RECEIVING THE SPIRIT

Galatians 3:1-14
(c) Copyright 2002 Rev. Bill Versteeg


Faith or Observance of the Law

3     You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” a 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” b 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” c 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” d 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” e 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” f 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

 a Gen. 15:6   b Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18   c Deut. 27:26   d Hab. 2:4   e Lev. 18:5   f Deut. 21:23
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

Brothers and sisters in Christ.

Whose heard this phrase before "Gimme Gimmes never get!"? 

I'm sure that very few of us have not heard it - its a common piece of advice that we give to children who are either in their hurry or in their demanding attitude neglect to say "Please."  We see the "Gimme" attitude most often when one child gets something, and the others have to wait, or it is not their time to receive it yet.  We will get irritated by children who neglect to say "Please" because behind their forgetfulness is an immature attitude which says "I deserve"

"I deserve so give it to me now."
"I deserve because I've been good - gimme!"
"I deserve because I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth..." 

When we meet that immature self deserving attitude, oh how it irks us.  The attitude betrays a self serving legalism that we hope that we can train out of our children.  Its an old linkage that we recognize between performance and reward, the insistence of rights that were never given.  Impoliteness and ingratitude are connected in the heart of the old nature. 

But Gimmes don't just come in small packages, they also come in adult size packages, of all ages, of both sexes.  And the "Gimmes" are lurking in each one of our hearts.  And the "Gimmes" come out in the most interesting ways, especially when it comes to receiving the Holy Spirit. 

John was a gray haired "Gimme."  A long time member of the church, having faithfully served as both elder and deacon, a quiet gentle man, but still a "Gimme."  And the "Gimme" came out in his relationship with his daughter.  His daughter had gone through what we commonly understand to be the hormone adolescent years, but back then the hormone years were mixed with a drug culture and his daughter jerked John and his wife through those earth quake years with little mercy.  Over time the rebellious flower child got married.  John looked forward to a few years of peace.  But that wasn't the end!  His daughter got involved in a group of Christians, she became a person who bubbled over with excitement because the Spirit of God was in her.  Her life changed, radically.  She quit drinking, she quit smoking.  She became more involved in the church than her own father.

We would have expected John to be celebrating that a lost one was found, a very thankful father that his daughter was now God's child too, God had been so faithful. But no!  John's relationship with his daughter got a whole lot worse.  His daughter, in his eyes had become a "Holy Roller" and he did what he could to resist his daughter's unfading excitement.  To visit with her father and mother meant that she had to virtually spiritually shut down, not mention anything about the Lord or the church.  I sat down with John a number of times, each time trying to understand his resentment.  And that is when, quietly, I heard the voice of the "Gimme" that to one extent or another resides in each one of us.  It seemed to him that his daughter was boasting about the Spirit that God had given her in such rich measure but he insisted that his daughter certainly couldn't have more of the Spirit and even more certainly did not deserve more of the Spirit than he had.  (I am certain that his daughter did not boast, and I am certain that the fruit of the Spirit was more evident in her life than her fathers.  But to him, trembling he told me, these holy rollers needed a little more experience of life to take the wind out of their sails.

John, was listening to that old "Gimme" attitude.  If somebody else receives the Spirit of God in a rich way, then I deserve it to!  I deserve the Spirit, look how faithful I have been all these years!

 The Galatian Christians had the same problem.  They hungered for the work of the Spirit of God among them.  They had started with the Spirit but when it comes to the Spirit there is always somebody who has more, a different gift, a more evident fruit of the Spirit and the Galatian Christians wanted more.  Then the Judaizers came with their three step plan, they taught that if they didn't eat unclean foods, if they kept those other laws and especially if they included getting circumcised, then the spirit would certainly fall upon them in renewed power.  After all , with circumcision, they would be righter with God - having fulfilled the Old Testament expectations and the New Testament expectations. 

But God does not give his Holy Spirit based on what we do.  God does not anoint with his Holy Spirit because of our righteousness.  God does not give the gifts and power of his Spirit because of our great qualities.  We very frankly don't deserve.  

