The Spirit's Baptism

  • this morning we're going to stir the pot a little
  • we're going to talk about Spirit baptism
  • I want to begin by asking this morning how many present are Pentecostal
  • could you raise your hands please?
  • how many here would say they're not Pentecostal?

  • by the time you leave this morning, I want everyone to raise their hands and say that they're Pentecostal
  • I don't mean Pentecostal in the denominational sense, but I mean Pentecostal in that we all know we've experienced Spirit baptism

  • now let's back up a little
  • the disciples were a sorry lot
  • taken together as a group, they were less than inspiring
  • when Jesus left this earth, there was every reason, humanly speaking, to expect that the disciples would fail in the assignment that Jesus had given them

  • but Jesus promised something that would make all the difference
  • you remember that John the Baptist said:
  • (Luke 3:16) John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
  • before leaving this world, Jesus promised the disciples in Acts 1:
  • (Acts 1:5) For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
  • so both John and Jesus promised that they would experience Spirit baptism

  • now let me just interject a small point
  • scholars can't agree on whether this means "baptized by the Spirit" or "baptized in the Spirit"
  • so you know where I stand, I'm going to use the statement "baptized in the Spirit"
  • in other words, Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, rather than the Holy Spirit baptizing us

  • read with me what happened when this promise was fulfilled
  • (Acts 2:1) When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
  • (Acts 2:2) Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
  • (Acts 2:3) They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
  • (Acts 2:4) All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

  • this was the original Spirit baptism
  • a noise like a hurricane filled the ears of those present
  • a large "ball" of fire appeared and spontaneously separated into smaller flames, each in the shape of a tongue that came to rest on each person in the room
  • each of the individuals was "filled with the Holy Spirit"
  • they spoke in tongues or in different languages
  • immediately their human frailties were transformed into supernatural gifts and abilities
  • their reluctance turned into bold confidence
  • Peter preached and three thousand were saved and baptized that day

  • now let me ask some questions about being baptized in the Spirit
  • is it for all Christians or for only some Christians?
  • does it happen at conversion, or at a later time?
  • and the third question is, what difference does it make?
  • QUESTION NUMBER ONE: IS BEING BAPTIZED IN THE SPIRIT FOR ALL BELIEVERS OR ONLY SOME BELIEVERS?
  • some people teach that not all believers have been baptized in the Holy Spirit
  • some teach that there are many who are saved, and have trusted in Jesus Christ, but have not experienced the Spirit's baptism
  • they divide the world into three categories of people: non-Christians, ordinary Christians, and Spirit-baptized Christians
  • some teach if you're a believer, you have a choice of being an ordinary believer or a "sanctified" believer
  • and so they come up to believers and ask: "Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit yet?"
  • they ask you to then seek the Spirit's baptism, and then you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit

  • it is my point this morning that the New Testament makes no distinction between ordinary Christians and Spirit-filled Christians
  • (1 Corinthians 12:13) For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
  • nowhere in the Epistles do we read of Paul or Peter telling a church that is having problems, "You all need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit"
  • when our risen Lord spoke to the troubled and weak churches in Revelation 2 and 3, nowhere did he say, "Ask me to baptize you in the Holy Spirit"
  • the two-level or two-class view taught by all of these groups does not have a solid foundation in the New Testament

  • but there's another, more practical problem
  • think of the damage that this two-tier system can create in churches
  • it can lend itself to a "we-they" mentality in churches, and it can even lead to pride, jealousy, and divisiveness
  • even if those who claim to be Spirit-baptized Christians are awash with humility, there is an implied superiority to normal, ordinary Christians
  • there develops a view of two groups within the church
  • I have witnessed this firsthand: people who claim to be more in touch with the Holy Spirit literally making fun of churches and people who, in their minds, have not been baptized with the Holy Spirit

  • friends, here is the reality: if you are a believer, you have been Spirit-baptized
  • all believers have been
  • that's why I said in the beginning that in a sense, we're all Pentecostal
  • we've all been baptized in the Holy Spirit
  • we're all recipients of the gift of Jesus at Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit
  • don't let anyone ever create a second class of Christians, a class better than ordinary, run-of-the-mill believers
  • we all have received the gift of the Holy Spirit

  • question number two is closely related
  • DOES SPIRIT BAPTISM HAPPEN AT CONVERSION, OR AT A LATER TIME?
  • once again, some teach that Spirit baptism is a second blessing
  • something that takes place after you become a Christian

  • at first glance, the evidence seems to support this theory
  • look at all the people in the book of Acts who had a second experience of the empowering of the Holy Spirit after conversion
  • this pattern was repeated a number of times in the book of Acts
  • in Acts 8, Samaritans believe
  • the apostles in Jerusalem heard of this, and sent Peter and John to them
  • when they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit
  • in Acts 9, there appears to be a three-day gap between conversion and the filling of the Spirit
  • Paul believed and a few days later was filled with the Spirit
  • in Acts 19, some disciples of John declared themselves unaware of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and subsequently received him, spoke in tongues, and prophesied
  • the key to answering this question is to realize that the Day of Pentecost was a time of transition between the old covenant work of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant work of the Holy Spirit
  • the Day of the Pentecost is unique in the history of the church, and has never been repeated, even in the book of Acts
  • it is the first baptism of the Holy Spirit, the initiation of the church
  • the disciples certainly did experience a "baptism in the Holy Spirit" after conversion on the Day of Pentecost, but this happened because they lived at a unique point in history
  • we are in the same position as the believers in the church in Corinth, to whom Paul said:
  • when we became Christians we are all "baptized in one Spirit into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13)

