You Are Loved by God

Getting to know the 3rd Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is both a day-by-day and a life-long endeavor. But did you know there are particular times in life when listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice is especially important? As we conclude our series, “The God I Never Knew” we’ll examine these times and why the Holy Spirit’s role in them is so vital.

This will be our last message in this series “The God I Never Knew” and hopefully at this point this title is not an accurate reflection of what you think or feel about the Holy Spirit.

We’ve been learning together about the Holy Spirit—that the Holy Spirit is a wonderful person.

We learned that the Spirit was at work in certain people in the Old Testament, from a craftsman named Bezalel, to a donkey that belonged to Balaam.

But the people’s dream was that one day the Holy Spirit would be poured out all of God’s people.

We learned about the Holy Spirit’s role in the doctrine of the incarnation, that Jesus was the ultimate example of a real person, fully submitted to the Spirit.

We learned about the doctrine of the church — that Jesus said it was a good thing that he was going to leave, because then the Spirit would come. And he said, “You shall receive power.”

And that’s what happened.

The coming of the Spirit meant the birth of this amazing community where everyone is welcome, called “the church.”

We learned about the Trinity — that Father, Son and Spirit enjoyed perfect oneness, and that they have invited us into their fellowship at a staggering cost to each member of the Trinity — Father, Son and Spirit. Therefore, you do not dare cause or allow damage to the unity of the Spirit — the oneness of the church that was born when the Spirit came at Pentecost.

We studied about the baptism of this Spirit, the doctrine of the illumination, speaking in tongues and miraculous gifts, how God speaks to us through the Spirit.

We’ve learned a lot about the Holy Spirit, but not just that. We also said, “We’re going to roll up our sleeves and begin to actually practice life in the Spirit. We’re going to go on an adventure with the Spirit.”

And we have. I hope you, personally, have.

We said we’d practice spiritual breathing — to breathe out everything that’s spiritually toxic — fear and guilt and sin — and to breathe in life and joy and holiness.

We said we’d actually start to listen and obey spiritual promptings. We said we would become jealous guardians of the unity of the Spirit, and we’d seek to be an inclusive, open, welcoming community.

We learned about the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and how we need to lay our burdens down and allow the Holy Spirit to free us from our guilt and sorrow.

Last week, we said we’d allow the Holy Spirit to be a filter, renewing our minds.

Now, I want to tell you — when you’re a teaching pastor, the main thing you hope for is that people will take action as a result of your teaching.

Many of you have told me that last week was like a wakeup call.

And you went home and changed your furnace filter.

Hopefully it meant more than that, but I’ve heard from several people that they actually did go home and change their furnace filter.

Well today we come to the end of this series, which I have enjoyed and I have benefited from teaching.

And I want us to look at one last ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament writers say in numerous places, that one of the things the Holy Spirit does is to seal us — that we’re sealed in the Spirit.

And I want to start with how the Spirit does this for Jesus, and then look at the Holy Spirit in our lives.

When Jesus was teaching, one time, in the Gospel of John, he said something, and I want you to notice one phrase. This is from John 6:27.

Jesus said:

Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, [here’s the phrase] has set His seal. (John 6:27)

The Father has set his seal on the Son.

When did this happen?

Mark 1 is a description of when the Father set his seal, his stamp of approval, his affirmation, on the Son.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)

Now, if you look at this passage carefully, you notice in the language Mark doesn’t say that the crowds saw the heaven open up. He doesn’t say, “God speaks to the crowd.”

God spoke to Jesus. This took place for Jesus’ benefit.

Now, Jesus was God. He was without sin, but he was also fully human.

Luke writes in his Gospel that Jesus grew in wisdom. He had to grow up.

When he was a little baby in a manger, he didn’t come out talking. He didn’t open his mouth and say, “Behold, the stable doth not smell nice.”

He was a real baby and he had to grow. He had to struggle with real emotions.

The writers of Scripture say he was tempted like us in every way.

So the Father gives him this gift.

At the beginning of his public ministry comes this affirmation of his identity and his ministry.

Jesus sees the heavens open, and the voice comes from heaven to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

There would be other times in the New Testament when God would speak about Jesus to instruct the crowds. This time, he spoke to his Son.

