The First Sunday In Lent
February 14, 2016
Deuteronomy 26: 1 – 11/Psalm 91: 9 – 15/Romans 10: 8b – 13/Luke 4: 1 - 13
“Press on Toward Sharper Focus”
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
The good news for today is about the temptation of Jesus Christ in Luke 4. There are three temptations, but actually, there are four. Jesus could have said, “I do not like the wilderness.” When the Holy Spirit called Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus did not say, “I do not like.” Who likes the wilderness anyway? It is hot; there is nothing there; there is no food and no water. The only thing that Jesus knew that was there was the devil. Thus, the fourth temptation of Jesus Christ was not to listen to the Holy Spirit. The first temptation was not to turn the stones to bread or to jump from the temple. The first temptation was to resist listening to the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that it was not right to resist the Holy Spirit.
We should always obey the Holy Spirit and this is the whole point that I want us to get in today. All of Jesus’ success started when He said, “Yes,” to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:26, “The Holy Spirit will teach you all things.” In the Upper Room, Jesus said in John 16:13, “The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth.” The Holy Spirit will teach and guide us into all truth and this is Jesus’ promise. Hebrews12:25 says, “Do not refuse Him who is speaking.” It is great that the Holy Spirit is leading us. It is great that He is teaching us, but we have to listen and to obey. Without obedience, the leading is worthless.
Sometimes, the Holy Spirit leads us in places we don’t want to go so when we resist the Holy Spirit, we cut off His leading in our lives. The Holy Spirit’s power in us is just like it was in Jesus and what we have to do is to follow and we will be so far ahead of everybody else around us. Like Jesus promised, the Spirit will speak to us and lead us and all we have to do is to listen and follow. We won’t understand it all the time because the Spirit sees so much more than we see. Based on what He sees and He knows, the Spirit gives us direction. We, who don’t see everything, sometimes look at it from our perspective and we go, “That is the wrong thing to do,” and we miss the Spirit of God.
Once we reject the direction of the Spirit of God, He doesn’t go on to the next instruction. The Lord has a plan for every one of us, but we have to follow His route and follow His plan. There are no shortcuts in the Holy Spirit. Once we reject the Holy Spirit, He won’t lead us anymore until we go back and say “Yes” to the last thing that He told us to do. Sometimes we wonder, “Where is God? What happened to the Holy Spirit? He used to speak to me.” We learn that we got off- tracked when He gave us a direction and we went otherwise and since then, we have been lost. It is important to hear every word that the Holy Spirit gives. Scriptures says, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God through the Holy Spirit.”
How do we reject the Holy Spirit? The first way is to say “No” to the Holy Spirit. This is all it takes and doing this, we fulfill what Hebrews12:25 says, “Do not refuse Him who is speaking.” By saying “No” to the Holy Spirit, we get off-tracked and we wonder where are all the benefits that we have been promised in the Bible about the Holy Spirit. We ask, “Where are the promises? Where are the gifts?” We refused and this is why we seem to be struggling and wondering where the presence of God is.
The second way to refuse the Holy Spirit is in Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” This is the same thing being said in Hebrews 12:25. We often grieve the Holy Spirit without even knowing, so how can we avoid this? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Let your words build people up. Unwholesome words are something that tears someone down. If we speak words that tear someone down, words that make a person feel and look low in the eyes of others or we speak words that are motivated by crab mentality, we grieve the Holy Spirit of God. We literally make the Holy Spirit sad and upset when we do these to each other.
Another way to grieve the Holy Spirit is in verse 31, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” These grieves the Holy Spirit – being mean to each other, pulling others down, being bitter to each other, being wrathful and being angry toward each other, committing slander toward each other, and having malice. Malice is just plainly being mean and bitter. Being sad, being bad toward each other grieves the Holy Spirit. In between verse 29 and verse 31, is verse 30 which says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” It is just like a “mean” sandwich, where verses 29 and 30 show what grieves the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 7:51, St. Stephen spoke to the crowd, “You are just like your fathers. You always resist the Holy Spirit.” What were the people doing when St. Stephen was saying this? They were angry at him, plotting to kill him. Psalm 37:8 says, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath.” Put anger and wrath aside for they only lead in evil doing. They only lead to grieving the Holy Spirit. If Stephen says, “You are so angry you are grieving the Holy Spirit,” and if Paul says, “Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit with these things,” we get the idea that if we give in and fall into these things, we end up grieving the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is grieved, He stops leading us and we are no better than anyone in the world.
