Pentecost People - The Spirit of Truth
Psalm 51, John 16:12-15
John 16:13, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
Our theme this Pentecost period is the Holy Spirit. The person and the power. The comfort and the challenge. The fountain of water and the flame of fire.
The Holy Spirit is also specifically referred to as our Advocate. Advocate is a word we tend to just use when we talk about legal proceedings, or a Court process. The advocate speaks for someone – makes the case for them.
Jesus said in John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the spirit of truth.” And verse 26 “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
The Holy Spirit is God’s agent on earth. And before anything, the Holy Spirit brings Truth. Truth and revelation. A conviction and clarity. What he compels us toward is honesty.
Honesty in our relationship with others, with ourselves, and with our God. It’s this requirement for honesty that I want us to grasp to more than anything else in our study this morning.
The truth is often uncomfortable isn’t it. We find it hard when people speak the truth to us. We don’t like our weaknesses to be exposed.
I think probably everyone is aware of the concept of conscience – one’s own self-awareness and knowledge when one is doing, might do, or has done something wrong.
What the Holy Spirit does, in my view, is reinforce this conscience, perhaps correct it, but also to prompt us supernaturally when our own moral compass has no idea about the right or wrong of a situation.
I believe the Holy Spirit can shift us into positive and potentially life-saving action – for ourselves and others – into steps where we could have had no idea of what was of consequence. Providing we are listening.
Have you ever had the sense that you need to call someone, or visit someone, or send them a card? I think these are simple but powerful examples where God, through his Holy Spirit, prompts us into positive action – bringing knowledge and insight beyond what we could possibly know.
I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is the architect of restoration. I know of careless or even intentionally destructive words I have said to people on occasion, and I have felt absolutely compelled to go back to the person I have hurt, and apologise. The degree of conviction is such that I am sure it is not just my conscience, it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I cannot rest until it is sorted.
And before we go further, I want to make one thing very clear, and that is that when the Holy Spirit brings truth, especially when he brings light on our error or correction to our path, he brings conviction and hope, not condemnation.
Conviction - not condemnation.
So, if you are feeling weighed down by guilt, weakness or shame, for what you may have done or failed to do- that is not of God. Cast it off, seek forgiveness, throw is a Jesus’s feet and ask him to deal with it.
Romans 8:1. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. No condemnation. There is grace and freedom.
To find this place of freedom, I am going to throw three challenges today.
· Honesty with God;
· Honesty with ourselves; and,
· Honesty with one another.
Challenge no1: Honesty with God
A group of us men meet once a month, on a Saturday morning, to study the Bible and share and pray.
Our study the prior weekend was looking at the Power of Sin and the fact that no-one is righteous. In the bleakness and negativity of that, we were led to Psalm 51.
Psalm 51 was written by King David after the prophet Nathan had come, as a messenger or prophet of God, to expose his adultery with another man’s wife.
In the context of the great wrong that David did, God brought restoration.
David had caused damage to people but he had also broken one of God’s most fundamental laws. As king, he had fallen greatly.
Bear in mind that beyond the adultery, David also sent the unknowing husband to the front of the battle line and set him up to be killed.
David had started on a spiral of destruction. It’s common isn’t it – one bad thing or one lie leads to another as one attempts to cover up something wrong.
David was loved greatly by his father God, who had placed him in this role of King. I am sure the Lord tried to wake up David’s conscience, but there was no response.
So the Lord spoke directly to the prophet Nathan and had him go and challenge David. Nathan would likely have been a resident of the palace at the time and would have been one of the church ministers, if you like.
Now many of us, as a first response, when we have done wrong, will blame the stupidity of the law, will blame uncontrollable factors, and will refuse to accept guilt.
David admits his guilt when challenged by Nathan. In fact, in Psalm 51, he fully admits his failure.
He desperately asks God to trust him again, to forgive his sin, to leave His Holy Spirit with him.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me”.
This is an extraordinary statement about the Holy Spirit. David, so knows God, that he knows His Presence in a way that probably no other person did in pre-Pentecost times. He knows what it is like to live with God by his side, and knows he cannot live a life without that. David knows that with his confession of sin, God can take away the guilt he feels, and give him back freedom.
“Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are my God and my Saviour”
One incredibly important point: while it is too late for him to get forgiveness from the husband he has sent to an early death, but he can still be freed from the guilt and condemnation through confession.
Our God speaks to the wounded as well as the offender. The freedom he offers to the sinner, he offers to the damaged.
There will be wrongs that we have done in our lives, or wrongs that others have done to us, that we may never be able to reconcile on a human level. But God can fix the hurt and the pain, the damage or the guilt.
