The Fellowship of the Spirit | Selected Scriptures
Brian Hedges | May 5, 2019
A.W. Tozer was one of the great evangelical writers of the 20th century, and Tozer in one of his books talks about the “fellowship of the burning heart.” Of course, he’s alluding there to the language of Luke 24, where the disciples on the road to Emmaus have spoken with Jesus, and then when Jesus revealed himself to them and disappeared they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us when he spoke to us on the road?”
I think about that phrase “the fellowship of the burning heart,” and I think it’s a good description of what a church should be. A church should be the fellowship of the burning heart, and in fact, the church is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. It is a communion of saints, it’s a group of people who have been bound together by their common faith and salvation in Jesus Christ and their common experience of the grace of God through the Holy Spirit.
I think even that language “burning heart” is good language when we think about the work of the Spirit in our hearts and lives, because the Spirit in Scripture is sometimes compared to fire. You remember that in Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to the church, they saw a manifestation, physically, these cloven tongues of fire resting upon them. The Spirit is compared to fire in other ways; for example, when Paul tells us not to quench the Holy Spirit, that’s language, the language of quenching a flame. We are not to quench the Spirit’s fire in our hearts and in our lives.
The scholar F.F. Bruce wrote a book, on the first four centuries of church history, called The Spreading Flame, and sometimes that’s a good description of the way the Spirit works. It’s like a spreading flame. It’s like a wildfire that’s catching or a forest fire that’s blazing as the Spirit is working broadly in the hearts and lives of many people in a community, a city, a nation, or even in a local church.
This morning I want to talk about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church, in the local church. So I’m calling this "the fellowship of the Spirit" because that’s what we are to be. This is going to be a somewhat unusual sermon, I think. It’s not going to be rooted in one particular text, so I’m not having you turn to a text. I’m going to, instead, read to you or share with you, I don’t know, half-a-dozen, maybe a little more, texts in the course of this message; so it’s going to be topically arranged. It’s going to be some exposition of what Scripture says about the work of the Spirit, but also application and exhortation to us as a local church to be sensitive to the work of the Spirit, the movement of the Spirit in our hearts and lives. I want to organize this in this way: I want to give you five pairs of words, so five points to the sermon, that will help us kind of map out the work of the Spirit in five different aspects, five different ways. So here are the five pairs, and then we’ll go through them one at a time.
- Baptism and Conversion
- Gifts and Graces
- Ordinary and Extraordinary
- Grieving and Quenching
- Fruitfulness and Fullness
Okay, that’s a lot to cover in 30 minutes, so I’m going to go fast, so buckle your seatbelts and hang on. Here we go.
1. Baptism and Conversion
I just want to talk for just a moment about how the Spirit creates the church and how the Spirit unites us to the church. The Scriptures this language of baptism, particularly baptism with the Holy Spirit. We’ve just witnessed this morning baptism in water, but Scripture also talks about something called baptism in the Spirit, or baptism with the Spirit.
You remember that John the Baptist came on the scene baptizing with water, but he pointed to someone else. He said someone “greater than me is coming, who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire.” Jesus was the one who came bearing the Spirit, and in Acts 1 it becomes really clear that Jesus is about to do this work. He is about to baptize his church in the Spirit. That’s what they were to wait for in Jerusalem, until the day of Pentecost.
We saw that last week, both in Luke 24, where Jesus told his disciples after the resurrection and before the ascension, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high, and then in Acts 1 he reminded them of what John had said about being baptized in the Spirit, and he said again, wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes.
Then in Acts 2 the Spirit of God is poured out on the church, and in the book of Acts this language is used somewhat interchangeably, where the Spirit is poured out on the church, where they are baptized with the Spirit, the Spirit given on the day of Pentecost, they are filled with the Spirit… So it’s important for us, I think, to understand what this baptism with the Spirit is, what it entails.
