Holy Spirit Who? hearing God’s call
Holy Spirit Who?
May 31, 2015
ALSO, it's a bonus blessing weekend as we celebrate our grads - and welcome guest worship leader Jared Anderson at all worship times. See you at Ginghamsburg!
Hearing God’s Call
May 29 & 30, 2015
Sermon Series: Holly Spirit Who?
Hearing God’s Call
Chris Freeman, Student Ministry Director
It is graduation weekend here at Ginghamsburg Church. This weekend also marks the 10-year anniversary of my high school graduation.
I was looking back at what life was like when I graduated from high school in 2005… man, things have changed! For example, the #1 song in the country when I graduated was Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani. Yikes! The largest social networking website in the world at the time was called MySpace. Facebook was pretty much unheard of, and the iPhone was still two years away from existence. The most depressing fact of all was that the Super Bowl champs that year were the New England Patriots. I guess that goes to show you that some things never change.
Here we are, Graduation Weekend of 2015. This year is a special year for me because I’ve grown up with this class of seniors. Six years ago, my wife and I graduated from college, moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and join God’s mission here at Ginghamsburg Church. I started on staff as the middle school pastor when this group of graduates was just heading into grade 7.
Then two years later, as this group moved into high school, I moved with them and became the student ministry director and high school pastor. So I’ve been with them from grade 7 through grade 12, every step of the way. This is a pretty special class for me. But I’m going to hold it together. I’m going try not getting all-emotional on you. I’m going to make it through this message.
Last week, Pastor Mike kicked off this sermon series we are in called Holy Spirit Who. He shared a powerful message about who the Holy Spirit is, and how the Holy Spirit works in our lives.
As Mike was preaching, I was meeting with our high school students in the Avenue for worship. Rather than sharing a message that morning, I did something I do about once or twice a year. I gave every student a slip of paper and a pen, and I told them to write down any question they wanted to ask when it comes to God, their faith, the Holy Spirit… any question that was relevant to our discussion.
Then I collected their questions, and we worked through them together. By far, the most frequently asked question was, “What’s God’s call on my life?” Over and over again, it would come up… “What is God’s will for my life? What is God’s plan for my life? How do I know what God’s calling me to do?”
I mean… this is a huge question that these students were asking. But the truth is it’s not just high school students. It’s not just graduates. It’s all of us, isn’t it? If I were to do the same thing here in this room today, I can assure you that the most common question would be, how do I discover God’s call? How do I hear from God and discern his voice in the midst of all the other voices in my head?
And that’s exactly what we are going to talk about today. So if you have your Bibles you can open them up to the New Testament, the gospel of John. We are going to pick it up in chapter 16, verse 13.
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
What we see in this verse is that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, he will tell us what is yet to come. We are talking about hearing God’s call on our life, and right here we see that we can’t discover God’s call apart from the Holy Spirit. He will tell us what is yet to come. But for many of us, we really struggle with this. I mean if the Holy Spirit is speaking, then why am I not hearing him? For many of us, we so badly want to hear God’s call, so why aren’t we?
Around this time of year every year, at least one or two seniors will come to meet with me in my office. They’ll come in. They’ll sit down. And then an all-out meltdown ensues. Tears are flowing. Sobbing. Hyperventilating. They put my two-year old daughter’s meltdowns to shame. I mean it’s ugly. And it’s always over this same issue. They have no clue what God wants them to do with their life. “Should I go to college or not? If so, what college should I choose? Once I get that figured out, what am I supposed to study?” These are some big questions. But it always boils down to discovering God’s call. And they’ll say, “I just wish God would tell me what he’s calling me to do.” After they calm down, I always respond by asking the same two questions:
What’s your prayer life like? Are you reading your Bible?
And almost always the answer to at least one, and usually both of those questions isn’t good. So I say, let me get this straight. You want to hear from God… you want to know his plan for your life, what he’s calling you to… yet you aren’t spending any time with him?
And most often the answer I get back is, “Well I’m just so busy.” Now I’m not trying to just call out this handful of students, because we are all guilty of this, aren’t we? We want to hear from God, but we fail to spend time with God. I’m also not saying that there’s some sort of secret formula, that if you spend enough time praying or reading your bible that the answer is going to magically appear.
