The Holy Spirit in You

Today’s reading is Romans 8:1-17Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Gaby.

Available from 6am Monday

How does the Holy Spirit have a role in us as individuals?

Have you ever heard of an ear worm? It’s a song that gets stuck in your head and that you can’t get rid of, examples are the Spitting Image chicken song, Agadoo, anything by Crazy Frog, more recently the Coffin Dance. Well as annoying as these songs are they usually pass although apparently chewing gum can help cure your ear worm… who knew…

However what is more damaging is the mental tapes many of us have playing in our heads all the time. Some of us may have “I’m not good enough I never have been” Others may have “God doesn’t really love me, if he did then he never would have allowed this to happen… it may be a bit more subtle where you can never quite do enough, achieve enough, earn enough, you can never sit down and stop and say “Today I did a good day’s work and I have deserved a break.” Perhaps think for a moment what your internal voice says about your relationship with God.

Do you know that God loves you? He loves you so much. He honestly does. There is nothing you can do that will make him love you more or less. He sent his Son to die for you. Jesus was condemned to die for us so that we don’t have to be. His painful death on the cross was for us and his resurrection beat the power of sin and death so we too can enjoy resurrection. Jesus’ death also bought us acceptance with God because we are no longer condemned when we are in Christ. In Christ we are accepted. That’s where this passage starts with acceptance in Christ. You are free from the law of sin and death. These voices that speak nasty things to you about God and about yourself are not true.

You see God has given us something to overpower those voices. His Holy Spirit living in us. Verse 5 tells us:

”Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

This voice in our head tells us rubbish things about ourselves and it also tells us to do things we know we’re not supposed to do. This voice is what this passage refers to as the flesh. I’ll give you a small snap shot of what my flesh wants: Coffee cake, Prosecco, Pimms, holidays all the time, sleep all the time, not to pray, to read my book when I’m meant to be working because no one will know, to check out Facebook on my phone rather than engage with my children, various sexual sins usually based on attractive men with no shirts on, wine on a daily basis, to tell everybody else what to do and expect them to do it, to go and hang the washing in the sun rather than continue with this sermon to drive rather than walk etc. And that was just a tiny percent. Most of these things aren’t wrong but need to be in the right context. The flesh desires these things out of the right context, sex out of marriage, leisure during work, using the earth’s resources when I don’t need to…

However those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires… I would love to tell you that’s me… but I have an inkling that even though I know and love and try to follow the Holy Spirit leadings I am more fleshy than I’d like… literally as well as metaphorically!

This is a problem because as our verse tells us: 6–8

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

I don’t know about you but I want to have the mind of life and peace and yet it doesn’t feel like I do. The verse goes on to say that:

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

That’s pretty serious. I want to please God. The verse goes on though to tell us

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

So as a Spirit filled Christian I have the spirit, I belong to Christ, Later in this chapter, vs. 26 it tells us the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Boy am I weak. But it’s OK because the Spirit is already in me. I need to listen for him and not the flesh and follow him.

Sometimes we have glorious moments when we get it right. The still small voice of the Spirit tells us to do something and it all turns out well. Sometimes it doesn’t quite go so well and we do something we think God wants us to do and it turns out badly. I would rather have things turn wrong because I was trying to follow God rather than just doing the wrong on my own.

So we dust ourselves off and try again.

When I was 18 I was finally taught that God could speak and he still does today and he does this through the Holy Spirit. That God could speak to me blew my mind… what would he say? How would he speak? I didn’t know but I figured I wanted to find out. It was a very simple moment, I lay on my bed and said “God if you can speak, please speak to me.” I kind of expected to fall asleep but instead I had some very clear pictures in my mind. Pictures of me receiving new life, of my sin forgiven and of people worshipping God.

From that day I realised God, the Holy Spirit was present and active and He could help me. Since then I sought his guidance regularly, his presence too. As time goes on I have become more adept at understanding what God has been trying to say, sometimes it’s through scripture, sometimes through a word in my head or a thought in my heart, we had once decided to leave a church and then I had no peace until we reversed the decision. Sean then went on to lead the church through an interregnum and the church is now growing and prospering. I’m not sure what would have happened if we hadn’t experienced the Holy discontent the Spirit gave us.

How does the Holy Spirit speak to you? Do you get a sense of alertness, does a Scripture stand out to you in a way it never has before? Do you have a nagging thought you need to say something to someone but you don’t know why? If you don’t know then it’s time you found out. God has things to say to us for us to do and ways of making our life easier.

I currently am trying to work out an impossible puzzle of when to have the Youth Discipleship group. God is going to have to sort it out as I have no idea!

