Today we are continuing our message series We are Vineyard. We have been looking at some of the things that make us different from other churches. Not better than others, just different. We are not the only ones going to heaven; many people are going to get to heaven and discover that all those people they thought weren’t going to make it and they didn’t like…are living in mansions in their cul de sac.
These are not things that other churches and denomination would possibly even disagree with. We don’t have exclusive rights to the pursuing Jesus. We aren’t the only ones seeking to live out the Kingdom of God. In fact, many of the things in the Vineyard were very much part of my training and theology when I was with the Church of the Nazarene. They come together in a much different way in the Vineyard, but they were there.
Today, we are looking at the next step in what it means to say we are part of the Vineyard…
We are people of the Spirit.
A few months ago, I preached a messages on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as part of our God Questions? series. I would encourage you to go to our website and listen or read that message in connection with this one. That message dealt more with some of the background and theology of what it means to be Baptized in the Holy Spirt, and then touched on how that plays out.
Today, we are looking at what it means for the Holy Spirit to be living, active, and present in our lives, in our church, and in our world.
For us in the Vineyard, our approach can be summed up in one simple prayer,
“Come, Holy Spirit.”
Carol Wimber, the wife of founder John Wimber, used to say, “There should never be a time in our gatherings together that we don’t invite the Holy Spirit. We already have the Holy Spirit through Jesus, but we all still “leak.” So we all need that constant filling of the Holy Spirit.”
John Mumford says, “The prayer, doesn’t imply that God isn’t already present. Rather it is a deep petition from our hearts to experience more of God’s presence.”
This prayer is neither a structured formality or magic incantation to summon the presence of God like the genie from a bottle. It is, and should be the cry of our hearts…recognizing our need for the presence of God to work in us…recognizing our need for God’s power to work through us.
So often, we attempt to go it alone. Try to find the strength to make it through. Earn our spiritual growth by doing more and more. Working really hard to be a better person, a better Christian. When really what we need is not more strength, or determination, or will power…what we need is more willingness to let the Holy Spirit work in our lives.
Last week, I made the comment that every time the comment, “Every great revival of God’s presence in history was accompanied by a great movement of social justice by the Church. Every time God has moved in powerful ways in the lives of individuals…it has inspired them to do something about the evils and injustices in the world around them.”
This is flow of God’s movement…He works in us…then He works through us.
We should pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” because we desire God to work in us.
So many of us face life with a Bootstrap Philosophy. It is such a common mindset in our American Culture. We haven’t had bootstraps in a century or more…but the idea still hangs on…that somehow, through hard work, determination, and commitment, we can pull ourselves to where we need to be. But if we would just stop and think of the metaphor for a moment…we might see how ridiculous it sounds.
Bootstraps were strips of leather on the sides of a boot so you could pull the boot on to your foot. This metaphor is supposed to point to out ability to get out of a difficult situation by our own efforts. The problem is that bootstraps were really good at helping a person get their boots on…they are completely useless if we try to pull ourselves out of quicksand by our own bootstraps. It simply can’t be done…and yet, we hold on to this metaphor as some kind of truth to be lived out.
We apply it in our approach to work and success…somehow believing that we did everything ourselves and NEVER got a helping hand.
We apply it in our personal lives believing we can get better at something simply by working harder and with more determination…I don’t need anyone else’s help.
We apply it in our spiritual lives. And God says, It doesn’t work that way. You may have responsibilities, but you can’t earn, deserve, or create more of anything simply by working harder.
Many of you are probably familiar with Galatians 5, at least the section on the Fruit of the Spirit. But starting with Galatians 5:13, Paul is building a case that our call to fulfill the Law, while having some do’s and dont’s is fulfilled not as we try harder, but, by learning to depend on and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Our ability to overcome temptation, is dependent not on whether we have the willpower to overcome, but on whether we walk in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:16 says,
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
We are able to overcome the temptations that seek to shipwreck us and pull us away by walking by the Spirit…
Paul then goes on to say our spiritual growth is dependent upon our connection to the Holy Spirit. He does this by describing the characteristics of Jesus’ followers, and calling them “Fruit” of the Spirit.
A fruit tree cannot make fruit grow on its limbs. Fruit grows when the tree is planted in the right soil and receives the right amount of sun, water, and fertilizer. In the same way, you and I cannot produce our own fruit…we cannot will spiritual growth into our lives. Only when we are rooted in the Presence of God and allow His to work in our lives can we produce the Fruit.
