The New Testament describes a number of astonishing miracles performed by God's Spirit.
The Apostles and all who looked on were eyewitnesses to these sensational events. So here's the question, does the Spirit of God continue to work miracles today? Today's message is called Flying Closer to the Flame.
This is message number 13 in our 14-part study. Chuck titled today's message, Is That All There Is to the Spirit's Ministry? Is there to be gifts like tongues and apostleship and miracles, healings, interpretation of tongues, all essential for authenticating the messengers and establishing the church and propagating the gospel rapidly through the various languages? But Ephesians chapter 2, turn there next, teaches us that they're in this progress of revelation.
There is a passing of time where some things cease and other things continue. Ephesians 2 verse 19. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of God's household. Now watch closely, verse 20. Having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, we're talking building, temple, built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone in whom the whole building being fitted together is growing, I-N-G, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord in whom also you are being built together into a dwelling of God in the spirit. Drop down to verse 2 of chapter 3. I'm sorry, verse 3, chapter 3. That by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, which as I wrote before in brief, remember the word mystery, the mystery. And by referring to this, when you read, you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known. This mystery was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the spirit.
He specifies a group. Before the mystery was not known, but now that there are apostles and prophets, the mystery has been unfolded, unveiled, revealed. To be specific, this is the mystery, verse 6. That Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
That's the mystery. It wasn't known in the days of the Old Testament. It came to be known in the first century and was in fact a part of the history of the church. So the Gentiles were included.
There was the inclusion, if you will, of Gentiles with Jews in this wonderful universal body, the body of Christ. It was a new thing. It was a mystery. It was revealed. There is not yet another mystery. That one has been revealed. It's done. It ceased being a secret. It's known.
By the way, this is a real good time for me to build up the body rather than help tear it down. The enemy loves to get sidetracked on issues like this so that we begin to refer to various people in the body of Christ as them and as opposed to us. Try your best not to put those words in your vocabulary. This is a good time for us to leave room for disagreement and even debate. But let's not help the enemy dance with glee as we're separated in fellowship from one another.
Let's not let that occur. Well, a better, and not better, but another further question that we need to address before we're through with the series is how can we say the Spirit's work is still evident? If the Spirit's work is not ended and if some of these things have indeed been drawn to a close, then how can we say the Spirit's work is still obvious? What are some ways we know that? Let me give you four thoughts that came to my mind as Howie and I prepared this sermon and put these thoughts together.
Here's the first. Because he is still at work in our lives, he has been with you, but he will be in you, and you can know the Spirit's presence by witnessing it in your own life. His work is continually going on. 1 Corinthians 6, 19 to 20, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, always will be, always has been. Romans 8, 16, 17, Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we're children of God. His work is going on in our lives. When I'm with other Christians, there's a witness of the Spirit that links up, whether they're even of the same language as I am or the same culture. It's a wonderful connection, and I remind myself that's the Spirit's work.
He's smiling on our relationship right now. 1 John 4, 4, greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. When you're in the face of enemy attacks, you know the Spirit's work is evident because there is a sense of confidence and security in your faith. You know that he is evident because he is still at work in your life.
Here's another one. Because he is still empowering gifted Christians for ministry. We were in 1 Corinthians, let's go back to 1 Corinthians 12, and I'll show you in verses 4 through 7 the example from Scripture that the Spirit is still at work in the gifts. 1 Corinthians 12, verse 4, there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit. There are varieties of ministries and the same Lord.
There are varieties of effects but the same God who works all things and all persons. To each one, that's a wonderful thought here, to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. How do I know the work of the Spirit is still evident? Because when I hear gifted teachers teach the Scriptures, I am witnessing the gift of the Spirit in that person's life. When I see people gifted in evangelism, winning people to Christ with ease and with great measure of success, again in my spirit I know the work of the Spirit is involved in him. When I see people helping others in mercy and encouragement and hospitality, you and I are witnessing the work of the Spirit.
He gifts people to do these things. Here's a third one you may not have thought about lately, because he is still restraining lawlessness. 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 7 and 8. 2 Thessalonians 2, verse 7, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 3 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will slay with the breath of his mouth.
Maybe you haven't thought about this lately because things seem to be out of control. Lawlessness seems to be at an all-time high, perhaps it is, but it's not anything like it will be when the Spirit of God is lifted from this earth. And a time will come upon this earth of evil such as we have never witnessed in our lives, and when the restrainer is removed, there will be a witness of evil like we have never imagined. Cynthia and I groaned and ached this morning as we looked over a story from the newspaper of a girl who went through the horror of an attempted rape. And the criminal who had her under his control finished off the act of violence by pouring a quart of sulfuric acid on her and blinded her and defaced her and ruined, in human terms, ruined her life. And it shows a picture of her with her seeing eye dog and how she still sings the praises of Christ and has decided to go on in her life, hopes to someday be a disc jockey. But I looked at her disfigured face and I read of the criminal sentence against the man who perpetrated this crime, and nothing is too harsh for a man like that.
