Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Perfect knowledge, perfect joy, perfect peace

Scripture readings

  • Ezekiel 36:24-29
  • John 16:12-33

Introduction

Herman Lange, a German Christian was to be executed by the Nazis during WWII. In his cell on the night, before he was to be killed, Lange wrote a note about two feelings which occupied his mind: “I am, first, in a joyous mood, and second filled with great anticipation.” Then he made this beautiful affirmation: “In Christ, I have put my faith, and precisely today I have faith in Him more firmly than ever.” Finally, he urged his parents to read the New Testament for comfort: “Look where you will, everywhere you will find jubilation over the grace that makes us children of God. What can befall a child of God? Of what should I be afraid? On the contrary, rejoice!

A non-Christian said,  Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” “God has no religion”. But his deathbed he uttered his last words, “My days are numbered. For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in the slough of despond. All about me is darkness…” His name was Mahatma Gandhi. 

Jesus was approaching his last moment before they apprehended Him, and handed Him over to be crucified.  On his mind was his ministry from his Father to reveal Him to those would continue the work of global evangelism after He returned to his Father. He prayed, 

I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. (John 17:4, NKJV)

When He announced his departure to his disciples, they were filled with grief.  On the one hand, they were called to be fishers of men, but their rabbi was leaving them. On the other hand, since they began to follow Christ, they learned to love Him and be close to Him.  His words were the words of life. But now his announced his departure. They would miss Him. 

How would they survive without Him?  Where would they get the same level teaching from when they needed answers and guidance?  And then Christ said this:  

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7, NKJV)

Perfect knowledge

Christ did not expect of his church to tackle the wise and the philosophies of this world on their own.  He promised to give them a Helper.  

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8, NKJV)

The work of the church would have vaporised towards the end of the first century were it not for the teaching of the Holy Spirit.  He is the One convicts the world of sin, those who do not believe in Christ.  He is the One who convicts sinners of righteousness, because of Christ’s complete redemption, because there is no righteousness in man, and no other can or will be able to do what Christ has done; He is now at the right hand of his Father.  The Holy Spirit is the One who makes clear to unbelievers that the prince of this world is condemned and of powerless against the judgement of the Father; no one who comes to the Father by any other means will ever be saved (John 16:8-11).

Paul writes about the work of the Spirit:  

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9–10, NKJV)

With these words, Jesus Christ comforted his disciples.  And it should be our comfort too.  We must speak the words of Christ, we must declare his grace to this world, however, we in some sense will only be onlookers as the Spirit does the conviction, the preaching of the righteousness of Christ, and as He convicts people of their sin.   

Is it no so that the Holy Spirit will teach us all sorts of ecstatic gifts so we can prophesy, speak in tongues and do miracles?  We need to understand these things in its context as Paul wrote it to the Corinthian church.  We cannot now dwell on all the issues, but here are a few principles:  

  • The Spirit gives gifts as He determines, not as individual members desire it. (1 Corinthians 12:18)
  • The gifts of the Spirit are always for the common good of the whole body of believers; if they serve no purpose for the upbuilding of the church, they are not needed. (1Corinthians 12:7)
  • There are gifts which are more important than others.  Paul prioritises the gifts beginning with the apostles, then the prophets (or preachers), then others, and then at the bottom of the list the speaking of different tongues (1Corinthians 12:28)
  • Not all believers will or can speak in tongues, or do miraculous deeds, or heal others (1Corinthians 12:29)
  • But all believers must love one another as Christ loved them (1Corinthians 13) and all believers must tell of the wondrous deeds of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19-21)

It is for this last universal task of evangelism we all must be involved in we need the Holy Spirit.  Why? 

“When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12–14, NKJV)

The Spirit inspired Paul to write:

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12, ESV)

The Holy Spirit has no new agenda other than that of the Father and Son.  His work is to continue the work of Christ.  He is the One who teaches the church of Christ the will of the Father and all about Christ.  

