Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 | Author:

[note: This is a message I shared with my church on April 13th.]

My first scripture this morning is from 1st Peter, chapter 4, verses 12-19:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

This morning I want to share with you some of the comments I’ve heard around here over the past few months, that came from several different people:
· God is doing something
· we are at a crossroads
· well, something’s going on
· change is in the air
· things are happening
· Before she left, even Stacey sounded off, with a bit of annoyance, I might add, saying, “God is getting ready to do something here, and I have to leave!”
· Then on Friday, Tim sent this to me, as part of an email: “I think that lately, more and more people have gotten deeper into the spiritual aspects of our ministry and that there is a real desire for God’s truth and for finding answers about what it is that God wants us to do. I also don’t believe that it is an accident or just happenstance.”

Are you starting to see a trend here? Keep listening.
· Before the Maundy Thursday service started, I was chatting with Jayme and she said, “It’s like God is waking us all up.”
· Then this past week I was re-reading a book called, “Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel.” Published in 2002, the introduction, in part, says this: “Over the last twenty-five years, while traditional Christian believers were sleeping, a vastly underrated adversary has made significant gains in the spiritual marketplace … ‘his new gospel’ is now accepted by millions of well-intentioned people around the world.”[1] It’s a good book about religious deception, if you want to read it, but what jumped out at me was the reference to sleeping Christians.
· I have a dear elderly friend in Amsterdam whom I’ve prayed with for many years. Since Tom and I came back here last year, she has added this church to her prayer list. About a month ago, she had a dream which she shared with me. She saw a giant, curled up and sleeping, covering the whole town of Glen. As she watched, that giant stretched out, and came to its feet. She believes that giant is the church in Glen.

As I was searching out scriptures about flesh encountering the Holy Spirit, which I will share in a minute, this one jumped out at me. Ezekiel was by the river and says that, “the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.[2]” He goes on to describe what he saw, and then says this, starting in Chapter 1, verse 28:

As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking. Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!” And as He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me.[3]

Individually, you might not notice these comments or give much heed to the book or the dream or even the scripture, but if you put them all together, it sure sounds like God is trying to tell us something. Those who can hear have, like little puppies, perked up their ears and cocked their heads. Their hearts are saying, like Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”[4] They are eager to see God’s plan for Glen unfold, to find their place, to walk in the good works that He has prepared for them.[5]

While this is all very exciting, and I believe God is getting ready to do some powerful things, it does involve change – and our flesh is never fond of the change that the Holy Spirit brings. Paul gave the Romans a warning about this flesh vs. spirit battle in Chapter 8.

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.[6]

So while our spirit will embrace the changes God wants to bring in our lives, our flesh will oppose them — and our flesh is very creative. It has a multitude of reasons why this can’t change or that can’t change. But you know what? Our God is creative, too, — and He’s a lot smarter than we are. He knows how our flesh will rise up, kicking and screaming, so He provided a solution for every excuse we can come up with — the Bible.

So I went hunting to see what God had to say about all this. Hopefully, it will give your Spirit some ammunition to use against your flesh.First, I looked at the excuse-makers, like Moses when God first appointed him as a prophet.

Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”[7]

If you put a little whine in his voice, that could be one of my kids speaking — or even me. I remember when a friend was trying to convince me to take a part in our church play. I said, “I can’t. I get tongue-tied and shaky when I have to speak in front of people, and I’ll never be able to memorize lines.” Well, she convinced me to do it, and not only was my voice steady, I delivered a full-page soliloquy without missing a beat.

So whether it’s Moses or me or you — if God wants you to do it, He’ll make sure you can. We just have to say, “Yes, Lord.” In the book of Luke, Jesus tells us about some other excuse-makers in a parable, but the outcome for them was not so good.

But He said to him, “A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ “And another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ “And another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ “And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ “And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. ‘For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’”[8]

I wouldn’t advise saying no to The Master. But Isaiah gives us an example we can all follow, and I think it’s my favorite. Chapter 6:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”[9]

When God shows up, I don’t think you could go far wrong by falling on your face and saying, “I’m a goner! I’m a sinner and so is everybody else!”

I don’t know what God has planned for us — but I know it will be good. I don’t know that we’ll have dramatic encounters like Moses or Isaiah — but then again, He’s God, and I wouldn’t bet against it. What I do know is that in this battle of flesh vs. Spirit, I’m praying for the Spirit, and I will keep praying for the Spirit until God has accomplished His purposes. And my desire, like God’s, is that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.[10]

I have a few more scriptures to share, without comment, and then Jayme is going to help me with a song.

Psalms 51 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me.[11]

Ephesians 4 … just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.[12]

Hebrews 3 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; while it is said, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”[13]

1 John 2 And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.[14]

Hebrews 12 For you have not come to a mountain that may be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “IF EVEN A BEAST TOUCHES THE MOUNTAIN, IT WILL BE STONED.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I AM FULL OF FEAR AND TREMBLING.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.” And this expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.[15]

Benediction: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.[16]

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible,©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”
[1] Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel, Warren Smith, ©2002, intro p. 7
[2] Ezekiel 1:1
[3] Ezekiel 1:28-2:2
[4] 1 Samuel 3:9
[5] Ephesians 2:10
[6] Romans 8:6-10
[7] Exodus 4:10
[8] Luke 14:16-24
[9] Isaiah 6:1-5
[10] 1 Timothy 2:4
[11] Psalms 51:10-11
[12] Ephesians 4:21-24
[13] Hebrews 3:12-15
[14] 1 John 2:28
[15] Hebrews 12:18-29
[16] 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Category: Christianity, sermon
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