Being in the Spirit
Intro to Audience – Spirituality
I remember to this day being enlightened to the way people think of religion in a English Composition class in college. A student presented his paper to the class on the “Spirituality of Surfing.” He said, “Surfing is a spiritual experience. It is not a religious experience though. That means you’re part of a religion. This is just spiritual high you get from surfing.” What that means is whatever you like to do, gives you a high, is spiritual. That’s the way most modern spiritualties work.
What is true Spirituality? Our topic today is being “In the Spirit.”(Rev 1:10). What it means to be “in the Spirit” will answer our question: What is true Spirituality. The Apostle John defines this.
The world offers a virtual smorgasbord of spirituality. On the plate are eastern, western, mystical, rational, self-help, self-denying, decadent, chaste, ecstatic, static, wild, reserved, and everything in between. Most people, aside from the devout atheist, has a spirituality. By spirituality I mean that they have a sense of religion, morality, guiding principles, and practices which go along with that. When you think of it, your probably imagining Ghandi, Bhudda, a catholic monk, etc. Some call them holy men, because they give an appearance of being special, or having some special connection.
To illustrate this, you only need to go to the local library bulletin board and find all the flyers that offer the smorgasbord of spiritualties to you.
There are lots of problems with these spiritualties.
First, they’re fake, false, and made up. They are based in the powers within, going inside yourself, conjuring, and making something of dormant powers.
In their view, your inner divine being is dormant. It is like a tree that has lost all of its leaves and needs to put forth new growth. You go inside and find those dormant powers within and unlock them, unchain them and then burst forth into life. Like I said, it’s based on powers within. Your chakra, spirit, or life force needs to be cultivated and awakened from dormancy.
We call this make believe when children do it, but not when adults do- which is why the devout naturalist atheist is, at least, a little more honest with himself than those who try false spiritualties.
Second, the ground they stand on is unstable. The assumption/foundation of most Spiritualties is, “All spiritualties share in one and the same basic essence, and thus are different legitimate expressions of that one shared truth. What is important is that it works for you.” On the surface this seems to make sense, but dig a little deeper and it does not. All spiritualties disagree, so they can’t all be right without contradicting each other. The only direction to go from there is self-deception.
The third problem with the smorgasbord is it is like going to a buffet- low quality and large quantity. Everything you get is tasteless, pale, and unsatisfying for the larger questions, and concerns of life and death. It’s boring, bland, and really does not satisfy hunger.
Biblical Christianity has Spirituality too. It is not boring. It is not pale. It is not tasteless. It is so satisfying that you cannot eat enough of it before you’re so full that you can’t eat anymore. That True-Spirituality is our topic today.
My point is that you eat to your fill of this true Spirituality. Drink deeply from the waters of God’s word and Spirit. Listen with all your heart. My prayer for you is that in this Lord’s Day you will be “in the Spirit.”
Introduction to the Text
The sort of Spirituality John in Revelation experience was was Biblical. Biblical spirituality is not from conjuring the dormant powers within. It is all about the Holy Spirit working on us from outside of ourselves. That’s the basic difference. In all other modern religious expressions, the power dwells inside. In the Bible, it dwells with God the Holy Spirit who works on us from the outside.
John the Revelator stated that he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (10). This reveals what it means for us t be “in the Spirit” because we have the same Spirituality a John. It may look a little different, because he saw a vision, and we don’t. But the principle is the same. He believed God was working in him on the Lord’s Day, Sunday. He was not conjuring powers within. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity was coming upon, moving, and leading him.
Do you have true Spirituality? Give yourself this examination:
- Is my Spirituality measured by feelings/highs, accomplishment, and experiences? Or is it measured by the cross, faith, and thanks and devotion to God for salvation?
- Is it from the outside or the onside?
My point today is that you know and experience true Christian Spirituality. What I mean by that is that the Holy Spirit is working on you. Tis passage shows us how he does that in the example of John.
