Precautions about the Spirit Ephesians 4:25 -32

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling
 and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind
and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.”
The following is the transcript from the Oct.2, 2016 service at the Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa. Unfortunately the audio failed during the taping of the sermon. 

Back in the 15th century, bakers would bake their rolls, buns and cakes etc. in 3 rows of four --- and then they sold them batches of a dozen.

Now, these days we have machines that measure the dough and run it through ovens. Personally, I think of Krispy Kreme doughnuts when I say that. It’s all pretty standardized. But back then, baked goods were all fashioned by hand, and some bakers found they could make their products smaller (and make more money) thinking the customer wouldn’t be any the wiser. After all - who could tell the difference?

Well, enough people apparently could tell the difference that the lawmakers in London passed laws standardizing the weights of baked goods. To make sure these standards were adhered to, bakers who gave their customers less than what was expected faced stiff fines and jail sentences.

The laws were so strict that no baker wanted to pay the fines or spend time in prison. And many were so concerned that they might accidentally give a short weight to their bread or other products that they often took the precaution of throwing in an extra roll or cake to make sure their customers got the amount required by law.

Thus - to this day, if a baker advertises a baker’s dozen: you get 13 rolls. (Why do Cowboys wear High Heels? Jeff Rovin)

Bread - in its various forms - has always been a kind of foundation for civilization. Every society depends on their bread for basic survival and prosperity. That’s reflected by the fact that Jesus spoke of the idea that Man shall not live by (bread alone). And He taught that in our prayers we should ask “give us this day our daily (bread).”

The society of the 15th century trusted their bakers with a special and precious commodity. But the bakers abused that trust. And as a result, laws were enacted that made it clear there was a penalty for anyone who misused that trust.

The Bible tells me God has entrusted you and I with a very special gift; really a precious commodity. When we became Christians God placed His Holy Spirit inside of our hearts. No one else has the honor of His presence in their lives like we who are Christians do.

And because His Holy Spirit is such a special gift, God gets a little upset when people misuse that Spirit. Here in Ephesians 4 we’re told that we must be careful not to “grieve the Holy Spirit.”

He’s a gift from God. He’s yours as a seal – a guarantee of your salvation.
So, don’t grieve Him… don’t abuse Him.

Apparently, this is pretty serious stuff. Back in the book of Acts, a couple of Christians (Ananias and Sapphira) saw how much praise others were receiving for selling their property and then giving the money to help poorer Christians. So, they sold some property and gave a portion of the proceeds to the church for the poor.

Now, the church didn’t require them to sell their land. And even then, they weren’t required to give ALL the money from the sale to the church. But when Ananias and Sapphira gave their gift, they lied and said they were giving the entire proceeds to the poor.

Well, the next day the Apostles called Ananias in to ask him about his gift.

“Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.” (Acts 5:3-5)

The bakers of the 15th century only faced fines or jail time for their deception. Ananias lies to the Holy Spirit and he drops dead. That would make me think twice.

This all leads me to believe that I want to be VERY careful not to grieve the Spirit of God. I may not drop dead because of grieving Him, but I’m pretty sure the consequences would be really uncomfortable.

Now, why was God so upset with Ananias and Sapphira? What was it about their actions that brought this harsh a punishment?

They abused the God’s trust in them. They’d tried to manipulate the church in order to get their way. They tried to fool God’s people into believing they were more generous than they were so that they could receive honor they didn’t deserve.

Whenever someone abuses the trust of God’s people, or tries to manipulate the church to their own advantage that’s real dangerous.

Now, here in Ephesians 4, we find something slightly different about grieving God’s Spirit. Look with me to Ephesians 4:30. Here we are warned

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

How do I avoid grieving God’s Spirit? Verse 31 & 32 continues:

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

You are the Temple of God. God’s Spirit resides inside of you. And whether you are in a church building or working at the factory, or anywhere the Spirit is there. And a heart filled with those kinds of emotions is an uncomfortable atmosphere for the Spirit to live in we literally grieve Him.

In Galatians 5 we’re told to,

“…live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is CONTRARY TO THE SPIRIT and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. THEY ARE IN CONFLICT WITH EACH OTHER...” Galatians 5:16-17

So… how would I know if I’m not living by the Spirit? Galatians continues:

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: … (among other things) hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions…” Galatians 5:19-20

You see, this kind of mindset grieves the Spirit because it proves we’re ignoring Him.

We’ve been given this marvelous gift - this precious piece of God called the Holy Spirit - and when we allow hatred and bitterness and anger to crowd Him out it’s as if we’ve abused the trust God placed in us when He placed His Spirit in us.

