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2006-03-05_Power Supply_Sermon On The Mount Intro 2_Person of HS

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Power Supply

The Holy Spirit, Part 1   |   Shaun LePage   |   March 5, 2006

I. Introduction

A.   In 1977, New York City was plunged into darkness—a city-wide blackout. The result was city-wide looting. Arson. Chaos. Disorder. It is widely rumored that the blackout created a small baby boom with a huge increase in New York's birthrate nine months after the blackout. This is likely an urban legend. According to director Richard Donner, cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth mistakenly believed he had caused the blackout by plugging in a spotlight to a lamppost while filming the movie Superman. But that was not the cause of the blackout. Officials later discovered that all the power the city needed was there. One particular substation—that converted high-voltage electricity into low-voltage commercial-use electricity—had one, tiny locking nut that was loose. Because that nut was loose, a breaker was not able to work properly and the power—even though it was there—could not flow through the system. This led to a series of failures because other parts of the system became overtaxed. Because of one bad connection, the system was unable to provide the power the residents of New York City desperately needed. 

B.    It is the opinion of many—including myself—that the Church in our day lacks power.

1.     We are generally weak and ineffective. Especially in America, despite the fact that so many people are going to church. More people attend church in one weekend than attend professional sporting events in an entire year (firstthings.com). But we’re not seeing very impressive results.

2.     I heard Josh McDowell this week talking about how he witnesses so many high school and college students worshipping with incredible passion and gathering in enormous crowds for emotional and passionate worship, but when he speaks with them and has conversations with them about their beliefs, he finds that they either lack a clear understanding of God or they have very unbiblical views about God.

3.     Study after study by the Barna Group shows that there is no difference in lifestyle—statistically speaking—between Christians and non-Christians in America.

C.   Where’s the power? For some reason, the power is not getting through. The power is there—there’s a bad connection and we’re not tapping into the available power of the Holy Spirit. The result is that we are in a state of chaos. Disorder. Darkness.

D.   Matthew introduces us to the Holy Spirit showing that the Spirit was very active in the ministry of Jesus:

1.     In chapter 1 telling us that Jesus was conceived miraculously—by the power of the Holy Spirit.

2.     In chapter 3, John the Baptist came along proclaiming that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Then, Jesus was baptized by John and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus “like a dove.”

3.     In chapter 4, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

4.     Did you notice all this activity of the Spirit? The Holy Spirit often goes unnoticed. He’s working behind the scenes. It’s easy for us to forget Him or neglect Him or ignore Him. There’s a certain amount of mystery surrounding this Third Person of the Trinity.

E.    Dorothy Sayers tells of a Japanese convert struggling to grasp Christian theology. “Honorable Father, very good,” he said to his missionary teacher. “Honorable Son, very good. But Honorable Bird, I do not understand at all.”

F.    It’s true that the Holy Spirit is mysterious in some ways and has therefore been greatly misunderstood throughout history. But Scripture does not leave us in the dark. Scripture tells us all we need to know about the Holy Spirit and the great importance of understanding the Holy Spirit.

G.   In our study of the Gospel of Matthew, we’ve come to the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7.

1.     Last week, I explained that the Sermon on the Mount is for the disciples of Jesus Christ. The standards of moral and ethical living presented in the Sermon on the Mount are only possible for the followers of Jesus Christ. But the question then becomes “How?” How are we supposed to live out the commands of Jesus in this sermon? The answer is two-fold: Grace and the Holy Spirit.

a)    Last week we discussed the first answer: By being strong in the grace of Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is law—a higher law. A law for those who have been ushered into the kingdom of Christ. We cannot hope to obey these commands apart from the grace of Christ. The grace of Christ provides the strength we need to live out the Sermon on the Mount. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” We are to be strengthened by the grace of Christ. The same Christ who saved us by grace—apart from our ability to earn His favor—receives as worship our imperfect attempts to live up to His perfect standards. Be strengthened by the fact that no matter how many times you try and fail, Jesus will continually offer you His grace, His forgiveness. So, first of all, if we are going to live out the Sermon on the Mount, we must be strong in grace.

b)    This week I want to begin explaining the second part of the answer to the question, “How do we live out the Sermon on the Mount?”: By walking in the Spirit.

