With New Eyes
Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, John 3:1-21 | Preacher: Rev. Dennis Howard | What did you hear, what did you discern, what message did you get from the scriptures Gayle just read for us?
Think about it for a minute…
Maybe also think about, “What you heard, what message you received the very first time you heard these scriptures?”
Also reflect on where you were in your spiritual life when you heard these scriptures for the first time.
When I was at school learning how to preach, we were told that it was not a good idea to talk about ourselves when we were in the pulpit.
Generally, this is good advice because the Gospel is not about the preacher.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about Jesus, it points us away from ourselves, pointing us to a life orientated toward Jesus.
One other thing we were taught about preaching is that it is a good idea, where ever possible, to reinforce the point of the sermon with an illustration from life.
So today I am going to break rule number one in order to fulfill rule number two.
I am going to talk about my conversion experience hoping that it illustrates the message of the day, which is the message that God, and so our life in God, is spiritually discerned.
The first time I read, or heard the scriptures we just heard today I was a new convert to Christianity.
Prior to my conversion I would have been in the same position as Nicodemus when it came to understanding Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John.
Prior to my conversion to the Christian faith my world view, my belief system, my way of seeing life was thoroughly materialistic.
As far as I was concerned if you couldn’t see it, touch it, smell it or hear it; “It” didn’t exist.
That went for God and anything even remotely spiritual.
Then one night as I was walking to work, I looked up saw the stars in the sky.
It felt like I was seeing them for the first time.
I felt a deep peace wash over me from head to toe.
I said out loud to myself, “There is more to this than meets the eye.”
Two weeks later my friends preached the Gospel to me.
For the first time I actually heard the words that have the power to set people free.
Lots of people had talked to me about religion before my friends preached the Gospel to me that night.
But my cynicism, my materialistic world view had prevented me from hearing the truth of the Gospel.
But that night I heard, I believed, the next day I was baptized and I received the Holy Spirit.
Over night my word view changed and I was saved.
So what had changed?
Why was I suddenly able to actually hear the Gospel that night sitting in the back of my friend’s car?
I believe that through the prayers of my friends, they had been praying for me for months, God intervened in my life.
Specifically, God the Holy Spirit had been tilling the ground of my hardened heart through the prayers of my friends.
I believe that it was the Holy Spirit that I felt wash over me that night as I walked to work.
I believe that it was God the Holy Spirit at work on me that night, plowing the ground of my hardened heart, opening my eyes, getting me ready to receive the seed of God’s word.
Without the Spirit, Nicodemus sitting in the very presence of God, simply could not hear, he could not understand, he could not believe, he could not take to heart the words that God spoke to him face to face, on that night so long ago.
Not because he did not love God, not because he was not seeking God, but because he was coming to God with eyes that could only see religion as works.
Paul tells us that the truth of religion is that the body and blood of Christ are spiritually discerned.
Without the Spirit’s presence in his life Nicodemus could not see God, even though God the Son was sitting right there in front of him.
Without the Spirit’s intervention I too would not have been able to see God that night and two weeks later I would not have heard the truth of God’s word for me.
Even though at the time all this occurred I had no idea that the Holy Spirit even existed, God’s Spirit was still there present in the world, working on my heart.
When my friends spoke the words of the Gospel to me, when they articulated the feeling that I had experienced that night on my way to work, the Spirit changed my world view.
So, let’s get back to the question we asked at the beginning of this sermon.
Remember the question, “What did you hear, what did you discern, what message did you get from the scriptures Gayle just read for us?”
What I heard is scripture teaching us about the reality of something, actually someone, who we cannot see.
We cannot see the wind, but we certainly can feel it when it blows.
We cannot see the Holy Spirit.
We certainly can see the way He changes us.
We can see the way the Holy Spirit works in our lives to change the way we live, the way we see the world, the way we believe.
Have you ever wondered if the Holy Spirit is active in your life?
Have you ever wondered if the Holy Spirit is dwelling within you?
Our faith tradition does not emphasise the power and presence of the Holy Spirit the way some other Christian traditions do.
Presbyterians don’t make a point of exercising the gifts of the Spirit, like speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues and prophecy.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in the Third Person of the Triune God; we most certainly do.
Not participating in the charismatic aspects of the Holy Spirit also does not mean that we don’t have the Spirit, present in our hearts and active in our lives.
If we are baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit we most certainly are filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit took up residence in your heart the moment you went under the water, even if you weren’t dunked, even if you were sprinkled or had water poured over your head.
Jesus told Nicodemus, Jesus tells us, we cannot see God without being born from above, without being born anew.
Paul tells us that we can see God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit gives us new eyes, eyes that do not depend on seeing physical objects in order to see and know the truth of God present in the world, active in our lives.
The Holy Spirit gives us new eyes; the eye of God that reorients the way we live.
As Paul said, “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
So, as Spirit filled people, people who received the Holy Spirit at your baptism, through the Spirit you have access to the mind of God.
If that idea does not blow your mind, if that truth does not rock your world, if that fact does not shape and reshape your world over and over again; I would suggest you spend some time praying about it, pondering it in your heart.
If you are baptised and you are not sensing the Holy Spirit active in your life, it’s not because the Holy Spirit has not come to you and made His home in your heart.
It’s because you are too busy.
It’s because you are not taking the time to listen to the Holy Spirit’s still small voice speaking to your innermost being.
You have an innermost being, it’s your soul, that part of you that yearns for God, that part of us all that yearns to know God, that of us that yearns to see God.
Your soul yearns to see and know God.
God built you with that desire in place.
And I promise you that if you stop and take the time to intentionally listen for the Holy Spirit, you will both see and hear your God active in your life.
If you allow the Holy Spirit to help you through prayer and contemplation you will see your God active in the world around you.
Take the time to listen and God the Holy Spirit will speak to you and lead you into the paths of His righteousness forever.
The truth is people, in Christ you already have everything you need.
In Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, you already have new eyes, eyes to see.
Please take the time to use your Spirit filled eyes so you may see what God has prepared for those who love him; so you may see what God has prepared for you.
Please lift up your head from your daily routine, see your neighbour through those new Spirit filled eyes that even today God’s word reminds us we have.
See your family and your neighbours through the renewed eyes of the Spirit and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with each one God gives you.
Pray for your neighbours, pray for your family.
Pray that God the Father will reveal himself to them through the power of God the Holy Spirit.
Then be ready when opportunity knocks.
Be prepared to share with others your reason for hope in this life and the next.
Be ready to articulate your faith to those who the Holy Spirit will send your way.
So they too may receive new eyes, see God and be born from above in newness of the life eternal found only in Jesus Christ.