To Will and to Do
Posted on 10/13/2013 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)
*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***
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YOUR WORD IS A LAMP
Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
No longer do we walk in darkness
No longer do we walk in darkness
No longer do we walk in darkness
For you have called us out of darkness
into your marvelous light
We turn our backs on what is wrong
and choose to do what's right
Your blood is flowing through my veins
to cleanse until all that remains
is clay that's molded through the pains of life
Your Spirit blows into these bones
to claim this temple as its home
and starts a fire that soon becomes a blaze
YOU ARE MY ALL IN ALL
You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all
Seeking you as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I'd be a fool
You are my all in all
Jesus, Lamb of God
worthy is your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
worthy is your name
Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again I bless your name
You are my all in all
When I fall down you pick me up
When I am dry you fill my cup
You are my all in all
I LOVE YOU LORD
I love you Lord
and I lift my voice
To worship you
O my soul, rejoice!
Take joy, my King
in what you hear
Let it be a sweet,
sweet sound, in your ear
THERE IS NONE LIKE YOU
There is none like You
No one else can touch my heart like You do
I could search for all eternity long
And find there is none like You
Your mercy flows like a river wide
And healing comes from Your hands
Suffering children are safe in Your arms
*** for the message introduction, listen to the audio ***
Believe it or not, in just a couple of months, we'll be entering into a season in which we celebrate the entrance of the Messiah into the world. And while December 25th is not the actual birth date of Jesus, it is the time we remember that night on which the star rested over a lowly stable, shepherds were visited by angels singing praises to God, and a child was born of a virgin, the spotless lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world.
And in two more months, we will celebrate this pivotal point in the history of humanity. But today I'd like for us to travel down a different road just a little more than a year earlier in time. Let's walk down the road that leads to Judea, to the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth.
Here, too, a birth is about to take place. But this is not the birth of the messiah. This is not a birth from an immaculate conception. His mother is not a virgin. In fact, she is an old lady, much too old to have a child. She and her husband had long since given up on having any children.
But an angel appeared to Zacharias, and everything changed.
Let's read about this in Luke chapter 1, verse 5 through 17.
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,
9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
So through an old and childless woman, God brought forth a child who would prepare the way for the savior of the human race. For such a task, you'd almost think John must have been some kind of angel, or deity, or a reincarnation of Elijah, or an immaculately-conceived son of God.
You'd ALMOST think that, except that none of those things are true.
And we tend to think, perhaps without knowing it, that someone has to be some great man or woman of God with a halo around his or her head and daily visitations from Jesus in the flesh, for them to walk free from habitual sins and from stumbling almost daily.
But just like our near-assumptions of John the Baptist, these ideas also are not true.
In fact, the same factor that allowed John to prepare the way for the One who would change the potential course of all who ever live and die, also is the factor that will empower you and me to walk in victory over sin.
We've talked quite a bit about getting serious about going after God and getting every hint of compromise, complacency, and all excuses out of our lives. And this is exactly what we must do if we are to stand through the times that are about to come upon the earth and whose shadow is already casting its cold and deadly venom upon the souls of all mankind.
But we cannot do this through will power alone. We cannot always pull ourselves up by our boot straps, as the saying goes. While we must press toward the mark of the high calling as though everything depends upon us, if our faith is in our own efforts, we will ultimately fail.
John the Baptist definitely lived a disciplined and unusual life. Alcohol never touched his lips. He was sexually abstinant. And instead of seeking the pleasures of comfort and a life filled with pursuit of happiness, pleasure, and personal ambitions, he poured every fiber of his highly-passionate being into that to which he had been called -- preaching the message of repentance, turning from sin to holiness, and following hard after God.
But if John had done all this of his own accord, he most likely would have been a raving lunatic instead of the voice of God. John had something more than will power. He had something greater than focus. He had something more motivating than passion. And that something is the same something that, when you get it, will set you on fire for Jesus, and will give you the power to walk in victory over sin, compromise, and complacency.
Let's skip ahead in time a few months, and pick up our story in Luke chapter one and verse 39.
39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,
40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.
41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."
So Elizabeth is carrying within her the promise spoken to her husband by the angel. The baby boy in her womb will be the one who prepares the way for the coming Messiah. And then something very important happens: Mary travels to see her, and is walking down the road to meet her.
Of course Mary was just another woman, just like any of you women here today. She was a women who loved God and had a heart that was humble and obedient to the Word of the Lord. And she happened to be the vessel God chose to bring his only begotten Son into the world, not the seed of man, but the offspring of God himself, conceived of the Holy Spirit.
