Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 25, 2015
Today marks our last Sunday focusing on the Third Person of the Trinity. To be honest, I am a little sad, for there is still so much that could be said. In fact, because the Spirit is God, there is an infinite amount that could be said, for God is unsearchable.
For those who have found this sermon series on the Holy Spirit interesting and you want to go deeper, I encourage you to read “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan. You can find a link to it on our website. Also, for those who are reading through Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, there are good sections on the Holy Spirit.. Lastly, I have been reading through the Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson, and I have found it extremely helpful. It is a little heavy, but not to bad.
Before we get into today’s sermon, let us briefly review what we have learned up to this point. First we learned that God is One, in three persons. We call this mystery the Trinity. One of those persons of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is fully God, yet separate in personhood. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, but instead is a personal God. Each person of God has a specific role. The general role of the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of all that God is, or to say it another way He is the proceeding power of the attributes of God. He proceeds originally from the Father, but also equally from the Son. Last week we examined this proceeding power in the lives of God’s elect at the time of regeneration. The power of God that blows into the life of God’s chosen, birthing them into spiritual life and giving them eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Without the Spirit of God regenerating us, we would never have the capacity to trust in Jesus as our Lord and as our Savior.
Today we are going to take the next step and examine the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. We will begin where we left off last week. Turn in your Bibles to Ezekiel 36:22
As I said, last week we saw that this outpouring of the Spirit described in Ezekiel is what we call regeneration. It is what Jesus was unpacking for Nicodemus in John 3. The description that Jesus used was being born again. As Jesus said, without this new spiritual birth you cannot see the Kingdom. Spiritual birth is a prerequisite to loving Jesus. This spiritual birth is caused by the Holy Spirit.
Put My Spirit within You
But, now let us ask, what happens next? Does the Holy Spirit blow out of our lives just as quickly as He blew into it? Is the new birth, the end of the story. This answer is an emphatic no. Babies are meant to grow into maturity. Look at verse 27, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” In this verse there are two components, God putting his Spirit within you and causing us to walk. First, let us look at the first part, “I will put my Spirit within you.”
As we begin, let’s take a moment and dwell upon the immensity of this statement. “I will put my Spirit within you.” This statement is mind-blowing and is unfathomable. The Holy Spirit is fully God; meaning he lacks nothing of who God is. He is all powerful, all knowing, and all present. We on the other hand are merely created dust. We are clay in the hands of a omnipotent Potter. The distance between the glory of God and the humility of us is infinite, literally infinite. Not to mention that not only are we dust in God’s hands, but we are sinners. We have rejected God’s authority in our life and we deserve Hell, not the gift of the Holy Spirit. But yet, there it is, written in God’s unchanging Word, “I will put my Spirit within you.”
This is not the only place we see God reminding Christians that he has put his Spirit in us. It is a frequent reminder throughout the New Testament.
The reality of the Christian life is that the Third Person of the Trinity takes up residence in your heart. This is what distinguishes Christians from non-Christians. Unbelievers are void of the Spirit of God. According to Ephesians 2:2, instead of the Spirit of God they have a spirit of disobedience.
For some of you with a Catholic background, this idea of the Spirit of God coming into your heart and giving you new life is foreign to you. The religion of Catholicism does not teach Biblical regeneration by the Spirit of God. Instead it teaches regeneration by the works of man, whether it is Baptism, Communion, Confession, or praying to dead people (otherwise known as necromancy). Catholicism wrongly teaches that these religious hoops are what keep you right with God, and therefore are necessary to obtain salvation. In this type of false religion, the Holy Spirit has no role, for it is not up to the Spirit of God, it is up to the individual. I cannot think of a more scary doctrine than my salvation depending upon me. That is a recipe for slavery to the law, slavery to guilt, and slavery to failure. The truth, as proclaimed by the Bible is that the Holy Spirit is the distinguishing factor between the spiritually dead and the spiritually alive.
If the Spirit of God has not taken up residence in your heart, then you are not a Christian. It is as simple as that. It does not matter if you attend Church, or mass, every week. It does not matter if you say you believe in Jesus, for even the demons believe in God. It does not matter if you are a Pastor of Cornerstone or the Pope. The only thing that matters is if you have the Holy Spirit.
So why does God put his Spirit in us? Why not just forgive us in Christ and move on?