There are some people, some whole denominations, who believe that baptism with the Spirit is an experience that happens subsequent to conversion, so that the whole process is something like a two-stage process. First you become a believer in Christ - you’re saved, you’re forgiven of your sins - but there’s another work of grace that needs to happen; you need to be baptized with the Spirit. Then you get the Holy Spirit (sometimes that’s accompanied with a sign, like speaking in tongues), and only when you get the Holy Spirit do you really begin to grow and to flourish and be sanctified and live a holy life or have power in your life for witness and evangelism and so on.
I think that’s a misreading of the book of Acts, and I think it’s a misreading of Scripture. I think it’s a misreading mainly because of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. So that’s the first text I want you to look at, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. You can read it in your Bibles or on the screen, and listen to what Paul says to the Corinthian church.
He says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
Now, get what Paul is saying there. He says we were all baptized in one Spirit. We were all baptized! Then he goes out of his way to show that there’s no class distinction, there’s no inferior person. He even talks about these different categories that could have been so divisive in the early church: Jews and Greeks, slaves and free. Perhaps free people would think, “Well, a lowly slave cannot be baptized with the Holy Spirit; that’s reserved for the free people.” Or maybe a Jewish person who’s proud of his heritage of the Old Testament would think, “A Gentile couldn’t be baptized with the Spirit.”
In fact, that is part of the division in the early church in the book of Acts, and the apostles are at pains to show that the Gentiles have the same experience; when they are converted, when they are brought to faith in Christ, the Gentiles have the same experience, receiving the Holy Spirit as the Jews did on the day of Pentecost. We were all baptized in one Spirit.
The Spirit here is, to use the metaphor of baptism, the substance into which believers are baptized, and I think Jesus is the one baptizing. Jesus is the agent, the Spirit is what the believers are immersed into. He says we were all baptized in one Spirit.
I think the reality is simply this, that every single believer in Jesus Christ, when they are born of the Spirit of God, when they are converted, that is, when they turn from their sins, when they turn to Jesus Christ in saving faith, when the Spirit indwells their hearts; at that very moment, they are baptized by Jesus in the Spirit, and in that moment are united to the body of Christ, so that baptism and conversion, baptism with the Spirit and conversion, happen simultaneously. They happen at the same time, which means that if you are a believer in Christ, if you have the presence of the Holy Spirit in your heart, you have been baptized with the Spirit. You’re not waiting for a second experience of the Spirit in your life.
Now, that being said, it is true that there is increasing fullness, and we’re going to end on that note here in a few moments. So we should continue to pray for the continuing work of the Spirit in our lives. But you have the Spirit if you’re a Christian; you have been baptized into one body.
This is important in thinking about the church, because this is what makes you a true member of the church. I don’t mean the member of an organization, I don’t mean your name on a membership roll, as important as that is, I don’t mean having gone through the ceremony, as we just observed, of baptism. All of those things are good, all of those things are important; but that’s not what makes you a Christian.
What makes you a Christian is that you have received the Holy Spirit, that the Spirit of God has awakened your dead heart and brought you to life, he’s opened your blind eyes, he’s caused you to see, he’s made Jesus precious to your soul, he’s made the gospel make sense to your heart! He’s brought you to repent from your sins and to place all of your trust in Jesus Christ. That’s what makes you a Christian, and if that has happened to you then you are a member of the church, the body of Christ.
The formalities that we observe I think are important, I think they’re biblical; that’s another sermon, why you should be a member of a church; that’s another sermon. I think it’s important and good to do, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that that’s what makes you a Christian. What makes you a Christian is, have you received the Holy Spirit? Has the Spirit of God come into your heart, into your life? Have you been born again?
This is the great promise of the Father that Jesus fulfills as he gives the Spirit to his church and as he gives the Spirit to every single individual who becomes a member of his body, who is converted, who his brought from death into life. Baptism and conversion. This is how the Spirit creates the church. He creates the church by creating Christians and by uniting those Christians to this one body, which is the church.
2. Gifts and Graces
Secondly, gifts and graces. Here I want to think for a few minutes about two kinds of evidence of the Spirit’s work in the church, and the Bible uses both of these categories. It speaks of both gifts of the Spirit (what we call spiritual gifts), and it also describes certain qualities of life that theologians have often called the graces of the Spirit.
