From Bones to a Battalion

(given during the night of prayer at 12:00 AM)

In this midnight message Brother Finny Kuruvilla gives a clear warning to the professing Christian community. Observing the text of Ezekiel 37 and the vision of dry bones Finny points out the disconnection, disjointedness, and dry deadness pictured in the valley. Is this a picture of my life or the life of my community? Listen to this message to find a way out of deadness.

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Amen, it’s good to be with all of you tonight. It shows some commitment that you’re here at midnight. So I’m grateful for your interest in hearing some of the Word.

A few years ago, I was at an airport in Chicago — the O’Hare Airport, a well-known airport — and airports are emotional places for me. They’re emotional places because, on the one hand, I love airports because they’re so international, and you get to see people of all different skin tones and ethnic dress. You hear lots of different languages spoken. And I enjoy observing people, and I often wonder what their stories are, and who they are. But then on the other side, I find airports to be difficult places. There’s a lot of sin there. There’s a lot of materialism. There’s a lot of bondage. The perfume stores with all of the glamour and the fashion. Those are difficult places for me to walk in, around, and experience in the different hallways and terminals. My heart is often heavy when I’m there. Well, this particular time when I was there at O’Hare, and walking around and feeling unusually heavy, and I look down a little ways and there I see to me what look like a plain couple, and I was so excited to see them. And I could tell she was wearing a head covering, I could tell from his beard and the dress, and so I came up to him and said, “Hi,” you know, “My name is Finny.” I introduced myself to them, and I just wanted to strike up a conversation for a few minutes. And indeed, they were an Anabaptist couple. And I was so excited, telling them about my journey, and I wanted to hear about theirs, but they just sort of seemed a little uninterested, a little bit apathetic. And I was trying, trying, trying for a couple minutes to just get some conversation going and to have a bit of a spiritual spark, but they seemed, in general, apathetic. And I often ask people, “Tell me your testimony.” And if you’re not excited to describe your testimony, I have to admit, I get frustrated inside. And I left that encounter with my hopes dashed.

I don’t understand how people can call themselves followers of Jesus, and not be overflowing with passion and zeal. I just don’t understand it. When you think of the magnitude of the call and the greatness of our God and what he has done, I mean, we should just be brimming with excitement.

The world is very excited about its mandates, no matter how trivial they might be. When I was in college, I played on the college tennis team. And it was not a particularly highly ranked team; so for those who know what NCAA is, we were division three. Division three is the lowest division, and I was actually the last person to make the team. So, we were in the lowest division. My school wasn’t particularly good in division three, and I was the last person to make the team. And I remember though, we would often play teams that were much better than we were. And I remember one time I went to one of our tennis matches against another college. And this particular college had two players, who were on what’s called Davis Cup. Some of you know what that is, but the Davis Cup are people who play internationally. They represent their country. It’s almost like the Olympics for tennis. And wow, I had never seen people hit the ball so hard and so accurately. And the time comes for me to go walk onto the court. And I walk onto the court, and the individual comes up to me who was very, very skilled. And the look of passion and flame and fury in his eye, I just wanted to crawl under a rock and say, “You win. You win. I don’t need to be here. It’s yours.” He defeated me with the look of his eyes. It was so intense.

It’s interesting. There’s actually a comparable story in the Bible. There’s a story that I find very interesting.

It’s the story of Jesus flipping the tables of the money changers. And it’s very interesting how the different gospel writers describe this account. In John’s gospel, the disciples see Jesus, you know, flipping the tables over and driving out the animals. And they see something in his eyes that almost frightens them, it alarms them. And it says that they remember a particular prophecy. It’s from a Psalm, Psalm 69 that says, “Zeal for your house consumes me.” And they say, “This is Him. This is the One that the whole Messianic Psalm was about. Because we see in his eyes and his demeanor this zeal, this fire that’s inside of Him.”

That’s the trigger, is Jesus’ zeal. We get our English word zeal from the Greek word, zelos. Sounds like zeal. The Son of God was a very zealous man.