God, by his Grace wants to give us assurance. He wants us to know that we are saved. How does he do this? By the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God taking up residence in our heart is a seal. He is a guarantee. What is the purpose of a seal? It is to prove authorship. When a King would write a letter, he put hot wax on the latter and take his ring and press it into the wax. This would cause a royal seal. Anyone who received this letter would know it is from the King. This is one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit? God has pressed his sign upon our hearts by the power of his Spirit. The Spirit within us acts as a sign to us and to the world that we are God's and He is ours.
The second part is that the Holy Spirit, is not only a seal upon our hearts, but he is a guarantee of our future glorification with the Lord. He is a down-payment of a promise to be later paid in full. There may be decades between our new birth in Christ and our full reunion with God in Heaven. Those decades will consist of mountains and valleys; brokenness, confusion, uncertainty, and failure. There will be times that you will wonder if God is truly your Father. You will doubt his love for you, but your faith will never fail. Why? Because of the Holy Spirit. He is God's pledge to you that God will never leave you, nor forsake you. God reminds us of this wonderful reality in the book of Ephesians.
Once the Holy Spirit comes into your heart, there is no getting him out. He is there to stay. Therefore, this is another reason why at Cornerstone we believe what is called eternal security, or perseverance of the saints. This is the understanding that once you are saved through Christ, you cannot lose your salvation. You cannot be born again, and then unborn. You cannot be adopted into God's family and then kicked out. You cannot be found then lost again. Why do we say this, for many Biblical reasons, but one of them is the guarantee of the Holy Spirit. Logically, if you could evict the Holy Spirit, he wouldn't be much of a guarantee would he?
Cause You to Obey
At this point, there may be some of you in this room who then say, “If you can't lose your salvation, does that mean you can sin all you want and still go to heaven?” The answer to that question is no, but for another reason.
The second part of Ezekiel 36:27 was that God would, “cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” This is another role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He not only seals us and guarantees our future glorification with the Lord in Heaven, but he changes our behavior.
When we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are given eyes to see. What we see is our wretched ways, our sin, and our need for forgiveness in Jesus Christ. This understanding causes us to repent, or turn, from our life of following the ways of the sinful world, and instead follow Jesus. This is an act of the supernatural. You go from caring less about Jesus, to being consumed by Him. If someone was to ask you, “What happened to you?” You would say, “I love Jesus.” They might respond, “How did that happen?” And you would answer, “I don't know. I can't explain it. Something inside of me just changed.” This change is the Holy Spirit being put in your heart.
And this love for Jesus causes you to, not only proclaim your love for Christ, but to live out your love for Christ. The fruit of the Spirit produces in you a love for the Lord that causes you to walk in God's statutes and obey all that he commands. Jesus says this same thing to the disciples in the upper room prior to his death.
Who will obey Christ? Those whom love Christ. Why does someone love Christ? The Holy Spirit. This is why you cannot have Jesus as your Savior, but not your Lord. You can't have one without the other, they are a package deal. If the Spirit has been put inside of you, that means that you are born again, sealed, guaranteed, and will obey Christ.
To be a Christian does mean that you say some magic prayer, it means that you recognize the Jesus is the Lord of your life. He is in charge of what you do, how you spend your money, what words you say, what movies you watch, what goals and dreams you have. And this Lordship of Christ over your life is not a burden, but a joy. For you love Jesus. You want to do all that he asks, for he is your greatest treasure and you delight to serve Him.
This is something that the world does not get, especially our youth. They believe that you can claim to be a Christian, and then live any way you want. You can say what you want, watch want you want, buy what you want, live with who you want, have sex with who you want, marry who you want, live life the way you want. A life that is lived that is out of sync with God's unchanging Word, is proof that the Spirit of God does not live in a persons heart. I don't care if that person goes to their grave saying they are a Christian, if they make a practice of living independent of God's will, then they are walking proof of their damnation. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 7:21
Why were these people sent away on judgment day? They were workers of lawlessness, not workers of righteousness. The Holy Spirit was never poured out on them, causing them to love Christ and obey his commands.
No, the life of a Christian is a life with the proceeding power of God, springing out of your heart like a fountain of living water. It is a life of radical transformation from the inside out. So what is our response to this wonderful reality?
