Monday, June 07, 2010

Sermon from Yesterday: Part Two on the Holy Spirit

[This is a collaborative effort, a sermon by committee if you will. Matt wrote it twice and then I rewrote it and then I ended up preaching it. The sermon starts with several examples of how people talk about the Holy Spirit. Can't remember what I said to introduce it.]

"I visited that church and the sermon was biblical,
and the people were nice
but I just didn't feel the Spirit there."

"Have you been filled yet?
Have you received the second blessing?"
Well, I think so, I trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins.
"Well, that means you are going to heaven but if you had received the second blessing then you would speak in tongues. Do you speak in tongues? No. Well then let's pray together that you can be filled with the Spirit."

"My wife and I felt called to this mission three years ago. Lots of people have spent lots of money to get us here. The people of this village have built us a house but we've been praying about it and just don't feel that sense of peace that tells us the Holy Spirit still wants us here. So we're leaving. God's plans are obviously not our plans. Our ways are not his ways."

"The Spirit does seem to be saying to many within The Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God’s good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones."

It has become increasingly common
both in mainline denominations
and in some (not all) radical charismatically inclined bodies
to blame just about everything on the Holy Spirit.
For all the contemporary talk of spiritual gifts
(and there are indeed spiritual gifts)
and spiritual power (which is real)
and claims of being spirit-filled
(every believer is filled with the Spirit)
the Holy Spirit is often reduced to a religious euphemism for
“what we want to do.”

Not only so,
confusion about who the Holy Spirit is
and what the Holy Spirit does
leads not only to very bad teaching on the corporate level
but in a very personal way
to broken promises,
ruined relationships
and radically selfish behavior among individual members
of the church.
Our task today is to clear away some of the confusion.

But this is not going to be an easy six part way
to know who the Holy Spirit is
and how to know he is working in your life.
While this subject is eminently practical
every single solitary human being who knows Jesus,
loves him
and trusts in him has the Holy Spirit living inside him or her
you can't get more practical and personal,
we're not going to go at it from that angle.
Rather, you'll find much of our ground familiar,
and that's because the problem
most people and churches have
with the Holy Spirit
is the same problem
they have
with everything that has to do with the Christian life,
and that problem is the Bible.

If you cast your mind back to the examples above,
you will be able to see that in each case
the Holy Spirit is separated out
and examined
and used Apart From Scripture.
That in each case
the Bible is over here
and the Holy Spirit is over here
and sometimes they relate to each other,
but sometimes they contradict each other
and that when that happens,
the Holy Spirit wins.
Or rather, the desire felt to be associated with Holy Spirit
So the missionary couple feels free
to break their oaths to their colleagues and supporters because they feel peace about it
and confuse that peace with the Spirit.
So the Episcopal Church is free
to depart from the clear teaching of scripture
about sex and marriage
because the Spirit speaks more clearly
through the majority vote of a small denominational gathering
in North America
than he did through the apostles.
So the person who speaks in tongues,
which is certainly a gift,
assumes that he has a second,
greater blessing,
a higher standing in the Spirit,
than those who do not,
despite what scripture clearly says about the divine distribution
of different gifts in different ways.
In each case,
the Holy Spirit is autonomous from,
sometimes even contradicting Scripture.

This is madness.
As we saw last week in our discussion of the Trinity,
the Holy Spirit is God.
He is not a breath of air or an energy field or the force.
He is the third person of the One Godhead
and completely
and everlastingly
relating in self giving love
to the Father
and the Son.
He cannot be divided from the Father and the Son
and so, necessarily,
For this reason,
and for another equally important one
he cannot be divided from Scripture.

Turn with me to the Scriptures to see how this is true.

Let's start with Jesus.
Turn to John 16:13-14.
Jesus is with the disciples
on the night before he will be given up to death
and he is instructing them,
comforting them,
trying to clue them in to what will be happening.
Jesus says "When he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you."

First of all, let me disabuse us all of the idea
that Jesus is talking to all of us
when he says
that the Spirit will guide you into all truth.
The 'you' is the 12 disciples
those who they confirm
and those who saw the risen lord
and were called directly by him to be apostles
Mark, Titus, James, Paul for example.
The 'all truth' is the truth recorded and revealed
in the books that make up the New Testament.
The Holy Spirit will supernaturally 'guide' them,
so that as they teach
and write
they will,
by the Holy Spirit,
speak and write the words of Christ.
They won't be making it up,
they will be helped and guided
by the Holy Spirit
to write Scripture.
The New Testament was authored
both by the men who wrote it,
and by God the Holy Spirit
who lead the apostolic authors into all truth.
Who, in that collaboration,
is stronger?
Who has the power?
Who has the wisdom?