I am saying that if we want to discover God’s call on our lives, then we have to create space for us to hear from him. That’s why I ask these two questions. Are you spending time intentionally listening to the Spirit through prayer? And are you reading what God has already spoken to you through his word? All throughout the gospels we read about how Jesus would routinely get away to go and be with the Father, to commune with the Spirit. This is the Son of God, and it was essential for him. How much more essential is it for us?
Here’s the reality. We live in a world that is loud and busy, and it’s only getting louder and busier. So if we aren’t creating space… if we aren’t setting all the distractions aside and seeking God… then how in the world do we think we are going to hear from him?
It’s pretty rare that God shouts at us or speaks to us in a large booming voice. I know that’s never been the case for me. More often than not, God is speaking in a still, small voice.
I love the story in 1 Kings chapter 19 where Elijah, one of the great prophets from the Old Testament, is fleeing for his life. In the midst of that circumstance God says to him, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” (1 Kings 19:11)
So essentially what God tells him is that his Holy Spirit is going to show up in a unique way and he’s to go and wait on him. Then the passage goes on to tell us that a powerful wind came through and tore the mountains apart. It shattered the rocks, but the Spirit was not in the wind. Then after the wind was an earthquake, but the Spirit was not in the earthquake. Then after the earthquake was a fire, but the Spirit was not in the fire. Then after the fire came a gentle whisper. The scriptures tell us that when Elijah heard it he put his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then the Spirit of God spoke to him… in a gentle whisper.
One of my favorite things that my daughter and I have been doing lately is telling each other secrets. She’ll be playing or sitting on the couch next to me and I’ll say, “Piper can I tell you a secret?” And she’ll say, “yea.” Then she’ll climb into my arms, and she’ll lean in and I’ll lean in and I’ll whisper in her ear, “Piper is a sweet girl.” Then she’ll look up and smile real big at me and repeat what I just said. Then she’ll say, “Now I want to tell you a secret.” Then she’ll lean in and her secret is always the same thing. “Mommy. Is. Cute!” And I’ll look at her and repeat her secret back to her. Then once again she’ll get a real big smile on her face. We’ll go back and forth like that for a little while. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite moments with her every day.
Now I could tell her these same truths from across the room, and I often do. But they don’t have the same impact that they do when she’s sitting on my lap, leaning in close, listening intently to her father gently whisper into her ear. There’s an intimacy created in that moment that makes the truth so much more powerful. And for me as her father, it’s not just about telling her what she needs to know. It’s about having this moment with her. It’s about having a relationship with her. It’s about having this time with her where it’s just me and her and no other distractions. As her father, that’s what I really want.
When it comes to us, how many of us want to hear a call from God more than we want a relationship with God? I’ll be honest with you; God is much less concerned with your 5-year plan than you are. He’s more concerned with your relationship with him than what you can do for him.
So often we get that backwards. As followers of Jesus we have the Holy Spirit with us all the time. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. God dwells within you. He’s with you all the time. The Holy Spirit is continually speaking. The question is are you creating space to hear him? Are you setting aside time and space to get way from the busyness and noisiness of our world so that you can hear his gentle whisper? If you want to discover God’s call, you have to create space to hear him speak.
But for some of us here, it’s less about hearing God’s call and more about trusting the call God has given us. Like I said before, we want to hear this big, booming voice from God on high shouting loud and clear to us. But most often when he speaks, it’s in a whisper, a small urging, a simple nudge.
There was a time in my life, when I was in Bible college, that I got really frustrated with God. Here’s why. At Bible college, everyone is hyper-spiritual. Everybody is a super-Christian. They all have these “picture-perfect” relationships with God, or so it seems. And the most annoying thing about Bible college is that everyone is constantly hearing from God. All the time people would say, “God spoke to me and told me to do this.” “God spoke to me and said I should date that girl.” Two weeks later, “God spoke to me and told me I should break up with that girl.” It was ridiculous.
Have you ever met someone like that… someone who is always hearing from God? At that point in my life, I’d never heard the audible voice of God. I’d had plenty of urgings that seemed to be from God… plenty of voices in my head that seemed to have come from him… plenty of nudges from the Holy Spirit… but I’d never heard the audible voice of God.
