How Does the Holy Spirit Minister to Believers? | Galatians 5:16-26

A Spirit-Led Church

In this message, John Elmore teaches on the indwelling, sanctification, and illumination of the Holy Spirit.

John ElmoreFeb 25, 20241 Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 2:13

In This Series (8)
The Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy, and Healing | 1 Corinthians 14
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 24, 2024
A Spiritual Checkup | 1 Corinthians 12
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 17, 2024
The God Who Unifies | Ephesians 4:1-16
Kylen PerryMar 10, 2024
Is There a Spiritual Power Outage in Our Lives? | Acts 16:6–10
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 3, 2024
How Does the Holy Spirit Minister to Believers? | Galatians 5:16-26
John ElmoreFeb 25, 2024
What Part Does the Holy Spirit Play in Salvation? | John 3 and Romans 8
Timothy "TA" AteekFeb 18, 2024
Who Is the Holy Spirit? | John 14:16-17, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Timothy "TA" Ateek, Oren Martin, Antoinette Davis, Emily Hope, Dave BruskasFeb 11, 2024
Why Talk About the Holy Spirit? | John 14:16-26
Timothy "TA" AteekFeb 4, 2024

Key Takeaways

  1. The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) – God has always been with his people (e.g., Adam and Eve, Israel and the Temple). As Christians, however, both individually and corporately, God makes his home in us by his Spirit. Through his indwelling presence, through the work of the new covenant in Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Acts 2), he gives us new hearts, new desires, and new wills that want to and can lives new lives in Christ.
  2. The Sanctification of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) – Through the powerful working and indwelling of the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, Christians can and will put to death sin and put on Christ, which results in bearing Christ-shaped fruit for God.
  3. The Illumination of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13) - Through the indwelling and powerful working of the Spirit, Christians can understand, believe, and obey God’s life-giving Word.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  1. If we are God’s home and children (by faith) in Christ, how should we relate to sin and evil? Where are you tolerating evil in God’s house?
  2. What struggle or sin do you need the Spirit to strengthen you to kill (read Romans 8:9-17)?
  3. What fruit do you need the Spirit to bear (read Galatians 5:16-26)?
  4. How does the Holy Spirit work in illumination to help us understand, believe, and obey God’s Word?
  5. Do you pray before you read God’s Word and ask him to open (illumine) your eyes to see wonderful things in it (Psalm 119:18)?
  6. Would you consider writing the Elmore family a note, thanking them for their ministry and telling them how God has used them to increase your love for and joy in Christ? Email him at

John Elmore: Good morning, Watermark Community Church. My name is John Elmore. I'm a teaching pastor. [Applause] Stop! I think they must have put something on the back screen behind me that said you all get a free $1,000. Thank you. Man, I don't know if you know, but this past Thursday, AT&T had a little bit of a hiccup. Do you guys know about that? Any AT&T customers in the crowd? Dude. Not to throw shade on a Dallas company, but I'm like, "Guys, you've got one job. That's all you do. You just connect us to our people. You've got to give us that signal."

If you didn't know, AT&T went out. They said it was 70,000. I think that's a hair short. I was going through my day. I realized it because I was reading on BBC News that morning on Thursday, and it was like, "Outage by AT&T. Thousands without cell coverage." I was like, "What? No, my phone works fine."

I realized it was because I was on my home wireless still. As soon as I left the house, I was like, "What is wrong with Laura? Why would she not just write back?" Missed call from TA, texts…things I needed. The activity I had planned for the day came to a screeching halt. Why? Because I didn't have any connectivity to those relationships essential to that day.

Then I was driving. I remember I was on Belt Line and the signal came back. I'd been checking it incessantly. All it said was "SOS." I'm like, "All I can talk to is a 911 operator. I need somebody more." I'm there on Belt Line, and all of a sudden, all of these texts start coming through. The relief I felt, like, "Oh, thank you. Four hours without cell phone. All I had was a glorified calculator and an alarm clock on my phone. Okay. We can go now." Laura and I are writing back and forth. I'm able to carry on with my day.

I'm driving as I'm receiving these texts, and the thought came to my mind that stopped me. It was, "Hey, if your connection to the Lord was silent for four hours, would you have felt that level of anxiety? Would it have stopped your day as much if you didn't hear from the Lord for four hours?" If I wasn't in communication and contact with the Lord, would it have had the same impact of what it did to me where I was like, "Where is it? Has it come back online yet? Where's the signal? How come I can't get anything?"

I'm not going through my day in those four hours being like, "Lord, I haven't heard. I need this decision. We don't know what to do here. We're waiting on you. I'm not going to move without you. I'm looking to you. I'm praying to you. I'm listening for the Spirit, looking for your providential fingerprints on things." Instead, it's really not the case.

