Leeds Vineyard

heaven on earthBe filled with the Holy Spirit

A few days ago, I was in our front room with our girls. Despite being in the room with them, I was checking out the football scores on my phone – very important and necessary too, some might say – and a lot more interesting to me than Peppa Pig!
However I was completely unaware that all 3 girls had switched their attention from Peppa Pig to me and had been trying to get me to join in their game.
I may have been in the room, but I was definitely not present for them.

And that is so not how God is. He is not a distant God.
He’s not just in the room, hanging around so that we’re aware He’s there, but not engaged with us. He desires to be an integral part of our lives.
He is actively present. To counsel, to help, to encourage, to defend & to comfort.
And if he’s present in our lives, we’ll see the evidence of that.

That’s what I want to talk about this morning:
Being filled with the Holy Spirit, so we can see the evidence in our lives of Him actively present in us.

In David’s talk last week he spoke about testing that evidence: “How can I know this is good and from God?
Let’s look again at the verse David shared with us:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.
(Matthew 7: 15-20)

The ESV version translates ‘good’ tree as ‘healthy’ tree: every healthy tree bears good fruit

What was Jesus saying?
That prophets and teachers would come to them attempting to lead them and teach them – it was important to test them by their fruit to see if they were authentic; if they were the real deal.

What is Jesus saying to us?
Our lives and the result of our influence on others indicates whether we are healthy, authentic, real, and honest in how we follow Jesus.

So what does this look like?
The apostle Paul wrote:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control“
(Galatians 5: 22-23)

So, if we want to be authentic followers of Jesus, surely should expect to see this fruit in our lives?
I would suggest that this fruit doesn’t come from how hard we work at making it happen, but from how much the power of the Holy Spirit is working in & through us – as we repent, turn to Him & ask Him to fill us.

Who is the Holy Spirit?
In the New Testament, a Greek word used several times to describe the Holy Spirit was “Paraclete
– which we would translate as "counsellor", "helper", “encourager”, “advocate” ( or defender), and "comforter"
It’s God, actively present with us.

Here’s as an example of one of the ways the Holy Spirit works in our lives:
Some months ago Maggie and I went to visit her Grandma in hospital. She had been suffering from cancer and while undergoing treatment had fallen in the hospital and broken her hip.
We dashed up the motorway to see her before her operation as we knew that she was very weak and might not survive the surgery. Having arrived just in time, Maggie was able to pray with her Grandma.
Maggie simply put her hand on her shoulder and prayed for the Holy Spirit to come – and we saw her comforted by a loving God, who was so present in the room and He brought her peace.
After all the stress of the rush to get there and the worry and fear we had – we were standing in the presence of God. The Holy Spirit was present, bringing comfort & encouragement.
He was bringing a ‘rightness’ to a really difficult situation.

The theologian Karl Barth said this of the Holy Spirit:
"The Holy Spirit establishes the righteousness of heaven, in the midst of the unrighteousness of earth, and will not stop or stay until all that is dead has been brought back to life and a new world has come into being."
(Karl Barth, The Word of God and The Word of Man)

This is who the Holy Spirit is. He is continuing this work of transformation and redemption for us and through us, making things new – establishing God’s blessing & bringing Heaven to Earth.

God’s blessing is found in His presence, which is mediated by His Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit gives us the tools to be the blessing that God intended us to be.
Without Him, we’re going to do it in our own strength, our own intellect, our own understanding – and sadly however clever we are, that’s not good enough, that’s not what does it. It’s only the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
We can’t do the job that God’s called us to do without the presence of the Holy Spirit.

During the time between when Jesus rose from the dead, and when He ascended to Heaven, He spoke with His disciples and said:
“...wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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."
 (Acts 1:4-8)

He’s saying the Kingdom of God, Heaven on Earth, is brought in by disciples who are filled with the Holy Spirit

A few years ago I went to Russia as part of an overseas mission trip....
For a week of the trip we were based in Armavir which was down near Chechnya.
On one night we had a time of worship & teaching and after that we invited people to come forward for prayer.
A boy was brought forward who had been run over a few months before. His legs had been completely mangled and then set without splints he couldn’t walk without crutches – and they hadn’t brought him up for a blessing – they wanted God to heal him! So there was me and this other guy John. We didn’t know what to do, this was way out of our comfort zone.
So we each took one of the boy’s arms & prayed ”come Holy Spirit“.
The rest of my prayer was Oh God help, we can’t do this without You!
It felt right to gently walk him forwards so we did & kept praying. As we took small steps, we felt Him growing stronger with each step, until we could let go and he stood upright, no crutches and was walking!
And I thought “maybe this God I believe in is really real!”
All we could do was depend on God & His power to heal. I believe that we were filled with His Holy Spirit – that love, patience, kindness & gentleness were evident in the way we prayed for the boy – and we were counselled by the Holy Spirit: we prayed as He led us to pray. But above all it was about His power to save – His kingdom breaking in – Heaven on Earth.

I know that we don’t see those kinds of events all the time, but they do happen & also the gentle healing of hearts & minds over time (such as those that happen in a profound way in housegroups as James Mumford said a few weeks ago) we get to join in with the amazing things God does through His Spirit.
If we want to see more of that, we need to be filled with more of the Holy Spirit, don’t we?

It’s not about the shaking, speaking tongues, falling over, etc which is sometimes what we think of when we talk about being filled with the Spirit – you may see that happening & my best explanation is they are a reaction to the presence of God (remember at Pentecost where some in the crowd thought the disciples had drunk too much wine. There was a physical reaction to the presence of God). But they are not a necessity and not everyone does it & that is fine.