I grew frustrated. Out of that frustration, I started to pray the same prayer every single day. My prayer was, “Jesus I want to hear your voice.” And I would say that prayer as many times as I could remember throughout the day. “Jesus I want to hear your voice. Jesus I want to hear your voice.” So a week went by, then two, then a month, then a couple of months, and I was still praying this prayer. I’d kind of made a deal with God that I was going to pray that prayer every day until I heard Jesus speak to me, out loud.
Then one day, I was driving through downtown Fort Wayne on my way to an internship at a local church praying that same prayer, “Jesus, I want to hear your voice.” I stopped at a red light, and on the right-hand side of the street was this big, beautiful catholic cathedral. It had just been completely restored to its original beauty. I felt this nudge from within that said, “You need to go in that cathedral.” I’d never stepped foot in a Catholic church in my entire life… and to be honest, they intimidated me back then. So I thought, “That’s crazy! I’m not going into that cathedral.” But then I got the same nudge, something within me saying I needed to go in that cathedral. So I said, “Fine, I’ll go in the cathedral… but this still doesn’t count because I want to hear your voice, Jesus.”
So I parked my car, and after wrestling back and forth for a few minutes, I could not longer ignore the nudge. I got out of my car and walked into the front doors of the church. At this point, I’m just in the entryway, and there’s another set of double doors that I have to walk through to get into the sanctuary. Once again, I felt a nudge; you need to go in the cathedral. So I walked through the second set of doors into the most beautiful sanctuary I’d ever seen. It was incredible. Breathtaking. Right there in the back of the room was this tub of holy water. It was almost big enough to climb into, but I decided against that. Then I began to walk around the big, empty cathedral exploring the place. In the back were a bunch of candles people had come in and lit, then all around the room were the beautiful stained glass windows with the Stations of the Cross. So here I am having this incredibly holy moment with God, so I stopped to pray. I said, “Thank you God for bringing me in here. This is amazing. But it still doesn’t count because I want to hear your voice, Jesus.”
As I was about to walk out the doors, I got another nudge that said, “You need to turn around.” At this point, I’m thinking, “What did I eat for dinner last night?” “What are these crazy voices in my head?” And I thought to myself, “I’m not turning around. I’m leaving!” But the nudge was even stronger this time. “You need to turn around!” So I said, “Fine!”
As I turned around, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man sitting in a pew at the very front of the sanctuary. Once again, I felt this nudge that said, “You need to go and talk to this man.”
I’m like… “Nope that’s it. I’m done. This is crazy. I’m crazy.” ...but that nudge wouldn’t leave me alone.
“You need to go and talk to this man.”
So once again I said, “Fine, I’ll be the crazy guy that goes and freaks out a stranger, but this still doesn’t count because, Jesus, I want to hear your voice.”
Then after walking up and down the aisle a few times, I mustered up enough courage. I got all the way to his row and turned toward him. Now at this point, I’m committed because we’ve made eye contact. I said, “This is going to sound strange, but for some reason, I feel like I’m supposed to talk to you.”
He looked at me and said, “Sure! Have a seat.”
I sat down next to him, and noticed that he was reading one of those little green Gideon New Testament Bibles. So, I asked him what book he was reading. He shared that he was reading out of the gospels; he went on to share what he’d read. He told me that he went to the cathedral often because he worked downtown, and it was the only quiet place to get away and connect with God. And he began to ask me all sorts of questions about my life, my school, my faith, and he even spoke some incredible encouragement to me.
I sat and talked with him for about 20 minutes before I realized how much time had passed. Then I said, “I’m so sorry, I just realized I’m late to my internship, but I’m so thankful for the conversation.”
At this point, I realized we’d yet to exchange names. So I said, “I guess I didn’t even introduce myself. My name is Chris.” Then I stuck out my hand to shake his, and I said, “I didn’t catch your name.” Then, rather than telling me his name, he pulled back his jacket to show me the work I.D. badge hanging off his shirt. It had his picture and below it, his first name.
At this moment my eyes widened. The name on his badge read “J.E.S.U.S.” I looked at him and said in a questioning voice, “Jesus?” And he looked back at me pretty confused and said, “No. I’m (hey-zeus). I just started laughing.