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA On October 11, 2015
Last week we began our journey in unpacking the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Before we begin, I want to speak briefly about the preaching of a sermon series. As I prepare each sermon, I do so with the general assumption that all of you will hear all of the sermons within a series. That assumption allows me to build upon each sermon, without having to rehash things over and over again. So with that said, if you do miss a Sunday, I encourage you to go back and watch or read the sermon you missed so that you can have a fuller understanding of the topic. You can find these sermons, and all sermons, on our website www.cornerstonecascade.com.
The second thing I want to say briefly, is something I said before, but what to remind everyone. When I preach, I fully recognize that I am preaching to a wide range of people. My role as a Pastor is to edify the immature Christian and the mature Christian. My goal for all of you is that you will all grow in your knowledge of God. In light of that some sermons are not theologically difficult, but others are. Today may be one of those days that some of you really struggle with the sermon for you will see it as too deep. But I do want to remind you that someday it won't be, and you will be the ones in the seats longing for meat instead of milk
With that said, last Sunday, in the short time that we had we established two foundational truths 1) God is one, in three Persons and 2) the Holy Spirit is one of those persons. As I said last time, many of you have always believed this, but your belief was not because you discovered it in God’s Word, but because you were taught it through a song, or through a pastor or teacher. There is nothing wrong with listening to music or being taught, but we must always be mindful to hold everything up against the Bible, for it is our standard of truth. I want you to believe in the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Trinity because you see it on the pages of Scripture.
With that said, today we are going to examine the role of the Holy Spirit. Last Sunday I stated that we would be looking at the Holy Spirit as he is revealed in the Old Testament, and we will do that to some extent today, but I have chosen to be more intentional about understanding the general function of the Spirit.
Our Relational God
As I stated last time, the Holy Spirit makes his debut in scene 1 of God’s Story.
The first thing I want us to be encouraged by this morning is that God is a relational God, not only in the sense of relational to things outside of himself, but also relational within himself. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have always existed in perfect harmony within themselves, as divine community.
Why should this truth encourage us? Because we have a God who at his core, longs for relationship, not that God needs us to fill a void in his life, for God is perfectly satisfied within himself, but that God's orientation is relational, therefore as he engages with us, it is not a distant engagement, but an intimate one. He longs to sweep us up into the perfect love of the Trinity, and how he sweeps us up and binds us into this heavenly relationship is largely the role of the Holy Spirit, and we will talk more about that next week.
Operation of the Trinity
But for now, how does this relationship of the Trinity operate? This is going to get heavy for a second. This is how John Piper explains it, “the Son is the eternal image that the Father has of his own perfections, and the Holy Spirit is the eternal love that flows between the Father and the Son as they delight in each other.”
So what does that mean? God the father, who is all knowing and all powerful, has a perfect and complete view of himself, and this view of himself is so perfect and so complete that his image stands forth as a second God, a duplicate. This is Jesus. In this image of God there is nothing lacking.
Louis Berkhof, a renowned theologian in the early 20th century said this, “It is that eternal and necessary act of the first person in the Trinity, whereby He, within the divine Being, is the ground of a second personal subsistence like His own, and puts this second person in possession of the whole divine essence, without any division, alienation, or change. (Systematic Theology, pg. 94)
So where does the Holy Spirit fit in? Let me first say that words fail us in describing this, but words are all we have, so bare with me. The Holy Spirit is all that God is proceeding, or going forth, from the Father to the Son, and all that Jesus is proceeding, or going forth, from himself. The text that supports the procession of the Spirit is John 15:26.
This is how Jonathan Edwards explains the person of the Holy Spirit, “The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God's infinite love to and delight in Himself.”
Is this hard to understand? Absolutely. The Holy Spirit is “other.” But I think this discussion will help us in wrapping our heads around the Holy Spirit’s manifestation in the World, and role as it relates to our lives. I also think it will help us in illumine certain text regarding the work of the Spirit. For now, if I lost you during that explanation, I want you to think of the Holy Spirit's role as the bond that holds the Trinity together. The Holy Spirit is what unifies the Father and the Son in such supernatural way that God exists as one in three persons.
The Name of the Holy Spirit
With that under our belt, I want to get back to Genesis 1:2 and talk about the name that God chose to describe His Spirit.
In the New Testament we also see the Spirit of God in scene 1.
What is interesting is this is exactly how Jesus describes the Spirit in John 3. If you will, turn with me there so you can see it for yourselves.
