Promise of a Return

It was March 21st, 1942 standing in the Terowie Train Station in South Australia, following his retreat from the Philippines that General Douglas MacArthur promised the people of the Philippines “I came out of Bataan and I shall return”.

 

And he did.  Two and a half years later, after wading ashore on the Island of Leyte, MacArthur made a radio broadcast announcing, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!”

 

In the 1984 movie the Terminator, the main Character was rebuffed at a Police station as he looked for Sarah Connor and the Terminator said, “I’ll be back”, and he was.  Just moments later he drove a car through the front doors of the very same police station.  As a matter fact the terminator made that promise again in 1991 and in 2003 and 2009 and 2015.

 

This is week five of our Pinky Swear:  The Promises of Jesus series.  And through the month of June we’ve been looking at various promises Jesus made in the gospels to those who followed him.

 

And so, over the past four weeks, we’ve looked at Jesus’ promise of rest, his Promise of the Holy Spirit, His promise of inner peace and last week at his promise of a relationship with God the Father.  A Father who loves us, affirms us and will protect us.

 

Depending on the translation of the bible that you are using the heading for the scripture that was read earlier could be “The Coming of the Son of Man” or “Jesus foretells the Future” or “Signs of the End of the Age”.  And it is in the chapter that we read Jesus’ promise in Matthew 24:30-31  Jesus said “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

 

This, of course, is Jesus’ promise of his return.  Now at this point, you are probably expecting me to break out the charts and the timetables that will pinpoint all of the appropriate events and happenings with an appropriate guess as to when it may happen.

 

And there was a time that I would have done that.    Oh, did I have charts and timetables.

 

But the older I get, I don’t know if I become smarter or simply more aware of my ignorance.  Or maybe it’s just that I don’t want to be identified with the chart and timetable people.   So, we aren’t going there.

 

Through the years I’ve come to understand the truth of the statement that William Barclay made about the study of the end times when he said

 

“The result is that it . . . has sometimes become the playground of religious eccentrics, who use it to map out celestial time-tables of what is to come or find in it evidence for their own eccentricities.”

 

So, let’s start this morning with what we Don’t Know

 

Matthew 24:36  Jesus said “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

 

We Don’t know when Jesus Will Return

 

There is a natural curiosity as to when Jesus is coming back.  For the past two thousand years, Christians have been wondering, and the apostles themselves wondered that same thing.

 

In the book of Mark Jesus had been talking about the end times and the apostles demanded an answer to the question in Mark 13:4  “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”

 

And in verse 32 of the same chapter Jesus answers them by saying, “It’s none of your business” well actually that isn’t exactly what he said, but it’s close because he says  Mark 13:32  “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

 

But that reply hasn’t kept men and women from playing neat little mathematical games with Biblical prophecies over the past two thousand years in an effort to figure out some kind of time frame for the last days.  Through the years many sincere men have sought by various formulas and mathematical techniques, primarily using the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation to arrive at; if not the day and hour of Christ’s arrival then at least the month and year.

 

500, April 6 – 793, January 1 – 1000, January 1 – 2000, February 20 – 1524, October 22 – 1844, August 7 – 1847, September 28 – 2015 are just some of the various dates that have been suggested for the return of Christ.

 

Scientist Isaac Newton predicted it would happen in 2000, as did Timothy Dwight a one-time president of Yale University.

 

The Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted that Christ would return in 1914, Hebert W Armstrong of The World Wide Church of God predicated 1935, 1943, 1972 & 1975.

 

Even John Wesley took a crack at it, predicting that Jesus would return on or around 1836.  Wesley based his prediction on the account of Revelation 12.  Here’s what he wrote in his commentary on Revelation 12:,    “. . . And comparing the prophecy and history together, they seem to begin and end nearly thus:

 

  1. The non chronos extends from about 800 to 1836
  2. The 1260 days of the woman from 847-1524
  3. The little time 947-1836
  4. The time, time and half 1058-1836 “

I guess they would all agree with Maxwell Smart when he said, “Missed it by that much.”

 

But the truth of the matter is that neither Isaac Newton nor John Wesley knew when Christ would return and neither does anyone else.

 

Seven different times in the New Testament it says that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  And how does a thief come?  Well if he is a good thief then he comes very, very quietly.  Now realize that the return of Christ is not what is referred to as the rapture which is the when Christ calls the church to be with him.   And we aren’t going down that rabbit trail today.

 

Eschatology or the study of the end times is like golf, it’s fun it gives you something to do but in the long run, you end up arriving at the same place you left from.  And just like anything else it can become an obsession and prevent us from doing what we were put here to do and that is to win people to Jesus Christ.

 

But one thing is certain and that is that Christ will return. It may not have been in 70 or 1836 or 1941 or 2000 but Christ will return.  And when He does, He will be more pleased with the Christian who led one person into a relationship with God than with the person who spent all his time debating and writing books about the end times.

 

I am a countdown person, probably a character flaw.  When I was a kid I counted down to my birthdays and to Christmas.  I counted down to our wedding date, I counted down to my various graduations, each year I count down to our vacation.  I just do, and I would suspect that I’m not alone.

 

And that was why Jesus didn’t want the apostle or us to have a date.

 

Which is why he is very clear when he told the apostles in  Mark 13:32-33  “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.  And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!

What part of “No one” don’t some people understand?

Jesus knew if we had a date that we would do the countdown thing, and people would be saying “I have lots of time”.

 

Jesus made it very plain that the timing of the His return is neither our responsibility nor our business, and personally, I think that we border on blasphemy when we try to wrestle that information from God.

 

We look very much like Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil so that they could know everything God knew.

 

So while we don’t know when the return of Christ will happen there are some things we do know.

 

Let’s start with Jesus statement in Mark 8:38  If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

 

We Know that Jesus Promised That He Would Return

 

Biblical scholars tell us that the book of Mark was the first Gospel account put into writing.  And according to Papias, who was one of the early Christian writers and a man who had known some of the apostles personally, Mark had acted as a scribe for Peter.

 

Now taking that into account if we look into the book of Mark we see Christ making three direct statements referring to the end times.

