God Among Us! [FFCA]
1 Corinthians 14:25
In 1 Corinthians 14:25, the big idea is that “God Among Us” is the central goal of the corporate gathering. We need the Holy Spirit’s power in our midst and God’s powerful presence among us to the extent that when a pagan looks in and watches our worship, they would say, “Truly, God is among you!”
This week what we might call a middle week, or I don't want to use the phrase off week. That's not a good word to use, but it's between series and so we concluded 1 Samuel last week. Unlike what I said in my letter to you, we're not licking off the new series, we're kicking off the new series. I got home from a conference Thursday and Julie had read the letter and I think it was Thursday night late, she goes, oh, it's Friday morning actually, she goes, "Can I show you something?" I think I proofed that 3-4 times but you should have someone else proof your letters. She goes, "We're licking off a series next Sunday?" I'm like, "No, no, we're kicking off." So that's next week.
So this is this middle week and we're going to approach a subject rooted in 1 Corinthians 14, specifically verses 23-25, and most specifically to drill down a phrase in verse 25 that I think for years has always intrigued me. I think I'm miles away from understanding this singular phrase, this set of verses, this chapter, or this set of chapters. I have a longing in my heart and I desire to pursue it but I feel like I'm miles away from it. So know that going into this and also know this: you're going to have a lot of questions today. My goal is not to necessarily try to answer all of those questions, I'll take maybe 1 or 2 at some point in the service, the number will probably be on your handout there, maybe in your worship folder, but you'll have a lot of questions. We can talk further as the weeks unfold, we can get together for discussions about this subject and the gifts involved and how it plays out. I agree with all that. I have questions myself but I want to kind of take a 30,000 foot view in some ways, and get down to where it empowers all of that. So in some sense you could say that we're going to be looking this morning at the Holy Spirit, okay?
Let's get there by, first of all, examining 1 Corinthians 14:25. It's a singular phrase in the middle of a larger section that talks about what should happen when the church comes together. In fact, you could read chapters 11 through about 14 and you'll find the phase "comes together" multiple times. So we're within the right context.
This idea of the church coming together, this simple phrase says in the last of verse 25 that if you're together, do you see this in verse 25? "An unbeliever enters," and everyone is prophesying, then "he," and I think there, or she, that this person would be "convicted by all, called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and then falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that," here's the phrase, "God is really among you." This affirmation by what Paul would call an outsider or an unbeliever that truly God is among you. That's the phrase that I long to see happen.
Now, do I know that exists? Yes. Do I think that God....let me back up, do I know that God is among us? Yes, but would you not agree this text seems to call out for us an extraordinary kind of awakening moment when even an unbeliever or an outsider would see the church using gifts appropriately in the power of the Spirit with great love for one another and would say, "Wow, that's not natural. That's supernatural. God is among you." I long for that. It doesn't mean that I don't know that it exists and that I don't think God's not here, I don't think we call his presence down, I don't think we manufacture, I don't believe any of that. But I am not afraid to admit to you there is something out of the, you may call, ordinary about this verse that Paul even admits there is a time in which his presence is so manifest that even unbelievers when the gifts impacted them, they're like, "Wow, God is in that place," and he's speaking of the corporate gathering, the coming together of the church.
I analyzed why I longed for that. I've longed for it for multiple years. I can recall being on vacation with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who are here this morning for graduation. We were in, was it Lake of the Ozarks? We hadn't planted this church yet. I was reading a book called, it was about spiritual power and I remember just talking with Terry at length about like, "Why don't we see God's power displayed?" Even then I just longed for it.
But I think the root reason I thirst for this is because I grew up in an environment where God's power was displayed on a regular basis. Now you may find that hard to believe because I grew up in a very conservative, and I'll use this phrase, fundamental, independent, Bible-believing Baptist church. That's how I grew up. In fact, my hero is here today, my dad is right over here and he could attest to this. We were in a church that just on a regular basis we were seeing folks come to Christ, there were baptisms regularly, there were moves of God that you could not explain. Especially one that I wasn't there for, I had already moved out, but there was a revival within that church. You can ask him about it later, he'll tell you about it, where I think it may have started on a Sunday or Wednesday, but the pastor just said, "We just need to meet again tomorrow night," and I think for multiple weeks they just met to pray and to hear preaching of God's word and to worship and people just came out of nowhere. Literally they just would show up to get saved. In fact, one guy showed up, he was a truck driver and was driving through and he just said, "I felt compelled by something to drive to this address to hear this message," and he got saved that night.