The ultimate work of the Holy Spirit was the inspiration of the Scriptures.  Of these we read:  

…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15–17, NKJV)

This is the point.  Everything we need to know about salvation, everything we need to preach, everything we need for comfort, everything we need to defend ourselves with against the attacks of all the wise and learned of the world, is written in the Bible.  Who reads and studies the Bible as the World of God has perfect knowledge.  The remarkable aspect of it all is that while we present this Gospel to the world and to every lost sinner, the Holy Spirit does the rest.  We are like the sower in the parable of Jesus who sows wherever he can, but then rest and sleep, leaving it all in God’s hands.

Perfect joy

We touched in this last week.  Let’s just recap.  Christ taught his followers a crucial lesson:  his death and resurrection, together with the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word, give incomparable joy. 

Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. (John 16:22, NKJV)

David knew something about this:  

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance. (Psalm 16:5–6, NKJV)

In another Psalm:

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26, NKJV)

What is the source of our joy?  

  • First of all—Christ completed which the work the Father gave Him:  He taught his disciples, He revealed the Father to them, He took their sins on them and paid the penalty of sin, He rose again to overcome death, and He ascended into heaven to intercede and prepare a home for those whom He was sent to rescue.
  • Second, His work of teaching is complete.  John 16:23 is an interesting one: 

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. (John 16:23, NKJV)

The first “ask” is to inquire or to want to know more.  The second ask is the same as prayer.  Our joy is connected to the fact that the Holy Spirit is with us to teach us and in that sense, we do not need to inquire outside of what He teaches in the Bible.  It is only by diligent study that we will get all the answers we need to equip us for service.

The second “ask” is prayer.  What we need to be successful as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lies in diligent and faithful prayer.  In the Name of Christ who is our complete salvation and all-sufficient Saviour, we approach God to ask Him to give according to our needs.

The joy of the church of Jesus Christ is anchored in these things.  What more do we need?  Are we robbed of our joy if we don’t get the Lear Jet we are praying for?  If this is your expectation, then surely you will be disappointed.  But if it is Jesus Christ and the fullness of his grace you desire, you will never be disappointed.  Your cup will overflow with joy.

Perfect peace

Just one last thought.  Our chapter also speaks of peace.  Our Lord  said to the small band of disciples moments before He was arrested: 

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NKJV)

What peace is perfect peace?  I have overcome the world.  The Greek tense is the perfect tense which describes an action brought to its conclusion in such a way that its results stand firm. In other words, when Jesus says He has overcome the world, it is complete, and nothing can change that fact.  

In Revelation, we read,

“Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome [is victorious] to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5, NKJV)

Does it give you peace to hear the words of Christ:  

For whoever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4, NKJV)

Does it give you peace to hear Christ’s promise:  

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3:12, NKJV)

Conclusion

So, my friends, because you can trust the Holy Spirit to guide you, because you can ask God in the Name of Jesus Christ, and because Christ has overcome the world, then it should be true of all of us:

And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! wrath, because he [Satan] knows that he has a short time. (Revelation 12:11–12, NKJV)

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 3 February 2019

 

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The Holy Spirit and his gifts

One of the major differences between the church of Jesus Christ – the church as an institution and body – is that the church never has to work out its mission, its function, or its strategies to keep people interested.  All of what the church is, what its mission is, how it should plan and how it must function lies in the fact that the church is not the brainchild of a group of people:  the church is, and remains, the work of God:  He calls it, his Word works out regeneration and brings new life – all based in the saving work of Christ, and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.

God called his church into existence and He provides for it.  The church must love and obey Him, seek and trust his Son Jesus Christ as their only righteousness, and live holy lives as they are led by the Holy Spirit.  That is the first and last instance is the mission of the church.

We are not left to our own devices to make church work.  We are not called to follow market trends to stay relevant.  The gates of Hades will not stand against Christ’s church.

From both readings of the Scriptures of this morning we understand that God made it his business to establish his church on earth.  He makes it possible for it to grow and to bring glory to his Name.

Christ descended to save and to equip his church

Paul says in Ephesians 4:9-10

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (Ephesians 4:9–10, NIV)

Christ descended, He completed the work of salvation, and He gifted his church, in the form of gifted people – apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers –

to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12–13, NIV)

What is the ultimate reason with these gifts?

Then we will no longer be infants… Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:14–16, NIV)

The Bible is clear here:  God sent Christ to not only save his elect from sin, but also to equip them for service as every part does its work.

