The Life-Giving Spirit. 2020 Wrap Up

The Life-Giving Spirit

December 27, 2020

 

Here we are in our very last service for 2020. What a year for the history books! This year was rich with events to reflect on in future years and study how we as a people respond, react and treat one another. From so many viewpoints- globally, economically, health and safety, politics, social justice, religion, technology…we can look at many different things that happened this year and the way humanity has responded to all of it. It’s quite fascinating to me. We-(people), are fascinating to watch and study. 

What will never cease to amaze me is that it doesn’t matter how evolved and advanced we become as a society in so many ways, at our core, we all remain the same. We can grimace at how people in the Old Testament times treated one another and I often do in reading certain texts, and yet we can turn on the news and we see the exact same behaviors being played out today, in the year 2020 all around the world, even right here in America. Some events can bring out the absolute worst in people and we have certainly witnessed that this year. It’s heartbreaking to see how dark our world can be. And yet it’s in those darkest moments, just as we reflected on at Christmas, that we also see the most beautiful qualities of humanity shine through-because let us not forget we were made in the image of God. We see the Light of Christ burning bright through amazing acts of kindness, compassion, mercy and love for one another.  This has been amazing to witness in small and very profound ways all across our globe, specifically within our country, and right here in our community. 

The Light has never been extinguished; sometimes it just takes being surrounded by darkness to see His Light still burning as a beacon for the lost and sick. 

Not one of us had a clue what was in store for us in 2020 when I shared our first message and theme for this year, Freedom in the Spirit. But God did. God knew what was coming and in His perfect care for us, He was prepping us to choose to walk by the Life-Giving Spirit, because we would surely need it. God put it on my heart for us to come back to this message we began our year with and talk about it again as we bring this year to a close. 

We had a year given to us that has been filled with tribulation, hardship, loss…and wonderful opportunities to draw closer to God through His Spirit. Have we done that? Have we grown in our faith this year? Have we grown in our relationship with God? 

You all know so much of what we did for worship has changed this year. Our traditions, our routines we might have been accustomed to-all stripped away. All we had left was God and His Word. Was that enough for you? Was it enough for you to be full and satisfied, in His grace? I’m not saying we’ll never go back to having a praise team and other ministries- I long for those days too that are hopefully returning sooner than later. But in a year that forced change upon us- did we find that God Himself was enough? Did we find peace and even joy in letting go of traditions and grabbing hold of the Spirit and all He wanted to fill us with? 

Only you and God know that. I pray we all grew in our faith this year as we were tested. I pray we all chose to deepen our relationship with God as so many other outlets were cut off. I pray we found sufficiency in the grace of God that has been poured out upon us all. I pray we all sought life and peace in the Spirit as we opened our hearts to let Him freely flow within us. 

Let’s take a look back at our first message of 2020 and be reminded of what God desires for us. 

Let’s pray.  Father God come and speak to us today. Let Your Spirit move in us, shape us and teach us Your ways. Remind us of Your message for us this year. Remind us of Your truth and promises as we follow You. Give us ears to hear and a heart to receive Your blessings and purposes for us to live as children of God. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

 

At Christmas we praised God for sending His Son down from glory to be our Savior. What does it mean to be a Savior? It means He rescued us! From what? From bondage to sin and the penalty of death for our sin. We have been saved from that! We have been set free! We have freedom over sin and death. Freedom from the condemnation of the law. Freedom that only the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ, offers us. Freedom from bondage that that keeps us in sin and darkness. 

This freedom is not found in the law, but through His life-giving Holy Spirit. 

Jesus came to set the captives free!

He turned everything upside down from what religion had evolved into over the course of time. The Pharisees and other religious leaders had become masters in memorizing the Word of God and pointing out all the ways people stumble in fulfilling the law. They could speak with great authority and confidence about God’s Word and all the commands. They even added laws for people to follow-only increasing the burden put on people. But what they never did and Jesus called them on it-was engage their heart. They didn’t keep love for God and His people as the motivation for all they did. 

They allowed the law itself to take a higher value in their heart over loving the people they were supposed to be caring for. They allowed religion and the practice of being religious to become an idol over truly humbling themselves before Almighty God and letting Him guide them every step. 

 

Jesus said to the Pharisees in Luke 11:42 42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

 

The more important things He says are to love-God first and loving His people follow right along in that commandment. We as God’s children are to seek justice for others-the oppressed, the hurting, the broken. We are to have compassion on others and care for those in need-the widowed, the poor, the isolated, the sick. We have certainly had opportunity to put this into action this year haven’t we? 

Have you paused to consider the good that God makes in this very troubling year- for us as His children, as Christians, to truly live as Christ followers?

Faith without works is dead. Look at the countless ways Christians all over the world have been called and given the opportunity to shine the Light and Love of Christ into the lost, the broken, the sick and the wounded. We are to never neglect the more important things- justice for others and sharing the love of God. Being a Christian is about personal sacrifice for the good of others. 