But despite our unfaithfulness, God remains faithful, because the ministry of the Spirit is not one that comes and goes. We'll see today that he seals us as he indwells us. He leads us and sanctifies us and illuminates the Word and the path, the will of God in us. That is the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit. According to Romans, chapter 8, as written by the Spirit through Paul, he says, "Nothing can separate you from the love of the Father." Nothing. There is constant communication, whether we realize it or not, because of the indwelling of the Spirit.

So, today, as we continue on in this series A Spirit-Led Church, the three things we'll cover today… First, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; second, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit; and third, the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Now, you need to hear this. Lean in. I promise you if you can personally appropriate these truths, you'll never be the same. You will be changed.

I'm looking at Will right now and his dear bride, and I know them, as they have been like, "Okay, those truths? They're not just true; they're true for me." He will change your life. I stand here as testifying to it. The Word you're going to see will reveal it. So, these three things… This is not just theology. This is something that will change your life, special things for today.

So, first, indwelling of the Spirit. God has always dwelt with his people. He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the garden. They walked with him. Then, because of sin, there was a separation between mankind and God, but God still was like, "I will dwell among you." He called his people out of Egypt, gave Moses the plan for the tabernacle, and he tabernacled with them in the wandering and then as they came into the land.

Then he gave David the plans, but he was too much of a man of war, so there Solomon would make a temple for God. Very holiness (5:38), presence, and glory of God, dwelling there in the temple. Then 400 years of silence. Then Jesus, cry of a baby, God in flesh, Immanuel, God with us…Yesus, which means he saves. Fully God, fully man, walking amongst us for those years of ministry. Then Jesus utters these words. He says, "It is better for you that I go, because if I go, I will send another, the Helper." So, as proceeds from the Father and Son, the Holy Spirit comes.

At Pentecost, as they're staying in the upper room, praying and waiting… Jesus said, "Wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon you." It says that flames of fire lit upon them as they received the Holy Spirit and went out, testifying to Jesus. We live in that reality now. It says in Ephesians, chapter 1, that whoever has placed their faith in Jesus has been sealed by the Holy Spirit in whom God dwells now. They are a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Then one day, at the back of the book, in Revelation 21:3, in a loud voice he says, "Behold…" New heavens, new earth. Raised again, resurrection, glorified body. "Behold, the dwelling place of God is now with man, and he shall be their God where there is no tear, pain, nor sorrow." Full circle from the garden, as they walked with him until now, and we live in this in-between with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

For that, I want us to look at 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. It's talking about sexual sin. As a way to speak about sexual sin, God is like, "I dwell within. You can't be in that sin as I dwell within." He says, "Or do you not know that your [physical] body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…" A temple. When they heard that word, they would have thought, "I know exactly what a temple is for." A temple is a place of holiness and reverence. There's nothing profane there. There's nothing vain there.

They would have called to their minds the temple that was there in Jerusalem that was only used for the worship of God. There was nothing profane ever to enter there…Holy of Holies, glory of God. He's like, "You are now that temple, your body, individually." It says in Ephesians 2 that each of us, individually, is being built together to rise up as a temple to God. Not just you individually, but corporately, the universal church.

"…a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" Having trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, the Spirit takes up residence forever in your body. It says, "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price." The very blood of Jesus Christ. So, therefore, the result, the action is "Glorify God with your body." You're a temple. The Holy Spirit lives in you.

So, God's home in you does a lot. As the Holy Spirit resides in us… I mean, this could be a sermon in and of itself. He gives us new desires, a new will, a new heart. This is Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31, prophecies that were given hundreds and hundreds of years before the coming of the Holy Spirit. He says, "In those days, I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will write my laws upon you and move you to fulfill them."

You see, the Pharisees were like, "Okay. Here's the written Law. We now will follow it, letter by letter, line for line, command for command." God is saying, "In the days to come, my Spirit will be in you and moving you to follow my will." That's one of the blessings of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…new desires, new will. But not just that…the presence of God. It's Psalm 139. "Where can I flee from your presence?" Now the Lord in us everywhere we go…God in you.

Not just that. He brings about holiness in you. The Holy Spirit brings about holiness in you. It says he is our counselor, our comforter. Second Corinthians 1: "The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our afflictions, so that we might comfort others." He is the Comforter. He is our helper…God helping us, God stooping low to be like, "I'm here to help my children."

He gives us conviction to know when we are in and out of the will of God. You think about the Super Bowl, you know, that chalk line, the out-of-bounds line. As strong as those men are, that chalk line has no ability to keep them in or out of bounds. It simply shows them when they are out-of-bounds. That's the law of God.

