Sermon from June 4th, 2017

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“Pentecost: When God Fills Empty Hearts with Overflowing Joy and Love”

Acts 2:1-41; John 7:37-39


By Pastor John Bent



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Sermon Text
Good morning! It’s Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Jesus resurrection, 10 days after his Ascension, when God poured the fire of his Holy Spirit out on the apostles and 120 believers. They went out into the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming the mighty works of God.

Peter preached his first sermon that day and 3,000 people from nations all around the Mediterranean basin came to faith in Jesus.  Those 3,000 people took the message of Jesus home with them and the church was born. “Lord, do it to us again this morning!”

Let me ask you a question, “What difference does it make when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside a person?” Let’s begin with what the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5.
 
“The acts of the flesh (no Holy Spirit) are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…
… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:19-23

Let’s make some connections. Although many news organizations are reluctant to report it because of backlash of political correctness, we are living in an increasingly violent world. Pastor Long reported what’s happening in South Sudan. Two-thirds of Syria’s Christians have been murdered or displaced. 90% of Iraq’s Christians are decimated.

In Egypt, jihadists gunned down dozens of Christians just days ago and ISIS bombed two churches on Palm Sunday. Although most American news sources refuse to report it, children in the Middle East are being beheaded, crucified, and worse.

An America comedian puts a mock beheading of our president into her act. College students riot, break windows and rough up guest speakers and professors but can’t explain the reason why they are doing it. Something is desperately wrong in the human heart.

Where is this violence coming from? What’s driving this rage?  This is the fruit of our sinful human nature, but is there more?  Let’s look at what the Bible says. James writes,

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3


Isaiah gives us another clue as to the rage we see in the culture around us. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and you will delight in the richest of fare.” Isa 55:1-2

There is an emptiness in the human heart that only the Lord can fill. David recognized this when he wrote “My soul thirsts for God - for the living God, where can I go and meet with God.”  Ps 42:2   Peter in his Pentecost sermon confronts the people of Jerusalem. “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” Acts 2:22-23

How could this happen? The Romans prided themselves on justice, yet they knowingly tortured and crucified an innocent man. The Jewish leaders did the same. Many of the crowd hurled insults at the same Jesus that healed the sick and raised the dead.

When we first meet the Apostle Paul, he is introduced as Saul, breathing murderous threats. He is a very religious man. He claims to know and serve God but his heart is filled with an irrational rage.  An empty heart easily becomes as desperate heart and a desperate heart easily becomes a violent heart as we look for someone to blame for our frustration.

Augustine, the great 3rd century Christian scholar gives some insight into this problem. He wrote, “O God, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.”

Maybe one of the reasons we are seeing so much frustration and unrest among many of our college students is that the promises they were given of being able to create their own new social and moral utopia are failing.  Every human Tower of Babel sooner or later collapses under its own weight and the builders are left with emptiness, rage and fear.

Let’s go back to Peter’s sermon. “God has raised Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear… Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles. “What shall we do?” Acts 2:32-37

They realized they had a problem. What they thought was the way of life had ended in disaster. They had become the very thing they hated. There was an emptiness - a disease in their hearts they could no longer deny.

Peter answered them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

This was the fulfillment of what Jesus had promised in John 7. “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” John 7:37-38

We see this in the life of the Apostle Paul. He went from breathing murderous threats to writing to the Philippians, “I hold you all in my heart.”  Paul went from a shriveled heart out of which oozed the poison of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, murder, and fear – to a heart that overflowed with the fruit of the Spirit, namely, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
 
You can either have a heart that leaks emptiness and rage, or you can have a heart that over flows with compassion and love. The difference is the Holy Spirit. So let’s apply this.

There is a God shaped hole in every human heart that only God can fill. We long for this void to be filled, yet our sinful nature tries to fill it with everything but God. You all know this.

The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah 700 years before Jesus was born. “Why do you spend your hard earned money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy?”  Good question.  When we invest all we have into something that doesn’t work, it’s not surprising that we would be frustrated and angry and look for someone to blame.

But blame doesn’t solve the problem. The only solution is to repent and invite Jesus to come into our hearts and fill us day by day with his Holy Spirit. Why day by day?

The first reasons is we leak. When Paul says, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The verb tense is be continually being filled with the Holy Spirit. Without that, we quickly dry up and fall back into the same shriveled heart kind of selfish mentality and behavior.

The second reason is that we were created to be a pipeline, not a reservoir - a spring welling up with joy and love, a channel of God’s love pouring out to others. Are you willing?

If God’s love is to remain fresh and vital within us, we need to pass his love and grace on to others. The Holy Spirit was never given for our own personal private possession.

The truth is, you can’t believe in Jesus or come to him without the Holy Spirit.  If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit. But even as a Christian, we can still resist the Holy Spirit. We can continue to try and fill our hearts with the things of the world that cannot satisfy our deepest need. The result of resisting the Spirit and trying to fill our emptiness with the things of this world inevitably end up in frustration, impatience, anger, depression.

There’s a reason for the rage we see in the culture around us. Its empty hearts! The result of that emptiness is rage. Paul knew about this from personal experience.

Let’s read again what he wrote in Gal 5.  “The acts of the flesh (no Holy Spirit) are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…

… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:19-23


So how is it going in your heart? What are pouring into your heart in your desire to find peace, purpose, meaning, satisfaction? There are many wonderful gifts in this world, but none of them will satisfy your deepest hunger. Only the Lord can do that. He created you for himself and your heart will be restless until you find your rest in him.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event, nor is it something reserved for the hyper-religious.  Every Christian is to be continually being filled with the Holy Spirit. Are you open to that? 

The walk of faith involves daily repentance and daily invitation for the Holy Spirit to come and fill us and lead us.  So let’s do that now …

“Lord Jesus, I ask you to forgive my sin, my foolish attempts to fill my heart with something other than you. Forgive my frustration when this doesn’t work. Forgive my blaming angry heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and lead me in the way of life. Morning by morning, day by day, I want to spend the rest of my life living for you. In Your name,


Amen.

Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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