APC 26th May 2021 Pandemic Praise – ‘Sealed with the Spirit’.
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Wednesday morning worship. Today we continue with our series ‘Pandemic Praise’ as we reflect on some of the spiritual blessings that God has given us in Christ. We discover many of these blessings in the opening part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
So far we have thought about the amazing truths that we have been chosen, adopted, redeemed and forgiven by God and united to Christ. Today we are going to be concluding our series as we reflect on the truth that we have been sealed with the Spirit. But as always, let’s begin by stilling our hearts and talking to God, let’s pray…
Great and loving God, we greet you this day with praise and wonder. We greet you as the creator of the ends of the earth, sovereign over space and time, greater than we can ever imagine.
Gracious and living Christ, we greet you this day with joy and thanksgiving. We greet you as Lord, our friend our Saviour.
Mysterious and mighty spirit, we greet you this day with awe and worship. We greet you as our guide and inspiration, our source of strength and comfort, a living inner reality.
Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we greet you this day, and we praise you that you are here to greet us and everyone, today and every day, here and everywhere.
Help us to meet with you and grow closer to you through this time of worship.
Help us to glimpse your glory, and make it known, through all we say and do, to the glory of your name, Amen.
Join with me as we say the Lord’s Prayer together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Sealed with the Spirit
Will there be enough work for me next month? Will my Covid test come back clear? Will I do Ok in my exams? Will the weather be dry for my son’s wedding next month? Life is full of insecurities. I don’t know what you worry about or what makes you feel insecure. Personally, one of the most insecure periods of my life was when I was at University. At that time I spent many sleepless nights wrestling over one very important question- ‘How can I be sure that I’m a Christian?’
I suspect that at some point in your life you have asked the same question. Perhaps you are currently doubting your faith and wondering if you really are a Christian. Perhaps this extended period of being away from church has left you wondering whether you’ll ever get back. Maybe your prayers about something seem to have remained unanswered for so long you wonder if you can really keep on believing. If that’s how you’re feeling, then let me assure you I know the serious anxiety this can cause. But let me also encourage you because my experience has been that the bible is full of wonderful nuggets of truth that can help us to feel more assured in our faith. We find one of these great reassurances in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In the opening paragraph, writing from a Roman prison, Paul reflects on the amazing blessings that God has given Him in Christ. Listen again to what he says,
Ephesians Chapter 1 v 1-14
”Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
Here Paul assures us that in the very moment when we first put our trust in Jesus God did something amazing. He gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit. But how do you know if you have the Holy Spirit? Well, to answer that question we need to turn to a few other passages of scripture. In his gospel John tells us that when a Jewish religious leader called Nicodemus chatted with Jesus he was advised that if he wanted to see the Kingdom of God He needed to be born again – he needed to receive God’s spirit. Jesus explained that the Spirit of God was like the wind – you can’t see it, but you can see the effects that it produces like blowing branches on a tree or enabling a seagull to soar in the sky. In the same way, we can’t see the Spirit inside us but we can see the effects His presence has on our lives.
In John’s letters he explains what some of these effects are. Writing to a group of Christians who were becoming unsure about their faith because of the influence of false teachers, John reminds them of what to look for in the lives – signs of the Spirit’s presence.
John says the Spirit causes us to believe that Jesus is who he said He was, the Son of God. He explains that the Spirit creates within us a desire to want to obey God and live in ways that are right and good. He confirms that the Spirit gives us brotherly love for other Christian people.
In Pauls’ letter to the Galatians he says that it is the Holy Spirit who causes us to call our to God, “Abba Father”.
When I was going through my own period of spiritual self-doubt as a student I found these things really helpful. Putting the pieces of the jigsaw together I realised that being sure that I was a Christian wasn’t based on my feelings. Sure there were some days when I felt God really close, but at other times, I didn’t feel him at all. Gradually I learned to look for the more objective signs of the spirit in my life. I knew deep down that I did believe in Jesus and I had asked Him to forgive me. Even though I didn’t always know what to say, I did find myself regularly talking to God and calling Him ‘Father’. I also discovered that I really wanted to go to church every week to worship and I enjoyed spending time with other Christians, learning from each other and encouraging one another. I also found that I was much more sensitive to sin in my life than before. I began to see things in my speech or actions or attitudes that I wanted to change.