Those are the kind of things that make me think of this phrase. If an unbeliever walks in and he sees you using your gifts appropriately in love and with clarity, God's Spirit could empower all of you to the extent that they would say, "Wow, you know things you shouldn't know. You're aware of things in my life. I'm convicted by it. I'm going to fall on my face and worship God with you and say truly, God is among you." I long for that. Maybe it's because I've seen a taste of it and I've seen it here at times and I've seen it in the Western church at times in our independent, atmosphere-producing, overly planning, Western environment. You can laugh if I say that next service, okay? I've seen this happen where God overrides everything we try to do and does what he knows he needs to do. But by and large I think sometimes we get into ruts of just human kind of rote and ritualism. It's the way we've always done it, we know what to expect. And I don't think there's anything wrong with liturgy necessarily if you know why liturgy exists.
So this is kind of what's all in my head. What do we make of this phrase? God is among you. Isn't this what we desire and crave and long for? Isn't this both a realization and a pursuit? Isn't this both a reality and a longing? I think it can be both. So what's happening here? Well, let me just kind of walk you backwards if I can. I'm going to show you what 23 through 25 says real quickly and then we'll go to our lab in a moment and I'll kind of show you what this looks in a chart form back from chapter 12 forward, because I want to try to analyze what are the non-negotiable elements for a God among us environment. So can you take this journey with me? Can we trek these chapters? If this is the end-game, so to speak, God is among you and it's clear and it's visible and it's real, what are the non-negotiable elements that seem to be part of that?
Well, first of all, in 23 through 25, just understand something: he's simply here saying that, and I'm just giving you the historical textual understanding. I'm not going to try to debate this with you. I'm not going to try to explain it in a way that, you know, makes you feel comfortable. I'm just going to tell you what it says. Again, my goal is not to dig real deep into this right now, but in these specific verses, he's simply showing this: that prophecy, the clarity of prophecy is far better than the confusion of uninterpreted tongues. That's all he's saying. He says earlier in this chapter that he would rather speak five words with clarity, i.e. prophecy, than 10,000 words in an uninterpreted tongue. Why? Because prophecy benefits the entire church and he's saying here this is why prophecy is to be preferred over uninterpreted tongues, because of its clarity and its value to the entire church.
And he illustrates that by saying because if someone comes in who is an unbeliever and an outsider and they see you all involved in uninterpreted tongues, what will they say? You're all mad. Just envision that and you would probably agree. But he says if an unbeliever comes in and an outsider and you're all prophesying and he's already laid the groundwork that it has benefits to the whole church, it's the building up, it's clear, he says then this person won't say you're mad, they'll say, "Wow, God is among you," and he kind of lists this idea that this unbeliever, this outsider, sees that you know things, he's convicted by all, his secrets are laid bare. There is this sense that something is done or happening to him that you're aware of something he doesn't think you should know, which is why I think prophesy is, in general, it is a proclamation but it has, in some sense, it contains an element of unknown or unable to know information that's revealed to you by the Holy Spirit and this person simply says, "You could not have known that apart from the Holy Spirit," and so he realizes, "God is among you," and he falls down and worships. His life has been affected by the meeting, the gathering of the saints.
This is what Paul describes. How does that occur? Let me go to our lab with you, can I do that? Let me walk you through these chapters. You have a handout with you, don't you? So with that in mind, let me just show you kind of what's happening here because I think he begins to back the truck up and show us the elements that are non-negotiable for that kind of, I'll use the word resolve. I want to say experience for that kind of inevitable occurrence, we'll call it.
He says for there to be a manifestation of God's power, first of all, there must be the right use of, we'll just use the word here, gifts. So fill this in: the right use of gifts. He talks about this in chapter 14, verse 1, verse 12, verse 39. Listen to some of these phrases. He says pursue love, earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. So here he really highlights prophecy but his bigger picture is the spiritual gifts. So when the church gathers, there should be an embracement that we are gifted by the Spirit, we will be gifted by the Spirit, and we want to use that to clearly lift up Jesus and edify the saints. So there is a right use of gifts.
