Pastor Chris Tweitmann
I am directionally challenged. (SLIDE #1) Ask anyone who knows me.
For the longest time I struggled to know the difference between my left and my right.
When it comes to a sense of direction, I definitely have no internal compass.
For me, the invention of the GPS (Global Positioning System) was a life changer.
(SLIDE #2) Having satellites hovering in the sky that make it possible for me
to enter an address into a GPS enabled map app, I can receive instructions by voice,
by written directions, and even by taps on my Apple Watch.
If I miss a turn, get momentarily distracted or just find myself a little bit lost,
(SLIDE #3) my GPS encourages me with the word, “Recalculating…”
and eventually gets me back on track to my destination.
Almost everyone I know uses GPS these days, either in their car or on their cell phones.
We take direction from the GPS. We trust that voice that tells us where to go.
We follow those instructions that guide us
in terms of the best way to reach our destinations.
Long before the advent of such technology,
followers of Jesus were given a built-in GPS. (SLIDE #4)
This is GPS, however, is not a system run by satellites. It is the person of the Holy Spirit.
We are in the midst of a sermon series designed to help us get to know better
this often-forgotten member of the family God, the Holy Spirit.
Last week we began to explore the role or the central activities of the Holy Spirit.
(SLIDE #5) Together we learned the person of the Holy Spirit is the giver of all life.
The Spirit both originates the life we have
and initiates and carries us into the everlasting life to come. (SLIDE #6)
However, we also came to understand the work of the Spirit is not limited
to an event completed in the past or to be completed in the future.
The Holy Spirit is about the ongoing and continuous giving of life.
(SLIDE #7) This aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit is our focus this morning
– how the Holy Spirit sustains or enhances our lives.
We will begin to consider this by listening to the words of the apostle Paul
from his letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome – from the twelfth chapter.
In verse 1, Paul uses the word “therefore.” Anytime you see that word in the Bible,
what comes next is because of what came before it.
Up to this point in his letter, for the first eight chapters,
Paul has covered a lot of ground – explaining our relationship to God before Christ, the significance of the work of Christ on the Cross and through the Resurrection,
and he concludes his presentation of the Gospel with a rousing declaration of
how the follower of Jesus has been freed from any bondage to sin
and instead, is able to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 12 marks a turning point in Paul’s letter.
From here through the end of the letter, Paul teaches what it practically looks like
to rely on the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The first two verses express the foundation for living this kind of life.
Let’s read those verses together. (SLIDE #8 & SLIDE #9)
Even though the person of the Holy Spirit is not explicitly mentioned here,
the work of the Spirit is implied through Paul’s use of the word “transform”
– “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Paul does not call us to transform ourselves but rather to BE transformed.
The one who does the transforming is the person of the Holy Spirit.
Paul admonishes us not to “conform to the pattern of this world”
– for us not to let our lives be shaped by the external influences, expectations,
and pressures that surround us – that bombard us in a broken and chaotic world
but instead, to be changed from within
– to be renewed by the person of the Holy Spirit who is in us.
Three things are going to be accomplished through the remainder of this message.
(SLIDE #10) First, we’ll survey the different aspects of our lives
in which the Holy Spirit seeks to lead & guide us.
Second, we’ll discover the foundational source or means for
this leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, we’ll take away some practical understanding of what
this leading and guidance actually looks like and how it works.
(SLIDE #11) When the scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit’s leading and guiding us,
they do so by pointing to several aspects of our daily lives. (SLIDE #12)
The person of the Holy Spirit gives us our security and our confidence in Christ.
Many of us, despite believing in Jesus, remain trapped in our past.
We find ourselves still haunted by decisions we made,
things we’ve done or left undone, and/or stuff that’s been done unto us.
On our own, stuck in our own head and heart,
we just can’t beyond being ashamed or being bitter, feeling guilty or feeling angry.
For some of us, these patterns of thoughts or posture of feelings
have become habits of living – perhaps even crippling addictions
to which we are bound in a vicious cycle of repetition.
We can’t help ourselves from going back to those old tapes,
from drinking again and again from that same well of poisoned water.
And yet, the Holy Spirit seeks to enhance our lives – to transform them –
by repeatedly reminding us and continually instilling within us that
we are forgiven by Jesus – that thanks to the Cross of Christ,
we are free from judgment – including self-condemnation. (SLIDE #13)
The Bible often speaks of this as the assurance or seal of the Holy Spirit.
Through the work of the Spirit, we can daily receive deep-seated peace & confidence not only about our present (where we find ourselves today)
but also, about our future (whatever tomorrow will bring).