So we see a consistency throughout Scripture of God using this idea, or understanding, of wind to reveal to us the Holy Spirit.
Every good bible student is equipped with one thing, curiosity. If you want to go deep in studying the Bible you should always be asking why? So let us take a moment and ask why. Why does God give the name of wind (ruwach and pnuema) to the third person of the trinity? What is God telling us about Himself?
What is wind? It is unseen force that comes from one place and pushes into another. It is power manifested, not in a tangible way, but in an effectual way. It is an invisible force moving from one place to the other. When we measure the velocity of wind we are not examining the wind, but we are measure the effect of wind upon an object. So what is God telling us about the role of the Holy Spirit? Wayne Grudem describes his role as the active manifestation of God’s power.
When you think about it, this fits into what we talked about earlier regarding the Trinity. The Father pushes forth all that he is, and likewise the Son pushes forth all that he is. This pushing forth is of their beings, which is omnipotent power. In between the Father and the Son, it takes no tangible form, but it exists, and when this power breaks forth into the world, you do not see it, but only its effect. Let's briefly look at some examples.
When we read stories like these it causes us to want these things, and I think this is one of the reasons God reveals these stories to us, to produce this longing for the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives. And for those who believe in Christ the presence of God does dwell in us. The same Spirit of the Trinity has been given to us. The same Spirit that came upon Bezalel, Moses, Sampson and David dwell ins us, and God wants us to depend, to live by this Spirit.
How do we do this? We must walk by the power of God, we must walk by the Holy Spirit. So let us do today what Jesus encouraged and pray for the Spirit of God to lavish us with his Spirit.
Preach at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 4, 2015
Today we begin a four week series on the Holy Spirit. As we begin, I want to express to everyone how difficult it was to create a framework for this series. It is hard to box into four part sermon series the Sovereign God, for that is who the Holy Spirit is. He is in full measure of the infinite God.
Having said that, what I have chosen to do is to break down the sermon series in this manner: today I will be giving a general introduction of the Holy Spirit. Next week we will look at the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. In three weeks we will examine the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration. And finally we will examine the Holy Spirit in the work of sanctification. For those who are squirming in your seat because you don’t know what those words mean, do not worry, we will unpack them when we get to them. But for today, let us orient ourselves with the third person of the trinity.
Oswald Chambers said this about the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit is the first power we practically experience, but the last power we come to understand.” In my opinion this is just another way of saying what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” There is something divinely mysterious about the Holy Spirit. I think this mystery causes many people, perhaps some of you here, to shy away from pursuing a knowledge of the Holy Spirit. You find the Spirit too unpredictable, to wild, therefore you treat him like the third wheel in your relationship with God.
Why Should We Care about the Holy Spirit?
So before we get too far into the mystery of the Holy Spirit, let us start with a question: Why should we care? Why do we need to have a sermon series on the Holy Spirit? As I was preparing, I wondered how many of you are more excited about next month’s sermon series on marriage then you are on a sermon series on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you can’t wait until this series is over so we can get to the stuff that really matters, stuff that will make your life more comfortable. If that is you, then perhaps we have discovered why your marriage is struggling. It appears that you may be self-centered and not God centered.
The first reason we should study the Holy Spirit, as I said before, is that a study of the Holy Spirit is a study of God himself. We will unpack some of this today. Pursuing the knowledge of the Spirit is pursuing the the knowledge of God. Ignoring the person of the Spirit is willfully refusing to see the beauty of God as He is manifested, or displayed, by the person-hood of the Holy Spirit.
Second, to study the Bible is to study the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the Spirit of God is mentioned 88 times. 23 books in the Old Testament have passages that include the Spirit. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is mentioned 264 times, and there are only 3 books in the New Testament that make no mention of the Holy Spirit: Philemon, 2 John, and 3 John. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The revelation of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God belongs to us. They are a gift from God. To set the gift of God aside is to dishonor the Giver and cheats us out of His Grace. We should treasure every moment when God gives us a glimpse of himself. We should be like Moses on Mt. Sinai begging to see the glory of God, of which the Spirit is.
Third, the Holy Spirit, as we will see in the weeks to come, is the person of the Trinity that you and I as Christians are the most intimate with. Now I say this with a qualification. God is one and God is three persons, and we will unpack this some today. Therefore in one sense, we cannot have more of a relationship with one person over the other, for to have a relationship with one is to have a relationship with them all, and to have a relationship with them all is to have a relationship with one. However, as the roles of the Trinity are dispensed, or put forth in creation, the Holy Spirit's role comes into contact with us more readily. We will see this in week three and for when we discuss regeneration and sanctification in the Christians life.