I often think of a verse in Hebrews that describes his prayer life. And it says,

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears.

Hebrews 5:7

Think, wow. That’s how Jesus prayed, with loud cries and tears. In Romans 12:11, we are commanded to, in the New King James, it says “Be fervent in spirit.” If you were to look that up, it’s the same root word as zeal, Zeo. And the root of that word is actually to boil. I like that. And I looked it up in the leading Greek Lexicon, BDAG, that says to be fervent in this, with this word, it means “to be stirred up emotionally; to be enthusiastic, excited, or on fire.”

One of the reasons why I love Kingdom Fellowship Weekend — this is actually my eighth time coming to Kingdom Fellowship Weekend, I believe — is that this is intended to be a conference of fellowship, revival, and unity. And I want to ask all of us here to take a really hard look at our lives right now. And if I were to ask you, the last 12 months since last KFW, which I know was virtual, but over the last year, how has your zeal been? If the people around you were to, say, fill in your name here, on a scale of 1 to 10, this is that person’s zeal, how would you say they would rate you? Have you personally been making new heights of worship, prayer, time in the Word, loving others, evangelism? Or has your life been monotonous, dry, or even a season of backsliding and sin?

So I’m here to challenge you at KFW 2021, for this to be an inflection point higher, a turning point higher in your life.

My message is for those who have perhaps had a difficult year. Maybe the cares of the world have bogged you down and you want to change your trajectory.

It’s also for those who want to just elevate their spiritual life to new heights. Maybe you haven’t led anyone to the Lord in the last year. Maybe you’re doing okay, but deep down, deep down in your core, you know that God has something more for your life.

The passage that I’ve chosen for today, is Ezekiel 37. And so please turn in your Bibles or your devices to Ezekiel 37. We’re going to read fourteen verses from this chapter. Ezekiel 37:1-14. It’s a familiar passage, but I hope to put new light into this, I think, very intriguing passage. Ezekiel chapter 37 verses 1 to 14.

1 The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.  2 Then he caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.  3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4  Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.  6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.”’”  7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone.  8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

9 Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’”  10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’  12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.  13 Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.’”

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The title of my midnight message, here is “From Bones to a Battalion”.

This is a well-known passage that is considered a vision. It’s a bit like a parable that is designed to teach us lessons.

The background of this passage that we just read in Ezekiel, is that the people of Judah or Israel have been exiled to Babylon, and there in Babylon they have become apathetic. They don’t believe that they will be restored to Jerusalem. In their mentality, they are not strangers and pilgrims anymore. They’re mixing with Babylon more and more. They’re committing idolatry that’s described in earlier chapters, and they’re losing faith in God’s promises. So that’s the background. In the first two verses here, God shows Ezekiel the magnitude of the problem by using this powerful image of a valley of dry bones. And I want us to appreciate the magnitude of the problem. Okay, so it says that — look with me in verse one — it says that the valley is full of bones. You see that? Right there at the end of verse one, it says it was full of bones. That’s the New King James I read. So as far as the eye can see in this valley, just bones. There isn’t just one little pile of bones here or just one little pile of bones over there. There’s a wide distribution of bones.

The problems of Israel were not confined to one family here, one family there or one synagogue over here, one synagogue over there; it was pervasive throughout the culture.

I believe that there is an analog of this picture to us today. It’s hard to say that there’s just one group over here, one group over there that is in a state of apathy or disrepair.

The next thing that God wants Ezekiel to see is, it says in verse two, “Then he caused me to pass by them all around.” So, I picture God showing Ezekiel this valley of dry bones from lots of different angles. Over here, over there, up, down, sideways, all these different vantage points.

It’s always intrigued me that in the world, when they have some sporting event, professional sporting event, when the person hits the home run, or kicks the goal, or scores the touchdown, they show you that event from like six different angles, in slow motion. And I mean, it’s unbelievable the amount of cameras that they have to capture all this. They want you to just celebrate and relish these accomplishments, these athletic accomplishments.