This is grace – God coming down to live with us.  No other religion has such a God; all others worship a god they don’t know, a god who expects the impossible, a god who needs to be pleased in order to win his favour.

This is the way God always worked:  it starts with Him, it involves people who deserves nothing but who are enabled for service, and it always has been for the glory of his Name.

For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36, NIV)

The gifts to the Old Testament church

He called his people from slavery to worship Him.  He gave them leaders in Moses and Aaron. There was a mountain, Sinai (or Horeb).  It was the mountain of the Lord.  That was the place where God met with Moses. We need to understand what happened on the mountain.

God came down to his people  

Our God loves to have communion with his people; He wanted to be with them and guide them.  He came down to them.

When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. (Exodus 24:15, NIV)

To the people the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire.  And they might have asked:  How are we ever going to live and communicate with this holy God without being consumed?

Holiness and sin 

God’s holiness and his Person could not be beheld.  Moses who represented the people, wanted to see the face of God, but he was not allowed.  “Show me your glory”, he asked.

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20, NIV)

Fellowship by God’s design

God gave Moses detailed descriptions of how he should built a tabernacle, the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altar of incense, the altar for the burnt offering, the basis for washing, the courtyard, the priestly garment, the ephod of the high priest and his breast piece.  The materials for each item were specified, as well as its exact dimensions – all according to God’s plan.  Fellowship with the Holy God is only possible on His terms.

God enables the persons with skills and abilities by his Holy Spirit

In chapter 31 we read:

“See, I have chosen Bezalel … and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab … to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you. (Exodus 31:1–6, NIV)

Now we’re back to the sermon of last week:  the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the congregation to built the congregation to the glory of God. Bezalel and Oholiab were filled with the Holy Spirit with special gifts, skills and crafts to lead other gifted craftsmen.  But, listen:

And He [God] has given both him and Oholiab … the ability to teach others. He has filled them (the“others”) with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers. (Exodus 35:34–35, NIV)

This begin to sound like the same principle we met in Ephesians 4:  God, in Christ came down to give gifts to some skilled leaders to equip others for work!  This is how God builds his church – all for his glory!

God equips his people and gives them willing hearts

… and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. (Exodus 35:20–21, NIV)

Who were these people?  Everyone of God;s people! There women who knew how to dye, to weave goat hair and wool, spin it , and make and stitch material together.  Think about it:  seamsters filled with wisdom of God to work for the glory of God.

There were others who had the gift of working with gold, silver and bronze.  There were the woodworkers who constructed the framework of the tabernacle, the tables and the Ark.  Others mastered the art of leather work.  Others knew gemstones and other stones, how to select them, polish them and mount them.  Verse 29 concludes:

All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do. (Exodus 35:29, NIV)

In the end there were too many offerings and people had to be stopped bringing them.

God provided the material

What material?  The wood, wool, goat hair, dye, the leather, silver, gold, the stones.  Where did the people get it from in the wilderness of Sinai?

Let’s look back a bit in Exodus.  God never demands of us without first of all give us what He knows we need.

Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” (Exodus 12:32, NIV)

The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for … (Exodus 12:35–36, NIV)

He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold(Psalm 105:37, NIV)

Their gold, their cattle, their belongings were not their own: it belonged to God for his glory.

There is a reference to hides of sea cows.  Where did they come from?  The Red Sea was not too far away!

It seems possible to say that some of the hard labour as slaves in Egypt and skills learned there was now used of God for his glory.  Do not despise difficult times; they are the times of schooling for better service.

God with his people

First the glory of the Lord was on the mountain.  If was only Moses and Joshua who could experience it.  But after the community, filled by the Spirit who enabled them to complete the work with skill, completed the work, we read:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. (Exodus 40:34–37, NIV)

The glory of God through Christ and the Spirit

We don’t have a tabernacle, or a temple, or priests, or an ark or an altar anymore – it’s not needed.  We have Christ who filled everything and every detail of God’s design.  Listen:

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them … I bring you good news … Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you:  He is Christ, the Lord (Luke 2:9-11, NIV)

John writes:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)

This Jesus came down from heaven.  He completed his work of grace and returned to the Father- and gave us his Spirit who enables us to be his church to his glory.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 3 July 2016