This Christmas, I thought that it would be helpful to look at some of the teaching surrounding Jesus’ birth in The Gospel of Luke. I’ve entitled this teaching series, ‘Mary Treasured up These Things’ (from Luke 2:19) because my hope and prayer is that, like Mary, we will treasure the story, the truths and the God of the Christmas story.
Today, let’s reflect on the truth that a Spirit-filled person or community builds people up in faith.
You can listen to this devotional at:
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)
Yesterday, we saw that when one is filled with the Spirit, we will experience joy. Joy is one of the many fruits of the Spirit as we see in Galatians 5:
‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…’ (Galatians 5:22-23)
Along with joy, the Spirit bears lots of fruit which, as seen in the context of Galatians 5, builds a healthy church community. Along with joy, we will love, be kind and good, which, is what we see Elizabeth doing in today’s text; Elizabeth, as she is filled with the Spirit doesn’t stop at personal joy, she overflows in encouragement to Mary. When one is filled with the Spirit, Like Elizabeth, we will encourage and praise people. A Spirit-filled person builds others up and draws attention to the good fruit in their lives.
Spirit-filled people encourage others in many ways and our text points to four:
i. Prophecy - To prophecy is to speak words that are inspired by the Spirit. Prophetic encouragement from God often comes through recounting and reminding people of biblical truth and God’s promises.
ii. Praise - One who is filled with the Spirit praises God and, as in this case, praises and encourages people. Elizabeth praises Mary’s faith in God:
‘When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!’ (Luke 1:41-42)
The word 'exclaim' means to shout with a loud cry. Elizabeth is effusive in her encouragement to Mary.
iii. Encouragement - A person who is filled with the Spirit will seek to strengthen, encourage, and comfort God's people in any way that they can. God loves His people, and this love is expressed through a Spirit-inspired person.
iv. Meeting people - It seems obvious, but we can miss the wood for the trees often, that when one is filled with the Spirit, we, like Mary and Elizabeth, want to meet in order to encourage one another. Devotion to meeting marks any move of the Spirit and when we meet the Spirit causes us to ‘spur one another on to love and good deeds’ (Hebrews 10).
When one is filled with the Spirit, Like Elizabeth, we will encourage and praise people. A Spirit-filled person builds others up and draws attention to the good fruit in their lives. There is so much discouragement in our lives. We are in a spiritual battle and we need to encourage one another. Like Elizabeth, let’s keep in step with the Spirit and so honour and praise people who model faith and godliness. Who inspires you with their faith and godliness? Why not pray for them and then encourage them today? No-one can have too much kindness!
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
In particular, we have services on Christmas Eve, Sunday 24th December 10:30am - 11:30am; Monday 25th December, Christmas Day Family Service
10am - 11am; and Sunday 31st December 10:30am - 12pm.
How has God been speaking to you from His Word this week and how has this helped you?
3. Worship together
Let’s begin our time together by lifting our eyes and hearts to worship our great God. Perhaps you have readings and songs that you would like to use together. Let’s be open to the gifts that the Spirit wants to give in order to encourage one another.
4. Study and pray together
This Christmas, we will revisit in more detail some the teaching surrounding Jesus’ birth that we have looked at in our Luke series. I’ve entitled this teaching series, ‘Mary Treasured up These Things’ (from Luke 2:19) because my hope and prayer is that, like Mary, we will treasure the story the truths and the God of the Christmas story.
Please be aware that we are producing devotionals to accompany this series and encourage you over the Christmas period.
Please read Luke 2:13-14
Why is it surprising and what is the message behind God appearing to shepherds specifically?
The angels promise, ‘Peace on earth’; what are the different kinds of peace that this refers to? (Try to find Bible verses that substantiate your thoughts).
What are the ways that one can enjoy the peace of God each day and over this Christmas period?
SIV - How would you being filled with God’s peace and being a peace maker make you an effective witness to the gospel?
SIV - How would you help a non-believer who pointed to war and suffering as a reason to doubt these words from the angels?
SIV - Do we have any recent stories of how we have ‘Served, Invested, and inVited’?
SIV - Lets now pray together that, this week, we will have opportunities to SIV.