10 promises you can stand on

Series: Faith in God

Last time we talked about how, to have real faith, you need a word from God to stand on.  And when you don’t have a word to stand on, it’s called presumption, because you are presuming upon God to do something that he never said he would do. This leads us to have unwarranted confidence, which can lead to wrong actions, which leads to a mess.

As we saw, one of the things we need to do to avoid all this is to know what God’s promises are – their context, the scope of what they cover, and the conditions that are attached. We need to know what they mean. We need to know God’s will so that we can have faith in this and receive from God.

So today, I want to give you 10 promises that you can stand on; that apply to you. And I hope as we go through this, God will speak to you about where you need more of him and his blessings and that you will latch on to this by faith.  

1. God will forgive your sins

 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” – Matthew 6:14

The condition certainly stands out right at the beginning. We have to give grace to receive grace. But if we do this, God tells us here, he will forgive our sins. As Psalm 103:12 says, God will remove our sins “as far as the east is from the west.” As 1 John 1:9 says, God will “forgive us our sins and . . . cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Others may not forgive us, we may struggle to forgive ourselves, but in faith we can stand on this promise that we are indeed forgiven by God.

2. God will give you the Holy Spirit

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” – Luke 11:13

In Luke 11 Jesus talks about asking with persistence in our prayers. And then he ends this teaching with this verse. So he is saying, ‘If we persistently ask for the Spirit, God will answer.’

It is the Spirit who gives us life. It is the Spirit who makes God’s presence known to us. It is the Spirit who gives us God’s guidance and comfort. It is the Spirit who empowers us to do God’s will and to minister in his name. So, this is a promise we all need. We need to be continually filled with the Spirit as followers of Jesus.

3. God will give you eternal life

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

This is a familiar and popular promise and rightfully so. Because of God’s love for us and  what Jesus has done for us, if we believe in Jesus, we will not be judged, but we will have eternal life. That is to say, right now. No waiting. God’s life comes into us and this will continue on forever.

4. Jesus will set you free from bondage to sin

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” – John 8:36

Just before this, Jesus talks about how “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” But the promise is that Jesus is both able and willing to set us free; to break the chains of our bondage so that we can serve God and live a new life.

This doesn’t mean that it will always be easy, and that there won’t be hard choices and difficult times ahead. But Jesus will give us what we need to remain free.

If this is where you are, I encourage you to claim this promise by faith. Ask Jesus to come and set you free.

5. God will provide for your material needs

“But strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” – Matthew 6:33

Notice the condition: seek the kingdom and his righteousness. Give this more thought and time than worrying about how you will gather up what you need for this life. And then, Jesus tells us, God will provide.

Now this is no promise of great wealth. In this scripture here (Matthew 6) the promise is for food and clothing. Like in the Lord’s prayer, we ask for daily bread. The promise is that God will give us what we need, not what we want. But yet, God’s provision is all we truly need.

6. God will providentially watch over you

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29-31

Jesus spoke this to the disciples while teaching them about persecution and the danger of death. Jesus promises that God watches over us as his disciples and knows what goes on in our lives, down to the details.

If we find ourselves in danger, and we are walking with God – we don’t need to fear. God knows what’s going on. Whether it goes badly for us, or we are rescued, we know that we are in God’s loving hands.

7. God will give you wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5

We need to ask, and we need to ask in faith as James goes on to say. But if we do this, God will give us guidance and good judgment in how to make decisions and how to live our lives. And who doesn’t need wisdom, really, every day of our lives? What a great promise!“It will be given.”

8. God will give you peace

Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

We don’t need to be stressed out. Rather, we can lift up our burdens to the Lord, give them to him, and ask for his help. And the promise is that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds to keep the stress away. Like a soldier keeping patrol.

Unless, of course we let our worries back in. We have to let go of them all, and give them to God knowing that he will take care of us.

9. Nothing God calls you to do will be impossible for you

“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” – Matthew 17:20

 Jesus had commissioned and empowered the disciples to cast out demons as a part of their work. But they had a case they couldn’t handle. Why? Because they thought it was way too hard!

And so Jesus teaches them, and us, that whatever God calls us to do we will be able to do, if we simply trust in God to act for us in each situation. Even if it seems impossible, like moving a mountain from one place to another.

10. God will give you a blessed future

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven . . .. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

The promise is that Jesus will return. And when he does, all faithful Christians will be resurrected to new life, with a new body.

We have an amazing future ahead! Things might not be going well for us now, but we have blessings waiting for us. And we “will always be with the Lord.” We can keep this in mind when we are going through hard times. In faith, think on these things and be encouraged.