He stopped me and said, “Before you go, here’s my card. Call me if you ever need someone to talk to.” He gave me this business card that I still keep in my wallet to this day. I noticed his last name was Escobedo, so I asked him what that meant. He shared that his last name meant, “broom maker” or more loosely translated “carpenter.” The company he worked for was called Community Action of Northeast Indiana and their tagline was “Fighting Poverty. Building Hope.” Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the kind of place Jesus would work at if he were here today.
As I left the church that day, I had a meltdown… tears flowing, sobbing, hyperventilating… the whole works. All I could think about was how my prayer this entire time had been, “Jesus, I want to hear you speak.” I was sure God was smiling and saying, “Well, now you have.” It was in that moment that I had one last nudge. The Holy Spirit was saying very clearly to me, “I’m not always going to speak to you in a loud, audible voice. But you have to learn to trust my nudge.”
Now here’s the crazy thing, a year later, I was in a class in college called Ethnic and Minority Issues. In that class, we were assigned a group project to study different ethnic groups from our city and present a report. Now my group was assigned the Hispanic community, and one of the assignments for this project was to interview a leader from that community. I said to my group, “I know just the guy. His name is Jesus… I mean (hey-zeus).”
I called him and said you probably don’t remember me, but about a year ago I met you at the cathedral downtown. Instantly he knew who I was. I asked him if he’d do the interview, and he agreed. A few days later, I met him at a Starbucks downtown. As soon as I walked in, he came over and gave me a big hug. Before we started the interview, I said, “I’ve got to explain something to you.” I went on to tell him the back story of that day.” Then he said, “Well I have to tell you something.” He shared with me that earlier that same morning, he was praying and received a nudge from the Holy Spirit that he needed to go to the cathedral that day because God had someone he needed to talk to. Talk about the work of the Holy Spirit!
Now maybe you are sitting here thinking, “What’s my next step?” Some of you are saying, “I’m heading to the nearest cathedral!” Honestly, every single one of us longs to hear God’s call on our life. I just want to say to you, God’s calling. The Holy Spirit is speaking. It’s up to you to create space to listen to him, and then to trust his nudge.
For some of you here today you might be saying, “I don’t even know where to begin. This whole relationship with God thing is foreign to me but I want the Holy Spirit to dwell inside of me as the passage in 1 Corinthians 6:19 says. I want that for my life.”
For others of you, you might be saying, “I’m a Christ follower, but if I’m being honest, I haven’t created very much space to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me, but I want to.”
Others of you here, you might be saying, “I’m following Jesus, and I’ve felt the nudge from the Spirit. It’s time for me to step out in faith, to trust the nudge, whether that be a nudge to reach out to someone the Spirit has put on my heart, to forgive someone the Holy Spirit has convicted me to forgive, to let go of some sin in my life the Holy Spirit has convicted me of or to step out in faith and serve in that specific area the Holy Spirit is nudging me to serve in.” Whatever it may be.
Here’s the good news, we are going to create some space for you right now to hear from the Holy Spirit. I’m going to lead us through some guided prayer, and I want to invite you to pray along with me. Whatever it is that the Spirit has laid on your heart this morning, pray with me.
Holy Spirit, you are the Spirit of truth, and your word teaches us that you will guide us into all truth. For some of us in the room today, we don’t even know where to begin, but we know we want you in our lives. So, we invite you to dwell in us. We thank you for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross on our behalf, how he paid the penalty of our sins and has offered us new life in you. We receive you now. And we ask you to lead us, guide us into your truth from this point forward.
Holy Spirit, for some of us in this room we know you, we’ve been followers of Christ for some time now, but we need to confess that we’ve wanted to hear from you more than we’ve wanted a relationship with you. Spirit, we pray that you would teach us to create space not only to hear from you, but also to commune with you. Through that, we ask that you would guide us into your truth. Reveal your call on our lives. Our prayer is Jesus; we want to hear your voice. Make us aware of your nudge.
Holy Spirit for some of us in this room, we know you, we’ve heard you, and we’ve felt your nudge. We pray that you would give us the courage to step out in faith and be obedient to your nudge. Your word teaches us that you have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline. We pray that you would fill us with your Spirit so that we would trust your nudge and do whatever it is you are calling us to do.
We pray this all in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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