Sermon Ten The witness of the Holy Spirit

john                                                               audio clip

There is a time between waking and sleeping that words come to me or an image floats across the horizon. Quite often I forget these in the morning. Sometimes though they pierce through the haze of grogginess and settle in my heart.

Would Wesley see that as my imagination or of the Spirit? I suppose it depends on the testing. Monday night was fiercely cold so I spent much of night awake and shivering (the joys of no heating!) but about five I slept a good solid hour and woke at ten past six as is my habit. As I was coming out of my sleep, a person I know appeared telling me they wanted to talk to me. Now I knew I needed to drop them an email before Friday but this was Tuesday and so I thought well I will email them later after work. During lunch at work they phoned and we had the conversation among other things about Friday, so tick box for me. The reason they phoned me was to do with a conversation they had earlier that day, after my wakedream. So trying to make sense of this I looked back at my day and I realised that from the moment their image had flashed through my mind I had been praying for them and the meeting they had was a good fruitful one with lots of positives. My conclusion is the image flashing was of the Spirit not a personal reminder system in my head and I thank God for that because it was a beautiful phone call from someone who is an example of how to live in Christ.

In sermon 10, Wesley begins by saying we need to be on guard of our imagination, that we can attribute to the Spirit that which is conjured up in our own heads. The opposite of this is to be dismissive of these experiences and call those who talk about them deluded.

He proposes a middle ground. I suppose one that is open to the Spirit but what comes is tested with a pinch of salt. We are told by Paul not to be like children in our thinking but to come to the Lord like children. What does this mean? Is it contradictory?

No one the contrary. Our minds are to grow in knowledge as our hearts grow in love. As our minds become more knowledgeable we can discern better, as our hearts grow in love we desire and are eager to spend time with the Lord like a small child is full of wonder and excitement.

We are led by the Spirit guiding us on our journey as children of God. Book learning is one thing but loving and knowing Jesus is another thing entirely.

How do we recognise ourselves as children of God loving God and our neighbours? Because we will be conscious of it, if you are purporting to do God’s will but really you are lining his will up with your own. Your conscience and the Holy Spirit will convict you. If it is not for God’s glory but your own – you will know deep down that this is the case. You may choose to carry on regardless but you will know.

Our own conscience, God has given to us, to keep us holy in heart and speech. We have a loving heart towards God and others and a childlike faith in the Father. A consciousness that in our hearts the Spirit is making us like Jesus and that we walk before him in justice, mercy, truth, doing things that are pleasing in his sight. We love because first he loved us.

But how can we distinguish between the real witness of the Holy Spirit and sinful presumption? Even John Wesley defers from trying to explain how God gives the proof, it is a deeply intimate and personal revelation. And to attempt to explain something so wonderful and perfect and ouside our understanding would fall short of the true wonder and awesome power of God.

As I read these sermons, well this one is called a discourse I get to I suppose have those moments of clarity about my own life. There is a reason I have stayed quiet and will continue to do so, it is not delusion, it is incredible and beyond my comprehension so I would sound like a shivering mess trying to explain. I defer to John who defers himself. Experience it don’t talk about it!

So someone who believes themselves personally not to be sinful, will delude themselves into thinking their spirit is ruled by the Holy Spirit. This over-confidence belies to them the truth of them not walking with the Lord. When the Holy Spirit witnesses to us we will perceive a chasm of difference between our spirit and the Holy Spirit. So a true believer would easily distinguish between the two and there will not be any danger of confusing the two.

We must be born of God to witness the Holy Spirit in all its glory. There is a profound and real change, from darkness to light, from death to life, from Satan to the living God.

The fruit of the Spirit as evidenced in our lives is what people see as different, it sets us apart, as we have been set apart by the Lord. We love god, first and foremost, and because of this love infused with the fruit and gifts of the Spirit, we do his will on earth. The rulebook has been thrown out but because of God’s love for us and our love for him we keep the unwritten rules, the rules that aren’t articulated and of course we keep the written ones too but it is no longer following rules, we are not living under the Law, we don’t judge others. Because our first commandment is to love God with all our hearts, minds, bodies and strength, all the other rules are infused with this love so we don’t go around saying “Don’t do this” or “don’t do that” we encourage people to “do this and do that.”

Wesley ends with a paragraph of rejoicing and thanksgiving . And he goes to the Bible, where else, to do this:

“Well then mayst thou say, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!” [2 Cor.

9:15] Thanks be unto God, who giveth me to “know in whom I have believed;” [2 Tim. 1:12]

who hath “sent forth the Spirit of his Son into my heart, crying, Abba, Father,” [Gal. 4:6]

and even now, “bearing witness with my spirit that I am a child of God!” [Rom. 8:16] And

see, that not only thy lips, but thy life show forth his praise. He hath sealed thee for his own;

glorify him then in thy body and thy spirit, which are his. [1 Cor. 6:20] Beloved, if thou hast

this hope in thyself, purify thyself as he is pure. While thou beholdest what manner of love

the Father hath given thee, that thou shouldst be called a child of God; [1 John 3:1] cleanse

thyself “from all filthiness of flesh and Spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God;” [2 Cor.

7:1] and let all thy thoughts, words, and works be a spiritual sacrifice, holy, acceptable to

God through Christ Jesus! [Rom. 12:1, 2]”