What really influences us?
When I listen to music in the car, it stays with me all day. Not ‘playing in my head’ all day but when I get back into the car, I remember what song my ipod was up to before I turn it back on. It’s been there in the back of my head all day.
This week I read a long term study on bullying produced by a U.S. university. It concluded that bullying has a far greater adverse effect on victims, bullies, and bully-victims especially.
Music, traumatic experiences, relationships (etc) can have profound influences on us – influences which can stay with us throughout our lives.
Jim Cymbala: “We are a product of multiple influences.”
Some influences can become very strong in our lives and can begin to control our thoughts and shape our personalities and our characters.
Anger is a good example of this. Some people are angry for no apparent reason. They just seem ‘angry’. They explode at the smallest thing but really they are not exploding at that thing but rather they have been affected by something else that happened earlier that has stayed with them and begun to control their words and actions.
We’re all influenced by people and experiences. What’s important is that we surround ourselves with godly influences – the Word, church, good people.
Yet what we must remember is that with circumstances – whether good or bad – especially as Christians – we always, ultimately, get to decide who or what will influence us. With God, there is no shouganai. There are always godly choices for us to make. Some choices are certainly harder than others but we always have a choice as to how we allow things to influence us.
As Christians, we belong to Christ. He bought us and we belong to Him. In the eyes of the world that might seem like a negative thing – to be owned – but for the Christian, to be owned by God, to belong to Christ, is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
God saved us for the purpose of making us his temples. In the OT, the temple consisted of the outer courtyard, the inner courtyard, the holy place, and then beyond that was the holy of holies in which only the chief priest could go and only once a year and that’s where God’s physical presence would be manifest. That holy of holies was (in Hebrew) the ‘naos’. In the NT, when God speaks of us being God’s temples, he calls us the ‘naos’ – the holy of holies where a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit resides.
When we belong to Christ, we belong to Him.
Christianity is the only major religion in which followers have God inhabiting their person. We are walking miracles because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Analyse that!
But the Bible does not talk merely of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Bible talks of the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
This fullness refers to an overflowing of the Holy Spirit- a spilling out onto others with the love and grace of God.
You might remember that this year’s theme is fullness. At the bottom of every order of service slide it says “Be filled”.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
In the first sermon of this year, I said:
We need to pray for the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
We need to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our church.
We need to pray for spiritual awakening through the power of the Holy Spirit in our community. 私たちが聖霊に満たされるように祈る必要があります。私たちの教会への聖霊の注ぎを祈る必要があります。
But the Holy Spirit is a person. He’s not a liquid or a gas. So what does it mean to be filled with a person?
– It means that the Spirit controls us. This is not a robotic loss of choice. We choose to let the Holy Spirit of God control us.
Many Christians believe in Christ, receive His Spirit but don’t surrender to the control of the Spirit. They then wonder why they don’t experience the fullness of God! The truth of this applies to all Christians from the newest and youngest believer to the pastors and elders in a church. We must surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit.
In Revelation 3 Jesus said to his church in Laodicea, “because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
I don’t want to read more into the text than is warranted but the Holy Spirit is often described and depicted as a fire. Fire is hot. This church in Laodicea was not hot – they were not burning with the flame of the Holy Spirit. But they weren’t cold either. They had the Holy Spirit but not in its fullness. They weren’t controlled by the Spirit. So Jesus said, ‘No way. Not good enough. I don’t want those sorts of people or those sorts of churches.’
You can tell when a church is on fire with the Spirit of God: people find Christ, there are baptisms, prayer meetings active in seeking God’s blessings and a spirit of love pervades the atmosphere.
Churches that are not on fire: there might be Biblical sermons but there is little evidence of the presence of the Spirit or of His unconditional love. The signs that God is in control are absent.
Some Christians believe that all Christians not only have the Spirit (which is true) but must by the very nature of the Spirit always be full of the Spirit, arguing that you can’t have half of the Holy Spirit or a part of the Holy Spirit. But if that were the case, why would God command Christians to be filled with the Spirit if all Christians are automatically filled with the Spirit?! It doesn’t make sense.
We need to be filled, controlled by the Spirit and this will produce evidence that people can see and know is of God.
Question: What keeps us from surrendering our all to the Holy Spirit?
* Fear of losing control. We want to be in control of our lives and giving up control of our lives can be scary.
* Fear of ridicule. We don’t want to be ridiculed which will likely happen at some point (as it did in Acts 2). We want more of God in our lives – but not to the point of ridicule so we go for ‘moderation’. (What’s the difference between moderation and being lukewarm?)
The irony of Spirit-filled living is that we have to give up power in order to gain a greater power. Christianity is not a self-effort religion but one of power – the might of the Holy Spirit in the believer.
Jim Cymbala: “The Spirit is the only one who can produce self-discipline, love and boldness. But to do so, He has to control us daily. We can’t rest on a religious experience we had years or even months ago.”
Paul’s last letter was to Timothy. 2 Timothy 1:6,7
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Fan the flame!
Three key points about the Holy Spirit:
1. Jesus promised the Spirit’s fullness.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
2. Scripture commands Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
3. The fullness of the Spirit is a necessity in our lives. When Jesus declared, “Apart from you you can do nothing” (John 15:5), He meant what He said.
Cymbala: “The Spirit waits to fulfill the mission he was sent to do – to govern the affairs of every born again believer. I encourage you to get along¥e with God today and spend some time praying about who or what is in control of your life. You and I are going to be controlled by something. There is no question about that. So before you go any further, decide now whom you will yeild to. Tell God your questions about being controlled by the Spirit. Present him with your hopes and longings for something more.”
-> Prayer time.