  1. God will forgive your sins.
  2. God will give you the Holy Spirit
  3. God will give you eternal life
  4. Jesus will set you free from bondage to sin
  5. God will provide for your material needs
  6. God will providentially watch over you
  7. God will give you wisdom
  8. God will give you peace
  9. Nothing God calls you to do will be impossible for you
  10. God will give you a blessed future

So these are some of the many “precious and very great promises” that God gives to us, to use the words of 2 Peter 1:4. We will not be presuming upon God if we ask for these things.

But we do have to trust in God to receive all that these verses talk about; to receive the blessings of God. As I have said several times now, without faith, we should not “expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7). But with faith, “all things are possible” (Mark 9:23). We can receive all that God has for us.

And let’s not be satisfied with what we have already received. We need to up our game! For instance, we need more of the Spirit, some of us need more deliverance, we all need more wisdom, peace in difficult times and power to do God’s will. Let’s raise our expectations and trust in God to act for us, standing on his promises.

Saul’s anointing. Three confirmations & Saul’s hesitation. 1 Samuel 10:1-16

The literary structure of 1 Samuel 9-10:16

Last week we saw an amazing display of God’s knowledge and ability  when he providentially orchestrated the events surrounding the anointing of Saul. It’s really quite incredible. Today we pick up the story and see how it ends. And it’s ending will give us insight into Saul and much of what is ahead in these stories about Saul in 1 Samuel.

By way of review we read again in v. 1 about –

Saul’s anointing

1aThen Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies.

Right after this Samuel predicts three signs that are meant to fully convince Saul that he is to be king.

 1bAnd this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.

Remember, he wasn’t looking to be king, he was looking for donkeys. And you can understand some measure of reluctance. And so God is merciful to him to make it as clear as clear can be.

Sign one:  2When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’

He came to Samuel concerned about donkeys. And he leaves with witnesses attesting that they have been found, confirming Samuel’s word to him.

Sign two: 3Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand.

The items they have are for sacrifice at Bethel. They give Saul two loaves of bread. He came to Samuel without bread and he leaves with bread.

Sign three:  5After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.

He came to Samuel looking for a prophecy about his donkeys but on his way home he prophesies.

The mention of the Philistine garrison is key. The Philistines were once again ascendant and had a group of soldiers stationed in or near this city, which is Saul’s hometown (It is called Gibeah in v. 10 below. See 10:11 – they knew him. Also see 11:26)

Samuel promises that when the reality of the anointing comes; that is, when the Spirit comes upon him, he will “be turned into another man.” This means that the Spirit will empower him to fulfill his calling of king and deliverer.

Then Samuel shares what Saul is to do after the signs.

7Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 8Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”

The phrase, “do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you” implies that Saul is to do something. What he is to do, is to attack the previously mentioned Philistine garrison. And after he provokes them, he is to gather the Israelite army and go to Gilgal. And he is to wait seven days for Samuel to come to give further instructions. (These instructions are referred to again in chapter 13. Even though there it is Jonathan, Saul’s son who attacks a Philistine garrison and so provokes them, both Saul and Samuel know that now these instructions come into play. And Saul does not keep these instructions and is judged.) (I am indebted to V. Philips Long in his book, The Reign and Rejection of King Saul for this interpretation.)

This is how his anointing is to be made public.

Well, sure enough everything comes true.

9When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day.

 Everything happened just as predicted. (The statement “God gave him another heart” is probably summative of the events of the whole day, or the change began then and continued on through to his Spirit experience – see 10:6) 

And then the third sign’s fulfillment is narrated.

10When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

As predicted “the Spirit of God rushed upon him” and he prophesied. This prophesy was an outward sign of his possession of the Spirit, even though it was temporary. (This is similar to what happened in Numbers 11:25ff, when the Spirit came upon the elders of Israel and they temporarily prophesied as a sign of their being chosen.)

Those who knew Saul from before are witnesses that the Spirit is upon Saul and they are surprised. They say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” He was not known to be a prophet, nor perhaps anyone in Kish’s family. But then someone suggests, “And who is their father?” referring to the other prophets, making the point that prophecy isn’t hereditary. The basic point of the question, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” seems to be that someone unexpected has the Spirit working through them. (This is repeated in 19:20 when Saul was hostile to the prophets and so again his prophesying here is very unexpected. This phrase appears with Saul’s first and last encounter with the Spirit.)

Here again, with these three signs, we see God’s providential oversight.