Sean and I have always prayed about even the smallest things and we were buying a new car. Before I was married I walked into a showroom and saw two I could afford. I felt the Holy Spirit say the white one. I bought it, it served me well until we had to buy a bigger car for more children. Car buying part 2. We couldn’t choose between two cars and I prayed and felt the Holy Spirit saying “Buy the green one!”… that would have been really handy if we hadn’t been choosing between a blue and a black… however later in the day the dealer who was selling our car phoned us to say there had been an error on the paperwork and the black car was actually green… so we took the green one and it served us faithfully for many years until we had to buy a new car with more seats… when we prayed and my sister prayed and told she had a picture of a blue car and so we bought the blue one. It has served us like a dream for 7 years and seems to be continuing to do so. Silly story but important message that God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit to make our lives better.

Verse 12 tells us in fact in quite strong words that we now have an obligation to live by the Spirit. But that WE ARE NOT SLAVES, WE ARE FREE…

It’s like being in love… I’m not obliged to do nice things for Sean because I love him… I do it because I want to… I’m not obliged to listen or watch for the Spirit but I do it because I love God, her loves me and his ways are so much better and more fun.

I was once led by the Spirit to buy a Big Issue magazine which I decided to read on the aeroplane as I flew home to Tenerife. It had an advert for Community Service Volunteers. I wanted to go back to the UK but not rush into a job and so I cut out the advert and applied. I was accepted. I moved back to the UK to Bridgewater for the summer. I then had plenty of time to led the Spirit lead me into my next adventure to move to Wokingham where I did all sorts of things that impacted my life now including meeting Sean. The Spirit could have used another route but this is the route.

I always see the Holy Spirit’s guidance a bit like a sat. nav. When I’m driving most places I use Google Maps because I have a terrible sense of direction… when I go wrong the sat. nav. tells me how to correct what I have done or when to make a u-turn. Often the sat. nav. autocorrects the route for me making allowances for when I went wrong. The Holy Spirit is constantly on autocorrect helping us to keep on the path that we wanted to go on. He makes up for our errors, diverting us back towards the plan. We do need to remain listening to him. Sometimes he shouts loudly but mostly it’s that still small voice, persistent and kind breaking through the ear worms and negative tapes that we play inside our head. When the Holy Spirit leads the plan then even if it seems to go wrong in humanly terms we know it is right.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

The Spirit leads us into our adoption as sons and daughters of God. You are a child of God. You are an heir to both the suffering and glory of Christ. We share his sufferings we share his glory.

Lord Jesus I pray that today you will help us to hear your voice, to recognise your voice, that we would hear you over the loud voice that our own flesh makes, that you would speak to us about our lives, show us how to serve you and whom needs our attention. As we share your suffering please let us see your glory.

Amen.

There will be a video version of the service.

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Two Roads

Today’s reading is Matthew 28:16-20Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by John.

Thanks to the Robinsons our Mission partners for the video. I don’t know about you, somehow seeing the place and people opens a whole new appreciation for us. So lets hope that has inspired you in your prayers and understanding of what is done to make Thailand a Place of Grace.

Just before I get to share with you a few thoughts on the content of our all age slots over the past few weeks, A quick update. It was great hearing how great it was to hear the young voices back in the building again. Sunday Club met in the morning, youth in the evening and we were even able to welcome a few families back to King’s Kids on Tuesday. Do share the fact that these groups are up and running again and pray that they will be safe, for new children to make friends and feel at home quickly and all these places will be where people encounter the alive again Jesus.

So just a few thoughts on our series. As way of introduction, I was doing some training about storytelling this week and it reminded me of one of the funniest quotes, I have come across. It’s from the blurb on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series in a book called Mort. “Death comes to everyone. He came to Mort and offered him a job!” Why share that. Well quite simply it highlights it as a reality for all of humankind to face. Jesus had to face it too. Remarkably he came through the other side as conqueror of death itself.

There then exists the question. If you are going to defeat death. What do you next? It’s a genuinely unique question that no one else has had to face. We might expect fanfares and crowds, instead we have had breakfast on the beach, reassurance for doubting disciples, worship on the mountain top as Phil read for us this morning and a trip down two roads.

Here is famous landmark junction, the 3 lamps. Famous not just because one of our members lives near it (do you know who?) but marks the point where two major routes split and leave the city towards Bath or Wells. The Live Lent course drawing on material from the Archbishop’s Lent book “Living His Story” by Hannah Steele talked a lot about our stories of coming to faith. By way of either Damascus or Emmaus Roads. The distinction being that for some people there is a definite and significant moment where their life changes round. For others it resembles more of the meander along the Emmaus Road with a growing understanding over time as more of the story is revealed.

