You can’t say everything in a sermon (I know you all think us preachers probably say more than enough) but there was so much more I wanted to say on this verse from Isaiah 43
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” Isaiah 43 v18-19
I know a church in the North of England where in the 1930s and 40s God did incredible things. They held special convention meetings at New Year, Easter, and Pentecost, and hundreds of people turned up, best of all God turned up. People got healed, people came to faith and others experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit. When I came into contact with the church in the late 80s they still held their conventions, well at least at Easter, but few people turned up, and to be honest, it didn’t feel like God did either. It felt like we were going through the motions but they kept holding their conventions, because that is how God had worked in the past and they believed that is how he would always work in the future.
Sadly, I have seen the same thing with individual believers. At some point in their Christian experience, God intervened in a powerful way. For some people, this meant they spoke in tongues, others spoke about being overcome by the power of God and falling on the floor, other people have told me of experiencing an overwhelming feeling of peace or of being loved. The problem I noticed is that many of these people were then often frustrated and disappointed for the rest of their Christian life. The problem was they spent years expecting God to do the same thing for them, in the same way again, as He did in the past and God didn’t oblige.
If could sum up this spiritual problem I would say it’s mixing up the fire with the fireplace. The work of the Holy Spirit and the form we experience that work.
It seems to be a perennial problem. that churches and christians mix up the way in which the Holy Spirit has worked in the past with the Holy Spirit himself.
But in Isaiah 43 God tells us He is not imprisoned in the past, that in fact, he delights to do new things in our lives and for us as his people. He delights to touch our churches and lives in new ways, in different ways from how he did in the past.
But Isaiah says we have to look for these new ways. I suspect that is because God’s people have always had this tendency to look for God to act in the old ways they are used to, rather than in new and different ways.
In 2022 as both a church and as individual believers let’s expect God to work in our lives but let’s not expect that he will do that in the ways that He did in the past or the ways we are expecting him to.