  • Samuel predicted he would meet two men who would say such and such, and it happened.
  • Samuel predicted that he would meet three men who would give him two loaves of bread, and it happened.
  • Samuel predicted that he would meet a band of prophets and he would prophesy, and it happened.

I just have to say, wow! Isn’t God amazing?

But then we come back to our story and Saul’s missed opportunity.

13When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place. 14Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15And Saul’s uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” 16And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.

He didn’t attack the Philistine garrison. He was told to “do what your hand finds to do.” But he does nothing. So there’s a disconnect. And since this was how he was to make public his role as king, and he didn’t do it, he hid his anointing and what Samuel said about kingship from his uncle. And so the story just kind of fizzles out.

I want us to focus on this, because we can learn from it. Here we begin to see –

Saul’s core weakness

As we will clear soon enough, Saul ends up being a failure as a king – rejected by God and a scourge to God’s people. And it all stems from his inability or unwillingness to deal with his core weakness, which is fear.

He was afraid to act even though he was given very clear confirmations that he was to be king and the job description of a king included delivering Israel from the Philistines. And he was next the the outpost in own hometown after the Spirit came on him, and he did nothing.

And this will become a characteristic throughout his story – fear that leads to not carrying out God’s will.

  • fear of the Philistines (here and in chapter 13)
  • fear of even being king (the rest of chapter 10)
  • and fear of his own people (chapter 15)

As the story goes on from here – the question for the first time reader is, “Which way will Saul go? Will he overcome? Or will he be overcome?” Well, we already know, but we will find out what his failure looks like in great detail in chapters 13-15 and beyond.

But let’s not just focus on Saul.

What is your core weakness?

We each  an area (at least one) that can keep us from being all that God wants us to be; where we struggle to be faithful; that can keep us from fulfilling God’s purposes. We all struggle with whether we will overcome it and be fully faithful to God or whether it will get the best of us, so that we don’t do God’s will.

Do you know what your weakness is? Are you attending to it to make sure that it isn’t keeping you from doing God’s will? Are you praying to be strong, seeking God’s help and the help of others? Are you asking to be filled with the Spirit to overcome your weaknesses? Saul received the Spirit but failed to do his part. When the Spirit comes to help you, do you do your part to step out in faith to act? (Dave Weaver)

What is the story of your life? Of victory or defeat? Will you be a Saul who fails or a David who succeeds despite failure along the way?

Well, your story isn’t over yet, and so I encourage you this morning to press on and to be an overcomer.

Listening for the Spirit (#2)

We are seeking the Lord’s guidance as a congregation and will be coming together for a meeting next week after church. As a part of our preparation I shared last week on Listening for the Spirit – to help us know what this means and how to do it. We are continuing on with this theme today.

Last time I made the point that it’s normal for believers to be led by the Spirit of God. As Paul says in Romans 8:14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons (children) of God.” This is simply a part of being in relationship with God.

And we also looked at the most common way the Spirit leads us, which is the inward witness of the Spirit. This is when the Spirit doesn’t necessarily speak words, but gives us a deep inner sense of things that goes beyond words; an affirmation or a conviction that teaches and guides us in the way to go.

Today we want to go further on the topic of the Spirit’s leading, and first we look at –

How to receive God’s leading

 That is, how do we get ourselves in a place to hear what God might want to say to us?

First and most basically, listen. If you want to hear what anyone has to say, you have to stop and listen. And the same is true in our relationship with God.

Much of our praying is about talking to or even at God with our needs. Among other things, we also need to have intentional times of listening, where we invite God to speak to us.

We can follow the pattern of Eli’s advice, when he told Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” – 1 Samuel 3:9. Open your heart to be led, and see what God’s leading might be. God doesn’t always have something specific to say to us, but sometimes he does.

Now the bigger goal is to have a life that is tuned in to God, so that we are always attentive to God’s leading. But certainly we begin by making space in our times of prayer to allow God to speak.

Second, walk in the light you already have.  All of us stumble in many ways, as James says (3:2), but this is different from continuing to walk in known patterns of sin. Where we know God’s will and leading and just choose not to do it.

There is no reason to think that God will say more to you if you haven’t dealt with what he has already told you; what you already know and are choosing not to do. Such sin creates a barrier between us and God (Isaiah 59:2). It damages or even destroys our relationship with God. So set aside your sin and come back close to God once again. As James says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” – James 4:8.

John teaches us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9. God’s mercy is wonderful to us. And then it will be true what John says in 1 John 1:7, “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another . . ..” Fellowship means we have an unhindered relationship with God.

Make things right in your relationship to God and draw near.

