SERMON TITLE: We are Word and Spirit Christians
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 1-14-24 (morning)
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
We’re continuing our vision series this weekend. Matt Heft — one of our elders — kicked off this series last week by introducing you to our new mission statement. If you’re new to Gateway Church, know that the elders and I began a conversation about a year ago — looking at the mission and vision for Gateway Church. I won’t recap all of the story — you can go and listen to Matt’s sermon from last week or my sermon from November 5 to hear all of the backstory behind this whole conversation — but know that this entire series is based on a year of prayer and discussion among the elders about what God’s vision is for us as a church at this moment in our story.
We brought in the staff, introduced this new vision to volunteers back in August and then I hinted at this vision in my sermon back on November 5. And — this new vision — resulted in the elders taking a look at our mission statement and realizing that it was time for an update — a new vision requires a mission statement that communicates who we are as a church. That’s what Matt’s sermon was all about last week.
Now — what I’m about to say is so important that I’m going to repeat it in each sermon of this series. I hope this will become so familiar to you that you’ll be able to explain to someone else why we exist as a church. And — if you’re new to Gateway Church— Christian or not — this will give you clarity as to the kind of church we are so you know if this is a community of faith you want to be part of.
So here’s a graphic that you’re going to become very familiar with over the next few weeks. These four columns represent the key components that drive the life, ministry, and direction of a local church. The first component is the pastor. The second component of a church are its key leaders. The third component of a church is its discipleship process. And the fourth component is actually new for us — so we’ll spend more time here in a moment — but the title for this fourth column is disciple — all of us who are followers of Jesus here at Gateway Church.
So component one — the pastor. This is me — for better or worse. Now the Bible has a lot to say about the qualifications, characteristics, and calling of a pastor. There are the characteristics of a pastor — found in First Timothy chapter 3. There’s the call to shepherd the flock that’s found in First Peter chapter five. There’s the mandate to preach the Word found in Second Timothy chapter four. And a pastor is to be focused on prayer and the Word as found in Acts chapter six. Those are some examples of what we mean by the word pastor here at Gateway Church.
The second column — the next component of a church — are the other key leaders in the church. Here at Gateway Church our key leaders include our elders, our deacons, our staff, and those who serve as Life Group leaders. None of these leadership roles should be surprising to you. And — if they are — know that I’ve written a booklet on our leadership model which you can pick up for free at the Resource Center.
These key leaders help the pastor move the church along in a certain direction — which leads us to the third component — our discipleship process. Here at Gateway Church this is our process of Worship, Connect, Serve, and Go — and this is how we help you grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Worship is when we gather together to worship our God in a way that’s Gospel-centered, done with excellence, and is contextual. We connect in Life Groups where we gather together to discuss how the Bible applies to our lives and care for one another. We serve each other — the people in our church family — AND we go into the world by equipping, partnering with, and sending members to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.
And there’s a reason why our discipleship process begins with worship and ends with go. As John Piper has said — “Missions (which is our go value…) missions exists, because worship doesn’t. Missions is our way of saying: the joy of knowing Christ is not a private, or tribal, or national or ethnic privilege. It is for all. And that’s why we go. Because we have tasted the joy of worshiping Jesus, and we want all the families of the earth included. [As Psalm 22 says…] “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” [Thus] seeking the worship of the nations is fueled by the joy of our own worship…Worship is the fuel and the goal of missions.”
Are there other ministries we do? Of course. But Worship, Connect, Serve, and Go is our primary way of making disciples here at Gateway Church. And these three components have summed up our ministry as a church. I — the pastor — invest in the key leaders — who oversee and support our discipleship process.
Now — this series is focused on our vision as a church — and this is where the fourth and final component comes in — the column labeled “disciple”. In the past, we’ve focused so much on what we want you to do to grow in your faith — our discipleship process — that we failed to clearly communicate to you who we’re wanting you to become. Meaning, “what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus here at Gateway Church?”
