INTRODUCTIONIn the first week of our series on “Finishing Well” I concentrated on the power of “the love of the Father” to overcome “the love of the world” (1 John 2:15-17 ESV). Last week I emphasised that as “the author and finisher of faith” (Heb 12:2 ESV), Jesus has perfectly completed the course set before him by the Father. His victory was achieved in the power of the Spirit, the subject of tonight’s sermon.
A simplistic approach to the role of the Holy Spirit might declare that every Spirit-filled person must finish well. When it is said of Barnabas that “he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24 ESV) it’s difficult for us to conceive that such a man could fail to finish well.
The existence of the early Christian writing called the “Epistle of Barnabas” (written before 132 A.D.) suggests he did, in fact, finish well.
But a fuller examination of the biblical evidence indicates things are not quite that simple.
The Spirit of God “rushed on” King Saul (1 Sam 11:6 ESV) but he later fell away. Judas knew the power of the kingdom of God in signs and wonders (e.g. Matt 10:5-8 ESV) but betrayed Jesus and killed himself.
Demas was a missionary companion of Paul familiar with, “the power of miraculous signs and wonders and… the power of God’s Spirit” (Rom 15:19 ESV), but he deserted the apostle being “in love with this present world” (2 Tim 4:10 ESV).
More generally, Hebrews speaks of those who vs.4 “have shared in the Holy Spirit,vs.5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Heb 6:4-5 ESV) but who were in acute danger of falling away.
Some of us are familiar with men/women who have been tongues speakers, healers, prophesiers, gospel preaching church planters and are now atheists, lobbyists for the LGBT+ community and so on. Where is the Spirit in all this (cf. Matt 7:21-23 ESV)?
The Church today needs much deeper insight into the intimate workings of the life of the Spirit if by his power it is to finish well.
For finishing well involves the deep things of God. vs.9 “as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— vs.10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” (1 Cor 2:9-10 ESV).
The Holy Spirit has been called “the Go-Between God” because it is his essential nature to unite P/persons in love.
In scripture, the Spirit is called the Spirit of the Father (Matt 10:20 ESV) and of the Son (Gal 4:6 ESV). His blessedness is to eternally indwell the love that between the Father and the Son1)See Biblical References John 5:20 ESV; John 10:17 ESV.
Everything the Father and Son have in common, love, joy, peace, power, mercy, judgement etc. (cf. Gal 5:22-53 ESV) is shared in the Spirit. The Spirit is the one through whom we can come to share in everything that the Son shares with the Father and the Father shares with the Son.
he centre point for this is the life of Jesus lived out on our behalf. Nothing happens in the life of Jesus apart from the work of the Spirit and it is in sharing in Christ’s Spirit-giftedness that we can finish well.
Jesus’ Finishing in the Spirit
It is only through a death expressing unlimited love that Jesus will receive unlimited dominion (Heb 2:8-9 ESV). These seemingly opposite realities of death and dominion are paired in Christ’s consciousness. vs.1 “when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end/fully/to the point of death. vs.2… when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, vs.3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands…and was going back to God…” (John 13:1-3 ESV).
These paradoxical dynamics of death and dominion are stated bluntly by Jesus, “ “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again.” (John 10.17 ESV). In himself, God loves everyone equally and unconditionally, but his love cannot find full expression apart from obedience to his will. Such submission is the essence of S/sonship, and it is perfected only in Jesus’ sacrifice. The breadth of the rule of Christ flows directly from the depth of his sacrifice. To put this another way, the Spirit cannot transform fallen creation without the cross. (The Spirit can only fill what the cross cleanses.)
This order is exceptionally clear in Jesus’s words in John chapter 7, “ vs.37 “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. vs.38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” vs.39Now, this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39 ESV)
The glorification of Jesus comes through his death+resurrection+ascension2)See Biblical References John 12:23-33 ESV; John 13:31-32 ESV; John 17:1-5 ESV accomplished in the power of the Spirit. When the Spirit has completed the transformation of Jesus’ own humanity, he can be given to transform the lives of fallen human beings.
The writer to the Hebrews insists about Jesus that vs.8 “though he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.vs.9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb 5:8-9 ESV)3)See Biblical References cf. Heb 2:10 ESV.