  • even in the book of Acts, the second experiences don't appear to be the same thing as Spirit baptism
  • a better understanding is that God, in his provision, sovereignly waited to give the new covenant empowering of the Holy Spirit to these special groups for special reasons
  • in addition, these too took place in the transition period between the old covenant and the new covenant
  • there are no New Testament texts that encourage us to seek a second experience of baptism that comes after conversion

  • let me emphasize
  • "we are all baptized into one body"
  • the baptism in the Holy Spirit is universal; it applies to every Christian at conversion
  • all believers have experienced the Spirit's unique work at the conception of their spiritual life
  • all who have received Jesus Christ as their only God and Savior have been spiritually baptized by Christ in the Spirit into the family of God
  • no one is excluded
  • every one of us is the beneficiary of this baptism
  • in fact, Romans 8:9 says that anyone who does not have the Spirit is not even a Christian
  • even in the immoral Corinthian church, where there was immorality and litigation between members, and divisions and fights, Paul says, "We were all baptized"

  • people who want to make Spirit baptism a later work often call it a second work of grace or a second blessing, and emphasize that you must be spiritually primed in order to receive it
  • they may tell you that you need Spirit baptism in order to ascend to a higher plain of the Christian life
  • but that's not why you need Spirit baptism
  • you need to be baptized in the Spirit to get you into the family in the first place
  • the baptism in the Spirit gives you access to everything you need in the Christian life

  • this leads us to question three
  • I hope you're still with me
  • WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?
  • we've established that Spirit baptism is for everyone
  • we've also established that ever believer experiences Spirit baptism at conversion
  • I'd like to spend the next few minutes asking, what does the baptism do for us?

  • Tony Evans has written of five things the Spirit gives us in Spirit baptism:
  • Spirit baptism gives us new life in Christ Jesus
  • (John 3:5) Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
  • (John 3:6) Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
  • Jesus made it clear that it is the Spirit that gives us eternal life
  • this is the first and major benefit of Spirit baptism: new life in Jesus Christ

  • Spirit baptism also gives us a new identity
  • this is one of the major ideas of baptism: identification
  • when you're baptized in water, you're identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ
  • and when you're baptized in the Spirit, you're given a new identity

  • Spirit baptism has also given us a new unity
  • (1 Corinthians 12:13) For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
  • (Ephesians 4:3) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
  • God takes all of us
  • we're unique in our ethnicity, our ages, our personalities, and our preferences
  • but Christ baptizes us in the Spirit and we become one body
  • the purpose of the Spirit's baptism is to bind us together as the community of the redeemed so that we function as family
  • that's why you can't have racism in the church - in the church, there's no difference between people of any color or background
  • we are one body
  • that's why you can't have sexism in the church - in Christ, there's no difference between male or female
  • that's why you can't have class differences in the church - in the church, there's no difference between a slave and a millionaire
  • that's why you can't have division in the church
  • we're a family now

  • not only do we get a new unity, we get a new set of abilities when we are baptized in the Spirit
  • they are spiritual gifts
  • in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul calls spiritual gifts the "manifestation of the Spirit"
  • the gifts are his to distribute as he wills
  • every believer here has received divine empowerment for service
  • but many of us have not yet opened this divine gift

  • there's another deal we receive when we're baptized in the Spirit
  • we get a new nature
  • (2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
  • you get a brand new inner you
  • the Spirit moves you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light
  • he changes your sentence of death to one of eternal life
  • he gives you hope when you didn't have hope, meaning when you didn't have meaning, purpose when you didn't have purpose
  • he gives you rivers of living water
  • you are given a new nature

  • so let me ask you this morning
  • are you Pentecostal?
  • you had better be: not the Pentecostal denomination, but you're Pentecostal because you're a recipient of Spirit baptism, given to believers at conversion after the Day of Pentecost
  • you've been given a new identity
  • so let me ask you
  • do people see your new identity?
  • do people who knew you before you were a Christian see a change in you?
  • you've been given new abilities
  • do you use the spiritual gifts you've been given? do you know what they are?
  • you've been given a new unity
  • do you treat others as equals in the body of Christ?
  • do you cling to any prejudices?
  • let's pray

The Promise of the Spirit (John 14:16-18)

  • Tony Evans tells the story of a man who went to buy a refrigerator
  • he bought the most incredible refrigerator you could imagine
  • it had all the bells and whistles you would expect, and then some
  • it cost thousands of dollars more than a normal refrigerator, but what could you expect for such a fine product?

