Spiritual Revival: An Invitation to Parther with the Holy Spirit
Life in the Spirit - Spiritual Revival: An invitation to partner with the Holy Spirit
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • Oct 16, 2016 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor
We are launching a new sermon series this morning. We are calling it, Life in the Spirit. This is going to be a back to basic type of sermon series where for some of us will discover for the first time, while others, will rediscover the call to discipleship that Jesus invites each of us into.
There was a pilot who was practicing a high speed maneuver in a jet fighter, the pilot turned the controls into what was thought to be a steep ascent, and instead flew straight into the ground. The pilot was unaware that the plane had been flying upside down. Often our journey with Jesus is just like that, we think we are making progress only to be making progress in the wrong direction.
Jesus invites us paradoxically to save our lives by learning to lose it. He invites us to take a pilgrimage, it’s a journey through life into the heart and life of God.
24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? (Matthew 16:24–27)
When Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him, he’s not inviting us to seek out danger, hostility, or suffering. He’s calling us to do something more basic, yet harder, loving others with the same kind of self-giving love that he has shown us, and here’s the kicker, whatever the cost. Jesus promises to be our guide as we learn to trust and obey him along the way.
Many us have been told that the point of the pilgrimage through life is to earn our way into our eternal rest. The idea that if our good outweighs our bad, at the end, we will have lived a good life. My control, my decision, my good results. This feels like a weak form of karma to me. Like deciding between a car that runs well or insurance for one that doesn’t? Can’t I have both?
Jesus has a proven ability to speak to, heal and empower our experience of the human condition, what we might call “life.” His invitation matters today because what he brings to us ordinary human beings, living our ordinary lives, coping daily with all of the ordinary ups and downs of life is what we desire: wholeness and purpose. He is able to do this because he has shared in our weakness. As we follow him, he gives us strength to endure, strive, and thrive in life as we learn to trust and obey him. As we join him, he leads us into the very heart and life of God. It’s like the parable of the builder, Jesus says,
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24)
Spiritual Revival: An invitation to New Life
The barriers to putting his words into practice are many. A big one may be assuming that Jesus doesn’t understand how hard it is to live our lives. He doesn’t understand our jobs, our bosses, or our co-workers. He doesn’t understand the pain be the child of our parents. What it means to be committed to our partners, to be loyal to our friends. He doesn’t get how hard it is to trust and obey when our natural emotional responses are so much easier. He doesn’t understand all of the things we have to do just to make it day by day.
Jesus invites us to obey, when lying and cheating are so much easier. He invites us to trust when manipulation and plotting are easier. He invites us to love our neighbor when contempt and disdain seem so much easier.
When we are being assailed on every side, when we are overwhelmed, when worry has wrecked our lives, disrupted our sleep, robbed us of our peace, when all we have to sustain ourselves is fear, mixed with anxiety, it’s easy to accept that this life is as good as it gets.
In the midst of all that disappoints us, attacks us, or frustrates us, when we find ourselves in situations we didn’t plan or hope for, it can be difficult to figure out what to do! Our emotional responses include: fear, anger, lust, lying, and scheming. These are our natural responses to all that attacks, disappoints, and distracts us. The reason these responses emerge is they can motivate us to face what assails us.
The problem, however, is these responses cannot give us what we really need, which is power to overcome and cope with life. These responses don’t give us life that is abundant and overflowing, life that is rich and full, life that is free and generous. These responses cannot sustain us when everything around us is caving in and all we want to do is give in. This kind of life, the life that we need, can only be found outside of ourselves. This is the work that the Holy Spirit does! The spirit creates new life, hope, and possibilities from what seems like death.
The Holy Spirit, the often ignored member of the trinity, has been at work since the beginning teaming with God.
The Valley of Dry Bones
This reminds me of the story of Ezekiel, a prophet to the people of God in exile. Like Israel we can often find ourselves in exile from God. Feeling like we have been separated from the love, forgiveness, and the hope that we need to be our whole selves. This can lead to all of the scheming that we do because we falsely think that God has abandoned us in our brokenness, in our pain, and in our suffering. But God through the Holy Spirit is always at work restoring, healing, and bringing about new life.
1The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. (Ezekiel 37:1-2)
Ezekiel is taken to a valley of dry bones, a barren place where no life exists. And God asks Ezekiel a question, a question that’s often found on the tip of our lips. Can what is lost be restored? Can we experience new life again? Can we forgive those who have hurt us and have wounded us? Can we reconcile with those who have abandoned us? In our despair, is there hope? In our brokenness, is there restoration? In our separation, is there a path home again?
3He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3)
Ezekiel answers God by saying,
“Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:3b)
4“Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. (Ezekiel 37:1-4)
I love this picture from Ezekiel, God taking what was once dead and bringing it back to life again. This is a type and shadow of God will do with Jesus on the cross. This is the work of the spirit, taking our dry and broken bones, our lives, our dashed hopes, our failed dreams, our unachieved aspirations, the core of who we are and he offers to change our story by speaking life into death.
We all could benefit from a spiritual revival. We could all benefit from a fresh word from the Lord. We could all benefit from the new life that the Holy Spirit brings. If discipleship at its core is about our willingness to trust and obey. What does it means to trust Jesus?
Let me tell you a story about how I learned to stop worrying.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-27:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
If Jesus truly understands how difficult this life is, how on earth can he call us not to worry. “Okay, Jesus. I won’t worry, if you promise to unleash your Kingdom into this broken, hurting world, despairing world.” If you promise to fix my situation.
“No Jesus, you’re not willing to do that then the least you could do for us is allow us to worry.”
And what a helpful companion worry is, especially when nothing else is going right in the world, at least you can mask your hurt, pain, and disappointment with worry. There is some comfort in the ability to stress yourself out over something you can’t change.
Saint Paul, the New Testament church planter says in Philippians 4:6-7,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Empty words? Impossible words? Or words of life?
It was here that I experienced a personal spiritual revival. I had to do several things all at once:
I had to be honest about my heart-break and pain.
I had to be vulnerable in the presence of God and trust that God really loves me.
I had to be willing to share my struggles with others on the journey.
I had to ask for help and I had to receive the help that was offered.
I had to accept that Jesus wouldn’t do what I wanted, but at the same time he wouldn’t abandon me on the road all by myself.
This all got started with a simple prayer offered by a friend on the journey and that prayer changed my life. I was wrecked with worry. It was affecting my health and well-being, it’s was draining my hope. After this friend prayed for me, the prayer broke the worry. I’m not kidding. It literally broke off of me. I’ve been concerned about things but worry at this level hasn’t returned and that’s because I’ve been learning what it means to trust myself and others to God’s care and learning to obey Jesus as he leads me into life.
Discipleship starts with our surrender to follow Jesus and learn from him what it means to be alive, to be human, to be in relationship with others,and what it means to be relationship with God. A disciple is someone who is always in motion, committed to always learning, being, doing, and relating. Our discipleship requires partnership with the Holy Spirit as the spirit creates new life, new hope, and new possibilities in us and leads us into transformation.