June 12, 2011

Spirit School - Jun 12, 2011

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Today is Pentecost Sunday. On almost every Pentecost we read the story of how the Holy Spirit came to the disciples of Jesus in a special way. This took place after Jesus was crucified. After He was raised from the dead. After He had ascended back into heaven.

Jesus had told His follower to remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came to them with power. This happened on Pentecost. Pentecost was a Jewish festival. Thousands of people had come from all over the world to worship at the Temple. And it was at this time that the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Jesus in a miraculous way, giving them the ability to speak in languages that they had never studied.

But the disciples didn’t use this miracle just to impress people. They used this miracle to communicate. They told the crowds about how Jesus was the Savior whom God had promised to send. Jesus had died for them, so that their sins were forgiven, and heaven was open to them.

Thousands came to faith on that single day. Pentecost is all about the Holy Spirit’s power working through Jesus’ followers to bring the message of free forgiveness to the hearts of sinners.

Today, our sermon isn’t going to focus on the events of Pentecost. Instead we’re going to meditate on what the apostle Paul says about the Holy Spirit in First Corinthians, chapter 2.


Earlier I mentioned that our sermon reading is from First Corinthians chapter 2. Before we read there I’d like to give us some historical background about how the congregation in the city of Corinth was founded. We turn to Acts, chapter 18.

Paul is on his second missionary journey. He has been traveling from city to city teaching in the synagogues that Jesus is the Messiah.

Acts 18:1–11 (NIV)

18 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.
9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

After this, Paul moved on to other cities. And at some point he wrote a letter to the young congregation that he had left in Corinth. In chapter two of that letter, Paul wrote our sermon text…

First Corinthians 2:1-5 (NIV)

1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Paul says that when he came to Corinth he didn’t speak with eloquence or wise and fancy words. He didn’t come to them like a smooth politician trying to secure their vote. He didn’t come to them like someone in the market, trying to pitch them something, trying to get them to buy something. He says,
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Cor 2:4 NIV).
With a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. That sounds like Paul is saying he did some kind of miracle. But when we look back at the account in Acts 18 we don’t hear anything about Paul doing miracles. What we hear is this…
“When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah” (Acts 18:5 NIV).
Silas and Timothy were Paul’s partners in preaching the message of Christ. When they came to Corinth, they could work to provide for food and lodging, and Paul could focus himself entirely on preaching the message of Jesus. This is the demonstration of the Spirit’s power that Paul is talking about in First Corinthians.

It was a simple message. Jesus is the Messiah. He suffered for you, so that your sins stand forgiven. Through Him, heaven has been opened to you.

That’s a simple message. Jesus died so forgiveness and heaven are yours – free of charge. Without you having to do anything, or add anything to what He has done.

This wasn’t man’s wisdom at all. In fact, this was a hard message for the Jews to accept. They thought the Messiah was only about glory, not suffering and dying and rising again. Paul had to point out to them that the OT said that the Messiah had to do these things too.

The Greeks looked at this message as utter foolishness. Trust in a man who had gotten himself killed by the Romans? What kind of champion is that?

Just a few verses back in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote…
“but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23–24 NIV).
It was a simple message, but a powerful one. It was this message that converted thousands to Christ on Pentecost. It was this message that the Holy Spirit had used to bring the Corinthians to trust in Christ.

Now, the Gospel starts simple. So simple in fact, that a little child can sum it up by saying, “Jesus died so I’m forgiven. Jesus died so that I get to go to heaven.” But that’s just where the Good News starts. What follows is hugely complex. In verse 6, Paul says…

1 Corinthians 2:6–10a (NIV)

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

In this world, people feel guilt. We know when we’ve let someone down. We know we’ve hurt people. And on a deeper level we know that each sin has also wounded God. But in Christ, the guilt for these sins is erased. Through Christ we are forgiven. He rubs out our guilt. Now we have peace with God.

In this world people feel excluded. We find ourselves outside of one group or another. But in Christ we find ourselves included in God’s family.

