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1040. How Does the Spirit Empower Us?

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
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July 23, 2021 7:00 pm

1040. How Does the Spirit Empower Us?

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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July 23, 2021 7:00 pm

Dr. Kerry McGonigal continues a series entitled “Breath of Life,” with a message titled “How Does the Spirit Empower Us?,” from Zachariah 4.

The post 1040. How Does the Spirit Empower Us? appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University entitled Breath of Life, which is a study of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Today's message will be preached by Dr. Kerry McGonigal, a professor in the School of Religion. We're going to be restructuring, reconfiguring the fences around our horse farm, and so we were moving these T-posts, these metal posts that you use for the fences, and basically you have to take like a 30 to 40 pound steel pipe and you have to lift it up and you just have to keep beating on the T-post until it goes into the ground. Well, this was like the middle of July. It was one of the hottest days of the summer. It was so humid, and frankly, like, I mean, I didn't think I was going to make it. I thought I was going to collapse and die. At one point I wished that I had.

It was so, so hot, so humid. And, you know, I would pound it down, I'd look, and there's just this little bit of progress. You know, it just went down a little bit further. And instinctively I kept looking forward to all the T-posts that I still had to put in the ground. And I just kind of collapsed in my spirit. I actually had to sit down at a certain point because I was like, I've never collapsed, I've never fainted before in my life, but I think I might at this point. Maybe you feel like that physically at this point in the semester. Maybe you feel like that emotionally or spiritually.

Just like you're not sure if you can take the next step, you're not sure if you can make it. I'm so weak. And that's why I think this particular study this morning is so encouraging because we're asking the question, how does the Spirit of God strengthen and empower us to live the Christian life?

Because that's what we need. We need strength in our weakness. Now I don't think there's any question about the fact of the Spirit's empowerment, right? There are lots of passages that connect the Spirit of God to this matter of power or strength, like Acts chapter 1 verse 8. You shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you. And we read passages like God anointed his son Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power. Paul prays for the believers in the Church of Rome in chapter 15 that they would abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. And a little bit later in that same chapter he says that what he accomplished in seeing Gentiles come to the faith was something that was done and accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. So I don't think we have a question about the power of the Spirit, but the question that was given to me and the question that we're seeking to try to answer this morning is exactly how does he do that? The Spirit is powerful and the Spirit empowers, but how exactly does the Spirit strengthen us in our Christian life?

That's the question. And I'd like to answer that from a passage in the Old Testament, if you would turn there with me, to Zechariah chapter 4. So if you can find Matthew's Gospel in your New Testament and then just turn back two books, you'll be in Zechariah chapter 4. So I'm going to approach this inductively, which means that I'm not working from an idea but to or toward an idea. So we're going to talk a little bit about the problem that these believers, these people were facing in this day and the promise that God gave them and the power that was part of that promise. And then once we get to that point, we'll be able to answer the how question. We'll get to the point of the passage.

So problem, promise, power, and point. Amen? You like that? That's good. That'll preach.

So here we are and we're in the post-exilic period. So the people of God, as you know, had turned their back on God. They had given themselves over to idolatry and God was disciplining them and he disciplined them ultimately by sending them into captivity, by carrying them away from their homeland. They became displaced peoples, refugees, if you will, in places like Babylon.

But as you know, Persia ended up overtaking Babylon and Cyrus, king of Persia, issued a decree allowing these Jews to return back to their homeland and to rebuild Jerusalem. So when they come back to Jerusalem, we're looking at about 50 to 60 years of this city lying in ruins. So imagine in your mind what that city must have looked like by this point.

In fact, the passage that we're looking at, chapter 4 verse 7, describes it in terms of a great mountain. And I think initially, when you think of the problem that they were facing, there was a problem in front of them just by sheer, you know, just by the fact that they were looking at this pile of rocks, this pile of stones left over from the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. And then in addition to that, they just had this overwhelming task, this huge daunting task in front of them of reconstructing that temple.

So kind of like my looking down the line and thinking about all the tipos that had to go in there still, imagine thinking about moving this pile of rubble and then constructing this edifice in its place. And then there was the problem around them. There was this persistent enemy that we read about, for example, in Ezra chapter 4 verses 1 and 2. They're spoken of in terms of being the adversaries or the enemies of Judah and Benjamin. These were the people that probably were placed there after the collapse of the northern kingdom by Assyria in 722 BC. These are the people that were put there, became intermingled with the people of God, became likely the Samaritans that we know of in the New Testament. And they're there and they're offering their help as the people of God, the Jews, come back and seek to rebuild the temple, rebuild the city. But they're misleading in their statements.

