08 May 2008

"Blessed Be"--He who believes without seeing

Last week we looked at the Holy Spirit in relation to the Father and Son. Today we’re going to look at how the Holy Spirit operates in the church. From the first stage of creation until the end of the age, the Holy Spirit has one function—to testify to an individual about the truth of God. It does so by many different ways, but there is always one—and only one—overall goal of the Holy Spirit, and that is to convince a man that God is God. Because when we are born we are born with a spirit. But this spirit does not confess that God is God and Jesus is Lord. The spirit we are born with says “I am god,” and “My flesh is lord.” But the Holy Spirit testifies of the greatness of God. To every single one who will believe, and even to some who will not believe. To those who will believe, the Holy Spirit will convict us of our sins, bring those sins to the light that we may be ashamed of them, repent of them and call on the name of Jesus. But even to some who will not believe, He will manifest Himself in a way that will show that God is God—but they still will not believe. The Pharisees were standing right there when Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb. Did they glorify God? No. They said, “We gotta get rid of this guy!”

I took the title for today’s lesson from John 20:27-29Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And how do we believe without seeing? That is the work of the Holy Spirit. One of the verses we looked at last week, 1st Corinthians 2:14But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. This book I hold in my hands has been read by more people through the history of mankind than any other book. It is the highest-selling book in the world. It has been translated into more languages than any other book—ever. Yet there are many people who will read it and not believe it. They will read the words and feel nothing. Or they will feel anger. And some who read the words of this book will be cut to their heart, they will see the depths of their sin and their shame and they will be saved. How can this be? How can one person pick up this book and say, “This is a bunch of stories” while another can pick it up and have their lives transformed forever? The Holy Spirit. This word of God was given to us by the Holy Spirit. It was breathed out by God, and received and passed to us by men of God. (2nd Peter 1:20-21 and 2nd Timothy 3:16). And because this was spoke by the Spirit of God, it can only change a person’s life and bring them to saving faith by that same Spirit.

Now there will be people who will say, “But, I believe the Bible is true. I believe every word of it.” Yet their lives don’t match up with their words. They're living a life of sin. They're living a life of rebellion towards God. Here’s the thing: You can read the Bible from front to back. You can believe everything that is written in it. You can believe all the promises, all the judgments. And yet you can still be lost as a duck in a dog show. Why? Because while the Holy Spirit may have opened your eyes to the truth of Scripture, you have not been born again. How can I say that? Guess who else believes the Bible is true, and believes all the things written in it are true? Satan believes in God. Satan believes Jesus died on the cross and rose again. He saw the whole thing! A person’s spirit must renewed—the KJV says “quickened”—and brought to life by God’s Holy Spirit.

So, what does the Holy Spirit give to every believer? Well, what are the 2 great commandments? Love the LORD your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love. Galatians 5:22The fruit of the Spirit is love 1st Corinthians 13:13these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. Pursue love. There are two Greek words in the New Testament that translate into “love.” Much like poquito and pequeño in Spanish both mean “small.” First, there is the word πηιλεο (phileo). Philadelphia—the city of brotherly love. Yeah, right. “Phila” comes from πηιλεο. It means “affection.” And it is good to have πηιλεο among us. But even the world has πηιλεο for each other. That’s where the other word comes in.

The other word is αγαπε (agape). This is the love that Jesus was telling us we are to have for God and for our neighbor. This is more than just affection. This is unconditional LOVE. One dictionary defines it this way: “the love of Christians toward one another; the [kindness] which God has exhibited by sending His Son [for our salvation]; the love which led Christ, in securing human salvation, to undergo sufferings and death; the love with which God regards Christ; when used of love to a master, God or Christ, the word involves the idea of affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, grateful recognition of benefits received.” It’s a little bit more than “affection.” It is the fruit of the Spirit. It is what we are commanded to do as followers of Christ.
John 13:35“By this all men shall know that you are My disciples: if you love one another.”
John 15:9“As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; continue in My love.”
John 15:12“This is My commandment, that you love one another, AS I have loved you.”
John 15:17“These things I command you that you love one another.”