In this world people feel alone. But the Christian is taught that Christ never leaves His followers. We are never alone, even when we feel alone.

In this world people feel like they have no future. No hope for things to come. In Christ, we are told that God is our future. We are assured that a room is being prepared for us in God’s eternal house.

In this world people feel empty. No self-esteem. No self-worth. But God tells us through the Gospel that He values us so much that He was willing to send His own Son to die for us, so that we could be His cleansed people.

In this world people feel like they have no direction. But through the Gospel God tells us that He worked out a plan to save us even before we existed! He even arranged the events in our lives to bring us to faith in Christ. He assures us that each one of our lives has a purpose in His great plan.

In this world people inevitably have to die. But because of Christ, death no longer looks so scary. Just as Christ rose from the death and ascended to the Father’s side, all who trust in Christ will also rise from the dead on the last day and ascend to meet the Father in glory.

The wisdom of the world can only serve us in this life. But the wisdom of God - the Gospel of Christ and all of the things that come with faith - transcends this life. The wisdom of God serves us in this life, and it opens the door to eternity.

All of these assurances that we’ve just talked about flow from the Gospel and are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Paul talks in detail about the Spirit in the last verses of our reading from Corinthians. He says…

1 Corinthians 2:10b–16 (NIV)

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.

Have you ever wanted to know someones thoughts? Perhaps what they thought about you in their heart of hearts? Just imagine what a connection that would be if you could open your mind to your spouse, or your best friend, and they could open their mind back to you – fully. Completely. We could live a whole life with someone and not even get close to this level of intimacy.

And this is what the Holy Spirit and the Father have. They are one in this way. Their thoughts are not only shared, they own each other’s inner minds.

And here’s the astonishing point Paul wants to impress on us – this is what the Holy Spirit is giving to us. An intimate, total connection with the mind and heart of the Father.

Without the Holy Spirit we couldn’t know the Father in this intensely intimate way! The Bible says that without the Holy Spirit people can’t “get” God at all! We find His ways foreign, and His thoughts beyond understanding. Without the Holy Spirit, God’s ways even seem foolish to us.

Seriously God? I’m supposed love the person who hates me? With my actions? And my words? And my heart?

Really God? When I get hurt or cheated I’m not allowed to get even? I’m supposed to just trust that you’ll take care of things?

You’ve got to be kidding God! You want me to be honest, even if it hurts me to do so?

I don’t get you God. Even though I’m so messed up and continually fail to do the good things I want to do – you still forgive me because of Christ? It’s really that free of a gift?

To all of our wicked know-it-all-thoughts, the Bible replies…
“Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:7–9 NIV).

In the last verse of our reading from Corinthians, Paul writes…
“…we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16).
Through the Bible, the Holy Spirit not only teaches us to know Christ, the Holy Spirit connects us to Christ in the most intimate of ways. Through faith we are given the mind of Christ. We don’t just learn to imitate Christ, we are given His mind.

This is deep stuff. Spiritual stuff. Our sinful natures say, What does that even mean? Our sinful nature can’t understand the things of the Spirit. But we see the mind of Christ at work when we see followers of Christ modeling Christ in their own lives. With what they do. With the chioices they make. Through faith in Christ, Christ Himself begins to live in us and through us.

The apostle Peter wrote…

1 Peter 1:13–16 (NIV)

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Pentecost is all about the Holy Spirit’s power working through Jesus’ followers to bring the message of free forgiveness to sinners.

Let’s thank the Spirit for His work. For we have this secret wisdom. We have received the Gospel of Christ, and believe it.

Prayer: Thank you Holy Spirit, for reaching into our lives and shining the light of Christ’s forgiveness on our sins. Help us first and foremost to live guilt free lives, knowing our every sin has been paid for by our Lord Jesus and we now stand forgiven before the Father. Help us to live holy lives from this point forward. And when we fail, point us back to the cross and to renewal. Amen.

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