The law of God is good, holy, and right, but it doesn't have the ability to keep us in or out. It just shows us when we're out. Then the Holy Spirit, when we have stepped over the line of the law of God, is like, "Hey, this is not God's will; come back," and convicts us and compels us to move back to the will of God according to the law of God.

He leads us. He, as a person…not an impersonal force, as some of the cults would say, but as a person…leads us. When you read through Acts, you can't help but see this. With Philip the Evangelist and others, there's an individual, providential, sovereign leading of the Holy Spirit. He prays on our behalf and speaks to us. Listen closely. The Holy Spirit is not mute. He's not some impersonal force that lives within you and you're just kind of compelled along. Rather, it says he speaks to us, and he prays on our behalf.

In Romans 8, it says we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit prays on our behalf with groans too deep for understanding, for he knows the mind of God and knows what we need. It's incredible. He strengthens our faith. We could go on and on and on about some of the gifts of the presence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but the one we had here in the verse… It says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? Therefore, honor God with your body. You were bought at a price."

As I thought about this, I thought about our home, the Elmore household, in which kids dwell. If God made his home in us, his children, I'm thinking about our house in which my kids dwell. In that, I have a zero tolerance for evil. We don't watch scary movies, not even the silly ones that kids would watch that seem harmless, because I'm like, "No. We don't deal in scary. That's not of God, so we're not doing that."

If the kids say, "Alexa, play [such-and-such song]," there are certain ones where it won't happen. It's the Holy Spirit and Alexa that are like, "Nope. We don't play that song." We have a filter on it, because we're like, "No. We're not having evil songs played there." Penny and I were at Walmart picking out earrings, a 20-pack. It's like sparkly ones, dangly ones, smiley faces, but then in the bottom right… She's like, "What's that, Daddy?" and I'm like, "Hey, we can't get this one."

She's like, "Why?" I'm like, "Well, that's a yin-yang. A yin-yang is a religious symbol that means there's a little good in all evil and in good there's a little evil. It's a pagan symbol. We don't do that." You might think, "Well, just buy it and throw it away." No. I have zero tolerance for evil with my kids. It's instructive to them, and I want it out of my house. I don't want any evil in my house. But I think we tolerate evil in God's house.

In our own lives, I think there is a certain threshold level of tolerance where it's like, "I mean, it's not that bad. Everybody watches this show. We all binge-watch that," even though we're laughing at and mocking the sin Christ died for. Maybe I'm doom scrolling, and that has become my idol at night. That's how I numb out or escape. Or "Hey, it's legal in Oklahoma, so, you know," even though God says, "Be sober-minded."

Alcohol, food addiction, lack thereof, body image, status seeking, greed… I mean, there are innumerable sins, but I think everybody has something. First John 1:8 says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." By way of application, I'm asking you right now… As the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, for those who have called on Jesus, what's become that place of tolerance of evil in God's house for you?

We have to recognize it and turn from it. I recently shared for me it was grumbling. Just critical spirit, grumbling. Then I came across 1 Corinthians 12. He says people dropped dead in the desert because of grumbling when they came out of Egypt. I was like, "Wow! God takes that pretty seriously." I had grown a tolerance for that evil in my life, so I sought to repent from it.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But it's not just the indwelling of the Holy Spirit where it's like, "Okay. I get it. I've got to be holy because he's holy, so I'm going to try to be holy." I've got bad news for you, but I've got good news. You can't. You have no ability to be holy. You're like, "Great. Motivational speech. I have to be holy and I can't be holy? Awesome."

This messed me up in my life. I would sin and sin and sin, and I would try harder and try harder. I was grieved by my sin. I knew it was wrong. I'd be like, "O Lord, that's the last time, the last time ever. I'm not going to do that again," and I'd do it again the next day, next week, or whatever. I'm like, "Ugh! I guess you're not the problem. I guess I am." I walked away from the whole thing.

God says, "No, I not only indwell you; I make you holy. It's not just my presence; it is my purpose." Get this. When I talk about the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, it's that he makes you holy. It's the verb form of holy. In the Greek, sanctification is the verb holy. Like, he "holies" you. It's crazy. The pneuma hagios, which is Holy Spirit… He hagiazo's you. He makes you holy, of which you don't have the ability.