We do not have to live out of guilt and shame and regret.
Who we have been is not who we shall become in Christ.
We can break free of the hurts and abuses and wrongs done unto us.
Our fear, our uncertainty, all of our worries about our lives, this world
– even the reality of death itself need not hold us hostage or keep us paralyzed.
Though we are works in progress, our past does not determine our present or our future. The person of the Holy Spirit gives us our security and our confidence in Christ.
(SLIDE #14) The person of the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom and discernment.
We are regularly confronted with choices – opportunities and obstacles, invitations and challenges – the outcome of which determine and shape the course of our lives.
The Holy Spirit seeks to speak into these kinds of decisions – helping us to process, providing counsel and insight, and prompting us to follow the best path.
By ourselves, we can be vulnerable to our own personal insanity
(repeating the same things over and over again and expecting different results).
On our own, we can be tempted and easily influenced by misdirection,
by the pull of personal pride, by the allure of self-rationalization and self-justification, or the pressure of our peers.
It is not a coincidence that one of Jesus’ nicknames (SLIDE #15)
for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.
In a world that frequently tells us truth is whatever we make it to be,
the Holy Spirit counters this lie by teaching and reminding us what is true
is not subjective – something we make up on our own
but something we can learn and follow from God in Christ.
And so, the Spirit leads us into all truth by encouraging, sometimes provoking
and often confronting us with not only what is wrong but also what is right.
The Spirit refocuses our thoughts, words, and attitudes, empowering us
not only to do right but working within us the desire to want to do right.
(SLIDE #16) The person of the Holy Spirit gives us a purpose, gifts, and a calling.
Your life, my life, is not an accident.
Each one of us has been fearfully & wonderfully created by God for a reason.
Another way of expressing this is God has a vision, a dream for your life.
Our lives have been saved by Christ to glorify God through the fulfillment of
that vision, that dream that the Lord has for each one of you.
Our God-given purpose is hardwired into how God made us
– through the natural abilities and talents God entrusted to you,
through the unique personality traits which God instilled in you,
through the distinctive passions the Lord has kindled within you
– the things you care about, the things that make your heart beat faster.
through the specific experiences that have shaped our lives.
Lots of people struggle to perceive and understand how all of these ingredients
of their life work together in any sort of meaningful & fruitful way. But think about it.
The Lord would not give us our in-born talents, personalities and passions
– not to mention all kinds of life experiences and then not use them.
The Holy Spirit unveils how all these different but interrelated strands
come together to provide direction for our lives.
The Spirit helps us to embrace these aspects of ourselves,
so we can better focus our energy and efforts productively,
so we can find contentment and satisfaction in what we are doing
so that our work is not in vain but expands the grace, hope, and love
of the Kingdom of God.
Not only this, as Paul outlines in the middle of this chapter, (SLIDE #17)
the Holy Spirit gives to each one of us particular gifts (SLIDE #18)
– what are often calling spiritual gifts – for the benefit of sharing the Gospel,
fostering unity, promoting reconciliation both within the community of faith
and in the broader, wider world all around us.
Something else that is important to notice here is this work of the Holy Spirit
to enhance and ultimately to transform life is not just about the individual.
Yes, it’s personal, through Christ, the Spirit of the Living God, lives in you
and is working to bring a new creation – your best and truest self. (SLIDE #19)
But this work of the Spirit also is corporate.
This same Holy Spirit is building and maturing the community
of those who follow Jesus, the Church, the Body of Christ. (SLIDE #20)
We cannot miss how Paul underscores this as well.
We can summarize this work of the Spirit to enhance and transform our lives,
this way: The Holy Spirit’s work in the accomplishment of our salvation,
is not only by leading us to Christ but also by reproducing us His image. (SLIDE #21)
The Holy Spirit working in us seeks to transform us into the likeness of Jesus.
Paul declares this explicitly in another of his letters, the second one to the Corinthians:
(SLIDE #22) “And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more. – 2 Corinthians 3:18
All of these encouragements Paul offers us here in the rest of chapter 12
about how to think, to speak, to act and to engage with each other,
they are the way Jesus walked and talked and live while on this earth.
But we make a mistake if we read Paul’s words here as being primarily
about self-effort – us trying hard to be like Jesus.
No, all of what Paul describes is the kind of person
we can be through yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit
and let the character of Christ be formed in us.
But once again, it’s not an instantaneous change.
We are not made sinless and completely Christ-like overnight.
Daily renewal but doesn’t mean every day or moment in our lives is perfect.