You know, a lot of people have made me angry. They’ve hurt me. They’ve abused my trust. They’ve done things I can’t stand. And – what’s worse, don’t seem to care. They may never ever repent of the wrongs they’ve done to me.

But here’s the thing: You mean I have to forgive them? I’ve got let go of my anger towards them? Yes.

If I don’t want to grieve God’s Spirit within me - Yes.

So, I need to forgive people… how do I know if I’ve done that?

Ephesians 4:26 tells me,

"Be angry, and do not sin do not let the sun go down on your wrath."

I’ve got a right to get mad once in a while. It’s a natural emotion. Even Ephesians tells us,

“Go ahead, get angry once in awhile… but do not sin.”

And how do I know if I’m sinning in my anger? Answer: If I allow the sun to go down - and I’m still angry - I’ve sinned.

• If that person’s name comes to my mind in my prayers and I would find it difficult to pray for God to be kind to them… I haven’t forgiven them.
• If I’m in a conversation with friends, and they begin to talk about that person, and I want to tell people what a terrible person that individual is… I haven’t forgiven them
• If the person I don’t like enters a room, and I leave because I don’t like them… I haven’t forgiven them.
• And if I can’t leave the room, and wouldn’t be able to talk civilly to them or shake their hand… I haven’t forgiven them.

But why should God be so concerned about that? Why would it grieve His Spirit when I allow my mind to be dominated by anger and bitterness?

Well, look again at Ephesians 5:1-2;

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

You see the Spirit has the ministry of righteousness. His ministry to me to make me righteous - to make more like Jesus. And there is no greater way that we can imitate Jesus than to learn to forgive others their sins against us. In fact, we’re told in this passage that when Jesus forgave us he offered up a “sweet-smelling aroma” to God.

This morning, before I came to church, I took a shower, washed my hair, and brushed my teeth. Why would I do that? I wanted to smell good for you. When we imitate what Jesus did for us then we become offering a sweet smelling aroma to God. We smell good to Him.

But, this actually goes even further than this. You see, God wants us be imitators of Him because He wants to use us as a tool God to use to reach others.

When He wanted to reach mankind in order to change their lives, He sent Jesus. And when He wants reach into the lives of people around us and change them, He sends US. And the more we learn to emulate Jesus’ forgiveness of us to others, the more powerful things we can do for God through our lives.

Our objective - as Christians - is to do the unexpected. Forgiving others when they hurt us is not normal.

In the world, you shove me, I shove you back. You hit me, I hit you back.
You hurt me; I’ll find a way to make sure you feel some pain in return.

But what’s abnormal in this world is normal to God. He saved us so we could show the love of Christ to people who don’t deserve it.

Not in ways that are calculating and contrived but in a way that actually reflects to love God has shown us. And we want to commit ourselves to this so consistently that those we forgive might actually ask “Why are you doing this for me?”

Let’s Pray – The Lord’s Prayer

Can Faith Fix Anything? 1 John 5:3-4

Jesus never taught that a life of faith would always
be painless and comforting.In fact, misunderstanding that
 truth can lead to warping your attitude toward God
 The following is the transcript from the Sept. 25, 2016 service at the Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa. 

It has always impressed me how many great hymns have been based upon various Scriptures. As I was thinking about our text this morning I read I John 5:4 where it says, “…this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” In this scripture, I recognize an old popular hymn; “Faith Is The Victory.”

That’s a great promise! God’s telling us that our faith is MIGHTY thing!
It gives us power in this world we wouldn't have otherwise.

Hebrews 11 is the great chapter of faith in Scripture tells us that as well. The author of Hebrews tells us about the faith of men like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses and several others. And then the writer goes on to say,
“…what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection.” Hebrews 11:32-35a 
Do you believe that? That’s the kind of power I want in my life. I want a powerful faith that can OVERCOME this world and give me victory. 
But there’s a fly in the ointment. The author of Hebrews doesn't stop there with the words we just read. He goes on to write, 
“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:36-38 
Let me tell you that no one ever taught me this side of faith in Sunday school. Imagine what would happen if they did. ‘Okay, children, today we’re going to learn how trusting… God might get you torn in two, thrown into jail, hated by your friends, and will force you to drive an old beater the rest of your life.’

It would certainly thin the herd.” And I wouldn't blame the herd for thinning out. Nobody I know is interested in a faith that would lead to pain, struggling, torment and pain. Most people want a power in faith that gives them confidence – not fear. 

That’s why certain kinds of preachers only dwell on something called the “prosperity gospel.” They teach their followers that all they need to believe and have enough faith… and their faith will fix everything… and everything will be OK. 

