Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses 2 Peter 1:3-4, Colossians 3:1-14, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Galatians 6:7-9, Galatians 5:16-17, Galatians 5:25 Downloads & Resources God's Spirit: Are You Following the Spirit's Lead? Dr. Jon Morrissette - 10/12/2003 On Thursday I toured the local county jail with some other citizens from our community. An officer explained their booking procedures, showed us the control rooms, and highlighted the various features of the prison complex. The prison is successful in that it keeps criminals off the streets. They have never had an escapee. The county jail is a training center for corrections officers around the state. They utilize state of the art technology and are professional in so many respects. But one startling fact they mentioned was that eighty-five percent of those who are incarcerated are repeat offenders. Eighty-five percent have been in jail before and eighty-five percent will likely return to jail again. From that standpoint, the prison isn’t very successful. But this prison is no more or less successful than other prisons scattered throughout Illinois. Cynicism is flourishing. During the tour I took note of a general cynicism about the moral condition of mankind. There is a defeatist mindset that permeates every cell block. That cynical mindset suggests that we believe that the moral outcasts of our society cannot be reformed. The best we can do is lock people up, give them three square meals daily, and educate them, if we are lucky. Then we release them into the wild after they have served their time, recapture them, and continue the cycle until the offender is worn out or until he commits a crime big enough to guarantee his incarceration for life. But no one really believes that the criminal will ever change. They expect the worst out of the people incarcerated. Our county jail isn’t only place where cynicism flourishes. It flourishes in the Church also. We have lowered any expectation for life-change in the Church. We assume that life-change will be the exception in the Church instead of the norm. Regardless of the length of time spent here we assume that people’s beliefs, behaviors, and habits will remain the same. We assume that year after year, people will come and go with the same sins and attitudes they first brought to church with them. If we are lucky, the best we hope to offer is a little Christian education along the way. Today I want to make some observations about the Church when it comes to life-change. Is Education Enough to Grow? In Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) Jesus commanded us, "Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." There is no question that Christian education is a key component of making a disciple. It is extremely important that we teach one another what is right and wrong. We need to know the character and nature of our holy God. We need to know all the things that offend God. But we also need to know about those things that please God. We need to teach people to obey everything Christ commanded. The Church today has an unprecedented ability to educate Christians. The opportunity for education is unlike at any time in the history of the world. Think of all the communications technologies we have at our disposal. Laser and color printers, photocopiers, printing presses, mail, newspapers, magazines, tracts, television, radio, VCRs, DVDs, CDs, tapes, cell phones, cable networks, satellite systems, wireless internet, fiber-optics, internet, e-mail, websites, theatres, video projection screens, PowerPoint, signage, and mass marketing, to name a few. Is Good Communication Enough to Grow? It doesn’t take much creativity or expense to instantly reach millions with a message. Yet despite the power of Christian communication, lives are not being changed. Our knowledge and education is not translating into positive life-changes. Titus 1:1 (NIV) says, "...for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness..." This is correct. Knowledge does lead to godliness. But not by itself! If you were to go to the county jail and interview prisoners, what percentage of them do you think knew right from wrong before they committed their crimes? Obviously, there isn’t an education problem. Most everyone generally understands what is right and what is wrong. We know not to lie, cheat, steal, murder, covet, commit adultery, curse, abort babies, abuse our health, hurt others, or whatever else. But we make a calculation. We weigh the risks. We willingly pay the price if we think a sin will benefit us. We assume no one will care or notice. We put on the rose-colored glasses. We sugarcoat the consequences. We reason that God will forgive us later. We diminish the severity of our offense to God. We justify our actions on the basis of our past, our pain, our DNA, or on some other factor. We expect to get away with our sin. But make no mistake about it. Most of the time we sin in full knowledge of God’s will. Christian education does serve a useful purpose. It is an indispensable step in our growth. It helps to define sin. It helps to discern sinful attitudes and habits. Education helps to understand the whole counsel of God. It helps to be taught everything that Christ commanded. Such knowledge leads to godliness, but it cannot get us to the destination by itself. So Christian education is not enough. This brings us to a second observation. Is Conversion Enough to Grow? Oh boy, now