Titus would reflect upon Paul's life.
Now, we can't do this unless we are living the life we preach; but if we are, what an encouragement it is to others to do the same!
None of us are perfect; we all fail sometimes. Weak believers and non-believers struggle over this. We must try harder.
Listen again to Paul as he confesses his relationship with God:
1. Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,
2. in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
3. but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior;
In other words, Paul is saying, "Have you seen my life? I have freely bound myself to God, as if I were a slave, but even more so, for I am a willing servant."
And by referring to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, he is telling Titus that this letter, while written to him, is for the whole church in Crete and wherever the Lord would send him.
This letter is meant not only to encourage Titus, but for all who are chosen of God, who have committed themselves to Jesus Christ, and to those who will do so in the future.
And the reason is so that they would never lose hope in God's promise to them, in order that all who are born of the Spirit would have everlasting life.
That they would hold on to this promise, no matter how bad things were around them, or how falsely others behaved, or even how many times they might question why God would allow something to occur.
This letter is to remind them that God is in control. He knows why He does the things he does, and why He allows others to happen.
We just have to trust in Him, for God cannot lie, and all that He has promised will come to pass.
God knows just the right time for everything, for He is the beginning and the end.
And then Paul takes this testimony of his life, and the work he has been called to do, and bestows it as a blessing upon Titus, personally, so that he would also be further encouraged to be the leader and the example-setter for the church.
4. to Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Savior.
As Paul delivers this message of encouragement, he is saying, in effect, to
Titus, "Come now, my boy; all that the Lord has given to me, I know that He has
given to you also; now receive this grace, for there is much for you to do."
And in this letter, and in these words, the Holy Spirit is also saying the same to us, today.
Now begins the commission:
5. For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,
No one person can do all the work of God.
Paul surely couldn't evangelize the whole of Europe and Mesopotamia, and at the same time be the spiritual leader of the people.
So Titus, a willing servant of the Lord and Paul, is encouraged to also be a leader – a task which he takes on and seems to have done well.
But Paul also sees that Titus cannot do all that he is being called to do; and, not wanting him to "burn-out" and become a bad witness, he encourages and reminds him to appoint other leaders in the churches of his district.
Paul could not do it all, even in Crete, and neither can Titus.
But Paul cautions Titus that he is to make sure that those he selects are truly worthy of spiritual leadership, and not just popular people.
6. namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
Not only is this spiritual leader to be above reproach in his own character, but he is to have his whole household in order.
Now why is this so important?
If a person is to be the spiritual guide for the church, there should be some evidence, shown in the past, that he is capable of doing the job.
One of these, and a very important one, is that of the person’s own family; for being the leader of a church is much like being the leader of a family.
For this reason, the marriage of that person should be stable and uncomplicated, as evidenced by the length of their marriage and by the fact that the maturing of their children reflects the character of the parents, in a godly manner, so that no one could compare anything wrong with the church with the leadership of the church.
Then Paul goes on and gives other specifics that should be evident in the character of the church elders.
7. For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,
8. but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,
9. holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
Wow! That is sure some list of things that we are being called to live up to, isn't it?
But isn't it also what you expect of the leaders of your church?
This is one reason that I am always encouraging you to read your Bibles, to bring them with you to church, and to study God's word together with others in our Bible study.
In our own power, we most likely could not live up to the standard that has been set before us.
But in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can. And this is all tied together in Ephesians 5:25-27.
25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;
26. that He [Jesus Christ, as well as the church elder] might sanctify her [the church], having cleansed her by the washing of water [of baptism] with the word [the Bible],
27. that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.
God can do this through each and every one of us, if we are willing to be His true bondservant, and be constantly in His word.
What God has for us is far better than anything of this world.
Reach for it.
Strive for it.
It's worth it, and you will never regret it; for not only will our churches grow and mature to the glory of God, but so will we and our families.