  • the store delivers the new refrigerator to the man's home
  • excitedly, he fills it with everything he can think of, and then retires for the evening
  • the next morning he rushes into the kitchen excitedly, only to find that the milk is spoiled, the ice cream is running out of the bottom of the freezer compartment, and the vegetables are changing color
  • the refrigerator is not working

  • the man calls the store to give them a piece of his Christian mind
  • the man at the store says, "I don't understand. Open the door and see if the light comes on"
  • he opens the door; no light
  • "Put your ear up close to the refrigerator and see if you can hear the hum of the motor"
  • no hum
  • and then the man says, "There's a cord at the back or your refrigerator. Please check to see whether it's been plugged in"
  • sure enough, our friend finds it wasn't plugged in
  • he comes back to the phone and said, "You're right, the cord was not plugged in. But for the kind of money I paid for this refrigerator, that shouldn't matter. This thing should work anyway"

  • you see, refrigerators are dependent things
  • no matter how much you pay for it, although it has all the parts necessary to run, it cannot operate without an invisible power source called electricity
  • unless you plug in that cord, the food will continue to spoil

  • friends, our spiritual lives will not work without the Holy Spirit's power
  • when God saved us, he gave us all the component parts necessary for spiritual life and victory
  • but we are dependent creatures
  • we have not been designed to work on our own
  • only as we are empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit will we produce what our lives are supposed to produce

  • between now and Palm Sunday, we want to study the Holy Spirit
  • the Holy Spirit is not some nice addendum to the Christian faith
  • he is at the heart and core of it
  • the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, God himself
  • some people have taught that the Holy Spirit is merely a force
  • but the Bible is clear the Holy Spirit is a person
  • he is not a force or an "it"
  • the Holy Spirit has all the components of a personality: intellect, emotion, and will
  • and there are Scriptures that demonstrate this
  • and the Bible is also clear that the Holy Spirit is God

  • if there's anything we need to understand in order to live the victorious Christian life, it is the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit
  • that's why our study will not be an intellectual one
  • our goal is that we will experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit and that it will transform our Christian lives and those around us

  • let's begin by considering the disciples
  • they were a handful of unlikely misfits, as one person writes, a "rather ragged aggregation of souls"
  • they do not impress us as being key types of men
  • none of them occupied prominent places in the Synagogue
  • none of them belonged to the Levitical priesthood
  • for the most part, they were common laboring men
  • somebody has written a fictional management report to Jesus, describing the lack of potential apparent in the disciples

  • TO: JESUS, SON OF JOSEPH
  • FROM: JORDAN MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS
  • Dear Sir:
  • Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.
  • The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them carefully.
  • As part of our service and for our guidance, we make some general comments, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation and comes without any additional fee.
  • It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
  • Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.
  • One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.
  • We wish you every success in your new venture.
  • Sincerely yours,
  • Jordan Management Consultants

  • the Gospel of John sets the scene for us in John 14 and on
  • please open your Bibles to John 14:16
  • it was hardly a great time to be a disciple of Jesus
  • everything was in a spiritual downtime
  • Judas was about to show himself to be a traitor
  • Peter had just been told in the next twenty-four hours, he would publicly deny Christ
  • the Jews wanted to get rid of Christ and all his disciples
  • and then Jesus delivered the worst blow
  • he said:
  • "I am going...to prepare a place for you. You can't come to me until I come for you. I am not going to tell you when I will come for you, but trust me"
  • the disciples reacted with shock
  • Thomas said in effect, "Jesus, you have got to be kidding. We've put all our eggs in your basket, and now you're going to leave us? We've had enough problems making it with you here. How are we ever going to make it if you leave us?"
  • in this context, Jesus said:
  • John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—
  • John 14:17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
  • John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.

  • Jesus promised them that his replacement would be "another Counselor," literally another legal advocate
  • this is the promise that Jesus gave to us
  • in the remainder of the time we have this morning, I want to unpack the power of the promise given by Jesus

  • Jesus promised us the indwelling of another advocate
  • because Jesus knew that the disciples' need was complete, he promised them another "Helper" after he left
  • the world for helper is paraclete in the Greek
  • it is translated differently in various Bible translations because it is such a rich term
  • the best understanding of this word is probably that of "advocate" in a legal sense
  • in the ancient world, a paraclete was someone summoned to give assistance in a court of law
  • and the text in John 14:16 says he is "another paraclete"
  • in other words, he was going t o pick up where Jesus left off
  • the word "another" in the Greek means another of the same kind
  • just as Jesus had come alongside and dwell with them
  • it's important to notice this: the text talks about him taking over the ministry that Christ had among the disciples
  • in other words, as Christ was to the disciples while he was on this earth, the Holy Spirit is to us today

  • Jesus was saying in effect, "I am going to leave you now. But I am going to send you someone who is always going to be there for you. No matter what your problem, no matter what your circumstance, no matter what your trial, frustration, or irritation, no matter what you come up against, this helper will be with you"

  • unlike Jesus, who had only been with them, the Holy Spirit would be within them
  • Jesus said, "he will be in you"
  • not many days after Jesus gave this promise, it was actually fulfilled
  • the Holy Sprit took permanent residence in the lives of the disciples
  • the Holy Spirit was and is, from the day of Pentecost on, present in the lives of all believers
  • let's think about that

