Faith and the Holy Spirit
Faith and the Holy Spirit.
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 14th July, 2019
During worship last week I had a picture come to me of a pile driver, pounding foundations into the earth. And as we were singing, every time we declared another truth about who God is, or another promise from His Word, it’s like it was another thundering blow that sank the foundations even deeper into the ground.
And sensed the Holy Spirit was undergirding our lives with more and more stability and strength and power, because He knows we have an incredible house to build upon those foundations.
And we also, no doubt, have some strong storms of life to withstand. But withstand, we will.
I couldn’t even remember at the time what a pile driver was called – but I could see it in operation.
And I couldn’t leave that picture alone. So this morning, we are launching our message from that same place.
And I believe I had confirmation when I came across Jeremiah 23:29.
Jeremiah 23:29, “ Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
Jeremiah 23:29 (Message). “Isn’t my Message like fire?” God’s Decree. “Isn’t it like a sledgehammer busting a rock?
And I knew that’s exactly what I was seeing. God’s Word was smashing like a hammer through our unbelief – our complacency – our self centredness – the strongholds of our mind – the walls around our heart… And the Holy Spirit Himself was driving His Word deeper and deeper into our spirit and soul.
The sledgehammer was the Word of God – and the Holy Spirit was the One driving – and the piles or foundations were pillars of faith filled truth going down, down, down… pushing and smashing past everything that was standing in the way. Unbelief and fear were being replaced with faith and boldness in the truth.
This morning I want to talk about Faith and the Holy Spirit. So we’re backtracking to that little series I started when I came back from holidays – the series entitled “Fighting The Good Fight of Faith!”
There are definitely certain men in the bible who stand out as men of faith, but I want to mention of couple of men who were part of the new church in Jerusalem.
We’ve got the situation in the New Testament Church where the church is expanding so quickly, that complaints are coming through that widows are being neglected – the disciples were unable to keep up with all the practical and organisational aspects of the new church community – and so they were finding themselves stretched to the limit with all the responsibilities.
They decided that they themselves needed to focus on the more spiritual matters that centred around the word of God – so others were needed for the more practical things.
Acts 6:3-5, “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,”
No matter what our ministry is, whether it’s related to prayer and the word – or to serving tables or looking after widows or the every day business of the church, we all need to be like Stephen and Philip – men and women who are full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit.
Because whatever role or office or position we fill – if it’s something we do in serving God and His house – where we desire to do all to His glory – then we need more than our natural ability. We might be natural men and women – but when the Holy Spirit comes upon us – He takes us to the realm of the supernatural. That’s what glorifies God – His power and Anointing. And He can do that wherever we find ourselves.
And it’s really interesting that when we read later about ones like Stephen and Philip, we realise that while the disciples chose them to serve tables – their faith and the power of the Holy Spirit soon took them on to do great signs and wonders and miracles among the people.
And so here is another lesson for us. Man might commission you to serve tables and look after practical areas of ministry, but God Himself will be the One who commissions you and fills you to step into supernatural ministry and Anointing.
Venese and I heard a great message at our INC church in Coffs Harbour, when we were down that way recently. And it was on hospitality. And it was emphasised just what a gift hospitality is – and how it’s something that we all should stretch ourselves to express. When we give ourselves to hospitality as an expression of Christ’s love for others, He then Anoints us for it.
There have been numerous women – especially unchurched ladies – who have come along to some of our Women’s events, and they have stood and looked at how much care and love has gone into preparing the tables, the decorations, the meals… and they have just stood at the door and cried. Why? Because it’s that Anointed hospitality that ministers to them.
So don’t despise small beginnings.
Philip, the table server, the one taking care of business… became a man who just went from one supernatural encounter to another.
In Acts Chapter 8, we find an angel speaking to Philip…, That’d be enough for me right there… bring on the angels… and this angel was telling him to go down a certain road in the desert. He comes along a man of great authority from Ethiopia… and Philip overhears this man reading the book of Isaiah – obviously struggling to know it’s meaning.
Acts 8:29-31, “Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.”
Acts 8:35, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.”
He leads this man to the Lord, stops the chariot by a river and baptises him.
Acts 8:39-40, “Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.”
I looked up how far Gaza is from Azotus… it’s over 60 klms.
The Spirit of God picked Philip up and plopped him down 60 klms away.
All in a days work – and not bad for a man who was appointed to serve tables.
Philip carried revival with him because he carried such a measure of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit, and his life was so surrendered to God, that he was literally carried from one place to another.
If we are faithful in serving in the most humble of roles, God can so fill us with His Holy Spirit that He can soon promote us to the ministry of salvation, healing and miracles – and all things supernatural.
If you really think about it, what can’t a man or women do who is Spirit filled? Nothing is impossible.
The Holy Spirit can take hold of a man of faith and use him as a vessel to change the world. And if we position ourselves to hear His voice, He can lead us to influence the hearts of men and women – even those of authority great authority – even Kings and Queens…
Our prayer can only be that the power of the Spirit that we carry will change hearts for good.
But the reality is, sometimes that same power brings such a conviction to people’s hearts that they turn against us.
When we look at what happened to Stephen – he soon found himself being persecuted for his faith. And persecuted because He moved in the Holy Spirit.
In his time and culture – bringing conviction and truth to the religious leaders of his day – he was persecuted to the point of death.
But the Holy Spirit worked through him right to the end.
Acts 6:10, “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.”
Whether men receive, or choose to walk away from the truth, they cannot deny or resist God’s supernatural wisdom and Anointing. It’s just too compelling!
In Philips story with the Ethiopian – it brought about salvation.
In Stephen’s case, as he was taken before the courts, the religious leaders set up false witnesses and straight out lied about what he had said.
But this is what happens:
Acts 6:15, “And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.”