The Father sends his Spirit to the Son, puts his seal on him, because he knew there would be many other voices in Jesus’ life that would try to question his identity.

The very next voice that Jesus hears would say, “If you’re the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.”

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the temple, for it is written, he’s given his angels charge concerning you.”

Other voices said, “If you’re the Son of God, how can you be a friend of tax collectors and sinners?”

Other voices said, “If you’re the Son of God, let us make you our king, because with your power, you could destroy Caesar and make the streets run with Roman blood.”

Another voice said, “If you’re the Son of God, perform some miracles. I might save your life.”

Other voices, after he was blindfolded and spat upon and slapped in the face would say, “If you’re the Son of God, prophesy to us. Who’s beating you now?”

The last voices he heard before he died told him, “If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross. Maybe we’ll believe in you.”

All his life, Jesus would be surrounded by voices that would say, “Teach us. Heal us. Feed us. Free us. Touch us. Give us.”

And when he pleased them, the voices would cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed be the son of David.”

And when he disappointed them, the same voices, a few days later, would cry out, “Crucify him!”

This staggers me about Jesus. In the face of all this, he never lost heart. He never questioned his identity. He never wavered in his mission — not once.

Where did he get this amazing poise and courage and immovability? Where did he get this world-defined assurance to stand utterly alone?

I think he was listening to another voice.

This is so important. Over and over, Jesus went off alone.

Very early in the morning, when it was still dark, he went off to a solitary place, the writer of Scripture says.

At times he went to the mountains. At times he went to the Sea of Galilee. He went to the Garden of Gethsemane.

He went to be alone, to hear again the voice that he heard the day that he was baptized — the day that it all began — when the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove.

And the Father set his seal, his affirmation, his promise, his Spirit, on the one who would go to the cross for you and me.

And the Father says, “It doesn’t matter what any other voice says — whether they hail you or hate you, whether they crown you or kill you — you are my Son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased.”

I think that’s the voice that Jesus kept withdrawing to hear.

Now, here’s my question.

If Jesus, the sinless Son of God, the Messiah — if Jesus needed this ministry of the Holy Spirit, if he had to continually withdraw to be alone to listen to this voice — how could we ever endure, living in this fallen world with the voices that surround us, without that voice?

And the good news is — we don’t have to. This seeming, assuring ministry of the Holy Spirit did not end with Jesus.

I want to show you another passage of Scripture in the Book of Ephesians. Ephesians 1:13 and 14. Paul has been talking here about our identity in Christ — about who we are and what God has done for us. This is a very important passage.

Paul writes:

And you also [put yourself right there] 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, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

You were marked in him with a seal — the promised Holy Spirit.

Paul says a little later in Ephesians, “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit from the day of redemption.”

So I want to talk today about what this means for you.

And I want to start with three letters.

These letters will be familiar to some of you. To others, they may not be.

To people who are dating, you will know these letters immediately.

Take a second to turn to the person next to you and see if either one of you knows what these letters stands for.

The letters are DTR.

Turn to the person next to you and tell them what DTR means real quick.

Now, this has become a real important phrase in relationships.

Define the relationship — DTR.

Here’s the way it works.

You meet someone you’re attracted to. You start talking with them, or texting with them.

Over time, you hang out together. But you realize after a while — this is not just a friendship.

And you need to find out, where do things stand? What are your intentions? What’s the future hold?

So you ask for a DTR — a conversation to define the relationship.

Where is this deal headed? Is there a commitment in the cards here, or what?

I remember asking Kathy at a real critical point. “Kathy, is there someone else?”

And she said, “There’s got to be.”

Now, one day a couple has the ultimate DTR. They decide that there’s going to be a commitment — an exclusive, binding, permanent commitment.

Traditionally, what does he give her? If he’s smart, he’ll give her the biggest diamond he can afford.

This ring is a tangible expression of our commitment to each other.

Every time we look at the ring, we remember this is a promise. We’re not going anywhere. This is a “til-death-do-us-part” deal.

Now, by custom, this needs to be an object of some value.

For certain reminders, anything will do. If you have something you don’t want to forget to do — an errand you’ve got to run — you may tie a string around your finger. That will remind you. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

But no one says, “Will you marry me?” and then gives the girl, as an expression of the promise, a string to tie around her finger, because this sign has to be something of beauty and value.