Love has to be at the heart of all that we do as Christians-our tithes, our service, our worship, and how we live our lives outside of these walls. Otherwise, we miss it-we miss everything Jesus came to teach us. We miss the freedom He died to give us.  Freedom will never come in rules that restrict and condemn. Freedom comes in yielding to the Spirit that dwells inside us. This is what we have explored this year-how we live in the freedom of the Spirit. 2020 has given us ample opportunity to seek the Spirit to guide us. 

 

The Apostle Paul asks a powerful question to the Galatians that really struck me in my studies last year and I shared it with you at the start of this year.  It is a good question for us to ponder every now and then to see how we are living. He had taught them how to walk and live by the Spirit. He asked: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Then he followed up with another question-because they knew they received the Spirit through faith in what they heard– not by any good works they did. He asks, 

After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

This is the question we need to ponder and pray about.

We should be coming before God at the end of this trying year asking: Father, did I keep the flow of Your Spirit open or did I quench that flow by trying to take matters into my own hands? Did I make up new rules I would follow to get through this year? Did I try to handle things in my own way? Did I leave you out altogether and neglect spirit-filled worship? Show me where I got it right and show me where I went astray from what You have taught me. Guide me to the path of spirit-led worship with You because that is where I want and need to be

This was the message that God placed on my heart for us to really meditate on throughout 2020. As we look back at how 2020 played out, we should ponder if we lost our ability to freely worship this year because we didn’t have the comfort of traditions and customs in place that we could count on? 

As we end this journey in 2020 together, let us be reminded of the greatest gift we have been given as a Believer- the life-giving Spirit that dwells and moves in us. Let us let go of everything that quenches the Spirit’s flow in us and let us grab hold of relationship and connection with God. Let us let go of having to be in control of everything in our own power because if this year taught us anything, it is that we do not have control of much. Let us willingly surrender to the guidance and peace of the Spirit within us. Let us let go of chains that bind us and let us choose freedom in the Spirit. For this is the will of God for us. This is why Jesus came down from glory. 

 

Romans 8: 1-6 NIV

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Galatians 5:25 NIV

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

There are 3 blessings we receive as we choose to walk by the Spirit that I want to remind us of, and 3 important reasons God calls us to walk by the Spirit-in order for us to be equipped to fulfill His divine purpose. 

 

  1. Renewal of the Mind   

The Holy Spirit is what resets our mind each day on the eternal things, on the ways of God, and reveals His heart and love towards us. We must renew our mind daily to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, to keep His Word of truth front and center in our thoughts and to walk in love as Christ does. 

 How do we renew our mind each day?

By reading His Word that is truth, by asking the Spirit to give us understanding as we read it and to illumine His Word, by praying with God and listening for what He will say to us through His Holy Spirit and by tuning to the flow of the Spirit’s teaching to guide us in what is right and good. By coming to worship as the Church, by connecting in small group conversations about His Word and how He’s working in our lives. By journaling and listening for what God will share with you through His Spirit. All of these play a role in bringing renewal of the mind-which also renews the heart. We all need this. No one is above needing a spiritual renewal daily. 

 

What happens when we go too long without renewing our mind? We lose our peace right? We lose the life Jesus intends for us to be living-one filled with joy, led by the supernatural, full of wonder and awe, having confident expectation for God’s mighty work in our lives, one that shows God’s will played out for us on a daily basis.  I know this in days I haven’t spent time with God first thing. I feel it later in my day with a loss of peace and I know I need to come back and quiet myself before Him. You know this too-if you have gotten out of the habit of coming to church (even if it’s online church) during this pandemic-you have likely felt a disconnect spiritually. You know your weeks are not the same when you don’t gather with the Body in worship, prayer, praise and fellowship.

You know the difference when you are in the habit of coming together for church-even online. It makes a difference. We know this. So we must choose to take daily actions to renew our mind in the Spirit. 

 

 Romans 12:2 NASB And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

When we renew our mind through His Spirit flowing in us, we are able to endure the hard times, we can overcome our struggles, we can remain in His hope and we can step out of darkness into His glorious light because the Spirit will remind us of these things.  We have a life-giving spirit that is eternal within us and the more we renew our minds in His truth and love for us, the stronger our spirit grows. This is a promise we have from God. 

2 Corinthians 4:16 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Let us remember the promise of the mind governed by the Spirit, is life and peace. Let us keep in step with the Spirit flowing in us. 

2. Makes Our Path Straight

When we seek and are led by the Spirit, God will make our path straight. We have surely needed His direction this year haven’t we? So much has changed; so much has been and is uncertain yet. So much is in constant flux. Yet when we just come before God and entrust our daily choices, needs and plans to Him, He shows us exactly what path to take. 

 As we look back on 2020 and are about to begin 2021, let us seek God and ask, how did I do with trusting You Father to guide my path this year? Did I surrender to You? Did I let You choose my course? Did I take the reins? Let us spend time in thoughtful prayer to see where we are at as we bring 2020 to close. Whose path are we on? God’s or ours? If you are uncertain, one way to tell is do you have peace, even if your destination is uncertain? Do you feel life bubbling up in you? If you aren’t experiencing these things, it would be good for you to come back to God and ask Him to show you what His path is for you. Did you reroute His path? Seek Him, listen and follow where He is leading you because it will surely bring you life and peace in the Spirit as you do. 