Spectacularly for us we don’t have to choose. I find it terribly exciting that God has the power and ability to reach out and rescue people in the circumstances of the Damascus Road. Saul: I have a job for you, so please change all of your assumptions, now. In others, he will journey alongside us for as long as it takes, answering all our questions, calming all our objections gently nudging us down the Emmaus Road. Like any comparison, there can be the tension of the grass is always greener on the other side. Here’s the good news: Both roads start with and there was this God man Jesus, who faced up to death like everyone else and unlike everyone else came out the other side. Both roads finish with in my Father’s house are many mansions.

Both roads also demonstrate the infinite lengths, God will go. People matter to him. Breakfast with Peter does as well. You messed, it is done I have a job for you. Saul, you are persecuting me: I have a job for you. Thomas, put your hands in here: I have a job for you. Is that just for those few spectacular Apostles, I am off the hook, I am not going to do anything special like them. Let’s debunk that one as well: He spent the time on Cleopas and we have no more mention of him. He was worth it. Yes, Saul would become Paul, but what about Ananias. Imagine that as your quiet time. You want me to do what? Saul, Lord you do know he’s the one arresting everyone. Isn’t there another somewhat easier strategy? No? You want him. OK, Lord I trust you. Behind every Saul there’s an Ananias, praying, listening, being brave. It might not be a giant career changing move, he might just be calling us to brave for one or to journey along the Emmaus Road with someone.

As we get ready for Ascension, we get to the Great Commission. Up on the Mountain, the disciples get their final briefing. The stirring words to go and make disciples. The thought I want to leave you with is with all the disciples had seen from the Conqueror of Death, some of them still had their doubts. What did they do? They worshipped. These two roads offer so much, but they are not always straight. Sometimes all we can say is Hallelujah Anyway. You defeated death and right now that will have to do.

How would you describe your story of faith: Emmaus road or Damascus Road? Does it matter?

How do you face up doubts in your life?

What things help us to be brave like Ananias?

There will be a video version of the service.

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The Holy Spirit in the Church

Today’s reading is Ephesians 2:17-22Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Richard.

In our sermon series we continue looking at the person and role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Over the last two weeks Ian and Gaby have spoken about the Holy Spirit being one with God the Father and Jesus. Both have stressed the importance of the Holy Spirit in our Christian walk. Today we are looking at the Holy Spirit in the Church.

As I child I had both a clockwork train set and an electric train set, probably like many boys of my generation. My clockwork train set was a lovely tin plate Hornby one and I was thrilled to get it when I was six, now highly collectable—wish I had kept it!! The problem with a clockwork train set is that once the spring inside has fully unwound it stops, its source of power has gone unless you wind it up again. Now the electric train set I got one Christmas was a different kettle of fish—it was hooked up to a permanent supply of electricity and the train would go round forever. The only thing that stopped it were my parents, particularly if I left it running for ages in the front room!

A church which limits or ignores the Holy Spirit is like that clockwork train—it will run out of energy and power because it is operating out of its own strength. It will be ineffective. The church which is open to the Holy Spirit, is as God intended it to be and will be a powerhouse for the Gospel.

Why do I say this?

  • Because when you read the New Testament it is clear that the Holy Spirit was both the architect and power behind the early church.
  • In addition Jesus promised his disciples that when He was gone, he would send His Spirit to be with them.

John 14:15-17Open Link in New Window says

‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

Jesus words were fulfilled as we know at Pentecost in that upper room.

For those disciples who received the Holy Spirit marked by tongues of fire, it was not some kind of nice personal spiritual experience—it was utterly transformational. The disciples immediately went out and preached to the people assembled for the Passover festival. They spoke with boldness in different languages with power as a result many were saved. Acts 2Open Link in New Window talks of over 3000 people being baptised. Last week Gaby talked powerfully about being baptised and how it transformed her. What did these 3000 people do after they received the Spirit through baptism:

Acts 2:42Open Link in New WindowThey devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching, prayer and breaking of bread and the results were:

  • Everyone was filled with awe
  • There were many wonders and signs done by the Apostles. Peter, we read in the power of the Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ healed a crippled man.
  • All the believers were together and had everything in common
  • They sold their possessions and gave to the poor
  • They kept praising God

And… Many people were added to their number.

This is a group of people utterly transformed by the power of the Spirit, it is like a wildfire.