It has to share something of the richness that the promise does.

Kathy said when she got the diamond ring that I gave her, she used to look at it all the time. Partly, I think, because it wasn’t very big and she wanted to make sure that it was still there, but partly as a reminder of this promise.

There’s a promise now. We had a DTR.

There’s another aspect of this sign — not only does she see it and I see it; everyone else sees it.

Her old boyfriend sees it. It’s a beautiful and public way of saying, “She’s taken now, so don’t even think about it.”

This ring, this expression of promise affects not just how we relate to each other, but how we relate to everyone else.

This ring says, “I belong to someone now.” That question has been settled. That deal has been sealed.

No more doubts — this relationship is defined.

Now, it’s so important that you understand that God does not just want you to belong to him. God wants you to know you belong to him.

God wants you to live with the assured, settled confidence every day of your life. — “You’re my son. You’re my daughter, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.”

And so, God has done for you — whether you know it or not, whether you feel it or not — God has done for you what he did for Jesus.

He sent his Holy Spirit, a gift of infinite value, so that you too would know to whom you belong.

Now, the reason this is so important is when Christians do not have this settled assurance, bad things happen.

They get anxious about their eternal destiny.
They get uncertain about their identity in Christ.
They are vulnerable to whatever kinds of voices come along to lure or tempt them.
They get discouraged about their calling or their ministry or their belonging.

So I want to talk to you now if you are a follower of Christ.

You have been sealed in the Spirit. This is God’s solemn promise.

His presence is all over your life, even if you don’t recognize it. It is.

Every time you’re prompted to pray.
Every time you could horde your possessions, but you have an impulse to be generous instead.
Every time you act in servanthood.
Every occasion in which your spiritual gift is used by God.

These things do not happen by accident.

They are not merely the result of human effort on your part. They are indicators, reminders of the seeming, assuring presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

If you are a follower of Christ, this is simply true.

And in the time that remains, I want to talk about three occasions in your life — three experiences that you will walk through a number of times when you will need to do what Jesus did.

You’ll need to withdraw and remember and listen to that one voice again that assures you of who you are, and tells you that you are loved by God.

There’ll be some occasions in your life when you need to do this. Some of you need to do it right now.

The first occasion is When you experience disappointment.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul is writing about an issue of deep human disappointment. He says:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, [He’s talking, of course, about our bodies] we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, [Do you ever groan? That’s an expression of deep longing — of waiting and hoping, urgently, for something better. Meanwhile we groan,] longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit [as what?] as a deposit, [as a pledge] guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)

Paul says we all have a tent. You live in your tent. I live in mine. It’s a good thing to have a tent, to take care of it.

But in our world we often receive this message, “You can only be happy if you have a great tent.” And we spend a fortune on tent improvement. We join health clubs or read diet books. We clothe our tents very carefully.

We have plastic surgeons who improve our tents.

But the truth is, sooner or later, your tent is coming down. It’s just a temporary arrangement.

I was hanging out with friends recently and the conversation just drifted to the problems we were having with our tents.

One person had back problems.
Someone else had dental problems.
Someone else had not been sleeping well.
I was talking about my eye problems.

And it hit me, where has my life gone?

When I was a kid, the thought that I’d ever be in a conversation like this would have been a nightmare. We’re sitting around talking about our health. I thought, “What are we going to do when we’re really old, like 60?”

We groan if our tent is not successful enough.

We groan because our tent’s not attractive enough, or not popular enough, or it’s marriage or career is not working out the way that we planned.

Eventually, if you live long enough, you will groan because your tent starts to fail you.

Your tent sags a little more every year.

Sooner of later, it’s coming down.

And that very disappointment, that very groaning, Paul says, is, itself, a reminder that you were not made for this tent.

Something better is coming.

How do you know?

The Spirit.

The Spirit is the one who whispers to you in your disappointment — who intercedes in your groanings. “With groanings too deep for words,” Paul says in Romans.

Don’t give up. Don’t despair. Hold on.

Paul says we know this by the Spirit who was given to us as a deposit — the down payment that guarantees the final installment is coming — maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but the final installment is coming.

How do I know?

I’ve got the deposit — that’s the Holy Spirit — the engagement ring to remind you the wedding is just a matter of time now.