  • not even in the lives of Old Testament greats was this true
  • you have an advantage that they didn't have
  • and it's this: the Holy Spirit has taken permanent residence in you
  • it's what we call the indwelling ministry of the Spirit of God
  • when a believing sinner comes to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in that person's life and becomes his helper
  • the best help for whatever problem you face is inside you, the power of the Holy Spirit

  • you see, Jesus is not here in person, but he has left you and me another helper who is just like him
  • if you are a believer, this helper is closer to you than anybody else could ever be, because he is within you
  • Jesus says, "You're not getting less of me. The Holy Spirit will be all to you that I was to you."
  • the Holy Spirit is our indwelling, ever-present helper

  • in John 14:12, Jesus made an astounding statement
  • John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
  • even though Jesus was God, when he became man, he could only be in one place at a time
  • his deity was only in the same vicinity as his humanity
  • Jesus never traveled more than a few miles from his home, or preached to more than a few thousand people

  • Jesus said that we would do greater things than he did
  • how is that possible?
  • not that we can do greater miracles
  • but because the Holy Spirit is ever present within us and indwells us wherever we go
  • truly believers have done greater things than Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit
  • on Pentecost Sunday, Peter preached and three thousand people believed
  • Jesus himself never had that type of response, as far as we know

  • because the Spirit is in us, He is wherever we happen to be
  • all of God that we ever could want to have, we have, if we've come to Christ
  • there's never a situation in which you have less access to God than the next Christian
  • when we're defeated in the Christian life, it isn't because we have too little of the Holy Spirit, it's because the Holy Spirit has too little of us

  • the second and last aspect of the promise of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gave was the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us
  • we're going to talk about this in coming weeks, so I don't want to spend too long on this
  • John 16:13-14 says the Spirit's ministry is to glorify Christ
  • Jesus said, "He will bring glory to me"
  • the Spirit's job is to elevate Christ above all other things and glorify him
  • John 16:13 says that the Spirit would guide us into all truth
  • and John 14:26 says that the Holy Spirit will "bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14:26)
  • the Spirit has a teaching role in our hearts
  • other passages in Scripture talk about the Spirit interceding for us, sanctifying us by making us more holy
  • the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts
  • Jesus told the disciples to wait, and that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them
  • this is the life that God intends for every Christian

  • in coming weeks, we're going to look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit in some detail, but there's no mistaking our need for this ministry

  • let's go back to the disciples
  • they started out as a bunch of misfits
  • but they ended up "turning the world upside down"
  • when the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in their lives, it turned them from petty, competitive, small-minded men to strong-hearted, incredibly confident and powerful servants of God
  • and it was through the power of the Holy Spirit

  • friends, the Holy Spirit is not an nice addendum to the Christian faith
  • he is at the heart and core of it
  • unless we're plugged into the power of the Holy Spirit, unless we believe in God and have the Holy Spirit take residence in us, we're not plugged in
  • and our milk is going to go sour and our vegetables are going to turn a funny color
  • but if you have trusted Christ as your Savior, Jesus has sent you another helper just as he was to the disciples
  • this Spirit takes permanent residence in your heart, goes with you wherever you are, transforms your life into something wonderful
  • it's an advantage you have over Old Testament Christians
  • in coming weeks we're going to learn more about the Spirit's work in our lives, and how we can experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit
  • but would you bow with me now and give thanks to God for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
  • and if you're not a believer, I'll invite you to become one today that you may receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit

  • [prayer]
  • John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—
  • John 14:17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
  • John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.

