What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you remember? Maybe you dreamt of being an astronaut or doctor. Maybe you wanted to be a teacher or a preacher. I wanted to be different things. For a short while, I wanted to be an architect. That didn’t last too long, though I still love drawing up plans for structures using graph paper or Google Sketchup. What did you want to be? Do you remember? I also wanted to be a radio DJ, which probably explains why I have always loved podcasting. I wanted to be a traveling evangelist and a touring musician. For a long time I wanted to be a songwriter and composer. I’ve wanted to be a farmer, a photographer, a carpenter, a pastor, a speaker and an author. 

I’ve wanted to be a lot of things. How about you? I’ll bet you have wanted to be more than one thing in your life. Most of the many kids who wanted to be astronauts growing up, at some point in their lives stopped wanting that and started wanting something else. 

What changed? When you were young and idealistic, you had a dream of becoming something. But, somewhere along the way something changed and you stopped pursuing one dream to pursue another. What was that? 

In this series and as we begin Lent, we are talking about how we want to become love. I think it’s something we authentically want, a dream that many of us have. We want to become love, we want to love others the same way Jesus loved us. We really want it. We dream of becoming it. But, we also recognize that wanting to become something is not the same thing as actually becoming that thing. 

So, what has to change? Well, today is Ash Wednesday, the official start of Lent. Today, many people who worship in more liturgical churches, as well as many evangelical churches will hold a service. At that service the Pastor will talk about death and repentance. And, many of the churches will end that service by rubbing the ashes of the burned palm branches that were waved at last year’s Palm Sunday service on their foreheads. What’s the deal with that? 

In John 12, when Jesus started talking about his death, he said: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)

As we grew up, we started to realize that while it may have been completely possible, our dream of someday becoming an astronaut was not very likely. Just like our dream of playing pro football or being president. I mean, there are over 300 million citizens in our country and only one of them gets to be president. So we realized that we needed a different dream.

But, in order to pursue this new dream the old dream had to die. We couldn’t spend all our time pursuing our dream of being president and our new dream of being a doctor at the same time. One dream had to die for the other one to come to life. 

Jesus knew that He had to die, like a seed planted in the ground. If He didn’t die the Kingdom of God that God wanted to spread all over the face of the earth would remain contained in him. But, if He died, the Kingdom could come to life in a way that was impossible before. The Spirit of God was on Jesus during his whole ministry in a unique way. The Spirit came on people in the Old Testament, but it left when they sinned. But the Holy Spirit came and remained or abided on Jesus throughout His whole ministry. Jesus said “it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” If Jesus had not gone away, it wouldn’t have been possible for us to receive the Spirit. And without the Spirit we will never produce the fruit of the Spirit, the first of which is Love. 

Some dreams have to die so new dreams can come to life. Jesus had to die so that we could come to life. If we are going to become love like Jesus was the embodiment of the love of the Father, something has to first die in us. What has to die? 

Well, In our text for this week, 1 John 4:1-6, John talks about the spirits. He says, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” Then he goes on to talk about two spirits. The spirit of the antichrist which is already in the world. and the Spirit of Christ. 

People of the world understand and resonate with the teaching of the spirit of the world. “They [The spirit of the world] are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world and the world listens to them.” The world is the system that is opposed to God and His ways. The world is that which is under the rule and reign of the antichrist, the prince of the air, the devil himself. There is more than one spirit at work in the world right now. Even though he is less powerful, the dominant spirit of our age is the spirit of the antichrist. 

This spirit speaks our native tongue which is deception. Our native tongue is deceit and the cry of our hearts from birth is me, me, me, me, me. The spirit of the age is obsessed with getting things my way. This was the temptation in the garden, “You don’t have to be subservient to God, be your own God, do it your own way!” This is the temptation we still face today. It’s what we have known our entire lives and it’s the air we breath in our current culture. This is the motive and language of the antichrist in the world, the same as it has always been, do it my way. It’s all about me. 

But, if we are to become love, that has to die. If it doesn’t die, the dream and desire of becoming love will never be realized in our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. It will remain a single seed of an idea. Something that is nice to talk about, and wouldn’t it be nice if we became love, but it will just be that one seed of an idea that never produces the life of the vine in us. 

But we if die, if we let the spirit of the age of my way die in us God can bring his love to life in us.  Just like Jesus planted himself in that tomb so we could have the life of the Spirit, we follow Him into a death like His so we can receive a life like His. 

This is why we have to test the spirits. Are they leading us to embrace my way or die to it? Today being Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, we have to begin with death. Just like we had to let one dream die so we could pursue another, we have to let the dream of doing things our way die so that we can let God’s seed of love take over our lives. This is the spirit of truth. Everything else is the spirit of falsehood and deceit. 

Jesus is the truth. He is the fullness of reality. The Spirit that descended and remained on Jesus at his baptism which is the same Spirit that the Father sent at Pentecost is the Spirit of truth. Another mark of Ash Wednesday is confession. In His book, “The Mind of the Master” Robert E. Coleman says: “Receiving Christ implies a renunciation of human sufficiency in all its varied forms, and a total reliance upon the efficacy of God’s redeeming grace. It is to live as a child in total dependence upon the loving Father, confident that whatever He does is good, and that He is able to take care of every need. Where un-Christlikeness is recognized, of course, it must be confessed, which means to agree with the truth. Man cannot argue with the Spirit and expect His blessing. To enjoy His fellowship there must be a willingness to walk in the light of God’s word.” 

One of the major functions of the Spirit of Truth in our lives is to lovingly confront all the falsehoods we have embraced as identities. The areas where we have adopted the realities of the spirit of this age, the ‘my truth’ we would love to play God and seek to speak into existence, these are the areas the Spirit shines the light of God’s truth on in our hearts. And when he does so, our job is to confess – or to acknowledge the reality of the situation – to God so that we can be freed from the chains the lie has on our heart and experience more of the life God designed us for. 

Holiness is a big deal to God. God wants us to purify ourselves and be holy as He is holy. This is a part of why Jesus baptizes with the Spirit and with fire because fire purifies. God wants to burn up any impurity that exists in us until only the ashes of what we once thought was life remain. And he does this so we can remain in Him, abide and dwell in Him. He does this so we can be attached to the vine and be pruned by the master gardener to produce fruit that will abide, dwell and remain. One of those fruits being love. 

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