Fourth, many of you in this room are struggling in your life. Day in and day out Satan is pummeling you with his fiery darts: anxiety, stress, sex, anger, pride, money, you name it. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed you feel like you are in a war. Do you know what? YOU ARE! Existence is best described as a Spiritual War. How do we find victory in the battles of day to day life? The Spirit. The Spirit of God is a warrior. He is the one who helps us in our weakness. He is the one who counsels us in our confusion. He is the one who anchors us in God's truth. Without the Spirit of God we do not persevere. We lose.
I am sure there are infinitely more reason that we should pursue the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, but those are four that God laid on my heart.
The Holy Spirit is God
The first item I want to address is that the Holy Spirit is God. Some of you may think this is elementary. Perhaps you have spent your whole life singing songs like we sang today about the Trinity. You can't recall one moment in your life that you ever questioned the Godness of the Holy Spirit. Having said that, I am guessing that very few of you could point to scripture that would support this position.
First, let us start with this statement that most of you are familiar with. The word trinity is not in the Bible. Trinity is a theological word, meaning that it is a word that summarizes the Bibles teaching that God is one in three person. As Wayne Grudem says, “the doctrine of the Trinity is progressively revealed in Scripture.” Having said that there are a couple text that expressly state the reality of the trinity. Perhaps the most famous one is Matthew 28:19.
This text just won't work if the Holy Spirit isn't God. As God says in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other.” God is not going to share the limelight in the salvation of men with an entity that is not God. Once again, I like how Wayne Grudem puts it when he says that it would not make sense for verse 19 to read, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Michael the Angel.” Adding in a non-God figure in the lineup undermines the point of verse 19. Another text we see the Holy Spirit as God is 2 Corinthians 13:14.
Once again, logically it would not make sense to say that the Holy Spirit is not God. Paul is placing the trinity on even footing and recognizing their distinct Godly roles as it relates to us. We see the same thing in the opening lines of 1 Peter.
Now before some of you start to wander down the path of polytheism, which is the belief in multiple gods. The Bible, in addition to these text says, also makes it abundantly clear that God is one.
So is there one God, yes. Is the Father, Son, and Spirit God? Yes. The Holy Spirit is fully God in essence, yet distinct in his person-hood. Can we fully understand this? No, God's ways are above our ways. He is Holy, Holy, Holy. As David says in Psalm 139:6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”
The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person
The next thing I would like to discuss is that the Holy Spirit is God, but he is also distinct in his role. They way we describe the distinction is person-hood. Does this mean that the Holy Spirit is a creature? No, we have already discussed this, He is God. Having said that he takes on certain characteristics that are unique to Him. Just like Jesus takes on the characteristic of flesh, and son-ship, the Spirit takes on a unique characteristic as the Spirit. The way, once again, theologically we define this is person-hood.
Once again, many of you may be thinking why should we care about the person-hood of the Holy Spirit. Let me ask, how many of you have heard of Jehovah Witnesses? My guess is that all of you have. Why? Because they are extremely aggressive in sharing their false religion with everyone. Most likely, some have knocked on your door. Did you know that they do not believe in the Trinity. They do not believe that Jesus is God and they believe the Holy Spirit is merely an impersonal force. The question is are you ready to defend the honor of the Holy Spirit? My guess is that they are more than ready to defend their position.
As we have already seen from some of the text that I have mentioned, Matthew 28:19, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Corinthians 13:14, Jude 1:20-21, these passages just don't make sense if the Holy Spirit is not distinct. If the Holy Spirit is just an impersonal force, then you don't list him with two other persons. However in addition to this, there are many scriptures that speak to the personality of the Holy Spirit. Probably the most definitive are the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
In addition, the scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit as one who searches (1 Corinthians 2:10), makes determinations and gives gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11), has a mind (Romans 8:27), loves (Romans 15:30), teaches (John 14:16), grieves (Ephesians 4:30), speaks (Acts 13:2, Hebrews 3:7, Revelation 2:7), cries out (Galatians 4:6), commands (Acts 16:7), appoints (Acts 20:28), becomes an enemy against the rebellious (Isaiah 63:10), creates (Job 33:4), can be outraged (Hebrews 10:29), and can be uniquely blasphemed against (Matthew 12:31).