And finally, submit yourself fully  to God. You may not like God’s leading. Often it is the hard way. Not always, but often. And we don’t want this. We want what is easy and comfortable.

Yet God leads those who actually want to be led; who are willing. So we have to set aside our own agenda, what we think the answer has to be, what we desire. (Not in terms of what Scripture teaches, but in the application of Scripture). Then God can lead us in his way.

Jesus models this for us in the garden of Gethsemane. When seeking God’s will and confirming the path of the cross he says, “Not what I will, but what you will” – Mark 14:36.

Humble yourself before God confessing that you don’t know everything and you really do need God to help and lead you. Remember these words from Proverbs 3:5-7 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes . . .”

And then say to God, I will do whatever you tell me. This is submission. And this is someone who is ready to be led by God. And someone that God readily leads.

Let’s take a moment to pause for prayer. Maybe you need to draw near to God; maybe you need to submit yourself to God; or maybe you are here this morning ready to listen – so invite God to lead you. We’ll take just a minute.

Next we move to the very important topic of –

How to test any leading you receive

 When you seek to be quiet before the Lord and listen, it can be hard. Maybe you have just experienced this. Our minds are often so full of things – our own thoughts, our inner list of things to do, our own emotions, our own inner voices, our own desires. And also at times wrong thoughts or voices from the evil one. There is a swirl of voices and thoughts. So it can be hard to set all this aside to truly receive God’s leading. We don’t want to accept just our own thoughts as those of God and certainly not the thoughts of the evil one.

So Scripture teaches us to test the spirits:

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 says, “Do not despise prophecies (e.g. words of the Spirit), but test everything; hold fast what is good.”
  • 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

There is a sorting process and we keep what is good. This applies to those who speak out words of the Spirit or in our own minds as we listen for the Spirit.

I would like to share with you two ways to do this and the first is that everything must be in line with Scripture; God’s Word to us. God’s written word is what tests any leading we receive. It is definitive and authoritative. So any leading that goes against it, you know it’s wrong.

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 says, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.”

Here the test is God’s revelation through Moses talking about idolatry. This was the Bible at this time. Anything that leads away from God’s Word is wrong.

But even more specifically, everything must be in line with the New Testament and it’s witness to Jesus. John 1:17-18 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the beloved who is at the Father’s side, who has made him known.” John is teaching us here that Jesus is the full and perfect revelation of God to us. There are things that are different from Old Testament to New Testament, as we see in Matthew 5. And Jesus is the standard. He is the Word of God come in the flesh. And his life and teachings are only found in the writings of the apostolic church preserved for us in the New Testament. No leading of God will go against this.

Second, make sure you recognize the leading as God’s. From my own experience I know that God’s voice is different than my own inner voices or the voice of Satan. These others are often harsh, nagging or condemning. There is nothing redemptive about them. They either tear us down and lead us to despair or they artificially build us up and lead us to pride. They don’t lead us to God and his grace and power to be transformed.

God’s voice is firm, clear, strong, quiet, pure, from the outside of us; from outside of the swirl of voices we can hear.

How do you discern God’s voice? It comes from a lifetime of being in relationship with God. Being immersed in the Scriptures and spending time in God’s presence in prayer and worship helps equip us to know God – who God is and what God sounds like.

For instance, I am not good with identifying voices on a phone. Just a few months ago someone called me and was talking on and I had to say, “now who is this?” Awkward! But I do know by wife’s voice. There is never any doubt there. We have been in close relationship for decades. And the more time we spend with God, the more we will be confident in recognizing his leading in our hearts.

Let me just end by encouraging you to seek after God this week.

  • Put yourself in a place to hear from God
  • And then test whatever leading you might receive

And then we will gather and discern together as a group next week.

Again, our goal for our meeting is to be able to sense what God’s leading is for us as a church. Not just what we think is best – our own opinions or wisdom; not what we think the right answer should be; not what we think others want us to say – but what God is saying to us. My guess is that God will give different ones of us a piece of the puzzle, that as a community we can put together, to show us the way forward. And it may take more than one meeting.

Listening for the Spirit (#1)

As you know, we are seeking the Lord for guidance regarding our future as a congregation. And as a part of this I want to give some teaching this week and next on Listening for the Spirit – to help us know what this means and how to do it. Today, let me begin by saying that –

It’s normal to be led by the Spirit

That is, this isn’t just for certain people like leaders or “saints.” Or perhaps coming from a different direction, you might think that this is the language of those who have gone off the deep end and so you want to stay away from it. No. This is the privilege of all Christians.

