The Last Crusade: Be Holy, for I am Holy

FCF: Because we have a sin nature, only God can make us holy.

God commands, “Be Holy for I am Holy” in both the Old (Leviticus 11:44, 45) and New Testaments (1 Peter 1:13-16). He repeats it several times in Leviticus. If God says something once, we know to listen. If he repeats it, we know it is important. The question then becomes, what is holiness and how do we attain it?

Our first parents had one rule, and they broke it. “Don’t eat from this specific tree.” But it wasn’t just them. Every person after that has managed to break God’s laws. These sins separate us from God and require Him to restore the relationship. But sin has damaged us at that point. We’re even born with a sin nature because of their actions. Even beyond the original sin passed down from parent to child, we make choices to break God’s laws.
Coming back to God is a choice we make. God calls, we respond. God knows who will respond.

Some branches of Christians will say this, “I am saved, and I am being saved.” They are using the second saved in what we term sanctification, the process performed by God to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. It is how God makes us holy. We proved long ago that we can’t do it.

Sanctification is an act of separation from that which is evil, and of dedication unto God (Rom 12:1-2; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 13:12). Scripture teaches of a life of “holiness, without which no one can see God” (Heb 12:14). By the power of the Holy Ghost, we are able to obey the command, “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:15-16).

Sanctification is realized in the believer by recognizing his identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, and by faith reckoning daily upon the fact of that union, and by offering every faculty continually to the dominion of the Holy Spirit (Rom 6:1-11,13; 8:1-2,13; Gal 2:20; Phil 2:12-13; 1 Pet 1:5).

Sanctification comes in three stages. When saved, God declares us righteous in His sight. This is sometimes called “legal sanctification.” After conversion, as we seek God and His will for us, we continually grow in grace, and God takes our bad habits. The final stage comes in Heaven. At that time, we are finally cleansed and purged of our sins.

In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we read, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled, set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
God does not save us to allow us to continue in sin! In fact, we are told that we cannot habitually sin and be saved. That is not to say we will never sin as I have heard some teach. We still sin. The difference is that now the conviction comes and we don’t want to make it a habit.

1) Initial Sanctification

Sanctification first comes to us when we are saved. At that moment in time, God declares us righteous. This begins our journey to true holiness. You might say that God has given us the property labeled holiness. It is now our job to go to that property.
Because of Christ’s work on the cross, God now sees us wrapped in our sins but instead He sees God’s Christ’s righteousness upon us. This is a great reversal. Christ, who knew no sin, took upon himself our sins so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21).

It is because of this change at conversion that the Holy Spirit, through Paul, can call the Galatians “holy ones” even though some of them were in very bad shape. Upon conversion, we are set free from the chains of sin to do God’s will. We are now headed in the right direction but not nearly at our destination.

2) Progressive Sanctification

What is declared and legal is not the same thing as what is actual. This part is a process. We move through the Spirit into greater and greater holiness. Having seen the cost of our sin upon Jesus, we want this to happen. Now God is good. As Jesus said, “Which of you, being evil, when his son asks for bread will give him a stone? How much more so will your Father in Heaven, who is good, give you good things when you ask for them?” When we ask God for cleansing, of course He will give it!

The old is taken from us and purged as we live. For us, it will take a lifetime until that true holiness is achieved. The Apostles did not consider themselves to have arrived even after walking with Jesus for years and learning to minister from Him. We certainly will not.
The question is not have you arrived at sinless perfection; the question is are you trying to become better? Paul says that he had an intense longing to be more pleasing to God every day (Phil 3:13-14). He knew he had not laid ahold of perfection.

Like babes, we start with milk and move onto the solid food of God’s Word. We grow through becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). By reading the Word and by daily prayer we grow nearer to Jesus.

During this growth, the Holy Spirit ministers to us. At this time, we are of a divided mind. Before conversion, we didn’t have a sin problem. If we wanted to sin, it was no problem. However, now we are in God and if we want to sin, it is a problem. At this point, we are of a divided mind. We know to do good but still want to do evil because in our own strength we cannot.