And Stephen went on to give a Holy Spirit inspired summary of the story of God, reaching out to His people… he had a faith and boldness come over him…
But as much as they recognised something supernatural about him – and were convicted in their hearts – they resisted.
So Stephen gave them both barrels:
Acts 7:51, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”
Acts 7:54-56, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Stephens life came to a sudden end as they ran towards him with one accord and stoned him to death.
I know this is a pretty full on example of a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit. But his testimony lives on for thousands of years – and the place of glory – and the revelations and visions of heaven – still speak to us of the place in which we too can live. And let’s not evade the possibility – that it’s a place where one day we might be confronted to the point of death ourselves.
Just before Stephen died, as he was looking toward heaven, it says:
Acts 7:60, “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Stephen didn’t hate these religious leaders. In fact, he loved them. That’s why he put his life on the line. That’s why he allowed the Holy Spirit to minister conviction through him. Because he desperately wanted for them to see the truth.
It’s probably the most powerful expression of faith and the Holy Spirit working together. Trusting God no matter what – being willing to lay your life down for another – but all the time listening and responding to the Spirit’s direction.
It’s the same love and compassion that Jesus had at Calvary.
They had tortured Him, mocked Him, and killed Him. But before He died, He said:
Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
There’s no greater love than this. In the face of those who hate you, lifting off every judgement against them, and praying for God to release them from the consequences of their hatred.
Fortunately, our challenges for now at least, are not near so threatening. And yet there are lessons to be learnt in keeping our hearts right.
I had the privilege of marrying a young couple yesterday – Ethan and Megan – a beautiful Christian couple. Ethan was saved, obviously by the Holy Spirit – but God used the work of BCEC and the role of SRE in the schools. He stood up and testified right here where I’m standing quite a few years ago…
But from what I can gather, most of the people at the wedding didn’t have a faith in God.
But I spoke out my usual full on Christian message about marriage anyway.
I sensed there were various responses to what I was saying. I’m pretty sure some people’s hearts were touched – at least that’s what some of them said.
But I know there were others – I actually overheard a comment – who didn’t receive what I was saying – or weren’t able to because their hearts were hardened.
But I know, God’s love for each one of them was the same. And I might have missed an opportunity – I’m not sure – because after the service, I had this momentary inclination to go over to one of the women who was a stranger to me, and to tell her how much God loved her.
All I know is, there is a constant spring that bubbles up from within me – and I’m sure it’s the same for most of you as well – where I can’t help but share the truth of the gospel. And it’s up to the Holy Spirit how that’s received by individuals.
I’m reminded of what Paul said to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
This is an encouragement for all of us. It’s not about how great you are as a speaker. It’s not about how clever you are at influencing and persuading others.
Paul was one of the smartest and most educated men around – and could very well have spoken with great authority. But that’s not what Paul depended on.
It’s all about having faith in what the Holy Spirit can do as He breathes upon your words of truth – and what He does with the testimony you share of who God is. It’s the power of God that we need to be trusting in.
At the wedding yesterday, this became real for me. I knew I couldn’t convince anyone – but I trusted in the Anointing – I trusted in how the Holy Spirit was moving in power and might in the hearts of those listening. And in the end, my responsibility is simply to open my mouth and speak truth. The rest is between God and those He is trying to reach.
Which leads me to another thing about our sharing. It’s also not our job to lay down the law. We don’t come to Christ through the law. We come to Christ through faith. And we continue to walk out our journey with Christ through faith.
Actually it’s by His grace, working through faith.
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
And Galatians 3:5, “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”
We need to lift off ourselves any false expectation that we have to have all the doctrinal answers to the many different circumstances that people find themselves in. It’s not our place to become overwhelmed with trying to explain and persuade and convince people that Jesus is the answer.
It’s the ministry of the Holy Spirit that will change hearts and minds. As we testify to the truth of Christ in our own lives – the power of God that we have experienced – the transformation that has happened in our own lives – that’s what the Spirit of God will use to reveal God’s love, His beauty, His wisdom, His power.
The Holy Spirit will convict. He will lead people into all truth. It will be His overwhelming love and compassion for people that will open their hearts.
I just read a testimony last night from Pastor Shane DeGraaf about a neighbour he prayed. Shane and Rebecca were down here a few moths ago. And we were with them at their church in Brisbane as they celebrated their church birthday.
Anyway Shane says:
An Encouraging MIRACLE I witnessed last night!
The most wonderful testimony! A MIRACLE… Last Night I spoke to my neighbour who lives right next door. He had busted his right shoulder! Restricted and painful movement. As I borrowed his mower and chatted for 30 mins, I offered to put my hand on his shoulder and pray total healing in Jesus Name!!!
I said “Now move it”. He had an astonished look on his face and exclaimed that most of the pain had gone and said with excitement “You’re a witch!” To which I said “No, God loves you and Jesus healed you”
I layed my hand on his shoulder two more times. Then Prayed and said “Perfect and 100% healing in Jesus Name” He moved his shoulder every which way. He said “What have you done to me, you’re a witch” I then said “NO!!! I am not a witch, JESUS HEALED YOU, I just asked Him to do it”
I Walked off with his mower and proclaimed “God loves you and you now have some thinking to do – See you soon”
GOD STILL HEALS TODAY! Take a risk, it is worth it. Pray for others and accept prayer. It works. GOD IS LOVE.
Can you imagine what’s going on for that neighbour of Shane’s? The Holy Spirit must be having a ball with that guy.
It’s not persuasive words, excellence of speech. It’s not human wisdom.
It’s “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Jesus wants people to know Him for Who He is. It’s all about relationship. It’s in that place of divine presence that people hearts and lives are changed.
Let’s stop talking and let’s pray: