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Cleansed from Inward Sin – Always

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Cleansed From Inward Sin – Always

Acts 15:6-21

Sermon transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

A quote “As the heart of the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit” is Acts 15:9 and is of course when they discovered the Gentiles and verse 6 gives the sequence, Acts 15:6. “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.” And that is the business of the Gentiles. “And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, “Brethren, you may know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.

And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written,

‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who has made these things known from of old.’

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood. For from early generations Moses has had in every city those who preach him for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.’” And of course they agreed with that.

The verse that came home to me again today “And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us.” And then he describes what the Holy Spirit did. “He made no distinction between us and them but cleansed their hearts by faith.” Cleansed their hearts by faith, cleansed their hearts and that was the miracle that was wrought with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit cleansed their hearts of everything that was not him and the Holy Spirit of course was just the man that had only recently left them. The man that they had seen crucified on a cross. The one whom they had seen physically several times during the past weeks and they knew the Lord is the Spirit of course. Of course he was with us, we talked to him, we touched him and now he is in us. He himself is at God’s right hand but through his spirit he is in us and he is the one that has done this work in our hearts. That work involved cleansing from the heart the things that they could not get of themselves.

What came home to me was it was very easy for people like ourselves to know this all by heart backwards and forwards. It’s very easy for us to slip into a holy spiritless sanctification. It’s very easy to fall into the life of outward victory that you’ve entered into and the life of inward victory most times but it’s very easy to slip back on the inner victory which is of course the main work of the Holy Spirit, cleansing us from inward sin.

It’s very easy to slip back into that and yet keep an outward appearance of actually even a sanctified life.

Now if you say to me, well how do you tell? What came home to me as the difference when the fullness of the Holy Spirit occurs, I found a rising up out of my heart of purity. Rather than a rising up of worry and anxiety and kind of a critical spirit, rather than that I find rising up out of my heart a joy and a love and a peace and something that lifted me up from inside. A real sense of a different spirit being in there and making it easy, it was easy to be holy because holiness was rising up out of your heart. And it was easy to praise God because it was rising up out of your heart. I think it is very easy to slip back into a self controlled inner life of the mind and emotions that you keep in line with the best that you know but does not have that rising joy and love of Jesus bubbling up inside.

You maybe get used to, “Well it can’t always be like that. It has to be translated into ordinary psychological equipment and the way our minds and emotions work. And that’s part of the warfare that we have and part of the battle is to exercise the will and we are responsible after all. We are responsible for exercising the will aren’t we? Yes, yes you are but exercising the will to turn always to the Holy Spirit and to put yourself in a place where he is flowing into you and flowing up through you, well yes, yes and sometimes that isn’t exactly happening so I really need to use my will. I mean I can’t just smile just when the Holy Spirit smiles. No that’s right you can’t and I can’t just be loving when the Holy Spirit is. No that’s right and I can’t just be patient just because it’s welling up inside my heart. I have to at times exercise the will. Yes you certainly have.”

So there is a very tricky area there. We’re perfectly right in saying you do need to use your will don’t you? Yes you do but whether you’re using your will to realize that only looking up to Jesus and only living in the faith that you’re in him at the right hand of God, that only that enables you to stay under the influence and the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s right. You are responsible for directing your thoughts that way. But still it is the Holy Spirit within you that rises up in the joy that Jesus has before his Father. And he shares that joy with you and enables you in that way to transcend even the atmosphere around you and even in conversation with others.

You can’t help it. It’s a bit more like the Salvation Army guy who was beating the drum so hard that somebody said, “You’ll break it.” And he said, “I’m so happy I could break the bloody drum.” So it’s a bit like that, there’s a joy of the Holy Spirit within that comes up and it comes up as love and it comes up as creative love and life going out of us. What I can see is, it’s very easy to slip into an okay kind of sanctified life and an okay kind of Christian witness but doesn’t have that shine or that lift from Jesus that is the life and the action of the Holy Spirit himself.

Now I notice it particularly in all our personalities that come from our mums and dads and our brothers and sisters and our family upbringing because we all have kind of ways of doing things and saying things that come from them very strongly and they color our life very strongly. It seems very easy to slip back into those almost habits of behavior that we were brought up with and that came naturally to us and that we lived for our first twenty, thirty, forty years of our lives. What the Holy Spirit does of course is he comes in like a new person, like a fresh a breeze and that’s what hits you.

I couldn’t understand how easy it was to be joyful and filled with peace because it all came up from inside. I thought this is stupid, I’m asleep or I’m almost asleep, certainly not a soul could see

me. Here I am, I’m smiling away, it seems so stupid but it happened. So that is where I saw the miracle of sanctification is the Holy Spirit actually coming in and cleansing the heart, cleansing it by his own flowing through it and keeping it cleansed. That’s I think what my message would be this morning. Not so much have you ever experienced it but are you experiencing now day by day? Are you allowing him to cleanse you moment by moment? Are you looking up to him? Is he real to you? Are you looking to him and saying, “Holy Spirit…..” Is that your experience?

Or is your experience, “Well, you know that was the first flush you know.” And that’s how it begins but sooner or later it has to work its way down into your ordinary personality and your ordinary personality becomes a sanctified personality.” I don’t know that it ever does. I think you never become more than a container of the Holy Spirit. I suspect that there is no life in this arm and in this elbow and there is no life this mind except a natural life. But the uncreated life of Jesus flows only when his love and life flows through us and it seems to me that’s a moment by moment experience and a life of dependency upon him that brings a humility in you, not only a humility but an ability to stand away from yourself and see yourself as somebody other than you, while you yourself live in Jesus.

It seems that when the Holy Spirit is alive and flowing inside you, you are carried along with him and all you are doing is you are actually just a person that turns the faucet on or off. We in England we call it tap but turn the tap of the faucet on or off that’s really what you do. The life and the power and the water comes from the Holy Spirit. It is living water and I think it’s that that touches people. I think it’s that that achieves God’s work. It’s that that enables us to be as we say a witness. It’s really the Holy Spirit himself witnessing directly to the person just via us.

It does seem to be to get back to our own situation, it seems possible so dangerously possible to live, I hesitate to say it, independent of the Holy Spirit but along side. That’s a distinction you remember we made in interpreting the New Testament, Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit is with you and will be in you.” It seems easy to slip back into “He is with me and I do consult him” but he’s not in me, he’s not possessing me. So they talk about being filled with the Holy Spirit or possessed by the Holy Spirit as opposed to the Holy Spirit dealing with you or maybe even being in you from time to time. This is a constant flow and it does seem to me that the heart of it is God gave the Holy Spirit to them as he did to us and cleansed their hearts by faith.

It seems to me that is the issue, is your heart still clean? Is your heart still clean which virtually means is your heart experiencing the Holy Spirit flowing through it? Is your heart still experiencing the Holy Spirit flowing through it? Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh and is it out of the fullness of the Holy Spirit of Jesus within you that your power to live day by day comes? I think that’s what makes it more interesting to be with a Christian. I mean we are reasonably interesting people but I don’t know that we are so interesting that we can really occupy each other for eternity.

It seems to me often what makes it interesting for two Christians being together is the interaction of the Holy Spirit of Jesus from one to the other. It’s something that makes the whole conversation interesting or fills it with life. It’s not just an exchange of opinions or an exchange of views or information that we are passing to one another, there is you might almost say an electricity, an electricity in the air. The Holy Spirit brings life, that’s the great work that he does. He brings life into you or into whatever situation you are in.

So the heart of it I think is “give the Holy Spirit to them as he did to us and cleansed their hearts by faith” and I think often we think of a dirty heart as just sexually dirty or dishonestly dirty or some obvious dirt. But of course the work of the Holy Spirit is not just a cleansing from evil or cleansing from negative things but the work of the Holy Spirit is to fill your heart with himself. He displaces the other things, he cleanses it certainly but he doesn’t just drive them out he displaces them with himself. In other words he doesn’t just eliminate a critical spirit or a jealous spirit or an envious spirit or a proud spirit, he displaces it with his own sweet spirit so that it makes that verse possible that Christ is the aroma to God, a fragrance of death to death and a fragrance of life to life.

There’s a fragrance in the spirit of Jesus in a person that brings a beauty that is more than just whether you believe the Bible or whether you believe dishonesty is wrong or whether you believe envy is right. It’s a fragrance of life, a beauty of life, a graciousness in the voice, a graciousness in the attitude, a giving out graces not only the ability to do things but a generosity, a magnanimity, a freedom, a liberty, a feeling that the other person is giving you their whole selves. The Holy Spirit brings about that kind of transparency and it’s something more than just ethical goodness. It is a beauty and the Bible does it best, “it’s a savor of life to life and death to death.” It’s a fragrance of life to life and a fragrance of death to death. I think that’s what a person in the shop or over the phone senses or doesn’t sense. I think they are very interested in what you think of the Republicans and the Democrats or what you think of Obama or what you think of abortion or what you think of murder or what you think of ISIL. I think they are interested in all those things. What they desperately need is life, lightness and joy of life at the right hand of God.

It seems to me that comes only when the Holy Spirit is able to cleanse the heart from all of self and to keep it cleansed. I suppose that is what I saw maybe a little more clearly early this morning that it is possible for the heart to become preoccupied with things other than the joyful presence of the Holy Spirit. It is possible for the heart; it’s possible for the cares of this world to wear it down. It’s possible for the weights and the burdens of everyday life to preoccupy the heart so that the heart is no longer a light and joyful source of life but it rather just sits there and it’s really not the heart often that speaks, it’s the personality that we’ve formed over the years from first our parents and then from our friends, from our schools and then from our past experiences in life with people. Then that produces often a personality that has a lot of the world in it and carries a lot of weights and some of them are nice. If you were very close to a comedian as your school friend well a bit of that would rub off on you. If you got to know somebody who was extremely good at mathematics and science well then a bit of that rubs off on you and gradually layer upon layer comes and you build up a personality that is a combination of all the people you’ve met and of the experiences you’ve come into and that’s normally the personality that people meet unless the Holy Spirit of Christ breaks through, pours through you and then they touch a new life. They touch kind of an interesting life, oh it seems to have a lift to it, and I don’t know what it is but boy they seem I don’t know, different.

That’s the life of the Holy Spirit and that’s him when he has free way in your heart. So I would say in the prayer time this morning seek him for, “Tell me Holy Spirit, how am I doing? Am I ignoring you? Am I in some way lying to myself about my spontaneous obedience to you? Or am I okay?” He is the Holy Spirit of truth and he will answer us. Let us pray.