Verse 12 says something very similar to 14, "So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church." How is that done? Through the spiritual gifts. Look at verse 39, "So then, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy. Do not forbid speaking in tongues but all things should be done decently and in order." And there are other phrases in this chapter where Paul is encouraging the right use of gifts, okay? So gifts are an important element, we'll call it, in this God among us environment. Chapter 14 really talks a lot about the right use of gifts.
A couple of things about this aspect. There are two central purposes to spiritual gifts: edifying the saints and glorifying Jesus. So all spiritual gifts should be aimed, and I think will be aimed at those. They are sovereignly given by the Holy Spirit to every believer and so then we'll edify each other and then they will glorify Jesus. You can see this even beginning in chapter 12. We'll get there in a minute but just beware spiritual gifts are given to glorify Jesus and edify the brothers and sisters. They're not given for your own self-fulfillment or self-satisfaction. They're given for the edification of the body. Now, that doesn't mean you won't find joy in them but the goal is to be in your platform so that you feel better. The goal is to come under the control of the Holy Spirit so that the body is edified and Christ is glorified and there is clarity about the Gospel.
Notice this, the right use of gifts. That's what he does mainly in 14, by the way, because he talks a good bit about how to utilize gifts. Now, I just want to be really frank with you: again, you're going to have questions and you're probably going to think, "Man, what does he think about that? And does he agree with this?" We can talk later. My goal is not to get into that this morning. But in this chapter, here are some analytics for you: prophecy is the most mentioned gift. The most. I do believe in prophecy. My previous definition is not the full definition but I think it's part of it. It's the most mentioned gift.
The discussion in this chapter is about right usage, okay? Right usage isn't just about limiting or stopping abuse. You might want to use the word "excess." Is that part of it? Yes. Paul wrote this letter to help them use spiritual gifts correctly. Watch this, though, but right usage is also encouraging and starting the use. In other words, it's avoiding neglect and I think probably in my circles, we've done that. We've been so afraid of the abuse that we have kind of gone way over to the neglect and instead we should as a church, do what Paul says here, pursue spiritual gifts and especially prophecy.
Now when I say that, you probably get nervous. You're like, "Oh, man." I'm just quoting Scripture for you. Paul admonished the church at Corinth who was struggling with abusing gifts to actually use them rightly. So quit chasing gifts that are for self-serving purposes like uninterpreted tongues and instead purse the ones that benefit the body, namely prophecy. Now, you all want to talk about prophecy but that's not my goal today so we can talk later, okay? My point is to show this: one the elements in a "God among you" environment is the right use of gifts.
He highlights this one in this chapter but he mentions most of them in chapter 12, by the way. We can say the idea of gifts is really in play here but gifts alone are not the complete picture. He talks about the right motive of love. Would you drop that on your study guide? In fact, look at chapter 13, verse 13, "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is," what? Say it church: love. In chapter 13, what we know as the love chapter, it's smack dab in the middle of a chapter on the unity of the body and the spiritual gifts given to it, and then the practical outworking of those gifts. The point is this: spiritual gifts must be done in love. I think that's what keeps a gift from being self-serving. If you're always thinking, "I've got to use this gift I've got. I've got to use this gift the Spirit may give me. I've got to make sure that I feel good and have this platform for doing what you want to do," you're not thinking of the other person.
But love really provides the footing for all spiritual gifts because you're thinking of the other person which is why in this chapter he talks about not keeping track of wrongs, not insisting on its own way, not being irritable, resentful, leaving all things, bearing all things. By the way, some of you are maybe curious how love affects prophecy. I won't get into this too much but let me just kind of explain to you why I think prophecy can involve information that you don't previously know but the Holy Spirit can reveal that to you. It's always in line with the word. It should be tested and run through the elders of the church according to 1 Thessalonians. It should be weighed and discerned but if at some point all those things happen, there is this thought that perhaps, "You know, well, what if it's not exactly right? What if there's a part of it that...." It's like other gifts. Not every time you use a teaching gift or a mercy gift or a leadership gift do you get it 100% right, do you? God to you is correct but your understanding and transmission has still got this human vessel element. Wayne Grudem talks a good bit about this, Sam Storm as well and they do a better job than me.
But he talks about how this is why love really matters because sometimes in understanding that, look at verse 11, verse 12 of 1 Corinthians 13. We only see in a mirror dimly, don't we? So right now as God uses prophecy to build the church up, sometimes you don't have the whole picture so you relay it as best you can and when you don't get it exactly right, when you have the elders around you and like, "Well, we sense this is from God. We think this is what the Lord would have us know and say," it takes love as a footing for that because sometimes you're not sure how all that plays together in the moment. That's why love really matters.