Here, what God wants Ezekiel to do, is He wants him to see the real situation, the dire situation. Not sugar-coated; from every side. God wants Ezekiel to mourn. He wants him to appreciate how bad things really are.

Think about, even in our experience here, just the last ten years, how much things have changed. I was explaining this to someone the other day about how much, if you just look carefully over ten years, the laws have changed. The acceptance has changed of every manner of evil, particularly in the area of sexual sins. Every reputable survey has shown a massive erosion in the number of professing Christians in the United States.

And then we have all these tragedies in the world: The Boko Haram kidnappings, thousands killed in Syria, the Uyghur people in one of the most tragic concentration camps in the world. There have been a number of studies done just in the last year looking at pornography usage during Covid and it has skyrocketed. It is alarming to see how much, as people have been shut in and isolated and just on their screens all the time.

We have to appreciate and take stock here, look at this from a few different angles like God shows Ezekiel, the magnitude of the problem. Remember that Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn. Woe to those who laugh.” Why does he say that? He says that because it’s an accurate appraisal of the world today.

Okay, in verse 2, if you follow along with me, it says that the bones were very many. Okay, so we saw in the first verse that the valley was very full. So they were extensively distributed. But now we see that it’s not just that they’re scattered around, but they’re actually dense. There’s a lot of dead bodies that contributed to these bones.

There’s a skull over here. There’s a rib over here. There’s an ankle bone over here. There’s a vertebra over here. There’s a metatarsal over there. There’s all these scattered bones all over the place. I get the picture that there’s almost some depth to these bones here. The picture thus gets more grim. There’s more and more bodies that have fallen in this valley.

When Jesus sees Jerusalem he weeps. And do you remember what he called people? He called them whitewashed tombs. Perhaps he was even thinking of this scene.

I don’t think many of us appreciate sometimes how dire the situation is; with how few will be saved on the last day. I was in Uganda, was it last month? Yeah, last month I was there and it’s always hard to part with my wife. And I took my older children. And I remember two times ago when we went, how my wife was just crying and crying. I was only leaving for a couple of weeks, but she was crying and crying for the time that I was going to be away. My children were all crying. I was getting choked up, just for going away for two weeks, right? And as I was walking into the terminal, I remember having this thought, “This is what judgment day is going to be like. There’s going to be a separation between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children. It is going to be horrible.” And the weeping and the gnashing of teeth is going to be unlike anything we’ve ever heard. Open your eyes. Can you see the bones?

When I was in medical school many years ago in 1995, I remember spending four months dissecting a cadaver all the way down to the bones. We worked hard on this particular cadaver. And I remember there was a skeleton up in front of the classroom that we would look at. We would look at these skeletons and try to map on all the different anatomical relationships.

But there was a coherence, there was a structure. You’ve all seen skeletons. You’ve all seen them in different places. Here in Ezekiel it’s a different picture. There’s a pile of bones. There’s very many bones. They’re scattered.

Most of you probably have not seen piles of bones that are disconnected or disjointed. Again, when I was in Africa, just recently, I was walking in a field. There were a lot of giraffes in this field. It was a beautiful field. And as I was walking in this, I came upon, a few of us came upon some bones of some kind of animal, maybe it was a deer or something like that, that had obviously been completely destroyed, completely consumed by another animal.

This is a picture of disconnection and disjointedness. I wonder how much this resonates with you, as we look at the world today. Do we see organized, unified, united churches, or do we see disconnection and disunity?

Okay, to further worsen the scene. I hope you caught it in verse 2. What do we learn in the scene? It says these bones are “very dry.” What does that mean, if these bones are very dry? It means that these bones have been here for a long time. These bones are bleached by the sun. They’re desiccated. These bones don’t represent some recent death. They represent years, decades, generations of deadness.

