THE GLORY OF GOD ON CAPE COD

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"How the Holy Spirit Interacts with You"

by Ed de la Cour on March 4, 2012

 Acts 2: 36 - 41       "How The Holy Spirit Interacts with You"    2/26/12


       I think every almost every preacher, and certainly every Christian who has ever shared his/her faith, has experienced the Gospel falling on deaf ears.  On the other hand, we have also known times of great power, when the Holy Spirit has blessed the preaching and the sharing of the Word.  Those instances may not have been observable to the naked eye as they happened.  We could not tell what was happening on the spot.  Only in the rear view mirror could we see that God was, or was not, working.

 

       There is this amazing interaction that occurs between the Spirit of God and the heart of the inner man that is not necessarily easy to understand.  How do we perceive what God is doing?  How are we to understand the working of God in the people of our church, or in our community?

 

       We would all agree that God is at work in people around us, whether or not we can see Him, hear His voice, feel His touch, or touch Him ourselves.  Nevertheless, it is quite another thing to be able to perceive Him at work, receive what He is doing, or join Him so we are able to be part of the divine action.

 

       The interplay between God and man offers us His perspective on the way we arrive at spiritual truth.  In Genesis 6:3, the Lord says,“My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”  Many believe that this was God warning humankind that they had 120 years to get their house in order before the Flood.  Even then the earth was ripe for judgment and destruction.  They were given a short time to repent, change their ways, or the flood would come and wipe them away. 

 

       Whether or not the Lord was giving man 120 years to change or was teaching that 120 years was the outside length of his lifespan, the Lord is saying to us there is very little that man is able to do on his own.  Apart from the work of the Spirit of God, the evil in the mind of man will win in the end.  So it is the Holy Spirit alone who can subdue the wicked hearts of men.  Jesus was correct when He declared in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  Jesus demonstrates that the hard nature and wicked heart of a man will not change on its own.  Depending on your translation, the word in Genesis 6: 3 is strive or contend.  God is very gracious in His appeal, but apart from His dealing with us, apart from His touching our inner man with our own desperate need to repent, turn away from wickedness, seek God’s forgiveness – apart from that, we will not turn.  Unless the Holy Spirit convinces us otherwise, we will enjoy our wicked behavior and we will revel in our dead and broken lives.  But God contends and God strives in the hearts of people in order to change our destiny.  God’s love for you and me is colossal in its scope.  In John 3: 16, Jesus said God loved this world to the extent that He gave His only Son to die on the cross, so that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. 

 

       Furthermore, God contends or He strives with the heart of man, but He says plainly that He will not do that forever.  There is a limit to His pleading.  If Pharaoh exceeded the mercy of God, how long can you successfully hold out against Him?  How long will you live?  Can you forecast the day of your death?  Do you actually think you can you wait until the last possible minute to repent and seek the Lord?  God is not going to force Himself upon you.  He will not stamp His foot because you decline to receive His love.  But He will draw you, He will strive with you, He will contend for your soul.

 

       How does that contending and striving for the heart and soul of a person manifest itself?  What form does it take?  In our text today, we read the very end of Peter’s Pentecost sermon.  You might say we skipped all the good stuff in order to concentrate the response of the audience to the message.  When I preach, I never know how people will respond to the message.  When I think this or that might happen as a result, something else entirely different is what usually happens.  I do not believe Peter necessarily had any particular expectations in mind, but through him, the Holy Spirit was definitely pointing the finger of guilt at the people to whom he spoke.  Peter said, You –  yes, you – are personally responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, not the Romans, not the chief priests, but you.  You, sitting right there in your comfortable pew, you crucified Jesus as surely as those folks who listened on that Pentecost morning.

 

       You might be correct in thinking that this was not a nice thing to say in a sermon, especially when most of us preachers are trying to win friends and influence people.  But to this indictment, the response of the crowd was that “they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’”  While the Spirit of God is not mentioned specifically here, His work is clearly manifested in the response.  Those who listened were wounded by the Word of God.  They were struck in the heart, pierced by the sword of the Lord.  This is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, in which you become very aware that, contrary to what you had believed, you are not a good person.  You deserve no mercy and can expect no mercy from God.  You have no right even to plead for clemency.  You are in danger of judgment and hell if you should die.  Those are hard truths to hear, hard truths to digest, and it is very hard to make a clear-headed and dispassionate response.

 

       Jesus portrayed the Spirit’s work in John 16: 8 - 11“When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.”  The Holy Spirit interacts with us, according to this passage, in that the Spirit of God produces what we would call true situational awareness regarding our spiritual condition.  The basic problem of humankind is not that we are cruel to small animals.  The problem is that we do not believe in Jesus.  When the Holy Spirit interacts with us, He provides us with situational awareness, which is a true understanding of the reality of our situation.  Every problem, whether that problem is interpersonal, social, moral – and even every international problem – could be solved if Jesus is believed, if Jesus is obeyed, and if Jesus is followed.

