sermon: Using Power Righteously (Part Two)
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 24-Jun-17; 68 minutes
After giving my sermon on the day of Pentecost I was very disappointed by the way in which it turned out, because I had not clearly, at least to myself anyway, made the major point that I wanted to achieve. Near the beginning I think I stated clearly what I wanted to accomplish, but I do not feel as though I did it. The purpose was and still is to help us build an intensified sense of appreciation to God for the value of His giving us His Holy Spirit.
Why is this appreciation so important? It is because the fruit of greater appreciation is more willing cooperation with God, because our sense of responsibility to Him personally is clearly intensified. It is right here that appreciation begins—His calling of us was deliberately done, it was in no way random. God calls us with purpose.
That is what I believe was laid out clearly enough regarding what I wanted to achieve, but somewhere along the way I lost my bearings, and thus the conclusion was not smoothly connected to the beginning. I did not mean that it was a total failure, rather that the purpose of the sermon was not as crystal clear as it should have been, so I am hoping that in this sermon I can correct the organizational flaws that did not smoothly flow from the beginning to the end.
I want you to begin with me back where we began in that sermon, in Job 32. One of the major reasons I want to go through this again is because I feel that, because God did what He did in the calling of us deliberately, I want to help us see that we owe God our commitment—big time.
Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.
This verse is critical to the foundation of this sermon, even as it was on the day of Pentecost, because it clearly states that mankind has a spirit, and this spirit, given by God, is a source of the power that enables a human to conduct life as a human. This point is critical to our clearly grasping this sermon.
A clear indication of this reality is right in the verse. It is the statement that this spirit enables mankind to have understanding. The conclusion is inescapable when you compare it within the context around it, that understanding that results from us having a spirit, is what enables us to be human, and this God-given gift is what Elihu called the spirit in man.
Understanding, or we might use the synonym discernment, enables a human to comprehend various components, such as circumstances, that conditions that arise in life and produce situations leading us to make the choices that determine our behavior. If we do not understand we just ramble around, we are like a pin ball going all over the place, but understanding enables us to have direction.
There is no doubt that we should energetically seek righteous behavior, by contrast to an animal lacking, among other things, the spirit that a human has, and thus cannot do this. They were not created with the enabling power as a man was.
This reveals to us something very important that we should recognize—humans were created to be human. Some people do not realize this, they do not think it through, but we were purposely created to be human, and as we all understand, created to be more than human. But being human gives us the start, the groundwork to where God is headed.
At that point, in that previous sermon, I showed you in Ecclesiastes that there exists the possibility that animals too have what is termed a spirit that enables the distinctive personality and character of each animal creation of God, thus enabling each animal to act and perform their part in God’s purpose.
God does everything with purpose. There is a reason why there are animals, there are reasons why lions are distinctive from elephants, and from hippopotamus, each plays a part because God created them purposely to be a part of this creation over which He has placed man.
This possibility, that an animal has a spirit, helps confirm a consistency from within the Bible, that in God’s creation that term, spirit, indicates an invisible enabling power living in created beings.
At that point I also defined the language roots of the term spirit, in both Hebrew in the Old Testament, and Greek within the New Testament. Spirit is derived from the same sort of root in both languages. Spirit is derived from the term that is normally used or means, breath, air, or wind. In Hebrew the root is ‘ruach.’ In Greek the root is ‘pneuma.’ Thus the term spirit in general, drawn from something invisible, indicates an invisible source of power or influence.
Man very definitely has a spirit and it seems as though animals have a spirit, but they do not able one to be the other—the spirit determines the enabling power that results in a man or an animal, even though all mammals are very similar in what they are constructed of.
Turn to John 3. Jesus clearly defines the term spirit here.
John 3:6-8 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Spirit, like wind, is an invisible power. We cannot see it, but we can see the influence that it has on other things. For example, the dust that it carries from place to place, that is wind. Or we can see what it moves as with tree leaves, or we can feel the heat or cold it is carrying, and the force that it exerts on what it strikes in its path from place to place.
Now regarding humans and spirit, we cannot see the spirit, but we can see the effect of the powers it is capable of imparting from human use. In Job 32:8, Elihu said, it imparts understanding. We cannot see the understanding, but we know it exists because we see the effect that the spirit has on the human mind to produce understanding. That is what spirit does. You cannot see it, but it effects things if it is used.
We can witness the spirit a human can have, or the incisive memory that a human has, intellectual brilliance, artistic ability, and/or character. You name it, the spirit can come to our aid here, and we can use it to empower us.
At this point in the Pentecost sermon, I showed you from Genesis 1-3, that God created Adam and Eve to fit into, that is, to make proper use of the physical environment He created for them to live within as their lives continued. This point is very important later on in the sermon, as a result of this empowerment, the environment, earth, and its inhabitants, Adam and Eve were made for each other, they were compatible to each other. This points something out to us. When God creates, everything is in order.
Adam and Eve were not created to live in a spirit world, they were created for this world, and this world was created for them to live within. Recall from those first three chapters in Genesis, I showed that mankind was given five distinct gifts that no animal was given, even though we have a spirit, animals have a spirit, man has a spirit, but there were five things that animals do not have.
(1) Mankind is created in God’s image, at least faintly indicating man’s ultimate destiny is at least God-like. No animal is like that at all. Man is God-like.
(2) Mankind is given dominion to govern, for the purpose of managing the environment into which he was put. Animals do not have that ability to manage the creation.
(3) Mankind is given communication skills combined with memory, far above that of any animal.
(4) Humans marry and create family, thus developing levels of emotion. We call it love, liking, feeling, especially those emotions attaching us to others within our family.
(5) Responsibility and punishment exists because we are choice making, and can therefore sin.
Remember, joining all of these gifts it is clearly established that by means of this spirit, mankind is greatly gifted; no animal can even begin to come close at all. It becomes very clear that we were created to manage the environment that God put us within. Those two go together—the environment and the humans—but it is spirit that is right in the mix that makes humans able to live as humans.
From that point in the Pentecost sermon, I moved to show you that even unconverted man has been gifted sufficiently that God holds the unconverted guilty of rejecting the knowledge of His existence and works, because what may be known of God is manifest to them.
God’s judgment is perfect, and He holds them guilty because they are guilty, they are not shut away from knowledge of God that will be sufficient for them to live acceptably on earth. This leads to our understanding an important principle regarding the level or our responsibility to God. It is: whenever God gives responsibilities within His purposes, He also gives the responsible one sufficient powers to perform the assignment.
A clear example of this is Adam and Eve at the original creation. They were equipped to live without sinning, but they chose to sin of their own free will. Directly attached to this is we have all followed them in their disobedience as shown by the apostle Paul, in Romans 5.
At some point in our life we all deliberately choose to buy into Satan’s deceptions, and then God judges and holds us responsible, thus bringing the death penalty on ourselves. Satan is not to blame for our sins, but at the same time he continually attempts to get mankind to do so.
This helps clarify why God holds unconverted mankind guilty of rejecting His existence and His right to govern His creation. On the other hand, God does not expect the impossible from us either, and thus His mercy.
We will clarify the called’s gifting by God and we will do this by means of some well-known scriptures. We are given the responsibility of responding to His purposes for us. We all remember what Jesus stated in John 6:44, that no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them.
This statement informs us that regarding our calling, it is God’s deliberate gifting that enables us to be drawn to Jesus, by giving us the perception to recognize Jesus’ spiritual importance to our future. Without forgiveness through Him there is no future. So we can connect the Man-God, Jesus, with our future and it tends to move our mind, our muscles, our actions, toward seeing His importance and, as we might say, chasing Him out to get what God offers through Him.
I take it from the scriptures that we are going to read next, that the gifting either begins immediately with God’s calling, or it may begin before God actually calls, us in preparation for our calling.
The gifting, I will say here, begins immediately, or we would never come to appreciate what Jesus has done in our behalf intensely enough to humbly go to Him for forgiveness. We know this in John 6:44. Jesus used the term draw; we are drawn to Him. So where is God in this mix? He is the one doing the drawing toward Jesus, He enables us to see Jesus’ importance to our future, as well as removing the sins of the past. It is what God is doing. He is gifting us so that we do not pass up on the calling that He is giving to us to be drawn to Jesus Christ.
John 3:3-7 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ ”
In this context, see, as used by Jesus here does not mean to visualize with one’s literal eye sight. In this case it means comprehend, grasp, understand. This seeing is a gift from God that provides motivation for us to move on, to grasp it even more clearly than we have at the beginning.
The term born again, is derived from two Greek words, gennao, and anothen, I am going to read you a comment from my Nelson King James Version Study Bible, that is very interesting regarding this subject of God’s enabling us through gifts, that is by His grace.
The Greek word anothen, translated here as again, could also be rendered from above. [Anothen can be translated either way. Either as again or from above.] The birth that Jesus spoke of was either a new birth, or a heavenly birth, or both at the same time. [If you are thinking with me, you will see that is a correct statement.] It seems that Jesus was speaking of a heavenly birth, because He later used the analogy of the wind coming from some unknown heavenly source, to depict the spiritual birth. [That is very interesting.] But Nicodemus clearly understood Jesus to be speaking of a second birth, being born again. [Nicodemus perceived one thing, Jesus something entirely different. Or Nicodemus considered one thing, but Jesus considered both of them at the same time. And He is the one who is right!] Jesus explains this new or heavenly birth in verses 6-8, contrasting being born of the flesh with being born of the spirit.
What that means to me is that Jesus primarily meant being born with the Spirit from above, because that is where the birth came from. Even Nicodemus could not understand how a kid could crawl back into his mother’s womb. That is why he responded the way he did. He was thinking of being born again. It is both at the same time. It is a new birth, it is also a birth from above, instituted by God who deliberately did it to begin a spiritual life, not a physical life. That is why Jesus concentrated on the spirit.
That comment is very clear in terms of this sermon. It is saying that our ability to be sufficiently impressed, captivated, and motivated to devote our life to God and His purpose of establishing His family Kingdom on earth, is God’s gift to us as He calls us. He starts the ball rolling immediately.
This verse nails God’s gifting as the means of our salvation, not our faith. Salvation is a gift, faith is the channel through which we reveal our faith back to God in our works, but our works connected to our faith does not save us. I will give you the proof in just a minute from another very clear scripture.
Even if Paul fully intended that ‘faith’ modifies ‘gift,’ he makes sure we understand that the faith too is a gift from God. We owe everything to what God does, the part that we play in our salvation is minor by comparison, because God gives us all the tools we need to work with.
Jonah 2:9 [Jonah prayed to the Lord from the fish’s belly] “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”
We are not saved by faith, we are saved by a gift from God. The faith anchors us within His Family by showing Him that we love Him, and that we care for Him. Salvation is not attributed to any being, or anything else, salvation is a merciful gift of God, from beginning to end.
II Corinthians 5:16-17 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.
In this calling, in the spiritual creation, God is doing what He did with Adam and Eve at the original creation. God is creating us for the environment to come. He created Adam and Eve for the physical environment of the earth. We are a new creation because God is creating us in the image of Christ Jesus, for the environment to come. As He did with Adam and Eve, as He gifted them, He is creating us and gifting us as we move along.
The major difference is that they were not aware of the creation of themselves as God worked, they were created, then God gave them life. We have life, and God is creating us as we have life. That shows you there is a major difference between Adam and Eve and us. One of the major differences is, God gave us a Spirit so that we can cooperate with Him in this new creation. We can think, we have understanding, we have discernment, we have memory, all of those gifts that God made available to us, are needed in corresponding, cooperating with God as He works on our creation for the world tomorrow, for the world to come.
We are aware, because what we are created for requires our knowledge of what preceded us in the history of God’s experiences with mankind, and our knowledge of what is coming in the future and our fullest cooperation by willingly submitting to God’s created efforts, by faith. God is in the process of creating all things new as He moves to establish His Kingdom on earth, in which righteousness dwells to the extent that there is neither sin, nor sinners, so that even Satan and his demons are burned up as God purifies everything.
That is the direction that God is moving. He does not want us to fall into the trap that Satan is in, he is going to be burned up. This is why we need to be alive, why we need the have the spirit in man so we can think, and why we need the Holy Spirit of God, to aid us along the way as we go through the process of creation.
As I mentioned to you earlier, with God everything is done in order as He establishes the Kingdom in terms of timing and developing of each person as He calls them, and then works in and through them. God is organized in everything He does, so that nothing, and nobody’s calling, happens randomly. That is why I used this next verse.
I Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.
I Corinthians 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
This is the Holy Spirit that God distributes to His people, within His Family so that the creation in them—he spiritual creation—can be completed to His satisfaction. With God everything is done in order, and He is filling His Family with those He is creating to fulfill certain responsibilities within that family.
The church is organized, it is not randomly put together, God is adding people as He sees fit and preparing them for the Kingdom of God. Do we need His Holy Spirit? Absolutely! Should we be appreciative of it? Absolutely, it is making us available for Him to use in the Kingdom of God, because it is the creative power of God working in us.
I Corinthians 12:18 But now God has set the members [church, family], each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
I Corinthians 12:27-31 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
We are all grouped together into one body, but God placed each and every one of us individually.
I Corinthians 15:9-11 For I am the lest of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but he grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Paul was saying, I did not volunteer to be an apostle, God called me and placed me in this position even though I was an enemy at the time He chose me to do this job, and for you in the congregation to overcome these evil feelings you had toward me. They had to do that, they were afraid of him. Paul was saying, I did not volunteer, God called me and placed me in this position, and now you have the faith too. We do too because we believe that Paul was an apostle, and he did this teaching.
God is following a pattern that He established in the original creation of mankind, that is Adam and Eve. He gave life following gifting mankind with the ability to produce the marvelous material world that we live in, but something is wrong, something is missing. I want to put us into this scene here, in this brief paragraph about following a pattern He established in the original creation of Adam and Eve.
He is preparing us for the World Tomorrow, and gifting us with the abilities to produce what the Kingdom of God is going to be under Him and Jesus Christ in the World Tomorrow. We could never do it with what He is doing now, so this is the preface for what we are going to be doing in the future, and we would not get by without the gifting that He is giving us as we go along.
There is something wrong with what is going on on earth, even though God gifted us marvelously with a spirit in us that gives us discernment and understanding, it gives us created powers, and abilities, so we have been able to create what we see in this world, whether it is automobiles, trains, airplanes, we can fly off to Mars maybe one of these days, if we ever get that far, but it is a marvelous measure of power that God has given us the ability to understand and to use.
What are going to do in the Kingdom of God by comparison? That is brain-blowing when the relative powers are consistent! You see, there is something wrong, there is something missing with life, and you know what it is, we cannot get along with each other in peace. That will never fly in God’s Kingdom. So you can see much creative effort is going to have to be made of God’s Spirit in order to make peace with each other. Because the problems to some degree, though no were near as bad as they are in the world, there are still personal problems within the church.
God knew this would happen, so He has prepared with plans and means to bring about His major objective to the completion point that He desires, with the outline of His purpose, and many other significant factors for those who have the need He shows us in the Bible. I used the scriptures in the book of Luke. He is doing the same with us as He did with Luke.
Luke 24:44-49 And He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of the sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold I send the Promise of My Father upon you; tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
He, in a way, really force-fed them here in this case at this particular time and place. We have much more time at our disposal to gather the kind of information that Jesus gave to these men in a brief period of time. Only three years, plus what He is giving to them right here in very short period of time.
He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Here is another gift that He gave to them to fulfill their responsibility to Him.
He is doing the same with us, however, it is spread over a greater amount of time. We find what He is doing is repeated in Acts.
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Can you begin to see something that is taking shape here? We might call it the fulfillment of something that Jesus told us earlier, that we should not be overly concerned at all being put into a position before men where we think we are over-powered, over-matched by their intelligence, and political power, or whatever, because what He is showing us here is, you shall receive power. They did not have it yet; they began to get it.
Here is what we have to understand: wherever and whenever it is needed to glorify Him, He will give it, and He will do it right on the spot. That is why He said, “Don’t be afraid, I’ll be with you,” which means we are going to be put into positions where we feel that we are over our heads. In those times we have to use our faith, pray, and ask for the help we need to get by this situation, and to glorify Him in it.
