Sermon 11~~~Discourse II {The witness of the spirit }

This is a solid piece of scripturally and doctrinally sound argument. Wesley is arguing against basically two opinions, that living in the Spirit is an experiential thing alone without scripture, reason or tradition and conversely that the Spirit does not dwell within at all.
The problem we are faced with, as believers who have been baptised by the Holy Spirit is that it is so personal and individual and exactly what we need as individuals that to describe it to someone would be nigh on impossible but also unbelievable and not helpful.
The only evidence that can be seen from the outside looking in is the fruit of Spirit, those special gifts from God. But there are those who puff themselves up because they believe they have been given a spiritual gift from God of prophecy or interpretation, for example. Not that they don’t have one of those gifts but that they then neglect the fruit. And not everyone who has been blessed with a gift of the Spirit so neglects the fruit.
Wesley listens to the argument: “The greatest contenders for it are some of the proudest and most uncharitable of men.” and like Wesley I concur that those people we are going hear, they are going to thrust themselves forward into the limelight but for everyone like this there are hundreds and thousands that Wesley describes as:

“firmest contenders for it are eminently meek and lowly in heart; and, indeed, in all other respects also, True followers of their lamb-like Lord.”

Meekness & Humility in a person is so much more attractive than pushy, in your face, “look at me and what I can do”
Interestingly Wesley talks of the fruit being evidenced in a person’s life preveniently. By the grace of God, to encourage us to move forward into true discipleship and believing we are introduced to one or two of the fruit of the Spirit. This is amazing and explains to my rational mind many of the things that happened to me and others before we were baptised by the Holy Spirit.
He ends by encouraging and challenging his readers to keep in the book of God, the Bible, keep in relationship with the Lord, remember the time when we cried out “Abba Father,” remember the peace that settled on us that passeth all understanding, the expelling of doubt and fear which are not of God.
Romans 8:16

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

Sermon 10 ~~~Discourse I {THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT}

Sermon 10
THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT
Discourse I
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
Rom. 8:16

We have a spirit within us and in this discussion Wesley points out that even the most enthusiastic of church goers may have the Spirit of God and their own spirit contrived into an unhealthy relationship.

How so?

I think this is what we now call lining God’s will up with our own rather than the other way round. When we get convinced that a certain course of action is “right” no matter what the obstacles in our path and we just plough straight through, hurtling hurt & offended people to the side.

In my own life, I struggled with “is it of God” or “is it of me,” and I was concerned by barriers but I believe I was creating the barriers or they came from within rather than someone standing in front of me and saying “Desist.”

I have done no hurtling through regardless and have been ever mindful of people who may not entirely agree with the path I am trying to take. Tuesday night I gave a eulogy and read scripture for the Mass in the village. Two people who knew the path said they wanted to pop over to Killarney to hear me preach and the person in charge of readers in the RC church wanted me on their list. Another with a prophetic ministry told me it wouldn’t be the last time I would be on that particular altar.

In one particular area I had a very clear vision of how a project could run successfully but the people involved from the beginning had a different view. In the last three months I have been working towards bringing people along with a shared vision. There were a few setbacks last week and I thought it was going to blow up, not just the project but it insidiously blow apart the congregation. I felt like I was just putting plasters over open oozing wounds and they would pop apart at any moment.

I prayed about it, I let the whole thing, the relationships, the personalities, their spirits and mine. I asked for help in how to lose the project without anyone losing face bar me, so that no impact on the congregation could be determined and that life would continue as before. I got the message of reconciliation and peace with less words. There was more, and more to come from other sources that enabled me to think about rerdrafting, renewing, starting again, regrouping, not stopping but changing the way we did it. Today I got more of a message about messages being received, heard and a recommitment.

What could have ended up with a whole bunch of people “doing their own thing” has resulted in a team being born, still in early infancy with teething problems but the man-made obstacles are gone and I truly believe this group could do mighty things with the Lord and there be much Kingdom growth in the Kingdom.

Wesley tells us to examine & discern over and over that we may truly be children of God led by the Spirit and not going our own way. Sometimes our will and God’s is on target, going in the same direction, but often we take a side road. Pray without ceasing that the Lord and His Spirit will guide us to keep on the right path.

and let all thy thoughts, words, and works be a spiritual sacrifice, holy, acceptable to
God through Christ Jesus! [Rom. 12:1, 2]

Sermon Fifteen The great privilege of God’s children

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This is an odd sermon because it sets its stall out in the title but then does not mention privilege again. But the reading which is taken from 1 John 3 gives it sub heading and in there is the crux of the sermon.

IF WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD WE DO NOT SIN

Now I sin and you sin and the whole world sins. If we are children of God we do not sin. Does this make you and me children of devil, slaves to sin. Yes it can mean that but we have the Holy Spirit guiding us so when we do sin by a thought or an action we are convicted by the Holy Spirit. We can choose to ignore the prompting of the Spirit but if we do we go down a spiral that could have us like David.

Relativism is the problem that pervades the church. I know – a non Christian philosophy in church.