I don't believe it was the greeting of Mary alone that brought about this earth-changing miracle we're about to see. You see, Mary was not alone. Within her womb she carried the Son of the Living God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Word of God made flesh, the eternal, all-powerful "I Am." And when she spoke to Elizabeth, the Spirit of the Living God flowed from within her womb, filled Elizabeth, and ......
"The babe leaped in (her) womb for joy."
What did we read in verse fifteen? "He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb."
I believe that this same Messiah whose way John was called to prepare is the same one who filled John with his Holy Spirit that day. And this is the very thing that kissed the promise of God and turned that promise into the power to perform everything God had called him to do.
And you know, it's no different with you and me. Every single one of us has a promise and a calling on our lives. But we live day after day not seeing it come to pass, or perhaps not even knowing what it is. But God is sending a greeting to you, a Word from the Lord, a shout in the spirit realm, a divine breath from Heaven that will flow into your being and will kiss the promise and the calling that is within you. And when this happens, that promise and that calling will leap for joy within you, as you are filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
Holy Spirit, prepare, purify and sanctify our hearts, so that we can be filled with you.
Let's turn the pages of Holy Scripture a few pages forward, and read the words of the Lord through Paul and Timothy in Philippians chapter two, verses twelve and thirteen:
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Did John desire to do the will of God? Of course he did. And did he perform that will? Most definitely. And according to the passage we just read, why did he both desire and perform the will of God?
It was the working of the Holy Spirit in him. On his own, he might have just lived a normal life, perhaps becoming a fisherman or a carpenter, marrying a wife, and raising a family. And if that had been what God had called him to do, then he could have had no higher calling.
And God has placed a promise and a calling within YOU and upon YOUR life, too. And just like John, you cannot fully realize that promise and that calling without that continual filling with the Holy Spirit.
I can't tell you what God has in mind for you. But there are promises and callings he has given to every single one of us.
He has promised that he will keep us in perfect peace, and that promise is coupled with the calling of keeping our minds stayed upon him.
He has promised that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us, and that promise is coupled with the calling of submitting ourselves to God.
He has promised to open the windows of heaven and to pour out a blessing that we cannot contain, and that promise is coupled with the calling of obeying him with what we have.
He has promised we will receive, the door will open, and we will find, and that promise is coupled with the calling of dilligently asking, seeking, and knocking, and to never give up on what we know is of him.
So these and many other promises and callings are upon each of our lives. And just like the promise to Zecharias and Elizabeth and the calling upon their promise was empowered with supernatural possibility when Mary's God-saturated greeting met the ears of the one who carried them, so you too will find the power to answer God's callings upon your life and become partakers of the promises of God to you when his Word penetrates into your heart and you are filled with Spirit.
We've taked about rooting out of our lives those things that would dilute our focus and would compromise the centrality of God's Kingdom and his Righteousness in everything we say, think, and do. We saw from Scripture that this is necessary if we are to receive that ongoing filling with his Spirit. But talking about these things is a lot easier than actually doing it.
And that's the real focus here today. How DO we keep from slipping back into our path of least resistance? How DO we consistently keep Jesus at the center of everything we say, think, and do? How DO we overcome those sins and habits to which we hopelessly fall time and time again?
Paul asked this very same question in Romans chapter seven when he says, "Wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?" He also struggled with desiring to do the right thing, but doing the wrong thing instead.
A few verses later, in Romans chapter eight starting with verse one, he says this:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Remember what Paul said just a few verses earlier, after lamenting his struggle between the flesh and the spirit? He said, "who will save me from this body of death?"
And just a few verses later he says, "If the Spirit of (God) dwells in you, He will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit."
He says that sin and the works of the flesh are death, and that righteousness and life in the spirit are life. And then he says that if the Spirit of God dwells in you, he will bring you life. Do you see the connection here?
It is God who works in us to desire and then perform that which pleases him. This is the law of life in the spirit, and freedom from the law of sin and death. It is freedom from condemnation as we are empowered by God to perform his will, as the promises and callings he has placed within us are brought out of death of carnal, fleshly living, and raised to life, leaping for joy within us as a fresh wind from heaven floods into us, taking up continual residence.
Starting in the next verse, he says,
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors?not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
For those of you who are born of the Spirit, the Spirit himself is bearing witness with your spirit that you are the child of God, even as those words are read. You indeed yearn to cry out to him, "Abba, Father!" And this is the Spirit working life in you, and that life yearns for the Father. You see, God has already been working in you both to desire AND to perform that which pleases him. If you have the desire, that is evidence that God is working in you. And God is working in you for a reason.
