Over the past few weeks we have looked at various aspects of the work in our lives of the Holy Spirit, our personal coach. First we considered “recruitment”- how the Holy Spirit chooses us to be on his team. Then we looked at “gifting” and how we can reach our full potential with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly we thought about how the Holy Spirit calls each one of us, and the following week we considered how he guides us and we need to listen to his signals. Last Sunday we contemplated the Baptism of the Holy Spirit – what it means to be baptized by him and what difference the baptism makes, or should make in our lives.
Today we are going to take some time and think for a while about “Performance: Spirit-Filled Living”. We?ve been recruited, given spiritual gifts, baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Now, what does this really mean to us? Does it make a difference in us? Should it make a difference? If your answer is “yes” to these questions, then the next question I want to ask you is, OK – so how will this happen? How will this difference come about?
When we read passages such as the ones from Ephesians and Colossians which we have already looked at this morning we can clearly see that consistent, Christ-like performance is the goal of the Christian life.
Paul is very dogmatic in his stance concerning this – “I insist” he says, that you don?t continue living the way you did before you met Christ. In Romans 6:1 Paul asks the question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Then he answers quickly by saying, “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
Over and over again throughout Paul?s epistles we see the admonishment to be like Christ repeated. In Romans 6:11 we read – “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:29 tells us – “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
In Galatians 4:19 Paul says, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Paul wants so badly to see these new Christians becoming more like Christ that he likens his longing to the pains of childbirth – that?s how important it is to him.
This is the main point in the epistles. Paul taught believers how to become “conformed to the likeness of Christ.”
We know that we were created in the image of God, however, since the Fall of Man, we no longer possess that likeness to Him in our everyday lives, that image has been distorted by sin. So in order for us to be conformed to the image of Christ, something obviously has to change.
Now change is hard isn?t it? We don?t usually like change, nor do we usually change easily or very quickly. Change takes effort – sometimes it?s just plain hard work!
Paul describes how this change has to take shape in Ephesians 4:22-24. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Do you remember the story I told you a few weeks ago about the little girl saying to her mummy, the pastor says that God is bigger than us, and that God is in us. If that?s true, wouldn?t he show through?
Well, it is true! People ought to be able to see Jesus in us, showing through. Our behaviour, the way we live our lives should show something refreshingly different to a lost world.
The way we live our lives is an ever present opportunity to give glory to Jesus, knowing that what people see in us is a result of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
During the days of the fledgling church the people outside of the faith noticed a difference in the believers, so much so that they gave them a nickname and it wasn?t supposed to be a very complimentary one – they sneered at them and called them “Little Christs”.
Antioch was where they first called the people of the Way “Christians”. Now the word Christian comes from the Greek word christianos, meaning “belonging to Christ” (like a slave), or “of Christ?s family” (like a sibling), or “little Christ?s”, as though believers were mimics trying to outdo themselves in their imitation of Christ.
According to Rev. David Courey who developed this series of messages called “The Coach In Your Corner”, when we place these separate meanings in this particular order, there appears to be a progression in our relationship to Christ – slave, sibling, mimic.
He suggests that the progression starts with a legal relationship between slave and master whereby we have a responsibility to be alert to our Master?s wishes. Next we progress from slave to sibling, implying a family relationship and then from sibling to Little Christs, people who mimic Jesus.
Whether there is a progression here or not is relatively unimportant. The fact is that we became slaves to Christ and family members when we accepted him as Lord of our lives, and I hope we became mimics of our Saviour too.
Certainly the people of the day were familiar with slavery. Occasionally where there was not an heir to the family estates a slave who was totally trusted and loved by the family he served would be legally adopted and become a member of that family. Some slaves were so trusted that they were empowered to act legally in business in the name of their masters.
We can draw a parallel to the Christian prayer life in this. We as believers are empowered to act legally in the name of our master, the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 16:23b & 24 we read these words of Jesus, “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
We were together with some of our son?s family the other day and we got talking about family resemblances. My son?s oldest girl, Jessica was telling us that at the high school nobody realized that she and Brenda were sisters because they don?t look at all alike. Jessica thought maybe that was just alright! A typical teenage sister?s reaction!