No, dying to our old, broken selves and learning how to rise, to grow and mature
to our new, full self in Christ takes time. It is a moment by moment, daily process.
That’s why Paul, in yet another letter he wrote to the Galatians talks about
what he calls the fruit of the Spirit. (SLIDE #23)
If you remember his description of that fruit, it is a picture of
the blossoming of the character of Christ both in and through us. (SLIDE #24)
We come now to the question of how the Holy Spirit leads and guides us in these ways.
Early on in my relationship with the Holy Spirit,
I thought the way it worked was something like this. (SLIDE #25) (Magic 8-Ball)
I’d throw out a question or a concern to the Holy Spirit,
looking for a little guidance or direction and I’d wait to be shaken up a bit, (SLIDE #26)
to receive a sign, that gave me an answer.
Honestly, I was the victim of a lot of instruction about the Holy Spirit that may have sounded good but really turned to truly bad and frankly dangerous theology.
I was encouraged to recognize the leading of the Holy Spirit
by just “trusting and following my heart.”
But then as I studied the Bible more, I couldn’t help but notice the scriptures tell us
over & over again that are not hearts are not reliable conduits for the Holy Spirit.
The prophet Jeremiah even once wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things….”
Another variation of this kind of advice I was given was expressed this way.
I can recognize the guidance of the Holy Spirit once I receive “peace in my heart.”
Yeah, I don’t know about you but despite having a peace in my heart,
I’ve still ended up making some stupid, regrettable decisions
that were definitely not of the Holy Spirit.
And come to think of it, didn’t Eve (and then later, Adam) have peace in their hearts about eating the forbidden fruit the serpent gave to them?
The other gauge I was taught for recognizing the Spirit’s leading was
what is often referred to as the “open door” policy.
The gist is the Spirit opens the doors the Spirit wants us to go through
and closes the ones we are not supposed to go through.
This too, proves to be an unbiblical and therefore unreliable assessment
of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
After all, the door to run to Tarshish was wide open for Jonah
when he didn’t want to answer the Lord’s call to go to Nineveh.
How did that work out for him?
I don’t think any of us would argue the Spirit was leading Jonah through that open door.
No, sometimes there are open doors in our lives that we are not meant
to walk through and sometimes there are doors closed in our lives
that the Spirit is calling us to open.
So then, if all these are wrong. How does the Holy Spirit lead and guide us?
The answer is through the Word of God. (SLIDE #27)
Jesus clearly stated the Holy Spirt is our teacher, our reminder, our encourager
but the source material for the counsel and direction of the Holy Spirit is
always the Word of God – specifically but not limited to the Word made flesh
– the character and commands of Christ.
A GPS can only function if it has a map of the area it needs to navigate.
Just as a GPS uses maps to give us directions,
the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to provide guidance.
For the Bible is God’s roadmap for our life.
Jesus, as the Word made flesh, reflecting the perfection of humanity as God intended,
– how he lived, how he worked, how we engaged others,
how he communed with the Father, how he faced persecution, abuse, even death,
is the One whom the Holy Spirit leads and guides us to follow
in order to live our lives in the way that is pure, right, and good. (SLIDE #28)
The Word of God and the Spirit of God are inseparable from each other.
Some seek to experience the Spirit apart from the Word.
But apart from the Word of God, we hear and see what we want to hear and see.
And this leads not only to a lot of confusion but often disaster.
The inseparability of the Word and the Spirit applies the other way as well.
Some know the Word of God
without any interaction or dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
But this leads to a lifeless, rote, and dull spouting of verses ABOUT God
rather than an active relationship WITH God.
At best, we find ourselves practicing a mechanical obedience
– doing what we believe we are supposed to do to satisfy God
but not ever really living for the Lord – doing what we are called to do and be
because we want to draw closer to His presence, to know Christ more intimately.
We are to commune with God, not just obey God.
God wants a relationship, not another religion.
Therefore, there can be no true, sincere obedience to the Word apart from the Spirit.
While we are forgiven, we can’t live out of that forgiveness & overcome sin without the Spirit.
The most reliable guide to the will of God is
the Word of God and the Spirit of God working in tandem with each other.
The Word through the Spirit is clear and unchanging in revealing
the specific shape and general direction our lives are to take.
The Holy Spirit makes the Word of God come alive in us
all the while protecting us protecting us from playing Bible lottery.
The Spirit using our God given intellect, explains the meaning of that Word for us
in the context of what it means for all people, offers us personal insight,
applies that Word to our questions, our doubts, and our plans,
and empowers us to follow the wisdom and direction of that Word.