And let’s honestly look at whatever background you’re from — Protestant, Catholic, Anabaptist — no matter where we’re from, can we not humbly confess to God that there have been generations of comfort, materialism, easy living, sectarianism, nationalism, prosperity, lack of evangelism, chasing entertainment, and sexual sins?

The bones are found across geographies, persons, and generations. If there was ever a hopeless scene, this is a pretty hopeless scene, I think.

We usually call it the Valley of Dry Bones, but I think you could call it the Valley of Hopelessness, or the Valley of Apathy, or the Valley of Sin, or the Valley of Impossibility.

If someone were to ask you, if you were to survey this scene of these bones, if someone were to ask you, “Can these bones live?” I wonder how many of us would have the faith to even answer as Ezekiel did. Ezekiel just said, “Oh, Lord God, you know.”

It strikes me that his answer is full of faith and humility. It’s faith in God. He knows that God can do something, but at the same time, he doesn’t presume to know. So what does God do? God tells Ezekiel to do two steps to these bones. It’s a two-step act. By the way, before I go on, I’m not going to spend much time on this, but it’s a favorite topic of mine; the word prophesy or prophecy. This is a word that in the New Testament is ascribed to both men and women. Okay, this is not preaching here. This is prophesying. It’s a different office that’s described in Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 11, and other places. So I want everyone here, both men and women, to appreciate this is not preaching here. This is prophesying.

Okay, what a sight this would have been. So the first step that Ezekiel does is he tells these bones, and we won’t read it again, but if you go and look at that, that’s described in Verses 4 to 6. He tells the bones that they are to hear God’s Word and that they are to live again. And it says there’s a noise. And I like this. And suddenly there’s a rattling. I like that; there’s a rattling. You kind of can almost hear the clanking of these bones as they come together.

So they come together, these bones, and Ezekiel is doing what God tells him to do. But he’s a very impressive prophet in a lot of ways. He understands that after this first step, he sees all of these, I don’t know what we call them, these figures, these people, but they don’t have breath in them yet. And he understands that a rattle isn’t enough. A commotion isn’t enough. Just some people, some bodies there isn’t enough.

It looked, seemingly, like there was something going on, but there was still not true life yet going on in them. I wonder how many of us confuse commotion, rattling with true, Holy Spirit-Inspired Life. There’s a big difference.

Now, at this point before we explain the second step, you have to know just one word of Hebrew. It’s a very simple word. The word is ruach. It’s one of those fun Hebrew words that has that “ch” at the end. So ruach, you can say that, ruach. All right, good. All right, so ruach here. And in Hebrew, that one word, ruach, is translated several different ways in English. It can be translated as breath or Spirit or wind. It’s all the same word. And it’s just the translator’s decision about how to render it. It’s all the same word. In verse 8, look at verse 8 with me. It’s a really, really interesting decision that the translators made here. So in verse 8, it says here, no it’s not verse 8.

In verse 9, where it says, “Also He said to me prophesy to the breath.” Y’all see that? Prophesy to the breath. Guess how you could also translate that. What do you think? How else might we translate that? What’s that? Wind, could be wind. Absolutely.  It could be prophesy to the Spirit as well. Completely translator’s decision here. Now, I am not faulting them, and I think prophesy to the breath is reasonable, but I think there’s some merits to at least considering the fact that it’s one word. That in the original language they would have heard all three, or some sense of all three.

I believe that this two-component ministry here is speaking to people and speaking to God. That Ezekiel prophesies to these bones and he prophesies to the Spirit. And we need both, we need both. This is not an either/or. We need to prophesy. We need to speak to people and speak to God. Without either, we will not achieve true Life.

Now what happens when he does. Look at verse 10. “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath came into them.” Guess how else you could translate that: “And Spirit came into them or the Spirit came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great Club.”

Oh wait, I’m sorry. I misread that. “I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great charitable organization.”

Oh, wait, I gotta get my computer fixed here. Maybe try it again. It’s glitching.

