PERFORMING IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
PERFORMING IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
10 APRIL 1994
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Over the past two weeks, we've been talking about how "humanly" weak the apostles and other spiritual leaders were before Jesus Christ's resurrection.
We also noted that on the first day of His resurrection they were still spiritually weak.
But things began to change rapidly afterwards. Note what we are told took place when Jesus appeared to them in John 20:21-23:
21. Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."
What Jesus said to them is also meant for us.
Yes, even every one of us!
Every believer is being called to service in a similar way.
We are not to sit in some upper room for the rest of our lives doing nothing productive for the Lord.
Just as Jesus came for us, so are we to be there for someone else, and to be a good steward of God's creation; and it doesn't matter in what capacity.
It doesn't matter what we do, as long as we do it to glorify the Lord.
Therefore, whatever we do, it must be an expression of love and compassion.
But if we feel intimidated, and don't think we are capable of doing the work of a disciple, that feeling is not from God.
Note what Jesus did for those to whom He appeared:
22. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
There is the power to accomplish anything the Lord sends us to do.
But with it comes an awesome responsibility, as we are told in the next verse.
23. "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."
Jesus Christ came to pay the price of our sins, and He did it, once for all time.
Now, in the power of the Holy Spirit we are being sent to do the same for others, by the spreading of the Good News, and by the example we set of lovingkindness for all humans, animals, and the environment.
Jesus, by word and example, encouraged people to go forth and sin no more, and to live a more Godly live.
We have been given the power to forgive, and the free will not to forgive, and in this power we hold the very souls of others, as if in the palm of our hand.
We are indeed the keepers of our brothers’ and our sisters’ souls, whether or not we want to accept that responsibility.
Think of where we would be, if no one picked up the spiritual ball and ran with it; eventually the enemy would completely overrun us, and the world as we know it would be destroyed.
And consider carefully, that we most likely would not be here today, if someone had not done this for us.
In the book of Judges, we have several examples of what happened when no one went forth for God, and then what happens when someone goes forth in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, please remember, as we look at these verses, that as a peacemaker, I'm not advocating war, nor is the Prince of Peace.
I want us to look at these verses, spiritually, and relate them to the spiritual forces of evil around us today that work against the heavenly will of God.
First, let's look at Judges 3:1-11.
1. Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan;
2. only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly).
3. These nations are: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath.
4. And they were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses.
In this fourth verse is the key to understanding what kind of warfare the Lord really wanted the Israelites to learn. It is spiritual warfare.
Israel was being tested to see whether they would hold fast to the ways of the Lord their God, or if they would begin to follow the ways of the nations they were to dispossess.
5. And the sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites;
6. and they took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
Now let's break here for a minute, and go and look at what the Lord told them about doing this, through Moses, in Deuteronomy 7:1-5.
1. "When the Lord your God shall bring you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and shall clear away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you,
2. and when the Lord your God shall deliver them before you, and you shall defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.
3. "Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.
4. "For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will quickly destroy you.
5. "But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.
But the Israelites didn't do this; they did exactly what they were told not to do.
Because of these people’s evil way of life and their lack of repentance, God told the Israelites not to forgive them, but to destroy them.
Let's remember that this took place then, but by the time Jesus came on the scene, God was trying to turn people away from their warlike nature, to one of solving our problems through the power of the Holy Spirit, and not by killing.
As we return to Judges 3:7-11 we see the Lord fulfilling what He said He would do in Deuteronomy.
7. And the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baals and the Asheroth.
8. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.
Israel was indeed punished, and the Lord was indeed angry with them for good cause; but will He forgive them?
9. And when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenez, Caleb's younger brother.
Note that forgiveness came only after they repented.
10. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.
11. Then the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenez died.
What would have happened if Othniel had not accepted the responsibility placed upon him by the Lord?
What would have happened to Israel?
And where were the others the Lord had called before Othniel was called?
Did Israel turn away from the Lord because no one else accepted the call?
How many people in our country are being called to help prevent us from going the way of evil and to turn us back to God?
And how many of these people are not listening?
How many are not listening because they refuse to, and how many because they are not sure they are really being called?
In Judges 6:33-40, we are told of Gideon's marching orders, and what he did to overcome his uncertainty.
33. Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel.
34. So the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.
35. And he sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.
See how the Lord works?
He calls one good person, who in turn calls many more.
Has God, or someone else, called you to serve for the Lord?
Perhaps you're unsure, as was Gideon; but remember that at first he responded to God's call.
We're not told, but I believe Gideon's uncertainty came from the negative people around him, who doubted that God had really called him.
Then what does he do?
36. Then Gideon said to God, "If Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken,
37. behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken."
38. And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water.
God answered him in this dramatic way. Surely that is enough to fully encourage him to do as the Lord has called him.
But, not so!
He still has not fully regained the faith he had when he called the people together.
Gideon is still not completely sure, but He doesn't want to offend God either.
39. Then Gideon said to God, "Do not let Thine anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground."
40. And God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.
And with this second test of God's will for him, Gideon goes forth to do the work of the Lord and the people to whom he was also called to serve.
So, the soul searching should continue with each of us in our hearts and minds, and we should ask ourselves"
How have I been called?
Am I responding to that call?
I pray that all our answers are “yes,” even if we must test our understanding a couple of times.
The one overall test we have today is this: "Is what I am called to do based upon God's unconditional love and compassion?"
If your answer is “yes” to this part, but you still have some uncertainties, then at least go forth and begin your work while making your second test.
But then, after that, put your whole heart and soul into serving the Lord.
And remember, it took Gideon only two days to get his answer.
Now is the time to go forth and help make this a kinder, more gentle, and Godly world.
Your Comments are welcome
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