 

The first reference was the one I read from Mark 8:38, the second was two days later, after Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem  Mark 13:1  As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.”

 

Boy, it wasn’t hard to tell these guys were CFA’s, that’s Come From Away if you didn’t know.  Talk about a bunch of hicks, Gawking around and staring.  You can almost hear them, “Golly look at them buildings, ain’t got nothing like that in Galilee.”

 

Can’t say that I blame them I have done a lot of travelling but remember that I grew up in New Brunswick and to me, a big city was Saint John, it had a hotel with 8 stories and two elevators.

 

So for a few minutes the apostles stood in awe as they looked at the massive temple building in front of them, and then Jesus told them in the next verse Mark 13:2  Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

 

Now the disciples didn’t say anything right off but when Peter, Andrew, James and John were on the Mount of Olives they asked Jesus when this would take place.

 

And in reply, Jesus gave them a three-part answer.  The first part is given in Mark 13:5-13 when Jesus spoke of the tribulation that the Apostles would personally go through.

 

The second part is found in verses 14-23 and Jesus told them about the tribulation that Jerusalem would go through.  And in 70 AD Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the Romans.  One contemporary source claimed that a man could plough from one corner of Jerusalem to the other without hitting a rock.

 

And then In Mark 13:26-27  Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.  And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

 

There can be no mistaking what Jesus was talking about.  He was saying that there would come a time that he would return, and all of mankind would see him coming.  Which 2000 years ago sounded miraculous that they entire world would see him, but now it’s just everyday technology.

 

Now then the third instance that Mark records Christ speaking about his return was in Mark 14:61-62  When Jesus was on trial before the high priest, let’s listen in

 

Mark 14:61-62  But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

 

Listen to the response of Christ  Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Jesus couldn’t have made his message any plainer.

 

And John records in His gospel the conversation where Jesus is telling the apostles that the time had come for him to leave, and we pick up the story in John 13:36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”

But then in the next chapter, only five verses later we read  John 14:3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

 

And following the resurrection when Jesus meets the apostles on the beach at the sea of Tiberius.  And it’s here that Jesus asks Peter if he loved him, gave him instructions for leading his church and then gave Peter a little peek at how his life would end.  In response in John 21:21 Peter asks Christ “Hey what about my old buddy John?”  and in John 21:22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

Jesus said “when I return” not “If I return”.

But Jesus saying he was coming again isn’t the end of the story, if we continue to read in the New Testament we discover passages like  Hebrews 9:27-28  And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,  so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

And not only did Jesus promise that he would return, We Know that The Early Church Believed That Jesus Would Return

 

Through the writing of the New Testament, the church is instructed on the second coming of Christ and corrected some errors on how they viewed the second coming.

 

John wrote in 1 John 3:2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.  Not if he appears, but when he appears.  John was there on multiple instances when Jesus promised to return and time hadn’t dimmed that hope, John was evidently pretty certain that Jesus was coming again.

 

And it was the same with Peter.

 

In his second letter, he is dealing with those who claimed that Jesus’ promise of coming again wasn’t a reality.  We pick it up in 2 Peter 3:3-4  Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.  They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”  That sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?  “Sure, Jesus is coming again, the church has been saying that for 2000 years.”

 

And Peter describes the power of God in the next three verses and then writes, 2 Peter 3:8-9  But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.  The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

 

I often hear believers say they can’t wait until Jesus returns, and while that may be valid, understand he may be waiting until your spouse, child or parent makes a decision to follow Him.

 

There are people who just this past week accepted Christ’s offer of grace and forgiveness.   What if Jesus had returned eight days ago?

 

And yet Peter goes on to warn the church that eventually Christ will return   2 Peter 3:10  But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

 

And as C.S Lewis’s wrote in relation to the return of Christ “When the Author walks on the stage the play is over!”

 

When Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica he said that people all over the world talked about the faith of the believers there, part of that is recorded in   1 Thessalonians 1:10  And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.

 

And then later in the letter he writes,  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14  And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.  Again, not if Jesus returns, but when Jesus returns.  There was a certainty about the belief that Jesus was coming again.

 

 

I don’t know where everybody in this room is spiritually.  I hope that everybody here Is ready for the promise of Jesus’ return to be fulfilled.  But I would suspect that not everybody is.  But you can be.

 

2 Corinthians 6:2  For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

And it’s as easy as asking him.

Let your words be gentle

It is never pleasant when neighbours can’t get along.  You might remember years ago, there were two families in the news who shared a duplex in a nearby community. They were feuding, and it was just nasty.

In case you missed it, it seems like there is some quarrelling happening between Canada and our neighbour to the south right now.  And regardless of how you view the issues about trade, there are lessons to be learned.

There will be times that we disagree with people.  I’m pretty sure I’ve disagreed with everyone I’ve ever met, at least once.  That is the reality, and as long as we live and have opinions it will continue to be a reality.  We have no choice in the matter.

What we do have a choice in, is how we will react to people we disagree with.  The Apostle Paul, who disagreed with all kinds of people wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

And that can be tough, but it’s especially important when we carry the name of Jesus with us.

So, let’s be careful not to demonize those we disagree with and remember that once we speak words there is no taking them back.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible

 

The Future has Changed

Some have called it a victory for women’s rights.  Others call it the day “Cultural Catholicism” died.  Others have no idea what happened in Ireland on May 25th.

But whatever you view, and whichever side you supported you will have to concede that the future of Ireland will be different because the 8th Amendment was repealed on May 25th.

Most of the world wasn’t familiar with the 8th Amendment, but in a nutshell,  it stated that mothers and their preborn children were to be treated equally in the protection of their lives.  It effectively prevented open access to abortion.  And on May 25th, by popular vote, the life of the pre-born suddenly was worthless.

Let’s not play the semantics game of simply saying that because of the vote that more pregnancies will be terminated.  Because of that vote and the resulting legislation which will follow, there will be children aborted in Ireland who otherwise might have lived.

And the world will lose future musicians, artists, doctors, cab drivers and politicians.  Hopefully, the person who would discover a cure for cancer won’t be killed, but then again that may have already happened in Canada.