I am really treading on thin ice! Conversion is enough for salvation, but it is not enough to experience life-change. In Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) Jesus says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I commanded you." If the teaching and education part of Jesus’ prescription to make disciples is strong, then many conclude that the real problem must lie in people’s perceived conversions. Maybe the reason we haven’t experience a changed life is because we didn’t really trust God. Maybe we didn’t really repent. Maybe our confession was just lip service. Maybe our baptism was just a show. Maybe we didn’t receive the Holy Spirit. Maybe our whole conversion experience was just a charade. One of the things we often do when we fail is to doubt the legitimacy of our conversion. The result of this doubting is that we make ourselves vulnerable. We are drawn to those groups that teach a second anointing of the Spirit is necessary. We are drawn to those groups that teach we must be baptized again, or speak in tongues, or receive a sign from God, or have some secondary experience. We are led to believe that our lack of growth is attributed to God withholding some resource or insight or special touch from us at conversion. But of course, nothing could be further from the truth. When we received Christ, we received every spiritual blessing. The truth is that we have received every spiritual blessing when we received Christ. When we give our lives to Jesus Christ through faith, repentance, confession, and baptism, we immediately receive God’s Holy Spirit. He dwells within us through faith. We receive a new heart and a new spirit capable of obeying God’s will. We are born again with a new nature. He has given us all the power we need. 2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV) tells us plainly, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." In Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV) Paul prays for God to fill the believers in Ephesus with this power. "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge— that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." What I am saying is that our conversion has brought into our lives all the knowledge and power necessary for us to live a godly life. We have God’s Holy Spirit. We know what pleases God. We know not to sin. So if all this is true, then why all the cynicism and failure to experience life-change? Why aren’t we seeing in each other the evidence of God’s transforming power? Are we to conclude that God’s power is absent? Or even worse, that Christ isn’t real? This brings me to make a third and final observation. Christians assume that life-change is the exclusive responsibility of God. Matthew 28:20 suggests that we are to be taught to obey everything Christ commanded. In our day and age we aren’t taught to obey. We aren’t taught to act in harmony with God’s perfect will. We are taught to wait on God. And when we fail to experience instant life-change, we blame everyone and everything but ourselves. In Colossians 3 Paul gives a series of striking imperatives to the Christians at Colossae. Colossians 3:1 (NIV) says, "Set your hearts on things above." Colossians 3:2 (NIV) says, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Colossians 3:5 (NIV) says, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:8-10 (NIV) says, "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator." Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) says, "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Christ expects obedience to his teachings. From passages like these we get the idea that Christ really does expect obedience. That Jesus meant it when he said we must be taught to obey. We cannot remove our obedience from the equation of life-change. There is no microwave sanctification. There are no easy shortcuts. We cannot bypass the courage, sacrifice, submission, discomfort, and costs of discipleship. Our responsibility is to begin living in harmony with God’s will. Our responsibility is to walk in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. There are three indispensable ingredients for life-change: knowledge of God’s will, the power of the Holy Spirit, and our obedience or submission to the knowledge that we have. Leave any ingredient out of the formula and we will experience stunted growth in our effort to change our lives. Responding to Christ's life is the first step in relationship to God's Holy Spirit. Last week I mentioned that responding to Christ’s life is the first step we take in relationship to God’s Holy Spirit. Through conversion, including faith, repentance, baptism, and confession, we are equipped with all the knowledge and power necessary to begin living a godly life. We acquire all the necessary resources to achieve total victory. At conversion we receive God’s Holy Spirit as our personal instructor. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. And we receive the Holy Spirit’s power which enables godly living. The second step in relationship to the Holy Spirit is practicing Christ's life. But this morning I want to consider a second step in relationship to God's Holy Spirit. Practicing Christ’s life. We first respond to Christ’s life, but then we begin to practice Christ’s life. We begin walking in obedience, following Christ’s example, and obeying everything he commanded. We obey the promptings of God’s Holy Spirit to our consciences. I use the word "practice" because this characterizes the inconsistency and irregularity with which we begin living Christ’s life. When I was in fourth grade I learned about playing the trumpet. An instructor taught me about the valves and how to blow into the mouthpiece. I remember how I tormented my family as I tried to sound off even one clear note. It took weeks of practice and instruction before I could even make a pleasant sound. It required a year to learn how to play a complete song, two years to play a solo, and even longer to memorize music and play in the marching band. And I never reached a point where I could stop practicing. We can move toward consistency in our Christian walk only by practicing. The Christian life is the same way. We begin with practice. We succeed and we fail. We learn and we grow. We take a few steps forward and a few steps back. But in time, and only with practice and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can we move toward greater consistency. In band my instructor would always say, "Practice makes perfect. There are no shortcuts. You must take your trumpet home every night and work through your lessons. You grow by playing and using your instrument." Let me take a few moments and talk about practicing Christ’s life. The Holy Spirit works in our lives to help us become like Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV) says, "we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." In partnership with the Holy Spirit, we set our hearts and minds on things above. We put the practices of our sinful nature to death. We rid ourselves of the sins that displease the living God. We clothe ourselves with the qualities God desires. Practicing Christ's life is about sowing to please God's Holy Spirit. In Galatians 6:7-9 (NIV) Paul uses the imagery of sowing and then reaping to represent our cooperation with the Holy Spirit. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Practicing Christ’s life is all about sowing to please God’s Holy Spirit. As we begin obeying the Holy Spirit’s promptings, he gains greater leadership over our lives. We begin to be transformed in ways we never imagined. In Galatians 5:16-17 (NIV) Paul makes a promise. "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Sprit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." When we sow to the Spirit and follow his leadership, our sinful nature loses its grips on us. In Galatians 5:25 (NIV) Paul tells us to, "keep in step with the Spirit." In Ephesians 4:30 (NIV) Paul warns us, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God..." In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (NIV) he says, "Do not put out the Spirit’s fire..." In Hebrews 10:29 we are warned that if we insult the Spirit, we will be severely punished. God gives us his Holy Spirit at our conversion to transform our lives. The point is that God gives us his Holy Spirit at our conversion to transform our lives. The Holy Spirit speaks to our consciences through God’s word and convicts us. We respond to that conviction with humility and submission. We obey Christ. We sow seeds to the Spirit. We learn to obey and keep in step with the Spirit. We accept and do not resist the Holy Spirit’s leading. We fan the flame of the Spirit and refuse to quench it. We take one more step closer to being like Christ. Perhaps a simple example from everyday life would be helpful. You are in a big hurry and are speeding down the highway. Suddenly, you notice a lone squad car inching up behind you in your rearview mirror. His lights are flashing. You look down at your speedometer and you are driving over eighty miles an hour. You immediately slow down and pull into the right lane, praying to God for grace. To your delight, the squad car races past you, obviously responding to another situation. Do you, (a) scold your passengers for not keep better watch, (b) make sure your radar detector is plugged in properly, (c) nervously laugh off your close call, or (d) obey the speed limit? You are struggling with an area of temptation in your life. You feel weak and vulnerable. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the Holy Spirit captures your attention. Red lights are flashing. The Holy Spirit is convicting you of your sin. You see yourself through the lens of God’s holiness and you plead for mercy and forgiveness. To your delight, God forgives you of your sin and gives you grace. Do you, (a) shift the blame to others, (b) try to justify your sin, (c) mock the Holy Spirit and continue what you were doing, or (d) obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting? Many Christians never practice living Christ's lifestyle. Too many Christians never move beyond their conversion. They respond to Jesus Christ through faith, confession, repentance, and baptism and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. But they never take the second step. They never practice living Christ’s lifestyle. They never sow to the Spirit. They never attempt to keep in step with the Spirit’s promptings. Instead, they grieve the Spirit of God. They resist God’s will. They throw water on the Spirit’s fire. They desensitize themselves to God’s voice. But what about you? Will you keep in step with the Spirit? Will you sow to the Spirit? Will you welcome the Spirit’s correction and leadership? Will you be transformed into Christ’s image? Will you see to it that your knowledge leads to godliness and that you’re seeing the power of God’s Spirit unleashed in your life?