Often the opposite is true though isn?t it. Often we resemble closely other members of our family. Usually to be a member of a family means that we carry certain family traits and people will recognize us as belonging to that certain family because of this.
Sometimes it can be a good thing to be recognized in this way, sometimes maybe not so good. But, as members of God?s family, as siblings of our Lord Jesus, wouldn?t it be just great if people could see a family resemblance in us?
David Courey suggests that maybe the most profound meaning of the word “Christian” is “being an imitator of Christ.” Originally “little Christs” was a term of mockery. The people taunted the believers with the name. They were objects of ridicule.
Eventually though the Christians adopted the name themselves as a title of honour rather than shame and derision. They realized that “Little Christs” was exactly what they wanted to be. They wanted to copy Jesus and become more like him.
Tertullian, one of the early church fathers who wrote in the late second and early third centuries quoted an unbeliever who exclaimed, “Behold how these Christians love one another!” Another unbeliever noted, “They seem to love one another before they even know each other!”
As these early Christians practiced becoming “Little Christs” and actively living out the love of Christ, they were beginning to look more and more like Jesus to the unsaved.
These early believers were even willing to risk their lives for the sake of the cause of the gospel. Paul praises Epaphroditus in his letter to the Philippians. He says that in bringing much needed help to the Philippian church Epaphroditus “Almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.”
This man was willing to travel a long distance to be with Paul in a time when travel was a very risky business. He was willing to risk encountering exposure to communicable diseases by visiting Paul in the prison. Prisons in those days weren?t quite what they are nowadays! They were dank, filthy, disease ridden, rat-infested holes. This man risked a lot to help Paul.
The Greek word for “risk” is paraboleusthai. It is a gambler?s term that meant to stake everything on the throw of the dice.
People who want to be like Jesus are willing to take risks for him. In the days of the early church there was a group called “the parabolani”. This was a group of Christian people who took risks by visiting prisoners and the sick and looking after them when nobody else would.
During the plague in Carthage in 252AD, the towns people fled in terror, leaving the sick and dying to perish.
Cyprian, a Christian leader and pastor in the area gathered the congregations together to bury the dead and nurse the sick back to health. By this courageous act of mercy – because these people were willing to take a risk – many lives were saved.
We need risk-takers in the church today. I wonder however how many there are who would risk anything, everything for the cause of Christ as those early Christians did?
Throughout the history of the church there have been those who would do just that. People like the British politician William Wilberforce, America?s revivalist Charles G. Finney, and abolitionists like Theodore Weld and Harriet Beecher Stowe each one of whom risked their reputations to oppose slavery.
We can?t all emulate such people as these, however we can all become more like Jesus. What would it take for ordinary people like you and I to become more like Jesus. What would it take?
It takes the Holy Spirit at work in us to change us from ordinary to extraordinary and this happens only when we allow him freedom to have his will and his way in us. As we allow this to take place we will become more and more like Jesus and our lives will become fruitful for him.
In John 15:8 we read these words of Jesus, “This is to my Father?s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
It is our Lord?s desire that we bear fruit to bring glory to the Father and because this is what he desires of us, he tells us how this can happen – by remaining closely attached to him.
Paul says in Romans 7:4, “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”
In Galatians 5:22-26 Paul describes this fruit, calling it the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.
Then he goes on to explain just how we can develop this kind of fruit in our lives. He says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
When we look at the fruit of the Spirit, can you think of anything which summarizes the qualities of Christ more than this? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This is what we need to be developing in our lives in order that we might become more like Jesus.
I love what D. L. Moody said about the fruit of the Spirit – “Love is the first thing – the first in that precious cluster of fruit…Joy is love exulting; peace is love in repose; long suffering is love on trial; gentleness is love in society; goodness is love in action; faith is love on the battlefield; meekness is love at school; and temperance is love in training.”
