Sermon from May 20th, 2018

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“The Spirit of the Age or the Spirit of God - Who will fill our church?”

Acts 2:1-13; John 15:1-8

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning! There are great things happening at Christ Lutheran Church! The Spirit of God is at work bringing into being things beyond our imagination. To God be the glory, great things he has done!  He’s got a reason for us to be here and he won’t abandon us!

At the same time, we have some challenges before us, especially if we take seriously Jesus command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.  That doesn’t just happen nor is it something we can do in our own strength.

If we are to be successful we need to be continually filled and refilled with the Holy Spirit.  The same is true if we are to go out into the whole world and make disciples of all nations. We can’t do that without the filling and refilling and refilling again by the Holy Spirit.

The Pentecost story begins this way. “They were all together in one place”. That’s why we’re in one service this morning. These early Christians were praying and waiting to be filled with the power Jesus promised. Are you open to God refilling you today so that you can fulfill his purpose? Are you open to him refilling our church for his purposes in this time and place?

We have an intelligent powerful enemy who will do anything to keep that from happening. The question before us today is the same as it has been in every generation for the last 2000 years. What spirit is filling our church? Is it the spirit of the age or the Holy Spirit of God?  What spirit is filling you this morning?

The spirit of the age seeks to conform you, distract you, put you to sleep spiritually, steal the fruit God wants to produce through your life. The spirit of the age will turn you in on yourself and makes you numb to the things of God and his love, power and grace. It will pull you away from the Lord and the things of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit does just the opposite. The first thing the Holy Spirit does is convict us of our sin and our need for a Savior. The second thing the Holy Spirit does is reveal how much God loves us and that he has made a way for our sins to be completely forgiven.

The Holy Spirit gives us a hunger for the things of God. The Holy Spirit gives us the wisdom to recognize and resist the works of the devil. The Holy Spirit empowers us to become what the Lord created us to be. And that is the source of true fulfillment and joy!

But you must make a choice. Will you be conformed and carried along by the spirit of the age or will you be transformed by the Spirit of God? 3500 years ago Joshua called the people to a sacred assembly on the border of the Promise Land.  He told them…

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Josh 24:14-15

600 years later, the prophet Elijah called the people to another sacred assembly on Mt Carmel in northern Israel. He said, “How long will you waver between two options? If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal is God, follow him. But the people said nothing at all…” 1 Kings 18:21-22

Why? They had been captured by the spirit of the age. Slowly, one little compromise at a time, they had become numb to the things of God. Sin was no longer hideous in their eyes. The things of God and the coming of his kingdom had become boring to them!

They were drawn into Baal worship which involved cult prostitution, infant sacrifice, the destruction of the family, the worship of sex, power and wealth. Satan has no new tricks.  He just repackages his same old lies for each new generation. Without the continued regeneration and transformation of the Holy Spirit we are powerless to resist him.

So what really happened on that first Pentecost?  It was 9 am Sunday morning. 120 witnesses to the resurrection were stuffed into the upper room where Jesus had often met with his disciples. The doors were locked for fear of the Jewish leaders.

They were praying and waiting to be clothed with power as Jesus promised. Suddenly the room was filled with the sound of a rushing wind. Flames of fire appeared on each of them.

They rushed out of hiding and into the street where they began to proclaim the mighty works of God in the native languages of the people who had gathered there. 3,000 people came to faith in Jesus that day and the Christian church was born …  and turned upside down!

The point is without the Holy Spirit we have no message to share and no power to deliver it. Are we willing to turn the control of our lives and our church over to the Lordship of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit?  We have a choice to make.

If we attempt to avoid making this decision, we will inevitably fall under the control of the spirit of the age. Joshua, Elijah, Jesus all confronted us with the same choice. “Will we be possessed by the Spirit of God or the spirit of the age in which we live?”

Jesus told us that they only way our lives will bear fruit for eternity is if we remain attached to the Vine, meaning himself. His life must flow through us. He said that a branch that is not connected to him will be barren and will be cut away and thrown in the fire.

That begs the question, what are we filling our lives with? What are we filling our children’s lives with?  What has first priority? What has last priority?  Joshua asked the people of his day. “Choose this day who you will serve.”  Will it be the spirit of the age or the Lord?  Elijah said, “Why do you go limping between two opinions. If Baal is god follow him, but if the Lord is God follow him.”

It was a week or two after Pentecost and Peter and John were on their way to the temple to pray.  They were met by a crippled man who begged them for money.  Peter said to him, “Silver and gold, I have none. But what I do have I give to you, in the name of Jesus, walk!”   And the man got up and followed them into the temple jumping and leaping and praising God.

A crowd quickly gathered and Peter began to preach. “People of Israel, why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus who you handed over to be killed. You disowned him before Pilate when he had decided to let him go. You disowned the holy and Righteous One. You killed the author of life!”

 It’s easy for us to say, it wasn’t me who killed Jesus. But it was me – and everyone else who has sinned against God. It was our sin that hung Jesus on the cross. The crowd who had watched Jesus heal, love, care, teach truth like no other teacher had ever taught, raise the dead and then after all that, they betrayed him, abandoned him, and crucified him.

But God raised him from the dead, not only because he was innocent, but because God accepted his sacrifice on our behalf. There is no other name given under heaven by which our sins can be forgiven and we can be saved.

Peter goes on to say, “It is Jesus name and the faith that comes through him that healed this man.” The spirit of the age can’t do that! Only Jesus can! We have a choice to make. Who will fill our hearts? Who will fill our church? Will it be the spirit of the age? Or the Holy Spirit of God? The Holy Spirit brings life. The spirit of the age brings death.

Peter goes on to say some very relevant things for us this morning. He says, “I know you acted in ignorance as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through the prophets saying that his Christ would suffer… therefore repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, and times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Acts 3:19

I want to point you to three symbols of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. The first is wind. The Pentecost experience began with the sound of a mighty wind. You can’t live in the Flathead valley without appreciating the wind.

The air can become stale and filled with smoke until God blows in some fresh air. We open our windows at home so the fresh aroma of spring can blow through. Are you willing for God to blow the life giving breath of his Holy Spirit through your life this morning? Are you willing for him to blow away the stale smell of fear that comes from the spirit of the age?

The second image is water. Jesus compared the flat water of a cistern with the living water of a stream. In the OT he tells us we are like leaky cisterns, but if we will open our hearts to him, out of our hearts will flow streams of living water. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Are willing for the Holy Spirit to open a spring of living water in your heart today?

The final image is fire. Fire burns away impurities. It ignites the things around it. It is a sign of sacrifice. It produces a holy aroma that rises in praise to God. Are you willing for the Holy Spirit to set you on fire? To burn away everything that separates you from the holiness of God? Are you willing for your whole life to become a sacrifice of praise for him?

Unless we are being continually transformed by the Holy Spirit, we will be conformed to the spirit of the age. Our love for the Lord will grow cold. The things of God will become boring. We will find more and more excuses to neglect God’s word and the gathering of his people. The remedy is to repent and ask the Lord to forgive us and fill us again so that what Peter called God’s “seasons of refreshing” might fill our hearts again.


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

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