October 25th 2020

Prayer

Loving Lord, who cares for us all, from the greatest to the least, speak to our hearts this day, reminding us always of the responsibilities you have entrusted to us in faith. Inspire us in service, and inspire us by your Spirit, that in all things we live our lives for your glory. AMEN

Coming to church on a Sunday is something we do on a regular basis. Of course regular can mean as often as two or three times a week, or as little as once or twice a year. But as Christians, we are called by God to meet together regularly, not just for worship, but in fellowship and service as well, united in all that we do by the love of God in Jesus and inspired by the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, ever with us, just as Jesus promised.

Of course, there is more to Christianity than simply coming to church, we know this. But living as God ordained for us is rarely as easy as we’d like to think. As Christians, we must be those who live, and are seen to live our lives according to God’s Spirit. If we are attentive to it, God’s Spirit has the power to both motivate and empower us to go where God sends and serve as God guides.

Today, we are encouraged to think about the social care arm of our national church. Throughout Scotland there are congregations, just like us, praying for the work of CrossReach in its many forms, from working with people struggling to overcome addictions, to offering counselling services to those struggling with depression, to the care we probably know about more about, the care that is offered to the vulnerable elderly in our communities, Invereck being the home nearest to us here.

As Christians, we are motivated by the Spirit to get involved in social care because its goal is to promote life and peace within our communities. We understand God as our creator and loving Father; and Jesus as his Son, the perfect man and our redeemer. But perhaps we feel less familiar with the person of the Holy Spirit, for it is not so easy to picture and definitely hard to describe in concrete terms.

The challenge you and I face today is this: Are our minds truly set on the things of the Spirit? The inward work of the Holy Spirit. And secondly, is our ministry set on the things of the Spirit? That is, the outworking of the Spirit for the common good of our community.

In the early church, the Holy Spirit was a predominant reality. It was the source of guidance, the source of courage, and the source of power. Teaching of this is evident in the passage we just listened to in Romans, chapter eight: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Those given life through the Spirit became the children of God, and those who lived with their minds set on the things of the Spirit are a blessing to those around them.

In the intervening years, nothing has changed. These words in Paul’s letter to the Romans still apply to us, and yet it is sometimes very hard to see evidence of us really putting God first in our lives today.

In Acts chapter two, the coming of the Holy Spirit enabled a powerful ministry; the apostles, despite having no formal education, bore witness to the truth about Jesus and – through their ministry – the Holy Spirit transformed many thousands of lives in Jerusalem and beyond. None of this would have come about if God had not sent the Holy Spirit. Conversely, if God was to take the Holy Spirit out of today’s church, how much would change? Would we even notice?

It is worth reflecting on whether our minds are truly set on the things of the Spirit, or are they set on something else? Ask yourself, “Is God being glorified in my life?” Or are you working to your own agenda? In all honesty, I suspect that most, if not all of us are guilty of living more to our own agenda’s than is good for us, but God knows what we are like and that is why he sent his Spirit.

Jesus called the Holy Spirit the ‘comforter’. A word that has come to mean the one who sympathises. The original meaning was a word from the Latin ‘fortis’, which means brave and bold, courageous and strong – confidently at ease.

The evidence is there for us in the experience of the early church. The Holy Spirit can empower us to work for life and peace – but only when we stop living the Christian life our way and start living it God’s way. We are constantly tempted to do things in our own strength and, often as a result, achieve little. Is it not time we live the Christian life in the power of God’s Spirit?

In the power of the Spirit, the apostles were constantly invigorated, inspired and motivates, empowered and directed. The Holy Spirit is still God’s way of providing for every one of his children, that includes you and me, in order to make us a vital, living and effective force for the kingdom. It is not for the special few, it is in fact meant to be the natural progression of all God’s people.

If we would be truly effective disciples, seeking life and peace in our communities, we cannot them rest on the laurels of our first call to and profession of faith – from the very outset, we must set our eyes on the path laid out for us by God, walking always according to his Spirit.

Jesus, when promising the Holy Spirit in Johns Gospel said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

It is possible to be a Christian who ignores the power of the Holy Spirit though. As Nicky Gumbel wrote: “Every Christian has the Holy Spirit, but not every Christian is empowered by the Holy Spirit.” And here lies the greatest problem in the Church today – individually and corporately. At the same time though, here lies the only solution for the future of the Church’s ministry.

Jesus said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Walking according to the Spirit, we are pardoned by God’s sufficient grace – that grace described to us by Paul in his letter to the Galatians. And so pardoned, we are redeemed. But there is more, walking according to God’s Spirit we are also an empowered people, energised by God’s all sufficient power.

Walking according to the Spirit we become people who bear good fruit. We are marked by the fruits of the Spirit again described by Paul in Galatians. And as we walk according to the Spirit, this fruit becomes part of our very character, it becomes a natural part of who we are.

Watchman Nee said “We do not need to force ourselves to speak our native language, to step out and walk, to blink our eyes, the beating of our heart – these are a few of our human abilities and characteristics that happen without effort.”

So it is for us when we walk in the Spirit of God. The fruits of his Spirit soon become like second nature to us too. We do them without thinking because the desire to do God’s will is uppermost in our minds.

So how do we set our minds on the things of the Spirit you may ask? Well, it is really by recognising ourselves for who we really are - flawed human beings who have been redeemed by the love of God. When we recognise this we start to cultivate a humble attitude and the call to obedience becomes much less of a struggle.

We have to be careful though. Pride tempts us to try and earn our salvation by doing great deeds in our own strength. Instead, we need to recognise that we cannot earn God’s favour. God already loves us; he cannot love us more. But we do need to become more reliant on his Spirit to empower us and direct us.

God does not ask us to earn his favour by doing what we think is right. He has already shown us his favour in Jesus, and by giving us the Spirit as a guarantee of the glorious future ahead of us with him in eternity. It is for us, with the help of the Spirit, to discover what his Word teaches, and to then put it into practice in our lives, and in our communities.

So may God continue to guide us by his Holy Spirit as we live as his children in this place. AMEN

Please click on the link below to listen to Praise my Soul by Graham Kendrick and Martin Smith.

Praise my soul