Strategy for Ministry

  • Peter Drucker, expert in the science of management, has had a question on his mind since he was 13
  • he had an inspiring teacher, who once went through the class asking everyone, "What do you want to be remembered for?"
  • none of the students could give an answer
  • so the teacher chuckled and said, "I didn't expect you to be able to respond. But if you still can't by the time you're 50, you will have wasted your life"
  • let me ask you that question again
  • what do you want to be remembered for?
  • I don't know what your answer is, but let me tell you what it might involve
  • it might involve leaving something of eternal value
  • it will mean leaving something behind that will outlast your life
  • something that makes a difference in the lives of people
  • I challenge you to ask yourself this question: what do you want to be remembered for?
  • this morning, I want to ask that question in a larger context
  • what does Park Lawn Baptist Church want to be remembered for?
  • what contribution do we want to make?
  • what impact do we want to have?
  • what do we believe God is calling us to?
  • this question is important because I believe that the church is the hope of society
  • as the church goes, society goes
  • some people believe that education is the hope of society, or that business is the hope of society, or that government is the hope of society
  • all these things are important, but they just rearrange stuff on the surface of life
  • they can spend money and have impacts on people and draw attention to a cause
  • but they can't bring fundamental transformation into the life of one individual
  • they can't rewrite the eternal address of a single person
  • they can't order genuine reconciliation between two estranged human beings
  • they can't instill character into anyone
  • they can't turn a selfish heart into a servant heart, or a granite heart into a giving heart
  • only the church has the answer to the greatest problem that mankind faces
  • and that problem is sin
  • but it's important also because of the church's calling
  • in Matthew 16, Jesus said:
  • (Matthew 16:18) And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
  • I always thought that this verse talked about the gates of Hades attacking the church, and the church not being conquered
  • but recently I learned that the picture Jesus paints is of the church attacking the gates of Hell, and Jesus is saying that as the church attacks hell's powers, the church will prevail
  • because the gates of Hades will not overcome the church as the church takes the offensive
  • we have a calling
  • an incredible calling
  • a man had a dream
  • in that dream, the ascended Lord arrived back in heaven
  • and all the angel hosts gathered around to welcome him
  • the Master had come home
  • then he describes one angel who came over to the triumphant Lord and said, "Master, you did such a great work when you were down there on earth
  • "And it climaxed in that awful, mysterious cross which you made redemption and salvation for a ruined race, available to all
  • "Master, that was a tremendous thing
  • "Now, who is going to carry on that work?"
  • and the Lord Jesus replies, "The handful of men that I have left down there"
  • there's a long pause
  • the archangel pressed it: "But supposing they fail? Have you an alternative program?"
  • and our wonderful Lord answered with one word, "No!"
  • no alternative program
  • the implication, of course, of that one word is tremendous
  • God has no other method but us
  • as we look at the cross and gaze upon those wounds, let us engage all our powers in the task he has left us
  • he has no eyes but our eyes to see through, our lips to speak through, our hands to work through, our hearts to love through
  • our personalities to radiate out through
  • he is depending on us
  • and if we fail him, he has no alternative
  • but what our church wants to be remembered for is important for one other reason
  • because I believe that God has a purpose for us at Park Lawn
  • I believe that God has called us here for a reason
  • and I believe that God can do great things in our midst
  • what I want to do this morning is to talk about what God wants our church to be
  • everything I say this morning has a scriptural basis
  • we believe that God has called us here at Park Lawn for a reason, and that reason is to glorify Him
  • and we're going to do this by BONDING together as God's family, GROWING together in obedience to God's commandments in our everyday life, SERVING God using our unique gifts, and WINNING others to Christ
  • now listen: our motivation in doing all this is the glory of God
  • we want God to be glorified in everything we do at this church
  • we also believe that worship and prayer should undergird everything we do
  • we realize that we can make all the plans we want in the world, but they're not going to make a difference without worship and without prayer
  • but we want to do things in an excellent way
  • because doing things with excellence honors an excellent God
  • so this morning I'm going to introduce you to our strategy for ministry
  • how we're going to accomplish the mission God has given us
  • what we want to be remembered for
  • at the end of today, as you leave, you will be given a copy of our strategy
  • we want you to read it, and in the months that lie ahead, we are going to be asking for your prayerful feedback
  • but this morning, I'd like to introduce our strategy by way of a sermon
  • and that's to talk about the goals that God has for us
  • God has four goals for every believer
  • these goals express what God wants each of us to do with our lives while here on earth
  • and by the way, these four goals represent the four teams we want to start in our church
  • four teams whose responsibility it will be to carry out these goals
  • the first goal is this:
  • GOD WANTS ME TO BE A MEMBER OF HIS FAMILY
  • the Bible is clear that following Christ is not just a matter of believing - it also includes belonging
  • the Christian life is not a solo act
  • God has given us the church as a spiritual family for our own benefit
  • this is what we have in mind when we say BOND
  • our mission is to BOND together as God's family