The gift of life is precious, and it is a gift that needs to be celebrated.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible

The Promise of the Father

In an effort to be environmentally aware, this Father’s Day I’ve decided to embrace the ethos of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Most of you know that my Dad passed away a couple of weeks ago, and many of you are aware that I conducted Dad’s funeral and preached at it.

As I was working on my message I thought “this would be a great message for Father’s Day”, because that’s the way preachers think.

This is week four of “Pinkie Swear-The Promises of Jesus” series here at Cornerstone.  And over the past three weeks, we looked at some of the promises that Jesus made to his followers in the gospels.

So, in week one there was the promise of rest, not a rest from our daily work, but a spiritual rest and emotional rest.  By the way, that promise is not an excuse for not serving in the local church.

Week two we looked at The Promise of a Helper.  And it was here we saw Jesus preparing for his death and resurrection, which wouldn’t signify the end of the story simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of a new chapter.  And with that new chapter came the promise of the Holy Spirit, along with his presence and power.

Last week we spent some time with Jesus’ elusive promise of peace and how it comes when we know there is a God and we know how much God cares for us.

Today we are taking a look at a promise of a promise.  In the scripture that was read for us earlier, Jesus is teaching those who chose to follow him to trust him in regard to the needs of their lives.

It’s here we read that great promise that Jesus made in Luke 12:31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

Which is not a promise of having everything we want but everything we need.  And that happens when our priorities are in line with God’s priorities.  But that isn’t the promise I want to look at today, instead, we are looking at the next verse.

Listen carefully to the next words of Jesus, Luke 12:32  “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”   It gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Which seems like a great verse for Father’s Day.

The problem is that in order for this to work we need to have a decent view of our father.  If your concept of a father is someone who is abusive or distant then this isn’t the best illustrative device. Dads don’t always get the greatest press, and for obvious reasons, you only have to watch the news or read the paper to realize that some fathers aren’t the nicest people around.

When we were in Australia we met a Christian singer by the name of Peter Shirley and he sang a song called “WOULD YOU REALLY MIND”:

“When I was just a child, I didn’t understand

Why my father left my mother with the waving of a hand.

He told me it was best this way, but I couldn’t figure why.

The solution to the problem made my mother cry.

 

Lord I find it hard to call you father,

My memories aren’t real fond of the father that I had,

LORD I find it hard to call you father, but would you really mind,

Would you really mind if I just called you friend.

 

I know this may be selfish, I know this may be wrong.

But I’m not sure my father loves me, I haven’t seen him for so long.

Lord you’re so much more to me than the father that I knew,

I know that you won’t leave me; your love will see me through.

 

Lord help me to understand, and ease this pain inside.

And help me to forgive, my father’s human side.

Unite us with your spirit, though in flesh we’re torn apart.

And take away this bitterness that’s wrapped around my heart.”

 

Over and over again Jesus refers to God as his “Father” and tells us that God is our “Father”.   And we need to understand that what Jesus meant when he referred to father isn’t necessarily the same association that some people make now when they think of their father.  He’s saying light you’re thinking dark, he’s thinking protective you’re thinking abusive.

You see, when you’ve been physically or sexually abused by your father when he drank the family’s food away, or constantly berated you and told you that you were no good.  When the memory of your father, makes you angry or brings tears to your eyes then it’s going to be really difficult for you to feel good about a God who is called father.

 

You may not even feel like you could pray to someone called father.  You might share Philip Stanhope’s, feelings when he said: “As fathers commonly go, it is seldom a misfortune to be fatherless; and considering the general run of sons, as seldom a misfortune to be childless.”

The problem with our language is that we define it by our own experiences.  We can both be talking English, using the same words but thinking totally different things.

If we are talking about cars and the subject turns to Oldsmobiles I would immediately think of my favourite car which was a 1971 Cutlass Supreme convertible that I owned when I was eighteen.

But if your experience with General Motors products in general and Oldsmobile’s, in particular, has been bad, like perhaps you owned a 1982 Firenza then you would be thinking entirely different thoughts then I would.  And for good reasons.

And so the only way that we can know what Jesus meant when he used the phrase the Father is to look at other times that he used the term father and what it says about his concept of a father because remember he’s talking about his view of his father not our view of our earthly father.

 

John 5:20 For the Father loves the Son . . .

 

And so When Jesus Described His Father, He Described a Father Who Loved Him

 

Jesus didn’t have to wonder if his father loved him, it wasn’t a maybe or an if statement, he knew it, it was fact not theory.

 

If you look through the parables, the stories Jesus told, you find that the Father is always the good guy.  He’s the one who takes the prodigal son back, he’s the one who gives his children the very best, he’s the one who defends his children.

In other words, whenever Jesus uses a father as an illustrative device it is in a positive sense.  Unlike television where dad is usually the idiot on the show.

You may not know where you stand with your earthly father either because he hasn’t verbalized his love for us or because his actions negate his words, but that won’t be a problem with your heavenly father.

I have heard adults tell me that they cannot remember their father ever saying, “I love you.”

My sister and I never had to wonder if our Father loved us he verbalized it all the time and the last words dad spoke to me were “I love you”

Jesus tells us in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

I know the world is a big place and sometimes when we think of God’s love divided 7 billion ways it doesn’t seem like we get a very big slice of the pie, but reality is that God’s love doesn’t divide like a pizza, not only does every believer get the same size piece but each piece is the same size as the sum of the total.

In other words, God’s love divided by 7 billion remains God’s love, not 1/7,000,000,000 of God’s love.  Jesus reminds us of his Father’s love for us as believers in John 16:27 for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God.

What type of love is it that God has for us?  Listen to what Jesus best friend John said, 1 John 3:1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!   We are his children, he is our parent, and not just any parent he is a perfect parent, a parent who loves us.

So, what do you think?  Think you could embrace a Father who loved you enough to make the ultimate sacrifice for you?

The first time we see the relationship between Jesus and his heavenly father is in Matthew 3:17 and it happened at the beginning of Jesus public ministry, right after John had baptized Jesus, he comes up from the Jordan river Matthew 3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

And so When Jesus Described His Father, He Described a Father Who Affirmed Him

Jesus concept of a father was someone who bragged on his kids.

