Sunday Sermon: ‘Confident Christians in a Chaotic World’ part d

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Next Saturday, February 6, will mark the ninth anniversary of my blog. I published my first post on February 6, 2007. Since then I have published over 3,000 posts, most of them being either a devotional or one of my sermons. I’m still amazed at how God uses my blog. Last year alone, over 60,000 people visited by blog, reading over 100,000 posts. At times I think about ending my blog, but then one of you says something to me about one of the devotionals you’ve just read, or I get an email from a believer somewhere in the world. On an average day I will have readers from twenty or more countries around the world. When I think about someone from Africa, Ireland or the Ukraine possibly getting something helpful from one of the devotionals I am blown away. Hopefully I’ll get to meet some of these individuals one day in heaven.

Of the many devotionals and sermons that I have posted, there is one that gets more attention than the rest. As a matter of fact, it was read over 3,000 times last year alone. There’s not a day goes by that someone somewhere doesn’t pull it up and read it. So what is this one post that gets so much attention? The title of it is: ‘Natural Man, Spiritual Man, or Carnal Man.’

Paul mentions these three types of individuals in his first letter to the Corinthians. Let me quickly explain who there are.

1) The Natural Man

Paul describes the Natural Man as – But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

The word translated as ‘natural’ is the Greek word from which we get the English word psyche or psychologically. It’s closely related to the Greek word that is often translated as soul.

When God created man, He gave man a body and a soul. We all know what the body is, but what is the soul? The soul is the seat of our feelings, emotions, and desires. Your soul is the real you.

In addition to the body and soul, God also placed within man a portion of His spirit which allowed man to know and communicate with God. The Bible says that God is spirit and therefore they that worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth. (see John 4:24) You can’t have a relationship with God without it being spiritual.

In Genesis 2 we see that the spiritual part of man was alive and very active. God and man had meaningful relationship with each other. But in Genesis 3 all of that changed. Man was suddenly afraid of God and tried to hide from Him. What happened to man that caused such a drastic change? The spiritual part of him died. God told Adam that in the day he disobeyed God, he would surely die. (see Genesis 2:17) Adam did disobey God ate of the forbidden fruit, but Adam didn’t die until hundreds of years later. (Genesis 5:2) As a matter of fact, Adam lived to be over 900 years old. So what happened? Did God make a mistake? God said that Adam would die the same day that he disobeyed. Though Adam did not die physically until hundreds of years later, he died spiritually the moment he sinned against God. The Bible says that sin brings death. (James 1:15) When the Bible speaks of death, it means more than just physical death. The Bible also teaches us of a spiritual death. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that before someone is saved, they are ‘spiritually dead.’ The reason Adam was afraid of God was because the spiritual part of him was no longer living. He was spiritually dead.

When Paul speaks of the Natural Man, he is referring to someone who has a soul, but does not have God’s spirit living in his soul or ruling over his soul. Consider how the NIV translates 1 Corinthians 2;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.”

Rather than living under the leadership of the Spirit, the Natural Man lives according to  his natural inclinations and instincts. Way back in the 60’s a phrased was coined that best describes the philosophy of the Natural Man –“If if feels good, do it!”

2) The Spiritual Man

In contrast to the Natural Man, Paul speaks of the Spiritual Man.

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

The Spiritual Man is the individual who has been born-again by the Spirit of God (see John 3:3-8) and has the Holy Spirit living inside of them to teach and to guide them. Rather than living by their feelings or emotions, they seek to live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

3) The Carnal Man

There is  a third type of individual that Paul also refers to. Paul describes he as – ‘the Carnal Man.’

1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

Who or what is the Carnal Man? The word ‘carnal’ means – ‘fleshly.’ When applied to a Christian, it refers to someone, who although they have born-again by the Holy Spirit of God, they are still living according to their natural instincts and feelings of their flesh. Paul says that the Carnal Man is the believer who is still spiritually immature and who is often acting like someone who doesn’t know Christ.

Having said all of that, we now come to our study in John 14.

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

Today’s sermon is about Holy Spirit and the importance of His presence in our lives.

 I. The Coming of the Spirit

Way back in the Old Testament, God made a promise to send His Holy Spirit to come and live inside of us.