Personally I think you see this in Paul's departure from Jerusalem. Now watch this: Agabus prophesied to Paul via a rope tying illustration around Paul's waist. He basically said, "Paul, if you go, you're going to be bound and captured." Now, there are some scholars who think that that didn't exactly come true, that there are too many details that are wrong. The sense in Agabus' prophecy that he would be killed but he wasn't killed in Jerusalem, he was killed later, years later. He was captured in Jerusalem. But the point is not to say, "Oh, was Agabus exactly right in every detail?" The point is to say, "God equipped Agabus with information he could not have known otherwise about something in the future so the church could be strengthened and prepared." And they were. Paul chose instead not to listen to Agabus and he chose instead to stay where he was, excuse me, to go to Jerusalem where he was captured. Some think, "Well, Paul should have listened to that prophet and avoided that." Paul thought, "No, I think God has called me there." And love kept all that intact. Love kept all of that from maybe detouring the church.
By the way, Agabus also predicted earlier in Acts that there would be a famine that was to come. The famine did come and the church was able to prepare ahead of time, store up food and serve the community. Was every single detail spot on? The general picture was God has given information that helps our church, builds us up and helps prepare us. Again, that's not the real point of this except to say this: what keeps the gifts intact and focused correctly is the footing of love.
So if you were to say, "What is the right use of gifts?" Clarity is the key word. What is the right motive for gifts? Love and we would say it's the footing. And then lastly, the right power of the Holy Spirit. You say, "Todd, why do you say the right power? Is there some other kind of power?" Yes, there is. Look at chapter 12, verse 3. Paul warns that "no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says 'Jesus is accursed!'" So there must have been this deceitful going on, this straying type of gift usage that was not rooted in edification or clarity or glorifying God but in trying to build up their own following or establishing their own beliefs and he says, "Do you know what? If you hear things that are contrary to God's word, that go against the character nature of Christ, you can be sure the Spirit of God is not behind that. Some spirit is, but it's not the Spirit of God. It's not the right power, it's the wrong power."
So a God among us environment I think includes the right use of gifts, the right motive of love and the right power of the Holy Spirit. Look what he does here, chapter 12, verse 3, he talks about how the Holy Spirit is what motivates people to say, "Jesus is Lord." In other words, the clarity of a speaking gift to honor Jesus and lift him up and make sure that there is no confusion or ambiguity about who Jesus is and what he did, that is Holy Spirit driven. Where there is confusion about the character and work of Christ, the Holy Spirit is absent.
He then goes on in verse 5 to talk about how there is a variety of gifts but it's the same God who empowers them in every one. Verse 11, "All these," speaking of the gifts, "are empowered by one and the same Spirit." By the way, do you see the word "Spirit" in verse 11? Do you see the word "God" in verse 6? Here's a reference to the deity, the Holy Spirit, the fact that God is three persons in one, the Trinitarian aspect of the Holy Spirit, God the Son, God the Father. Here it is, the Holy Spirit is called God here. It is he who empowers every one of these gifts.
Now notice something in verse 12 and 13. We read these this morning but notice this: you have the word "one," underline this. I think it's maybe 4, maybe 5 times in verses 12 and 13. The point of the Holy Spirit's power is unity. It's the Holy Spirit that makes us one, even though we are all different and even though there are many of us. So do you see 12 and 13? Listen closely, "just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." Now watch this, this is why I would argue against a baptism of the Holy Spirit because here Paul is making the claim that all of us who are in Christ have been, what? Baptized into one body by the Spirit.
And then he goes on and talks about the different gifts and the way to use them correctly but he never once says, by the way, some of you have gotten the baptism and some of you haven't, he makes a clear case here. The Holy Spirit has baptized every one of us into one body, right? So we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ already. We are one body and then the Holy Spirit in this one body empowers us individually and I think this is where people in our circles begin to break down. We love the thought that God has baptized us, the Holy Spirit has baptized us, so to speak, into one body and we love that, but then we say, "But by the way, Ryan, he'll empower you individually. Steve, Denise, Brad, Todd, Julie." You're praying Todd, don't call my name. Listen: God's Spirit will empower you individually so that in this one body you can use your gift appropriately and I think the breakdown because we love the fact that God has baptized us into one body, we love the unity, and then we just kind of sit there and clap about that. "Man, love the unity, Todd. I'm glad we're one. Red, yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight. Amen. Man, sing it. Preach it."