“So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great group of lecture goers.”
“…an exceedingly great group of businessmen.”
“…an exceedingly great group of intellectuals.”
“…an exceedingly great group of people who want to have a grand old time.”

Of course, you know what it says. “An exceedingly great Army.” This is what God is trying to constitute out of these bones. He is trying to build an army. Not a club, not a charitable organization, not a bunch of business people, not intellectuals, but an army. Did you know that this is your calling; to be an exceedingly great army? To be an army of men and women who make disciples of all nations.

I worry a lot. I worry a lot that we’re too much like a disjointed pile of bones. Not a well-trained, unified army.

The new cancer, at least of the church in America, is individualism. It is ravaging the church today. We live in a world where individualism and splits and egos prevail. Not a world of discipline, submission, and unity. Are we okay with this? No, we should never be. I love how it says it in the King James, when David is there confronting Goliath. “Is there not a cause?” Is there not a cause? With God’s help, could we not form an army?

I mentioned to you before that the word ruach or Spirit can be obscured in English, but it’s all throughout this passage. Look at verse 1. And now I want you to see this in verse 1, “The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord,” in the ruach of the Lord. It’s found all through that second stage of the miracle, and the last verse has it as well. Look at verse 14. “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.” It is the key word of this passage: the Spirit.

I mentioned to you before that Ezekiel did not stop when he saw just these bodies assemble. That was not sufficient for him. He was not content with just rattling and commotion.

One helpful analogy that various people have used, which I like, is the analogy of a glove. So I pulled this out of my Boston coat. So, here’s my glove. I keep two of these in my pockets when I’m wandering the streets of Boston. And in a lot of ways, all of us are like a glove. All of us are like a glove. Now, a glove, on its own, doesn’t really have a lot of impressive power. All right, glove, go shovel some snow. Go. Hmm. All right, glove, climb this mountain. Go. Man, it’s not doing a lot. All right, glove, pick up my child.

I got to speak to the glove. The glove alone is almost a joke. It’s almost a joke. I have my undergraduate degree. And one of my graduate degrees is a degree in chemistry. And in chemistry, not surprisingly, you deal with dangerous chemicals and you wear gloves a lot of the time, usually latex gloves. And to illustrate to you how big of a joke gloves are, what we would do — I have pictures of this — we would blow up our gloves, and we would play volleyball tournaments in the lab with gloves, right? You can just, believe it or not, you can spike a glove. You can bump a glove. And we would have a grand old time with our latex gloves before we threw them away. Draw little faces on them. They’re a little bit of a joke.

You see, it doesn’t work to just look at a bare glove, because a glove is meant to be inhabited by hand.

All right. Time to shovel some snow, hand. Let’s do it. Time to climb this mountain. Time to carry my child. I can now move. This glove is now doing what it’s supposed to be doing. A glove is meant to be inhabited. You were meant to be inhabited. You were meant to be inhabited by the Spirit. If you are not inhabited by the Spirit, you can’t serve in God’s Army. There may be some rattling. There may be some commotion, but you’re just going to be worthless to the cause.

You’re not going to have true zeal. You’re not going to be able to overcome sin and the world. Why is there apathy? Going back to my earlier question. Because there’s a lack of the Spirit.

How does this battalion emerge from bones? How is there a revival in a graveyard? It’s the Holy Spirit.

I’m going to give you three points on the Holy Spirit here that I want us to meditate on for a little bit, and then I’ll close. My first point is that we should love the Spirit for his introduction. When I had finished my medical training, I did my MD, I did a residency, and a fellowship and a postdoc, I did a lot of years training. And I was sending around my resume — they call it a CV, same thing. I was sending it around to all these different companies and organizations and I was getting zippo. I was not getting people who wanted to hire me. And I remember feeling very discouraged about this, and I’m thinking, “All these years of training, all this hard work, and I can’t even get somebody to hire me.” Well, I met an individual, whose name is Steve Israel, and Steve saw me, and we connected. And he introduced me to someone else named Nick Alacatos who works at a company that was my dream job. And because of Steve’s introduction to Nick, Nick hired me. And every single time I see Steve Israel, I want to like fall down and kiss his feet, because he like changed my whole life through that introduction. I mean, it really did. It changed, I ended up working in this kind of intersection of medicine and business and it was a tremendous experience to work there for those eight years. I would be a very different person if it weren’t for that.