You’ve caught glimpses of what we mean through my preaching, the podcast, our conversations with leaders, and so on — but because this component hasn’t been defined like the other three — there’s been some confusion. And this is what I and the elders want to make clear so we all move forward growing as disciples with a vision of knowing what we mean by “disciple.”
And our vision — our spiritual goal for every follower of Jesus here at Gateway — is that we’d be disciples...
1. Who are...Word and Spirit Christians.
2. Who are…generous.
3. Who are...family.
4. Who are…disciples who make disciples.
5. And who are Kingdom-minded.
And — for the rest of this series — each sermon will focus on one of these characteristics. Know that there’s no significance to the order of the characteristics — when you make a list — something ends up being first and something else ends up being last — and — today — we’ll look at what it means to be Word and Spirit Christians.
Last fall I taught a Saturday seminar on this specific characteristic. I mention this because — if you were at the seminar — a lot of this is going to be a reminder to you from our time together. But reminders are always good for us, right? We often think we need to learn something new — when more often than not — what we really need is to be reminded of something we’ve forgotten. We see this throughout the history of the people of God and we’re just as prone to forgetting as were the people that we read of in the Old and New Testaments. So this will be a time of reminder for some of us — but even if you weren’t at the seminar — if you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time — much of this will be a time of remembering — like running into an old friend and spending some time catching up. And — if you’re not a Christian — this will give you insight into what we believe — AND — permission to hold us accountable to what we say we believe.
UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD
So let’s begin with what it means for us to be Christians who live under the authority of the Word of God — the Bible. What is this book? What do we believe about it? Why do we submit to it as our final authority on all things?
First, we believe that the Bible is God’s Word to us. The apostle Paul writes...
2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV)
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
All Scripture is breathed out — meaning it is inspired — by God. So we believe that the words — in this book — are God-inspired, without error, authoritative, clear, and teach us everything necessary to live a life of faithfulness and godliness. And when God’s Word and anything else — including our own thoughts or theology or what our “momma always told us” — when God’s Word and anything else come to an impasse — God’s Word wins. Every single time.
As the prophet Isaiah wrote...
Isaiah 40:8 (ESV)
8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
My words — your words — news headlines and social media posts by the influencers and politicians of our day — will fade away. Only the Word of God will stand forever. And — as disciples of Jesus — our lives are to submit to the Word of the One who is eternal — for the Word of the eternal One is the Word that holds ultimate authority over all things — including us.
Now — given that God’s Word is authoritative and — as Paul tells us — profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness — it’s important for us to remember the ways in which God’s Word is profitable in our lives.
God’s Word is profitable in our lives for it serves as a guide for godly living.
Psalm 119:9–11 (NET)
9 How can a young person maintain a pure life? By guarding it according to your instructions! 10 With all my heart I seek you. Do not allow me to stray from your commands! 11 In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you.
So — to live under the authority of God’s Word — is to submit to it — to live with it as your guide — allowing it to instruct you on how to live. And it guides us — and instructs us — as we allow the Word to teach us.
Psalm 119:33 (NET)
33 Teach me, O Lord, the lifestyle prescribed by your statutes, so that I might observe it continually.
But — you might say — “I hear what you’re saying Josh, but I’ve tried reading God’s Word and I just didn’t get it.” Well — there’s something else we need to remember about God’s authoritative Word. And that is that God’s Word teaches us to ask God for understanding of his Word — but to do so with the goal being to put his Word into practice.
Psalm 119:34 (NLT)
34 Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.
And those who put God’s Word into practice — disciples who live under the authority of God’s Word — are given a promise. What promise? That God’s Word will provide comfort and encouragement when we are sorrowful.
Psalm 119:28 (NLT)
28 I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.
There’s a comfort — a beauty, really — in submitting ourselves to God’s Word: we experience a comfort that only it can provide.
