Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Holy Spirit & the Miraculous

A few important announcements should be noted here. The first is that Vacation Bible School will be held this year at the Twig Town Hall. One of the reasons for doing it there is so there can be a large area for playing outdoor games. The current plan is for VBS to take place the week of June 14th-18th from 9:30a.m.-12:00p.m. Volunteers are needed to sign up in various areas. If most volunteers could better do it another week the week stated could be changed.

Mother’s Day is coming up on May 9th and the church men are again planning to make and serve breakfast that day.

This Wednesday will be the last day of Adventure Club and everyone is invited to come to see the art that has been done over the past year and eat a meal together. This will begin at 5:30, which includes joining the opening time and hearing the kids sing.

Today’s sermon used as a text 1 Corinthians 12 and was about the Holy Spirit and the Miraculous. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to bring unity, but often church teachings on the Holy Spirit have caused divisions.

What is the role of the Holy Spirit? Has the time of extraordinary manifestations passed away? Is that era done? No! Read 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. Various manifestations are said to be given for the common good. For example, prophesy, which is sometimes thought of as predictions of the future is actually a gift given to help a group of people in the church to address a difficult situation as it should be addressed. Did miraculous gifts cease in the first century? There is not good Biblical evidence to support that idea. The Holy Spirit is free to work in amazing ways.

A story was told about Tony Campolo who went to speak at a Pentecostal chapel service.

"There’s a Pentecostal college near Eastern College where I teach. I’m not Pentecostal, but I talk fast so that they think I’m speaking in tongues, so it works out alright. One day, they invited me to speak at a chapel service, I like speaking there because they’re dynamic, happy people, and I enjoy being with them. Just before I spoke, 8 guys took me into a back room of the chapel, and got me down on my knees. Then they laid their hands on my head and prayed for me. That’s good, I can use all the prayer I can get. There was only one problem -- these guys prayed a long time. That’s usually okay too, but the longer they prayed, the more tired they got, and the more they leaned on my head, and I want to tell you when 8 guys are leaning on your head it doesn’t feel so good. One guy wasn’t even praying for me, instead he went on and on praying for some guy named Charlie Stolzis. 'Dear Lord,' he shouted, 'You know Charlie Stolzis, he lives in that silver trailer down the road about a mile, you know the trailer Lord, just down the road on the right hand side.'

"I felt like saying 'Knock it off, fella, what do you think God’s doing, saying ‘what is that address again?’ Anyway, he went on and on and on. 'Lord, Charlie told me this morning he’s decided to leave his wife and three kids. He told me he’s walking out on his family. Lord, step in, do something, bring the people in that family together again.' All this time I’m kneeling there with eight guys leaning on my head, asking myself, when is this guy going to knock it off so I can get these Pentecostal preachers off my head. But he went on and on and on about Charlie Stolzis leaving his wife and kids, giving God constant reminders that he lived in a silver trailer about a mile down the road on the right hand side.

"Finally the prayers were over, and I went into the pulpit and preached. After I finished, I got into my car, drove down the Pennsylvania Turnpike and headed for home. Now, as I drove onto the turnpike, I noticed a hitchhiker. I know you’re not supposed to pick them up, but I’m a preacher, and whenever I can get anybody locked in as a captive audience, I do it. So I stopped, and picked him up. We drove a few minutes and I said 'Hi, my name is Tony Campolo, what’s yours?' He said, 'My name is Charlie Stolzis.'

"I couldn’t believe it. I got off the turn pike at the next exit and started heading back. He got a bit uneasy with that and after a few minutes he said, 'Hey mister, where are you taking me?' I said, 'I’m taking you home.' He narrowed his eyes and asked why, I said, 'Cause you just left your wife and three kids right?' That blew him away. 'Ya, ya, that’s right,' he said, with shock written all over his face. He plastered himself against the door and never took his eyes off me. I drove off the turn pike at the next exit, then I really did him in as I drove right to his silver trailer.

"When I pulled up, his eyes seemed to bulge as he asked, 'How did you know that I lived here?' I said, 'God told me.' I believe God did tell me. We got out of the car and I ordered him to get in that trailer. Half shaking, he answers, “Right mister, sure sure, I’m going.' When he opened the door, his wife exclaimed, 'You’re back!' He whispered in her ear and the more he talked, the bigger her eyes got. Then I said with real authority, 'The two of you sit down, and I’m going to talk and the two of you are going to listen.' Man did they listen. I mean, I was like E.F. Hutton. That day I led those two young people to Jesus Christ, and today that guy is a preacher of the gospel in California.”

Is the work of special manifestations of the Holy Spirit over in our day? No! The Holy Spirit is alive and well and at work in people’s lives.

The work of the Holy Spirit is not ever done in order to call attention to Himself. It is not spectacular for the point of being spectacular. Suppose one church becomes a giving church and dramatically helps the poor in its area. Another church practices levitation. Which one will people flock to see? Which one is truly doing the work of God’s Spirit?

What about tongues? Some churches teach that those who use tongues are at best, deluded, and at worst are demonic.

The Holy Spirit does not always manifest itself the same way through history. Some people teach that there are two separate events, salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that the sign of the baptism is speaking in tongues. But God does not give salvation on one hand and withhold the Holy Spirit on the other hand, He gives us the Holy Spirit when we come to Him. Is speaking in tongues the litmus test of salvation or of having received the Holy Spirit? In the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel the people had gathered together to try to build a tower but God frustrated their attempts by mixing their languages so that they could not understand each other. In the book of Acts during Pentecost many people who had been scattered and could not communicate were now speaking each other’s language and could understand each other. What was wrong at Babel was made right at Pentecost.

People sometimes have a divisive and arrogant spirit re: the spiritual gifts. What was meant to unite is now a cause of division in the church. In the end of the chapter 12 and into chapter 13 Paul addresses this issue. He says that not all have the various gifts but we should eagerly desire the greater gifts. The in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians which is a very popular text read at weddings, he tells us what the litmus test for knowing whether or not a person has the Holy Spirit. LOVE. Love is the measure of true spirituality. The Pharisees were very religious and had lots of knowledge of scripture, but were lacking in love. The evidence is never spectacular gifts. If you are a Christ follower the fruit of the Spirit will be growing in you.

Why do we not have more miracles in our day? Why do some people get healed, at times even those who do not follow God’s ways, and others die young who have prayed for healing? We do not know. But God cannot be coerced by human techniques. It is never because we have not prayed enough or believed enough or have not discovered the right technique. Our job is just to pray and ask. There is no magic formula to manipulate God into doing what I want Him to do.

However, any real movement in our lives toward holiness and better living choices IS the work of the Holy Spirit.

Use your knowledge to serve, not to impress. Don’t measure or gauge the work of the Holy Spirit in superficial measures.

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