The gifts of the Spirit are abilities that God gives us that the Spirit empowers that enable us to serve in the church in order to edify or to build up the body of Christ. There are a number of these different spiritual gifts. So, you could look - well, there are basically four passages in the Scripture you could look at; we’re not going to read any of them, but I’ll just name them for you: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4. Those four chapters are the chapters that give us the most detail about spiritual gifts.
These gifts are varied. We could break them down into two basic categories, what J.I. Packer calls speaking gifts and serving gifts, or gifts of Samaritanship, as he describes it; that is, gifts of serving others. Speaking gifts would be things like teaching and preaching and prophesying and words of wisdom and words of knowledge. The serving gifts would be gifts of helps, gifts of serving others, maybe a gift of generosity or showing mercy, or of leadership and administration. All of those would be spiritual gifts.
Then there are, of course, in the New Testament, what we call the sign gifts. There are the gifts of speaking in tongues, miraculous healings, and things of that nature; again, that’s a subject for another message, and you can find information about that online if you’re curious.
These are the gifts of the Spirit, and every believer is given a gift, and the gifts are given for this single purpose, to build up others. The gifts are not given for us to have a talent show, the gifts are not given so that we can feel good about ourselves, be fulfilled (although I think it is true that using spiritual gifts is a very satisfying thing for the humble-hearted Christian who wants to do it for the good of others); but the gifts are given to glorify God by building up others! So the mentality we should have in thinking about our spiritual gifts is less, “What is my gift?” and then I’m trying to figure it out, sort of like I’m trying to figure out my Myers-Briggs score, you know, or a personality survey. That’s not really the mentality to have; the mentality should be, “How can I serve others? What can I do to build up the body of Christ?” Then with that mentality, with eyes open, we start looking for opportunities, we start looking for ways that we can serve and we can help others; and as God blesses it, as people are genuinely helped, then we can be pretty sure we’ve discovered a spiritual gift.
Those are the gifts of the Spirit, but we must distinguish graces of the Spirit from the gifts, and this is so important, because this seems to be the reality in the New Testament, that people can exercise certain gifts and the Spirit is actually using those gifts to help others and yet be almost entirely, if not entirely, devoid of grace. The sign of a gift is not a sign of spiritual maturity. The fact that you’re able to do something that helps others is not an indication that you’re actually a Christian. For that, you need the graces of the Spirit.
What are the graces of the Spirit? The graces of the Spirit would be things like the fruits of the Spirit (love and joy and peace and longsuffering and so on). The graces of the Spirit would be the words that are used in Romans 15:13, where Paul says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Spirit you may about in hope.” So, joy and hope and faith and peace; those are graces of the Spirit. Those are things that happen internally, in our hearts, that are the fruit of the Spirit’s work in our hearts.
Here’s the deal: anyone can have gifts, but only a Christian has grace, and only a mature Christian is maturing in that grace; and that’s how you determine real spiritual maturity.
I think the greatest proof of this is 1 Corinthians 13, which is the great love chapter. You know this chapter. You often hear it read in weddings and occasions like that. But in its context, 1 Corinthians 13 falls right between 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Chapters 12 and 14 are all about spiritual gifts, as Paul addresses the divisiveness in the Corinthian church over worship, over the use of spiritual gifts. Some people were proud that they had gifts, some people were proud of their knowledge, some people were proud of their abilities, some people were proud of speaking in tongues or of their ability to prophesy; and Paul wants them to be not proud, but to humbly serve one another in love. Listen to what he says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
He says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…” wouldn’t that be great? To understand all mysteries and all knowledge? You know your theology and you know your Bible. “...and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have [this is great sacrifice] and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
Do you hear what he’s saying? I could have the greatest spiritual gifts, I could have the greatest spiritual accomplishments, I could do the greatest spiritual feats, but if I don’t have love, it doesn’t mean anything.
