A New Spirit: Footsteps Sermon at Harbor Church

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Mon, 01/28/2019 - 9:30am

Message “Footsteps” January 27, 2019 at Harbor Church


Joel 2:28–32 (NLT)

The Lord’s Promise of His Spirit

28  “Then, after doing all those things,  I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your old men will dream dreams,  and your young men will see visions.  29 In those days I will pour out my Spirit  even on servants—men and women alike.  30 And I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth—  blood and fire and columns of smoke.  31 The sun will become dark,  and the moon will turn blood red  before that great and terrible day of the Lord arrives.  32 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord  will be saved,  for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape,  just as the Lord has said.  These will be among the survivors  whom the Lord has called. 

Galatians 5:13-26[NIV]

Life by the Spirit

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” k15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.  

Message “Footsteps” January 27, 2019 at Harbor Church

In our first reading today, the Prophet Joel said: “The sun will become dark,  and the moon will turn blood red  before that great and terrible day of the Lord arrives.  32 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord  will be saved

Did anyone stay up to see the lunar eclipse last Sunday night? One of ways the eclipse is referred to is as ‘The Blood Moon’ and it definitely had a red tinge to it as the shadow of the earth passed over it and sunlight bent around the earth to give the moon its ruddy hue.  –Now, can you imagine the impact this event must have had on the early humans who didn’t understand astronomical events like this. Is this the end of the world? It must be a harbinger of “great and terrible” things to come. But Joel goes on to say, don’t worry, because the Lord will pour out his Spirit on all people, and all who trust in God’s spirit will be kept safe.

Our reading from Galatians also talks about the Spirit of God, but in slightly different terms.  There we read “Live by the Spirit, be Led by the Spirit, and Keep in Step with the Spirit”

Many modern translations use the word ‘live’ but in the original language in which the New Testament was written, the word literally means ‘walk’. And so ‘walking through life’ as a metaphor for living is a powerful image that bears closer scrutiny.

We still express the same idea figuratively in our language today. We are told to “watch your step!” to warn us again making bad decisions or unwise choices. To “Tread Carefully” when we find ourselves in dangerous situations. And to “put one foot in front of the other” as we move through challenging circumstances. This is essentially what the writer of Galatians was saying as well, but the author goes further by suggesting just how we can do these things.

The scriptural secret to leading a successful life is found in being led by the Spirit of God… or keeping in step with the Spirit.  And at key moments in time, like the period of Joel in the OT or the day of Pentecost in the New, the Spirit of God is ‘poured out’ in our lives in dramatic ways in order to renew our spirits, to restore our souls. But walking with the Spirit in our lives doesn’t come naturally, we need to learn how to follow the Spirit’s leading, to learn how to walk with God the same way a very young child needs to learn how to stand and walk on his or her own two feet.



As adults we taking walking for granted; it is automatic, but it is a learned skill that we have perfectly through years of countless footsteps. We all marvel (oh’s and ah’s) when a toddler takes his or her first steps. We call them toddlers, not striders or walkers, because they haven’t perfected he fine art of locomotion yet.. They learn by doing, through practice, through trial and error. Through falling down on their little bums and then getting back up and trying again. They need to find balance and direction. First they learn to stand on their own two feet. (another metaphor). Only after this do they start thinking about direction, and destination.

The first thing that Walking by the Spirit enables us to do is overcome sin and temptation. Like the toddler whose parents help them to walk ,The spirit instructs us in how to walk through life without falling down. Consider this short poem entitled:

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

By Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost ... I am helpless.

It isn't my fault.

It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don't see it.

I fall in again.

I can't believe I am in the same place

but, it isn't my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in ... it's a habit.

my eyes are open

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

We learn how to walk away from our mistakes. From poor choices and failures we learn to make better ones. The Spirit can be our instructor in this as we strive to follow where the Spirit leads…


Trail Guides

Most people who venture out into the wilderness, whether it is a local forest, or a distant exotic jungle, get help. So we learn how to Watch our step  - Watch the way we walk, the way we live . watch Where you put your feet, careful where you step.  So we seek  the wise counsel of others to navigate.  We talk to people who have been there, and know the way better than we do. We can examine the way that we are walking, the paths we are taking, the direction in which we are heading by submitting to the guidance of others. Mentors, spiritual directors, and accountability partners can all help us with this.  The first provide us with structure and a framework for living well. The latter can help us as we work to ‘put off the ‘acts of the flesh’ and to put on the ‘fruit of the spirit’. Fruit is singular, not plural here: it is the product or result of a gradual transformation of our character that comes from following the Spirit’s guidance as it comes to us through other people.

Trail Maps

When we hike, we also use trail maps to find our way. – to keep on the right path and not get lost in the wilderness. We glean wisdom and knowledge and understanding from the Bible. We also look to other sources of truth to provide us with signposts and directions as we journey through life. The Spirit leads us and renews us not through external laws, but through the internal guidance supplied as we follow the Spirit’s leading.


As a couple (individual)- When we are led by the spirit, we not only learn to walk, but to dance as well. Carrie and I have been taking dance lessons, learning to tango with Susan Matheke and Willie Feuer. When we first started, my primary focus was Not Stepping on my wife’s toes. But as we learned the steps and became more familiar with them, my focus changed. It wasn’t about where my feet were, it was more about where my partner was. .Now we are not good dancers yet, but we are getting better at moving together, at having a sense about the other’s physical presence, and about anticipating where we should go (lead) or how to anticipate where we are going (following the lead). As we learn to dance in the Spirit, we enter into a mystical sweet communion in which we develop a better spiritual sense of where God is leading us, and about how and where and when to move to better follow him. And this, just like dance lessons, requires practice as well.

As a Group (corporate)

Finally, “keeping in step with the Spirit” means learning to dance as a group as well. When you tango in a public dance hall, there is an order to the dance, and everyone moves in the same direction around the hall, like skaters moving around an ice rink.

Whether it is the tango, a waltz, the Macarena or the Texas Two-Step, there is a beautiful synchrony of groups of people moving together as one. I’ve always marveled at Line dancing and square dancing, where a group’s movements are synchronized.  Being In-Step with the Spirit means is being not only being in-sync with God, but also In-sync with others as well.

We can be In Sync corporately as a church in a similar way: By agreeing on the dance we want to do together, by finding opportunities to get together for the purpose of learning how to move together better. By Dancing with others until we are no longer stepping on each other’s toes, but rather respecting each other, keeping in step with one another as we all seek to move in the direction in which the Lord is leading us,  not unlike square dancers following the calls of the dance leader. As we do this together, we can discover the rich beauty of the dance of life in which we all move in unison where the Lord is leading us.

So, in the words of our scripture today, be filled with the Spirit as God pours out his spirit. Learn from the spirit, through God’s people and through God’s Word. Then we can walk with the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and keep in step with the spirit of God as we all move through this life together, amen.