This is what He is promising these men, “You shall receive power.” Peter preached two bombastic and great sermons, before that he never preached a word in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But when he needed it on the day of Pentecost the power came to enable him to nail those religious people to the wall with the truth about what they did in crucifying Jesus Christ.
A couple chapters after that, Peter was used to resurrect a lady from the dead, a couple chapters after that, Peter was used to preach the gospel, the very first one to the Gentiles. God chose to use Peter, rather than Paul. Paul was not called until another chapter later. When it was needed the power was delivered, the examples are here in God’s Word, the power of His Holy Spirit.
There can be no doubt from the context in which Jesus references to powers are made, He is speaking of the addition of God’s Holy Spirit to the powers mankind is already gifted with by means of the indwelling of the spirit in man. Jesus is not speaking of personal power for the apostles, but rather power to enable them to carry out their assignments as apostles, teaching of their experiences with Jesus Christ, to whomever and wherever He sends them.
The pattern is clear. God calls, and God assigns responsibility. God trains as He did with those men for three years. By the time they were done He had given them the tools, all except the power to really carry them out. So the apostles were fully equipped to carry out their assignments, but further teaching even more would come as they performed their job.
What do we learn from this? The pattern is set for us too. That ought to be really comforting. In other words they were already equipped for duty, but they needed the experience of what was going to happen on Pentecost to provide impetus to the schooling they had already received. So what happened was a major step in understanding how we are able to control ourselves, and thus make the very best use of God’s gifts. While what is said is done in what we are going to consider here, it is said to the apostles, but it applies equally well to us to consider and to do this with all your heart.
John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
The setting here is the Garden of Gethsemane. The apostles are receiving a last couple of hours of admonitions and exhortations the evening after their Passover service, foot washing, and the evening before His trial and crucifixion. At this point He is explaining their relationship with Him. It has been elevated and intensified, from being a mere servant, to a friend.
If a servant is told to do something, his station does not require much more than a simple order to carry the task out, but a friend is more than just a servant, especially shown in this particular context. A friend is a confidant one shares things with, and gives fuller and more detailed explanations to, and that is what he does in John 14 through 17. He is sharing things with the apostles that He had not shared with them, with the intensity, feeling, concern that He did before.
That is why He said, you are no longer a servant, you are My friend. That put them into an interesting category. As far as I know only Abraham was the friend of God. That is quite a high station, because a friend is more than a servant.
John 15:16-19 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I commanded you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Go back in mind to the apostles again. What Jesus is saying here is, you did not become My friends because they sought Him out and volunteered to be His friends, as people commonly do with Jesus Christ today. They became in the relationship with Him, because He initiated the relationship. He sustained it as well. God deliberately initiates the relationship with those that He chooses.
It is important to remember how important you are to God. Do we appreciate that? Normally, in common life, two almost always become friends by means of a gradual movement in that direction toward each other, or by both. In this case though, Jesus was the only real mover in this relationship because one’s carnality will strongly exist, and in a relationship with God now within His purposes, there is no such thing as whomsoever will may come. The reality is in harmony with every case involving Him in the past. In every case, God initiates the relationship.
Nobody is going to tell Him who is going to be in His Family. He is the Creator, He is the one running things. He chooses the people He wants, for whatever reasons. I will show examples all the way back in the book of Deuteronomy, how early God was doing this.
Deuteronomy 7:7-8 “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Those words in John 15, “you did not choose Me, I chose you”—it was Christ who elected those men for Himself out of a world of darkness in order that they might be His followers, and bear much fruit. His election of us emphasizes His love for us, as sinners.
What do we mean from this one-sided approach that is important to our spiritual well being? It is this: Because He did what He did, the ground, the foundation for our relationship with Him, with our very Creator, and all the gifts He gives for us to possess, and especially His love, is always with Him.
We had nothing to offer any more than ancient Israel did in Deuteronomy, or the twelve men that Jesus chose to teach, and then be witnesses of Him to the world. That, if you grasp it, should be humbling to our carnality. He initiates the relationship. I was going to show you a multitude of places where He shows that He initiates virtually everything in our life, but I am running out of time. Why does He do it? Because He loves us.