What is love? Love is the fruit of the Spirit. Love is the grace of the Spirit. It’s the work of the Spirit in our hearts. So, this is the point I want you to get: the graces of the Spirit are far superior to the gifts of the Spirit. Should we want spiritual gifts? Yes. Paul says, “Earnestly desire spiritual gifts.” Should we pray to have a gift? Sure! Paul even, I think, encourages us to do that. It’s right to pray for gifts, it’s right to develop gifts, it’s right to seek to have spiritual gifts and to use those gifts for the good of others, but it must be governed by love. The graces of the Spirit are what is so important.
Now, just as an illustration here, I think it’s really helpful for us to consider what Jonathan Edwards, that New England Puritan of the First Great Awakening, what he taught. This is so interesting to me in Edwards’ work. Edwards was an eyewitness of the revivals in North Hampton, in New England, during the 1730s and ’40s. There were two waves to the First Great Awakening; Edwards was a witness to both of them.
Throughout Edwards’ ministry, he was writing books of analysis of the works of the Spirit, because there were lots of people who were saying, “That’s not the Holy Spirit.” There’s too much excess, there are too many weird things happening. You know, sometimes people were going into trances or people would be weeping uncontrollably in worship services. Sometimes there were worse kinds of excesses. So some people were saying, “That’s not the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Other people, if they just had great experiences - you know, if they had the trance, if they did get really emotional in a worship service, if they did feel the feelings, they thought, “Oh, I have the Holy Spirit! I’ve been revived!”
Edwards was looking at this, he was analyzing this with a profound, biblical mind, and he was trying to discern what are evidences of the work of the Spirit and what are not evidences of the work of the Spirit. He wrote at least three books on this: Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God, The Religious Affections, and Charity and Its Fruits, which is on 1 Corinthians 13.
This is essentially what he said. I’m not going to give you long quotations, but this is essentially what he said. He said it’s not a sign either way if there’s lots of emotion. If people are weeping and crying, that’s not a sign either way. If there’s trembling and groans and loud outcries and agonies of body, people failing a bodily strength - I mean, these were the things that were happening - he says it’s not a sign either way. It may be the Spirit, it may not be the Spirit. Don’t judge it either way.
He says it’s no argument either way if people have great impressions on their imaginations. You can have all the feelings; it’s not an argument either way. Don’t discount it, don’t think it’s the Holy Spirit.
He said, no, this is what really is the work of the Holy Spirit (and I’ll just summarize); he says if it raises our esteem for Jesus, so that we love Jesus more, the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus born of a virgin and crucified on a cross and raised from the dead. If we love Jesus more, that’s the Spirit.
If this experience works against the interests of Satan’s kingdom, especially sin, if it’s leading us to repent of sin, to turn from evil and turn from wickedness, that’s the Holy Spirit. If it draws our hearts off of this present world and sets our affections on things above, that’s the Spirit. If it gives us a greater regard for the Scripture, so we love our Bibles more, that’s the Spirit. If it leads us to greater love for God and for others, that’s the Holy Spirit. And (he says this is perhaps this greatest evidence), if there’s humility, because the true work of the Spirit never makes people proud; it always makes people humble. The graces of the Spirit.
Now here’s the application for us as a church. We might think of this in another kind of metaphor that we’ve found helpful as a leadership team. There was a book written a few years ago called The Vine Project, and then before that The Trellis and the Vine. These authors from Australia compare the church to a garden where a vine is growing on a trellis in a garden. They say there are two things here; there’s a trellis, there’s a structure that the vine grows on, and then there’s the vine itself, which is the real life.
Sometimes, they say, the trellis itself can kind of be broken, can be missing some slats, it can really need some paint, there’s a lot of work to do to get the trellis working well so that it supports the life of the vine; but don’t mistake trellis-work for vine-work. Vine-work is when there’s fruit, it’s when there’s growth, it’s when there’s something organic happening, and sometimes it’s happening spontaneously and off of the trellis and in ways you don’t expect. They say that’s what the real work of the Spirit in the church is, and you have to tend to both.