It’s a popular message. It draws the crowds. And it’s often preached by TV evangelists because it is a crowd pleaser. People come, put their tithes in the mail, and buy that preacher's books and tapes. 

These kinds of preachers sell a god that is channeled through visualization, positive thinking, and – a real popular one – “Name it and Claim it.” 

"Name it and claim it" is all about naming what you want, claiming it before the throne of God – and then being so intense about your faith that you WILL receive what you've named and claimed, that it will be yours. 

Preachers like this draw in people by the thousands because there are people out there who feel helpless in this world and they want a God who will step in and will FIX what is wrong; a god that would give them healing and security, and success. 

Now, the thing is, I believe in a God who can DO all those things. Don’t you? I believe in a God, just like the God that Hebrews describes; a God who can enable me to conquer kingdoms, a God who can stop the mouths of lions, and quench the power of fire, a God who can make me strong when I am weak.

I BELIEVE in that kind of God! 

But what I DON’T believe in are the false teachings of charlatans who sell a fake faith that teaches people that all they need to do is pull a few levers and punch a few buttons and God will dance to their tune/ do what they want done. They teach their followers that all they need do is follow their teachings and they can get God to bend to THEIR will – not the other way around. 

And if it doesn't work… why then – it’s YOUR FAULT… not God’s. 
If you had only learned to visualize success like they taught. If you had only learned to practice “positive thinking” the way they told you to; If you had only had properly named it in true faith, and then claimed it in true faith; If only… you’d had ENOUGH faith.

For these false teachers – faith fixes everything. True Faith never lets you down. It makes it so we never suffer, we never fail.

Well, if that’s true…
Did Paul not have enough faith? 
He was beaten and stoned and run out of almost every town
Did the Apostles not have enough faith? 
Every Disciple except John died a martyr’s death.
Did Jesus not have enough faith? 
He ended up on the cross and died a terrible death. 

Just before he was betrayed Jesus spent a long time at the Garden of Gethsemane praying about His impending crucifixion and death. Do you remember what He prayed?
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” Luke 22:42 
You see, Godly faith is different than what these other preachers preach.
Those preachers teach that TRUE faith is when you hand God a sheet of paper and it has all your requests written on it… and then you believe (actually - you EXPECT) God to do what you want. 

That’s not Biblical Faith. Biblical Faith is when you hand God a blank sheet of paper, and then you tell God – not my will, but YOURS be done. Here’s a blank piece of paper. I TRUST you to fill it in with things You want done in my life. Granted, I’ll still make my requests known to God. I’ll still tell Him what I’d prefer to see done in my life. But I won’t feel like I can corner God into a promise He didn't make. 

Jesus NEVER taught the “name it and claim it” kind of foolishness. Jesus never taught us that a life of faith would be filled with sweetness and light.

Jesus never taught that a life of faith would always be painless and comforting.
In fact, misunderstanding that truth can lead to warping your attitude toward God to the point that you end up building a wall between yourself and Him; a wall that may ultimately intimidate you to the point that you walk away from God. 

The problem is this; we want God to do things on our terms and on our timetable. 
But it doesn't work that way.

If you look at the stories in the Bible you find that God’s people sometimes had to wait years to see how God working in their lives. Think about it this way: 
• Joseph waited 15 years
• Abraham waited 25 years
• Moses waited 40 years
• Jesus waited 30
If God is making you wait – you’re in VERY good company.

My point is this:
Our faith IS the victory that overcomes the world.
Our God does mighty things in response to our faith.
Our God IS faithful.
But He doesn't do things on our terms, or on our timetable, or in our way.

But let me tell you how it DOES WORK. 
One of the best stories about how our faith ought to be is found in the Old Testament. It’s the story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego.

In Daniel 3:1 we’re told that 
“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.”
Everybody was commanded to bow down to this image, but Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego refuse to do that. They were hauled before the King who said they would have one more chance to bow down to his idol - or they’d be thrown into the fiery furnace… and die.

Their response was classic:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 
In other words… our God CAN rescue us. But if not - EVEN if He doesn’t rescue us - we still won’t bow down. 

And of course we know the rest of the story. 
The king was furious and commanded that the fire be made 7 times hotter and had these three young men cast into the fire. And God rescued them from the flames.
Why were these men rescued; because their faith was the victory that overcame their world? And that is what God calls us to as well. 
To have a faith that stands firm even in the face of certain loss and death; A faith that overcomes the world.

But you can’t have that faith until you first belong to Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray.
Father, when the storms of life rage, stand by us. In the midst of tribulation, stand by us. In the midst of faults and failures, stand by us. When we are growing old and feeble, and we’ve done the best we can, stand by us. Amen.