And I thought it can't get any worse, but it will. When the restrainer is lifted from this earth, those who lived through that time will know what it would have been like when the restrainer was present. So we know his work is evident because he continues to restrain lawlessness. Here's another thought, fourth and the last in this list, because he is still regenerating the lost. He's still expanding the ranks of the church. John 3, unless you were born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God. Just as the wind blows where you cannot know where it came from or where it's going, so it is in the birth of the Spirit.
He is still leading people to Christ. Sometime it just takes one witness and the lost person is saved. That's the work of the Spirit. I got a marvelous letter this week. I just have to share a part of it with you. It's from a physician.
And I'll just read excerpts from this letter which reveals the work of the Spirit in one person's life. Not long ago I finished a rotation at the Loma Linda Veterans Hospital and one of my patients was in the Navy during World War II. He served in the Battle of Midway and was on the USS Lexington which was sunk in that battle.
The individual I met was literally just a skeleton of the man that fought for our country. He now was on the losing end of a battle against a certain type of lung cancer that is well known as being the most deadly and most rapidly fatal type of lung cancer. The malignancy is usually located near the mainstream bronchus which is the main tube that brings air into each lung so as the tumor grows it will progressively suffocate the patient. In addition to slowly suffocating, the patient will also suffer indescribable bone pain secondary to the cancer's propensity to spread to bone throughout the body. This disease is brought on by hard living and excessive smoking which was exactly the history of this patient.
Because you too were once a military man, you know what I'm describing when I say this patient used to be as tough as nails, feared nothing, and lived life with incredible reckless abandon. However, 40 years of hard living had caught up and had beaten him. He now weighed less than 90 pounds.
In his prime he weighed close to 200 pounds. He was unable to sit up in bed secondary to severe weakness and pain. He had lost all of his hair secondary to chemotherapy. He was only able to speak a few words at a time otherwise he would get too short of breath. And just pause and picture that man, that living skeleton. I knew after my first talk with him that he would not live another week. I am not the type of medical student who usually shares Christianity to patients but this man was an exception. After taking time to build a relationship with him I asked him if he were afraid of dying. He stated that he had absolutely no fear of death. I was shocked by his confidence because at this point I knew only of his military days and I figured that he was just giving me a tough guy image.
But I should have known that people on their deathbed usually cease seeing the need to be false. But he continued and told me the events of his life and because he had taken many pauses to catch his breath this took quite a while. He rehashed to me his wild navy days during the war up until the point two years ago when he was in the depths of depression and feelings of hopelessness. He was living back east at the time and had been divorced several times and did not know where his children were living and was now living all alone. He was at the point of considering suicide when on the radio came a program he had never heard before. He stated the show was entitled Insight for Living. He said that right then and there after listening to only one show he accepted Christ into his life as his personal savior.
He later moved out to Orange County, California but he never did attend the Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton because he was too embarrassed of his past life to go to the church that Chuck Swindoll spoke at. At this point I took the liberty of telling him that you too used to be in the military. I told him Chuck Swindoll would have been proud to meet you because you're a genuine Christian. At this statement he smiled the biggest smile possible. Our conversation came to a close.
At this point I told him I'd see him the next morning. However during the night he fell into a coma and died two days later, never regaining consciousness. Gosh, the Spirit of God did that.
I mean one voice in the middle of nowhere at the end of your rope never having met the man. One statement and his whole life is regenerated. The Spirit is at work. He's still doing that. Still touching people.
Still using folks like you and me. No one can intelligently deny that the Spirit of God is very much alive and well on planet Earth, still at work. Well my hope in the series is that you will walk in the truth and that the Spirit will become your daily helper and you will realize his power and the necessity of his presence in your life. I also have a concern that you guard yourself against error and you not be swept up into movements and groups and extremes that will hurt you rather than help you, will disillusion you rather than encourage and strengthen you. So I want to close with four or five briefly stated yet I hope practical and helpful checkpoints to keep you from error.
This will stay with you I hope for the rest of your days. In fact, you might want to find a place in your Bible where you can just put a heading that reads checkpoints to guard against error and just put one, two, three, four, five and then we'll be through. Number one, always let your Bible be your guide.
Always let your Bible be your guide. Number two, be discerning. It pays to stay a little skeptical and I know you know what I mean when I say that. It pays to keep asking questions. It pays to check out the character of the one doing the teaching.
It pays to give it a long trial before you throw yourself into it. Be discerning. Number three, stay balanced. Always let your Bible be your guide. Be discerning.
Stay balanced. By that I mean guard against extremism. If you find things getting a little fanatical, put on the brakes. Christ isn't raising up fanatics. Christ is building his body with stable contagious Christians. Fanatics aren't contagious.