Proverbs 5: 5-8 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.   Do you?   Now look to vs. 7-8 and see what we gain when we truly do this. How often do you read these verses along with 5 and 6?

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.    

 

Proverbs 20:24 A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.  How then can anyone understand their own way?

 

God has set us apart as His children to serve His purpose in bringing the Good News and new life to this world that is dying. You can’t possibly know what God has planned for you without seeking Him through His Spirit. You can’t possibly fulfill the greatness that He has for you, unless you come before Him to surrender to His plan for your life. You can’t know your way as a child of God, without His Spirit to guide you. Let us come before God through the Spirit, so He can make our paths straight. 

 

3. Fulfills Our Divine Destiny 

For I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord.  How many have done some incredible things in your life thus far because God opened a door for you to do that?  How many know you would never have done that without God putting that on your heart first? God has given us each a divine destiny as a child of God that is far greater and more amazing than anything we can accomplish in this world in our own power. Even in times like we have been in, God’s divine purposes continue to be at work in and through us.

Our divine destinies have not been put on hold because of this pandemic. They are fully in motion.

The question is, have we continued to seek God and open ourselves to all that He wants to do through us for His glory to shine? Have we believed and remembered we still have a divine purpose to fulfill as we have been navigating this trying year? 

Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.   

He has greatness planned out for each of us-throughout our entire lifetime. He’s not done bringing about that greatness-no matter what you have encountered this year. He desires to do amazing things in and through you as you seek Him and let His Spirit guide you.  You can’t even possibly imagine what He has in store for you. Enjoy every step of it, even our trying years, let us look for the hand of God moving in our lives. 

 1 Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— 

Love grows as we seek Him and listen to His teaching and counsel. We prove His faithfulness and that increases our love for Him. He is worthy of all of our love, even in difficult years, He is worthy. 

Way back in the OT, God was giving instructions to the Israelites-very specific instruction on how to live in the freedom He gave them-freedom from slavery to Egypt. They had to change their thinking and let go of the slavery mindset. They had to change their behaviors and how they interacted with one another. They had to let go of what they knew and grab hold of all that God was offering them to truly live as free people. After the instruction God also shared numerous blessings He would faithfully pour on them as they trusted and obeyed Him. Then God spoke this to His people and He is speaking it to us yet today: 

 Deuteronomy 30:19  “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!

Might you have allowed a slavery mindset to settle in this year because of the pandemic and all that has been taken, restricted and put on hold? Might you have allowed yourself to be put in an emotional or spiritual bondage in this year? Might you need to remember that our events and circumstances do not determine our freedom, joy or peace we have in Christ? If this relates to you in any way this year, can I encourage you with the very words of our God, “Oh that you would choose life, so that you might live!” 

Jesus also affirmed, in John 10:10,

“I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly!” 

As we praise Jesus for being our sacrifice and Savior, let us also praise Him for the gift of His Holy Spirit to bring us life beyond our physical world and peace while we live in this world. 

Romans 8:6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Conclusion:  In the Spirit is where we find God and the freedom to live as He has purposed for us-even in times of hardship and uncertainty. In the Spirit is always where we find life and peace. Let us keep in step with the Spirit and be free in Christ! 

Let’s pray: 

Heavenly Father, we thank you for being a God and Father who delights in spending time with us, Your children. We thank you for sending Your Son Jesus to take our place on the cross and because of His spotless blood that poured out at the cross, as we believe in Him, we are justified before You. It is His blood that cleanses us and His righteousness imparted to us that allows us to come before You Lord with confidence. Thank you, Father, for sending Your Holy Spirit to dwell in each of us, to be our guide, our light, our teacher, our counselor and our connection to You. What a precious gift. You call us to a life of abundance and freedom as we believe in Your Son. Help us today Father to have a mind to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Help us to receive and walk in the freedom You offer us as Your children. Let us not cling to what is comfortable and familiar. Let us grab hold of all that You desire us to experience through Your Spirit. Help us Lord if we need it, to rediscover our freedom in Your Spirit.  Help us Lord to willingly give our minds over to Your Spirit to guide us in all ways and bless us Lord with life and peace in Christ. In Your Son Jesus’ powerful name, we pray. Amen. 

Offering: God has been ever faithful to each of us as we trust in Him. Let us continue to be faithful to Him. Let us thank Him for all that He has provided for us, our families and our church. Let’s pray and ask Him what He would have us give back to Him and the building on His kingdom. Let us respond in the Spirit and not the flesh. Trust in Him as He guides you to give that He will never leave you without and read the blessings in Deut 28-they are real as we trust and obey. 

 

Final Blessing: 2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Have a safe and blessed New Year! We’ll see you back here in 2021!

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