Connection to the Canon:
In order to understand Spirituality, we need to understand what John means by the phrase, “In the Spirit” (10). He alluded to Ezekiel 37:1 and 43:5 when Ezekiel was taken by the Spirit into a visionary state. John was not always seeing visions, but needed the Holy Spirit to make him able to see. He was in the Spirit. What this means is that the Spirit was working upon him to see from the outside.
He then goes on to see a vision about how the whole church needed the Holy Spirit. But first, we need some OT background. Without this background nothing will make sense.
The symbol of true Spirituality in the Bible is a burning bush. In Exodus 3 Moses sees a burning bush. It was burning but not consumed with the fire. When he approached out of his curiosity, the Lord Yahweh declared, “Remove the sandals off your feet, for the place upon which you stand is Holy Ground.” Moses realized he was in the very presence of God almighty. God continued showing himself as fire. For example in Exodus 19 he was a fire cloud. In Exodus 40 the Tent of Meeting (where they held their religious ceremonies) was filled with fire from the Holy Spirit. The Tent and later the Temple always had candles/and lampstands burning with fire. Here is the meaning: a burning fire symbolized the presence of the Holy Spirit in making the sacrificial promises effective.
Why fire? It marks the difference from all other Spiritualties then and now. We are not dormant trees with powers within. Like the burning bush, we are dead trees set on fire by the Holy Spirit from the outside. True Spirituality from Moses to us is signified by fire, lamps and lampstands!
In Revelation 1:4, John wrote to seven churches and spoke of “seven Spirits.” It is not saying that there are seven “Holy Spirits,” as in seven persons. The meaning is to say that the Holy Spirit dwells in the seven churches and is working in them. Why? Because he used the symbol of Lamps in verse 12 in the vision. In John’s context, he was seeing Jesus walk in the Temple in Heaven walking among the seven burning lamps (12-16). Verse 20 gives the clear interpretation- the 7 Lamps, 7 angels, and 7 stars are all symbols of the church. They will also continue to symbolize the churches throughout the book. I will more fully explain next week with regard to the seven churches, but the point here is verse 20 explains that churches are lampstands.
Why call churches lampstands? The reason is because they held fire. It means we Christians are the place of the work of the burning fire of the Holy Spirit!
Notice that Jesus is also on fire. Verse 15 says his feet were like “burnished bronze heated in a furnace.” His exposed flesh is red hot. In 16 he described Jesus’ face as bright as the sun burning in its strength. Now, you cannot think of this image of Jesus as merely having sort of a healthy glow. No! the sort of light is like if you look at the sun! It burns your retinae! Little smoke clouds were probably forming around Jesus and John from the heat of his face.
Here’s my point. You need the Holy Sprit to move, work, and affect your life.
Now, I am not talking about just initial regeneration. All Christians need the Holy Spirit working in their life in order to have a vibrant faith and experience of Spirituality in the Triune God.
Let me just give you a quick list of some of the things the Holy Spirit does in the Christian life. If you have a pen get it ready!
- The Holy Spirit works by
- Filling the Christian, Eph 5:18,
- Sealed us for the Day of Redemption, Eph 4:30
- Freeing the christian from the curse of the law, Rom 8:2,
- Raising the mortal body from the dead, Rom 8:11
- Putting sin to death, Rom 8:13
- Leading the Christian in growth and life, Rom 8:14
- Giving Assurance to your heart of being a child of God, Rom 8:16
- Bringing our mortal limited prayers to the infinite Triune God, Rom 8:26
- Creating true worshiper and worship events around the globe, 4:23
- Leading the church into all truth, 14:16
- Revealing Jesus to us in our hearts, meaning giving us saving faith in him 15:26
- Confirms the ministry of Jesus by miracles, Matthew 12:25-32
- Confirms the church by bold preaching of the word, Acts 5:32
- Most fundamentaly though. The Spirit Gives us Jesus! Notice in verses 17-18… this is in connection with verse 9.. in Jesus… He accomplished salvation, and though we persevere through the trib we also are part of the kingdom!
The Spirit is not a force within, he is an unstoppable force from without. He is a fire burning in the churches! He is the effectiveness of the Gospel preaching!