We can only overcome this by the Holy Spirit, “putting to death the misdeeds of the body (Rom 8:13).” By Him who loves us “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Galatians 5 reminds us that if we “live by the Spirit” we won’t “gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

We tend to think of this as a fight between our higher nature and our lower nature. That’s not the case, we are the battleground between our sinful nature and indwelling Spirit of God.

Some teach that in this life, the sin nature is completely cut out, root and branch. I wish this were so! But we root it out only as much as we follow the Spirit of God. Only by an act of faith can we continue to find victory over sin (1 Cor 10:13).

Colossians 3:7-14 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him– 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 12 ΒΆ So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

We do not come to a place in this life where it becomes impossible to sin. Mores the pity. It is only in the Lord that we gain victory. We have to give the Holy Spirit room to work.
We fail. We stumble. We sin. But the Holy Spirit does not cast us out. Jesus promised to send us an Advocate, and when we stumble, our Advocate defends our case. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, he have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7). We have to confess our sins. Then we are cleansed.

A final warning here is that if we continue in sin we can leave aside our salvation. How can we, who have tasted the joy of salvation want to return to the mire of sin.

3) Final Sanctification

At conversion, we are declared sanctified in Christ. Throughout our lives, we grow in Christ and by the Spirit become more holy. When will this end? When will we find that holiness we long for?

When we die, those who have kept a relationship with Christ will be in a state where failure cannot happen. CS Lewis puts it this way, “You cannot want anything wrong anymore.” We will be holy!

“We will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor 15:51-52). To get to that glory, the present sufferings we go through are as nothing.

Conclusion

Where are you in your sanctification? You aren’t dead, so you aren’t fully sanctified yet. If you’re saved, you’ve started the journey. Now let’s take more steps together. You don’t want to stop at just being declared sanctified. You want to keep going. How many of you want just the down payment when you sell a car to your neighbor? Why do you think God wants just the down payment from you?

This is God’s work in you. You have to want it, but it won’t happen without God’s work first. The fact that you want it is God already working in you. That tug at the heart every time you start to sin. That’s the Spirit working to make you better.

Grow in holiness by daily prayer and Bible reading. A relationship cannot happen without the two people spending time together.

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Pernese Peril Part Ptwo!

After my last posting, I have received messages that have made me think. It was pointed out that McCaffrey herself wasn’t always consistent in her reasons for how Pern worked and its history. For example, in the ninth pass, the dragon population seemed to explode, and the riders founded several new weyrs in the course of a couple of decades. Naturally, if the clutch rate had always been like that, they would have had been overrun by dragons in the couple millenia that Pern was populated. However, it was stated in the books that queens rose less and laid smaller clutches during Intervals until a few years before another Fall. It also seems like the age of the weyrs changed a couple of times. I seem to remember that Telgar was said to be the youngest in the first trilogy but the third founded (along with Benden and High Reaches) in the collection FIRST FALL.

Anyway, for those who have read the books by Todd, how does he explain these issues? He might have a perfectly workable explanation, and I am genuinely curious to know what they are.

1) Women don’t ride blues. I read the other night that Anne stated that, while she would never do this in her books, it was conceivable that a masculine lesbian woman could ride a blue. So, that one is answered. Todd just followed her thought there.

2) Blues don’t lead weyrs. Since there are no dragons larger than a blue in this colony, a blue has to be the weyrleader.

Those two I’ve logiced out an answer. Can anyone help with the two below?

3) Greens don’t lay viable eggs. Kitti Ping engineered the greens to be sterile.

4) If a green could lay viable eggs, they lack the stamina to conceive a gold. Or are large, fighting dragons not the goal of this colony established to produce fighting dragons for the coming Fall?

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What Thread Couldn’t Destroy

I read my first Pern story in seventh grade. The literature book had a short story penned by Anne McCaffrey. So impressed, I went to the local library and looked for more. I read almost all of them I could get my hands on (as I wanted stories about riding dragons, I skipped the Harper Hall trilogy). One thing that impressed me the most was the ordered society and strict rules that McCaffrey operated under.