When you and I pray “Come, Holy Spirit” we welcome the Holy Spirit to act in our lives enabling us to overcome temptation and inviting Him to produce the Fruit of the Spirit in us.
But we also need The Holy Spirit to work in the world around us.
We should pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” because we desire God to work through us.
When you and I pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” we open the door for the Holy Spirit to move through us in our world. And the only way we are able to do what needs done is through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
Because our world needs God to move, and God has chosen to move through us..
There is this progression, I have found, if we are willing to follow…
God works in our lives, changing and growing us in our faith. As we grow, we begin to see things that need God’s attention in our world and in our church. Some of these are the Holy Spirit moving and prompting us to do something about it.
Then the Holy Spirit says, Here is the issue! Who will go and do something about it?
In Isaiah 6, the Prophet Isaiah is confronted with presence of God and shown a problem. In vs. 8 it says,
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
When God shows us a problem…He isn’t pointing it out for his own health. In pointing it out, He is inviting you and I to do something about it. Now, every whim and problem is not a call from God…we would go crazy trying to do something about every problem in our world. But God will point out things to us as individuals and to us as a community of faith.
But this where it often goes off the rails. Because, rather than stand up and say, “Here am I, send me!” It is at this point that far too many say, “You know, someone should do really do something about that!” or we go up to the pastor and say, “You know, you should really do something about that!” Sometimes, we recognize that WE are called, but we start to doubt. We say, “I could never do that! I am not that talented. I don’t have the time. That person over there is far better than I am; go get them.”
Being a follower of Jesus is not a spectator sport. Too often we come, we sit, we watch, we leave. We go into our world and do life just like everyone else.
But that is not how the Holy Spirit works…being a follower of Jesus is a verb…it is the action…it is a call to action…to follow
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
But we are not left on our own…God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, has given each and everyone of us gifts to benefit both the community of believers and the world we live in. I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 give us a list, but I believe it is only a partial list.
God has gifted you and planned “good works in advance” for you to do. Not everyone the same thing and not everyone is called to do the same thing, but everyone is called and gifted for something. And these Gifts and Good Works are not just for the people in that local community of faith, it is also to benefit people in the world around us.
And because of this…The task is simply too big. We need His power. So you and I should regularly have to pray “Come, Holy Spirit” because we need his power and insight and guidance to impact the world.
We see someone with financial difficulty beyond our ability to help…
We meet someone with a physical ailment in need of healing…
We are faced with an addiction that seems impossible to overcome…
A social evil like poverty
I find myself praying this prayer on a regular basis as I watch the news and hear of the innocent people affected by the wars being waged…the rapes and murders of innocent people…people gunned down in the streets…Come, Holy Spirit.
This message is a lot like last week. God wants to bring His Kingdom in our lives and in our world. In order to do that, we should be praying “Come, Holy Spirit, in my life!” “Come, Holy Spirit, in our world!”
As Jesus’ followers, we have been called to live out the Kingdom life and be witnesses to its power and activity in our world…the secret is being constantly in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
That’s my secret…I’m always angry.
For you and I, the secret to living the life God calls us to live…to being able to pray for people and see healing…to hearing the voice of God more often…the secret to being able to see people come to know Jesus through our witness…to having them see Jesus in us…is to live, constantly, inviting the presence of the Holy Spirit into our lives.
Learn to pray, “Come, Holy Spirit!”
We need your presence.
We need you to work in us.
We need you to empower us.
We need you to go before us and work in those situations where it seems most hopeless.
We need you to work in the lives of those we love who are far from you.
We need you to work in us, changing and transforming us.
Life gets busy, we get distracted, we allow the old ways of “doing it myself” to creep back in…and then wonder why we don’t see the power of God in our lives.
We must constantly remind ourselves that with the presence of the Holy Spirit working and active in our lives we CAN live the life Jesus calls us to live. We CAN do the works of Jesus. We CAN see people healed and people saved. We can see the Kingdom of God working in our lives and changing our world.
This week I want to challenge you to pray this pray. Pray it in the morning. Pray it throughout your day. Pray it not just to be praying. Take a moment and center yourself. Focus on God. focus on your desire to invite His presence at the beginning your day, into the tense situation you are facing, into your time in His word, into whatever it is you facing…focus on making the prayer reflect the reality of your heart, and then pray “Come, Holy Spirit!”