So here in our church, we’re actually trying to think about both, and what you’ve been seeing lately is a love of trellis-work, and hopefully vine-work, too. But you’ve seen a lot of trellis-work. So, a new stage and paint on the walls and screens, new projectors and screens - that’s all trellis-work. That’s just trying to make things more functional. And you look around, this church needs some trellis-work. This is an old building. The parking lot needs to be repaired, and praise God we’re going to be able to do that very shortly. It’s going to happen in about a month.
Those are good things, but don’t mistake that for the real work of the Spirit. The real work of the Spirit is if you’re loving one another. The real work of the Spirit is if you’re repenting from your sins. The real work of the Spirit is if people are being discipled and they’re moving closer and closer to Jesus. I’ll tell you, the elders spend a lot of time thinking about those things, too.
We need both, but let’s not mistake one for the other. Let’s not think that we are doing vine-work when all we’re doing is fixing up our trellises. Let’s not think that the Spirit is present when there’s not the graces of the Spirit present. Let’s not get hung up on how we’re serving in our spiritual gifts and forget about the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
3. Ordinary and Extraordinary
The third pair of words is ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary and extraordinary. I want, just for a minute, to think about the scope of the Spirit’s work in the church, and you see this in the book of Acts.
In the book of Acts you have periodic times where the Spirit does something really extraordinary. Of course Acts 2, the day of Pentecost; that’s extraordinary. But then there are other times where the apostles would go into a city and there would just be mass conversions, right? It would be like a revival in the city, and Paul spends several years there, such as in Ephesus. There’s all these people, and they’re burning their magic books and they’re giving up idolatry, and it’s happening broadly, widespread. It’s a revival, and it’s the extraordinary work of the Spirit.
Yet, throughout the book of Acts, the Spirit is always working in ordinary ways. It’s still miraculous. Every time someone gets saved it’s miraculous, but sometimes it’s a little quieter. Sometimes it’s a little slower to start. Sometimes it’s just a handful of people to form a house church and begin meeting and begin evangelizing and there’s slow growth. That’s ordinary, and then sometimes it’s extraordinary.
The ordinary work of the Spirit comprised the things that they do as God blesses them week-to-week: the exposition of the word, meeting together for worship and prayer and praise, the means of grace, the Lord’s Supper. In all of those things - small groups, exhorting one another in love - in all of those things, the Spirit is at work, he’s transforming lives, and we are not to despise the day of small things. Don’t despise the ordinary work of the Spirit.
But there is something more. There is an extraordinary work, there is an extraordinary outpouring. There are sometimes - and we’ve seen this many times in church history - where the Spirit comes in great power on the church, and all of a sudden people who’ve been reading their Bibles and praying for years, all of a sudden they are caught up in a new experience of the Spirit, and they repent of old sins, and they start loving one another fervently, and they start sharing their faith, and there is an ingathering into the family of God, and whole cities and villages are converted. This has happened over and over and over again in the history of the church. That’s the extraordinary work of the Spirit.
Again, we need both. We need both. We want the ordinary, we need the ordinary, we value the ordinary; but certainly we should pray for the extraordinary.
I’ve just been reading, just started a book on the revival in Lewis, which was an island off the coast of Scotland, a revival that took place there in 1949-1951. The book is called Sounds from Heaven, and it’s all about this revival among the Scottish Presbyterians on this little island. I think it was maybe 20,000 people or so that lived on this island, and an amazing revival happened during those years, mainly through the ministry of Duncan Campbell. Here’s one of the interesting things that I did not know before reading this book.
So, this is an island full of Scottish Presbyterians. Virtually everybody was involved in church in some way or another; I’m sure there were exceptions, but lots of people were in churches. They knew their Bibles, they knew their catechisms, they observed the Sabbath - I mean, these are strict sabbatarian Scottish Presbyterians. They were coming to the prayer meetings. They were involved! Then 1949, this revival begins, and all these people get saved, and all these Christians get revived.
Here’s the thing the struck me: they were doing really well with the ordinary work of the Spirit, and then the extraordinary came. The ordinary perhaps even paved the way for the extraordinary, and in fact, when you look at the history of Lewis, this island, you can see that there were actually periodic revivals from the early 1800s all the way up until the 1920s and ’30s there was a revival, and then 1939 World War II broke out, and many of the people who had been saved in the revivals in the ’30s went to war and never came back. God had brought them into the kingdom before they went off to fight World War II.