Several of the books, I read numerous times. I know I took four trips through DRAGONSDAWN and probably the same number with ALL THE WERYS OF PERN.

Sometime between 2003 and 2005, I read THE SKIES OF PERN. I didn’t hate it, but it disappointed me. There seemed to be big plot holes that she didn’t make any attempt to fill in. Why were dragon riders specially suited to be sky watchers with telescopes to look for meteors and asteroids? Being dragonback would actually eliminate the stability needed to do good stargazing. I stopped reading the books. If people asked, I said I wasn’t, but I never made a big deal out of it.

Today at the library, I picked one up that was co-authored by Anne and her son Todd. After reading part way through the flap, I shut the book and put it back on the shelf. Xena, wait, he spelled it Xhinna, is a blue rider and the first female weyrleader. She leads a group of greens and blues to the past in an attempt to breed enough new dragons to repopulate the weyrs. Long-time readers of the series should pause at the problems.

Where’s the creativity in this plot line? (I know that there are really very few plots in existence, and it’s just the details that make them seem different but this is a big borrowing.) Didn’t a group of dragons and riders go back in time to Southern Weyr to rebuild the population in a prior book? But reworking plots is an established Pern tradition as well. Good writers borrow, great writers steal.

My real problem with the description was the breaking of established rules of Pern. First, women don’t ride blue dragons. That had been settled in stone long before. Women ride greens and golds (girls with g). Men ride blues, browns, and bronzes (boys on b). As time went on and fewer women went to the hatching grounds, men (gay) also rode greens (keep that alliteration going!). But Anne never had a woman ride a blue, though she said in an interview a homsexual woman might be able to impress a blue. Along comes Todd and breaks one of the rules of his mother’s cherished series. He’s done it before by retconning the watchweyrs.

Second, blues aren’t weyrleaders. It simply isn’t possible for a blue to fly a gold, and the weyrleader is the rider of the bronze (or large brown) that flies the senior queen. Seniority of first to fly was established in the very first Pern novel and rationalized in FIRST FALL. The riders intended to come up with a better way based on merit of the riders and dragons, but in time first-to-fly became an incontrovertible tradition. But since this colony has none of the larger brown, bronze, or gold dragons, I guess the leader has to be a blue. Which leads me to the third problem here.

Third, greens don’t lay viable eggs. This sterile green was established in the very first books and explained in DRAGONSDAWN. To increase the fighting force of dragons, Kitti Ping, the genetic engineer, made the greens sterile (though the people of Pern believe the reason greens don’t clutch is their use of firestone). That way, greens (about half the population) aren’t removed from the front lines with a clutch. The same engineer likewise made the golds unable to breathe flame, hence the queen riders carry weapons like flame throwers and agenothree (an acid-HNO3) canisters.

Fourthly, related to the above, greens couldn’t lay gold eggs even if they weren’t sterile. Golds are the rarest of dragons, and their eggs are only laid when the bronze and golden parents achieve a long enough mating flight. The longer the flight, the more eggs and the more of the larger dragons. Greens, in their sterile flights (they have mating flights even though they can’t lay eggs) do not have the stamina needed to sustain a flight that would result in a golden egg among the clutch. I guess they didn’t need more queens to rebuild the population of dragons.

So the brainchild of the literary heir of one of my beloved childhood series is a novel about a colony of dragons to rebuild the population using dragons who can’t lay eggs and even if the rules are tweaked so they can, they will have small clutches. Well, what’s breaking a few more rules.

What thread couldn’t destroy, Todd did.