Listen closely to the words of the Heidelberg Catechism. 

Why are you called Christian? 

Because I share in Christ and his anointing! 

Christ is the one who received the Spirit because he deserved it, he was without sin, perfectly doing the will of his heavenly father.  And the only reason we receive the Spirit is because of Christ.  So Paul says again and again in our passage in a variety of ways "It is by faith that we receive the Holy Spirit." 

It is by faith that we receive the Holy Spirit. 

There is no formula but Faith!  Nothing else gets us closer to God.  Nothing else moves God to anoint us with the Spirit of His Son.  It is by faith that we receive the Holy Spirit and so share in the anointing of His Son. 

Over the years, I have met many Christians who are listening to variations of that old three point plan to receiving more of the Holy Spirit.  They hear the themes: "Consecrate yourself more, Get involved in this, do that, pray more fervently, read the bible for hours a day, attend that workshop, sing praise every day even when your heart is crying."  Now each piece of advice might have its worth for growth, but non of them make us more deserving of the Spirit of God.  There is only one way to receive the Spirit!  That is by faith in Jesus Christ.  The same faith by which we recognize that our sins are forgiven.  The same faith by which we recognize that we have eternal life.  It is by faith that we share in Christ and his anointing!  Each one of us knows that even though our parents failed in many ways, yet when we asked them for the things we needed they gave us what we needed.  How much more will our Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to us when we ask for it!? (Luke 11:13 applied) 

Now it would be very understandable for many of us to have a variety of questions about the topic of receiving the Spirit, questions which would reflect the theology we have grown up with, or the experiences we have had.  And I encourage you to ask them - come to me, help me write next weeks sermon. 

But Before I close this morning, I think it is important that I make just a couple of comments about faith since it is by faith that we receive the promised Holy Spirit.  Receiving forgiveness and eternal life, has to do with faith, receiving the Spirit has to do with faith.  Faith, in the context of this passage might be best understood as trust. 

I don't know if you have noticed something in your life but to receive somebody's ministry you have to trust them.  I think this is a universal rule of life - we even see it in our dog.  If you have been at our house, you know that often we will hide our dog!  Its not because we're ashamed of him, its simply because he trusts very few people.  If you are a visitor, you might have the best intentions to pet him and make him feel good and give him a treat but you will notice even while you are still outside of the house that there is a dog with his hair standing on end, teeth bared, ready to take a few layers of skin off of your ankles.  He's our welcoming committee!  Its not that he is a mean dog, its just that he doesn't trust.  No matter how much you might want to give him treats he won't take them.

If somebody comes to the door of your house claiming to be a water meter reader, one of the first things you do is check for his badge.  If you don't see one, you are entirely correct to not let him in to read your water meter.  Or take your car.  Have you ever been on the highway and your car has broken down?  And you somehow get it to the nearest garage and the mechanic looks untrustworthy.  Then he tells you that to fix your fan belt its going to cost $450.00.  You'll find it very difficult to accept his ministry to you (if that's what you can call it) if you don't trust him. 

As I have reflected on ministry for the last years, one thing I have discovered.  For me to receive ministry from anyone, from a house drywall installer to a pastor, I have to trust in order to receive. 

It is by a trusting faith that we receive the Holy Spirit.  It is by trusting what he does that we receive from him.  It is by trusting his ministry within our hearts, it is by trusting him and the gifts that he gives that we are enabled to minister by the power of the Spirit.  So much of the Christian life is learning to trust what the Spirit does in us and through us.   

So brothers and sisters, the word gives us one formula for receiving the Spirit.  That formula is faith.  In trust asking, seeking, knocking, knowing that our father in heaven longs to share with us the anointing of his Son. 

Prayer

Lord, the word tells us that You, Jesus came to baptize with the Holy Spirit and so this morning we come, not with our great qualities, simply with our need and desire to know you.  We come in trusting faith to receive from you a baptism in your Spirit, a fresh anointing in your Spirit for Lord it is by your strength that we stand, it is in your strength that we minister, it is by your power that we persevere.  Through Jesus your Son.  Amen


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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