Did you know that all of you have had a person, if you know Jesus, who introduced you to Jesus? And that person is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who goes before us, who prepares the way, who illuminates truth, who preserves scripture, who is doing all kinds of introductory meetings for us to meet Jesus. Just like I want to fall down and kiss Steve Israel’s feet sometimes, you ought to just want to fall down and worship; glorify the Holy Spirit for who he has introduced you to. The Son of God and the Father above.

I remember specifically my encounter with the Holy Spirit, my first true encounter with the Holy Spirit. I will never forget this day. I was, it was my senior year of high school. I was raised in a Christian home and I knew truths about God. I knew a lot of truths about God and I’m very grateful for that. But I had read, in a way that I had never read before, because the Holy Spirit was introducing me to Jesus. I read, interestingly, Romans 8:38-39. And I still remember this day like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my bedroom and I was reading this passage, and you’re all gonna hate me now because I’m actually going to read it in the NIV, which is what I read it in when I was at that age, and we’re all like primed for the New King James tomorrow, right? I know I am ready to get up here and recite it. So I hope this doesn’t interfere with you too much, but I read these words. That was the Bible we had in our house.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

I read that and I just had this sense of like, whoa, what just happened? And I remember this sensation. It was like electricity going through me. And I got up in my room, nobody was in the room, and I got up and started dancing. I was just like, “Yeah, I get it. God loves me! Not just the world, but He loves me!” And it completely changed my whole life. The Spirit illuminated that passage to me in ways that, unaided, with just my pure reading capabilities, I missed. It became alive in my heart.

Point number two, the Holy Spirit is given only with conditions. In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has a fascinating line in there where he says, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs.” Y’all remember that right? “Do not give what is holy to the dogs.”

The Holy Spirit is the holiest person. Do you think that God would violate that principle and give the Holy Spirit to those who are not meeting the conditions? They are not ready. They would trifle the Holy Spirit. There are several conditions that the Holy Spirit is, several conditions that we have to meet in order to receive the Holy Spirit. So the most clear place where the Holy Spirit is given is at baptism. So we see that, for example, at Jesus’ baptism the dove lights upon him, the Holy Spirit like a dove lights upon Him. In Acts 2:38, Peter says, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

This is how the early church interpreted this as well. Acts 19, Paul meets those people from Ephesus and he asks them about the Holy Spirit and they don’t know what’s going on. And what’s his response? It’s to baptize them, right? This is how the early church understood this as well. Okay, so I’m not going to spend time on that. I have messages online on that. I want to additionally explore how the Spirit only dwells in those who are humble, dependent, and desperate. Only in those who are humble, dependent, and desperate. Now, I could spend an hour on each of these headings here; and I’m not going to. I’m just going to give a high-level bird’s-eye view of some of these conditions. So the first condition is to ask. And when Jesus says ask, if you look at the tense of the verbs, it implies a continual asking. It’s fervent, persistent prayer. Did you know, does anybody know how long that first prayer meeting was in Acts 2? It sort of starts in 1 and goes into 2, that the disciples had. This is where they met in one accord in that upper room. Ten days. Who said that? Brother Philip, good job. Yeah, Jesus met with them for 40 days after the resurrection, and then Pentecost, pente conda, 50 days. So 50 – 40 = 10 days. They had a continual prayer meeting for ten days. Non-stop prayer meeting for ten days. I’ve never been in a continuous prayer meeting for ten days.