It is the Spirit, after all, that gives us life in the first place, for we are born of the Spirit (John 3). But that’s not all. As believers the Spirit of God actually lives in us (Romans 8:9). So there is a closeness and a relationship. And in any relationship there has to be communication. And certainly God does seek to relate to us and guide us by his Spirit dwelling within us.

Romans 8:14 says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons (or children) of God.” You can see here the close connection between our relationship with God and that we are led by the Spirit.

Now the Spirit can lead us in many ways. He can give someone a word to say to the congregation, he can speak a word deep within our heart, or he can move by what I call the “inward witness” of the Spirit. This is when the Spirit doesn’t necessarily speak words, but gives us a deep inner sense of things that goes beyond words; an affirmation or a conviction that teaches and guides us in the way to go. I believe that this inward witness of the Spirit is the most common way that the Spirit leads us and so I want to focus on this today.

The inward witness of the Spirit

There are several places in Scripture where this is talked about. And the first one has to do with how the Spirit works in us to draw us to Jesus. Here we are talking about the process whereby we first became believers.

Jesus said in John 16:8, “When the Spirit comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The Spirit speaks in the deepest part of our hearts to show us our sin, and what righteousness looks like and that judgment is coming. He shows us that Jesus is true and that he is the Savior.

This is how salvation works. We don’t just go and seek out God, God seeks us and draws us to himself by the Spirit, by this inward witness of the Spirit within us that teaches us and guides us in the right way. This is how we come to faith.

So simply to be a Christian means you have been led by the Spirit in this way. You know the inward witness of the Spirit.

Another example of the inward witness is when the Spirit affirms in us that we are a Christian. Just after talking about being led by the Spirit, Paul says this in Romans 8:15-16 – “. . . You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God . . .”

In this passage we see that first, we receive the Spirit. And what does the Spirit lead us to do? To cry out “Abba, Father,” which is an expression of our relationship with God; we confess that we are children of God. How can we do this? It’s because the Spirit “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” In other words, the Spirit affirms, deep in our hearts, that we are a child of God. And so we can cry out to God our Father.

And this is not just a one-time event when we first believe. Throughout our lives the Spirit works in us to affirm our relationship with God.

To have the assurance of the Spirit means the Spirit is leading you in this way.

Another example of the inward witness is when the Spirit guides us in everyday life. In Ephesians 4:30 Paul says, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” In context he is talking about living the Christian life; the choices we make whether to sin or walk in the way of Christ. And the point is that when we choose sin we grieve or sadden the Spirit who dwells within us, who is affirming that we should choose the way of Christ.

Unless we have become hardened and distant to the Lord this goes on in us regularly. We sense the Spirit deep in our heart either guiding and affirming our choices or convicting us that we are wrong. When we walk in the right path we have the fruit of the Spirit of peace. When we do not, the Spirit is “grieved.”

So simply to walk the Christian life means that the Spirit is, or is seeking to lead you in this way.

But the Spirit doesn’t just lead us as individuals, the Spirit can also lead us as a group; as a church. We see this in the example of the Jerusalem church council of Acts 15. The early church had a huge controversy over how to accept Gentiles as Christians and there was conflict. So the mother church in Jerusalem gathered together, along with the apostles to settle things.

They talked about the issues and heard from various ones, including the apostles Paul and Peter. And then at the end in Acts 15:28 it says, “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .” and then they hand down their decision. It isn’t necessary to get into the issues or what they decided right now. The point is that they testify that the Spirit led them. We don’t know what all this might have meant, but certainly at a minimum they are saying that they feel the Spirit is affirming deep within their hearts, that their decision is right.

And this is what we are seeking as a congregation. Not just what we think is best; not what we think the answer ought to be; not what we think others want us to do – but what does God have to say to us, so that we can be confident in our decision before God and others.

Let me end with –

An encouragement

I share all this to encourage you to listen for the Spirit. As you continue to pray these next weeks and fast on Friday afternoons, listen – expecting to hear from God. What is the Spirit saying to us here at New Providence Mennonite Church? And then we will gather to pray and discern together and make some decisions. If God could lead the believers in Jerusalem in their big decision, God can certainly lead us here as well.

Second, I have shared this with you to remind you that as a Christian you already know what it’s like to be led by the Spirit; the inner witness of the Spirit. It’s not rocket science. We have all been there and we have all done that. We just need to tune in and be sensitive to listen and hear.

And if you would say, I don’t feel like I am really that in touch with the Spirit anymore, let me say it isn’t too late to get in tune with God’s Spirit and listen. And we will talk about some of this next week, Lord willing.