Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Watching for the Spirit
Pastor Steve Schell
John 1:19-37
How do you know who to trust? How do you know which leader to follow? How do you know who really loves you? So many people say the right things, promise us the things we want to hear, even look right. They look strong, dynamic and even sincere. They speak well, and you can’t miss the impressive intellect behind their words. And who among us has not followed such a person or given our heart to such a person only to discover that he or she was not who they appeared to be? And the rude awakening we experienced when we made that discovery was not that the person was not as gifted as we thought but that they did not have the character we had hoped. In other words, we weren’t disappointed by their brain or their appearance but by their heart. The love we sought wasn’t genuine. The promises weren’t kept. The strength faded when pressure arose. And all those beautiful words they spoke turned out to be empty.

Not only have most of us experienced this kind of disappointment once or twice; most of us have experienced it so often we’ve become defensive and tend to distrust all but those who are closest to us. Disappointment has driven us to a state of confusion. We don’t know who to trust anymore.

This passage that we are studying today is about the testimony John the Baptist gave concerning Jesus. The apostle John was one of his disciples when that testimony took place. So he’s recalling that moment when his rabbi pointed to Jesus and said, in effect, “That’s the Savior!” But there’s a very valuable insight hidden in the passage, an insight into how to recognize the people whom God trusts. John the Baptist had been sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, and God had told John what to watch for so he would recognize Him when he saw Him. He told John to look for a particular sign, and when he saw it, that this was the Person he should follow. And, of course, the Person He showed him was Jesus. But it’s the way He revealed Jesus that we want to look at today because if we can see that same sign and let God make those important choices for us, we can start following and trusting and giving our heart to the right people, not the wrong ones. Now that’s a lesson worth learning!

Day #1 (Jn 1:19-28)
• DBS (Fri, Sat)

John assured the leaders who came out to talk to him that he was not the Messiah, but simply a prophet sent by God to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Messiah. Without identifying Jesus by name, he told them that he knew the Messiah had already arrived, in fact he had seen Him among the crowds who had come to be baptized (v26).

Day #2 (Jn 1:29-34)
On the second day Jesus returned to the area to talk with John, and when John saw Him approaching he said, “This is the Person I’ve been talking about” (paraphrase). In that moment he also prophesied that Jesus would die for the sins of the world (v29) and even proclaimed His pre-existence (v30). Then he explained to everyone how he knew this was the right Person. He said as he was baptizing Jesus, God showed him a very specific sign.

Day #3 (Jn 1:35-37)
Finally, on the third day John saw Jesus again, and two of his disciples, John and Andrew, were standing beside him. They heard him repeat the same statement he’d made the day before about Jesus being the Savior, and this time they decided to meet Jesus; they began following Him, and they never stopped.

What did John see? (Jn 1:32)
He saw the Holy Spirit descend like a dove and rest on Jesus (Mt 4:16). And please note: the Spirit remained on Jesus. There is no evidence that God trusts the heart of a person more than this. How does God show His approval of anyone? Does He make them rich or powerful? Does He give them a carefree life with no problems? Not if Jesus is the example. To see God’s approval of a person we need to look with a different set of eyes, not our natural eyes, but our spiritual eyes; and what we look for is the presence of God. God’s choice of David is a great example.

What did Samuel see? (1Sa 16:1-13)
As we read this account, notice that even the prophet Samuel tended to look for outward evidences to determine a person’s leadership potential. Saul, the previous king, had looked like a leader, and Samuel grieved when he was removed (1Sa 15:35). So when David’s oldest brother was brought before him the prophet thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him” (v6). Eliab looked like what Samuel thought a king ought to look like. But God told him he was looking at the wrong thing.
“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (v7).

And this is where the problem lies. As humans, we can’t see another person’s heart. All we can see is the outward, so we’re forced to guess at what’s inside. Only God knows a person’s heart. I don’t think we even know our own hearts. Who among us has not been amazed as we watch ourselves react in a way we never expected; both good and bad? But if I don’t even know myself, let alone you, then how can I even trust someone? The answer is that God must show us, but before He can do that:
1) I must be humble enough to admit that I’m a hopeless failure at evaluating another person’s heart.
2) I must know what to look for; how to watch for those God approves.
3) I must be willing to patiently wait until He shows me.
4) I must have the courage and faith to trust those He trusts.

Watch for this
Recently, the Lord was teaching me personally on this very matter. I have my own painful history of trusting the wrong people, and here’s what I believe He said, “You are not to trust anyone in whom you do not first see a disciple’s heart, which you will recognize by costly choices they have made in the past. Do not listen to their words; watch their actions. And secondly, watch for those upon whom you see My Spirit rest. If you do not see these things you are not to move forward.”

I responded by promising Him I would not, by His grace, do so, but I asked that He would alert me before I made wrong choices, and that He would give me the courage to say “no” or “yes” once He had guided me, and to ignore the inner pressure to give in. After that I confessed by faith that God would heal those situations that I had caused, if I would commit to stop making impulsive choices. Let’s rehearse the key points:
1) I am to look for a “disciple’s decision” shown by actions, not words. Has that person made a selfless, costly choice to do what is right?
2) Have I observed the presence of the Holy Spirit ministering through that person? Have I seen it more than once?

Seeing the Spirit
So, what does the Holy Spirit look like? How can I tell if He’s “resting” on someone? When John saw the Spirit, He appeared like a dove coming down from heaven, but that was a very unusual situation, and surely we’re not supposed to watch for doves? No, most of the time God’s Spirit is invisible, but what we can “see,” or sense, or feel is His influence on someone, or His power working through them. Listen:
“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8).

For example, one person might do something properly, or even very well, but there’s no evidence of any divine assistance; there’s no effect on others that’s out of the ordinary. It’s just someone doing what people do. But another person does the same thing, but there’s something different when they do it. There’s a feeling of peace or safety or cleanness. Their words strike the heart, even if those words weren’t said as well as the first person. Though there may be nothing about that person that draws us to admire them, when they do what they do we tend to feel closer to God. They seem to be helped by an unseen influence. When they’re around, problems find resolution, confusion finds clarity, anger grows peaceful, loneliness gives way to acceptance, and promises, even little ones, seem to find ways to be kept. You can’t measure this kind of thing in a test tube; it’s discerned intuitively; and it often surprises us because we weren’t expecting it. But when we let such people into our lives, we won’t grow disappointed with them as time passes, instead we’ll tend to feel increasingly grateful that we met them. Yes, they too will have flaws, but even when they fail, they will fail with integrity. You won’t have to catch them; they’ll confess.

John saw a dove. Samuel didn’t see Israel’s next king until the youngest of eight came in from the fields. But they made the right choice, because they waited until God showed them His choice. We’d be wise to do the same.

1) Describe someone you know who has made a “disciple’s choice.”
2) Describe a time when you “saw” the Holy Spirit on someone. What did you see or sense? Did God minister to you through that person? What happened? 

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