The Greatness of Our God

"Isn't our God truly great? That beautiful song reminds us of why we gather today. We shouldn't let the troubles within us or the world overshadow the goodness of God. This is the very essence of why we sing and pray.

Today, we'll delve into God's word and later, partake in communion. For those who may not know me, my name is Forest. Welcome to our church family!

The Spirit Series

We are currently exploring a series titled "The Spirit." I'll unveil today's specific theme shortly. It appears there's a slight delay with the screen. My sincere gratitude goes out to our sound and AV crew who continually support us in this journey.

Before we progress, a quick note for our middle school students: you have a dedicated class today. I'd like to think of it as a blessing for you, and I trust the Holy Spirit will move profoundly in your session. Please, feel free to head out now.

Understanding the Holy Spirit

Our current focus as a church is on the Holy Spirit, an often misunderstood and overlooked component of the Godhead. This study is particularly pivotal for our church community now.

The Bible teaches us that believers are saved, filled, sealed, and sanctified through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals God's teachings and thoughts to us. It played a key role in shaping the New Testament, which we will explore today. The Holy Spirit also aids Christians in their struggles, interceding for them in their relationship with God.

Last week, Ryan Weekley did a wonderful job discussing the Holy Spirit as God's tangible presence among us. He elucidated the transition from the Old Testament's Tabernacle and temple to the New Testament's declaration that believers are now the Temple of the Living God due to the Holy Spirit's indwelling. This is a profound truth that I hope resonated deeply with you all.

Richard and Lisa Moore shared practical insights about the Holy Spirit in their lives, and I'm grateful for Richard's call to delve deeper into the scriptures, gaining more knowledge about our bond with the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit at Work in Lives

It's exhilarating to witness the Holy Spirit at work in our community. Just last week, Jamaica Dillard was baptized, and she now possesses the gift of the Holy Spirit through her repentance and baptism. Furthermore, Yanita Ramirez, a visitor from India, is set to be baptized today. These events are living testimonies of the Holy Spirit's active role in our lives.

John 3:8 compares the spirit to wind. It's not always visible, but its presence is undeniable. For some, the Holy Spirit might feel like a refreshing autumn breeze after a scorching summer, while for others, it might signal a change in season or a sudden burst of revelation.

In my personal journey, I've come to recognize a deeper dimension to my relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. I used to see my relationship in a two-dimensional manner, focused primarily on God the Father and Jesus the Son, often sidelining the Holy Spirit. This study has transitioned my understanding from 2D to 3D, deepening my connection.

Engage with Us

I encourage everyone to engage with our sermon notes available on our church app. The QR code for the download will be provided, and you can follow along or simply immerse yourself in today's message.

Phoenix Church of Christ Mobile App

The Spirit Speaks

Ever been in a situation where you thought you knew a lot about a topic, only to be humbled by someone with more knowledge? I've been there, especially when trying to share insights about subjects outside my firsthand experience.

Our relationship with God can sometimes mirror this. At times, we may feel the need to earn our salvation or think we're never good enough. But the Holy Spirit seeks to correct these misconceptions, reminding us of God's grace. As Ephesians 2:8-10 says, we are saved by grace, not by works. We must allow the Holy Spirit to guide and inform our understanding, and in doing so, find a deeper connection with God."

The Ups and Downs of Spiritual Life

In my golf game, I often swing between feeling exceptional to absolutely terrible. It's a constant fluctuation of "I'm so good!" and then "Oh, I'm so terrible." And sometimes, spiritually, we feel similar swings. We vacillate between feeling, "God is with me" and "God's not," or "I'm doing so well" and then "I'm failing terribly."

Paul himself struggled with such emotions, as he expressed in Romans 7. He lamented, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24). Many of us may feel, "I'm never good enough," or question our worthiness. We might grapple with feelings of being unloved or alone.

But, as Christians, when we harbor such thoughts, I believe the Holy Spirit seeks to comfort us. The Spirit guides us back to God's word, which is the absolute truth, and to Jesus, who embodies grace. Today, I'd like to delve deeper into how the Spirit communicates with us and assists us through life's ups and downs.