These descriptions of the Holy Spirit are not descriptions given to an impersonal force, but to a personal and relational being. One that engages in a personal way with humanity. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not only God, but he is a personal God
So where does this leave us at the end of the first week of this sermon series? First, I hope that after today you will approach the Holy Spirit differently. Not as a side show, but as a main attraction. Second, I hope that today has equipped you to not only sing songs like we did this morning, but to recognize that these songs are built upon the firm foundation that is God's word. Our confession is not one that is man made, it is rooted in scripture. Third, I hope it causes you to marvel at the complexity and depth of who our God is. I hope that this sermon, which is just the tip of the tip of the tip of an infinite iceberg has produced in your a sense of awe as you think of how OTHER our God is. He is not at all like the creature, he is the Divine Creator. The nature of his being is too great for us to even begin to grasp. Which I hope produces in you worship. Not just worship to worship, but worship that is based upon truth and compelled by the Spirit.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on Mary 10, 2015.
Turn with me in your Bibles to Philippians 4:4-7. We will spend two weeks in these verses because I think they are extremely important for your Christian walk. Let us get right to work by reading our text, pray that God would open our hearts and then will we work through what God has revealed to us in His Holy Word.
Blaise Pascal, a French Mathmetician, in the 17th century said this:
“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”
Do you agree with this? Our Founding Fathers did. In the Declaration of Independence are the famous words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
It is not only 17th century mathematicians and historical statesmen, but it is modern day therapy. Perhaps the most common question for social workers, psychiatrists, psychologist, and coffee shop counselors is “Are you happy?”
There is something hardwired in every human being that craves for happiness. Every decision we make is oriented to what we believe will achieve greater happiness. Even the decisions that are difficult, are still made with the hope that when all is said and done things will be better then if we hadn’t made that decision.
Unfortunately, because of sin, we seek happiness in things that will not ultimately produce happiness. I believe the parable of the prodigal son is a good illustration of this fact. The youngest Son requested his share of the inheritance and off he want into the world and “squandered his property in reckless living” until one day he found himself so broken to the point that he was coveting the food for the pigs. The youngest son’s pursuit of happiness independent of his Father left him ultimately broken and unsatisfied. This is a picture of all humanity in eyes of God. We are wired to seek joy, and absent Christ, we seek it in the troughs of pigs.
Chief End of Man
Changing gears, If I were to ask, according to God’s Word, what is the Chief end of man, what would you say? According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism the answer to that question is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.” Do you agree with this? Do you agree that, not only are you wired for joy, but God designed you to enjoy Him? Do you agree that you exist to have joy in God?
When we hear of read statement like the Westminster Catechism, or some creed, we should always ask, what is the scripture behind it? We don’t just want to accept this comment wholesale just because some theologians in 1647 said it was so. We should be like the Bereans in the book of Acts who searched the scriptures to compare what is said to what we know to be true, namely, the Bible. So let us look at some text.
For those who see a relationship with God as being joyless, I say this, you don't know my God, and I would encourage you to take a good long look in the Spiritual mirror and ask some difficult questions about your salvation. For true joy is only found in God, all other joys are counterfeit.
However, having said this, fullness of joy in God is not easy. Joy does not just show in at your doorstep with a little pink bow on it upon your conversion. To use a phrase from John Piper, we must fight for you, and you can see this in our text today.
Command for Joy
Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” First we must recognize that this is a command. Paul is commanding the Philippian Church to rejoice. If joy came naturally for all Christians, a command would be unnecessary. Paul's command for us to rejoice tells us that joy is something that must be intentionally chosen.
I wonder how often we think this way. Do you wake up each morning intentionally choosing to have joy in God. Do you implement practical things into your life that will produce joy in God? If not, why not? Most likely it is because you have never thought about it. You have never thought about Joy in God as something you work at. Most likely, you have wrongly believed that joy is based on circumstances, and you are just a passive in experiencing it. You see yourself as a victim of joy or joylessness. This is not how the Bible speaks of joy. Joy in God is something we must pursue.