Sin is a supernatural problem that demands a supernatural answer. So the Spirit is like, "Just ask me. Ask me. That's my job. That's my role. I will make you holy, and I alone can. You can't do this on your own." To be holy is to be set apart for God…separation, only for Christ. So, the Holy Spirit will bear the fruit of the Spirit, and he will kill the fruit of the flesh. Galatians 5:22. Somebody finish this for me. "But the fruit of the Spirit is…"

Congregation: "…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…"

John: Everybody has got that. We've all got that on lock. It's like, "The fruit of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness [unintelligible]." I was reading John Owen, an old Puritan theologian, once. He talks about how that's the positive work of the Spirit. Then he says, "And the negative work of the Spirit…" I'm like, "What? Negative work of the Spirit? Nothing the Spirit does can be negative. Why would he write that? This must be a wrong translation or something."

Well, the positive work of the Spirit is that he bears the fruit of the Spirit. The negative work of the Spirit is that he kills the fruit of the flesh. You don't have the ability to do that. That's him. He's the sin killer. For that, it's Romans 8:13. "If you live according to the flesh, you'll die." Meaning, if you do what you want to do, what your flesh wants to do, it's going to lead to death. In my case, alcoholism was leading to death. Porn will lead to death. Greed will lead to death. Self-image, body image, will lead to death…all of it. All sin ends in death.

"For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." He's like, "Just ask me. I am the sin killer. It's what I live to do." Think about it this way. I'm going to give you two terms. One is positional sanctification; the other is progressive sanctification.

Positional sanctification. Paul writes also to the Corinthian church, and he's like, "Do not be deceived. The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Neither does the sexually immoral, nor the adulterers, nor the swindlers, nor the drunkards, nor the homosexual offenders, nor the greedy." I hit many on that list. He's like, "They will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Do you know what he also writes to the Corinthians? He says, "Such were some of you," but he also writes to the Corinthians… He calls them saints (holy ones). He calls them saints, and then he gives them all of these, "And, by the way, here are your sin struggles." It's like, "Well, how can that be? That doesn't seem very saintly."

He's like, "You're saints because you belong to God and because his Spirit lives in you. Now, I know you're doing unsaintly things, but you are saints. Positionally, you are saints." You're not sinners who sometimes saint, church; you are saints who sometimes sin. There's a huge difference. If you can grasp this reality about your identity, that you are a holy one of God, it'll change things.

So, that's positional sanctification. God is saying, "You're saints. You're holy because you've trusted in Jesus and I live in you. Now, I know you may do some unsaintly things as you sin, but positionally speaking, you are holy, set apart unto God. You're mine." Progressive sanctification means there is an ongoing change of us as the Lord shapes us into the image of Christ.

By way of illustration… I told you awhile back that Dr. Abbie Smith, pediatrician (she's amazing) here at Watermark… She gave us a prescription to take home. My kids were waving it in our faces. They were like, "Dad, I got a prescription." I was like, "Oh, who's sick?" The prescription says, "Purchase the kids any puppy of their choosing." I was like, "That is medical malpractice." But we got a dog just recently. You'll see some pictures on the screen.

This is Cash, after the prodigal Johnny Cash. That's a Goldendoodle from Dustin Flueckiger. He and his wife Kallie raise these pups. They're awesome. Positionally, because he's my dog… (No one is listening to a word I'm saying.) He's my dog, so he's a good dog, because he's mine. He's not some filthy, mangy, rabies-laden flea-ridden, you know, out there getting picked up by the dogcatcher. He's my dog; therefore, he's good.

Now, I'm here to tell you he's not actually good all the time. He bites. He goes to the bathroom on our floor, which drives me crazy. He chewed up Hill's mouth guard for football. He does things that are not good, yet I would say, because he's mine, he's a good dog. I've chosen him. He belongs to me. Positional sanctification.

And there is a progressive sanctification. He's becoming a better and better dog. He's not biting as much. Not because every day I walk out and am like, "Hey, Cash! No biting. No going to the bathroom on the floor. See you at 5:00," and he's like, "Got it." It's him spending time with me and yielding to me that is making him a better and better dog.

So, he's good because he's mine, and he's becoming more and more like the dog I've always longed for as he spends time with his master. The word lord in Greek is kurios. It's master. That we would spend time with him and he would bring about goodness in our lives. It's just yielding to him and time with him through the Spirit.

So, application. I would ask you… What is a struggle you need the Spirit to kill or what is a fruit you need him to bear? So, a struggle you need him to kill. Like, "Man, I keep going back to this thing. I know it's wrong, and I can't do anything about it, because I keep returning, like a dog to its vomit." He's like, "I know. Ask me. I'll kill that sin."

Or what is a fruit you need him to bear? Maybe it's like, "I need more patience in my life. I need more gentleness in my life. I need more self-control in my life." He's like, "Thank you. Just walk with me, and I will bear that fruit in you. That's my fruit. You can't generate that fruit. That's solely from me." Time with him and yielding to him.

