Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why Do We Need The Holy Spirit?

Paul Harvey once told the story of Alexandra Flynn of Fremont, Nebraska, who tried in vain to attend her 2002 homecoming dance. She left home in high spirits, but she did not have her high school ID with her. When the man at the door refused her admission without her ID, she went home to get it. Unable to find it, her mother went with her back to the dance to identify her and to explain. Again, the daughter was refused admission without the ID. Even though Alexandra Flynn of Freemont High was Student Body President, played cello in the All-state orchestra, was on the Honor Roll, was the school's number one cheerleader, and she spent hours decorating the gym for the Homecoming Dance, she was still not admitted.  Did I mention she was homecoming queen?  But, she never did get in.   

The Bible is clear.  When your life is over, it doesn’t matter if you think you’re headed to the Big Dance in Heaven.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked really hard to get there.  It doesn’t matter if your mom or some other family member or friend tries to vouch for you.  It doesn’t matter if you have some exalted position in the church.  Jesus is your ticket into Heaven.  If you know Him as your Savior, you’re in.  If you don’t have Jesus, you’re out.

I’d be willing to bet that many of you are aware of that, although it is a highly controversial belief.  If that is new information for you, or if you do not have that knowledge that you are going to heaven when you die, I'd love to talk further with you.  But by and large, Christians have done a good job of proclaiming that message: Jesus is the only way to get into heaven.  But is that all He does for us?  Do we just accept Christ as the Savior of our souls, then go on to live our lives as normal, only to “cash in” that Jesus ticket when we get to the Judgment Seat?  That isn’t even remotely what the Bible says about being a Christian.  In my sermon text for this Sunday--John 14:16-18--Jesus tells the disciples that a significant portion of being a Christian is having the Holy Spirit living inside of you.  1 Corinthians 3:16 says your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit—it’s where He lives.  Romans 8:9 says in black and white that if you don’t have the Spirit living in you, you don’t belong to Christ.  Acts 2:38 and several other scriptures let us know that the Spirit comes to live in us from the time we first give our lives to Jesus.  And He has promised us right here in John 14:16 that the Spirit will be with us forever.  The question I want to look at today is: why?  Why do we need the Spirit, once He has led us to salvation and given us this new life?

As we continue to study the attributes of God here at WBC, this Sunday I'll begin a series looking at who the Spirit is, and what He does in our lives.  I hope you'll be there!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why the Trinity?

God is Father, Son, Holy Spirit...three persons, one God.  Just like this handy illustration.  Doesn't that make it all make sense?  No?  Well...

All this year, I have been preaching about the attributes of God. We’ve talked about how God is holy, He is incarnate in the person of Jesus, He is jealous, and He is loving. But I can’t avoid talking about a part of God’s nature that most of us have real trouble understanding: God is three persons in one.  We call that the Trinity, although the Bible never uses that term.  It’s a controversial concept.  Muslims teach that Christians are polytheists because we believe in Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the idea of a Trinitarian God, too.  Mormons believe Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all divine, but are three separate gods.  Many Christians I know seem to have no opinion one way or another.  They’d rather not think about it.  As the theologian JI Packer wrote, “It is often assumed that the Trinity, just because it is mysterious, is a piece of theological lumber that we can get on very happily without.”  So this Sunday, I want to show you why we believe in the Trinity of the godhead.  

But it’s not enough to give you information.  Gaining knowledge can be good, but if it’s not useful knowledge, you haven’t really gained anything.  For example, did you know that you can sing “Amazing Grace” to the tune of the theme song from Gilligan’s Island?  Try it!  Now, does that benefit your life in any way?  Don’t you wish you had the last minute of your life back?  I am not only going to tell you today why we believe in the Trinity, I am going to tell you what difference it makes.

Preaching on the Trinity is sort of like the homiletical version of juggling chainsaws.  Please pray that I speak clearly and biblically, and that those who hear can better understand this difficult but important doctrine!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Paying it Forward

The comedian Billy Crystal grew up in New York, and a was a huge fan of the New York Yankees. This was during the 1950s, when the Yankees were the greatest team in sports.  One day, his dad took Crystal and his brothers to a Yankee game.  He had some connections, and managed to get his boys a tour of the field before the game started.  Ten-year-old Billy Crystal was standing in the Yankee dugout, when up walked Casey Stengel, the manager of the team.  He said, “Hey kid, want to play today?”  Crystal said, “Yeah!”  He later said, “I thought that was how it worked.  They just chose up before the game started. It would be like, ‘I’ll take Mantle, Dimaggio, and…the kid!”  I love that story.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about God’s love as explained here in 1 John 4.  Two weeks ago, we talked about how God IS love.  That means that everything God does is motivated by love; even His wrath is motivated by love.  It means every good thing that has ever happened to you is a gift of a loving God.  But the people who fully experience God’s love are those who are most fully aware of their own sinfulness and need for a Savior.  Last week, we talked about how we know that God really does love us, and what difference it makes.  It’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus has already done, in giving His life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  God’s love saves us.  That’s the good news.  This Sunday, as I wrap up this short series, we’ll talk about the change that God’s love should produce in us.  

Already I can hear objections: “But wait!  I thought you said it wasn’t about what I do, it’s about what He has already done.  Now you’re telling me that there are strings attached.  That’s a bait and switch.”  No, it’s not.  Look at our text, 1 John 4:11-12: Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  I think about it in terms of Billy Crystal’s story.  Imagine he really did have a chance to play a baseball game with the heroes who he had watched on TV, whose baseball cards he treasured.  Imagine they were able to endow him with the ability to run, hit, field and throw like a major-leaguer, and they said, “Go play centerfield today.”  Would he say, “No thanks.  It’s an honor to be chosen, but I don’t feel like playing?”  Of course not.  Because of God’s love, we have been accepted onto the greatest team of all.  We were chosen not because of any righteousness of our own, but simply because of His amazing grace.  And not only are we chosen, we are empowered to change people’s lives forever.  And God says, “Come be a part of my incredible plan for the redemption of all creation, the greatest undertaking in history.”  That’s not a prerequisite of our salvation, it’s a benefit.  If we have truly received the love of God, we want to pass that love along.  
            That leaves us with certain questions:  Who is the “one another” we’re supposed to love?  What exactly does it mean to love one another?  How do I learn to love that way?  We'll talk about that and more this Sunday.