Second, we must recognize that joy is not optional. As I said, this is a command. Paul is commanding that early Church to rejoice. In fact we find this command of rejoice in the Lord in the midst of other commands: stand firm in the Lord, agree in the Lord, rejoice in the Lord, do not be anxious. A Christian life that does not have joy is a Christian life outside the will of God. Once again, let that sink in. Having no joy in the Lord is disobedience. We are commanded to love God. We are command to have joy in God.
So this leads us to how, how do we have joy in the Lord? This morning I want to suggest five ways to pursue joy. First, we must recognize that apart from the Spirit of God in our lives, we have no hope for joy.
For those who are Christians, we must recognize that but for the Spirit of God dwelling inside us, we will never bear the fruit of joy. We cannot capture joy in our flesh, only by the Spirit of Christ that dwells in us. Therefore, step one is that we ask for joy in God. James 4:2 says, “ You do not have, because you do not ask.” We need to ask for joy, not in this world, but in the Creator of the world. Having said that, once again, this does not mean that joy will be produced in us in a passive way. Each fruit of the Spirit must be pruned to produce more.
Second, we must have eyes to see Christ for who He truly is. Think about what produces happieness in your life. Is it not the value you see in something. I have happiness when I look upon my wife, for I see great value in her. I have happiness when I look upon my children, because I see great value in them. Likewise, we must see that true value of Christ. As we saw in chapter 3 of Philippians, we must see the surpassing worth of Jesus. We must stare into the face of Christ and be overwhelmed by the image of the almighty Sovereign God who hung the stars staring back at us.
Third, we must recognize what Christ has done for us. Some of you may have heard this story, but several years ago I prosecuted a vehicular homicide case. It is a charge that carries 25 years in prison. The case was somewhat complicated, but like all cases that go to a jury trial, there were issues. There a few moments in life when time seems to freeze. Jury verdicts are one of those times, especially when 25 years of liberty on on the table. I still recall the look on the defendant's face when the verdict came in saying “We the jury find the defendant...not guilty.” In that moment there was nothing that could steal his happiness. I could have burned down his house, and he would have cared less. Why? Because he escaped punishment. He was free. This pales in comparison to what Christ has achieved for us of the cross. We deserve, not 25 years in prison, we deserve eternity in Hell. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we escape eternal torment. We escape weeping and gnashing of teeth. We escape the unquenchable fire. We escape the out darkness. We escape the wrath of God. When we forget this, we undermine our joy.
Fourth, we must see what is waiting for us. In Luke 10:20, Jesus said this to his disciples he had just sent out to do expand the Kingdom, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Our joy is not built upon our circumstances, it is built upon our destiny. These names are written, past tense, in this book. This book of life will be opened on the last day, the day of judgment. And all those whose names are in the book, we be ushered into the presence of God.
So to summarize today. We are designed for joy. The source of of this joy is found only in God. As Christians we must not assume that this is automatic. We must fight for joy. WE must therefore, pray that God would help us see Christ for who he is, what he saved us from and what he saved us to. If we do this, I promise you that joy awaits.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 22, 2015.
Turn with me to Philippians 3:1-11. Today we are unpacking what might be the most important sermon that some of you have ever heard. I say this not because I believe my sermon is great, but because what Paul is talking is great. We have a fair amount to get through, so let us read our text, pray that the Holy Spirit would fill our hearts, and then hear the words of our Lord.
As we begin today I think it is important to remind ourselves that the author of this letter is the Apostle Paul. He wrote 13 books of the New Testament and he was God’s instrument for the gospel to the gentiles. I think it is also important to remember that Paul is writing to a group of people. In this case he is writing to the Church in Philippi. This Church would be full of young and old, blue collar and white collar, Jews and gentiles.
The fellowship of these people would also have in its midst both the saved and the unsaved. By this I mean that the visible church, the ones who are physically present and gather in a singular location day after day are not necessarily the same as the true Church, those who are born again, or true followers of Jesus. This is the reality for every physical gathering of the visible church. In fact it is true for us today. In this room, there is most likely someone who is going through the religious motions, but who is actually not a converted Christian.
With this in mind, Paul says some very startling words in verse 2 of our text today, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” As you can see, Paul did not mince words. He must have missed the memo that said Pastors need to be “seeker sensitive.” So who was Paul talking about?