However, it's crucial to clarify: when I refer to the Spirit speaking, I'm not suggesting an audible voice, as in the prophetic times documented in the New Testament. Rather, I believe the Spirit prompts, nudges, and gently guides us back towards God's word and Jesus's love.

This Spirit isn't boisterous or forceful; rather, it whispers and gently nudges us towards the truth. Hence, we need to cultivate stillness and an eagerness to discern His voice. Fortunately, we can always trust that the Spirit will never contradict the Scriptures. But in today's age of endless information and distractions, discerning that quiet voice can be challenging.

Carl Barth, a Swiss theologian, wisely said, "When we are at our wits' end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers of our own?" We are a part of a vast fellowship of churches and have seen God move in incredible ways. But the challenge is to remain humble and receptive to what God might be trying to convey.

Understanding the Book of Galatians

In the book of Galatians, Paul addresses some of the struggles of the early Christians. A recurring theme is the challenge of truly listening to the Spirit. He chastises the Galatians for their reliance on their own understanding rather than the Spirit's guidance.

He wrote, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?" (Galatians 3:1-3). Paul emphasizes the need to be silent, to listen more intently to the Spirit.

The Spirit Affirms

As we continue exploring Galatians, we see Paul's emphasis on the Spirit's affirmation in our lives. In Galatians 4, Paul writes about God sending the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. This Spirit calls out "Abba, Father," signifying an intimate relationship with God, akin to a child calling out to their "Daddy." This term, "Abba," is Aramaic, and is used by Jesus Himself during His most challenging moments, like in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Holy Spirit nurtures this close bond, allowing believers to connect with God as intimately as Jesus did. It's truly exciting to consider that we, too, can cultivate a relationship that empowers and strengthens us, just as it did Jesus.

Connecting with God: A Reflection on Our Relationship with the Divine

It's truly amazing how we can connect with God, especially in moments of weakness, neediness, and when we're feeling down. In those times, we often find ourselves yearning to be strengthened, seeking affirmation and security. And what's truly fascinating is how, as mentioned in Galatians, we can call God our "Abba Father". This intimate name depicts a profound relationship.

But let's be honest; often, we don't fully grasp what this means. Consider a toddler calling their dad "Daddy". Does the child truly understand the depth and breadth of the love, care, and security that comes with that name? Even when the father showers the child with love, gifts, and time, the child can't possibly comprehend the entirety of the relationship.

In the same way, our human understanding is limited. We don't always grasp the magnitude of the gift we possess as believers: that God is our Abba Father. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit assists us in making that connection, helping us find security in our journey with God.

Take my family, for instance. This past year, amidst our hectic schedules, we managed to carve out two nights for a camping trip in Cottonwood, followed by a visit to Jerome. One evening, as we sat around the campfire, my wife Mandy suggested a "ring of encouragement". As we went around the circle, each family member uplifted and affirmed another. The experience was deeply moving, a testament to the importance of building each other up, affirming our love and reminding one another of the bonds we share. It's this kind of affirmation that the Holy Spirit also offers believers, albeit in a spiritual context.

Romans 8 further elaborates on this relationship with God. It mentions that we are not just God's children but His heirs, and even co-heirs with Christ. This relationship is so profound that it transcends our understanding. And while Galatians says the Holy Spirit cries out from our hearts about our relationship with God, Romans asserts that we cry out. It's like a spiritual duet, two voices harmonizing in a song of divine connection.

Pastor John Piper beautifully captures this sentiment, describing the Holy Spirit as the voice inside our heart. It's a voice of recognition, affection, and joy, reminding us that God is our Father. He has paid for us, adopted us, cares for us, and loves us. He is our protector and provider.

Such is the depth of our relationship with God. It's why daily reflections, or quiet times, are essential. They serve as reminders of our divine inheritance and relationship.

However, our journey with God isn't without struggles. Whether it's doubt, sin, or feelings of distance from God, these challenges are part of the believer's experience. Yet, these struggles are also evidence of the Holy Spirit working within us. Where Satan might use our struggles to discourage us, the Holy Spirit uses them to affirm and uplift us.