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The Last Crusade: The Spirit Enables Believers to Fulfill the Mission of the Church

Because men are fallen, God must provide a way for believers to share the message of return.
This sermon will be topical, exploring several passages that teach on a theme, instead of working through a single passage. Why did God give the world the Church? It marks a distinct change from the way God worked in the Old Testament. Instead of simply priests and high priests, a hierarchy of deacons, pastors, bishops, and patriarchs developed. Moreover, the Spirit upon every believer (as longed for by Moses and prophesied by Joel) enables every believer to go to God and present the Gospel to others.

The church is the body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Holy Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in Heaven (Ephesians 1:22, 23; 2:22; Hebrews 12:23).
Since God’s purpose concerning man is to seek and save the lost, be worshiped by man, to build a body of believers being conformed to the image of His Son, and to demonstrate His love and compassion to all the world, the priority reason for being of the Assemblies of God as part of the Church is:

  1. To be an agency of God for evangelizing the world (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15,16).
  2. To be a corporate body in which man may worship God (1 Corinthians 12:13).
  3. To be a channel of God’s purpose in building a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 14:12). To be a people who demonstrate God’s love and compassion to all the world (Psalm 112:9; Galatians 2:10; 6:10; James 1:27).

The Assemblies of God exists expressly to give continuing emphasis to this reason for being in the New Testament apostolic pattern by teaching and encouraging believers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This experience:

  1. Enables them to evangelize in the power of the Spirit with accompanying supernatural signs (Mark 16:15-20; Acts 4:29-31; Hebrews 2:3-4).
  2. Adds a necessary dimension to a worshipful relationship with God (1 Corinthians 2:10-16; 1 Corinthians 12-14).
  3. Enables them to respond to the full working of the Holy Spirit in expression of the fruit and gifts and ministries as in the New Testament times for the edifying of the body of Christ and care for the poor and needy of the world (Galatians 5:22-26; Matthew 25:37-40; Galatians 6:10; 1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Colossians 1:29).

Everything the Church does should focus on one of three things: 1) outreach; 2) upreach; 3) inreach. We bring others to salvation, we worship God above, and we become more like Him in our actions and thoughts. If a local body finds it is doing something that does not fulfill one of these three items, it must drop that activity. Any activity which does not feed the Church must be discarded. God has given the Church to fulfill His mission. That mission must be pursued by us in all ways.

1) To evangelize. To seek and save the lost (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8).

  • Matthew 28:19-20 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
  • Mark 16:15-16 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
  • Acts 1:8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Jesus came to make a way for the man to be reconciled to God. Since Eden, we have been in a state of rebellion. On a regular basis, men would sacrifice to God to atone for those sins. Yet it was never enough. Sacrifices always cost. David refused to make an offering where he had been given the animals because that meant it was not a sacrifice for him. With that final sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the debt were paid.

Imagine if God had turned away from the world. That our sins were so bad God saw no need to bring about redemption. Thankfully, He did not see it that way. God made a way. From before the foundation of the world, God’s plan was in motion.

After Jesus was bodily raised from the dead, He gave the Disciples a command. “Go. Teach all nations to observe these things just as I have commanded you. And be sure that I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

Our job is to spread the good news of Jesus to all the world. We know that wherever we go, He is with us. When Matthew told of Jesus’ birth, he said that He would be “God with us.” Now, at the end, Jesus says, “I am with you.”

The early church was characterized by growth. Every account in Acts talks about how many people were saved that day and baptized. Luke draws a distinction between water baptism and Spirit baptism, which he likens to being baptized by fire. When you are baptized in water, you are completely surrounded by the water. Likewise, when you are baptized in the Spirit, you are completely surrounded by the Spirit.

Something else common to every act of the early church is that it preached. It wasn’t just by actions that the message was given. It was by the spoken word. When you think of the ministry gifts of the spirit, notice how all of them we first think about are characterized by speaking: “And He gave some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” It’s not just the actions. It’s the word. Jesus is the Word of God. Scripture is the Word of God. We must speak. God does not allow us to be silent.