Seeing these things in my life, really helped me at that time to realise that actually, ‘Yes’ I was a Christian, because the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit was in my life. Even on days when I didn’t feel like it, I could see objectively that it was true!
In a similar way I want to encourage you to look for the signs of the wind of Spirit in your life. Do you want to pray? Do you love to come to church or log online or read a Christian book? Do you enjoy the company of other Christian people and love to encourage one another? Do you long to live right and represent God well? These are all signs that you have the Spirit living inside you, that you are a Christian. If you can see them in your life then take heart, rejoice – you are in Christ, you have received His Spirit.
The last thing I want to say is also really important. One of the other insecurities many Christian people have is the question ‘Can I lose the Spirit?’ Well that’s where, what Paul says here in Ephesians is really significant. Here Paul says that in the moment we believe in Christ we are ‘sealed’ with the Spirit. The word that is used comes from a custom of the ancient world that is still followed today. When a sack, crate or package was dispatched it was closed with a seal in order to guarantee that it came from the sender and it was intact. A similar ancient custom was that when a King wanted to authenticate a decree or letter, they would drop molten wax on top and the King would then press his signet ring into the wax to form a Royal seal. From these images we learn that here Paul is saying that the amazing truth is that the moment we believe in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit is sealed on us and our souls are marked indelibly as belonging forever to the children of God. So we may grieve the spirit but if we have received Him, He will make sure that we always stay connected to God and will never lose our salvation.
To emphasise the point even further, Paul goes on to describe this sealing of the Spirit as “ a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
The Greek word translated deposit is the word ‘arrabon’ which was a feature of the ancient business world. The ‘arrabon’ was a part of the purchase price paid in advance as a guarantee or promise that the rest of the price would be paid in due course. A similar thing happens today when we put down a deposit for a new house or car or holiday. So what Paul is saying here is that the experience of the Holy Spirit which we enjoy in this world is a foretaste of the joys and the blessedness of heaven. It is a guarantee that someday, either when Christ returns or when our earthly life comes to an end, we will enter into full possession of the bliss and the blessedness of God. Isn’t it amazing to think that the greatest, dearest and most intimate experiences of God’s presence, peace and joy are only a faint foretaste of the joys into which we will one day enter. It is as if God has given us enough to whet our appetites for more and enough to make us certain that someday He will give us all.
So let me encourage you to look for the signs of the Holy Spirit in your life. If you see them then rejoice and know for sure that you are a daughter or son of God and no one and nothing will ever separate you from His love. If as you gaze in the mirror you find little evidence of the Spirit’s presence then allow that to motivate you to turn to God in prayer asking for His mercy and for His greatest gift…
Let us pray…
Prayer for Others
Lord of all, we pray for all who are searching for peace in their lives – those burdened with anxiety, either about themselves or their loved ones, facing difficulties an problems to which they can see no solutions. God of peace, reach out and still the storm.
We pray for those wrestling with inner fears and phobias, torn apart by emotional and psychological pressures. God of peace, reach out and still the storm.
We pray for those living amongst change and upheaval, especially all those who are threatened by violence and warfare. God of peace, reach out and still the storm.
We pray for those who are unsure about whether they are real Christians and to those who worry about not being able to sustain their faith. God of peace, reach out and still the storm.
To all those in chaos and turmoil, all who are restless and troubled, grant your calm, your tranquillity, your quietness and your peace which passes understanding. God of peace, reach out and still the storm.
Take a moment now to bring your own prayers to God…
All these prayers we offer in the name of Jesus, the Prince of peace. Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on.
The exciting news is that we’ve been back to church now for two weeks and it’s been fantastic and such an encouragement to me to see so many people at our services. It’s been so special to be able to worship our great God together, so if you haven’t yet joined us make sure you book your place for Sunday as soon as possible by texting Aleida.
But to close, let me share the benediction, after which I invite you to say the grace together…
May the world continue to surprise us, love continue to astonish us, life continue to captivate us, faith continue to sustain us…And
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
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