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

This is a part of what the Bible describes as the New Covenant. The Bible is divided into two major parts: an Old Testament and a New Testament. Actually the word ‘testament’ means covenant. The Old and New Testaments are actually the Old and New Covenants.

Under the Old Covenant, man had to try to perform according to God’s standard in order to receive God’s blessings. That standard is often referred to as the Law and contains such things as the Ten Commandments.

In this covenant God said, “If you will obey Me, then I will bless you.” (see Deuteronomy 28:1-13) The problem with the Old Covenant was the it contained the little word ‘if.’ God said, “If you obey Me, I will bless you.” Sounds simple enough, yet Israel was never able to keep their part of the bargain. They repeatedly failed God and thus the Old Covenant was repeatedly broken.

If not for the grace of God, there would be no hope. For hundreds of years man tried to live by the Old Covenant, but he never succeeded. But God in His grace promised to provide a new and better covenant.

Ezekiel 36:24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Did you notice that the New Covenant did not contain the word ‘if.’ God simply said, “I will.” God said:

– “I will cleanse you of your sins.”
– “I will create in you a new heart.”
– “I will place My Spirit in you which will cause you to live according to my perfect standard.”

Notice also that God didn’t do away with the standard. Grace doesn’t lower the standard. Grace raises us up so that from the inside out we can live according to the standard. In the New Covenant God promised to provide a power that would enable us to live according to His standard. That enabling power is the Holy Spirit.

Every believer has the Holy Spirit living in them. Jesus said that salvation is when we are ‘born-again’ by the Spirit. Actually the phrase ‘born-again’ would be better translated as ‘born from above.’ Salvation is a spiritual new birth that is produce by God. Once we are born-again by the Spirit, we are indwelt by the Spirit. Paul says in Romans 8 that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ, is not a child of God.

Romans 8:14 Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

You can’t be a Christian and not have the Holy Spirit.

II. The Comforting of the Spirit

Second only to the blessing of knowing that our sins are forgiven is the blessing of knowing that the Holy Spirit is always present with us. Again, consider what Paul writes in Romans 8 –

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

What does the Spirit do for us? Though many things could be said about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, for sake of time I will try to group it into three categories:

A. He Is Always Present With Us

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter;  that he may abide with you for ever…

Jesus came to earth to die on the cross for our sins. Once that had been accomplished, His earthly ministry would be over and it would be time for Him to return to heaven. But what would happen to the believer? How would the disciples survive without Jesus? Jesus said that He would sent ‘another Comforter’ that would be able to abide with us forever. The word ‘another’ means one of the exact same kind, or in other words – the third part of the Trinity.

When the King James translators translated the Bible into English, they translated the Greek word Jesus used for this individual as ‘Comforter.’ Why did they chose the word Comforter? No doubt it was because they knew that the disciples were troubled. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1)

Jesus knew that His disciples were about to face some of the darkest moments of their lives and therefore He wanted to comfort them. “Do not be afraid. Soon I will be sending to you the Comforter.”

What is there about the Holy Spirit that comforts us? I believe that the primary way He comforts us is by His presence. Consider again what our Lord said.

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

There is no way that the believer can describe to the non-believer what it means to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life. Sometimes the Spirit’s presence seems strong and powerful. It’s like a surge of energy rushes through us. Yet at other times, the Spirit’s presence is soft and tender. It’s like He puts His arms around us. The Spirit always knows what to give us when we need it.

Not only does the Holy Spirit Himself come to abide with us, He also brings into our lives the presence of God the Son and God the Father.

John 14:18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

What was one of the disciples’ biggest fears? It was the fear of what would happen to them once Jesus was gone. However, even though Jesus would be gone ‘physically’, He would still be with them ‘spiritually.’ “I will come to you” Jesus said to them. “I will not leave you comfortless…” Here is an important truth. The Greek word that is translated as ‘comfortless’ is the word ‘orphanos.’ What English word do you suppose we get from the Greek word ‘orphanos’? It’s the word – orphans. Jesus said, “I am not going to abandon you. I am not going to leave you like orphans in this wicked world. I am going to come and be with you.” How can Jesus come and be with us while at the same time be at the right hand of the Father? He does so through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.

But there’s even more.

John 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him

Not only do we have God the Spirit and God the Son living within us, we have God the Father as well. Literally Jesus said that He and the Father would come and make their home in the heart of those that love them.

B. He is Constantly Prompting Us

The Spirit comforts us, but that’s not all that He does. He also prompts us to serve Christ. A part of God’s New Covenant involves the prompting work of the Holy Spirit.

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 

The word ’cause’ means – to accomplish. The Spirit prompts us to accomplish God’s will. In Galatians 5, Paul says that the Spirit ‘lusts’ within us to do God’s will. We often think the word ‘lust’ referring only to a sinful desire, yet the word can refer to any kind of intense desire. The Spirit intensely desires that we serve God. That is why Paul tells us to not ‘quench’ the Spirit of God. “Let the Spirit of God have His way in you” Paul is telling us.

We read from the Bible – ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit…’ (see 1 Corinthians 2:9-10) We can’t imagine what wonderful things the Spirit wants to share with us. For me, preaching a sermon is letting out all that God has put in. Sometimes I get so full of the wonderful things of God that I have to tell someone. 

Paul also tells us in the book of Ephesians that God is ‘able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.’ What is that power working in us? That power is the Holy Spirit who is seeking to strengthen us in our inner man. (see Ephesians 3:14-21) I would be remiss if I did not tell you that scripture says that this power is the same power God demonstrated when He raised Jesus from the dead (see Ephesians 1:19-20) and that it will fill us with all the fullness of God. (see Ephesians 3:19)

C. He is Able to Empower Us

Though the King James translators translated the word as ‘Comforter’, a better translation might have been- ‘Helper.’ That’s literally what the word here means. It refers to someone who has been commissioned to come and be by our side so that He might assist us. That’s who the Holy Spirit is. He is the one sent from heaven to always be by our side and to give us the strength that we need to live the victorious Christian life.

I will have more to teach about this in a later sermon, but for now let me say that the more I study John 14-16, the more I am inclined to believe that when Jesus refers to us ‘abiding in Him’, (John 15), He is referring to us living by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can’t abide in Jesus and bear much fruit without being in touch with the Holy Spirit.

III. The Conflict For the Spirit

Unfortunately there’s a third aspect of the Spirit’s ministry that we need to consider. That’s the conflict the Spirit often experiences as He seeks to work in our lives. What is this conflict and where does this conflict come from? Is it Satan trying to resist the Holy Spirit? Yes and no. Yes in the fact that behind this spiritual conflict is the hand of Satan. But no in the fact that Satan does not directly oppose the Holy Spirit, but rather he does so through us, the believer.

I began my sermon with a lengthy explanation of what Paul calls the Natural Man, the Spiritual Man, and the Carnal Man. You will remember, the Natural Man is the non-believer who has nothing to look to other than his own selfish inclinations and desires. The Spiritual Man however, has the Holy Spirit living within them that can enable them to live for God. But there’s also the Carnal Man. The Carnal Man is the person who has the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t have them. They not ‘filled with the Spirit’ as Paul refers to in Ephesians 5:18. To be filled with the Spirit means to be under the control of the Spirit. They are not under the control of their Spirit, but instead they are often under the control of their flesh.

Paul also tells us that whenever we live outside of the control of the Spirit, we are  ‘grieving the Spirit.’ Paul also tells us that we can ‘quench the Spirit.’ Some have said that grieving the Spirit is doing those things that we shouldn’t do, and quenching the Spirit is not doing those things that we should do. Either way it’s resisting the will of the Spirit and thus sinning against God.

There is much more that I need to teach on this and so we will have to return to this at another time.

APPLICATION

I close with this wonderful passage of scripture –

John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

I looked up the word ‘thirst’, trying to better understand what it means and here is some of what I have discovered –

– “a sensation of dryness”
– “a strong or eager desire; a craving”
– “need”
– “eagerly longing for those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened”

Jesus said, “If anyone is is longing for those things that will refresh his soul, come to me and drink. I will satisfy that longing and I will cause a mighty river to flow from you.”

How the world and the church needs men and women of God who have an intense thirst for the things of God. How the world and the church needs men and women who not have the Holy Spirit, but from whom the Holy Spirit is gushing forth like a mighty river.

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