Then in 1949 there was a new generation, and it was kind of like the pause button was un-pressed, right, and the revival began again. But they were consistent and constant in the ordinary means of grace.
So it’s an exhortation for us, even as we pray, and certainly we should in our prayer meetings; let’s pray for the extraordinary work of the Spirit, but be diligent in your Bible reading and in prayer and in weekly worship. Get involved in a small group. Share your faith with others. Pray for the extraordinary, don’t despise, don’t count lightly, the ordinary work of the Spirit of God.
4. Grieving and Quenching
So, these are the ways we sin against the Spirit. They’re not the only ways, but they’re two ways that are using the language of Paul from Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Thessalonians 5. He tells us, “Don’t grieve the Spirit,” in Ephesians, “Don’t quench the Spirit,” in 1 Thessalonians.
The church can sin against the Holy Spirit. That’s a terrible thing, when the church does that. The first time that happens in the book of Acts, in Acts 5, you have two people who join the church, they become members of the church. People are selling their goods and they’re giving to the church, and this couple devises a plan together to sell off their land and give a portion of it to the church, but pretend that they’re giving everything. So they lie. They lie, and God strikes them dead, because God takes so seriously sin in the church.
That’s a frightening thing, isn’t it? A frightening thing. I’m glad God doesn’t do that all the time. There wouldn’t be as many of us here. I may not be standing here. You know, we all sin at times. But God takes sin seriously, and so should we.
They sinned against the Holy Spirit. Peter says, “Why did you conspire in your hearts to lie to God and lie to the Holy Spirit?” The Holy Spirit is God; they lied to God, they lied to his Spirit. So, we have to be serious about not sinning against the Spirit.
Now what are these two ways of doing this, grieving and quenching? Well, the word “grieve” carries the idea of causing someone to be sad. So you might think about your relationships within your family. Have you ever gotten in an argument with a spouse and you said something kind of harsh and you immediately could just see your husband or your wife’s countenance fall, and you knew that, “Man, I just said something that wounded them deeply”? You grieved them, and the relationship is hurt, right? The friendship’s broken. You’re still married, but you’ve hurt the relationship; you’ve grieved your spouse.
You can do that with the Holy Spirit. You can, so to speak, hurt God’s feelings. You can do something that so wounds the Spirit of God that it breaks the fellowship, it breaks the communion. A church can do that. A church can sin in certain ways that it hurts the work of the Spirit in the church. That’s what Paul is warning about in Ephesians 4. He says, verse 30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Paul’s actually alluding there to Isaiah 63:10, and in Isaiah 63 he’s looking back on the exodus event. You remember how God had redeemed his people from Egypt, they had been on this exodus, this departure out of Egypt, he had provided for them in the wilderness, he had led them through the Red Sea; and do you remember, they get in the wilderness and they are groaning and grumbling and complaining? And God says that they grieve him. That’s the language that Paul is using.
Then when you look in Ephesians 4, there’s a whole list of sins there in Ephesians 4, and I think all of those sins are the kinds of sins that can grieve the Spirit. Those sins include lying, include unrighteous anger, it includes stealing, it includes wrong use of words - Paul says don’t let corrupt (or literally “rotten”) words come out of your mouth - and it includes bitterness and wrath and malice and clamor, dissension in the church.
I think it’s especially that, dissension in the church. Carnal, fleshly attitudes in the church grieve the Spirit of God. It can kill a church! It can lead a church down a path of destruction, when members in the church, Christians, start sinning against one another with their words and their attitudes.
So the exhortation to us, Redeemer Church, don’t grieve the Spirit. Whether you like something or don’t like something, there are ways of expressing criticism, okay? You can talk to elders; we’re glad to listen. But there are ways of dealing with things that you don’t like or people that you don’t like that bring destruction in the church. Don’t do it. Don’t grieve the Spirit. The Spirit is a gift to the church; we’ve been sealed for the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit; don’t sin against the Spirit by sinning against the body of Christ.