I’m gonna go quickly through this list. Fasting is something that humbles you. Radical giving is something that the Holy Spirit is drawn to. Confession, oh, I wish I could spend multiple hours on that one. Giving admonishment. Hard to do. Hard to do, right? Man, I hate giving admonishment. But that’s something that the Spirit is so bound up with. Receiving and acting on admonishment.

These are things that humble us. They’re hard to do, right? Who likes to give admonishment? Who likes to receive admonishment? Not me. The things that are hard. Brother Philip gave a good message earlier and I like how he put it. How do you receive Life? By dying. It’s the things that tend towards self-mortification that will invite the Holy Spirit to come. So in your mind, if you sense that something is hard to do, think, ‘That’s probably where I need to go.’ When you feel your stomach growling and you’re like on day one or day two of a fast, and you’re feeling like, oh I gotta go for a… That sensation is designed by God to be something that invites us to taste a little bit of the sufferings and some of the pains of what it is to enter into self-abasement.

Loving your enemies. Hard to do. You have to humble yourself. Evangelism. This is something we talk about a lot at Sattler. Wow. Hard to do. ‘Oh, they’re going to say no. They’re going to think I’m a fool.’ On and on, and so we shut ourselves off from that. Submitting the body. Lifting up hands. I am so blessed. I’ve seen a handful of people just up here or in the seats here, just lifting up hands, praising God. I love that sight. That’s one of the most beautiful sights that I see at KFW. I know it’s hard to do here. It’s not part of the culture as much. That’s biblical. It’s 1 Timothy 2. It says that.

Suffering. These are the kinds of things that the Holy Spirit is about. Now one common title, in fact it’s very common in the book of John for the Holy Spirit, is the title Comforter. Comforter, right? We all know this, right? The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter. Now, I want you all to crucially, crucially understand this point. Okay, pay careful attention to what I’m going to say. 

If you are already comfortable, why would God give you the Holy Spirit?

You hear me? If you are already comfortable, what is the point of giving you the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is designed by God for this ministry of comfort. I want you to take stock again of your life over the last year, and ask, “How much of my life, if I look back at my life, would people say it was comfortable?” We need to really ask ourselves this question.

We’ve been as a family practicing Romans 8. And I have to say, there has been one part of Romans 8 that, every time I come to it, I just have this hiccup in my throat. And I just think, can I say this? Can we get up here on Sunday morning and say this? It’s been easily the most convicting line for me in all of Romans 8. It’s verse 36 for it says, “For your sake we are killed all day long.”

And I’ve been reading this thinking, ‘Can I say this? Can you say this? Or is this a complete and utter joke?’

I’m going to read it again, “For your sake we are killed all day long.” That’s pretty easy to understand, isn’t it?

The preceding verse, there’s this train of nouns, that Paul uses there, to describe the experience of the Christians. And a lot of you have this memorized. He says, “Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword.” This is a description of what he’s saying is how they’re living.

We can pray and ask all we want. We can sing songs, we can do nice meetings. But really if we can’t say these words with integrity, I think we have to do some serious structural repentance, and some massive changes here to life. Again, why would God give a Comforter to those who do not need comfort? To those who are already comfortable?

My third and final point is that we are to understand the advantage of the Holy Spirit.

So often you will hear people say this. “If I could just have been there and seen Jesus multiply the loaves, or seen him raise Lazarus from the dead, or do one of these great things, it would have been amazing! And that would have like satisfied all my problems, and I would just be all set. Everything would be great.” Right? You’ve all heard things like this, right? People saying like “If I could just have seen…” right? And how I like to respond, and I’d encourage you to respond like this and to think along these lines; Jesus says in John 16, He says something that should completely shatter that. He actually says to his disciples, “Hey disciples, it is to your advantage that I go away. Because if I go away, I’m going to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.”

