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LIVING IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (PART V)
THE HEART COMMITMENT
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
25 June 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation: (Colossians 3:14-15)
14. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
15. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
We have been doing a lot of talking about living in the power of the Holy
Spirit, but perhaps there is someone here who doesn’t fully understand.
So, as we close out this series of sermons on the Holy Spirit, I thought it
would be appropriate to go back to a few basics and explore the heart commitment
that each of us must make before the power of the Holy Spirit is in our daily
Do you remember from John 3 the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus, a leader of Jews?
Let's take a look at a few of these verses, John 3:3-10:
3. Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus couldn't understand what Jesus was saying to him.
4. Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?”
Nicodemus isn't being sarcastic with this answer. He just didn't understand.
He was using common sense, and worldly common sense says that a person can
only be born once.
Nevertheless, Nicodemus told the Lord what he was thinking and asked for an explanation.
This is something that each of us should learn to do more often, for we would get more answers to our questions, just as Nicodemus did.
5. Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Here Jesus separates our first birth from our second.
Our first birth is of the water of the womb.
But our second birth must be of the Holy Spirit.
6. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7. “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
The Holy Spirit is like the wind, and unless we become one with Him, we cannot understand the things of heaven, where everything is in the will of God, and there is no suffering or death.
By contrast, the ways of the flesh are what caused all of the corruption of
the earth, where billions upon billions of humans and animals suffer and/or die
We cannot see the wind, but we can see the effect of it.
If we remained locked up inside our homes and never looked outside when the wind was blowing hard, and then later would go out, we would see some things changed, but would not know what caused the change.
But once we learned about the wind, we would understand.
8. “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Even though most people may not understand the ways of the Holy Spirit, they should be able to see the heavenly changes in the people who are truly born again, just as we see the results of a strong wind.
People who are truly born again should be seen as loving, compassionate, and peacemaking children of God for the benefit of the whole of creation (humans, animals, and the environment).
And because Nicodemus didn't see this in the religious leadership and most
other people, he didn't understand.
9. Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
10. Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?”
Jesus wasn’t brushing Nicodemus off with some flip answer. He was trying to
get him to think. He was trying to get him to remember the Scripture he taught
from, and in particular Ezekiel 36:24-28.
Let's look at these verses:
24. “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land.
When we live in the world, sin as the world does, have worldly desires, and contribute to or cause the corruption and suffering of this world, we are separated from God.
When our heart turns back to God, and we are truly repentant, He will forgive
us and bring us back to Him.
Listen to what the Lord says He will do for everyone who returns to Him:
25. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
This is a baptism of repentance, and the Lord Himself is the baptizer.
Note also that it is being done by sprinkling, and not by immersion.
God’s grace is far beyond any form or ritual.
No matter how God’s grace is offered to us, no matter in what form, we should rejoice in the fact that it is being offered at all, for we don’t deserve it and we should fully receive it with an open heart, and with our whole being desire to change our ways.
For when we fully receive of God’s grace, we acquire much more.
26. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
God has been doing heart transplants for a long time.
God’s heart transplants do not bring death; they bring everlasting life through our rebirth.
27. “And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
28. “And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.
If we are truly repentant, if we are wholly committed to serve the Lord, then our rebirth is complete, and we are born again with the infilling of the Holy Spirit, which produces a desire in us to bring true peace to every other living being upon this earth.
Don’t just take my word for this, but hear it from Jesus Himself in John
15. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
16. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
17. that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.
This is our rebirth.
This is being filled with the Holy Spirit.
This is living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And it only comes with our tota1 commitment.
Let’s return to our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Joshua 24:14-24,
and see that this is not a New Testament concept, but it is one from the
beginning of time.
Listen to Joshua as he explains about our total commitment to God:
14. “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
15. “And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
There is no half way point in serving the Lord.
We are either His, or we are not.
And if I asked you for a commitment, as Joshua is asking the people, what would you answer?
Would you answer as the people did?
16. And the people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods;
17. for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.
18. “And the Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
Would you have answered the same way?
Would you have truly meant every word you said?
Do you think every person who answered Joshua meant what they said?
You don’t have to tell me, for God already knows the intent of your heart, and He knew the intent of the heart of every person gathered before Joshua.
The Lord knows and Joshua knew, and I know and you know, that everyone doesn’t mean all that they say.
Thus Joshua, in the power of the Holy Spirit, lets the people know just how it is:
19. Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins.
20. “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.”
What do you have to say?
21. And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.”
If we are sure in what we say; if we are sure in our commitment, then we are saying that we understand the difference between the profane and the holy, and are willing to turn from the ways of the world and serve God.
22. And Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”
And each of us is a witness against our self as well.
We are without excuse.
23. “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
24. And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey his voice.”
Did the people continue to serve the Lord?
Will we continue to serve the Lord?
We can, if we have a true heart commitment to serve Him.
We can, if we live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
But there are so many times in our lives when things seem to go wrong, and we try to excuse our actions away because of them.
But our excuses don’t mean anything, for we are without excuse, for the Holy Spirit has already convicted us of the truth.
Note how James expressed it in our New Testament lesson, 1:13- 27:
13. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evi1, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
14. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
15. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
And what is God’s purpose in all of this?
17. Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.
18. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures.
God never changes. He is always the same.
We are the ones who change from moment to moment.
But God doesn't want us to be like this.
He wants us to be like Him.
And we can, if we commit our hearts wholly to Him.
We can, if we live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
19. This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;
20. for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
21. Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
We cannot receive God’s word within us unless we take it into our hearts through our reading and study.
If we just try to put a light coating upon ourselves, it will soon be washed away or dry up and be blown away.
God’s word and His heavenly will must be firmly implanted within us if we are going to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And this requires our whole commitment.
But if we have made this commitment, it will be reflected in our lives.
22. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
23. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
24. for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
25. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
Do we truly hear how we receive the blessings of God?
26. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless.
27. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
God loves each and every one of us very much.
He wants only the best for us.
He wants us to be forever with Him.
But this will never happen, unless we are totally committed to Him also.
Seek the Lord with all of your heart; live in the power of the Holy Spirit, and you will never be disappointed, and the world around you will be blessed.