They're probably trying to help because they want to infiltrate the work and frustrate the work. They claim to worship the same God, but that just wasn't the case. They were syncretistic in their religion. They claimed to be displaced people by the king of Assyria, Esarhaddon, who was the son of Sennacherib. And in verse 3, we read, So, no, you're not going to do this because this is the house of the Lord our God. We don't worship the same God. And because Cyrus, king of Persia, has commissioned us to do this.

And in verses 4 and 5, we read that, The local residents weakened, weakened the hands of or discouraged the people of Judah and troubled them, disheartened them in the building, and they bribed officials against them to frustrate their purpose. All the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius, king of Persia. So, according to my estimation, probably about 20 years here, you got this constant harassment from the outside. It's kind of this intimidation, this bullying that maybe some of you experienced as kids in my public school. There was a guy in my seventh grade class that was about 24 years old. He had like a full beard.

Not as cool as Kenny's beard, but he had a beard. And he would just kind of get in my face. I was this little guy in seventh grade.

I had my nice cleanly pressed white t-shirt and my nice shorts that my mom had ironed. And he would just kind of get in my face, stick his chest in my face, and push me around. And he smelled really bad. I just remember, you know, really sometimes not wanting to go to PE class.

And in some cases, you know, not wanting to get up and go to school in the morning when you're walking down the hall and they knock your books out of your hand and that kind of thing. So, this is a constant, you can imagine the discouragement that came to these people as they dealt with this pile of rubble, as they dealt with this daunting task in front of them, as they dealt with this harassment without end. And the text speaks of that in Haggai chapter 2 verse 3.

Haggai was one of the prophets who ministered during this time. And he says to Zerubbabel, who was the governor, and to Joshua the high priest, who is left among you that saw this house, this temple, in her former glory? And how do you see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?

Right? So, by comparison to the old days, the glory days, what we're looking at now as it begins is nothing. So, these are kind of the Debbie Downers, right? The people that so easily discourage us in the work. Zechariah chapter 4 verse 10 as well, who hath despised the day of small things, describing these people who were looking at the commencement of this work and really treating it with contempt, treating it as nothing.

Like Esau, who treated his birthright with contempt. And this is unfortunate because sometimes older people like us will sometimes live our lives in the past, living, reliving the glory days of the past. And that can be a real discouragement. That can be a real drag on the work of God today.

I just want to say to all of us who are older that really be careful about that kind of mentality that puts the brakes on and really dampens the effect of what God is doing in the present, in the now, among his people. I mean, some of these individuals were so affected by their comparison of what was and what is that they were weeping loud enough, intensely enough that you could hear it from quite a distance. And it's very possible that the community itself, because of some of these issues, was a divided community. So all of these problems. So you think, you know, is there any hope that these people are actually going to be successful in the task?

Is it actually possible? And that's where this promise enters into the situation. You have a vision from God that's given through an angel, through the prophet Zechariah, to Joshua the high priest, and to Zerubbabel the governor. What's the promise? Well, the promise is essentially your efforts are going to succeed. Your efforts are going to succeed.

And imagine, you know, imagine how encouraging that would have been at that time. Imagine if somebody said to you, you are going to get A's in all of your classes. No, you're going to get A's in all of your classes. You are going to succeed.

You're going to pass. Imagine how strengthening that would be, how encouraging that would be. That's exactly what the vision is communicating. Verse 7, who art thou, O great mountain, before Zerubbabel, as if we're addressing the mountain, thou shall become a level plain. You're going to be leveled.

You're going to be flattened. And he shall bring forth the headstone, or the capstone thereof, with shoutings, crying grace, grace unto it. Kind of picturing forward of when this is completed and all the people blessing God because of the completion of the work. Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation.

His hands shall also finish or complete it. Here's this vision that includes this promise of ultimate success. And you know how it is when you read passages like Philippians chapter 1, verse 6, and it says, he who began a good work in you will do what? He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

And that is so encouraging, especially when you're not feeling it right now. That promise was designed to strengthen the people of God. So what an encouraging word to a discouraged people. So how is it going to be possible? How are they going to move from rubble to temple? How are they going to move from nothing to something? How are they going to move from opposition and harassment to the completion of the task? How are they going to move from discouragement to joy? And this is the answer given in verse 6. This is kind of the heart of the vision, kind of the key text.

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, this is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, it's not going to be by this means. So let's start with the negative. Not by might nor by power. So how is all of this going to be accomplished? It's not going to be the result of human ingenuity. It's not going to be the result of human strength and human creativity and human muscle. It's not going to be economic strength. It's not going to be all the resources of Persia that were behind them.