I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through a crisis, but there’s not much comfort to be found in this world when it comes to sorrowful situations like a cancer diagnosis, the death of a loved one, or when your spouse says they’re leaving. I’ve shared this before, but when I found out I had a heart abnormality — the only place where I found comfort was in God’s Word. It wasn’t in the words of the medical professionals — even when the results were good — I still had a heart abnormality which is pretty disturbing — but God’s Word provided what no other words could — comfort.
Maybe you’ve experienced this in your own season of sorrow — maybe you haven’t because you’ve been turning to the wrong words for comfort — but this is the blessing offered to all who submit themselves to God’s Word: comfort and encouragement in the midst of sorrow.
And when we submit ourselves to God’s authoritative Word — we discover that not only do we find comfort and encouragement in his Word — but we find renewal for our life.
Psalm 119:40 (NLT)
40 I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.
Can you imagine your life being made new with God’s goodness? And this renewal being — not a one time experience — but your daily experience because you’ve submitted yourself to his Word — resulting in a longing to obey the commands of God. A longing to obey because they give you delight and joy.
Psalm 119:35 (NLT
35 Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.
Psalm 119:111 (NLT)
111 Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight.
So what does this mean for us as disciples here at Gateway Church — and what does this mean for you if you’re either trying to figure out what you believe or if you know what you believe and are trying to determine if this is the church you want to be part of?
First, for God’s Word to be what we submit our lives to we must be men and women of this book. We won’t know if we’re actually submitting our lives to God’s Word if we don’t know it. So we must be people who read this book, who study it, who memorize it, who meditate on it, so that we submit to it and apply it to our lives.
If you’re not sure where to begin — on Saturday — I’m leading a seminar on what my daily time in God’s Word and prayer look like. In the Christian world we call this our quiet time or our daily devotional time — it’s a time that Christians historically have set aside to be in God’s Word because we’re to be people of this book. So — if you’re looking for where to begin — or if you’ve already got some habits in place but are maybe looking for something new to add or just want some confirmation that you’re on the right path — sign up on our website for the Saturday seminar equip class. The registration deadline closes this Thursday.
Additionally — as disciples of Jesus — our goal is for God’s Word to be the final authority on all that we believe and how we live. This would include what you believe about abortion, racism, marriage, sex, and gender to name a few. And it would include what you do — like — supporting a pregnancy center, being a foster parent, and waiting to live together until you’re married to name a few.
You see — ultimately — either this book stands over us with authority or we stand over it. Either God’s Word speaks to an issue and we submit ourselves to it or we stand over God’s Word and force it to adapt to our views. One way is the way of a disciple of Jesus — the other is the way of those who don’t follow Jesus.
Evangelist Leonard Ravenhill once said, “One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed.” My prayer is that we’d all hunger to be a group of simple souls that fulfill his words — that we’d be a people who submit ourselves to this book, read it, and believe it. And though this may end up embarrassing others who are following Jesus — it may even result in us being labeled as radical or something else — one thing’s for sure: us submitting ourselves to this book will change our families, it’ll change our relationships and our workplaces, it’ll change our community and might even just change the world. It did a few thousand years ago and there’s no reason to believe that it can’t or won’t happen again.
EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
Now let’s talk about the other half of this characteristic — because we’re wanting to make disciples who are Word AND Spirit Christians here at Gateway Church. So what does it mean to be a Christian who lives empowered by the Spirit of God?
The third person of the Trinity is often neglected among Christians. We’re comfortable with God the Father and God the Son, but God the Spirit — though they’re three in one — the Spirit ends up being — as one author has said — the forgotten God. Add to it that — though living empowered by the Spirit is much more than what are known as the gifts of the Spirit — for much of recent church history — Christians have allowed the gifts of the Spirit to be a point of division.
And I’m sure it grieves the Spirit of God when he and his gifts have been used as a point of division in the church. I’m sure it saddens the Holy Spirit when he sees so many followers of Jesus frightened of his empowering presence in their lives. I’m sure it wounds him to see how many Christians go about living in their own strength and power when we’ve been promised supernatural help from on high.