Just to grind this point into the ground,
the apostles,
not you,
sitting out in the woods with your good thoughts,
not me,
will be lead into 'All Truth'.
Thats all done.

Ok, Jesus goes on,
'he will not speak on his own; he will speak what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.'
The Holy Spirit will be acting in perfect unity
with the Son
who is perfectly obedient to the Father,
when he superintends the writing of the Scriptures.
He won't be making it up.
He will only speak what he hears.
He's never never never going to say something
that is counter to the will,
and desire of the Son
who is perfectly obedient to the Father.
Its not going to happen.

And finally,
"He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you."
The Holy Spirit's mission,
his goal,
his reason for being is to glorify the Son
whose purpose,
whose reason for being,
is to glorify the Father.

So, the Holy Spirit is the author of the New Testament.
He cannot be divided from it.
But what about the Old Testament?
We find the answer also in the New Testament.
Turn to 2nd Peter 1:20-21.
Peter is explaining how the OT came to be
and how we know it is trustworthy.
He writes,
"Above all you must understand that no prophesy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophesy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
The exact same process that produced the New Testament, produced the Old.
The Holy Spirit carried along,
he breathed into the minds and hearts
of the writers of the Old Testament
what they were supposed to say and remember and write down.

Furthermore, in 1st Peter 1:10-11,
Peter points and attributes the words of the Old Testament
to Christ.
He writes,
"Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and the circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing."
They were waiting for the Christ,
the Messiah,
they were looking for him,
pointing toward him,
reaching out to him.
It was his words that came under their pen.

The individual Christian,
the Church
cannot separate the Holy Spirit from the Holy Scriptures.
The scriptures are the words of Christ,
the Son,
and it is the task of the Holy Spirit to glorify the Son
by taking his words
and making them known...
not undercutting them.
The Holy Spirit is never, therefore,
never going to contradict the Holy Scriptures.

On the contrary,
if you want to hear the voice of God,
if you want, in your ordinary day to day life,
to feel the presence of God,
to know him,
to be guided by him,
to find out if he loves you and how much,
to figure out what to do with yourself,
how to relate to the people around you,
if that is what you want,
then there is one place to go
and that is the Bible.
And that is because for the believer,
the Holy Spirit's task is not reveal to new revelations
or new truths to astound our friends,
but to illumine,
to help you understand what has already been so carefully
and perfectly revealed.
He does that supernaturally
through your personal study,
through teachers
through preachers,
applying those words to your life and to the life of the church.
Let me try to very briefly outline what this looks like.
Earlier in the week, Monday in fact, I indulged myself in some panic about the future. We're commanded by Jesus not to worry, 'don't concern yourself about tomorrow, sufficient for the day is its own trouble', there are enough disobedient children and piles of laundry and emails to answer today, why worry about what you can't accomplish tomorrow? Nevertheless, I let myself go there, and in going into the Kingdom of Anxiety, I put aside any trust or interest in God I should have had. Nevertheless, tomorrow came, even though I didn't want it too, and, because over a long time of many many many days I have developed the habit of reading scripture, I turned to that habit thoughtlessly. I flipped open my laptop, clicked on the assigned readings for the day, pushed the little audio button, closed my eyes and tried to drown out the arguing of children and attend to the nice voice of the man reading the Bible on the computer. It was a psalm. Can't even remember which one. "Can God set a table in the wilderness?" the psalmist asked. Clearly no I said to myself and then tried to move on the next passage, but I wasn't really awake and so I accidently pushed the audio button and heard the whole thing again. "Can God set a table in the wilderness?" No, honestly, no. I mean, yes he can but no. A third time, against my will, I pushed the audio instead of moving forward. "Can God set a table in the wilderness?" I was completely undone.
Let me return, for just one moment, to something I said at the beginning. The Holy Spirit's ultimate purpose is to glorify the Son. He did this perfectly in the authoring of scripture. But he goes on doing it by bringing to life those of us who were dead in our sins, by bringing our lives up against the Scriptures to rebuke, guide, save and sanctify us, to make us Holy. His life giving breath makes it possible for us to do what our ultimate purpose is, and that is to glorify the Son.

1 comment:

Kevin Seaver said...

Hi Anne,

I liked this a lot. What a team.

I think the failure to perceive the luminous Word alive and speaking in Scripture is at the root of so much that's wrong in the Church. Maybe not so much failure as inability/disability.

One mark of the Charismatic renewal has been the awakening a deep hunger for and interest in Scripture. I take that as at least a partial validating sign.

Whereas much of the spirit talk in the Churches under judgment is just Montanism, looking to labyrinths, Wisdom literature, divine sparks, yoga, Zen--anything but the Word.

What kind of response did you get to this sermon?

Kevin Seaver