Then Paul also says don’t quench the Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5. Here the idea seems to be that the Spirit’s can be suppressed. Quenching. You think about quenching a flame. If you ever build a campfire in your backyard and you’re ready to put it out, what do you do? You’re throwing dirt on it, you’re pouring water on it; you’re quenching it, you’re suppressing it, causing the flame to die out. Paul’s saying don’t do that. Don’t quench the Spirit’s flame.
Here’s the fuller quotation, verses 19-21. “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” The context here seems to be worship in the church, because he says not only, “Do not quench the Spirit,” but, “Do not despise prophecies.”
That word, prophecy, that can have a wide range of meanings. That can mean a prophetic utterance, it can mean telling forth the truth, so it can be preaching and teaching. It could be exhortation, it could be prayer. It probably could include music, singing. Sometimes people in Scripture when they prophesy they are singing. All of that can be under the category of prophecies, and Paul says, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”
I’ve seen something happen before, and I’ve seen it especially with young leaders in the church. I’m not saying so much about our church; I’ve seen this in other churches. Young leaders get involved in a church, and it’s really easy to criticize young leaders, because they says lots of dumb things, right? I’ve been there, I’ve done that! But they’re sincere, and their heart is right, and they’re humble, and they’re really seeking to love people and to honor the Lord, and they’re full of zeal! Sometimes the zeal maybe gets a little out of bounds and people can get all bent out of shape and make them an offender for a word, and before you know it there’s character assassination going on, they’re trying to take down a leader. That’s sinning against the Spirit! It’s quenching the work of the Spirit.
Or maybe there’s a new movement within a certain group of the church that become really fired up for evangelism, or they’re fired up for prayer ministry, or they’re fired up for service. Some people don’t like the way they’re doing it, so they start criticizing and putting down. They’re quenching the work of the Spirit.
I just want to give - I don’t do this very often, but I just want to give a pointed exhortation to us as a church. We’re hoping very soon to have a new worship leader on staff, okay. Listen: when we have a new worship leader, it’s going to be different. It’s going to be different than what you’re used to. I don’t care who it is, it’s just going to be different, because somebody coming from the outside is going to bring new songs, they’re going to bring new style, they’re going to say new things, they’re going to have a new way of leading and doing things.
What you can be assured of is that me and the elder team, we are doing our best to filter through and to talk and to pray and to be sure that there’s alignment in theology and philosophy of ministry, to be sure that when we are choosing songs, we’re ruling out the songs that are really harmful to the church, that we’re including songs that will build up the church, including a variety of different kinds of songs. We’re thinking about those things; we really are!
So we’re trying to do our homework, and you can be sure that with a new worship leader this will happen. I’ll be meeting with a new worship leader every week, and that weekly meeting is going to include review: what went well, what did not go well. It’s going to include discipleship and mentoring as we’re building together a new philosophy of ministry and worship and trying to think about the future of Redeemer Church. It’s going to include a brotherly relationship. I’m going to be on this stuff, okay. You can be assured of that.
So with that knowledge and with an exhortation like this from Scripture, let me exhort you as a church, when we hire a new worship leader, turn off the inner critic. Turn off the inner critic. Trust leadership, pray for a new worship leader, and embrace a new worship leader, his family if he has a family; embrace them, welcome them into this church. Help them quickly become a part of the family, and let’s see what God will do. And pray! Pray for wisdom as we’re in that process, that God will direct us and help us. Our goal, our heart, our desire is to find someone who will lead us into the presence of God through song week by week, someone who will help us, both as a church and help us in our outreach as a church. So pray, and please just be guarded in attitudes as that hire is made.
5. Fruitfulness and Fullness
Finally, number five: fruitfulness and fullness. I think these two words describe for us the beautiful life of the church that lives in the Spirit. The beautiful life. It is a beautiful life! These two words, fruitfulness and fullness, they’re two metaphors, really, aren’t they? There’s an agricultural metaphor of fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). This is the beautiful fruit of the Spirit. This is the beautiful life that the Spirit produces. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such things there is no law.”