After I preached Dad’s funeral I had a number of people tell me, “Your father would be so proud of you.”  I knew Dad was proud of me long before I preached his funeral.  Maybe that’s not something that you can identify with but it’s the reality of God our father.

Time and time again Jesus spoke about the worth that God has attributed to us, as his children.

Jesus had no doubt that his Father was in his corner and never had to wonder what his father thought of him.  John 6:27 For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

Maybe your earthly father has never told you he thought you were doing a great job, maybe he never said that he was proud of you, but upon your Heavenly Father’s lips are the words “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

So, what do you think?  Think you could embrace a Father who affirmed you and thought you were the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Matthew 26:53 Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?

I love this particular portion of the Bible.  Jesus is being arrested and Peter pulls out a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the guys in the mob.  Now personally I think Peter is maligned here because I really don’t think that Peter was actually trying to cut off the guy’s ear.

He was trying to cut off the guy’s head and just had a rotten aim, and Jesus tells Peter to put the sword away and then he makes that statement. In other translations, it says “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”  A legion was a military term which actually referred to a large unit of infantry numbering up to 6,000 men.

All Jesus had to do was say “sic em” and 72,000 angels with attitude would have been all over those guys, like down on a duck.

And so When Jesus Described His Father, He Described a Father Who Would Protect Him

It was Sigmund Freud said “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”

Jesus knew that his Father was in his corner, that all he had to do was say the word and his father would be there for him.  Not only that but Jesus knew that His Father who is really our Father would be there for us as well listen to his prayer in the book of John 17:11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.

Even at the end of his life, when Jesus was dying on the cross, listen to his dying words; Luke 23:46  Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words, he breathed his last.

Jesus knew that even when things were toughest, that his father was there for him.

So, what do you think?  Do you think you could embrace a father who was in your corner always ready to protect you?

But there is a reciprocity here as well.  Like all relationships, this relationship between believers and God is a two-way street.

In the book of Matthew Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, and his reply is found in Matthew 22:37-38  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.

 When Jesus Described His Father, He Described a Father Who Deserves our Love  You might recall from our last series that there is no commandment in the Bible to love our fathers or mothers for that matter.  We are told to respect them and to honour them, but we are never told that we need to love them.

But we are told that we are to love God, our Heavenly Father.

And the how of that love is given to us in Jesus’ words in John 14:31  Jesus said: “but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father.”  How would the world know that Jesus loved his father?  Because he obeyed his father.

When Jesus Described His Father, He Described a Father Who Deserves our Obedience

 Through my many years in the ministry, I’ve heard people profess their love for God but there was nothing in their lives that evidenced it.  And I know that there’s a least one person here today who is thinking “Don’t be judgemental Denn”.   Don’t raise your hand if you’re that person.

But the bible tells us over and over again that if we have a relationship with God it will be evidenced in our lives.  That we will get together with his children for worship, that we will give to God’s work, that we will do some things and not do other things.

John reminds us in  1 John 5:3  Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.  Seriously, it’s not like he’s asking you to cut off your right arm.  Remember God’s commandments were put in place for our benefit, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

 When we think of God the Father our minds often go to the opening phrase of the Lord’s Prayer.  In the New Living Translation it reads, Matthew 6:9  Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.  But most of us are more familiar with the words from the King James Version Matthew 6:9  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

But however, you say it, it is a reminder that When Jesus Described His Father, He Described a Father Who Deserves our Honour

 Now in order to periodically show you my grasp of the original language I tell you things like the Greek for the word hallowed or Holy is Hagia-zesthia, and it comes from the adjective Hagios which is translated holy but literally means, different or set apart.

And so, the people that Jesus was talking to at the time understood exactly what he was saying to them the temple was different than other buildings, the Sabbath is different than other days, the Altar is different then ordinary things and the Priest is different from other men.

 

What this scripture is saying then is this “Let God’s name be treated different than all other names, let God’s name be given a position which is absolutely unique.”

 

God’s name is not to be taken lightly, it’s not to be used without thought.  It’s not an exclamation nor is it an oath.  it is the name of the creator of the universe, and it’s the name of your saviour.

 

And so, we need to remember that God’s name is Father, but only to those who have accepted the offer of His adoption.  I have friends who adopted a young man in his early twenties, he had been brought up in foster homes most of his life including their home during his teens.

One day he mentioned how he had no family, no roots and so the couple decided to correct the situation and so they offered to adopt him with full benefits, he would use their name and would have all of the rights and privileges of their natural children right up to sharing the estate when they die.  They made that offer and it was valid but the only way it became reality was when John accepted it.  Without his consent and acceptance, it was worthless.

God had made the offer, it’s summed up in the book of John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

How do you do that?  How do you receive Him?  You just tell him that’s what you want to do.

We going to close in prayer and while I’m praying I’m going to pray a prayer of salvation, and if you have never asked Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and accept you as a part of his family I’d encourage you to do that today.

 

The Promise of Peace

Do you remember praying as a child?  Do you remember the words that you prayed?  Let’s try it together: “Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.”   In retrospect a little creepy, but still.

 

Actually, the prayer that my Dad taught me was “Now I lay me down to sleep with a bag of candy at my feet, if I should die before I wake you’ll know I died of a bellyache.”

 

But what if when you laid down to sleep you knew that would be the last time you would ever lay down to sleep?  What if when you closed your eyes you knew it would be the last time you would close your eyes to sleep?

 

What if you knew when you went to bed tonight that tomorrow night you would be history, that you would never again hold the ones you loved, that you would never again be held by the ones who loved you.  That you would never see another sunset, never hear another bird sing, never live another day.  How would you sleep?

 

I’ve read that often they put a suicide watch on prisoners in the states who have been sentenced to death.  Probably don’t want the prisoner to cheat the state out of all their fun.  I mean do they really use an alcohol swab to sterilize the site for the lethal injection?

 

Do you think you’d be able to sleep knowing that you only had one day left?  I’m not sure if I would be able to or if my mind would be racing with regrets and what if’s.  Wondering if I had said good byes and thank you to all the right people.  Asking myself if I had left a mark and whether or not I’d be remembered.