 

       That is exactly where Peter went next in his message.  If the Holy Spirit has spoken into your life, if you have acquired situational awareness, your first response is going to be to repent, not to change your clothes, not to get a cup of coffee, not to pay a bill, and not to do any of the other seemingly important things you may feel really ought to be done.  First, repent.  Realize that when the Spirit of God pierced your heart with His Word, that was the intended effect.  That is part of the reason why, truth be told, you want to run away.  Your sin makes even you uncomfortable now!  Your discomfort means you know that your wickedness offends the righteousness of God. 

 

       Remember, apart from Jesus, you are powerless to resist sin in any form.  But in the power of the Holy Spirit, you can turn away from sin.  You can be delivered from addiction. You can put your trust in the name of Jesus.  You can be baptized.  You can find forgiveness.  You can begin to live in God’s new and resurrection-empowered life.  The Bible says in Galatians 2: 20“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”   Also, here in Acts 2: 38, the Bible says you will be filled with the Holy Spirit instead of wallowing in the spirit of this world.  That’s a promise God makes to you.

 

       How does the Spirit of God interact with you?  He used Peter to speak His Word to that crowd.  He used Peter warn the people.  Peter said, this really is a corrupt generation.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.  There’s only one way God has prepared to save you from that corruption, and that way is Jesus.  I don’t know how many people were in the crowd that day and able to hear his words, but Luke reports here that 3,000 of them did respond to God.  3,000 did repent.  3,000 did put their trust in the name of Jesus.  3,000 were baptized.  3,000 were incorporated into the family of God.  Now, THAT is interaction with the Holy Spirit!

 

       Once God has contended for your heart and soul, He will not let go of you.  So many of us are constantly dealing with feelings of guilt and  condemnation, believing somehow we have blown it, believing that we have fallen too far, that we can no longer be of use to God.  Why do we feel that way? Because we sinned, or because we fell short in some way.   How does the Holy Spirit interact with us in that area of life?  In 1 John 3: 19 - 21, John wrote: “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.”  It is the devil who loves to condemn, not God.  Being free from condemnation is the gift of God to us by the work of that same Holy Spirit.

 

       Friend, if you are troubled today by the thought that you have let God down, or that you have failed in some ultimate way, I want you to take heart in God’s Word today.  That Scripture says you need to set your heart at rest.  God is greater than your emotions... greater than your shortcomings... greater than your failures.  Our God is more gracious than we imagine.  Our God is loving and forgiving of any rebellion or sin that may have risen up in your heart.  Have you repented?  Have you sought forgiveness?  If so, then our God does indeed convict us, but the purpose of conviction is to bring us to repentance.  Once we have sought the lord’s forgiveness, God will not raise the issue again.  God does not condemn His children.

 

       The Holy Spirit comes to give the peace of God that is beyond our understanding.  He strengthens you and gives you hope, and that hope gives you confidence in the power of God.  Maybe you don’t deserve it, but isn’t that the point?

 

       The Spirit of God also interacts with us by creating a willingness in our spirit that probably was not there at first.  I remember a woman in my first church who told me one day she wanted to stop some sinful acting out in her life.  In fact she said she was willing to stop, but she didn’t know if she was “willing to be willing.”  There are a number of passages to which we can turn that will illustrate that manifestation of the Holy Spirit, whereby God will change hearts and He will cause us to be completely willing to obey, to sacrifice, to be used by God.

 

       We can mention Exodus 35: 21“and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the LORD for the work on the Tent of Meeting.”  How do you supposed that willingness was aroused?  Do you think for a minute that generosity just sprouts out of the human heart apart from a specific work of the Holy Spirit?  God moved those hearts to part with serious amounts of gold and silver.  For all that giving, there was not going to be any “return” on their investment – no tax deduction – just a heightened relationship with God.

 

       Then, there is this surprising reference in Ezra 1:1“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation...”  That proclamation concerned the release of God’s people in captivity to return to Jerusalem.  Was that man a believer, a person whose life is committed to living for God?  No, this was a pagan king who was moved by the Spirit of God, whose heart was made ungrudgingly willing to obey the Lord.

 

       The Holy Spirit contends, or strives to bring you to faith.  The Holy Spirit will bring conviction and He will draw you to Jesus.  He will help you find peace in your relationship with God by never condemning you.  He will lead you into willingness so that your heart desires the things God desires.  And lastly, God will stir your heart to obey God.  This is Haggai 1: 14“So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God.”  There’s a whole lot of stirring going on there, and there is a whole lot of responding as the interaction between the Spirit of God and the people of God plays out in the hearts of those in whom God was working.  But this is what God does when His people are willing to be responsive to Him. When you are stirred by God to take part in a ministry... to speak a word on God’s behalf to a friend who is lost and without God... to share Jesus with a friend in need, the Holy Spirit of God is interacting with you.

 

       I want to know the Lord speaking into my life.  I want to experience the Holy Spirit interacting with me... challenging me... giving me hope... giving me strength... pointing me in the way I should go.  Are you someone who desires to know God and to know His power in your life?  Then, right now, open your heart and welcome Him.  Say to Him, Welcome into my heart and life, Holy Spirit of God.

 

Blessing: 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 - 24

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

 
-- 
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
First Baptist Church of Pocasset
298 Barlows Landing Road
Post Office Box 1080
Pocasset, MA 02559

Church Office: 508-563-3164
www.pocassetbaptist.org 
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