This early church was completely Spirit filled, Spirit orientated and Spirit led, and this meant for practical matters as well.

In Acts 6Open Link in New Window we learn the church had grown to such an extent it was limiting the work of the Apostles. They were spending a good deal of time in the distribution of food to the poor rather than going out preaching the Gospel. So, they asked the wider group of disciples to appoint seven people to carry out the administration of alms.

What qualifications would you expect for this role?

Able administrators, proven managers, experts in logistics… perhaps? No, they were to choose seven people who were full of the Spirit and Wisdom. (One of those chosen was Stephen who was to die for his faith—it was said that he had the face of an Angel, he was so filled with the love of God.)

The results of this Spirit filled decision—the number of disciples increased rapidly and a large number of Jewish temple priests became believers. The fire keeps spreading and starts to reach other places.

We read later in Acts of the conversion of Saul on the Road to Damascus and in Acts 13Open Link in New Window, he is with a group of elders of the church in Antioch. Whilst they are worshipping and fasting the Holy Spirit said ‘Set Apart Saul (Paul) and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them. When they finished praying and fasting they placed their hands on them and sent them off. What does this say about the church—they put prayer and worship at the heart of everything they did. This allowed the Holy Spirit to lead them.

What a great model of church. It wasn’t a case of here are our plans, now let’s pray for God’s blessing. It was let’s pray and worship and see what God wants of us.

Again the result is the same—there is action and the Gospel spreads. If it were not for the likes of Paul, Barnabas and all the others we may never have heard about the life changing salvation that Jesus brings.

As I read though parts of Acts the more and more excited I got about the role of Holy Spirit in the church.

The Spirit is not just about spreading the Gospel, his work underpins the very fabric of a church community. Given free reign the Holy Spirit builds the body of the church by using the gifts of Gods people. In Corinthians 12Open Link in New Window St Paul outlines the gifts of the Spirit given to individuals for the building up of the body of Christ:

  • a message of wisdom
  • a message of knowledge
  • gifts of healing
  • miraculous powers
  • prophecy
  • distinguishing between spirits
  • speaking in different kinds of tongues
  • the interpretation of tongues

And in Corinthians 13Open Link in New Window we learn that the greatest gift is love and this is given to all of us by the power of the Spirit. Love enables the body of Christ, us, to work together, to live together and most of all to serve each other and those around us.

I have spoken this morning about the Holy Spirit in the early church and I have only just scratched the surface. We have seen its rapid growth and its decision making through the power of the Spirit. Of course, we know it wasn’t perfect because Paul and the other letter writers were often correcting errors and poor behaviour of early church communities. But in terms of the pattern for church it certainly serves as an excellent example. Their priorities were:

  • Prayer
  • Worship
  • Openness to God’s leading and the Holy Spirit’s prompting
  • Action and service

What does this mean for St Matthew’s today? Are we open to the power of the Holy Spirit not just as individuals but as part of the body of Christ?

As Ian reminded us in the first sermon of this series in the St Matthew’s church profile it said this: our church seeks to honour God through Word, Spirit and Sacrament.

  1. This is a good start—at least we recognise that the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in our church along with the Scriptures and the Sacraments. I do believe the Spirit does and has worked within our church over the years and many of us are open to the work of the Spirit within our lives as individuals. I see many of the fruits of the Spirit exhibited in our St Matthew’s community and in particular the love we have for each other. This has enabled us to support each other through the biggest crisis since the 2nd World War and I do not say that lightly.
  2. We have had prophecies in services and people touched by the Holy Spirit in services. Indeed, Minty and I were both overcome by the Holy Spirit some years back on the same day when we were prayed for after a service. We both ended up on the floor and both of us subsequently were ordained. The re-ordering of the church to create the upper and lower spaces was before my time but I know it was a prayerful and Spirit filled decision to go ahead.
  3. I do believe we need to engage corporately and intentionally with the Holy Spirit again in St Matthew’s. I know that all of us would love to see our church grow and reach out to all those people who are seeking something to fill that God shaped hole in their lives. There is a needy world out there, people have had the opportunity of the last year to think about their lives and what it all means. With the power of the Spirit they can be reached.

I would encourage everyone to re-read the book of Acts—it is breath-taking and that same Spirit is with us today.

I am going to say a short prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to come afresh in each one of our lives and the life of St Matthew’s.

Dear Lord
We pray for your Holy Spirit to come in power in St Matthew’s today.
Lord, inspire and lead us by the power of your Spirit, refresh each one of us and prepare us for the work you want us to do in pursuit of your Gospel.

In Jesus name amen.

There will be a video version of the service.

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