Paul goes on in the next verse to say, “Therefore, we are always confident if you’ll listen to that one voice.”

So the next time you’re disappointed, do what Jesus did when he was sorrowed by the death of John the Baptist, when he was disappointed by his followers, when he knew he would have to face the cross alone.

He withdrew to a place of solitude each time to listen, once more, to the voice that says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

When you’re disappointed, you do that.

There’s a second time you need to listen for this voice of the Spirit.

You need to listen When you experience conviction over sin. Any time you’ve experienced failure.

In John 16:8, Jesus makes it very clear that the ministry of conviction over sin is the work of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 2 at Pentecost, when the Spirit is poured out over people — the first ministry of the Spirit to people is this ministry of repentance, conviction over sin.

We’re told that the people are cut to the heart. They experience pain over sin.

Now, here’s why I say, in these times, you must listen for the voice of the Spirit, because this is so often misunderstood.

So many times, people allow a sense of pain over sin to damage their assurance — their identity — their status before God.

Sometimes they question whether or not they even belong to God, because they experience pain over their sins.

I want to say a word to you about pain.

I remember when my kids were in fifth and sixth grade, going to their band concert at the end of the school year.

And we watched as 11 and 12-year-olds show off their musical development and maturation.

You know, one of the signs of maturity in the field of music, as is true in many other fields — one of the marks of maturity and growing expertise is that sounds that didn’t used to be painful to you, are painful to you now. You have sensitivity to pitch and tone that you didn’t use to have.

So stuff that just bounced right off you before is becoming painful.

You see, one of the signs of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life is that the words and actions that didn’t used to be painful, are painful now.

There is a growing sensitivity to cruel acts or coarse language or deceitful words.

There is an awareness of fallenness and brokenness inside of me that didn’t used to be there.

It’s very important for you to understand that this is the Spirit at work.

Some people feel a sense of conviction over sin, and then they allow the evil one to whisper to them that maybe they’re not even followers of God or they can’t be used by God, and they allow their assurance to be attacked.

You see, the fact that you’re aware of and pained by sin in your life is not a sign of the Spirit’s absence, it’s a sign of the Spirit’s presence.

And the purpose of that conviction is never, ever to lead you to a sense of despair or defeat.

And if that’s what’s happening, you are not allowing the Spirit to move in you.

The purpose of conviction, always, is to move you towards grace and forgiveness and change and motivation and life.

Paul writes to the Corinthians about the sorrow that they experienced over sin. But he says, it’s not a worldly sorrow that leads to death, but a godly sorrow that produces repentance.

And if you read that passage, you’ll see it produces energy in them — enormous life — a hunger for wholeness.

At this point, I want to say a word about a question that people ask when it comes to the Holy Spirit. I think it’s appropriate to look at this in this message.

The question has to do with this business of sin and the Holy Spirit.

The question is — what is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

Or what is sometimes called the unforgivable sin?

Now, this is mentioned a few places in Scripture.

Mark 3:28 is one.

People have come, religious leaders have come to check out Jesus, and they see him at work. And some of them say that Jesus is doing what he does, not by the power of the Holy Spirit, but through the evil one.

Here’s what Jesus says in Mark 3:28:

Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin. (Mark 3:28-29)

This is very serious. What does this mean?

Well, a lot has been written about this. I’ll give you my best understanding of what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit involves.

This is not original with me. It’s the product of real good Christian minds through the years.

I want to start with what it does not mean.

The idea of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit does not mean that if you say a bad thing about Jesus, you can repent and be forgiven, but if you say a bad thing about the Holy Spirit, he will not forgive you, even if you repent. That’s not what it means.

Jesus is not saying that the Holy Spirit is more sensitive than the Son, and is the kind of person who would refuse to forgive an insult.

We’ve seen the kind of person the Holy Spirit is in this series.

For instance, 1 John 1:7 says:

The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

There is no sin that Jesus’ blood is inadequate to cover and cleanse — no sin.

What prompts this statement from Jesus is that certain teachers of the law have come down to check Jesus out. They hear his teaching. They see him manifest the kingdom by works of power.

They see the kingdom at work, and they ascribe this to the evil one.

And they’re at risk of deliberately rejecting and cutting themselves off from the power and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Now remember, Jesus came as the bringer of the Holy Spirit — the baptizer in the Holy Spirit.