So he's eliminating this idea. It's kind of like in digging some of those holes, sometimes we have to take these big wooden posts and put them in as kind of like along the way to kind of keep the fence stable. And when we first moved to the farm, I only had basically a shovel. And so I'm taking the shovel and I'm trying to dig into this compacted earth, this hard red South Carolina clay with a shovel. And it was exhausting.

And it was like at a certain point you reach limestone or whatever, and you actually cannot get through. You're like, I cannot do this of myself. Well, that's a good place to be, right, spiritually. When we come to the point when we recognize and realize like I'm out of resources, there's nothing I can do.

The only thing I can do is look up. We recognize that as the grace and kindness and love of God that bring us to the end of ourselves because the reality is it's not going to be by human strength, human ingenuity, human might. And that's kind of the point of the lampstand.

I wish we had time to look at the passage more detailed, but you can read it after chapel. The lesson of the lampstand is this. You've got this lampstand in the vision, and there is this supply, this constant unending supply of fresh, unmanufactured oil straight from two olive trees. So you've got two olive trees, and they're feeding this lampstand. And there's no human work involved in this.

There are no priests bringing the oil to the lamp. It's just coming straight from those olive trees. And that brings us to this.

What is the explanation behind the success of this work? Well, it's not going to be by might nor by power, by my spirit says the Lord of hosts, right? By my spirit.

That's how this is going to happen. So after a while, after trying to dig those holes for quite a time, I ended up getting a John Deere tractor, which I love dearly. I love my wife, and I love my kids, and then I love my John Deere tractor. And I have an auger that you can put on the back of that tractor. It's basically, I think, like a big screw, a really big screw that you screw into the earth, and it basically digs the hole for you. So now I can put the auger on the back of my tractor, I can back up to a place, put it down, and in a matter of like 10 seconds, 20 seconds, I have this hole drilled. I mean, is that not awesome or what?

That is so cool. So you've got the power from the tractor engine that's being transferred to that auger, and it's turning, and it's just ripping up the earth, and it's doing what I cannot do, humanly speaking, getting through all of that hard stuff. Well, we have an option. We have a choice to live our lives in the power of our own strength, using our own resources, or we can live in the power of the Spirit. And maybe part of the explanation for some of our frustration where we are right now, our discouragement, is the fact that we're living in our own strength, and we're not relying upon the Spirit of God to enable us to live the Christian life, because the reality is, as Paul says at the end of Romans chapter 11, of him, through him, to him are all things, to whom be glory forever.

Amen. So God is the source of all things. He's the means of all things.

He's the end of all things. So you've got a mountain-leveling promise, vision of success, that gives hope and courage as God's people face a mountain-sized problem or task. And the mountain-leveling promise will be realized by mountain-leveling power, the Spirit of God. So the first part of the idea that I'd like to convey today is the Spirit of God alone provides the necessary strength to do the work of God. But how?

See, that's the question. How does he do that? How does he empower us? And I think the answer that this text gives us that's confirmed in the New Testament is that he does that through appointed means. So you think about that lampstand that's burning there, right?

It's a little bit unclear as to exactly what that's a reference to. Maybe it's the temple itself, the completion of the temple. Maybe it's the people of God as they shine, as a light to the nations. But that lampstand is being supplied with fresh oil from two olive branches, which are identified in verse 14 as the two anointed ones.

And commentators typically identify these as either Joshua and Zerubbabel, the high priest and the governor, or the two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. But either way, God is utilizing the ministry of these appointed leaders to accomplish the work. And you see this in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 12, right? Christ is engaged in this construction process.

He's building something too. And for the church that he's building, he gave certain gifts. Apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors and teachers, right?

He appointed certain individuals to be a source of strength for the people of God so that the people of God are equipped, so the people of God mature, so the people of God grow up, and there are appointed leaders to that end. But even behind those rulers, like even if you identify the two anointed ones, the two olive trees or branches as Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor, behind those individuals was the preaching of the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. Look at Haggai chapter 1 verses 1 and 2. In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai to one of these individuals, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedek the high priest, saying, thus speaketh the Lord of hosts. So they're ministering the word of God.

Haggai chapter 1 verses 3 and 4, the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet. And you can see here, he's coming into the scene, he's bringing the word of God to bear upon their lives, and in this case, he's actually bringing a divine rebuke, and he's addressing their misplaced priorities. And that's how God is strengthening his people for the work, even sometimes through correction, even through rebuke, reproving. That's part of the way God strengthens us by his Spirit. It's through the word, as it's ministered in this case by appointed leaders.