So, if you're struggling today, find solace in the fact that the Holy Spirit is with you, guiding you, and reaffirming your place as God's child. It's disheartening when people don't fully realize the depth of their relationship with God. Let's strive to understand, value, and cherish our status as His children.

Understanding God's Love

Understand the depth of His love:

  1. He loves us: No matter what my kids do, I tell them all the time that I love them. Even if they reject that love, I still love them. If I, a sinful human being, can love unconditionally, imagine how much more the Holy Spirit wants us to understand God's love for us.
  2. We are God's children: Our emotions may be insecure and fluctuating, but the Holy Spirit reminds us that we are God's child. We are enough just as we are. If you're a Christian, the only way you lose is if you quit.
  3. Affirmation: We should stand and affirm together:
    • "I am God's child."
    • "He has paid for me."
    • "He has adopted me."
    • "He cares for me."
    • "He wants me."
    • "He loves me."
    • "He protects me."
    • "He provides for me."
    • "He has made me an heir of all that he owns."
    • "God is my Abba Father."

When I felt the Holy Spirit's nudge for us to stand, Connor stood up. It's amazing how the Spirit moves among us. If you're not yet a Christian, consider this: becoming a Christian is not just about "cleaning up your life." It's about receiving the Holy Spirit, gaining security, confidence, and perfecting your walk with God.

Receiving the Holy Spirit

Until you believe, repent, and get baptized, you won't have the Holy Spirit within you. I urge you to understand the Gospel. Just as our sister Jamaica did and our sister Yanita is about to do, embrace it.

Holy Spirit's Affirmation

Brothers and sisters, ask yourself: Where do you need affirmation from the Holy Spirit today? He wants to assist you, guide you, and comfort you. You have to listen, slow down, and hear what He wants to say. The Spirit not only affirms but also guides.

The Spirit's Guidance

As an example, while I can't promise you'll find $1,000 under your seat today, I recall a story of a brother in Sydney who was struggling financially. After praying for provision, he found $1,000 inside a picture frame he bought from Goodwill. It's undeniable how the Holy Spirit can guide.

Today, more than guiding us to money, the Spirit leads us to seek and save the lost. The Spirit is active in guiding us to evangelize, to share our faith, and help others find the truth.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus promises that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, empowering us to be His witnesses. I recall a personal experience from my time at the University of Cincinnati. One day, after sharing my faith with many and feeling a bit disheartened, the Spirit nudged me to speak to a man named Keith. Keith revealed that he had prayed the night before for guidance. Keith got baptized two weeks later and remains a brother in Christ. Such is the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

To end, the Holy Spirit desires for all to be saved. We are mere tools in His hands, conduits of His love and message. The Holy Spirit tells us to go, to share, and to love.

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch: A Guided Journey by the Holy Spirit

In Acts chapter 6, Philip faces persecution, which leads him to Samaria by Acts 8. There, he preaches the Word, resulting in many baptisms through the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:29 reveals that the Spirit guided Philip to a particular chariot, saying, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."

Inside this chariot was an Ethiopian eunuch engrossed in the scroll of Isaiah. In what could have been an awkward situation, Philip runs alongside the chariot. Many might have seen this as odd, but Philip, moved by the Spirit, approached with a divine message.

The beauty of this encounter is the eunuch's response. After hearing the gospel from Philip, the eunuch spots water and immediately asks, "Why shouldn't I be baptized?" Following the baptism, Acts 8:39 tells us the Spirit whisked Philip away, only for him to appear at Azotus and continue his mission, preaching from town to town until he reached Caesarea.

The admirable trait in Philip is his readiness. When the Spirit guided him – whether it was to aid widows in chapter 6 or proclaim the gospel in Samaria – Philip was prepared. His obedience to the Spirit, even in ambiguous or awkward circumstances, reveals a profound spiritual connection.