Thirdly, the Spirit leads us by illuminating God's Word and his will. Before Christ, the Holy Spirit had a role in all of our lives. If anyone identifies as a Christian, the Holy Spirit was at work in your life before you trusted in Jesus, and it was this. It says in John 16 it's the Spirit's role to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Why those three? Those three work inextricably together. First, of sin. The Spirit convicts us of sin. Then the Spirit reveals to us righteousness, the righteousness of God. I have sin; God is righteous. Third, of coming judgment. Because of that, I know that one day, by the conviction of the Spirit… My sin has separated me from this righteous God. I will die and face judgment. Jesus also says, "The Spirit will glorify me."

Then the Spirit removes the veil, that we would behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and be like, "He is my answer, the antidote, the antivenom of the indwelling sin." When I trust in Jesus, I will cross over from death to life because of Christ's righteousness imputed to me, having trusted in him, and will never face judgment because of the gift of Jesus Christ. That's the Spirit's work in your life.

Now, as a Christian, there are two things the Spirit continues to do. First, the Spirit illuminates God's Word. First Corinthians 2:13: "And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit…" The Spirit, as we're reading the words of God, is teaching us. He is actually teaching us. These are not just words on a page. These were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and as we're reading them, we listen for him. Why? Because he's teaching us.

He, as a person, God in us, seeking to sanctify us as he indwells us… He's teaching if we're listening. It's very possible, as a Christian, to just do a cold read of Scripture, to do a Bible study, per se. I'm not saying Bible studies are wrong, but I think it may be a wrong name. Instead, it should be like "Bible listening." We're reading, but we're listening for the Spirit to teach us. This living and active Word by a living and active God, the Spirit living in us. He teaches us. It says right there the Spirit teaches us.

Bonhoeffer had a secret seminary during fascist Germany. He took it underground. He would tell his students, "When you wake up, don't talk to anyone. Get your Scriptures, pray, and then read. Read slowly, and look for something to stand out. When it stands out, it's the Spirit calling to mind that particular word or phrase, and when you hear it or see it, stop and consider the word. Meditate on it. Ruminate on it. Ask the Spirit what he's seeking to reveal to you."

I do this when I read the Bible. It doesn't happen every single day, I think because of my heart, not his will. This Friday, I was sitting outside reading Acts, chapter 9. Here's the problem: I'm really familiar with Acts, chapter 9. I've diagrammed this in seminary. I've gone through it. I've been in it through part of a discipleship program, a Bible reading program. I know what happens.

Like, "Oh, yeah. Saul trusted in Jesus. Scales on his eyes. He goes. Ananias lays his hand on him at a street called Straight. Scales fall from his eyes. He eats and drinks and is baptized. Then he goes about preaching boldly in the synagogues. Then he goes to the disciples, and the disciples are like, 'No, we know who you are. You're a bounty hunter. You came here to trick us. You want to drag us away.'" I know it all.

I'm reading in this passage. It's right here. It says, "And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him…" They were like, "Oh, this is a ruse. This is a trojan horse. Like, sure. Yeah, you're a follower of Jesus. As soon as we open this door, you're going to hog-tie us and take us all. We know you have letters from the high priest to imprison us and even murder us. We know who you are. We know what you do. Nice try. Be gone."

"And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus." Then the disciples took him in.

As I'm reading this really familiar passage, visually, this is what happened to me spiritually on Friday. I'm reading, and there are, like, arrows to this "But Barnabas…" The words "But Barnabas" are standing out to me. I'm so familiar with this passage. I'm reading it. I'm going along, and I'm like, "Lord, what do you want to say to me today?" I get to "But Barnabas," and I'm like, "That was it." It was just this sense.

You'd probably think, "It's probably the Lord or Saul's conversion or whatever." Instead, it was "But Barnabas." I'm like, "What is it? Those words are standing out to me." I feel like what the Lord was showing me was if it wasn't for Barnabas saying, "No, no, no. God doesn't deal in past sins. He doesn't put you in time-out. He doesn't make you pay penance. He doesn't deal in odds or probability…" Barnabas was like, "No. I've heard about him. He saw the Lord. He heard the Lord. He's been preaching in the synagogues." "But Barnabas…" and Paul was brought into the church.