It’s about the fruit – remember the test:
How can I know this is good and from God?
If you see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control growing in someone’s life, then the Spirit is at work.

And this is such a great message – the message is not “be an amazing person and strive to do amazing things, so that by your strength and amazingness others will believe in and follow Jesus”
The message is “let Jesus be amazing”, let his amazing mercy & grace transform you and overflow into others and transform them too.
Sometimes the thought of reaching out to people and sharing how great Jesus actually feels just too daunting & we end up feeling guilty; especially if you watch other people who seem to find it so easy.

But the truth is that it’s ok to feel that we can’t do it in our own strength.
I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
                                                          (Philippians 4:13)

So instead of trying to strive, shouldn’t we just fall to our knees and give up, give it all to Him & call on Him to send more of his Holy Spirit?

When you’re sat at work, instead of it being stressful & embarrassing to be a follower of Jesus – instead of feeling a massive burden that it all depends on you to be perfect and holy and theologically amazing – just share your love for Jesus.
We can take comfort in the fact that, as imperfect as we are, He loves us and forgives us when we stuff up, and He transforms us and changes us. We can be authentic in sharing our failings because we also know that all these can be brought to Him and forgiven.
We also stand on the truth that we simply can’t be that good on our own anyway – that’s where the power of the Holy Spirit comes in – as we are filled with the HS, it transforms us, it changes us and we have good fruit.
There is power in the name of Jesus – His Holy spirit is here with us to help us, encourage us, to counsel us, and to comfort

(Jesus) ...came to give life—life in all its fullness
                                                        (John 10:10)

He didn’t come so that we would tick a box saying ”we’ve done it – we’ve bagsied our place in Heaven for when we die – if we can just keep going in this horrible struggle of a life until we leave the Earth behind."
No, Jesus came so we would have life in all its fullness, that we would see His transformative restoration process happening now – in our lives and in the world.

That means we live now, and whether it’s in wonderful circumstances, or times of struggle, He is actively present with us. The presence of God brings meaning into our lives.

My mum received a card from my cousin a few days ago.
Mum has been praying for her as she’s not had the easiest of times over the last few years. About a year ago she was due to have an eye operation and Mum & a group of friends prayed for her & sent her a cloth they had prayed over (in the same fashion as in Acts 19 where they took handkerchiefs from Paul to heal the sick that couldn’t be brought to him).
Thinking about how God brings meaning to our lives, here’s what the card said:

“I thought you might like to know I’m being baptised on Easter Sunday at the church you visited with me in Peterborough.
It has been a very important and emotional year for me since I made the decision at Easter last year to become a Christian.
I feel I owe you a personal thank-you as receiving the anointed tartan you sent me last year before my eye operation played a big part in my initial journey and decision-making.
I am so much more positive now and have dealt with so much for the better that I know it was one of the best changes in my life I could ever make.”

How great is that? The Holy Spirit has intervened and brought meaning into her life through the actions of a few people seeking to listen and act as they were led by Him.
She is being filled with the fullness of God and transformed & she is publicly acknowledging that fact, before all those in the church that has become home for her over the past year.
Knowing Jesus changes lives!

With the presence of God actively present with us, we can be present in the lives of those around us. As we are filled with the Spirit, we see the fruit of the Spirit growing in us and we see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control grow in those we share Jesus with.

After hearing Simon Ponsonby recently talk about hunger & desire for more of the Holy Spirit, I bought his book ‘More’, which I think is absolutely fantastic & I would recommend getting a copy if you can. We’ve got some on the Resources desk & we can order more!

He says it’s not selfish to desire more of Him for ourselves:
Those who go most after God gain most from God.
But it is also evident that those who go for God and gain from God are those through whom God gives Himself to the world. Those blessings received are turned outward into blessing others.
(Simon Ponsonby, More)

We are blessed to be a blessing
We can never have too much of the Holy Spirit, because the more we are filled, the more we overflow onto/into others.
It should be our first prayer as we wake – come Holy Spirit, fill me anew today, that I might be a blessing.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; it’s a big list of great things to aspire to, but sometimes they feel very distant in the middle of our busy & stressful lives. But they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit, not the fruit of our toil & labour. Remember it’s the Holy Spirit that gives us the tools to be the blessing

That doesn’t mean we don’t put any effort in. We need to seek to be obedient and we’ve spent the last few weeks looks at the guidance Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount for how to live in step with the Spirit.
Yes we want to get stuck in and do the stuff, yes we should see our lives changing and transforming & yes we want to see our friends and neighbours meet the God who we know and love – but it’s by His power, not ours.
Our energy & enthusiasm is greater & more sustainable when it comes from knowing Him more and being filled with a joy & passion that comes from being filled with the fullness of God.

So, we want to be healthy trees, bearing good fruit and therefore we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can never be too full, because the more we are filled, the more we overflow onto those around us. As we are transformed by His power, we see the transformative power of the Holy Spirit flow through us into others. As we experience love, grace & mercy, we share that with our friends, our community and beyond.

I’m going to close with a prayer, taken from Ephesians 3, that God would bless all of us here today & fill us with His Holy Spirit.

This is for all of us.
Those who have known Jesus for a while & seen His Spirit at work
Those of us who are beginning this journey of following Jesus & want to know him more
And those who don’t yet call themselves followers, just becoming part of the community & checking things out – He is calling you into a relationship with Him, He loves you and wants to see you set free & filled with the power of His Holy Spirit.

There is freedom in knowing Jesus & being known by Him.

Our part in this process is simply to ask Him to come. If we ask, He will come. If we allow Him to fill our lives, we will be blessed.
We will be blessed to be a blessing.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21)
Nik Gee, 17/04/2011