“I might be prideful but compared to sister xxx I am doing okay”

“I might say the Lord’s name in vain but compared to brother xxx I don’t do it that much”

We compare ourselves, we can even see ourselves as higher Christians and I know many people hurt be these so-called righteous people who can tell other people where they are going wrong but sit in pride and arrogance. We should always keep our eye on some examples from the Bible, come before the Lord as the taxpayer not the Pharisee. I had the great privilege of spending time with a lovely sister in Christ this week. We were discussing the ten commandments in Exodus and I asked what her favourite one was? Yes I know not the easiest of questions to answer. She said, “I don’t know about favourite ones but I know which ones everyone else is breaking.” It was a precious moment in our time together.

We might talk about a fellow sister or brother in Christ to our spouse, we might see a person in church and make a judgement as to whether they are born of the Spirit, we might do and say many things in our own strength that are not of the Lord.

BUT

If we do not pay close attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit we will be steeped in sin. Yes we do mess up, we have to be honest and sincere about that. We are not perfect.

BUT

If we are to be authentic Christians we know this and work on the aspects that need to change. My default setting as INTP but in my transformed life I am doing and saying and thinking things that fellow INTPers would baulk at. I am fascinated by what the reaction will be from people who knew me before tomorrow.

Wesley points out a step by step route whereby David committed murder and adultery, where Peter caved at man’s perspective (the Law) and not God’s and also when Barnabas and Paul disagree.

He points to these people but he doesn’t point out how they came back to right thinking. In this there is an omission. He is expecting us as Christians to never sin so points out how to keep from sinning but he isn’t graceful to those of us who do sin and continually ask for forgiveness for this bad thought or deed.

Abstractly someone was saying “Honour your mother and father,” well in very real terms if I were to fully honour my father I would not be a child of God, so I sin to the person not to God. Ultimately God is love, God wants us to be in continual communion with him. It is the distractions that we get caught up in, the devil is in the detail.

He concludes his sermon by saying Watch and pray without ceasing, so that you may always believe, and always love and never fall into sin. Wise words because if we are focused on the Lord and his ways which are perfect then maybe we won’t sin ….

Sermon eleven The evidence of our own spirits

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John Wesley’s pneumatological viewpoint.

Be ready!

Living in the Spirit means we are always trying to be ready. Tomorrow may not come, tonight may be my last night on earth so we need to be ready. How do we “be” ready?

Let’s face it, we are not ready. Nor can we be because we are people who sin. But we have a God of grace and mercy who loves us to bits. He wants us to be in his family and we have a place at the family table, we are invited.

We have the Holy Spirit to guide us and our own spirit, our conscience to help as well. We know when we are veering off course because we will be convicted by both. Our conscience is clear when we are governed by God through the Bible. Using Paul as an example, (Acts 23) Wesley points to someone who had an awful past life sending many to their deaths etc, a son of a Pharisee, a Pharisee himself who persecuted the early church and who because of the transforming power of the Spirit was able to stand and say – my conscience is clear…

To continue to change, to become more Christ like, we need to know ourselves, not in the airy-fairy new age way, but know our faults, our weaknesses and work on them. At the moment of transformation our lives become new. Staying shiny and new takes work – ask the parlour maid in charge of cleaning the silver in the big house. It takes work and effort and we cant do it on our own we need God, and we need all the tools he gives us to do it.

The fruit and gifts of the Spirit are there to help us, the Holy Spirit is there with us. We are Jesus people. We are to conduct our whole lives remembering always we are children of God assured we are to spend eternity with him. Our whole lives does not mean in the Christian “bubble” but also out in the big bad world, among the children of the devil, among non-believers. There are so many ways we can become lukewarm having a foot in both worlds.

With godly sincerity our whole lives are given over to God, not lip service bit life service to the Living God, all for his glory. This is not something that can be copied, there is no formula or script, it is what it is. This sincerity comes from God and is not in any way human wisdom.

There is someone in my life who as soon as I begin to speak they switch off, walk in and out of the conversation, stop me speaking, change the subject back to them or introduce another topic, keeping it light, not delving too deep unless they are speaking. I find this difficult but I am just learning to shut up, I know God wants me to speak to this person, to remain on good terms but each meeting I find it more difficult. It is something I work on daily. Each time this person speaks to me I am wounded but God heals my wounds, shows me the good in what they have to say which sometimes is the opposite to what they say. There will be many of these type of people in my life going forward and I will learn, glean much, from what they say and keep silent.

The knowledge of Jesus and the grace of God have transformed our lives and our conscience pricks us, the Holy Spirit convicts us to work through these difficult relationships. There are aspects in my life that are being worked on right now, my problem with authoritative women (I wonder why I have a problem with that), the ongoing saga of xxx, learning how not to be a difficult person and dealing with difficult people. Every one has a story, everyone has something to say and we all can express it in love to one another.

There is a joy in the learning, just as I have learned to enjoy study so I enjoy learning how to knock off the prickly bits. We are not made new to stay at that point, we have grow, grow in faith, grow in love, grow in knowledge and continue to do what is pleasing to the Lord.

All praise be to God for ever and ever

Amen

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]”

 

Amen