  • the Bible tells us that loving, authentic relationships should permeate every aspect of church life
  • (John 13:35) By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
  • and the Bible also tells us that a spirit of unity is to be jealously guarded in the body of Christ
  • (Ephesians 4:3) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
  • one of the main reasons people attend church is for fellowship
  • studies show that the more friendships one has in a congregation, the less likely he or she is to leave
  • four hundred drop-outs were asked why they left the church
  • 75% said, "I didn't feel anyone cared whether I was there or not"
  • we would like every member of this church involved in one of four teams
  • and one of these teams will be the BONDING or MEMBERSHIP team
  • and their task is to help people to bond in our church
  • to create opportunities for people to get to know each other
  • the membership team will help create new members
  • and they will also make members feel special by creating opportunities for them to build relationships through events, retreats, and small groups
  • they will keep the communication lines open through regular contact with each member and care during periods of crisis< /li>
  • God's first goal is that we should be part of a family
  • and at Park Lawn, the BONDING team will help to make this happen
  • there is a second goal for us as believers
  • GOD WANTS ME TO BE A MODEL OF HIS CHARACTER
  • this is the goal of discipleship
  • our mission is that we GROW together in obedience to Christ's commandments in our everyday life
  • God wants every believer to grow up to become like Christ in character
  • becoming like Christ is the biblical definition of "spiritual maturity"
  • Jesus has established a pattern for us to follow
  • (1 Peter 2:21) To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
  • in 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul gives us several specific areas in which we are to model the character of Christ:
  • (1 Timothy 4:12) Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
  • our speech, our life, our love, our faith, and our purity must all reflect Jesus Christ
  • note that maturity is not measured by one's learning, but by one's lifestyle
  • it is possible to be well versed in the Bible and still be immature
  • God's desire is for every believer to mature spiritually
  • we believe that as one sits under godly preaching and teaching, that their lives can literally be transformed into fully committed believers
  • and so we propose a GROWING or MATURITY TEAM
  • and this team will be responsible to foster spiritual growth among members of the congregation
  • by leading a class on spiritual growth habits
  • and by coordinating the Christian education in this church, which will foster both knowledge and obedience
  • there's another goal that God has for us
  • GOD WANTS ME TO BE A MINISTER OF HIS GRACE
  • a third responsibility of every Christian is the personalized purpose of service or ministry
  • God expects us to use the gifts, talents, and opportunities he gives us to benefit others
  • (1 Peter 4:10) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
  • God intends every believer to have a ministry
  • when you give your life to Christ, you are signing up to minister in his name for the rest of your life
  • it's what God made you for
  • (Ephesians 2:10) For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
  • our mission is that we SERVE God using our unique gifts
  • the church should operate as a unified community of servants stewarding their spiritual gifts
  • and so we want a SERVING or MINISTRY team
  • this team will move members into ministry by helping them discover their spiritual gifts
  • and they will give on-the-job training
  • their goal will be to get every member involved in ministry
  • the fourth goal that God has for us is this:
  • GOD WANTS ME TO BE A MESSENGER OF HIS LOVE
  • part of the job description of every believer and every church is that once we have been born again, we become messengers of the Good News to others
  • Paul says:
  • (Acts 20:24 NCV) I don't care about my own life. The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me--to tell people the Good News about God's grace.
  • our mission is to WIN others for Christ
  • Paul even says that we are Christ's ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)
  • we are to plead with unbelievers to receive the love he offers - to be reconciled to God
  • have you ever wondered why God leaves us here on earth, with all its pain, sorrow, and sin, after we accept Christ?
  • why doesn't he just zap us immediately to heaven and spare us all this?
  • after all, we can worship, fellowship, pray, sing, hear God's Word, and even have fun in heaven
  • in fact, there are only two things you can't do in heaven that you can do on earth: sin, and witness to unbelievers
  • now which of these two do you think Christ has left us here to do?
  • we each have a mission on earth, and part of it includes telling others about Christ
  • lost people matter to God, and therefore they ought to matter to the church
  • so we propose a MISSIONS or WINNING team
  • a team that will be responsible to promote evangelism as a lifestyle and a focus of the church
  • they will train us in evangelism, they will help coordinate events for us to bring our friends, and they will coordinate the church's outreach and advertising
  • [CONCLUSION]
  • let me try to summarize
  • God has given us an important mission
  • we are confident that with his power, we can carry this mission out
  • we believe that our mission can be summarized in four words, or four goals: BOND, GROW, SERVE, and WIN
  • in order to carry these four goals out, we need the every person to sign up under one of these four areas
  • so we'll have the entire church in four teams:
  • a BONDING team, a GROWING team, a SERVING team, and a WINNING team
  • and each team will be asking, what can we do at this time to have the greatest impact to accomplish our goal?
  • there's a paper for you as you leave
  • at the annual meeting on February 2nd, we'll discuss the first three pages
  • and in the months ahead, we'll solicit your input on the rest
  • could you stand with me and pray?