 

That was the situation that Peter was in, King Herod had ordered the execution of James who was the brother of John, maybe you remember James as one of the sons of Thunder, or Zebedee’s boy, or one of the original group that Jesus called to be his disciples.  It really doesn’t matter what does matter is that he was executed by King Herod.  Now perhaps you’re thinking “I remember King Herod he was the king that ordered all the baby boys in Bethlehem killed when Jesus was born.”

 

Well, you’re partially right, that was King Herod, but it wasn’t this King Herod.  Then you’re thinking “Well then, it must have been the King Herod that had John the Baptist killed”, well again you are partially right, it was King Herod but not this King Herod.

 

This is, in fact, King Herod Agrippa and after he saw how much killing James pleased the Jewish leaders he thought, “Great, all I have to do to become popular is kill Christians.”

 

Think about it, Justin Trudeau and Stephen McNeil have to reduce taxes to be popular, but Herod he just had to kill preachers.  And so, he figured “if killing James made me popular think how popular I would be if I killed Peter”, and so he had Peter arrested and thrown into Jail.

 

Now it was the Jewish celebration of Passover and Herod couldn’t very well execute Peter during the holidays, so he decides that as soon as Passover is done, then he will separate Peter’s head from the rest of his body.  And so here Peter is, in prison, waiting to stand trial with execution being a very, very real possibility.

 

As a matter of fact, it was virtually the only probable outcome of the trial.  It’s the night before the trial, the church has called a prayer meeting and they are all up praying.  I don’t know if they were praying for Peter’s release or if they were praying for Peter to have the courage and strength to face his imminent demise.

 

We don’t know, but what we do know is that they were praying.  And Peter you’d think that Peter would either be wide awake worrying or that he would be wide-awake praying.

 

But that was not the case, instead of being wide awake for anything Peter was sound asleep.  Chained between two Roman soldiers,  this boy wasn’t just napping he was out like a light, dead to the world so to speak.

 

And suddenly a great light filled the prison cell and standing there was an angel, and Peter didn’t even wake up.  Boy you gotta hate that, this angel had this great entrance, poof, a great light fills the cell and there stands this great big strapping angel shinning in all his glory and Peter doesn’t wake up, at all.  Having lost all of the impact of a dramatic entrance the angel pokes Peter and says, “Hey come on wake up we’re out of here.” Or something like that.

 

The thing that amazes me isn’t the great rescue with the angel, that’s a God thing,  God can do those things, He’s God.  What amazes me about the story is that Peter is fast asleep.

 

This is the same Peter who had hacked off the guys ear in the garden of Gethsemane, this is the same Peter who avowed that he would never let Jesus down and then denied he knew him three times, and this is the same Peter who saw Jesus walking on the water and jumped out of the boat and joined him.

 

We all know rash, impulsive Peter, we’re not so familiar with calm, cool and collected Peter.

 

But that is the story told in Acts 12.

 

Everything we knew about Peter is turned inside out and upside down when we see him sleeping between these two Roman soldiers the night before his execution.  What happened?  What changed in Peter’s life that had changed Peter?

 

This is week three of our “Pinky Swear: The Promises of Jesus” series.  And through the month of June, we are focusing on some of the promises that were given to those who followed Jesus through the gospels.

 

And we have to believe that if Jesus made those promises to those who followed him 2000 years ago that those same promises are still valid for those who follow Jesus today.   That would be you.

 

So, in week one we discovered Jesus promising rest to a weary world.  Not a rest from physical labour or daily work, life goes on, but a spiritual rest and emotional rest.  A rest from always trying to be good enough and that rest only comes from his grace that says, “You are loved, and you are special, and I’ve already paid the price for you.”

 

Then last week we looked at the Promise of a helper, and how Jesus promised us that we would never be alone, that we would always have the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  And ultimately, we said that we don’t need more of the Holy Spirit, but instead, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to have more of us.

 

And that is where we come in here.  In the scripture that was read earlier we discover this promise that Jesus made to those who follow him.  And this is a continuation of the scripture that was read last week when Jesus promised the apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

 

You see this promise doesn’t stand alone it is only because we have the Holy Spirit in our lives that Jesus could make the promise that we find in John 14:27  Jesus said “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

 

And Peter was in the group that heard those words, the promise was for him, but we don’t immediately see peace as a characteristic of Peter’s life.  It was John F. Kennedy who said: “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”

 

And we don’t see that inner peace in Peter’s life until he experiences the Holy Spirit in his life, and that doesn’t happen until Acts chapter 2.  And it is there that we see how the Holy Spirit filled Peter and how Peter was never the same again.

 

The result of the Holy Spirit on Peter’s life can be summed up with the words of  Galatians 5:22-23  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

 

And we could personalize it by saying, Galatians 5:22-23  But the Holy Spirit produced this kind of fruit in Peter’s life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control.

 

So, when Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, he became a very different Peter then he had been before.  And one of those differences we see in his life was this peace that he had, a peace of mind and heart.  That was evidenced by the fact that he wasn’t troubled or afraid to face the morning.  Whatever the morning might bring.

 

So, what is this peace?  Good question, peace can be defined several different ways.  One wit defined it as “Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.”

 

Or as Jerry Pournelle, once wrote, “Peace is the ideal we deduce from the fact that there have been interludes between wars.”

 

But, the New Testament concept of peace is not defined as the absence of war or even an absence of interpersonal conflict in our lives.

 

Peace in the New Testament is a tranquillity of heart which derives from the all-pervading knowledge that we are in the hands of God.

 

The Apostle Paul would write to the church in Philippi saying, Philippians 4:7  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

 

You might be more familiar with the NKJV where it reads, Philippians 4:7 NKJV and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

 

It was in response to this promise that Helen Keller said: “I do not want the peace which passes understanding, I want the understanding which brings peace.”

 

And it would appear that Peter had discovered an understanding which brought him peace.

 

What was it that Peter understood that brought this peace?  Well, this peace came in a part because Peter Understood That God Is There.     Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, Know God, Know Peace.  No God, No Peace.  It’s the truth without an acknowledgement that there is a God you will not have peace.

 

That’s why it’s called the peace of God or God’s peace in the Bible.  If there were no other certainties in Peter’s Life there was the certainty that God was real.