You have the same emphasis throughout the narrative. But notice in verses 12 and 14 that it was this ministry of the word that stirred up the Spirit. Talking about how does the Spirit strengthen us? Well, it came in this case through the proclamation of the word of the Lord, and it stirred up first the leaders, and then all the remnant of the people. You can see it's not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, but how is that actually taking place when you pull back the curtain? You see the preaching of the word stirring up the leaders to lead the people who are also stirred up by the word to do the work that God had given them to do, and that's exactly what happened. They came and did the work in the house of the Lord their God. And so in Zechariah 4, our passage, that's the point of this vision. People are discouraged. They're commencing this great work, and God, through his prophet, brings a vision that says it will be completed.

You will be successful. And that was designed to hearten them, to stir them up, to continue on. That's exactly what we need, right?

That's exactly what I need right now. You know, think back to Bible conference, right? Think back to some of those services. How many of you were strengthened by one of those messages? Okay, so you think back to it. Okay, how does the Spirit strengthen us? Well, you may have come into one of those messages down, disheartened, weakened, spiritually. And what was the effect of the ministry of the word in your heart? It strengthened you.

You were stirred up to take the next step to keep going. That's how the Spirit ministers strength, primarily through the word. And so when you go back to Ephesians 4, for example, these gifts, these appointed leaders that Christ has given to the church are word ministers, primarily. And some of them were given for the foundation laying of the church, like the apostles. But they are primarily ministering the word so the church is strengthened to the point where members within the church are now doing something similar.

They are speaking the truth in love, right? And because of that, the rest of the body is growing up. The rest of the body is maturing. The rest of the body is strengthened because of the ministry of individual Christians within the body. And I would say in addition, even behind the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, behind the ministry of Joshua and Zerubbabel, is the ministry of the Messiah. Which really, if you look at the prophetic books, is the content of much of their preaching.

They're projecting forward and showing how the blessing of God is going to come to the people of God through the Messiah of God, through the Christ of God. And so I wouldn't be super dogmatic about this, but I wonder if in this particular passage of scripture, if there isn't some foreshadowing of the ministry of Jesus Christ, who is the high priest, who is the ultimate Davidic ruler, and who is the prophet, who is the word of God. He is the ultimate means of spiritual blessing and spiritual strength, ministered to us by His Spirit. And so that is confirmed in Ephesians chapter 4, if you continue reading. He's the head, and it's from Him that all the nourishment comes to the body.

Jesus, our Messiah. So, the Spirit of God alone provides the necessary strength to do the work of God, and He does so ultimately by means of the word of God ministered. The word of God inscripturated and the word of God incarnate Jesus Christ.

But there is also this. There is this right response that was necessary in order for that power to be enjoyed. So, for example, in Haggai chapter 1, you see the people obeying the voice of the Lord. You see the people fearing the Lord, and that's what was necessary for their strengthening, right? They received the word of God as the Thessalonian believers did, not as the word of men, but as the word of God, and it effectually worked in them. They experienced the power, the transforming power of that word as they welcomed and received and obeyed the word.

So, it's kind of like on my tractor, I've got a little button, and I pull that PTO, that power take-off button, and that's what releases the energy. That's what begins all of the work. So, for us, the Spirit of God is there to enable, to empower us, and He does so through His word, but we have to receive it.

We have to welcome it. We have to open up ourselves to it and enjoy that ministry. So, let me close with this.

So what? Well, I think this passage calls on us to renounce self-reliance, just to renounce it, self-dependence, and be strengthened by the Spirit as we are spoken to. Put yourself under the ministry of the word, even when, and perhaps even especially when, you don't feel like it because that's one of the appointed means by which God, by His Spirit, strengthens us to continue on, through God-appointed leadership, through Christ-fitted members who are speaking the truth in love. And then be strengthened by the Spirit as you are spoken to, or excuse me, as you speak to yourself. So, if you are not in a context like this, then you can certainly speak to yourself these same words, these same life-giving words, and the Spirit will use those words to strengthen you in the work. And then lastly, speak to others.

Be a conduit of blessing and strengthening to other people as you convey and speak the truth to them in love. That is the means. In other words, this isn't just mystical. How does the Spirit strengthen us?

Well, it's just kind of like some zap that we experience. No, it's actually connected very tightly to the word and our relationship to the word and our speaking of the word and our reception of the word. So, may God give us strength by His Spirit to continue on. Father, we thank you that we are not dependent on ourselves to do what you've called us to do. A man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of your mouth. Thank you, Spirit, for strengthening us through that very word. Amen. You've been listening to a sermon preached by Dr. Kerry McGonigal, a professor in the School of Religion at Bob Jones University. Thanks for listening, and join us again next week as we continue the study of the Holy Spirit here on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-20 09:21:07 / 2023-09-20 09:31:59 / 11

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