Paul was saying in Hebrews, “You have so much more. You were doing so well. You have so much potential, but you resisted the Holy Spirit. Now, you have fallen off.” Jesus knew better and He said, “As I start My ministry, the most important thing that I need to know is to follow and to obey the Holy Spirit.” Jesus followed even in the most uncomfortable place. He did not eat for forty days and I can just imagine that. I don’t even want to ever try, but if the Spirit asks me to, I guess I just have to try because the most important thing in our lives is to follow the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:32 tells us how not to grieve the Holy Spirit. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” We make sure that the Holy Spirit keeps leading us by being kind and being forgiving every time. Never ever let go of forgiving each other. What Paul is talking about deals with our relationship with each other. When our relationship with each other is being driven by being kind and being forgiving, the Holy Spirit is going to work with us, through us. When we do not get off our anger, bitterness, wrath, slander, malice, and pulling each other down, we end up grieving the Holy Spirit.
In the Season of Lent, we must identify in ourselves what grieves the Holy Spirit and ask the Lord to forgive us and to cleanse us. We can be free from these things that are written in Ephesians. 1Corinthians 10:13shows that we have a way to escape these temptations. If we are tempted to anger, to being mean towards somebody else, it is just as serious as murder, lying or stealing because it grieves the Holy Spirit. The way to escape is through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the way for Jesus to escape His temptations. What would have happened if Jesus rejected the Spirit and had not gone to the wilderness? He would have fallen to the temptations and given in to the devil.
Psalm 32:8-11 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eyes upon you.” God uses the Holy Spirit to instruct and teach us in our hearts. “Do not be as the horse or as the mule, which have no understanding, whose trapping include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.”
There is something about the horse and the mule. When God created all the animals, He did not create the mule. Man created the mule. A mule is what happens when you cross a horse and a donkey. A horse is a very free-spirited animal, very energetic, and very prideful. It is hard to train him or break his will. A horse is very valuable, but very hard to deal with. On the other hand, the donkey is very gentle and very humble, but he is not as useful as the horse. He is more grounded and can’t work as fast and hard as the horse. He is free-spirited but slow, stable, but very humble.
Man decided that if he can cross the horse and the donkey and take the good part of the donkey, which is his humility, and mix it with the best part of the horse, which is his energy and free-spirit, then one can have a wonderful animal – a free spirited, powerful animal that can be trained easily. However, it didn’t work that way. When one gets a mule, what we get is the pride mixed in with the slow-minded resiliency – a stubborn, hard-headed animal. A mule doesn’t do what he is told and he ends up being worse than the donkey or the horse.
This somehow teaches us not to play around with God’s creation. A mule has good qualities, but he will never ever do what you tell him to do. It might do what you want him to do, but it is only because he wants to. He won’t do it because you want it to. If he wants what you tell him to do, he would do it not because you said so, but it is in his heart to do it. God says to us, “Don’t be like the mule.” Don’t be stubborn and reject the Holy Spirit. It is important to follow the Lord in all these things and not grieve the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 32:11 says, “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.” The Holy Spirit tells us to have joy. The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is all about joy. I don’t know what is wrong with us that sometimes, we are like the mule and yet the Holy Spirit tells us, “Be joyful! Be kind and forgiving!” These things bring forth joy. Build people up. Say good things about each other. Don’t be angry, but instead we say, “No! I would rather be mad!” We resist the Holy Spirit. I just don’t know why we prefer anger to joy and this doesn’t make sense to me.
Anger doesn’t come from anybody except yourself. You have joy and you can rejoice when you are righteous. You can have joy when you are upright. Being kind, being good and lifting each other up brings joy. Joy comes from your righteousness. Joy comes from being upright. If we let somebody else take that joy from us and make us angry, we grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s gift to us is joy. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy. We always see the Holy Spirit combined with joy. To resist joy is to resist the Holy Spirit. To covet anger and meanness is to resist the Holy Spirit. Saying, “Lord, I want to follow the Spirit and say, ‘Yes,’ to the Spirit,” brings us to the place of joy every time. Our joy comes when we say “Yes” to the Holy Spirit. Every time we can resist the things that grieve the Holy Spirit, it is accepting the Holy Spirit and resisting the work of the enemy.
Don’t resist the Holy Spirit. Be like Jesus. When the Holy Spirit gives words and instructions, we say, “Yes, Lord.” We don’t resist Him. Today is Valentine’s Day and when we talk about the Holy Spirit, we are talking about love. Romans 5:5 says, “The love of God has been shed within our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” To talk about the Holy Spirit is to talk about love. There is no reason to be without love because the Holy Spirit is within us, but when we resist the Holy Spirit, we are cutting off God’s love in our hearts. God’s love is not necessarily the teddy bears or the candlelight dinner, but what is written in Ephesians, which is being kind to one another, building each other up.
Jesus said, “When the Holy Spirit comes, He will speak what I tell Him to. I only speak what the Father speaks. The Holy Spirit only speaks what I speak.” As I tell you the words of the Holy Spirit this morning, I am telling the words of Jesus. These are the words of Christ this morning: don’t reject the Holy Spirit.