These words from Deuteronomy are our sermon text today:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-18 NIV)
Moses, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, spoke words of prophesy about the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ. This was why the Jews were waiting for the Messiah to come. Unfortunately, however, many of the Jewish leaders were not open to the voice of the Holy Spirit when He sent Jesus to be born in humble circumstances in a manger.
God, open our hearts and minds to both recognize and listen to your Holy Spirit.
We’ve been studying God’s Holy Spirit in church for several weeks in our sermon series, and I’ve been hearing more about it in the sermons of Jim Cymbala (from Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York) and in his book about God’s Holy Spirit. Today we read about the Angel Gabriel’s messages to Mary, Joseph, and Zachariah. I noticed that it was God’s Holy Spirit that was at work in advance of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18 NLT)
But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. (Luke 1:13-15 NLT)
Our family friend, Victor Force, recommends “Feasting on the Word” as an excellent resource when preaching from the lectionary.
This is a practice run of the Thanksgiving sermon / meditation I’ll be sharing tomorrow at our church. Please share feedback and let me know what I should change! This will be my first sermon ever to share at church.
These verses from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount remind us that we want praise to flow to God as we do good deeds and as others see our good deeds:
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:14-16 NLT)
We do not and should not seek the praise of others as we perform good deeds in the world, but always keep in mind it is God who deserves the praise!
Today in our church service we are considering these two verses which reference “praying in God’s Holy Spirit.”
But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. (Jude 1:20, 21 NLT)
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:18 NLT)
Our pastor (Mateen Elass) pointed out these references are not talking about speaking in tongues. Neither is this a reference to God interpreting our groans & nonverbal messages which we share as we pray.
Instead, these verses are calling us to be “in sync” with the Holy Spirit so out desires & passions are in alignment with God’s. As we read in the Psalms:
Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land. Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity. (Psalms 37:3-11 NLT)
God is not a “vending machine in the sky,” giving everyone the selfish desires of their hearts focused on sin and selfish ends. Rather, God calls us to invite his Holy Spirit into our very bodies, so we would be filled with HIS desires as well as his powers and abilities. This is what New Testament authors are referencing when they exhort the church to pray “in God’s Holy Spirit.”
These were some of the verses we considered today in our church service:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11 NIV)
The part that stood out to me is “distinguishing between spirits.” This verse acknowledges that there are both holy and worldly “spirits” which speak to us in our lives. In our “modern” world, we often discount, ignore, or deny the reality of these spirits and the power they can wield in our lives depending on how we respond to them. This is a mistake. Spiritual gifts are real, and so are “messages from the spirits.”
I pray God would give me discernment to “distinguish between the spirits” which I encounter in my life. I pray God would open my heart and mind to both recognize and heed the voice of His Holy Spirit.
I needed to hear these words today:
I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. (Psalms 121:1-5 NLT)
This is a pretty long sentence from the Apostle Paul. The phrase “bearing fruit in every good work” is what stands out to me this morning:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12 NIV)
I pray God will fill me “…with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.”
Our sermon verses this Sunday came from Romans 8, and the daily verse in my YouVersion Bible iOS app today does too. This is a verse in the chapter which stood out to me:
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6 NIV)
Our focus in life each day, and even every minute of each day, is very important. The things we focus on and pay attention to with our conscious minds are things our unconscious minds continue to process and turn over. We literally shape our minds and our identities through the things we choose to pay attention to. The things we read, watch, the conversations we have, the notes we write… All of these things shape our minds cognitively but also neuro-biologically. That ‘s a mouthful as well as a lot to consider.
Paul reminds us in these verses to focus on the things of God’s Spirit, rather than the things of the flesh, so we will be conformed to His image and perfect will.
God, help me to focus on the fruits of your spirit this day. I pray you would fill me and those around me with your love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. I pray you would conform my heart, my spirit, and my mind to yours. Thank you for sending us your son, Jesus, to teach us about your love and your plans for our lives.
In the powerful name of Jesus I pray,