If you want to hear the Spirit – to be led and directed by the Spirit, open your Bible.
Read it. Study it. Know it.
The more scripture you know the more illumination the Holy Spirit can give.
Through the Holy Spirit as your teacher and your guide,
download the map of the Word of God into your life – your mind, your heart,
and your memory. Make it a part of who you are. (SLIDE #29)
Because we won’t know the Spirit any more than we know the Word of God.
And we won’t know the Word of God any more than we know the Spirit of God.
Finally, here’s some practical understanding of what this leading and guidance of
the Holy Spirit through the Word of God actually looks like and how it works.
Biblically, there is no standard, detailed prescription or formula
for HOW the Holy Spirit guides and directs our lives.
However, there is a basic pattern or model we witness in the scriptures.
Again, rooted in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit lead and guides us
through three interconnected ways. (SLIDE #30)
Through our circumstances – being aware of where we are & who we are with.
Through other Christians – followers of Jesus who are committed to
abiding in the Word and Spirit as we are.
Through prayer – with prayer being less of a catalogue of our needs
and more of a dialogue with a person – a conversation with the Spirit drawn not of abstraction but from having our Bibles open – being, once again, in the Word.
These three streams are not separate. All three should be in concert with each other
– affirming each other and pointing in the same direction.
We also need to realize the different kind of decisions we can make and recognize
the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit isn’t the same for each of them. (SLIDE #31)
There are decisions that are matters of righteousness
– choices related to God’s rules for life – decisions that are either right or wrong.
The direction of the Word and the Spirit in terms of such matters
will be singular, convicting, and absolute.
There are decisions that are matters of good judgment
– choices that are not necessarily a matter of right or wrong
but choices where one decision is better or wiser than another.
The direction of the Word and Spirit in such instances will prompt or nudge you BUT ultimately will leave you with a sense of possibility & freedom in making a decision.
Finally, there are decisions that trivial matters – things of little consequence.
Outside of a truly extraordinary situation, the Holy Spirit isn’t looking to give direction.
We need to understand Peter and Paul and the rest of the people
we read about in the Bible didn’t get a vision or word of knowledge a day.
The Holy Spirit wasn’t incessantly speaking to them all the time.
And yet, this doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit only occasionally led and directed them.
Paul specifically stated his whole ministry was led by the Holy Spirit.
We just don’t always get to immediately see or hear
the leading and guidance the Holy Spirit is providing to us.
Most of my decisions have not come out of strong, mysterious urging, tingly feelings, some bizarre chain of events, or various hunches and a string of coincidences.
Rather rooted in the Word, relying on the grace of God through the Holy Spirit,
I obeyed the will of God by following Christ and trying to do what Jesus would do
and trusted the Holy Spirit was guiding me just Jesus promised. (SLIDE #32)
More often than not, I have perceived the work of the Holy Spirit leading & guiding my life
by looking back – in hindsight – not in foresight. (SLIDE #33)
(SLIDE #34) What if, instead of asking God what His will for our life and waiting for
an answer before we follow Him, we acted, as Paul encourages us, offering
our ourselves to God as living sacrifices for the pursuit of His will on earth?
(SLIDE #35) What if, instead of focusing on our ability to figure out
the will of God through the Holy Spirit, each one of us paid more attention
to the Word of God through the Holy Spirit,
digging more deeply into the counsel and wisdom we have been given,
following the good example of our Good Shepherd
and thereby making the best decisions we can – confident that
the delicate yet consistent and transformative work of the Holy Spirit
is quietly taking place in and through us as we go
– that if we need to be turned around from a wrong turn,
if the trajectory of our lives needs to be recalculated,
this same Holy Spirit won’t be shy in letting us know?
What if relying on the Word and Spirit we sought first the Kingdom of Heaven
and trusted everything else in our lives would fall into place along the way.
Our choices matter. Our choices have consequences.
We each must engage a level of responsiveness to
this dynamic and transforming relationship we are offered by the Holy Spirit.
But the good news is, our spiritual life & well-being does not ultimately rise & fall on us.
We do not and we cannot muster up on our own the wisdom and the will
to overcome every challenge and obstacle in our lives. Only the Spirit can do this.
Only the Holy Spirit can sustain, can enhance, can transform our life in Christ.
For the Holy Spirit not only breaths resurrection life in us when we die to sin
and join with Jesus in faith, the Holy Spirit is also the breath of our daily walk
with Jesus – guiding us, directing us, and ultimately leading us into
becoming the new creations we are thanks to Jesus. Amen.