1st John 3:14-1514 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. There are people sit in church pews all across this country with a smile on their face and a song in their heart, and they’ll walk out the door and talk to their neighbor using words they got no business using. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus says, “Whoever says to his brother ‘Raca!’, or empty-headed shall be in danger of judgment.” Now, we don’t call people “Raca” these days. But there are plenty of other hate-filled words people use. One I think many of us are familiar with starts with the letter “N.” There are folks who think it’s OK to shout the N-word at people and think they're still saved. But I’ve said this before and I'll say it again, I'll say it to anybody’s face. Anybody who uses the N-word against their neighbor is PROBABLY not saved. I would say they're not saved, but i dont think i want to step over that line. Don’t take my word for it. I got the word of God as my Witness. There’s only one reason people would have for using that word. There’s only one purpose that word serves. Hate. Do they really think the same Holy Spirit that led John to write these words is living inside of them? No, He’s not. Because if they hate, they are a murderer, and if they are a murderer they do not have eternal life, and if they do not have eternal life they do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.

We cannot love God, we cannot love our neighbor without having the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. It’s impossible. We love ourselves too much. And if we do not love our neighbor we do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. Because the fruit—the proof-positive evidence of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us—is love. And if we hate even one person—we’re probably lost. When we can look at our neighbor, no matter what they may have done to us, and say, “I love them and I’m gonna pray for them.” That is love. That is αγαπε. We are not born with αγαπε. That’s not the kind of love that can be learned from watching Oprah and Dr. Phil. That is the love that can only come from the Holy Spirit. Aγαπε is the kind of love that shows the world that we belong to Christ—when we have a love toward people who do us wrong, we don’t pray for God to wipe that person out. We forgive that person before they ask for it—and whether they ask for it or not. That one line in the Lord’s Prayer does not say, “Forgive us our trespasses and we'll think about forgiving those who trespass against us.” And when we pray for God to forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us—we better be careful. Because if we won’t forgive someone—God will not forgive our trespasses in the same way we have not forgiven those who trespass against us. So the first way the Holy Spirit works in the church is to give us love for one another.

And with this love comes humility. Have you ever heard that Bible verse that says, “God helps those who help themselves?” Don’t bother looking for it, it ain't in there. So many people think it is. “God helps those who help themselves.” No He doesn’t! Matthew 5:3“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” God helps those who fall on their face before Him and confess that nothing good dwells in their flesh. God helps those who understand they are dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking sinners who need His grace in order to be saved.

I mentioned earlier that the Holy Spirit sometimes manifests Himself in the presence of even those who don’t believe—the Holy Spirit will testify to them. Well, what about people like that? Hebrews 6:4-6—one of the most hotly-debated passages in all of Scripture—4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. Let me just say this: It does not say a “saved” person can “lose their salvation.” What it is saying is this: that if a person can witness the work of the Holy Spirit, and still not be convinced of their need to repent of and turn away from their sins. If a person can so harden their heart to that voice telling them that God is God and they are not. If they can see that Almighty YHVH is sovereign over creation and that Jesus Christ is Lord, and still not bow their knee to Him--then there is no hope that that person will ever be saved. There will come a point where all the evidence in the world will not convince them. For example, in Acts 26, the apostle Paul is standing before King Agrippa, and is witnessing to the king about the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul showed him, gave him an almost perfect picture of Christ from the Scriptures, poured out the gospel from the depths of his heart to him. There was no way Agrippa could deny the truth. Yet in Acts 26:28, he looks at Paul and says, “You ALMOST persuade me to become a Christian.” He still had that heart of stone.