The Spirit empowers us to evangelize in the power of the Spirit with accompanying supernatural signs. The Disciples stayed in Jerusalem after Jesus ascended to obey what He had told them. After the Spirit came upon them, they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth. Once the Spirit came, they started preaching. 3,000 souls were saved in a day, and the Spirit was just getting started. The Apostles spread out to tell the world what Christ had done. Mark went to Egypt. Andrew went to Byzantium, as it was called then. Later it was renamed Constantinople, and now we call it Istanbul. Peter and Paul died in Rome, far from their homes. Syria. Asia Minor. Africa. The Apostles took the message all the way to India in the first decades. Empowered by the Spirit to serve God, they went where He told them to go. Thomas, who went to India, didn’t want to go, and tried to run. Like Jonah, God got Thomas where he was needed. Jonah rode in the belly of a whale. Thomas was taken as a slave. Don’t be like Thomas! Work where God wants you to or you will be miserable.

2) To lead believers in worshiping God (1 Corinthians 12:13).

  • 1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

The Presbyterians have their larger catechism, which states, “man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.” Repeatedly in Ephesians, Paul states we are made for his glory. One of the heroes of the ancient church, St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo in northern Africa, wrote “our souls are restless until they find their rest in thee.” Without worshiping God, humans beings are like pianos that have gone out of tune. They sound funny.

We are not just animals whose brain got big enough to notice itself and started walking upright. We are special creations of God with an immaterial part that reaches up to God. He placed that in us. While God called the other animals into existence, He lovingly shaped clay into Adam and then formed Eve from his rib and side. He placed in Adam the breath of life. It was then that man became a living soul. When you look across human societies, you will find they all have a concept of a higher power and the need to worship. Truly, it’s something that sets us apart.

A friend of mine was once a Christian, then an atheist, and as of the last time we spoke, neither. After he left the church, and his grandparents were missionaries, he began to feel hollow inside. For years, he struggled against it, tried to fight it down by reading science and philosophy. But there was an emptiness that would not go away. Finally, he went back to church. “Oh, not to be a Christian,” he told me while I read his email, dumbfounded. “I realized that all around the world, humans worship. We aren’t just matter that moves. Something more than atoms is part of us. That ‘spiritual’ side has to be fed and nurtured just like our body does.”

While it is true that every good and true action we take can be worship, the Church is a special place, provided to worship God together. You can make even cleaning the house a time of worship. We are told to take every thought captive for Christ. So every action can be taken captive also and used in worship. But never forget the place of the church in worship.

Baptism in the Spirit adds a necessary dimension to a worshipful relationship with God. As you read the instructions on the Holy Spirit, you will see over and over that the Spirit leads us in worship. The gifts are given not to make us the alphas of the world but to enable us to fulfill God’s work in us more easily. The spirit enriches believers and edifies us as children of God.

To use your gifts from God is an act of worship. When a healer prays and see the bones mend, he and the witnesses know that God was at work there. When a message is given in either tongues or prophecy, God is moving.

The worshipful church is the most powerful weapon in God’s arsenal. Jesus said the gates of Hell would not overcome the church. Think about that. Gates aren’t offensive weapons. A gated city was something to attack not be attacked by. When the church worships, it is moving against Satan and spreading the Light of the World a little further each time.

Before we go to the third point, think about some major ministries that had everything going for them resource wise. They had the man power, money, material, and technical skill, but those who didn’t rely on the Spirit died out. On the other hand, think of those ministries which started out with almost nothing but relied on the Spirit and shook the world.

The first Assemblies of God world missionaries took their belongings in a coffin. They did not expect to return to the United States. Now, in just more than 100 years, the Assemblies has more converts per missionary than any other missions sending agency.

3) To build a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 14:12). This in turn leads us to share the love and compassion of Christ with the world (Psalm 112:9; Galatians 2:10; 6:10; James 1:27).

  • Ephesians 4:11-16 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.

This is how the church nurtures us. We have reached out. We have reached up. Now we will reach in to grow from babes in Christ to mature saints. From milk to meat, as it were. The important question here is how do we know if we are growing in Christ? The Bible shows the answer. Galatians 5:22-26 lists the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If you see these parts growing in others, know that they are growing in Christ. You will be hard pressed to find all of these in someone who is not in Christ.