And we never realize, okay, in that one body, what is my responsibility then? It's the Holy Spirit's power in you, motivating you from love to use your gift rightly for this one body that you're in. When that occurs as the church is together, I think these elements and I want to be careful here, these are the elements that begin to form the environment, the situation, the place, the gathering where suddenly an unbeliever or an outsider can walk in and see a church so in love with God and committed to each other and embracing that God's Spirit would empower us when we gather to use the gifts, that we would do that in a way that they would say, "Wow, you know things about me that should not be known and yet you love me, you love each other. Truly God is among you." That's what I long for and I think these elements taken right from these Scriptures are crucial, fundamental, non-negotiable.
Now does that mean that we can just kind of dole these out and say, "Okay, we've got gifts, we've got love, we've got the Holy Spirit, boom, let's make it happen"? I don't think it's like, it's not like a formula or an equation like that so I want to be careful here, but I don't want to be afraid to address what Paul talks about here. This desire, this longing, this realization for a "God among you" moment and him saying that it's built on the fact that it's by the Holy Spirit's power in each of us and yet in all of us with love as our footing and then right usage and clarity occurring, then the "God among you" moments are possible.
Now, I realize that has bred a lot of questions in you. I know. In fact, it breeds more questions in me than you can imagine. In fact, Friday after my wife told me that I had the error in the letter, she said, "Also I have some questions for you." So we probably spent 30-45 minutes talking about the gift of prophecy, what I believe, and she's been the first person that we talk about this to for years and what we believe and how we agree, how we differ, all the questions we have, and we spent 35-45 minutes just saying, "Do you know what? No matter how many years we delve into this," and I think we both left with like, "it's just amazing what God's power could do if we just made ourselves available and were postured underneath it." We don't have all the answers. We both had questions we couldn't answer. Let's get back to the Scriptures. But, man, it just increased our thirst. So maybe these questions here will do that for you before I close with some application.
So are there one or two questions, Ryan, at all? Man, a miracle has happened. God is among us. No questions about prophecy today. Hallelujah! Amen! If you have some, seriously, you can write them in still and I'll try to address them on my blog, but I'm glad you don't have any publicly per se, but I don't want you to feel bad for having some. We have a lot on this issue but let's not let the questions about how it occurs necessarily prevent us from saying this, listen very carefully, church: whether we agree or disagree on if all the gifts have ceased, if some of the gifts have ceased, if some haven't, how is the Spirit controlling it, does he baptize, does he not, is it second, is it first, we can debate that endlessly but we cannot debate this, we need the Holy Spirit's power for us to realize God is among us. It is not a cranial exercise. No one says, "Jesus is Lord," except in the Holy Spirit and, by the way, no one hears that to the effect that they're regenerated and changed except by the Holy Spirit. The entire thing is a spiritual-driven exercise.
So does this explain to you why for years I have prayed this in front of you, I have prayed that we would have our services in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Son, and to the glory of the Father. You've heard me say that for years and I've never explained why. I was waiting for someone to say, "Todd, why do you pray in a Trinitarian way?" Because this entire exercise is empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. People's eyes aren't opened by my persuasiveness. That probably closes more than anything. We don't finagle people into the kingdom. We don't convince lost people, humanly speaking, to be saved. We preach the Gospel which is foolishness to those who are perishing, but that very message clearly stated, Christ clearly portrayed in all of his glory and in all of his sacrificial, substitutionary work, that is what people hear and then the Holy Spirit takes that message which seems almost counter-intuitive and by foolishness and he pricks the heart of an unbeliever and then their eyes are opened and he regenerates them and they respond to faith and then he justifies them and then he adopts them, then he has to work with them. All of that is spiritually driven, every single ounce of it.