(i)   The complete picture of salvation in Christ includes three phases or steps.

(a)  First is justification. This is the point—the moment—when God opens our hearts and we trust Christ for salvation. This is the point at which we are born again, regenerated, made alive in Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit forever. We are declared “not guilty” and set free from the penalty of sin and given the promise of eternal life. The gift of heaven is ours and nothing can ever change that from the moment we are justified.

(b) The Second phase is sanctification. This is a process that takes place from the moment we are justified (i.e., saved) until the day we enter heaven—either through death or the Rapture. The word “sanctify” means to be made holy. It is the process of being set free from the power of sin in our lives. As long as we are in these bodies—this flesh—we will not be completely free from the power of sin. We will not be sinless. But The Spirit of God is working in us to make us more like Christ every day.

(c)  The Third phase is glorification. This is the final phase of our salvation. We will be free from the presence of sin. We will live in glorified bodies that will never tire and hunger and get sick. We see God now as though we are looking through fogged glass. Then, we will be with Him and witness His glory in perfect clarity.

(d) We are “justified” or saved or born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are “sanctified” or made holy or mature by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(e)  The Galatian Christians were apparently trying to be sanctified or matured in their faith by keeping the Law. They were real Christians—saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by their own works. But they were trying to grow and mature and obey the commandments of Christ in their own power—by works. In Galatians 3, Paul delicately addresses the situation. Read Galatians 3:1-3.

1.     Verse 2 addresses their justification—when they “received the Spirit.” The expected answer to the question is “We received the Spirit “by hearing with faith.” By believing the gospel message—“Christ crucified.”

2.     Verse 3 addresses their sanctification—their “being perfected” in Christ. That’s another way of saying “being completed or maturing in Christ.” This is how Eugene Peterson paraphrased that verse in The Message: “Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?” The point is this: You can’t obey Christ without the Spirit’s help any more than you can be born again without the Spirit’s help.

3.     This is what I believe about the Sermon on the Mount in particular. We cannot live up to or obey the commandments in the Sermon on the Mount by our own effort. We must be empowered by the Holy Spirit and be dependent upon the Holy Spirit in order to live this kind of life. The sooner we understand this, the better. 

2.     Those who heard the Sermon on the Mount—Matthew tells us—were “amazed” at what they heard. We need to prepare to be amazed. If we try to live this kind of life apart from the strengthening power of the Holy Spirit we will not be amazed. We will be discouraged. Frustrated. How do we prepare ourselves? We take a fresh look at the Holy Spirit. Today I want to look at the Spirit Himself. Next week—and perhaps longer—I want to look at His work. What the Scriptures tell us He does and is doing.

II.   Body

A.   The Holy Spirit is a Person—not a force.

1.     This is such an important truth for us to understand. If He is a person, He relates to us as a person, not as a power or a force. He is distinct from His power. At this point in history, He is our connection to God—the Person through whom we relate to God. We cannot have a relationship with a force. How do we know the Holy Spirit is a Person? Let’s look at the Biblical evidence:

a)    1. The Holy Spirit has a mind.

(i)   1 Corinthians 2:9-13 tells us He “teaches.”

(ii) Romans 8:26,27 tells us He “intercedes” for us. He prays for us!

(iii)    These are just two examples of the fact that the Holy Spirit has the first characteristic of “person-ality”. He has intellect—a mind. We’re also told that He “testifies” (John 15:26), He “convicts” people of sin (John 16:7,8), He can be “obeyed” (Acts 16:6,7) and He can be “blasphemed” (Matthew 12:31). All of this makes no sense if He is not a person.

b)    2. The Holy Spirit has emotions.

(i)   James 4:5 tells us He can be “jealous”.

(ii)  Ephesians 4:30. He can be “grieved”.

