That covenant, to renew what Heʼs promised Abraham. Was Godʼs plan to have a relationship with His people.
Budgie or a Lighthouse?
To be their God and for them to live in their own land in relationship with Him. 6th November 2011
Romans 8v6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace Pray. [You know how TV dramas start with ʻPreviously on…ʼ Previous in the Old Testament….]
The Law, was given as the basis for that to happen. A relationship based on Obedience. Through the Judges and the Kings, God is at work and his people have a mixed bag of results trying to keep the law. Constantly reviewing it and discussing it and gradually walking away from it, until they are far far from relationship with God. God allows the exile to happen, the tragic consequences of their rebellion and breaking of the covenant agreement with Him. All of which brings us to todayʼs reading. – Ezekiel 36.
The Holy Spirit has been active since the very beginning. If we go right back to Genesis 1v2 And The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters We then have a whole lot of history, through which the Spirit is at work in various ways. Creation, The Fall, The flood. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob & Joseph. The era in Egypt, and the Exodus. Leading to God establishing a covenant with his people.
I will gather you and bring you to your own land. I will cleanse you
I will give you a new heart & put a new spirit within you. God has a new plan. A new way of doing things. Read on… And cause you to follow my decrees & be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers.
The aim is still the same.
Obedience, Relationship and Land. But the whole system is different. Because the law wasnʼt the aim.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” A new law in our hearts. A new life of the Spirit.
The Covenant relationship was the aim. To understand this contrast Iʼve a simple question for you. So God tries a new way. Rather than try and control our actions with Law. He decides to come and live inside us, by His Spirit. So that weʼre enabled to live in obedience and relationship with Him. Letʼs look at Romans 8. In which Paul explains this contrast. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Would you rather be a Budgie or a Lighthouse? A budgie usually lives in a cage. Because it canʼt be trusted to remain where it belongs. Itsʼ surrounded by that cage, kept in the right place by it. The cage is there for its protection. (especially if there are cats in the same house!) But itʼs a limitation.
What about a lighthouse? A lighthouse – spreads out. Its whole purpose is to reach as far as possible.
Under the law we are ʻoutside inʼ people. Our lives are governed, controlled by what is around us and it imposes upon us.
So like the poor little budgie, we live constantly concerned about what is acting upon us. The external pressure.
Is this allowed? Will I get in trouble for doing this?
Under the law. We live in the fear of punishment. – Because we need to behave a certain way, within certain limits. – In order to remain safe with God.
We end up living in other peopleʼs heads. – Afraid that theyʼre watching us. Expecting them to jump on us and tell us weʼve got it wrong.
But itʼs a life of being hemmed in/ trapped.
We donʼt dare try out new things, meet new people, or step out in risks. – Because weʼre afraid of breaking the rules.
Filled with the Spirit. Itʼs a totally different life. – We live from the Inside out.
Worse still. Our whole Christian life becomes about trying to behave well to please God and avoid Him being angry with us. So we read the Bible, pray, worship, serve, get involved in things, volunteer to help out. – Because we think we ought to & weʼre afraid God will be cross if we donʼt.
God lives in us and wants to burst out. He wants us to reach out, stretch out. We can give out • In WORSHIPPING HIM. • Blessing other people. • We are free to be more creative and less limited. • And our lives can become focussed on serving others. This is a really big shift in the way we live. A budgie lives a life of fear. A lighthouse lives a life of freedom. When our life is governed by the Law. – then we live constantly afraid of getting it wrong. It becomes a habit. Constantly checking ourselves. Am I ok to do this?
All of that is living under fear. Living as a budgie. And the problem with being a budgie is that we forget how to fly and the horizons of our life get smaller and smaller.
Then thereʼs effort. A life under law, is a life of working hard and effort and striving. A Christianity of ʻshoulds and oughtsʼ. [can I let you into a secret…. Christianity without shoulds and oughts – is a whole lot more fun]
4 V7 – the Helper or Advocate – will come to you.
The outcome of being a budgie – is that I focus more on MYSELF. The Greek word Jesus uses is the Paraclete. Because everything the budgie does is motivated by concern about how the outcome of that action will effect . itself.
It means one who comes alongside to help.
Thatʼs one of the problems with living under LAW.
(Parakeet or Paraclete?)
It leads us to a total preoccupation with ME. Before anything I do, Iʼm concerned about whether I will bump into the bars of the cage. Then I will be completely preoccupied with ME. All the time.
What does the Holy Spirit do when he comes alongside us to bless? V8-11 tell us about how he will convict the world.
And thatʼs not the way of Godʼs kingdom.
Letʼs look at what he will do for us, which is verses 13-15
So letʼs look at the alternative. Being a lighthouse The life of the Spirit…
He will guide you into all truth
Itʼs a very very different life.
Do you ever worry that youʼll believe the wrong things? That you donʼt know enough theology? That you donʼt know the Bible well enough?
& Its only possible when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. If you set the sinful nature free – you just get more sin and that means more mess and chaos and pain for other people. But when you set someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit free. You get more life, more love, more kindness & generosity.