The author has Gethsemane in mind and understands the “perfection” of the Son through sacrifice to be a work of the Spirit. As it says in Hebrews chapter 9; “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience”. (Hebrews 9:14 ESV) It will help us to follow Jesus if have insight into what the Spirit was doing in Jesus in Gethsemane.
When he prays, “ “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” ” (Mark 14:36 ESV) something of the most profound significance is happening.
And the key to understanding it is to notice that this the only place where the expression “Abba, Father” appears on the lips of Jesus. The Spirit is simultaneous communicating to Jesus that his dreadful obedience in taking the cup of wrath4)See Biblical References Jer 25:15 ESV; Isa 57:17 ESV; Mark 14:34 ESV will mean both separation from the Father on the cross (Mark 15:34 ESV) and entering into the infinite pleasure of the Father in resurrection5)See Biblical References cf. Rom 8:14-16 ESV; Gal 4:4-6 ESV.
Without such a profound revelation Christ could not have, in the language of Hebrews, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2 ESV).
The Spirit’s revelation of the tender-hearted intimate all compassionate Father empowered Jesus to triumph over the evil he would endure on the cross6)See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV.
It was the Spirit who inspired Christ’s great words of attainment, “ “It is finished” ” (John 19:30 ESV) and who “declared (him) to be the Son of God in power… by his resurrection from the dead,”7)See Biblical References Rom 1:4 ESV; 8:11 ESV; 1 Pet 3:18 ESV.
The Son Gives the Spirit
It is the essential nature of the Spirit to complete in us what he has accomplished in Jesus and to empower us to finish well.
As James says, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (James 4:5 ESV); the Spirit contends against the “friendship with the world” (James 4:4 ESV) which would sabotage our maturing in Christ.
Finishing well involves unfailing testimony to Jesus empowered by the Spirit, Jesus said, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” ” (Acts 1:8 ESV).
The Spirit does not pour himself out at Pentecost but is given by the exalted Jesus as a gift from the Father8)See Biblical References Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV cf. Luke 24:49 ESV; Acts 1:4 ESV.
This is an outpouring of the power of love perfected in the Father-Son relationship through the sacrifice of the cross. Being poured out through Jesus this love can form men and women into sons and daughters of God who will never fall away.
The Spirit has received through the love of the Father and the Son the power to make faithful sons of God whose unfailing testimony negates the false witness of rebellious angelic and human sons of God9)See Biblical References Gen 6:1-4 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; 2:1 ESV; Matt 13:38 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV.
The Spirit forms sons committed to radiating the likeness of the Son of God at whatever cost. This is the wisdom of God’s plan to restore his reputation, honour and glory in the universe. The revelation given through the Church (Eph 3:10 ESV) is that God is an all loving Father who has a Son who has loved him, and us, at the cost of complete self-sacrifice. Imaging this all-powerful love of Jesus through ordinary men and women is the ministry of the Spirit. This is why Geoff Bingham said, ““To bear testimony to Jesus means to have his testimony within us, and to have it as the primary consideration within our lives. The propagation of this is the very purpose of our lives.” (Bingham). This matter if testimony is frequently misunderstood.
The Spirit does powerfully witness to the kingdom of God10)See Biblical References Rom 14:17 ESV; 15:13 ESV; 1 Cor 2:4 ESV in various signs, wonders and gifts11)See Biblical References 1 Cor 12:1 ESV ff; Heb 2:4 ESV.
But these are not the heart of the Spirit’s ministry in testifying to the consummation of all things in Christ (Eph 1:10 ESV). The pinnacle of his testimony is a sacrificial love willing to suffer all things as loss for the sake of Jesus as he suffered the loss of everything for the sake of his Father (Phil 3:8 ESV).
Only in such union with Christ can we comprehend that the Spirit is as lovingly committed to us finishing well as he was committed to bringing Jesus to the glorious end of his life and ministry12)See Biblical References Rom 8:29 ESV; 1 John 3:2 ESV; John 4:17 ESV. These things are commonly contradicted in the Church today. Let me use a very current example.