Listen, when a church is full of people who look like that, it’s a beautiful place. It’s like walking into an orchard right in the middle of harvest time, and there’s luscious fruit on every tree, ripe for the plucking. It’s a beautiful thing! This organic outgrowth of the Spirit’s vital work in our hearts and lives; that’s what we long for, that’s what we want. We need the fruit of the Spirit.
This fruit is produced from the inside out. It’s not something you work hard to produce; it comes as a tree is rooted in rich soil with nutrients and it’s fed by the rains and the water and the irrigation and things that would hurt the growth and pruned away and cut away. It’s an organic thing, and that’s what it’s like in our lives, when we are cutting away and pruning away sin and when we are planted deep in the soil of God’s word. When that happens, there’s fruit, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Then the second metaphor, fullness. That suggests water, doesn’t it? Fullness, like a fountain or a river, overflowing or flowing in fullness to others. It suggests abundance and supply and refreshing, satisfying life.
We have this language in Ephesians 5:18-21, and again, notice it has everything to do with worship. It’s amazing how much the teaching of the New Testament on the Spirit is connected to worship. Ephesians 5 says, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
You see there’s a command, “Be filled with the Spirit,” and then as we’re filled with the Spirit there are things that happen. We’ll be addressing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We’ll be singing, making melody in our hearts to the Lord. We will be thankful, giving thanks. We will be submitting to one another in love, out of reverence for Christ. So, it shows us, again, what the fruit of the Spirit’s work is in our hearts and lives.
You put those two things together, and I think these metaphors, fruitfulness and fullness, show us that the best life possible for the Christian is the Spirit-filled life. It is the life which glorifies God, it is the life which edifies people, it is the life which satisfies our own souls. It reminds us that the true tests of real spirituality are Christlike character and Christ himself being glorified. Those are the two things, and that’s what we long for. That’s what we want as a church at Redeemer Church.
So as we’re, I think, moving into what hopefully will be a season of real blessing in our church - we talked last week about the mission of the church, I mentioned some of the momentum of things that are happening in the church; these are all good things, things we’re excited about, but a new chapter soon underway. As we move into it, let’s do so with our hearts attuned to the work of the Holy Spirit.
You know, when a symphony begins, before it performs, they always tune their instruments to the oboe, right, so that everybody’s playing in the same key. That’s what we have to do as a church. We tune our hearts to the Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ! How do you do that? You do that by looking at passages, as we have this morning, the fruit of the Spirit, the character of the Spirit, the importance of love, glorifying Jesus. You ask yourself, “Am I living like this? Does this characterize my heart? Are these my attitudes? Is this the way I’m handling the way I think? Is this governing my heart and my emotions, my affections?” Bring your heart under submission to the Holy Spirit, tune your yourself to the Spirit, and as we do that, as all of us do that, what we will find is beautiful harmony in Redeemer Church, and Jesus will be glorified. Let’s pray together.
Gracious Lord, we thank you this morning for the ministry of your Holy Spirit. We thank you that you have not left us to ourselves. You not only sent your Son to die for our sins and rise from the dead, but you sent your Spirit into our hearts, by whom we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
As we’ve considered so many aspects of the Spirit’s work this morning, we pray that you would now search our hearts and our minds. Show us each personally where we need to apply these things, and especially, Lord, I pray that there would just be a filling of the Spirit in our hearts. That’s where the joy will come from, so we ask for it. It’s a gift, but it’s a gift that you invite us to seek, and so we pray, send your Spirit in great measure to us.
Father, as we come to the Lord’s table this morning, even in this sacrament, it is a time where we enjoy the communion of saints and communion, fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a participation in his body and blood, and that participation is not only vertical, each believer in God, but it’s horizontal; it’s us with one another. So I pray that in these moments, as we take the bread and take the juice, we would do so with genuine love in our hearts for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord, help us. We need your grace, we need your Spirit. We pray that you would minister to us and meet our needs, Lord, according to your riches in Christ Jesus. We ask you to do it for Jesus’ sake, Amen.