 

If we are to find peace in our life the first step is acknowledging that there is a God.  The Bible says in Psalm 14:1 Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”

 

Abraham Lincoln echoed that when he said  “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heaven and say there is no God.”

 

And so, Peter knew that there was a God, he knew that whatever happened tomorrow that a higher power was in control, even if he was executed he knew that was not the end.  He would not share the epitaph of the Atheist which said, “Here lies the Atheist, all dressed up and no place to go.”

 

Not only did Peter know that God is there but Peter Understood That God Is Aware

 

It was not enough that Peter knew that God existed, but Peter knew that God knew that Peter Existed.

 

Or as Paul reminded the early church in Galatians 4:9  So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you). . . And so we need to take our belief to the next level, not only believing in God but also believing that God knows what’s going on in our lives.

 

Jesus made an incredible statement concerning this remarkable attribute of God’s in

Matthew 10:29  What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.

 

God didn’t create this world and then turn his back on it, he is aware what is going on, we aren’t alone.

 

God rejoices when he sees good and love and beauty. It breaks his heart when he sees war, and hatred and what we’ve done to this world.  And he knows you, and he knows everything about you.  It was that knowledge that caused David to write in Psalm 139:1  O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.

 

 

So, Peter knew that God existed, and Peter knew that God knew that Peter Existed, but more than that Peter Understood That God Cares

 

Of the three this is probably the most important thing that Peter knew.  It’s not enough that there is a God out there if he’s not aware of what’s going on in my life.

 

And it’s not enough that there’s a God out there whose aware of what’s happening in my life if he doesn’t care about what is happening in my life.   Earlier we read Matthew 10:29-31  What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.

But Jesus didn’t end there, he went on to say   And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

 

When Peter closed his eyes that night in the prison cell chained between those two guards he knew that if nobody else in the universe cared about what happened to Peter, that God cared about what happened to Peter.

 

Peter knew that ultimately, he mattered to God and that ultimately God was in control.  Maybe it was this experience that later caused Peter to write in the Letter of 1 Peter 5:7  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

 

Peter knew that there was absolutely nothing he could do to change his situation, nothing at all.  So why worry about it?

 

Science fiction writer Larry Eisenberg summed it up when he said “For peace of mind, we need to resign as general manager of the universe.”

 

If we are going to have peace in our life it will only be when we realize that God not only knows what’s best for us but that he wants what’s best for us.  And not only do we need to realize that, we need to believe it and more than simply believing it we need to act upon it.

 

How many of our troubles could we have avoided if we had believed that God had our best at heart all along?

Too often we try to second-guess God.  We decide that even though God is God, and even though he is the creator and ruler of the universe that he’s not nearly as smart as we are.  That we know what is best for us, and if that doesn’t agree with what God says then that’s because God doesn’t really want the best for us, all he wants to do is to ruin our fun.

 

And so, we do the things we want to do, and then when it flies all to pieces and when we have to pay the fiddler, so to speak, we wonder what went wrong.  And sometimes in retrospect, we say “Wow, if only I had done what God wanted me to do.”

 

It’s easy to believe that God will do what is good, it’s more difficult to believe that whatever God does is good.

 

I’ve told this story before, A lady whose son had leukaemia was talking to another lady and the second woman said, “Maybe God will be good and heal your son.”  To which the first lady responded, “God will be good whether he heals my son or not.”

 

Can we believe in the goodness of God even in the difficult times?  Even at times that we know that’s not how we wanted things to go or things to end.

 

God does care, and God sees a much bigger picture then we do.  God cared enough about Peter that he sent an Angel to deliver him, but did that mean that he cared less about James when he allowed him to be executed?

 

No, I can’t explain it, and I don’t understand it, but even though James was killed and that caused his family pain and grief, God is still good.

 

And Peter understood that.  The book of Romans hadn’t been written at this point in history but the premise of  Romans 8:28 was still real  Romans 8:28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

 

Peter knew that Peter could do nothing, and God could do everything, so why worry?

 

Paul gives us some advice in  Philippians 4:6-7  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

 

So, maybe Peter had prayed, told God what he needed, thanked him for all he had done and was experiencing the peace that is more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  Or maybe Peter had discovered the truth of what Clive James would write 2000 years later “Stop worrying — nobody gets out of this world alive.”

 

A story is told by Bishop William Quayle, he said that one night all the worries and concerns of his parish seemed to catch up with him and as he paced back and forth that God spoke to him and said “Quayle, you go to bed; I’ll stay up the rest of the night.”  Well two thousand years ago God told Peter, “Peter, you go to bed; I’ll stay up the rest of the night.”

 

And that’s what he’s telling you, “Go to Bed, I’ll stay up the rest of the night.”  Because listen again to God’s promise for you, today June 10, 2018,   John 14:27  Jesus said “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

We are Family

With the passing of my father last week, I was reminded once again of the importance of family.

We were surrounded by my sister and her family along with various cousins, nieces and nephews, many of whom my kids had never met before.

I continue to be amazed at how tragedies cause us to circle the wagons to protect those we love. And while we were together we all said that we need to get together more often and not wait for another funeral, but we won’t, we’ll see each other at the next funeral.

We also experienced the love and support of our spiritual family. We could feel the prayer support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, through the cards that people sent and those who made the trip to Saint John to attend Dad’s memorial service.

Believers came from a variety of churches from around New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to celebrate the life of Dad and to mourn his passing.  Heaven’s gain is our loss.

But isn’t that what being part of a family is all about? Being there for one another.  Thank you for being there for us, those who are family by blood and those who are family by His blood.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible

The Promise of a Helper

It wouldn’t be long, and he knew it.  For three years he had taught throughout Israel, for three years he had healed the sick and fed the hungry. For three years he pointed people to the Kingdom of God, but the time was coming, it wouldn’t be long now, and he knew it.  The end was in sight, it was time for the chapter to close on his earthly ministry.  But how would he explain it to his friends? How would he explain that he was leaving?  Would they feel deserted, betrayed?  Would they be able to see that there was a much bigger plan a much longer story then they could presently see?