How then can we assimilate these characteristics into our own lives? How do we assimilate the nature and personality of Jesus, the love of Jesus, so that His character is formed in us?
David Courey suggests that it is a natural process of the Spirit – that Christianity isn?t a philosophy of life to work out, a methodology to be followed, or a technique to be perfected. It?s organic, it?s natural, it?s God at work in us and it?s an ongoing process.
We call it sanctification – the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit working in us, perfecting us, molding and making us through the ups and downs of life, to be more like Christ.
As I was preparing this message and really thinking about what this means something showed through very clearly to me. Now, you may not consider this to be a very profound statement, but it really impacted me.
Our desire should be to become more like Jesus, and so very often we think that we have to work at making this happen in our lives- however, as hard as we try, we find we can?t do it.
The only way this will happen is when we stand back and allow the Holy Spirit to do that work in us. Jesus said that he is the Vine and the only way we can bear fruit is if we stay attached to the Vine – drawing upon his strength rather than our own.
You see, we become nothing but dead branches unless we stay connected to the taproot of His life-giving Spirit. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. Our lives will be fruitless.
It will cost us something though. The process will be fatal to our old lives. Jesus said that the dead branches have to be pruned away. In the same way the dead things of our former lives have to be pruned away also.
Paul said to the Galatians, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” It?s not a totally effortless process on our part to become more like Jesus, we have to take a part in the process too.
Our sinful natures with which we were born are strong and want to maintain the upper hand. It is so strong that Paul says we have to execute it, crucify it.
In the passage in Ephesians which we read Paul says we are to put off our old self, be made new, put on our new self.
Runners sap the strength out of the vine and have to be pruned out. Anyone who has grown tomatoes knows that you have to pinch out the “suckers” as they develop because these suckers take all the plant?s energy for themselves, leaving less energy for the production of fruit.
In the same way, the selfish, sinful nature, if allowed to grow and flourish as it pleases will take away from the growth of fruit in our lives. It must be pruned away.
Michelangelo was commissioned to create 40 sculptures for the tomb of Pope Julius II. In 1508 the pope cancelled his commission, and Michelangelo left several pieces for the tomb unfinished, including four famous figures called The Prisoners.
The works capture their title as human forms struggling to be freed from their stone prison.
Michelangelo could see the potential in each block of marble before he even began working on it. He could already see what it would become under his carving and shaping.
Similarly, the Holy Spirit is a sculptor. Just as each piece of marble was unique for Michelangelo, so also each one of us is unique. The Holy Spirit chips away over the span of our lives at the rough edges, gradually uncovering what He could always see lying beneath the surface.
Just like pruning, sculpting can be a painful process. Only as we go through this process can God?s masterpiece be revealed. That?s why the process of assimilating Christ?s character, or becoming more like Jesus, is a continuous process.
Becoming more like Jesus, living a Spirit-filled life can be seen then as a natural process, one that is fatal to our old lives and a continuous process.
In order to become more like Jesus we have to learn to live by the Spirit. Paul says in Galatians 5:25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Now that?s easy to say, but just how do we do this? We do it by putting to death the old life, crucifying it. We no longer live by rules and regulations, rather our lives are ruled by a relationship with the Holy Spirit!
If we try to live by rules and regulations we will fail. We will break those rules, just as God?s Chosen People did when they tried to live under the law.
However, if we live by the Spirit we will produce fruit. In other words, the presence of the Holy Spirit will be seen in our actions. God, who is bigger than us and who lives in us, will show through!
In order to keep in step with something we have to be moving. In order to keep in step with the Spirit, we have to be moving. Keeping in step implies walking – we are moving ahead, going somewhere. To walk we have to depend on our legs to take us where we want to go. To keep in step with the Spirit we have to depend on Him to take us where He wants us to go.
The Spirit-filled life is a life which is totally dependent on the Holy Spirit to move us along. We keep in step with him through reading and studying the Bible, through spending time talking to God in prayer and through obeying Him by acting upon what we are learning as we live in this way.