This is the age of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes possible conversion and faith and growth.

The sin against the Spirit is the conscious, defiant, permanent rejection of the presence and work of the Spirit of God.

I’ll say that again. The sin against the Spirit is the conscious, defiant and permanent rejection of the Spirit and the Spirit’s work in someone’s life.

And it will not be forgiven.

Not because God doesn’t want to forgive it — God always desires forgiveness — but because the person, himself or herself, rejects forgiveness, rejects repentance. They don’t think they need it.

This is one of the reasons why Christian teachers will often say, and I think this is true, “If anyone is concerned or worried about having committed this sin, they haven’t committed it yet, because it carries with it a kind of spiritually defiant blindness.”

The sin against the Holy Spirit is the delivered permanent rejection of any trace of the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s life.

The refusal to acknowledge sin, the refusal to offer repentance, the refusal to receive forgiveness is cutting oneself off from grace.

And I just want to say a word to anyone here if you wrestle with a sense of guilt.

If you’re concerned about how things are between you and God, you can be very sure, whatever sins you are guilty of, it’s not this one.

This is, in many ways, the opposite of a heart that’s sensitive to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

So when you’re convicted of sin — and you will be — just confess and repent and receive grace and move towards life and thank God that the Spirit’s at work in your heart and conscience.

When you’re convicted of sin, you need to listen to the voice again.

It says, “You’re still my child, even though you sinned, and I still love, and I am still pleased with you.”

The third time to remember to listen for the assuring ministry of the Holy Spirit is When you feel alone.

Because in this world brokenness and rejection and estrangement and aloneness will come your way.

They came Jesus’ way and he’s the most wonderful person who ever lived.

And if you’re anything like me, when that happens, you will be tempted to try to get some other force or some other person to take that pain away — to please or overpower or impress or manipulate someone, so that their voices will cry out the words that you hope will fill up your heart.

But those voices can’t. Only one voice can do that.

Pauls writes:

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6)

Paul writes in Romans 8:16:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

But you’ll have to get real quiet to listen to that voice.

I read this many years ago. It’s from a book called “The Whisper Test.”

“I grew up knowing I was different and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others — a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth and garbled speech.

“When schoolmates asked, ‘What happened to your lip?’ I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow, it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different.

“I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me. There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored — Mrs. Leonard. She was short, round, happy — a sparkling lady.

“Annually, we had a hearing test. Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally, it was my turn. I knew from past years, that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher, sitting at her desk, would whisper something and we would have to repeat it back — things like, ‘the sky is blue,’ or, ‘do you have new shoes?’

“I waited there for those words that God must have put in her mouth. Those seven words that changed my life — Mrs. Leonard said in her whisper, ‘I wish you were my little girl’. ‘I wish you were my little girl.’”

You’re here today because somewhere along the line in your life, one day, the Holy Spirit came to your heart and whispered, “I wish you were my son.” “I wish you were my daughter. I’d love for you to belong to me.”

Remember that day? Do you?

And you became part of this community where anyone who wants to, is wanted.

Now, it’s a done deal. God has defined that relationship. You’re sealed. You are sealed in the Spirit.

But he’s not through whispering. You need to hear that voice every day of your life, because you too are surrounded by other voices.

Maybe they remind you of your past failures.
Maybe they tell you, “Do enough. Achieve enough. Give me what I want and you’ll be fulfilled.”
Maybe they tempt you to go down another path.
Maybe they say, “If you were really a child of God, you’d be much holier than you are now.”
Maybe they tell you that your future, worth and happiness are in their hands.

It is not so. You have been sealed in the Spirit.

And so you and I groan sometimes, but we groan because we hope and we wait for that which we were made, and it will surely come.

And you need to listen when you’re disappointed, when you feel inadequate and guilty, when you feel alone.

You need to listen to that voice who still says, “You’re my son.” “You’re my daughter.” “I love you. And I am well pleased with you.”

And that’s just one more ministry of this wonderful and amazing person called the Holy Spirit.

And we end this series now, but I really hope that this is just the beginning of a lifetime adventure and friendship between that Holy Spirit and you.

Alright, let me pray for you.

Blue Oaks Church
Pleasanton, CA