So my goal — for the remainder of our time — is that we’d all better understand the third person of the Trinity and his work in and through the lives of the people of God. And that you’d leave here understanding that the Spirit of God — just like the Father and the Son — desires to have an intimate relationship with you.
Did you know that there are at least fifty different ways the Holy Spirit’s power is seen working in and through the people of God in the Bible? Fifty different kinds of examples of what it means to be empowered by the Spirit. Here are a few examples.
We read of the Holy Spirit empowering people so that others are healed. This was true of Jesus and his disciples. For example in Luke we read...
Luke 4:16–18 (NLT)
16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.
And then — as you may know — Jesus performed many healings during his time on earth. Blind eyes were opened. Deaf ears did hear. The paralyzed stood up and walked. The dead rose from the grave. And — as Jesus told us — he did these healings not out of his deity — he didn’t heal because he was God — he healed because the Spirit of God was upon him. Jesus never ceased to be God — yet — he lived his life as a man — not using his God-ness as a spiritual trump card to defeat our enemies of Satan, sin, death, and Hell — and not using his God-ness to perform miracles. Instead he showed us what it means to live under the authority of the Word of God — “I only do what my Father tells me” — and by the power of the Spirit of God — “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”
And as Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth...
1 Corinthians 12:4–11 (ESV)
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
When we read the book of Acts and see healings performed at the hands of Peter, John, Paul, and others — know that you’re reading of the power of the Spirit of God at work. And — just like in the ministry of Jesus — we see the same Spirit at work through people like you and me. And blind eyes are opened. And deaf ears hear. And the paralyzed stand up and walk. And the dead are raised to life.
Though Christians debate about whether or not the gift of healing is for today — I’ve yet to meet a Christian who thinks that praying for those who are sick is off limits. So let’s be people who live by the power of the Spirit — who trust in the Spirit’s power to heal those who are sick among us. It’s his choice — not ours. It’s his timing not ours. But let’s not be a people who ignore the healing power of the Spirit who lives in — and works through — his people.
If you listen to our church podcast you’ll already be aware of what I’m about to share. There have been a few times in my life where the Spirit of God has graciously used me to be the vessel by which he brings healing to others. It happened for someone in this congregation who had a tumor and when they went in for the operation the tumor was miraculously gone. It happened for someone else in this congregation who had a heart issue for decades — and me praying with her over the phone was used by the Spirit to bring about her healing. Those are just two instances in our congregation. Last year — while in Bangladesh — I prayed for a young boy — eight or nine years old — who was born deaf in both ears. And the Spirit of God was gracious and he opened one of the boy’s ears and he heard for the first time.
A. W. Tozer — who died in 1963 — once said, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference.” There’s a lot we can do as a church that doesn’t require the Spirit of God’s power — but praying for others to be healed — and depending upon his power to heal them — isn’t something we can fake. But we’ll only see people healed if we live by the power of the Spirit.
What are other ways the Spirit empowers us?
The Spirit empowers us to live sexually pure lives. I’m grateful for apps and filters we can put on our devices to hold each other accountable when it comes to living purely online — but these filters and apps are not a replacement for the Spirit of God who empowers us to live pure lives. The apostle Paul writes...
1 Thessalonians 4:3–8 (NLT)
3 God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. 4 Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor —5 not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. 6 Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. 7 God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. 8 Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Notice how Paul connects sexually pure living with the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Apps and filters are great — but the Holy Spirit is where we find the power to live sexually pure — God-honoring — holy lives.
Additionally, the Spirit empowers us to worship Christ passionately — see Philippians 3:3.
He empowers us to love each other — see Colossians 1:7-8.
The Spirit empowers us to pray — see Ephesians 6:18.
And the Spirit empowers us to be bold for Jesus — see Acts chapter 4.
And there are at least forty-four more ways the Spirit empowers the people of God to live as disciples of Jesus. Go be a student of God’s Word and explore all of the ways the Spirit of God — who lives in you — if you believe in Jesus — wants to empower you as a disciple of Jesus.