 

Our scripture this morning was John chapter 14.  It was just hours before the arrest of Christ, the group had eaten what we call “the Last Supper”, had posed for the group photo, you know what Peter said at the end of the Last Supper?  “Hey everyone, you need to be on this side of the table if you want to be in the picture.”

 

That was free, and now Jesus was explaining the events that were about to happen.  Trying I’m sure to ease their fears, to let them know that whatever happened that he was still in control and that it was all part of the plan.   I’m not sure that he was all that successful.

 

Most of all he wanted them to know that he wasn’t leaving them alone.  Really isn’t that a fear that we all have?  The fear of being deserted, being left to our own devices.  Lord Byron made this statement concerning growing old: “What is the worst of woes that wait on age? What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow? To view each loved one blotted from life’s page, And be alone on earth, as I am now.”

 

And so, it was almost an “I have bad news and I have good news statement.”  Jesus told them that the time had come that he had been telling them about when he would have to die, but in the same breath he assured them “You Are Not Alone”

 

This is our second week of our “Pinkie Swear: The Promises of Jesus” and last week we began with Jesus’ promise to give us rest.  This wasn’t a rest from physical labour or the daily work of life. Instead, it was a spiritual rest and an emotional rest.

 

The passage read this morning was Jesus’ promise to his disciples that he would not leave them alone and that same promise if for us today.  The promise that even though he wouldn’t be here in a physical form that the Holy Spirit would be here to give us the guidance and comfort that we need in our day to day life as Christ Followers.

 

A number of years ago we received a newsletter from friends of ours who are

bible

translators in an unnamed Asian country.  We could tell you where they are at but because of security concerns if we told you then we’d have to kill you.

 

In the letter, our friends who we will call Rick and Sue, mainly because that’s their names, spoke about the difficulty they had in translating the book of Acts because in that particular dialect there was no word for Holy Spirit and the concept seemed to be beyond translation.

 

Which raises the question “How can you translate a book without a term for the main character?”   The story of John Reid would have been simply another western if he hadn’t been named. . . the Lone Ranger.

 

And so the translators looked into the original Greek along with similar languages in the region and they tried, “God’s Good Wind” “God’s Breath” or “God’s Good Spirit.”  But none of those worked, people thought they were talking about a great sailing day or just thought the concept of God’s breath as being bizarre.  The people had no general term for “Spirit” they had terms for specific bad or evil spirits but nothing for a good or benevolent spirit.  They tried using a more generic word, but people understood that as meaning “to have a good attitude.”

 

After a lot of work and prayer they came up with the phrase “God’s Perfect Spirit” and it worked.  Sue said that suddenly the Holy Spirit wasn’t an attitude or force but a person, a part of the Trinity.

 

Now most of us don’t have a problem with the term the Holy Spirit.  But do we really understand who He is and what He does?  In the scripture that was read for us earlier, Jesus is telling the disciples that his time on earth is coming to an end, and it is there that we receive the promise of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Now, to be honest, the majority of us have a grip on God the Father, we know that he is our Creator.  And we’ve

have

no problem with God the Son, we know that Jesus is our Saviour.  But for too many of us, the concept of the Holy Spirit is a little fuzzy, a little vague.   What or who was it that Jesus was promising?

 

Hopefully this morning we can add some clarity to the promise.

The first thing I want to look at this morning is: The Promise of the Holy Spirit  Throughout the gospels and into the book of Acts we see Jesus promising the disciples that they won’t be left alone.  Often we think that the Holy Spirit was a last minute thought by Christ, “Oh by the way.  I’m leaving, but don’t be upset, tell you what I’ll leave the Holy Spirit for you.” But that isn’t the case at all.  The Holy Spirit isn’t an afterthought he was part of the original plan.  Early in Christ’s ministry right after Jesus taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer he makes this comment

Luke 11:13  So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

 

As a matter of fact before Jesus began his earthly ministry  he was announced by his cousin John who said Matthew 3:11  “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

And so it should have come as no surprise when hours before his arrest Jesus told his apostles in

John 14:15-17  “If you love me, obey my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know

him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”

 

The Person of the Holy Spirit.    The theologian A. W. Tozer wrote this in his book The Counsellor “Spell this out in capital letters: THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON.  He is not enthusiasm. He is not courage.  He is not energy.  He is not the personification of all good qualities, like Jack Frost is the personification of cold weather.  Actually, the Holy Spirit is not the personification of anything.  He is a Person, the same as you are a person, but not material substance. He has individuality. He is one being and not another. He has will and intelligence.  He has hearing. He has knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think. He can hear, speak, desire, grieve and rejoice. He is a Person.”

 

If we were to do a pop quiz right now and ask you who or what is the Holy Spirit I wonder what we would get for answers?  “The Third Person of the Trinity” “The Comforter” “The Counsellor” “Guide” “Teacher”.  How about this: He is God.

 

Often times when we think of the Holy Spirit we think of him as the third person of the trinity.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Why is that?  Why do we define him in that way?  To many people, the trinity is ranked Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father being the most important, then Jesus, then somewhere on down the line we place the Holy Spirit.  Why is that?  When asking people they will often say, “Because that’s how the bible lists them.”  Does it?  Well, it does in Matthew 28:19.   When Jesus is giving his last instructions to the apostles he says Matthew 28:19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

But it’s interesting to note that this is the only place in the bible where the

trinity

is listed in that particular order, in other places God is listed as Father, Holy Spirit and Son, and sometimes as Holy Spirit, Son and Father or Son, Holy Spirit, Father

as a matter of fact, there are six different ways that you could list the three members of the

trinity and all six ways are used in the Bible.

 

Others think that the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity because he isn’t mentioned until the day of Pentecost.  Yet if we go back to the very beginning in Genesis 1:2 Which of course is the initial account of creation we read Genesis 1:1-2  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

 

In Psalm 51 King David is pouring out his heart in repentance over his affair with Bathsheba and listen to his prayer in verse eleven: Psalm 51:11  Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

It was the Holy Spirit who was present at the conception of Christ   Luke 1:35  The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

It was the Holy Spirit who was present at the Baptism of Christ.  Luke 3:21-22  One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened,  and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

 

The Holy Spirit is not some created being or force that “poof” magically appeared on the day of Pentecost. He always was because he is God.  Nor is He some third string player waiting until late in the game to make his appearance.  He has been active through the entire realm of history from day one until the present.  He is God.