I?m sure most of you are familiar with the extreme make-over shows which have become so popular on the television in recent months. There is one I believe where they do extreme make-overs on people?s homes, and even more mind-boggling, one where they actually do extreme make-overs on people?s bodies.
These people submit to weight loss and exercise regimes. They have their hair styles changed, their clothing styles and even sometimes undergo plastic surgery all in an effort to look better. Professionals come in and help them make the changes which they perceive to be necessary to be the person they want to be.
If we are to live a Spirit-filled life we too must undergo a radical make-over. You see, we can change our ways to do what we?re supposed to do – and that would be good, OR we can change our lives to be what we?re supposed to be.
Do you see the difference? It?s not just a face lift, it?s a radical make-over! You see, God?s word tells us that he doesn?t look on the outside, he looks at the heart! It?s who we are that counts, especially when we think nobody?s looking, not how we look or what we can do.
We can get all dressed up in our best clothes and come to church Sunday by Sunday and carry a big Bible, we can do all these things but if we?re not being all God wants us to be, we?re just going through the motions and not being changed at all – not allowing the Holy Spirit to conform us to be like Jesus.
OR, we can walk in step with the Spirit, allow him to change our lives and truly become all that God wants us to be.
A few weeks ago in one of his messages Pastor Darren said that we cannot separate the secular and the Holy in our lives because God is always with us.
We know that we have the Holy Spirit within us but I think that sometimes we tend to forget. Living the Spirit-filled life is walking in step with the Spirit.
Think about it! Every moment of every day – the Holy Spirit is walking step by step with us and we are walking with him. We can?t see Him but we know he?s there.
Now, picture this for a moment. What if you could see him? Imagine that you can. As you go out of this place today he?s there, right beside you.
As you go to work tomorrow, he?s right there beside you. As you deal with difficult children, or get angry with your spouse – guess what? He?s right there beside you.
Do you think that if you could actually see the Holy Spirit right there beside you, that you would live differently? Do you think you might be more careful about your thoughts, your words, your actions?
It?s our choice. It?s up to us. We can change or we can carry on the way we always have done. But we need to remember, the Holy Spirit is there with us, every step of the way. And we need to remember that God?s Word tells us that we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit, or quench the Holy Spirit.
Those people who undergo the radical makeovers have professionals who advise them, guide them and help them every step of the way. We too have a professional who will do the same, and even better for us.
The Holy Spirit is our professional who will advise and guide and help us every step of
the way. When we allow Him to, He will come and make the changes that need to be made in our lives to make us more like Jesus.
He is our scout and our guide who calls us and empowers us and gives us gifts to help us in our walk with him and he is the one who points us to Jesus.
Tony Campolo loves to tell the story about a derelict named Joe. Joe was miraculously converted in a downtown mission. Before his conversion Joe was known as a hopeless, dirty, drunken man with a reputation for being nasty. When he came to Christ, everything changed for Joe.
He became the most caring person at the mission. Whatever was needed, however disgusting the job, Joe was there to help. He had the compassion for taking care of guys who were too ?out of it? to take care of themselves. He knew how to love broken people, and give them some dignity.
One night the mission held a meeting where the gospel was shared. When the invitation was given for unbelievers to come to Christ, one guy among the drooped heads of the ragtag congregation came forward. He dropped to his knees and began calling out to the Lord, ?Oh God, make me like Joe. Make me like Joe!?
The preacher leaned over and asked him, ?Wouldn?t it be better if you prayed, “God, make me like Jesus??” After thinking about it for a moment, the guy looked up with a curious expression on his face and said, “Is he like Joe?”
As we live out the Spirit-filled life at home, at work, at school, in our neighbourhoods – our lives will become a living testimony to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and people who aren?t even sure who Jesus is will see something of Him in us.
As you leave here this morning, I challenge you to live each moment as though you can see the Holy Spirit walking side by side with you – and live accordingly. You see, it?s not enough just to put off the bad, we have to put on the good.
It?s a deliberate choice. It?s your choice! You can choose to walk in step with the Holy Spirit or not. You decide!