WORD AND SPIRIT (NOT OR)
Our desire is that we’d all be disciples of Jesus who are Word AND Spirit Christians. Not Word OR Spirit — not or — AND — Word AND Spirit Christians. Disciples who submit ourselves to the authority of God’s Word and who are empowered by the Spirit.
Many times in church history, well-intentioned Christians have neglected either the Word or the Spirit — but not us. Let’s not put the Word and the Spirit at odds — for they are not foes — they’re friends. And — to be a disciple of Jesus here at Gateway Church — is to be a Word and Spirit Christian.
When I think of this characteristic of the kind of disciple we want all of us to be — I can’t help but reflect on something written nearly ten years ago.
“By what authority, by whose decree, based on what new revelation have we so blatantly departed from the faith of the apostles? Who changed things from the New Testament faith, where even the disciples couldn't minister without the Spirit's endowment, to today's version, where whole ministries are run with hardly any evidence of the Spirit's work?
Who changed things from a God-centered faith to a man-centered faith, from "Take up your cross and deny yourself" to "Bypass the cross and empower yourself"? Who changed things from holiness being beautiful to holiness being bondage, from the early church being known for its high standards to the contemporary church being known for its scandals?
Who changed things from the people of God being a threat to the powers of darkness to the people of God being active participants in darkness? Who changed things from a faith that was so focused on the life of Jesus and so infused with the reality of his death and resurrection that no sacrifice was considered too great and no act of service considered too extreme — to the contrary, suffering for him was considered a privilege — to today's convenience-store Christianity, where we have to "sell" salvation to the sinner by spicing up the deal with perks and benefits?
When did Jesus stop being enough? When did obedience become an option? When did keeping God's commandments out of love for him become "religious" (in the negative sense of the word)? Didn't Jesus say that if we loved him, we would keep his commandments?
Who changed things?
If we belonged to another religion that claimed to have other books that supplemented the Bible or traditions that superseded it, that would be one thing. But we don't. We believe the Scriptures alone are God's Word and that nothing that comes after the Scriptures — no tradition, no alleged revelation, no consensus — can undermine or countermand the written Word of God. So, who changed things from the biblical version of the Jesus faith to the modern American version?
Unless we get back to believing what is written and acting on what is written, we will continue to perpetuate our merry-go-round Christianity with lots of noise and action and bells and whistles but with little authority, little purity and little effect (if any). I didn't get the memo that God's Word and Spirit were not enough...” - Dr. Michael Brown
Are God’s Word and Spirit enough for you? I pray that they are — for Word and Spirit Christians are the kind of disciples we desire to make here at Gateway. This is our hope and our vision for us as a church. This is who we want all of us to become. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word, for being a God who speaks to your people, for not being silent and leaving us on our own to figure out who you are, who we are, and how we’re made right with you. Help us to take your Word seriously, to not neglect it, and to live according to it.
Holy Spirit, you live in all who believe in Jesus. And you live in us to empower us to live holy, God-glorifying lives. Lives of sexual purity. Lives of passionate worship. Lives full of love and prayer. And, yes, even lives through which you heal others. Help us to live by your power and not our own — for our power is incredibly weak — and your power — well — it’s infinitely strong.
And — Jesus — you lived under the authority of God’s Word and by the power of the Spirit to rescue us from Satan, sin, death, and Hell. May we never forget the extent to which you went to save us and the example you set for what it means to follow you. For — to be a disciple — is to be someone who follows you. Thus we’re to be disciples who live under the authority of the Word and by the power of the Spirit. We’re to be disciples who are Word and Spirit Christians. Help us all to grow as your disciples.
And Father, Son, and Spirit — for anyone who today is the day of their salvation — their first day of believing in Jesus — of submitting to your Word and being made alive by the power of the Spirit — open their eyes to see the hope being offered to them in Jesus Christ. Awaken their hearts so they believe and receive the gift of eternal life that Jesus has made possible. And we pray all of this in his name. Amen.
If you believe in Jesus, may you go as his disciple — committed to being a Word and Spirit Christian. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.