That is why we pray every single week here, "God, may our gathering not be an exercise of human production, a manufacturing of the flesh's work. God, may this be done in the power of the Spirit." I've even prayed this with you, "Lord, would you gift us by your Spirit?" A lot of you think, "Well, Todd, we don't use our gifts on Sunday much because you're going and using your gift or someone else or that person." I don't agree with that. I think and I have yet to figure this out, I shared with one of our elders this morning how 13 years, I don't know how to do this, but I do believe when the body gathers there has to be a way for the gifts to be used. I've yet to figure out how to do that in a corporate gathering. I don't know how. Maybe it's just kind of maybe where I come from and how we've done it here and there is some baggage there, I don't know. But the Scriptures teach of the body using their gifts in the corporate gathering and I'm not saying that can't happen in small groups or in Sunday school classes, I believe all that, but there is something about 14:25 that when you come to gather and you're all prophesying and you're clearly edifying the church and glorifying Jesus, even an unbeliever can come in and would be convicted by all, his heart laid open and he would say, "Truly God is among you." I long for that.
Does that fit our culture? No. And is that seeker sensitive? Not on your life, that's why I love it so much. Our city does not need another seeker sensitive church, our city needs another Gospel-loving, Christ-honoring, Bible-preaching, gift-using body of believers who are not ashamed of who they actually are and our attraction should be in our identity and we should gather to say, "God, do something among us that is truly supernatural, that is all driven by the Holy Spirit."
So this is what a "God among you" environment is. It's God among you corporately because God is in you personally. Are you catching that? Don't leave here thinking, "Yeah, man, go church!" Leave here thinking, "Holy Spirit, fill me, gift me, use me, empower me. And don't let that stop just because I walk in those double doors and I'm gathered with everybody else. Even in here, God, fill me, use me, empower me, gift me." Because God among us corporately is inevitably the result of God in us personally.
Notice the word "inevitably." If we just continue to realize like we know this is true and yet we long for it, we realize this and yet we pursue it, I think those both can exist, then as we gather corporately, we as individuals will be coming together filled with the Holy Spirit aware that God is in us. So if God is in me individually and he's in us, what does that look like? What happens in those environments? That's part of this "God among us" environment. Again, I've raised more questions. I'm glad. I want you to have more questions.
I have some resources for you if you'd like to know more about them. I think most anything Sam Storms writes on spiritual gifts is going to be A+ great. Simple name, Sam Storms. He's got a book called "A Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts." It's excellent. Read it. He talks a good bit about prophecy. I would say he best describes what I believe about prophecy as well and other gifts mentioned here as well. Wayne Grudem in his book "Systematic Theology." He does a good job with these gifts. And there are some other ones as well. There is one on supernatural power, I don't have the name in front of me but I could list it in my blog this week. But some research to help you kind of walk through this and answer questions, okay?
Maybe some simple apps for you would be a good idea now. Let must just give you three real quick before we wrap things up, okay? Three that I take from the Scriptures, from these passages, from this train of kind of logical yet supernatural thought. Three apps for you. Start inside, okay? Watch this, church, listen very carefully: our atmosphere is affected by your heartosphere but most of us don't believe that. We think – watch this – we think this: this atmosphere is affected by the stageosphere. That's what you think. Now do the folks in the stageosphere, I made those two words up, do the folks in the stageosphere have responsibility? Yes. If I came up to you this morning and I said, "Here's what I think about this," and I was just boring, that's just the best word to use, if I was just boring and appeared to you to not be impassioned or motivated by God's word, if I appeared to you to not be affected by God's word, if I appeared to you that I haven't digested this and have been under the weight of this and was rowing this boat and I'm now inviting you into this boat with me, if that was never the picture, then I bear responsibility to some degree, okay? I'm not doubting that. The same with our musicians. I mean, Josh must engage and the people who plan, the songs, I mean, all those things are things that we realize our responsibility but we don't produce an atmosphere. The stageosphere does not produce that. Can it produce an atmosphere? Yes, I'm not sure it's always a good one or a right one. The right atmosphere in which the Holy Spirit is working is one that's seen and we're aware of because of the heartosphere of each person who realizes, "Wow, I'm coming in today to meet with my family and I've got the Holy Spirit of God in me and I'll be sitting next to someone more than likely whose got the Holy Spirit of God in him or her and together we're going to be with hundreds of folks who have the Holy Spirit of God in us. Wow, that will be a powerful place to be." If we sing a cappella, if we just read three whole chapters of 1 Samuel. The Holy Spirit in us is what makes the Holy Spirit among us.