When we confess, what does he fix? He separates those sins from us, as far as the east is from the west. And if it is a past hurt, he can also take that away.
What does he do to us? He restores us from whatever damaged place we may be.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me”
In David’s case, the focus is on his honesty with God. Being honest with God should be the easiest place for us to start. Our discussion with him is private, no-one else need know.
Psalm 139:23 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”
Challenge no2: Honesty with ourselves
I’ve talked about our consciences and about how the Holy Spirit re-enforces this and develops our own sense of what is right or wrong or what should be or not be.
In all of that, I am gracefully assuming we are all willing to listen to correction.
But quite often, we just harden our hearts. We just refuse to listen.
Why? Why aren’t we willing to change? Why do we persist on such a selfish path that we really don’t care about anyone else? Why don’t we allow him to heal our hurt? Why don’t we open the door to reconciliation?
We are all great critics. But some of us are the first to criticise others and the last to look at ourselves.
Matthew 7:3 “why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”.
Sometimes we are so obsessed by how others behave that we fail to look at ourselves. And sometimes we are so obsessed by the way we have been badly treated, that we fail to move on and live life.
Sometimes our own unwillingness to forgive is the biggest barrier to our ability to live. You may have been hurt, and hurt more deeply than anyone of us here can imagine, but unless you forgive and lay your hurt, anger, pain, and resentment at the feet of the Lord, you will not move on. You condemn yourself and God wants to give you freedom.
As you come to the altar for communion later, be honest, be honest about your failure, be honest about your pain, lay the issues down as you kneel, and receive the bread of life.
1 Corinthians 11 “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgement. “
If you have an area in your life that really needs addressing, then be open to the Lord about it in prayer as you come to the altar.
And speak to Hugh or one of us leaders afterwards, if you would find it helpful, to talk through what is on your heart.
Challenge no3: Honesty with one another
As I prepared for this talk, I saw one phrase come up repeatedly. “One-another”. And I just want to read out a series of verses which I would stitch together and call the “one-another lifestyle”.
Romans 15:7 “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God”
Ephesions 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ forgave you”
2 Corinthians 13:11 “Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace”
Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”
Colossians 3:16 “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom”
Galations 5:13 “serve one another humbly in love”
James 5:9 “Don’t grumble against one another”
1 Peter 4:9 “Offer hospitality to one another”
So, let me be honest with you. Let me share just some examples of situations where I have had to adopt a “one-another lifestyle”, and in the process becoming more honest with God and myself.
As someone who in their daily job looks after relationships, it is never easy to step back. But on one or two occasions, I have had to say to a colleague – I am not the right person here. I will help you, but you should take over.
Often the hardest thing is to work under someone who is promoted ahead of us or instead of us. We do everything we can to avoid the oversight. Sometimes, we need to just learn to respect someone else’s authority and value what we have and been entrusted with.
For many years, my mother and I just clashed. I saw no reason to soften my approach. But there was a point when the reality of the commandment “Honour your father and mother” hit me. And I recognised that it was my obligation to make this relationship work, not my mother’s. It transformed that relationship.
On occasion, we have sought to encourage our children to deal with one of their weaknesses, and it has been painful. At times, we have had to recognise, this isn’t our fight (or theirs) and help them find other strengths and gifts, and develop those. It has been wonderful to let go and then see them flourish.
There can be phases in a marriage when a particular habit or behaviour of your wife or husband really becomes an issue. Sometimes it’s appropriate to air this. Sometimes you just need to accept it. Re-learn the concept that love is an act of will. And remind yourself that you yourself have faults... difficult though it may be to imagine.
And lastly, there are times when all I have focused on my own needs or perceived obligations - what I have to get done on a particular weekend, or even just during an evening. I ignore the needs of those around me. And sometimes, my own voice just isn’t listening, and I need God to shout “STOP”. Love those who are around you.
In some of these cases, you could say that I’ve just woken up to a situation, but I am convinced that God supernaturally provides wisdom, understanding, and a sharp word, to get us on track, and providing we listen, it can make a big difference to the lives of those around us, but also to our own.
As we approach communion
Two years ago, on 10 September 2017, I stood at this lectern and asked us to kneel to pray. I would like to read the words from the book of morning prayer that day, that had shone out to me.
“Let us break bread together on our knees, let us break bread together on our knees. When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me.
Let us share wine together on our knees, let us share wine together on our knees. When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me.
Let us praise God together on our knees, let us praise God together on our knees. When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me.
If you take nothing else away from this morning, embrace the concept of a one-another lifestyle. Be honest with God about your own failings and do all you can to live at peace with one another. Seek forgiveness, forgive, and work to reconciliation.