At the Franklin Graham event, last Saturday (09 FEB 2019) the Planet Shakers band led the crowd in, Nothing is Impossible. “Blind eyes are opened Strongholds are broken I believe, I believe I believe, I believe in you”.
This song is based on Philippians 4:13 ESV, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”; which in context includes things like being “brought low… hunger… need” (Phil 4:12 ESV).
In other words, the testimony of Paul images the earthly deprivations and struggles of Christ over which he triumphed by faith. Such triumphs are the opposite of upbeat escapist triumphalism because they combine suffering and joy.
Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2 ESV). Peter speaks of “suffering in various trials” combined with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (2 Pet 1:6, 8 ESV) for this is the character of true sonship in this world.
The Spirit taught Jesus, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” ”13)See Biblical References Luke 24:26, 25 ESV; 1 Pet 1:10-11 ESV. And our consciences to need to be convinced in the Spirit that sonship is a mixture of pain and joy. If not, when the powers of this age contend against our faithfulness to Christ14)See Biblical References Rom 7:23 ESV; Rom 8:7 ESV; Gal 5:17 ESV; Eph 6:12 ESV we will fail to finish well.
Only those living “in the Spirit” can remain faithful to Jesus (Rev 1:10 ESV) because without his help you cannot understand the deep ways of God in this world.
The plain fact is until Christ’s return it will often look like the devil is winning, “the beast “was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them…. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” (Rev 13:7, 10-11 ESV).
Things only make sense in the light of the Lamb (Rev 21:23 ESV).
Let me conclude with that puzzling text, “ “The Father loves me because sacrifice my life so I may take it back again.” ” (John 10:17 ESV).
To natural sight, the cross meant to Christ’s enemies he was a failure, but the vision of death-and-resurrection Jesus carried in his heart meant he was flooded by the Spirit with the love of the Father (cf. Rom 5:5 ESV).
Willing self-sacrifice is the place where the Spirit’s victory in the Son of God is replicated in us.
As the sun goes down across the Western world on the age of Christendom the faith of Jesus will be increasingly ridiculed and oppressed.
Apart from an understanding of the ways of the Spirit in forming true sons many “fair weather” Christians will think God has abandoned them and will fall away just as Jesus predicted (Matt 24:10 ESV).
Wise children of God who want to finish well should ask the Lord for power in the Spirit to offer themselves as living sacrifices for the sake of the gospel (Rom 12:1-2 ESV).
Then God, Father, Son and Spirit, immerse us unfailingly in his love.
MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 17th February 2019 Location: Alive@5
Author: Dr. John Yates
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See Biblical References John 5:20 ESV; John 10:17 ESV|
|2.||↑||See Biblical References John 12:23-33 ESV; John 13:31-32 ESV; John 17:1-5 ESV|
|3.||↑||See Biblical References cf. Heb 2:10 ESV|
|4.||↑||See Biblical References Jer 25:15 ESV; Isa 57:17 ESV; Mark 14:34 ESV|
|5.||↑||See Biblical References cf. Rom 8:14-16 ESV; Gal 4:4-6 ESV|
|6.||↑||See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV|
|7.||↑||See Biblical References Rom 1:4 ESV; 8:11 ESV; 1 Pet 3:18 ESV|
|8.||↑||See Biblical References Luke 3:16 ESV; Acts 2:33 ESV cf. Luke 24:49 ESV; Acts 1:4 ESV|
|9.||↑||See Biblical References Gen 6:1-4 ESV; Job 1:6 ESV; 2:1 ESV; Matt 13:38 ESV; Eph 2:3 ESV|
|10.||↑||See Biblical References Rom 14:17 ESV; 15:13 ESV; 1 Cor 2:4 ESV|
|11.||↑||See Biblical References 1 Cor 12:1 ESV ff; Heb 2:4 ESV|
|12.||↑||See Biblical References Rom 8:29 ESV; 1 John 3:2 ESV; John 4:17 ESV|
|13.||↑||See Biblical References Luke 24:26, 25 ESV; 1 Pet 1:10-11 ESV|
|14.||↑||See Biblical References Rom 7:23 ESV; Rom 8:7 ESV; Gal 5:17 ESV; Eph 6:12 ESV|