Spiritual awakening. That is my topic for today. Spiritual Awakening.
Every year, the church calls us to look upon Lent as the season for spiritual awakening. I wish to begin with a Bible story that I think will provide us with a very good paradigm for spiritual awakening because it describes the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the catalyst for every spiritual movement. I am looking at The Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 8. One day, the Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Head south on the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.” While walking down that road he met a man from Ethiopia who was traveling in a chariot. The man stopped and said to Philip, “I need your help because I can’t understand a book which I have been reading.” “Which book is it?” “It is the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It says, ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter.’ I want to know: Who is the sheep that was led to the slaughter?”
Then the Holy Spirit helped Philip to explain the passage. “Jesus of Nazareth was the sheep that was led to the slaughter. He was killed so that our sins could be forgiven. Three days after he died he rose from the dead and came back to live in our hearts.” Philip went on from there to describe the life and ministry of Jesus.
Then the Holy Spirit moved the heart of the Ethiopian to ask for Baptism and Philip baptized him that very day. After the baptism the Holy Spirit snatched Philip away and the Ethiopian saw him no more.
This story is filled with the movement of the Holy Spirit. We see that the Spirit moved the heart of the Ethiopian to turn to the Bible to see if that would satisfy his longing for truth.
And the Spirit moved Philip to be in the right place at the right time so that he could explain to him that Jesus is the Lamb of God.
The Ethiopian received a spiritual awakening and it was the Holy Spirit who made it possible. That Ethiopian was not the first person in the New Testament to receive a spiritual awakening.
The first person was Jesus of Nazareth. And the whole thing happened under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It all began when Jesus was baptized. The Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. Then the Spirit led Jesus out into the desert for forty days of prayer and fasting. We heard that in today’s Gospel. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert.
At first Jesus felt very good because things were quiet and he had lots of time for prayer. He really enjoyed being alone with God. But it was also a troubling time. Was the trouble caused by Snakes? Or Scorpions? Or Spiders? Or Bandits? Or Bullies? Or Bad weather? No, none of the above. The trouble came from inside of him. Jesus was hit by a series of temptations.
First of all, he was tempted to turn a stone into a loaf of bread. He turned to the Holy Spirit and said, “Why am I feeling this way? Could it be that I am insecure? I seem to be anxious about where my next meal is coming from.” “Yes, that is true.” The Holy Spirit said. “You have an anxious spirit; but that is not the whole story. You also have me living inside of you and I am much stronger than the spirit of anxiety. Just ask for my help and I will give you the spirit of trust which will defeat the spirit of anxiety.” So Jesus prayed to the Holy Spirit and the spirit of anxiety was defeated and replaced by the spirit of trust. Jesus went back to trusting that God would provide for his needs.
A few hours later Jesus was tempted again. He was tempted to take over the kingdoms of the world. Then Jesus prayed to the Holy Spirit and the spirit of humility defeated the spirit of pride which Satan had placed within his heart.
Several hours later Jesus was tempted again. The devil tempted Him to jump off the roof of the Temple with the hope that God would rush in to rescue him. Then Jesus prayed to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit helped him move beyond that temptation. That was the third temptation. Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.
Did you notice how the Holy Spirit was involved at every moment? The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert and helped him during his 40 days in the desert and then led him back to Galilee. When all was said and done, Jesus learned a lot about the Holy Spirit during his 40 days in the desert. It was a time for spiritual awakening. He discovered that several evil spirits were moving in and out of his life - and more than that - he discovered that the Holy Spirit is stronger than those evil spirits.
Jesus was a changed person when he came out of the dessert. He was no longer afraid of the future. Now he knew that he could face anything - even death - because the Holy Spirit would help him overcome every dark moment and every evil spirit that might pop up along the way.
Today we find ourselves at the beginning of Lent - at the beginning of 40 days in the desert. And these 40 days should be a time for spiritual awakening. At least that’s the plan. Our church calls us to 40 days of prayer, fasting and works of mercy so that we can have a spiritual awakening. If we get involved in prayer, fasting and works of mercy we will take on the Spirit of Jesus. We will take on His Holy Spirit and we will have our very own spiritual awakening.