As I was sitting there thinking about it, I was like, "What do you want me to learn and know?" and it was "But Charlie Parker," who was my A.A. sponsor who took me in when I was zero days sober; then "But Chad Hampsch" when I was four months sober who said, "You can be a part of this yearlong discipleship program"; and "But Scott Horrell," who was my theology professor who had thousands of students but put his arm particularly around me, who I actually went over my sermon notes for this morning with two nights ago; and "But Nate Graybill," who took a gospel gamble on this former drunk and was like, "Well, I'll make you the men's director of recovery" almost 13 years ago. "But Barnabas…"

As I thought about it, I feel like the Lord was like, "Who will you be 'But Barnabas' for or will you just look for the ones who are all cleaned up? Will you still believe there is gospel in people no matter what the sin, and will you be a 'But Barnabas' for the person who has just come to the faith out of all of this trouble? Will you care for them, love them, and shepherd them?"

Then the Spirit illuminates God's will. Romans 8:14 says, "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons [or daughters] of God." The mind set in accordance with the Spirit is life and peace. Those who are children of God are led by the Spirit of God. Page 62 of the A.A. Big Book says our problem actually wasn't alcohol; it's self-will run riot. We think we can control ourselves and everybody else.

I think we slip into that. That's what the Pharisees were guilty of. They were like, "Well, we know the commands of God, so we'll just operate according to him." He was like, "No, you can't do this apart from me." The Christian life is not an autonomous one where we're like, "Okay. Read the Word. Do what it says. Read the Word. Do what it says." That may sound like heresy. Like, "Wait. That is what we're supposed to do." Actually, there's so much more.

The Pharisees were trying to read what it said and do what it says. They were doing that, and Jesus was like, "Hey, you search the Scriptures in search of me, and they proclaim me throughout. You're missing it. This is a relationship, not just you following in religious duty." So, it's not "Read and do"; it's "Read, and then plead with God to lead you to do what it says." That we would never be like, "Yep. Yep. Yep. Okay, cool. Got it."

Instead, it's reading it, knowing, "That doesn't supernaturally dwell within me," so pleading with God to lead you according to his will. The application here is to pray before you read, before you open this book, the only Holy Book, and say, "Spirit of God, would you speak to me? Call to mind whatever it is you want to teach me today," so that we would hear and be led by him.

Then also in his life… That's the illumination of his Word, but also the illumination of his will, that we would be so interruptible in this life by the Spirit we'd be like, "Are you moving me to talk to him?" That we would see interruptions as divine interruptions…coworker, maybe, or someone in need. "Is there any way I could pray for you? Have I ever told you my story? Could I hear your story?" That we would be interruptible by the Spirit to lead us into his will in all things. The indwelling of the Spirit, the sanctification of the Spirit, and the illumination of the Spirit.

So, when AT&T came back on, the relief that came because I could communicate again was huge. In the Scriptures, we're told to keep in step with the Spirit. It's not just a quiet time, and then we go about our day. We're like, "I'll pray before meals and again before bed." Rather, it's all day, every day, this keeping in step with the Spirit as he lives and moves through us according to his will.

Now, church family, speaking of desiring to be Spirit-led, we, as the Elmore family, have an update to share with you, our family in Christ. I just shared this with the 9:00 as well. We love this church so much. There is a dream team here on a dream mission. I have a dream boss in David Dzina. You all are a dream to serve and lead with, and we dreamed that we would always be here.

Laura has joked often, "Bury me in the backyard." Like, "This is it. I'm not going anywhere." Yet she has also said that in the Christian life we don't get the luxury of writing in pen; God has us write in pencil. In November, when I learned that my job was changing… To be completely authentic and vulnerable, that was hard, and it hurt, but the week thereafter I met with all of the elders.

We sat down, and through prayer and tears and love and forgiveness, we are whole. That was in November. There's nothing lingering. It's fully resolved. In that time also, they invited me very graciously… "We're changing the model, but we want you to dream about what you would do next. We want you to be here for decades to come, so take time and space to dream about what role you would like to do."

In that moment, we stepped back. We felt like we were at a crossroads. Always at Watermark I've just kind of fallen to the next position, but this one felt unique and different in kind, where it was like, "Hey, we need to really step back and consider who God has called me to be, what the core giftings he has given me are." Where we arrived is we feel like he has called me to pastor, preach, and lead, that he has made me to be a pastor. The elders all affirmed that.

So, as such, I presented some roles, and then they presented some roles, but in the midst of evaluating those and thinking about them, while we desire, and desired, to stay at Watermark, we had this superseding and surpassing desire that we wanted to follow God in all things, that we wanted to be Spirit-led, that we're not the ones to call the shots but that God is. We determined that we would choose calling over comfort, because we wanted this to be our "always."