 

The Presence of the Holy Spirit  Maybe the question you’re asking today is “So what”, what does that have to do with me.  Everything.  When Jesus made the promise to the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be a presence in their lives the promise wasn’t limited to those twelve.  It is as real today as it was then and as real for you as it was for them.  The Holy Spirit is not an option in the Christian life, it’s not like getting power windows and air conditioning in your new car to make it more comfortable.

Instead we need to understand that He is the engine, he is what makes it go, he is the power of our Christian experience.  Jesus said The Holy Spirit is the very centre of our Christian life and you cannot live an obedient, productive, fruitful Christian life without the Holy Spirit’s presence.

 

So what is it the Holy Spirit does?  What is it you need him to do?  A lot can learned just by looking at the word that Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit.   In John 16:7 Jesus says  John 16:7  But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.

The word that I want to look at for a minute is Advocate in the New Living Translation, in the King James version the word is translated comforter, in the New King James version it’s helper Parakletos, and it can mean a variety of things, it can mean an intercessor, consoler, advocate, comforter or it can mean counsellor.  But however they choose to translate the word it means someone who comes alongside to help you.

And whichever of those definitions you use, it’s good.  Who wouldn’t want an intercessor in their life or a

consoler or an advocate or for that matter a counsellor?

 

What does He want to do for you? The Holy Spirit didn’t just come to hang around and confuse people, so let’s take a look at The Purpose  of the Holy Spirit  Why has the Spirit come?  Why did Jesus think it was so important for the apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit?  How did the Spirit’s presence affect the church then and what effect should He have on the church now? And not just the church collectively but the Christ Followers who make up the church.   Let’s let the book answer: Acts 1:8  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”

The Holy Spirit Gives Us Power

Power, what an incredible concept, power.  For everyone who thinks that they don’t have what it takes to live the life that Christ expects of them let me tell you this: You’re right, you don’t.  But cheer up because the Holy Spirit has buckets of what it takes and he wants you to have it.  This is one of my favourite scriptures; I love the very concept of the promise that when the Holy Spirit has control of our life you will receive power.  Not you might receive power or you may receive power or there’s a chance you will receive power, but you will receive power.  And not just a little bit of power, but wonderful, incredible, dynamic world changing power.

 

The power you need to conquer bad habits, the power you need to start good habits, the power you need to tell others about Jesus, the power you need to be everything that God wants you to be.  He doesn’t expect you to do it alone, as a matter of fact he doesn’t want you to do it alone, he wants to help you to do whatever it is you have to do.

Do you realize that you have the infinite power of almighty God in your life? That is his promise to you today.  He’s saying:  Let me come into your life and you will have power.  But it’s not just a matter of power.

Romans 5:5  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves

us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

The Holy Spirit Gives Us Love

Christianity places a high premium on love, after all Christianity itself is rooted in love,  John 3:16  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

And in John 13:35 Christ said Christianity would be defined and identified by Love John 13:35  “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

 

Probably the one commandment that is given the most page space in the New Testament is to Love One Another.  And as long as the church is made up of people that is going to be tough, especially when you use the definition of love that is given in the New Testament,

1 Corinthians 13:4-7  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. You cannot love people in the church like that in your own power.  Because there is always going to be some Jerk that you just can’t get along with, and God still expects you to love me.  And even though you can’t do it on your own the Holy Spirit can fill your heart with love.  Is it any wonder that the first characteristic mentioned in the fruit of the spirit is Love.

1 Corinthians 12:4  There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.

The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts

Now I don’t know if this will come as a shock to you or not but if you are a Christian then the Holy Spirit has a gift for you, and he also has a reason why he gives it to you. If we continue along in 1 Corinthians 12:7  A spiritual gift is given to each of us . . .

and then it tells us why. . . so we can help each other.

Some of those gifts are Prophecy, teaching, evangelism, discernment, healing, hospitality, speaking in unknown languages, interpreting unknown languages.  And each Christian is given at least one spiritual gift, why?  As a means of helping the entire church.  If you have never taken a spiritual gift test you should, you might be amazed at what your gifts are.

We all love gifts, so we should be excited to find the gifts that the Spirit has for us.

Galatians 5:22-23 Is a familiar passage for most of us. Paul has described what a person’s life is like when they are controlled by sin and then he goes on to tell what it should be like when it is controlled by the Holy Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!   The Holy Spirit Gives Us Character

Notice that the word fruit is singular, these aren’t several different characteristics that we can pick and

choose from, if your life is controlled by the Holy Spirit then this is how you will live.  The converse is also true if this isn’t how you are living then the Holy Spirit isn’t controlling your life.  It’s not rocket science.

So what’s the bottom line?  Romans 8:6  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Through my thirty-seven years of ministry, time and time again I’ve heard Christians either pray or make the statement “I want more of the Holy Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit is God he’s not a collection of pieces.  You can’t have more of him or less of him.

It’s like being pregnant you either is or you ain’t there’s no in between.  And it’s not that we don’t have enough of the Holy Spirit, it’s that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have enough of us.

It’s all in how you view it

Well, another survey is out showing that Christianity is losing ground and that church attendance is down.  The world would like us to think that we’re failing in our mission.

But, depending on your perspective, we aren’t losing, we’re winning.  When you stop and think about it, every person who isn’t a Christian hasn’t been lost from Christianity, they just haven’t been won to Christianity yet.

The starting place for humanity isn’t a relationship with Christ, the starting place for humanity is being separated from God, so every person who begins that relationship is a win for our side.  Does that make sense?

By default, the other side doesn’t have to do anything except try to keep us, the church, from doing our job; they only win when we stop doing what we’ve been called to do.

But when you stop and think about it, our job is easy, because all we’ve been called to do is be obedient.  And Jesus said that if we love Him, our natural instinct will be to obey him and that has to involve introducing people to Him.

Regardless of what the survey says, every day in Canada, there are people who cross the line of faith and commit their lives to Christ and that is a win.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible