THE UNPOPULAR WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

John 16:8-11 – And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

Look at what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do when He comes. These verses are some of the most important in the Bible. The Holy Spirit would come to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement.

First we will look at this unpopular word called sin. The Holy Spirit is the One who comes to us and reveals to us our own sinfulness. Only He can reveal to us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. For me it was as if someone had removed the covers off of my life, suddenly I realized how messed up I was. I was a sinner and I needed to change.

Next, let’s think about what Jesus meant by saying the Holy Spirit would convict us of righteousness. First of all, the Holy Spirit presents Jesus to us as the only righteous man that has ever lived. His life was perfect and seeing our sinfulness in light of His holiness can be quite devastating.The Holy Spirit brings us to the end of ourselves preparing to change our lives.

Finally He shows us about judgement. As Paul said, the wages of sin is death. All of us deserve judgement, all of us have violated the justice of God. We see our lives deserving God’s righteous judgement against sin. Now here comes the best part, Christ bore the wrath of God for us on the cross. He took all of our judgement on Himself at Calvary. God’s justice was satisfied, man’s sin was judged in Christ.

The Holy Spirit helps us to sort all of this out; first, I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Secondly, Christ was and is completely holy and righteous. Third, all sin requires judgement by a holy and just God. Finally, we begin to see the light breaking in on us, the righteous One took my sin, He actually became sin on my behalf at the cross. All of those who see this and believe it become justified, declared righteous by faith. We actually take on the very righteousness of Christ as a gift received by grace through faith. Until the Spirit opens our eyes the gospel seems like foolishness for weak minds. Once the Holy Spirit opens our eyes we truly see, the gospel is the wisdom of God and the power of God.

CAN WE ACTUALLY CHANGE ?

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my

decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Ezek 36:25–27

There are some many dangerous teachings more accessible than ever to Christians in today’s social media dominated world. I often say that social media is the judgement of God on all of us. What do I mean by that? That whatever is in our hearts and heads just comes spilling out on Facebook or whatever. Everyone has a pulpit in social media and few have any accountability. Today’s verse points us to the new power found in the Christian faith established by the Lord through the blood of His Son. The New Covenant cleanses all of the filthy stains from our lives but it doesn’t stop there. The New Covenant also gives us a new heart where our actual behavior is changed. This new heart is connected to the indwelling presence of Christ in us, Christ in us is a total game changer. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this blessing.

“In contrast to the Old Covenant, the God-given power that enables the people to stay within His law is the distinctive feature of the New Covenant. But why does the truth of the New Covenant so seldom become a reality in the life of a believer? The answer is quite simple: It is not preached or believed, and the fulfillment of it is not felt in the believer’s life. Paul is an example of the fulfilling of the New Covenant in a believer’s life. The same anxious person who cries out that the power of sin holds him captive, shortly thereafter thanks God that he has, in Jesus Christ, through the Spirit that gives him life, been set free….God links His promises to our faith—however difficult the truth may be for the human mind to fathom. His promises become operative when we believe.”

We must preach this powerful message. Jesus started it with “repent, the kingdom of God is upon you”. Peter continued it by preaching “repent and receive the Holy Spirit”. It is the Spirit that gives us the ability to actually change. This is the power of the New Covenant, the power to live different kinds of lives.

HE GIVES REPENTANCE

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2Tim. 2:24-26 – And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Repent! That is one of those words that just doesn’t sit right in our so advanced civilization. The funny think about it, this was the message Jesus preached. Actually, the earliest quote we have of Jesus is this “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” This quote is found in Mark, the earliest gospel and is Mark’s first quote of what Jesus said. If you believe the Bible is inspired, there must be a reason the first recorded words of Jesus are about repentance. Why is repentance so important? It is our way back to peace and joy found in relationship with the Lord.

The problem with repentance is this, it is the work of God. We all see things in our lives that need to be changed, the Lord is the One who gives us the ability to change. That is what repentance is, recognizing our wrongs and changing. This is the beautiful work of the Holy Spirit. Here are some thoughts from John Calvin on repentance.

“Since the conversion of a man is in the hand of God, who knows whether they who today appear to be unteachable shall be suddenly changed by the power of God, into other men? Thus, whoever shall consider that repentance is the gift and work of God, will cherish more earnest hope, and, encouraged by this confidence, will bestow more toil and exertion for the instruction of rebels. We should view it thus, that our duty is, to be employed in sowing and watering, and, while we do this, we must look for the increase from God. Our labors and exertions are thus of no advantage in themselves; and yet, through the grace of God, they are not fruitless.”

It is because we believe in the power and grace of God that we believe humans can change. So do we sit back and do nothing? Absolutely not! We increase our efforts fired by the love of God that grants repentance that leads people from misery into life.

SWEET REPENTANCE

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Godly sorrow works repentance.

2 Cor. 7:10

 

Repentance is not something talked about too much today. Actually, sin is more often covered up or justified rather than repented of. ‘Who is to say what sin is anyway’ , seems to be the attitude of the day. I think the thing most people miss is that repentance is the path to freedom and the enjoyment of life. It is the way out of misery and depression and the way into incredible joy. It is our sinfulness that blocks us from fellowship with the Lord. Our sins keep us from even experiencing His reality in our lives. Sin also blocks our fellowship and friendship with others. Until we taste the sweetness of repentance we are walking around without a chance of enjoying life to it’s fullest.

The first work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to bring us to the conclusion that we are sinners in need of a Savior. His second work is to reveal the greatness of that Savior. Here is how Charles Spurgeon sees the sweetness of repentance.

 

“True repentance has a distinct reference to the Savior. When we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross, or it will be better still if we fix both our eyes upon Christ and see our transgressions only, in the light of his love.

True sorrow for sin is eminently practical. No man may say he hates sin, if he lives in it. We shall be as much afraid of it, as a man who has lately been stopped and robbed is afraid of the thief upon the highway; and we shall shun it-shun it in everything-not in great things only, but in little things, as men shun little vipers as well as great snakes. True mourning for sin will make us very jealous over our tongue, lest it should say a wrong word; we shall be very watchful over our daily actions, lest in anything we offend, and each night we shall close the day with painful confessions of shortcoming, and each morning awaken with anxious prayers, that this day God would hold us up that we may not sin against him.”

Once we see the beauty and love of Christ our Savior, sin looses its attraction and power over us. The fleeting pleasures offered to us by sin, pale in comparison to the life we enjoy in Christ. No one who has experienced the sweetness of true repentance will go back to the misery of a life stained with sin.

GREAT CONTRADICTION

Matt. 5:4 ¶ “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The teachings of Jesus were filled with apparent contradictions, at least they were contradictions in the eyes of the worldly man. Take today’s verse from the Amplified Bible for example.
“Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!”
How could anyone be extremely happy and mourning at the same time? What could Jesus really be talking about? He is describing true repentance. Yep, one of those words we avoid and rarely even hear at church. Let me say it again, ‘REPENTANCE’. From the Lord’s perspective, repentance is what happens when we see the ugliness of our personal sin and the consequences that our sin brings. Consequences are also one of those topics we don’t like to hear about. We like to hear that grace evaporates the consequences of our sins. Not always true. If you killed someone they are still dead. You can receive forgiveness but consequences remain. That is where the mourning part comes in. We mourn because our sins have offended God, maybe hurt other people, and have brought problems into our own lives.

Well what about the happiness and blessed part? That is the joy that comes in connection with the mourning. We see His forgiveness and His plan for restoration and recovery of what we have lost through our sinful behavior. Christ removes our sins and implements His purpose and plans in our lives through His plan of redemption.

Paul the Apostle is the greatest example of this truth. He was actually the prototype of conversion. Remember how it started, he was breathing out threats and murder against the Christian community. He was living and breathing in an atmosphere of hate. He was responsible for the death of some of the first Christian martyrs. Then it happened, the Damascus Road experience. Paul was forgiven and changed at the same time. The martyrs were still dead but Paul was forgiven, the plan of redemption was now kicking in. Paul mourned over his sinfulness and the price others had paid for his sins. Now Paul was rejoicing because of the mercy of God, his mourning had led to true blessedness. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

REPENTANCE

REPENTANCE

Acts 2:38 ¶ Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Repentance is not a very popular word. Actually it is greatly misunderstood. Repentance is more than just a decision to change your ways, it is entirely supernatural. It starts when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sinful condition and convinces us of our need of a Savior. He attracts us to the mercy offered to us in Christ and as we embrace His love, He begins to do an amazing work in the deepest part of our being. He begins to do the unthinkable, He actually begins to change the very desires of our hearts. We are profoundly attracted to spiritual things and become strangely repulsed by our previous sinful behavior. Delighting in God becomes our testimony and a proof that repentance is at work in our souls. Arthur Wallis spoke of the need for repentance in his book from over fifty years ago. It sounds like the “modernism” of the fifties is the same as the “relevantism” of our current world. Check this out.

“Under the ministry of these early preachers, people did not decide to become Christians simply because this was a desirable or respectable thing to do or because Christianity appeared more attractive and to offer better dividends than living for the world. There was no suggestion that salvation was just a course of expediency, an insurance policy for eternity or a good bargain that any sensible man ought to make with his God. No, indeed; they were led to repent because they saw their desperate plight. They were convicted of their shameful rebellion against God, whose laws they had broken and whose Son they had crucified. They were indeed “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” They were lost and undone, and more than ready, when a loving Savior was presented to them, to flee to Him for refuge against the wrath of a holy God.
There is so much emphasis today on believing, receiving and deciding, and so little on the vital step of repenting. We need to beware of reducing conversion to a technique, for a person can be persuaded to go through the motions of accepting Christ while the conscience remains unawakened, the will unmoved and so “the heart unchanged. The apostles felt that their labor was in vain if their converts did not stand fast”

As much as we try to convince ourselves that mankind is advancing we still come face to face with the truth found in the ancient scriptures. Jer.17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” We still have the same problems, God still has the same solutions. The only solution to the quagmire of sin that we often find ourselves in is that same old unpopular word; repentance. We may not like the sound of it but God’s work of repentance in our souls brings us into the place of radical joy found in our Savior’s love.

BROKEN HEART

BROKEN HEART

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.Psalm 51:17

What a brutally honest prayer, David was saying that just the religious sacrifice is not good enough, repentance is a deep work of God’s Spirit in our hearts. We are not capable of even beginning the process of repentance and change until the Spirit of God begins His work upon our hearts. David was experiencing what he called a broken heart, a hearten broken by his sudden awareness of his sinful condition. He had sinned against God and found himself hopelessly alienated from the Lord. David had become painfully aware of his need for God’s mercy and God’s favor of repentance. He said the true sacrifices that are pleasing to God were not lambs and goats but were the sacrifices of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Luther spoke of the blessedness of approaching God with a broken heart in his comments about this psalm.

“David talks about “a broken and contrite heart.” In other words, this is a sincerely humble heart that is almost dying out of despair. David is saying that God doesn’t hate a broken and contrite heart, but rather accepts it with joy. The message we proclaim brings life and God’s approval to us because it strengthens us and fights against sin and death. In fact, the gospel demonstrates its power when we are sinful and weak. It’s a message of joy that can be experienced only when sorrow and distress are present.
In this psalm, we read that God finds no sacrifice more pleasing than a broken heart. The tax collector exemplified this attitude when he said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The tax collector offered the Lord the most desirable sacrifice, a broken heart that trusts in God’s mercy. This is a comforting way to think about God. God’s true nature is to love people who are troubled, have mercy on those who are broken-hearted, forgive those who have fallen, and refresh those who are exhausted. This psalm calls us to trust in God’s mercy and goodness alone. It encourages us to believe that God is on our side even when we feel abandoned and distressed.”

Do you have a broken heart today? Maybe you heart was broken because you have disappointed yourself and the Lord in your actions. Or maybe your heart has been broken by a series of disappointments in your life. David had tasted both kinds of broken hearts. His heart was broken because of his sin against the Lord with his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. David’s heart was also broken by the betrayal and rebellion of his son Absalon. In both of these incidents David was brought to the end of himself. He had no solutions to his problems, only God’s help and intervention would see him through. The Lord met David in both incidents. David found forgiveness, protection, sustenance, and and renewal from the Spirit of the Lord. If you have a broken heart today, take courage, the Lord seems to be strangely attracted to the cries and prayers of the broken heart.

REPENTANCE THAT LEADS TO LIFE

REPENTANCE THAT LEADS TO LIFE

Acts 11:18 ¶ When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

I prayed “the prayer” many times before, this time was different. This time I was aware of my sinful condition. This time I was aware of why Jesus died. It was my sins that brought Jesus to the cross. I could finally see it. The Lord had granted me repentance that leads to life. Instead of just feeling guilty, I saw the mercy and grace offered to me in Christ. It was a combination of incredible sorrow and joy beyond compare. My sins were forgiven and I had been changed.
Jesus taught that one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit was to convict us of our sins. Until He opens our eyes to our sinfulness, we may feel remorse for the consequences of our sins, but we have no ability to repent. Repentance is the combination of God moving on our hearts and our yielding to His touch. repentance is more than feeling sorry, it is the God given ability to change. Here is Martin Luther’s thoughts on repentance.

“When unbelievers say they’re sorry for their sins, their sorrow is really the expression of disappointment that they will no longer be able to do what they want. They don’t really want to change their behavior. When thieves express sorrow, they mean they’re sorry they can’t steal anymore. Laban (in dealing with Jacob) is portrayed in this same way. Deep down, he didn’t really repent. His sorrow was only an outward show. Those who are truly repentant aren’t afraid of anything except God’s anger and displeasure. They aren’t concerned about being humiliated and disgraced in front of other people as long as they know that God is on their side.”

I can remember witnessing in the bars in Fresno, California during my years in Bible School. It was common for drunks in the bar to cry and talk about old church songs and experiences but the next week you could find them at their same old spot in the bar. Repentance really has two parts to it. It starts with a guilty conscience about our sin and turns into a hatred for sin. Next, repentance turns us to the Lord. He becomes “altogether lovely” to us. Without the attraction to Christ we will be like the drunks in the bar crying in our beer. We may be sorry for what sin has done to us but still have no power to change, still ensnared in the lure and attraction of sin itself. It’s the power of Christ’s love and the attraction to Christ Himself that makes repentance a possibility. Until we fall into the arms of His matchless love, we are helpless, unable to change ourselves. When Jesus steps into our lives everything changes. Then, and then only, we can understand what Luke meant when he wrote, “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

ASH WEDNESDAY

ASH WEDNESDAY

Luke 24:46-47 ¶ Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

One of the amazing things about Carnival season in New Orleans is the way it ends. There is an annual tradition that happens promptly at midnight on Mardi Gras evening. Just at the stroke of twelve, the New Orleans police ride down Bourbon Street on horseback to clear the streets, followed closely behind by the street sweepers. Why the ceremonial “cleansing” of the streets of fallen down drunks and the filth of the weeks of revelry? Why it’s Ash Wednesday of course, the beginning of lenten season. After all, the day God forgot is over and now He suddenly remembers. We must clear the streets and head for the nearest church to put ashes on our head, I hardly think the Lord is impressed.
It has not always been that way. Originally lent was a time of fasting and reflection for the Christian community in preparation for the Easter celebration coming in just forty days. Now, repentance is just an after thought, of course the real holiday is Mardi Gras. Wikipedia has an interesting description of Ash Wednesday, check this out.

“The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

True repentance is not just a casual attempt at giving something insignificant up for forty days. Repentance is a long hard look at our lives. It is turning away from a life focused on sinful pleasures. Repentance is turning toward God and finding Him as the source of our life. As we head toward this Easter season, maybe we should return to the ancient Christian practice of reflecting on the sufferings our Savior which He endured when He was beaten at the whipping post and nailed to the Roman cross. As we reflect on His cruel death, the Holy Spirit will often remind us of why He died. He died to save sinners. He died for sinners like me. As the Spirit convicts us of our sins, He also begins to perform in us an awesome supernatural work. What is that work? It is called repentance. By the power of the Spirit He enables us to turn from our sins and turn toward this loving Heavenly Father. In a moment of time our heart is changed. We are suddenly freed from the oppressive attraction to the pleasures of this world, a miracle has happened inside of us. Our hearts have changed. So this year, maybe you can get more than ashes on your head for lent, maybe, by the grace of God, you can receive a new heart.

PLEASURES EVERMORE

PLEASURES EVERMORE

John 4:10,14 ¶ Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water. Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Let’s face it, sin is pleasurable. As a matter of fact, the Bible confirms it. But it also reveals sin’s flaw, the pleasures of sin are fleeting, they don’t last. Hebrews 11:25 ESV “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” No matter how much you enjoy your sinful pleasures, one day the music stops,and as they say, you have to pay the band. The problem with these carnal pleasures is their addictive nature. Sin always takes you further and keeps you longer than you intended. There is a way out but it is different than most people would ever imagine. How can one escape, why the solution is a greater pleasure of course. We must fight fire with fire. The only sure, permanent escape from the snares of carnal bondage is the pleasure found in Christ Himself. He is altogether lovely and there is joy and contentment found in Him. Sam Storms wrote about this freedom found in the pleasures of God. Check out these powerful words.

“How do you fight the pleasure of sin? I’ll tell you: with another pleasure. Holiness is not attained, at least not in any lasting, life-changing way, merely through prohibitions, threats, fear, or shame-based appeals. Holiness is attained by believing in, trusting, banking on, resting in, savoring, and cherishing God’s promise of a superior happiness that comes only by falling in love with Jesus. The power that the pleasures of sin exert on the human soul will ultimately be overcome only by the superior power of the pleasures of knowing and being known, loving and being loved by God in Christ. Or again, the only way to conquer one pleasure is with another, superior, more pleasing pleasure!”

Maybe this all sounds strange and foreign to you. That’s okay, the natural man can never imagine joy that is real and lasting outside of his physical experiences. But all of us know, there is more to life than what we see. There is a real spiritual world. Your heart was made for that world and nothing else and nothing less could ever satisfy your heart. Christ came to earth, He suffered and died to restore us to God. That is the place of ultimate contentment, in the presence of the Lord. So if you are trapped in one of this world’s snares of sin there is a way out for you. The way out is not human will power or just trying to do better. The way out is through yielding your heart totally to the Lord.