We also decided there would be no pros and cons list. It wasn't going to be by logic or rationale or preference, but we were going to pray, seek counsel, and wait on the Lord, just simply pray, "Lord, lead us. Lead us." In that time, without seeking, three other churches began conversations with us about pastoring roles. So we sought God. We now had four different things on the table. It was very confusing and overwhelming. So we were like, "All right, God. What do you want us to do? We love this church, yet these three others… What is it you're asking of us?"

We were met with silence, which actually was incredibly hard and frustrating. Like, "What are you doing? Why are you silent? Of all of the times to be silent, this is not the one we would choose." But we say that God seems really slow until he doesn't, and when he moved, he moved quickly. He moved unmistakably. He moved undeniably. He began showing us… We were pleading for God for clarity, and he has given it to us.

I think about a "connect the dots" picture, like kids would use. When there are three dots, you're like, "I don't know. It could be the top of a tree. It could be part of a car. That could be a wheel. I can't tell what that is." But with an increasing number of dots, you begin to see the picture. As we waited, there was silence, and then it was like dots…through a dream, through signs, through a knowing.

Laura would tell you she knew she had breast cancer before she had breast cancer. She walked out of the bathroom and was like, "God just told me I have breast cancer." I was like, "You're 36. What are you talking about?" She knew. Sure enough, she did. With this decision, I remember I came into the bedroom one night, and she said, "I know what we're supposed to do. I sense it from the Lord." I was like, "I don't know. We're still in conversations." She was like, "I just know it." She knew it before me, so much so that she said, "John, if we don't do this, we're in disobedience."

So, in faith and fear of the Lord, we're moving to Waco to serve alongside Jonathan Pokluda, JP, former campus pastor and teaching pastor here, at Harris Creek to help lead and care for the staff, pastor the flock, and preach, full deployment of my giftings. A year and a half ago, we were at this young adult conference with Laura, Monica, and JP, and we were talking. I'm always asking him… I mean, they're some of our closest friends.

I'm like, "How is the church? How are the elders? How is the staff? How is the body?" He was like, "Yeah, yeah. Good, good. You know, we lack something on our staff. I thought for a while it was executive pastor wiring. I think I actually need more of a number-one wiring, like, somebody else who has leadership, pastoral, preaching gifts." That has been a rock in my shoe ever since. So we prayed. I mean, as recently as this past summer, we were praying, "Lord, what would you have for us with that rock in the shoe?"

Yet in October, I remember Laura and I were in the kitchen, and we heard "Wait" very distinctly, independently from each other within 12 hours. We were praying. She came downstairs, and I was like, "I think I just heard 'Wait' regarding this conversation with JP." She was like, "I just did too." So we dropped it. We were like, "Okay, Lord. You say 'Wait.' We're waiting." There was peace in that. There was peace in that wait.

Then I was doing a re:gen leader's funeral, Larry Cropp, up in the Chapel, and I remember I called JP afterward and was like, "I can't do this. I can't even have this conversation. I love these people too much." But God continued to move, undeniably leading us as we have sought to be Spirit-led. So, at this point in time, I want to invite my family up. These are my kids. You've heard me talk about them a lot.

This first young man is Judd. You heard about him shooting out my window. The next one is Hill. He just turned 10 yesterday, and you've heard me talk about him and his faith. Then here's Penny Jane. She's the one who got the hamster who has made it in some illustrations. And, of course, my wife Laura. If you guys would stand over here… We wanted to thank you all publicly for this, because as we follow the Lord in faith, our words fail us for our love for you.

Laura was on staff for five years, me for almost 13. No part of this transition is any kind of commentary on Watermark. No part of this…hear me…is "We're hurt. We're leaving." This is not me taking my ball and going home. This is God calling us to a new role to do what God has made me to do. Frankly, we are more excited than ever for Watermark and this new direction, the prayer and fasting, the worship nights.

I've heard from all of you, and we are so behind the leadership in this direction. We grieve the leaving, you specifically, the body, as I look out and see names and faces of people I love. We grieve leaving you, yet are excited also for what God is calling us to. Both can be true, and are. It's heartbreaking, and at the same time heart-pounding anticipation as we walk into what's next with this exceedingly clear calling.

I'm so proud of these three and my bride as they're stepping in faith. It's one thing for me to be called, another for them, especially in their young faith with not a whole lot of "Ebenezers" to say, "Yeah, I've seen the Lord thus far," to say, "Okay, then we go too," and they go in faith. And my dear wife with this step of faith and saying that she knew also.

So, with your investment in us as a family, me as a staff member, you entrusting all of these years to us… Frankly, our livelihood has been because of your generous giving. We thank you. We thank you, and that falls woefully short. We want to bless you for your investment in our lives, your co-laboring in Christ. May the Lord lead us all. Thank you so much.