Do you really believe that? Do you really believe that it’s more advantageous to live now, without seeing Jesus in the flesh, without seeing all these miracles occur, but to have the Holy Spirit inside of us? A.W. Tozer said it well where he says, “Modern churches are about filling churches with people. True Christianity is about filling people with God.” I love that. The significance of what Jesus promises there. I think people in that era would have understood it. They would have understood, wait a minute, the same Holy Spirit that came down on Samson, and on David, and that if you messed around with that Holy Spirit, you would get obliterated in the temple. You’re telling me, Jesus, that we get to permanently have that Holy Spirit inside of us? I think they would have just had this like head exploding moment where they would have thought, ‘Wow! What is happening?’

I’ll close with a story. I’ve told you about how the Holy Spirit introduced me to Jesus through Romans 8 and John 15. Those are my two passages that he kept bringing me to again, and again, and again. And I fell in love with Jesus my senior year of high school.

I went away to college, and I had plenty of sins that I had to reckon with and to repent of. And the Holy Spirit, wow, what a helper, what a friend He has been. I remember this one time that, I went to a secular college, and it was early in the morning. I don’t know why I was up so early. But I remember getting up early in the morning and I went from my room and we had common bathrooms that we had, that we shared in the dorm. So in one hallway there would basically be one bathroom. And so I went to this bathroom early in the morning. Nobody was up. College students don’t get up early in the morning, but I was up for some reason. And I go into one of the stalls, and there was a whole stash, a whole stack of pornographic magazines. And I remember seeing that and thinking, “It’s early in the morning, nobody’s ever going to know. Quiet as can be. I could just sit here, you know, look at these magazines and it’s going to be fine.” But it’s very similar to that experience that I had in high school.

There’s this power, this sense of a hand entering the glove, that happened. And I remember this because it was so again, so almost surreal. So I go there and I march back to my room. And we had a trash can that had one of those thick black kinda hefty trash bags. And I go back to this stall, and I take all these magazines and I throw it in this bag and I tie it up. Again, it’s early in the morning. I think it’s like 6:00 in the morning, something like that. And then I just go and I start running. And I decided to run, so I’m running outside, and I’m screaming at the top of my lungs. I kid you not, I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, “Come and see my zeal for the Lord!” And I remember, I knew no one could hear me, but I knew that God could see. I knew that some kind of powers could see, and I remember the sensation of, “Wow, I could never do this on my own.” And here I am running. And I go, there’s a dumpster there, and I take this thing and I just, you know, pitch it in, and it falls in. And I’m thinking, “This is awesome! This is amazing!” This is exactly this power of, again, the hand in the glove right? There is something about a floppy glove compared to the power of a hand in a glove that simply can’t be compared. I want to invite all of us, as we close this message, to think long and hard about these topics that I have mentioned. I truly believe in my heart of hearts, I prayed long and hard about what to share here, I believe that these topics are both individual and systemic. And I know there’s a range of people here in the audience, but I believe we truly need to repent, to decisively repent and to change much of our lives in order to bring the power of the Holy Spirit, that there would yet be an army that would stand before God. A battalion that God raises up out of bones.

Let’s close in prayer.

Our Father in Heaven, please forgive us for the trifles, for the comforts, for the materialism, for the sin, for the entertainments, for the needless pursuits of the world, when we have a cause that you have commissioned us to, to make disciples of all nations. When people are eternally perishing, we have yet to coalesce and to surrender to our King Jesus. Father, we pray today, we beg today, that we would change not just with our lips, but with our actions. That we would not be people who would say “For your sake we are killed all day long” in vanity and in almost total joke fashion. I pray that we would repent and place ourselves in positions of suffering, positions of sacrifice, of hunger, of desperation, of humility. Have mercy on us, God, but I know that in so many ways, we need to speak to ourselves here. But I call on you, God, for the assistance that you can provide, the help that you have already given us. And I pray here as KFW rolls out, you would help us to truly, truly seek the Holy Spirit. To believe, to believe, believe, believe what Jesus said in John 16, that it is an advantage that Jesus has sent us this great Comforter, this great Helper. Father, I repent myself, and I invite any here to join me in a time of repentance, and I pray these things all in the name of Jesus, Amen.