They're frightening. If you're alienating those who are strong in their walk with Christ, something's wrong. Something's wrong.
If you're being encouraged to go against that voice inside of you, it's a yellow light. I talked to a couple this morning who said they followed a particular ministry and they named it. There's no reason for me to name it here, make it public, but they named it. You'd know it if I called it and they said we were being taught things that didn't wash inside our conscience. We knew something was wrong with that. And we were being told to claim, and once we claimed it, it was ours. We just name it and then we're into it. And they said, you know, it got disillusioning as we watched all kinds of manipulative things being done. And we have stepped away from that. We want to, they're words, we want to bring things back into balance in our walk.
It's a smart couple. Investigate it further. If you question it, investigate it. By the way, here's another little tip on staying balanced.
If you're becoming more and more exclusive, it's probably error. When God's in it, it fits in the flow of the body of Christ. If you're beginning to doubt more and more Christians and see yourself alone as being right, something's wrong. Stay balanced. Number four, seek the counsel of men and women you admire, you respect.
Preferably those who are not caught up in the things you have been excited about. You need a calm, objective ear and mouth when being drawn into teachings. And finally, keep the unity. Keeping the unity of the Spirit is not a nice option, it is an essential part of our walk. Keep the unity. Try not to be deliberately divisive. Our calling is not to split churches. Our calling is to keep the unity, to keep the body strong.
There are a few rare occasions when one must stand alone and, if necessary, walk away from a relationship, but it's the exception, not the rule. I close with Charles Spurgeon's words from his work Morning and Evening. Common, too common, is the sin of forgetting the Holy Spirit.
This is folly and ingratitude. As God, he is good essentially. He is good benevolently, tenderly bearing with our waywardness, striving with our rebellious wills, quickening us from our death in sin and then training us for the skies as a loving nurse fosters her child. He is good operatively. All his works are good in the most eminent degree. He suggests good thoughts.
I love this. He prompts good actions, reveals good truths, applies good promises, assists in good attainments and leads in good results. There is no spiritual good in all the world of which he is not the author and sustainer. They who yield to his influences become good. They who obey his impulses do good. They who live under his power receive good.
The church will never prosper until more reverently it believes in the Holy Ghost. May this series have helped you believe in the work and the power of the Holy Spirit. Let's bow for a few moments of prayer together.
Will you bow with me? Take a brief look back over your years on this earth. Pinpoint a few good things that can only be attributed to the work of the Spirit of God. And as I lead you in prayer, you give thanks for those good things. It may be the birth of a child that you struggled with and realize now was the blessing of God. It may have been the loss of something precious that you thought would end your life when in fact it has made your life. It may be a relationship or frankly the cessation of a relationship that has turned your whole ship around and sent you on course in the right direction.
It may have been coming in contact with a teacher or with a ministry that has shaped and influenced your life for good. Father in heaven, hear our prayer of gratitude. Thank you through the process and progress of history, even the history of our brief lives, that we have seen your hand obviously at work, sometimes rebuking and reproving and spanking us in discipline, sometimes reaching down and lifting up heavy hearts and drooping shoulders, sometimes filling us with the most exciting thoughts of a bright future when we thought it had come to an end.
Out of nowhere a phone call or a letter or a contact or an arm around our shoulders and the whole course of our lives was changed because your intimate spirit allowed us to fly closer to the flame and we got a touch of his warmth and the change that you had in mind for us. Thank you, Lord, for being far more faithful than we could ever dream of being, for being long suffering with our short tempers, for being good when we have been bad, for guiding us often against our own selfish wills and then patiently enduring our bragging about being in your will when in fact it was all your work. May these thoughts we have shared together over this period of time bring closure to some struggles that have been present and bring hope where there has been a sense of darkness and discouragement. May only good and strength come from the things we have learned and grown in together, Father. In the name of Jesus Christ, who has given us his Spirit, we pray these things.
And everybody said, Amen. If you've held good intentions for requesting Chuck's book about the Holy Spirit, today's the day to reach out. This teaching series will conclude on Wednesday. Chuck's full-length book is called Embraced by the Spirit.
It parallels the teaching series in many ways, but Chuck goes into far greater detail in his book. The subtitle is Embraced by the Spirit, The Untold Benefits of Intimacy with God. To purchase a copy right now, go to insight.org slash store. Finally, as we conclude today's program, I'd love to invite you to become one of our monthly companions. The steady financial support from our monthly companions has accelerated our pursuit of an audacious God-sized dream, and that is to bring insight for living to all 195 countries of the world. We refer to this mission as Vision 195.
By becoming a monthly companion, you can have a ministry all of your own by participating in Vision 195. To sign up right now, give us a call. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. That's 800-772-8888.
Or you can go online to insight.org slash monthly companion. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll talks about the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, Tuesday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Is That All There Is To The Spirit's Ministry?, was copyrighted in 1993 and 2003, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2003 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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