As Christ's followers stared into his beautiful new face, I can only imagine their heartache and fear coupled with with a renewed strength and hope in Christ, this one who arose from the dead. They witnessed him die and they saw the size of the stone, yet there he was speaking with them. He had spent 40 days with them and he smiled down as he told him that he would send another, the helper that they remembered he had spoke of earlier. They asked him their last questions and watched him enter into the heavens...These men and women believed that Jesus was telling them the truth. They were waiting and praying on the day of Pentecost, when the promised Holy Spirit came down.
Today, all those who worship the God of the Bible have been called to be FILLED with the Spirit. Paul tells us what the fruit of that Spirit in us will look like in Galatians 5. He tells us that the we must live by the Spirit to keep from fulfilling the desires of our sinful flesh. This is so important for every Christian. The depths of what this means would fill one thousand blog posts. The intricacies of this truth and the myriad of ways the redeemed have sought to be filled with the spirit would fill one thousand blogs! My point is that I am not going to write much about this. I am presuming you all know of the Holy Spirit's work in your salvation as well as his work in your Sanctification.
Today I want us to think about the way we think about the Holy Spirit's work in our public worship. The hymn above is another wonderful offering from Keith and Kristyn Getty. It zeros in on the Holy Spirit's work in all of our life, but also has great indications and reflections on what the Spirit is doing in every worship service we attend. Like most songs we sing in church, this hymn is a Prayer. In lines 5-6 of the first stanza the congregation is asking that God's Holy Spirit make his word have a new life in us, so that, in turn, we will have greater faith.
Do we pray this before we read scripture? Do we, as worshipers pray this for our Pastor before he is about to deliver the sermon from God's word? Do we ask God for greater faith when we don't understand? I recall a conversation with a college classmate who shared that she was (although she didn't put it this way) losing her faith in the God of the Bible. All the objections of her religious education were mounting and she was doubting more and more. She was carefully lamenting the inevitability that she would probably soon stop believing completely. I remember asking her (remember she said that she still did believe!) if she had prayed for more faith. When we are in the depths of theological despair, or in the depths of personal despair, do we pray that God will give us more confidence in his promises and in his work? Do we ask (line 4) to renew our hearts and to mend those that are broken?
The second stanza turns from issues of our own belief and inward worship, to the aspects of our outer worship. Romans 12 teaches us that worship is not about our personal feelings, it involves our public actions. The sacrifice we are to give is ourselves, and we are to make that sacrifice to God through the way we love other believers (vv 3-9). We need to be reminded as we worship, that we are supposed to treat those we worship with in the next pew over as more important than ourselves. We are to sow paths of peace among our brothers and sisters (St.2, line 6) and we should recognize that the bible teaches that our strivings, or controversy, or hard times are all means for God's grace to be displayed in our Christ-like attitudes and the Christ-like attitudes of others. We should ask that God's spirit help us to display the proper attitudes in bad circumstances but also to recognize the encouragement that other's attitudes should be for us. This goes along with the forgiveness that is spoken of in the third line of this stanza. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us love enough to cover every sin that we commit when we apologize to a brother or sister for a wrong we have done, and to cover the sins of others who have sinned against us.
I have been attending church, literally, from before my birth! It is sad to say that I have watched more arguments between brothers and sisters than reconciliations. Is that your experience? Do we allow hurt feelings and grudges to fester and grow, lurking under our skin...perhaps looking for another person we can “vent” to, and perhaps get them to see the importance of recovering the pews in this particular color, or show them how we can't support the pastor any longer since he's been preaching about?...We all know the way we act. Do we seek God's Spirit to help us purge these sinful attitudes that we harbor and tendencies that we know we have? We need to search our own hearts to see if there is any way that our attitude is producing sinful actions and stirring evil thoughts. The Holy Spirit will bring sin to light. It will be obvious. Do we pray that, when the conviction comes and our sin is obvious that we will be given the strength and grace to seek God and forsake the flesh, the grace to crucify our flesh? We need to do all of this corporately as a body of like-minded believers who have been washed in the blood.
The final stanza is the corporate expression of the first two stanzas. As a church we need humility to realize that the work God does on Earth comes by his power, not ours. I know many pastors who have forgotten that along the way. We need to hunger for God's ways. That will be shown by the way we handle and seek to understand the word of God. Hunger is a wonderful metaphor. It is something we will never satisfy completely. Hunger lasts as long as we have breath. O would that we all would think on the precepts of our God as much as we think on our next meal. In lines 7 and 8, we are praying for the end to which God created Church is to live out for the World's sake. Jesus told his followers that the ultimate witness to the world isn't people knocking on doors, or religious leaders on CNN or on their own radio shows. The witness God has chosen, purchased, prepared for and planted on this earth is his bride, the catholic Church (little “c”) that is represented in our communities by us. We may be feeble and broken hearted and persecuted, but we are God's witness to the world. The way we love each others is a witness to the World.
We need to prepare our hearts and ask for the Holy Spirit when we worship so that the face of Christ, shining through our transforming faces, will be visible and clear to each other and to every unregenerate person we have contact with.
Pray for our churches and our Denominations that we will humbly submit ourselves to these scriptural truths and that as we worship, we will be seeking to be changed by giving glory to our Tri-une God who seeks to help us be conformed to his image.
A final note I want to make is that the humility displayed in asking and seeking the Holy Spirit in these things show the tremendous amount of faith and trust we have in our Great God of highest Heaven, which is also the title of the Sovereign Grace song that I will look at in my next post.