And to see how it works, lets turn to the moment when Jesus instigated it. In John 16.
Back to this fear of getting it wrong…. Do you worry about ʻbeing unsoundʼ? Being a heretic? Have you ever looked at all the Christian books on the market and all the courses available and all the Bible reading notes. And thought ʻWhat if I get it wrong? Well he can help you in that. Thatʼs what Jesus promised. That the Holy Spirit would come and guide us into all truth.
Knowledge is great, books are great (Iʼve got lots) courses are great. (Iʼve been on lots) But we need to trust the Holy Spirit to guide us to what we need.
This brings us incredible freedom! We can trust him to guide us, to lead us into truth.
I have an ongoing system of reading the Bible, reading different parts in parallel. – So each day when I sit down to read, I let the Holy Spirit guide me, let Him nudge me.
Trusting God – brings us wonderful freedom. As He lives in us, and promises to guide us. – Then we can relax and focus on something else.
Whatʼs amazing is that time and time and time again when I do that, the passage speaks exactly into what I need to hear that day.
I try to be quite an organised person and its part of my character to be the one who arranges things, makes them happen and takes others there. Which means Iʼm usually responsible for getting everything together and working out the route and timings and all of that. Every now and then, I get driven to places or go somewhere organised by someone else. Itʼs a wonderful feeling jumping in a car, knowing that the driver knows where youʼre going and how to get there. (Or how to work the sat nav!!)
Let me give you one example. Uzbekistan. – week 3. – Sick, lonely, desperate. Psalm 16. 2 – Apart from you I have no good thing…. Listed the good things God had given me. Carried on through the whole Psalm. – 2hours praying through the whole thing. – Bouncing off the walls with joy by the end! Still remember it 12years later.
Thatʼs a wonderful, releasing experience. Recently I was driven somewhere and I realised I had no idea how I got there. But Iʼd been able to focus on other things and not stress about
Another example, preparing this. – These thoughts on Ezekiel and John 16, the budgie and the lighthouse. Started to doubt….Have I thought this through? Is this really right? – Is it consistent with other passages?
The freedom that comes from trusting the Holy Spirti means we no longer need to focus on ourselves. (which is real Christian maturity)
Phrase from Romans 8 came to mind…. Read it, realised it said exactly what I had been pondering. (Iʼve read Romans 8 literally hundreds of times. – But needed the Holy Spirit to guide me to the truth)
A lighthouse doesnʼt get feedback. It casts its light and very rarely does the light come back. As a lighthouse, our concern is not ourselves, but others. We live to serve, to bless – to be a benefit to others.
Thatʼs what happens when the Holy Spirit fills us. A quote and then a scripture. And Finally – a second aspect of the Holy Spirit.
I love this from John Eldredge;
vHe will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
If youʼre not pursuing a dangerous quest with your life, well, then you donʼt need a Guide. If you havenʼt found yourself in the midst of a ferocious war, then you wonʼt need a seasoned Captain. If youʼve settled in your mind to live as though this is a fairly neutral world and you are simply trying to live your life as best you can, then you can probably get by with the Christiainity of tips and techniques. Maybe. Iʼll give you about a fifty-fifty chance. But if you intend to live in the story that God is telling, and if you want the life he offers, then you are going to need more than a handful of principles, however noble they maybe. There are too many twists and turns in the road ahead, too many ambushes waiting only God knows where, too much at stake. You cannot possibly prepare yourself for every situation. Narrow is the way said Jesus. How shall we be sure to find it? We need God intimately, we need him desperately.
In the midst of that, the truth is that HE WILL SPEAK! The Holy Spirit, will bring things from Jesus in heaven to us here on earth. He is Godʼs Communication strategy. Godʼs way of speaking to us. This means that Christianity is not a guessing game! We donʼt live trying to work out from a distance what God wants and hoping that heʼll accept what we do and not punish us. Jesus promised that He will keep speaking to us.
As I lay down the values and core truths I believe God wants to shape St.Chads. Let me be really clear about one of them. I want us to be a church who really believe God speaks to all his Children. That includes you!!
ON the day of Pentecost. – As the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples & they burst into the middle of Jerusalem to start the church. This is the passage Peter first used. ““ʻAnd in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female
servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17–18 ESV) All flesh. Thatʼs all of us. • Young and old, • Men and women. • Rich and poor. I really, really, really believe that God wants to speak to all His children.
This evening weʼre going to have a chance to look at this in more detail. A chance to explore hearing God and some really simple training in doing so. Whether you class yourself as a Prophet or have never heard God speak. Do come along and join in. I know not everyone can make a Sunday evening, but youʼre all welcome; - young and old, men and women, experts and novices. Because God might want to use you as a lighthouse, to send important messages to others. He certainly doesnʼt want you to be trapped like a budgie for the rest of your life.
In a minute weʼre going to pray.
Iʼd like to invite up to the front, all those whoʼd like a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit today. (If those who are on the healing team could be available to pray, that would be great.)