Words of Life
I had just finished my workshop and opened it up for people to ask questions or give feedback. One man asked a question that I am still pondering. He was following up on a comment I had made, that many times when I leave church on a Sunday morning, the message is that I have to do something more.
The exhortation can be to: pray more, give more, serve more, read my Bible more, spend more time with your wife and children, be salt, be light, etc. In light of my observation his question was, then how should sermons be structured? How can pastors improve the message to make them more encouraging?
I took his query to heart and have been wondering, how can I be an encourager and a builder upper? Paul exhorts us to “encourage one another and build one another up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) What does that look like in the summer of 2023?
I have often shared how God the Father encouraged His Son and built Him up with the words spoken at His baptism. “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased!” (Matthew 3:17) Or in the S.I.V. (Steve International Translation), “Hey everyone, this is My SON! I love Him to pieces! Every time I see Him He brings me great joy!”
The Amplified Bible renders these words, “This is My Son, My Beloved, in Whom I delight!” When Jesus heard His Dad, I am sure He looked heavenward and beamed. This public affirmation was surely for our benefit, for Jesus already knew that His Dad loved and liked Him. Or as David wrote in Psalm 56:9, “This I know, that God is for me.” Jesus knew that His Dad had His back.
I am especially attracted to these words, for when coupled with John 15:9, they also apply to us as adopted children of God. Because of what Jesus has accomplished for us on the cross, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you!” God now looks at us, and says “This is My beloved son/daughter, in Whom I delight!” Those words make me know that I belong to God, am beloved by God, and am pleasing (right now) to God.
As marvelous as this message of Good News is, I recently observed that God the Father had another gift for His Son at His baptism. I have been so focused on the blessing of the words (perhaps because my love language is words of affirmation) that I missed the first gift.
“After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and coming to rest on Him.” What a special picture, a lovely dove alighting on the shoulder of the Son preceded by The benediction and blessing from heaven. Jesus was blessed with the presence and person of the Good Spirit.
The Spirit has also come upon us and made us know that we have been adopted into the family of God> God is now our Father, our Dad, our Abba. “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:6-7)
I have compiled several more passages to encourage us about the riches and treasures given to us through the Spirit. There is no accompanying exhortations, nor is there a hidden sermon, just a bath of truth in which to marinate and satiate our soul. My humble attempt to encourage and build up!
The Spirit convicts us of sin.
“I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:7-8)
The Spirit makes us new creations and ushers us into the Kingdom of God..
“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’” (John 3:5-6)
The Spirit informs our heart, our inner man, of God’s Divine affection and care
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:6)
The Spirit helps us declare Jesus to be our Lord!
“No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
The Good Spirit points us to Jesus.
“When the Helper comes, Whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me.” (John 15:26)
The Helper is a magnificent Teacher.
“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. ” (John 14:26)
He will never leave nor forsake us.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” (John 14:16)
It is no wonder that Jesus was anxious to leave His disciples i the care of the Blessed Spirit.
“I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)
Jesus was also committed to introducing His followers to the Good Spirit ASAP.
Until recently, I had thought the Spirit was given to the disciples at Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection. Read these verses and perhaps you will come up with a different conclusion as I did.
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:19-22)
Thanks be to God that the Spirit is given in full measure,
“He gives the Spirit without measure.” (John 3:34)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
Grateful for the communion of the Spirit,
PS “Greater is He Who is in you, than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
PPS There are officially 54 days of summer remaining to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Enjoy each of them!
Contest I am still committed to pursuing our summer contest to “stir up one another to love and good works.” There are 35 days until Labor Day. You have time to meet together and read Scripture for 25 days. If you do, you will win a prize of four free books: Hymns for Family Worship, Family Worship, Come Into His Presence and a signed copy of His Story My Story. Please keep track of your days and as soon as you complete the 25 days of family devotions, I will send your prize (when you send me your name and address to email@example.com).
Or for families of teens, in place of the books mentioned above, you can choose as your prize, a free course (2 class credits) on personal finance (1 credit) and discipleship 101 (1 credit), in my Stewardship Curriculum.
If you need a little help to getting started, and would like to read a PDF of Family Worship, listen to an audiobook (2 hours long), or watch a one hour talk on the same subject, click here.
Men’s Retreat, Spruce Lake Retreat Center in Canadensis, PA, October 13-15, 2023. I do not have a landing page yet, but the cost will be $125.00 per man for room and board. We have several committed to coming and space for 20. Email me if you have more questions.
Homeschool Family Weekend, August 25-27
There is still room to attend the “All Abilities Homeschool Family Retreat.”
363 Spiritual Warfare, #1, Fighting the Good Fight
364 Spiritual Warfare, #2, Seeing Every Knee Bow to Jesus
365 Spiritual Warfare, #3, Hiding Behind Our Big Brother Jesus
366 Spiritual Warfare, #4, Deliver Us From Evil
367 Spiritual Warfare, #5, Praying for the Protection of Our Children