On the other hand, when someone claims to be saved, but there is no change in their life—if they are still diving head-first into sin—then the chances are that person was never born again. Because when the Holy Spirit grants a person repentance unto salvation that person—while they may cave into their flesh on occasion—it is not the pattern of their life. Psalm 37:23The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. In other words, if we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it’s not as though we are never going to mess up ever again. There are people who teach that if you stumble even once, you’ve done lost your salvation. No, no, no, no, no. Romans 8 tells us that our flesh is always going to war with the Spirit. But if we walk in the Spirit—if we turn our back on what our flesh wants, and listen to the guiding of the Holy Spirit—we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

The Holy Spirit grants us love. He makes us humble. And He gives us discernment. And boy, you talk about something the church needs desperately today. You can turn on your TV and find all kinds of kooks and oddballs teaching all kinds of nonsense. You got Benny Hinn smacking people with his white jacket. You got Jesse Duplantis blaspheming the LORD with a smile on his face and a funny story on his lips. You got Creflo Dollar teaching that if you follow Christ He will pour all kinds of money into your bank account, that you'll never be broke and you'll never be sick. And you got Fred Price saying that if you ain't rich, you ain't saved! I ain't afraid to name names when it comes to false teachers. I can't be. As a teacher of the Word of God, and as your brother in Christ I am commanded to. Romans 16:17-1817 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

And it’s not just the prosperity preachers. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Catholics. They all look religious. And if a person is not discerning, they can be fooled and drawn into these false religions and cults. 2nd Timothy 4:1-21 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. Discernment is one thing that is lacking in the church today. Many people are not seeking the Holy Spirit to show them what is correct and what they should avoid.

You remember last week we talked a little bit about the Beatles. Do you know there are churches having sermon series like “The Gospel according to the Beatles.” The Beatles! A group that was made up of atheists and Hare Krishnas. And yet there are preachers who think that there is some kind of gospel message in their music! I won’t even go into Cedar Springs anymore. Not when they're pushing stuff from people that do not teach the truth of Christ, but they teach a different gospel. Now, I was fooled like that for the first year or so in my walk. I would see these people on TV, and think, “They’ve got a big audience, they must be good.” Then the Holy Spirit started to show me that the reason these people had such big crowds was because they weren’t teaching the truth, they were just saying what the people wanted to hear.

Finally, let’s look at what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit. In John 14, 15, 16 Jesus tells us why He was going to send the Holy Spirit. John 16:7-11“7 It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you see me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Let’s take a quick look at what He’s saying.

7 It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. We saw last week that if Jesus had stayed and not returned to the Father, He would have been bound by the flesh He was in. He could have only been in one place at one time. He would still be all-knowing, He would still have been able to do the things He did. But He would only be able to speak to a limited number of people at one time. But now, the Holy Spirit can change the hearts of people here, and in Memphis, and in China and in Africa—at the same time.

8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me… Before the Holy Spirit gets hold of us, we don’t believe the gospel. We don’t want to hear the gospel. We’re too happy doing our own thing. We are much like the world is today—we don’t like to call sin what it is—sin. Because we are dead in our sins and we would be acknowledging that we are dead, and powerless (Ephesians 2:1-5). So the Holy Spirit has to do the work of renewing—quickening, bringing to life—to see sin as sin and turn away from it and walk toward Christ.

10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; Because Jesus did not stay, because He ascended to the Father, we can not see Him, physically, here on earth. Like I said last week, we can find the tomb where they think His body was. But it ain't there anymore! He’s at the right hand of the Father. What an awesome picture! By His resurrection He is the Firstfruits—the guarantee—of our own resurrection! The world does not believe because they cannot see Him. Since He is not here to tell them to repent, that is the job of the Holy Spirit. He comes to let us know that we need to repent from our sins and follow Christ.

11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. Satan is still walking around today. He hasn’t gone away. He’s not in Hell. We’ll see in a few weeks that he’s not in charge of Hell. But he has already been judged, he already knows what his fate will be. And we know that whoever is not “born again” will be judged along with Satan. Jesus is saying that just as Christ is the guarantee of our resurrection to life, the fact that Satan has been judged and condemned is the guarantee that all those who are not in Christ will also be judged and condemned and resurrected to death.

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