Wouldn't we all want such a connection when sharing our faith? Acts teaches us that a church deeply rooted in prayer and fasting, like the church in Antioch, is attentive to the Holy Spirit. They heard the Spirit instructing them to set apart Barnabas and Saul for a divine mission. It's imperative for us to attune our hearts, so we can discern the Spirit's guidance and fulfill our unique purposes.

However, it's essential to remember that the Spirit's guidance isn't always affirmative. Acts 16:6-10 narrates how the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from preaching in certain areas, leading him instead to plant the first church in Europe, in Philippi. It's a poignant reminder that every 'no' from the Spirit can lead to a more significant 'yes'.

Much like parents teaching their toddlers the importance of 'no' for their safety, the Holy Spirit sometimes uses 'no' to redirect us. When we face rejection or challenges, it might be the Spirit nudging us towards a more fruitful path.

Why is it sometimes hard for us to hear the Spirit? 

Perhaps it's because many of us have grown too comfortable in our spiritual journeys. Living in an era of unparalleled comfort, we often miss out on hearing from the Holy Spirit, our Helper, Comforter, and Advocate, as described in John 14:26.

But here's food for thought: How receptive can we be to the Comforter if we're already too comfortable in our spiritual lives? Spiritual growth often demands stepping out of our comfort zones, taking risks, and embracing the unknown.

Sharing our faith might be uncomfortable, but the results are souls saved and transformed by the Holy Spirit. Our walk with God might not always be straightforward, but pushing through the discomfort can lead to profound spiritual rewards.

May we always strive to be more attuned to the Holy Spirit, even if it means embracing a little discomfort along the way.

Hearing from the Holy Spirit in the Midst of Noise

Today, we explore the challenge of connecting with the Holy Spirit amidst the distractions of our modern world. There are times I wonder, is there simply too much noise around us? I confess, I'm a lover of noise. Perhaps it's because I grew up with brothers, but I've always loved having music playing in the background, especially from the Dave Matthews Band. Interestingly, most of my sermons are written with music playing. Somehow, that noise helps me focus, immersing me into a zone of clarity.

However, I recognize that not everyone shares this sentiment. Take my wife, Mandy, for instance. This morning, while I was enjoying my music during my shower, she couldn't even enter the bathroom. She prefers the quiet. As we navigate 23 years of marriage, I'm learning that while some of us thrive in noise, others seek solace in silence.

And herein lies our spiritual challenge. When it comes to the Holy Spirit, the overwhelming noise, even on a Sunday filled with the beautiful sound of fellowship, can drown out His voice. We must learn the art of quieting our souls. In Mark 1:35, we see Jesus setting an example: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." This act has inspired our Church to encourage what we call a "quiet time."

Quiet time isn't about guilt or measuring your spiritual worth. It's about making space to hear from the Holy Spirit. It doesn't matter when, where, or how often you engage in this practice, though mornings offer a serene backdrop. It's about seeking connection and understanding.

Whether you're engaging in worship or participating in Christ-centered discipling in our small groups, the focus remains: encouraging one another towards the Holy Spirit. As we gather today, I invite you to embrace a moment of stillness. Close your eyes if you wish, breathe deeply, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide and affirm you.

Let's take a moment for silent reflection.

Silent prayer

Father, we are grateful for the opportunity to draw closer to your Spirit. For those here contemplating faith, may the Holy Spirit reveal to them the barriers holding them back and guide them towards salvation. For our believers, may they feel affirmed, complete, and whole, seeking your guidance as they step out into the world. Holy Spirit, please speak to us. In Jesus' name, we pray, amen.

As we transition to communion, let's remember the sacrifice of Jesus, which granted us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 tells us we receive this gift upon being baptized in Jesus' name. Communion reminds us of Christ's sacrifice – the bread representing His body and the juice His blood. In Galatians 3:13-14, Paul said, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us... so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit."

Let's pray over our communion

Father, we're profoundly grateful for your Son's sacrifice, enabling us not only to be forgiven and loved but also to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As we partake in this communion, may we be continually reminded of what your Son did for us. In Jesus' name, amen.