Naturally, we all have to work on this part. It doesn’t just come to be. St. Peter tells us, “2 Peter 1:5-11 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”

A final aspect of this point is that as we become perfected in the image of the Son, our hearts grow and our compassion for others swells.

  • Psalm 112:9 He has given freely to the poor, His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted in honor.
  • Galatians 2:10 They only asked us to remember the poor– the very thing I also was eager to do.
  • Galatians 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
  • James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

If a church has the gifts but not the fruit, it hasn’t finished its job. The church has a high responsibility in making sure that the saints grow in Christ. We aren’t perfect and won’t be this side of Heaven when we are fully sanctified. But we must be growing.

The Church has a high calling, and the members share in it. Each and every one of us is a part of that body. If we don’t do our job, not only do we fail, but our job in the church must be done by another. That’s right, we each have a job to do. God won’t let His kingdom fall. The only question is will we do our job or force Him to give it to another?

The Spirit enables us to respond to the full working of the Holy Spirit in expression of the fruit and gifts and ministries. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the first step in a full relationship with Christ. I can’t imagine how my life would be different without it. What I found personally is that sins which plagued me constantly were demolished by the Spirit power after my Baptism.

Unless you listen to the Spirit and immerse yourself in Him, you will not grow fully in Christ. Would a marshal in a western go after the James Brothers with only three bullets in his six shooter? Why, then, would you want to face the Devil with a major part of your arsenal unavailable? I know I wouldn’t.

The Spirit empowers the Church to bring the knowledge of Christ to the lost. The Spirit enables the Church in worship. The Spirit makes us more like Christ. The Spirit empowers us to serve.

Let me tell you of a man whom you’ve probably not heard of, but he shook the Roman empire to it’s very core. His name was Telemachus, and the historian Theodoret tell us he was a monk. One day in prayer, the Spirit told him to go to Rome. He had no desire to see Rome with its buildings and crowds, but he listened and went. While there, he felt the Spirit urge him to go to the Collessium. Well, for a man like Telemachus, that rated slightly above walking through Rome’s Red Light District. But he went. There he saw gladiators fight each other to the death, and he saw wild beasts tear people to pieces, and he heard the crowd cheer and yell for more blood.
And sick to his stomach but empowered by the Spirit, he made his next and last action pure worship. He cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop this thing!”

The crowd looked around. What is this? Who is this little monk to spoil our fun? They laughed and continued to watch.

Telemachus pushed his way to the railing overlooking the stadium and cried again, “In the name of Christ, stop this thing!” Hurling himself over the railing, he ran to the close fight, a soldier going in for the kill. The little monk threw himself upon the standing gladiator’s back.

“In the name of Christ, stop this thing!” were his last words as the gladiator, threw him off.

The crowd was upset that their fun was spoiled. They leaped into the arena themselves and stoned the monk.

This was January 1, 404. Word of this event got to the Christian emperor, Honorius, who told the bishop to list Telemachus in the role of martyrs and then declared an end to the gladiator games which he hated but did not have the political capital to stop until that day.

The monk Telemachus was the last person killed in a sanctioned gladiator match in the empire. Making his life one of worship saved the lives and souls of thousands.

Conclusion. The choice is yours. Many of you have already chosen to respond to God’s call for salvation. Those who have not will not find a better time than now. God gives no one a guarantee of tomorrow or even of one more hour. If you feel God calling you to salvation, grasp it.

For those who are already saved, you may be feeling God’s call to a deeper walk with Him. In your worship, let the Spirit flow through you. Look at your life and see which fruit of the Spirit are not as well formed as the others. Did you notice that there are gifts of the Spirit, given as He wills and no one has all the gifts but the fruit of the Spirit is singular? The Holy Spirit intends for each of those to be on display in a believer’s life. Do you lack self-control? You need it. Gentleness? Ask for it. Patience? And all the others.

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