Measuring Your Heart

  • if you've ever flown into New York city, you might have looked out the window and seen the great lady of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty
  • but occasionally this statue needs maintenance
  • on these occasions, you might instead see the lady shrouded with scaffolding
  • on this scaffolding you will see people scurrying about, welding and polishing and repairing and maintaining her
  • and you will then realize that this grand old lady in the harbor has no capacity to care for herself
  • she has to live by the scaffolding
  • she is not an organism
  • she is a monument, nothing more than a symbol
  • there are a lot of Christians just like that lady in the harbor
  • they've become accustomed to living by the scaffolding
  • perhaps they're hollow on the inside, who at the heart have had something happen
  • I've found in my own life, it my walk with God is not carefully maintained, there is that subtle drift to hollowness
  • and it doesn't take very long
  • my Christianity becomes something of a heartless habit, often moving into some forms of hypocrisy
  • our walk with God is, above and beyond everything else, an inside-out reality
  • God begins to work in our lives at the level of our hearts
  • because God is not impressed with externals
  • when we permit ourselves to drift into hollowness, we are forced to live by the scaffolding
  • test this in your own life when you are propped up and maintained and polished by a book or a tape or a pastor or a professor or a message, and when you begin leaning on these externals for the vibrancy of your Christianity
  • it doesn't work!
  • in the Old Testament, God often spoke to Israel about the coldness of their hearts
  • they kept the law, but God still said to them, "You are uncircumcised of heart"
  • In Joel 2:13, he says that when you repent,
  • (Joel 2:13) Rend your heart and not your garments.
  • (Hosea 6:6) For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
  • when Jesus looked at the Pharisees, the religious establishment of the day, he said:
  • (Matthew 23:27) "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.
  • (Matthew 23:28) In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
  • it's possible to be religious and devout on the inside, and to be hollow and empty spiritually inside
  • but I'm also struck by the promises given to us as New Testament believers
  • if you understand the new covenant predicted in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, you understand this
  • they prophesied the day when a new covenant would be instituted
  • God would dwell within them and write his laws on our hearts
  • we would interact with him from the inside out
  • (Ezekiel 36:26) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
  • (Ezekiel 36:27) And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
  • then when Jesus met with his disciples in the Upper Room, he lifted the cup and said these significant words: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you"
  • you and I have been grafted into that new covenant promise of God so that you and I have an edge over Old Testament believers on a heart relationship with God
  • throughout all of Scripture, God speaks so much about our hearts and our heart's condition
  • but I'm intrigued by one passage in the Old Testament, which drives the spear of its meaning deep into our own flesh
  • in this passage we glimpse how God works in the hearts of men and women
  • it's found in 2 Chronicles 16:9
  • (2 Chronicles 16:9) For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
  • in this passage, Ling Asa hired foreign troops instead of trusting God to protect him
  • and God uses a metaphor, saying that God's perceptive ability moves throughout the earth looking for something specific: people he can strengthen
  • personally, I long for the strengthening work of God in my heart
  • God knows my frame is dust
  • I need him
  • the text says that God is looking for people he can strengthen, but there's a qualifier
  • what kind of people is God looking to strengthen?
  • people with particular kinds of hearts
  • God is searching this earth for hearts that are fully committed to him
  • it's critical that we understand what the heart is according to Scripture
  • the heart is the place of conscious decision making, the place of spiritual activity
  • our hearts are the comprehensive term for our personality as a whole
  • it's where we desire
  • it's our passions
  • it's our thoughts, our understanding, our will
  • it is where God meets us what is the heart? It's really what you are
  • and God is searching the condition of our hearts
  • I notice that it's an insightful search
  • we live in a world that's bent on credentials
  • everyone is interested in who you are and what you are like: business cards, acclaim, honors we've received
  • I'd like to think that when God begins to probe my life that I can stop him on the outside and talk about my credentials
  • that would be much more comfortable
  • I'd like to say, "Lord, wait a minute. I graduated from seminary. I'm a pastor."
  • but you know what God says?
  • God pushes that all aside and says, "I'm not impressed. I want to see your heart"
  • successful businesspeople, presidents of companies, come to God and say:
  • "Wait a minute, Lord. Here's my business card. What do you think? Look at the tag on my corporate door"
  • and God says, "I'm not impressed"
  • God is on an insightful search for a few good hearts
  • I want to be like David, who could be so transparent that he could put aside all his credentials and say:
  • (Psalms 139:23) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
  • (Psalms 139:24) See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
  • this morning I'd like to do a spiritual EKG on all of us
  • I'm asking, what does God look for when he gets past all the external things?
  • let's see what the text has to say
  • (2 Chronicles 16:9) For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
  • that's the measurement of our heart: how committed we are to him
  • God is looking for a heart of full commitment
  • if you read 2 Chronicles, you know that King Asa of Judah had a heart fully committed to God all of his life
  • but now the king of Israel has gone and placed his legions around Judah so that no one could go in our come out
  • Asa is in a tight spot
  • what will he do?
  • he has two options
  • one: he can lift his eyes to the Almighty God of Israel, who has rescued his people time and time again in their history, and say, "God, we of Judah beg you to deliver us from this invasion"
  • two: Asa had the option of striking an alliance with a pagan king, Ben-Hadad of Aram
  • the text tells us that Asa went to the treasury of God and took silver to strike a deal with Ben-Hadad
  • God said to Asa, "Your heart is not fully committed to me, because when you get in a tight spot, you strike an allegiance with a foreign, pagan system and you don't trust in me"
  • a young businessman was climbing the corporate ladder
  • he lived in a beautiful home
  • and he was the head of a cable company
  • after about eighteen months in the assignment, as he wa s growing with the Lord, he began to struggle
  • he said, "I don't know how I can continue to grow and be God's kind of man - and market this unrighteousness in my community"
  • some of you may understand what it means to step off the corporate ladder when your upward momentum is so strong