(iii)    These are just two examples of the fact that the Holy Spirit has emotions. He can feel. We’re also told that He can be “insulted” (Hebrews 10:29) and He can be “lied to” (Acts 5:3). All of this makes no sense if the Holy Spirit is not a person.

c)    3. The Holy Spirit has will.

(i)   1 Corinthians 12:11 says He “determines” or “wills” (NASV).

(ii) Acts 8:26-29 says He gives direction and guidance.

(iii)    These are just two examples of the fact that the Holy Spirit has a will. This also is a characteristic of “personality”—the ability to choose a course of action and do certain things to bring about the desired results. We’re also told that He can perform miracles (Acts 8:39), He can “restrain” or “contend” with people (Genesis 6:3), and He can be “resisted” (Acts 7:51). All of this makes no sense if the Holy Spirit is not a person.

2.     The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the Holy Spirit is not a person.

a)    Listen to this quote from a JW magazine called The Watchtower: “The Holy Scriptures tell us the personal name of the Father—Jehovah. They inform us that the Son is Jesus Christ. But nowhere in the Scriptures is a personal name applied to the holy spirit.” (“Overseers in Apocalyptic Times,” The Watchtower, January 15, 1958, pp. 42–3).

b)    But this thinking is flawed. The Watchtower is correct that the Holy Spirit does not have a personal name recorded in Scripture. However, this does not mean that He is not a person. Is a newborn baby not a person simply because he/she has not yet been named? Of course that baby is a person—even without a name. Does Scripture record personal names for all of the demons and angels it mentions? No. Are these then not personal? Of course they are personal. A name does not imply personality or impersonality. Therefore, the lack of a name for the Holy Spirit does not suggest that the Holy Spirit is not a person. That is what is called “eisegesis” or reading your own ideas into the text. The Bible clearly presents the Holy Spirit as a Person.

c)    Why is this so important? We’ll come back to that.

B.   The Holy Spirit is God.

1.     This too is a vital truth. One of the very definitions of a cult is a group that denies the deity—the Godhood—of the Holy Spirit.

2.     The Mormons, for example, teach that the Holy Ghost is different than the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost is a man while the Holy Spirit is a force. Bruce R. McConkie—a Mormon Apostle—wrote, “The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a Personage of Spirit, a Spirit Person, a Spirit Man, a Spirit Entity. He can be in only one place at one time, and he does not and cannot transform himself into any other form or image than that of the Man whom he is...” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 359).

3.     Is this accurate? No. The Bible clearly presents the Holy Spirit as God—the Third Person of the Trinity.

a)    1. The title of the Holy Spirit proves He is God.

(i)   Acts 5:1-4. First, Peter said Ananias and his wife Sapphira had lied to the Holy Spirit (v.3). Then, He said they had lied to God (v.4). Peter called the Holy Spirit God.

(ii) 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 is another example of this use of the title “Spirit.” In other words, “Holy Spirit” is synonymous with “God.” His title is used interchangeably with “God.”

b)    1 Corinthians 2:9-11. The Holy Spirit knows everything—even the thoughts of God. 2. The omniscience of the Holy Spirit proves He is God. Only God knows everything.

c)    Matthew 19:23-26 and John 3:5-8. These passages tell us the Holy Spirit does the impossible—He saves people; He causes them to be born again. 3. The omnipotence of the Holy Spirit proves He is God. Only God can do the “impossible” (from man’s perspective).

(i)   Genesis 1:2 and Psalm 104:24-30 tell us that The Holy Spirit has been and still is involved in the work of creation.

(ii) There is no clearer display of God’s power than creation and the Holy Spirit has a part in it along with the Father and the Son. Only one who is “omnipotent” can be called the Creator. Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit is—indeed—the Creator God.

d)    Psalm 139:7-10. He is everywhere! We could not escape from Him if we tried. 4. The omnipresence of the Holy Spirit proves He is God. Only God can be everywhere present. The Holy Spirit—Scripture says—is omnipresent.

(i)   Hebrews 9:14 tells us the Holy Spirit is “eternal.”