So start inside. How do you do that? I think there are a couple of really practical tips. The first is going to make you mad so I'm good with that. Hey, get here early. And I can say that to you because this lady over here and myself, we've raised four kids and we've always been at church and we've had to be there early. I have a job at church usually. And do you know what? She did 99% of the work. I'll be honest with you. So when I say to parents and your kids get here early, you're like, "You don't have..." No, I do. I've been there. I've walked that road and it's just a matter of discipline and there are times things happen, I get that, okay? But by and large if you're always late and you hurry in here, you're going to feel hurried the entire service.
So read the Scriptures in advance, try to come early, do some things to prepare your heart. Try to settle all of your differences if you can before you get here. And I've found that sometimes they happen late Saturday night, early Sunday morning, don't they? It's like you and your wife had the worst fight of the week about 6 AM on Sunday morning. How does that happen, right? Try to avoid those workout things early. Just do some things to prepare so that when you come in here, you realize, "God is in me." That doesn't mean he's not in you when things are tough. I'm not trying to say that. I'm just trying to raise our awareness that our sensitivities can sometimes be decreased when sin is just really rampant. We're quenching the Spirit, the Bible says. Are you with me? But if we deal with those things and do what we can to be more sensitive, that's starting inside.
So start inside. The heartosphere is where the atmosphere takes its cue. Second of all, refill regularly. I think you know I don't believe that a baptism of the Holy Spirit is a secondary experience. I believe it happens at conversion based on 1 Corinthians 12. I believe that. I don't think those who believe otherwise are heretic. I don't think they're my enemies, by the way. We just have a difference of opinion there. But I do think we leak. I don't think it affects the sealing of the Holy Spirit, I don't think it affects our position at all, but it's like a tire. A tire is still a tire but if it needs air, it doesn't work as well. It hasn't changed its composition or its identity, it's still a what? But if it has less air than necessary, it won't work as well.
So this is why Paul would say in Ephesians 5, it's a present imperative participle, "Be being filled with the Holy Spirit." Regularly make this your lifestyle and the point there is control. So he wants regular ongoing control of the Spirit over the Christian. So that's why I say refill regularly. "Holy Spirit, control me today. Fill me." Pray that and just refill hourly. You know, that's a regular occurrence, okay? That's one app I think that will help us.
Then lastly, this is similar to number 1, just realize, don't produce. I think you could say it like this: pursue don't perform. You say, "Todd, what are we pursuing?" Here's what we're pursuing: we're pursuing a posture, not a production. We're pursuing a relationship, not a manufacturing. So we're posturing ourselves under the mighty hand of God whose Spirit indwells us and we're saying, "Holy Spirit, use me, gift me, fill me." And then the Bible says he will distribute those gifts sovereignly as he wills. So I believe based on the need of the moment God will empower you with every bit of strength and gifting you need to edify the body right then, but often our posture isn't such that we're even available. So don't try to produce or manufacture, instead just realize, "God is in me. I'll posture myself under that and I'll pursue spiritual gifts, which means I'll trust the relationship that he has with me, that he will empower me for every moment to clearly give Jesus glory and clearly build up the body."
That's a "God among you" moment. Could it be a "God among you" moment in this gathering? Yes. Could it happen in the cafe? Yes. In a class? Yes. In a Lighthouse? Yes. But make no mistake, it is a "God among you" moment. It's when we see God is among us corporately because we know he's in us individually.
I think it's fitting to read one last thing to you. Here's how D. L. Moody described his longing for the Holy Spirit and D. L. Moody is one we know as a very conservative evangelist/pastor/preacher. You wouldn't say that D. L. Moody was kind of out there, would you? You would say he's very Reformed, a solid theologian, even. But he wrote this and I quote, "I was crying all the time that God would fill me with his Spirit." And you hear the heartbeat behind this preacher, okay? D. L. Moody, not mine. You hear this heartbeat. I can relate to this but hear this guy who is known among all of us for his fervor for God, for his solid stance in theology, for his consistency over many years, for his outreach. Here's what he's saying, "I was crying all the time that God would fill me with his Spirit when one day in the city of New York, oh, what a day. I cannot describe it. I seldom refer to it. It is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for 14 years, I can only say that God revealed himself to me and I had such an experience of his love that I had to ask him to stay his hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different, I did not present a new truth, and yet hundreds were now converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world. It would be as the small dust of the balance." Do you know what he's saying to us? God's power is what he needed most. That's what you and I need as well.
These are messages that don't belong to any particular series. We hope you're challenged and encouraged by them!