  • one day he came to church and said, "I resigned my position this week because I came to realize that if I am going to be a man after God's own heart, if I am going to be a man committed to righteousness, I can no longer market unrighteousness in this community"
  • they asked him about his new job
  • and he replied, "I don't have one. In fact, we're packing up and moving back to where our parents live"
  • that guy left the community with his heart showing
  • there was a man who would not strike an allegiance with a pagan world system, but would trust in his God when he was in a tight spot and be unflinchingly loyal to him
  • when God was looking for a heart in the Old Testament, that was the kind of heart he was looking for
  • at the beginning of this new year, let me give you five tests this morning of how loyal your heart is to God
  • test number one is the treasure test
  • (Matthew 6:19) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
  • the context is earthly values versus heavenly values
  • but verse 21 says
  • (Matthew 6:21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • did you ever wonder where your heart is?
  • try looking at where you put your treasures
  • try looking at the treasure of time, the treasure of your money, the treasure of your relationships
  • what about the treasure of your spiritual gifts, the equipment that God has given you?
  • Christ says where you put your treasure tells me where your heart is
  • he looks at our treasure chests
  • they might be full of self-fulfillment, self-satisfaction, self-serving things
  • or they could be full of things that please him
  • but that's test number one, the test of what you treasure
  • test number two is your thought life
  • (Matthew 9:4) Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?
  • as the Lord penetrates my life, he says, "I see your thoughts, and they are a reflection of your heart"
  • this is convicting to me, because I have a darkened closet in my brain, that place no one can invade and I think no one will ever know
  • I've deceived myself
  • what goes on in your thought life?
  • is it a place where fantasies move, sexual fantasies fanned by a sensual world?
  • is it a dark closet full of thoughts and fantasies of taking revenge?
  • what do you think about? What do you dream about?
  • test number three is your words
  • (Matthew 12:34) You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
  • you see, our words are tattletales on our hearts
  • they reveal what is inside of our heart
  • I've occasionally been with people, and I've wanted to say, "Stop! Your heart is showing"
  • and there have been times when I've said words, and I'd like to grab them and jam them back in, because my heart is showing
  • God intended our tongues to be controlled by the Spirit, by having a heart for God that might heal and encourage instead of being destructive in the body of believers
  • having a heart that is not a heart for God will always show in our words
  • it's like getting all dressed up and going to a big party, but your slip is showing
  • it wrecks the whole thing
  • so Christ says, "When I search your heart, I measure your words"
  • in Luke 8:15 we have the fourth test of our hearts
  • (Luke 8:15) But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
  • it's the parable of the seed and the sower
  • Christ is talking about the good soil, and his point is this:
  • our response to the Word of God is a measurement of our hearts
  • he said that people who have a good and noble heart do three things with the Word of God: they hear it, then they retain it, and then they produce through it
  • hearing the Word of God is not an easy task
  • I'm much like you when I get under the instruction of the Word
  • I listen for the first three minutes, and then my mind is off to my own little world
  • or perhaps you have a big reflector on your head as you hear God's Word
  • "Boy, I hope Bob's listening to that"
  • we've forgotten that God intends us to listen to his Word and hear it as though we had funnels over our heads with broad mouths to drink in everything and internalize it for ourselves
  • Jesus said that a good heart hears the Word of God and retains it
  • that's a tough test too
  • I can easily spin off naughty little rhymes I learned in elementary school
  • I've also memorized hundreds of Bible verses, but come to me a couple of months later and I struggle to get them out
  • it takes work to retain the Word of God
  • note that a good heart produces
  • we have to get rid of the notion that God gave us his Word to make us theologically astute
  • God gave us his Word to measure us and grow us into the likeness of Christ
  • anything other than a changed life as a result of hearing and retaining the Word of God aborts the process
  • God says a good heart hears, retains, and produces the good crop because it has listened to the Word of God
  • let me close with the fifth test, found in Matthew 15:8
  • it is the test of worship
  • Christ walked into a religious system that was full of traditions
  • people worshiped their traditions, and gave only lip service to God
  • scoring them about a religion that had gone shamefully sour in its traditions, Jesus quotes Isaiah:
  • (Matthew 15:8) "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
  • do we worship our traditions and our expectations and all the false things we've built around our system of Christianity, and simply give lip service to God?
  • or do we have hearts that genuinely glorify God in worship?
  • obviously, worship is everyday experience
  • Romans 12:1 makes that very clear
  • Paul says, "Do you want Old Testament sacrifices? Then climb on the altar and give your body as a living sacrifice to God"
  • that's the worship God is looking for
  • every once in a while I wonder if God would say to any of us, "You honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me"
  • there was a pastor who had a successful ministry
  • people loved to hear him preach
  • he could communicate the Word of God would solid exegesis and profound application
  • he ministered to a large church
  • but one day he left a note on his desk saying good-by to the church, and he left for Texas with a woman he'd been counseling
  • but the greatest shock was when people found out he'd been carrying on an affair with her for four years
  • he was nothing more than a high-tech spiritual robot
  • we hear a lot about lifestyle
  • the Pharisees had a lot of lifestyle
  • we've forgotten the God who is concerned with heartstyle
  • lifestyle without heartstyle before God is no style at all
  • we were saved and redeemed not to be monuments in the harbor of Christianity, but to be an organism, a movement, a power from the inside out
  • Bob was a deacon in a church
  • three minutes before the Sunday evening service, an usher rushed into church and said, "Pastor, Bob just fell to the sidewalk"
  • everyone ran out to where he had fallen
  • they could tell it was serious
  • just then the ambulance pulled up, and th ree men ran out, took one look at Bob, and said:
  • "His tie is crooked and he scuffed his shoes. Look at his hair! Go in and get the brush and the hair spray, and we'll shine his shoes. We gotta get this guy lying right on the sidewalk!"
  • not on your life
  • cosmetics were of no concern
  • they went right for the heart
  • that was the core of the issue
  • we need to remember that beyond everything else, God goes right for the heart
  • it is my prayer that we learn what it means to be like David of old, that it may be said of us: "They were people after God's own heart"
adapted from a message by Joseph M. Stowell