Can you imagine saying this to anyone you care about or love? "You have entirely too much good influence in your life! Your peers encourage you to do all the right things in all the right ways. (Or) your best friend sees all of your finest qualities and encourages you to be the very best you that you can be. (Or) your husband constantly influences you to be a better person. (Or) your wife always inspires you to become a better person. (Or) the people you associate with everyday bring the best out in you. Your friends really help you be a better person."

"And that is not good! The influences in your life encourage you to be too good. You are too compassionate, too kind to others, too merciful, too generous, too helpful, too considerate of others' needs and feelings, too forgiving, too thoughtful, too caring. Do you not understand that being a good person is bad for you!"

Can you imagine saying that to any member of your family or to any Christian in this congregation?

The objective of being a Christian is to allow Jesus to have so much influence in our lives that he teaches us how to be godly. Would you think about these questions? Can any person have too much good influence from God in his or her life? Is it undesirable for any person to have too much of God's good influence in his or her life?

  1. In Acts 2 Peter spoke to a Jewish audience about Jesus' death and resurrection.
    1. This was a dedicated, religious audience who were serious about God.
      1. Some of them were residents of Jerusalem (2:5).
      2. Some of them were pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost, one of Israel's most important Jewish gatherings to honor God (2:8-12).
      3. Peter told this audience:
        1. They knew God sent Jesus because of Jesus' power.
        2. They were responsible for Jesus' death.
        3. God made this Jesus that they had crucified both Lord and Christ.
    2. Those whose consciences were penetrated by Peter's statements earnestly wanted to know what they should do--Jesus was dead; they were responsible; was there anything they could do about the situation?
      1. Peter said yes, there was something they could do if they realized that they made a horrible mistake.
      2. Peter said there were two things they could do, and doing those two things would produce two results.
        Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
        1. The two things those who believed that Jesus was God's Christ could do:
          1. Repent
          2. Be baptized
        2. The two results:
          1. The forgiveness of sins, including forgiveness for being responsible for the death of the Jewish Messiah God promised Israel.
          2. Receiving God's Spirit in their lives as God's gift to them.

  2. When we choose to become Christians (when we have enough faith in Jesus that we make a personal choice to repent and be immersed into Christ), God allows His presence to live in each of us.
    1. That fact is emphasized in a number of ways.
      1. When Peter spoke for the apostles before Israel's highest court and affirmed that God resurrected Jesus from the dead, he made this statement:
        Acts 5:32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.
        1. There were two forms of witnesses to the truth of Jesus' resurrection.
          1. One form was human: "We are witnesses of these things."
          2. One form was from God: "So is the Holy Spirit."
          3. The Holy Spirit was more than just a witness; he was also God's gift to those who obey God.
      2. To an entirely different group, Paul emphasized the same fact.
        1. Peter spoke to Jewish experts in God's teachings.
        2. Paul spoke to people converted from idol worship to Jesus Christ.
      3. Paul urged these people to understand that they could not longer indulge their sexual desires in ungodly behavior.
      4. Listen to Paul's explanation of why ungodly sexual behavior could not occur in the lives of these Christians.
        1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

    Song: #71 As The Deer
    Song: #683 I Am Mine No More

  3. One of the most difficult understandings to cling to, to embrace, to never turn loose of when we become Christians is this: "I am now totally dedicated to a changed existence."
    1. What does that mean?
      1. It means that I desire God, I choose God as the most powerful, consuming, "every moment" influence in my life.
      2. It means I change my focus every day of my life in every situation.
      3. It means I change the ways I think and feel.
      4. It means I change the ways I act.
      5. It means I change my words and my conversation.
    2. In Ephesians 4:30 Paul made this statement to the Christians at Ephesus:
      Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
      1. "Paul, what are you talking about?"
      2. If God's presence in my life is God's gift to me when I repent and am baptized into Christ, if from that moment on the Holy Spirit living in me makes me God's temple, I have a responsibility to God's presence living in me.
        1. What is my responsibility?
        2. My responsibility is this: I encourage God's presence in my life; I do not give God's presence in my life grief.
        3. God's presence in me is influencing me to be the godliest person I am capable of being.
        4. My responsibility is simple: I do not make the Spirit's work in me more difficult.
      3. "How does a Christian do that?" I call your attention to the context:
        1. Verses 17-24--I begin by understanding I am no longer to live, act, feel, and think like an ungodly person.
        2. Verse 25--I do not deceive anymore.
        3. Verse 26--I am not controlled by anger anymore.
        4. Verse 28--I do not steal anymore.
        5. Verse 29--I do not use rotten words and rotten conversation any more.
      4. "I don't understand; just what do I do if I refuse to cause God's presence in me grief?"
        1. I stop being deceptive, being controlled by anger, stealing, and using rotten speech--all of which show contempt for people.
        2. Instead, I am truthful; when I feel anger, I make it brief; I do honest work and help those in need, I use speech that encourages people.
        3. God's presence in me is the insignia (seal) verifying that I belong to God, that God has redeemed me.
      5. Paul reminded the Ephesian Christians that they would not be bitter, resentful people filled with malice, but kind and compassionate people filled with a forgiving attitude.
    3. To the Christians in Thessalonica Paul wrote this statement:
      1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.
      1. The words Paul used suggest that they had been quenching the Spirit and need to stop quenching the Spirit.
        1. "Quench" was a word whose common use was what was done when a person put out a fire.
          1. God's presence in a Christian's life is there to encourage that person to become an increasingly godly person.
          2. Paul stated it was possible for a Christian to oppose the Spirit's work to the extent that you made the work of God's presence impossible.
        2. "I technically want to be a Christian but I do not want to be a godly person."
      2. Again, I call your attention to the context in chapter 5.
        1. Verses 1-5--Instead of being a bunch of irresponsible drunks who have no idea of what is happening, encourage each other and build each other up. (Your influence should make it easier for a Christian to be godly, not harder.)
        2. Verses 12, 13--Respect those who are encouraging you to be a godly person.
        3. Verse 14--Warn the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
        4. Verses 16-22--Do the kind of things that help you grow closer to God.

The person who is a Christian is not on his or her own. God's presence lives in the Christian. God's spirit lives in the Christian man or woman to influence him or her to grow closer and closer to God.

But that influence is not powerful in me unless I want it to be powerful. I cannot live my life any way I please and expect God's presence to "make" me be what God wants me to be. I, through my attitudes and behavior, can grieve God's presence in my life. I, through my attitudes and behavior, can quench God's presence in my life. I can be influenced to become an increasingly godly person who constantly grows closer to God only if I want to be godly.

If I cooperate in every possible human way--by study, by prayer, by obedience--God's Spirit within me as a Christian has an enormous challenge in moving me closer and closer to God.

I must want to cooperate! I must want to be a godly person! I must value closeness to God and His ways! God will do within me what I literally do not have the ability to do, but God will not do this in spite of my opposition. God will do it with my desire and cooperation.

As a Christian, I must not grieve the Holy Spirit. I must not quench the Spirit. I must work with God in becoming the man or woman God knows I am capable of becoming.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 8 September 2002

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