Paul was primarily talking about the judiazers. The judiazers were a group of people who claimed to be Christians, but they also took the position that every Christian was required to follow the laws of Moses to ensure their salvation. So for example, they would come to Church and they would praise the name of Jesus, and they would intellectually agree that Christ is the Messiah, and that he was without sin, and that he died on the cross for our sins, and that he rose from the tomb, and that he sits at the right hand of God. However, they would have also said that all Christians had to be circumcised. This is why Paul calls them, “mutilators of the flesh.” And it wasn’t just circumcision; it would have also included things like the dietary laws and Jewish festivals.
The judiazers did not believe in the sufficiency of Jesus’ work on the cross. They proclaimed that you had to add to Jesus’ sacrifice. They taught that Jesus’ blood was not powerful enough to save you, but that you had to help him. They taught that faith in Christ was not enough. And it was these people that Paul calls dogs and evil doers, and these are the people who Paul warned the Church to watch out for.
This issue of false teaching and false living was prevalent in the early church. How do we know this? Because Paul addresses it over and over and over again in his letters. In fact, the entire book of Galatians is about this specific issue. Listen to what he says in Galatians 1:6.
No Confidence I the Flesh
The question we have today, is does this warning of BEWARE still apply? Are there still false teachers out there proclaiming Jesus plus works equal salvation? You bet there is! We are surrounded by them. These are the people that seem religious, but they deny the true power of the Gospel. They are those who preach Jesus, but then teach that in order to be saved you must be baptized. They are those who preach Jesus, but then teach that in order to be saved you must be confirmed. They are those who preach Jesus, but then teach that in order to be saved you must participate in certain sacraments. They preach Jesus, but then teach that in order to be saved you must never commit a certain sin. This teaching is not the Gospel in the Bible, but so many people fall prey to these evildoers because they have never read the Bible!
You cannot be clearer than what Paul says in this passage. Verse 3 tells us that true Christians put no confidence in the flesh. No confidence. None. Zero. People, words matter, and God’s Word really matters. If anyone could have claimed that Jesus plus works equals salvation, it was Paul. His list is better than anyone’s in the Vatican, but what does he say? Rubbish. Garbage. No value. No confidence. Paul lets go of all human effort so that he can grab hold of Christ.
Look at verse 8 and 9, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him.“ The only way to gain Christ is to let go of all things. You cannot cling to the cross until you let go of yourself. You baptism will not save you, your confirmation will not save you, your penance will not save you, your rosaries will not save you, your lent will not save you, only Christ saves you.
Just in case you still haven’t accepted it. Look at verse 9 again. Does Paul have some righteousness to add to Christ sacrifice? No. Paul has NO righteousness. None. Zero. Paul adds nothing to his right standing to God. The only righteousness his has is the righteousness that he receives through faith in Christ. This righteousness does not depend on works. It depends on faith.
Oh how crucial this is. If you put confidence in the flesh, if you say yes to Jesus AND yes to works, you are a dog, you are an evildoer, you are accursed, and you will be the one whom hears the words of Jesus, “Depart from me you worker of lawlessness for I never knew you.”
Worship by the Spirit and Glory in Christ
Therefore, if, Jesus plus works is a picture of a non-Christian, what is a picture of a real Christian? Take a look at verse 3.
Look at verse 8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Do you see it? What does it say, “The wind blows where it wishes.” What does that mean? It means that the wind has a will. It chooses whose heart it will blow into. You cannot lasso the wind, you can only experience its effects. We see this most clearly in Acts 2, at Pentecost. The disciples were together in one place and suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind. What was it? It was the Holy Spirit. What followed this wind storm? Three thousand souls were born again, and for the first time they saw the Kingdom of God, and for the first time they had the capacity to truly worship.
Listen to what Jesus tells the Samaritan women at the well in John 4:
Some of you today may come to the realization that you are fooling yourselves. That you are not a true worshiper, but you are still blind to kingdom of heaven, and you want to know if there is anything you can do about it. My suggestion is to do the same thing the blind begger did in Luke 18:37.
And to bring it full circle, this is why in Philippians 3:3 it says, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus.“ To be a Christian means to give Jesus Christ all the glory in our salvation. Why? Because he did all the work. If you try to take credit for yourself, then with tears in my eyes I tell you you have no part in Christ. The blood of Jesus was sufficient to cover your sins and reconcile you to God. God was not stingy in the giving of Christ. He poured the cup of Christ's suffering richly upon your heart and cleansed you completely with the clean, living water of Jesus Christ. To the praise of His glorious Grace.