(ii) Can the Holy Spirit be omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent if He is not eternal? No. If He has not always existed, He could not know all that happened before Him and He would not have been present before He began to exist. And, if He will cease to exist, He cannot be omnipotent—death would have power over Him.

4.     Logical question: Why does it matter whether or not the Holy Spirit is God? There are many reasons, but of course, if the Holy Spirit is not God then the doctrine of the Trinity—which is taught in the Bible—is not true and therefore, the Bible contains errors. Most cults reject the “deity” (Godhood) of the Holy Spirit because they reject the Trinity doctrine. Also, if the Holy Spirit is not God, then He cannot be omnipresent (everywhere all at once) and therefore cannot hear all our prayers and cannot guide people in different parts of the world, and cannot convict the world of sin, etc. The Bible tells us He does all this, so if He cannot do them then the Bible is false. So, it’s important that we trust and teach what the Bible says: The Holy Spirit is God.

C.   This is the “who”! A description of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you’re thinking, so what? What does this matter to my life in this day and time? How does this help me live the life God wants me to live? Let me give you two things to consider:

1.     Since the Holy Spirit is a Person, relate to Him.

a)    Since the Holy Spirit is a person, we can have a relationship with Him! Only persons can have real relationships. It only makes sense that we would take advantage of that and either begin that relationship or pursue it and strengthen it.

b)    Next week, we’ll begin looking at what the Holy Spirit does in and through and for us. But all of His work and our interaction with Him is a relationship—a relationship that provides the power and strength we need to live the Christian life—the abundant life. This relationship with the Holy Spirit is available to all and it only makes sense to take full advantage of it.

c)    This relationship is not possible, though, if you’ve never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior. When we trust Christ, the Bible promises us that the Holy Spirit showers us with His supernatural work. We’ll look next time at the list of things the Holy Spirit does in the spiritual realm—in our spirit—the moment we quit trusting our own goodness, our own works, our own religion and trust Christ for salvation. If you feel convicted this morning that you’ve never trusted Christ with your eternal destiny and you don’t have some sort of peace about that, I want to invite you to come and speak with me immediately following this service or some time this week.

2.     Since the Holy Spirit is God, worship Him.

a)    That relationship we’ve been talking about is so valuable because the Holy Spirit is not only a person, but also God. He is a personable God—a God with whom we can have relationship. Think about what a big deal this is!

(i)   He is omniscient, so He always knows our situation. He always knows what is best, so He can lead and guide us.

(ii) He is omnipotent, so He is always able to help—always able to do what needs to be done. He can change hearts and minds. He can lead us and guide us.

(iii)    He is omnipresent, so He is always nearby. He always hears us whenever we pray to Him. Whenever we need Him and cry out for His help, we can be sure He hears.

b)    Fostering that relationship; pursuing that relationship; treasuring that relationship is one of the most important ways we can worship! Since the Holy Spirit is God, we should—we must—worship Him. He is fully God and deserves our honor and worship and praise. We should pray to Him and walk through life asking for and watching for His leadership and guidance. We’ll talk more about that in the next few weeks as well.

III. Closing

1.     In the Sermon on the Mount,

a)    Jesus says…that when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil about you because of Him we are to rejoice and be glad! Can you do that in your own power?

b)    Jesus says…that if you call someone a fool, you’re guilty of the fiery hell. Can you control your mouth that well in your own power?

c)    Jesus says…(guys) that if you look at a woman with lust you’ve already committed adultery in your heart. Can you (guys) control your eyes that well in your own power?

d)    Jesus says…don’t worry about food and drink and clothing—but make God your number one pursuit in life. Can you “not worry” in your own power?

e)    Jesus says…treat people the same way you want them to treat you. Can you do that—consistently—in your own power?

2.     Ask God to end the blackout. Ask Him to provide the power you need to live the kingdom life. Ask Him to teach you to live on the spiritual plain, growing in your relationship with the Holy Spirit, depending on the power of the Holy Spirit.

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