We read in Luke 11:9-13,
9 "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?
12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
Those words "ask," "seek," and "knock" in the original Greek are continual verbs -- they mean "ask and keep on asking," "seek and keep on seeking," and "knock and keep on knocking."
Then he makes a point that answers many of our fears. For many of us, the moving of the Holy Spirit is unfamiliar to us, and for ALL of us, it's foreign to our fleshly nature. In fact, it is DEATH to our fleshly nature.
But Jesus says here, "If your son asks you for bread, will you give him a rock? Or if he asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you, being evil, know how to give GOOD gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?"
You see, God isn't going to give you something bad. Whatever fears or reservations you might have about desperately seeking after and fully surrendering to a total infilling with his Holy Spirit, those fears and reservations are unfounded. If a good father with a sinful human nature will not give bad things to his child, why would we fear that we will get something bad if we ask our Father in heaven, who has no shadow of sin in him and who is only Good?
Will power is good, and God expects us to do our part. Paul says that he buffets his body daily, training, excercising, and disciplining himself. But he then says that this is not the most valuable thing. Rather, we need to become serious about seeking God daily for more and more of his Holy Spirit, so that we will not only desire to please him, but also have the power to live life in the spirit instead of under the dominion of the flesh.
You may not have experienced any lasting success in your struggles with various things in your life. But you can force yourself to seek after God every day. "Lord, I need more of your Spirit in me so I can please you a little more today. Fill me up Lord! I hunger and thirst after you! Cause me to hunger and thirst more and more, and breathe your breath of life into me today."
And just as the Spirit of the Living God brought to life and possibility the promise and calling within John so that the way for the Messiah could be prepared, so he will bring life to the promises and callings on your life so that the way can be prepared for Jesus to show up and turn your world upside down.
Sometimes we wonder why it seems as though Jesus doesn't show up in certain situations in the way we hope and pray he does. But we need to remember that before Jesus steps onto the scene in the way he did while in the flesh, and before Jesus steps onto the scene in the way he did through the early church, speaking the word and seeing the crippled leap up and dance, seeing the blind receive sight, the deaf ears be open, and dead come back to life, and mass revival as thousands come to Jesus after a single presentation of the Gospel; before we can see these things happen in the measure we and God desire, the way has to be prepared.
And this will happen when the Holy Spirit brings the promises and callings to life within us, and we start and continue walking in the Spirit, seeing those promises come to fruition as we answer the calling and direction of God in every area of our life.
So ask and keep on asking. Seek and keep on seeking. Knock and keep on knocking on heaven's door, until God pour out his Holy Spirit upon you, and you are filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit of God.
"For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure."
Lord God, thank you for your word to us today. Thank you that you have given promises to and placed callings upon each and every one of us and offer to us the infilling with your Holy Spirit so that those things can be brought to life.
Thank you that you offer life for those promises and callings because you want us to walk in newness of life and fulfil our purpose and calling.
And thank you that this life you enable us to live in the Spirit instead of in the flesh, and the obedience to your Word and your calling on our lives this infilling makes possible, is preparation for the Messiah to come and manifest himself in and through our lives, bringing healing to the sick, deliverance to those held captive to sin and addiction, joy to those who mourn, peace to those in turmoil, and salvation to all those who, drawn by your presence, call upon the name of the Lord.
If you desire that infilling with the Holy Spirit, or if you want a fresh infilling today, you're invited to get out of your seat and come to the front to seek after God.
And if you don't know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, then I invite you to pray this prayer with me, and let Jesus take you in a new direction. Pray this with me. Say, "Jesus, I accept you as my Lord and Savior. Forgive me for my sins. Come into my heart. And fill me with your Holy Spirit. And I will live for you, all the days of my life. Thank you Father God for adopting me into your family! Amen."
If you'd like someone to pray or minister with you, feel free to instant message one of us, or if you're listening outside of Second Life, you can go to almcyberchurch.org and click the prayer room or pastors' offices link, and contact us there.
This altar is open and you're all invited to get out of your seat right now and make your way to the front and just seek after God. Whenever you need to leave, you're dismissed, and if you can stay until after this time at the altar, you're invited to make your way up the stairs into the room to your left, and we'll meet there in a few minutes for a time of fellowship.
Come, and let's surrender ourselves to God, and to the work of His Holy Spirit within us as He transforms us To Will and To Do.