Ben Caldwell: You're hearing applause from people who are so incredibly grateful for the gift you've been to them. It is a sweet gift that for many people in this room, they know you, John, on Sunday mornings, but I get to know you and your bride as dear friends. Things that you're hearing in applause I'd like to attempt in a few words to say out loud to you.

Oh, goodness, brother. When I think of you, I think of a man of courage, a man of incredible kindness. You are a pastor of God's flock. You are a lover of people. You're a man who runs to the fire. You are a man who has walked with me through moments of trial and difficulty, loved me and my family. You love my kids and know them by name. You've been such a gift to us, such a gift to us, so we just want to say, "Thank you." Thank you for your faithfulness, brother.

Thank you, Laura, for your faithfulness. You are an amazing woman. Man! When I heard you coming to your man and sharing with him your conviction to follow God's calling even when it's scary and hard… I just marvel at that. I go, "What an amazing woman who has partnered with my brother who I love so much." So thank you. Thank you, sweet sister, for the way you are one with him and the way that he would not be the man and the pastor he is apart from your love and your support.

John, thank you, brother. Your efforts here and your labors here with us will last many, many years beyond your time on this team. We rejoice, brother, that our partnership in the gospel does not end here. Not at all. We all serve at the pleasure of the King, and we get to follow him where he leads. So, as elders, we rejoice with you.

We affirm with you God's call, and we celebrate that above comfort and above ease or familiarity, you're following where he's leading, and he has good and great things. The gift Harris Creek is getting in the both of you is just going to be like a gift they get to unwrap. They don't even know what they're receiving. It's the Lord's kindness to them, just as you have been the Lord's kindness to us. So thank you.

Rob Thomas: I just want to add to what Ben said so well. John and Laura, we love you. Just even hearing the response to you when you got up on stage… I want to speak honestly for the room and just say, first, we're really thankful and excited for what's happening here. This is what God is doing, and we believe it. We're so grateful for you. There's a pain in this, too, for us, because we're going to miss you guys. You guys have made such an impact.

John, the way you preach the gospel, the way you've led us to Scripture, the way you've testified with your story… If you've heard two sermons from this man, you know his story. You tell it so well, and you make such an impact when you do. We're so thankful, and we have to almost remind ourselves that one of the marks of Watermark is we want to be a sending church. That can happen in a lot of ways, but essentially, it means there are some who are here who eventually go there.

For you to be able to be here in the way you've made an impact and to go somewhere else and to make that kind of impact… Man, God gets the glory for that. So, we're so thankful. We want to pray for John, but before we do that, we actually have a dear, dear friend of ours who made a video message, and he'd like to speak to you right now.


Jonathan Pokluda: Hey, friends. My name is JP or Jonathan Pokluda. I have been incredibly blessed by Watermark Community Church. Not only did I get to serve there as one of the pastors on staff; I also became a Christian there about 20 years ago, so I am incredibly indebted to you. But my latest expression of gratitude is to you for sharing John Elmore with us at Harris Creek.

Five years ago, our family moved to Waco, Texas, to pastor a church there, and we are an extension of your ministry. We are an extension of your investment. I have been searching the world, really, to try to find someone to help me lead the body there. As Monica and I have prayed and talked with some of our closest friends in the entire world, the Elmores, God has made it abundantly clear that they are the ones to fill that need.

I'm so excited to be working with John closely. I know he leaves a void there. I know you guys love him so much. So I asked the elders if I could film this video as an expression of gratitude to you for sharing him with us. I am so encouraged by all God is doing there. I love Timothy Ateek (TA) so much. I love watching God move through him and my dear friend Blake Holmes and all of the elders there. They've been incredible in this conversation.

As soon as John and I thought this might even be a possibility, he looped in the elders. I had a conversation with the elders there, and they gave us their blessing. So, I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you. Please pray for us. Please pray for the Elmores in this transition. Pray for Harris Creek in this transition, and just know that I'm incredibly grateful for your generosity to us. I love you guys so much. Thank you for all that you've done to bless our church in Waco, Texas.

[End of video]

Timothy Ateek: One of the markers we've talked about is we've said we want to be a unifying church, which just means we want to be about what God is doing, not just here but all over the nation and other churches. What I love is we will partner together with John and JP for many years to come. I love that Harris Creek feels like an extension of Watermark and Watermark feels like an extension of Harris Creek. I love that we'll get to partner together for a long time.

Let me just ask you… I'm going to put an email on the screen. It's "johnelmoreemail." (We put "email" in there so you know this is an email address.) Don't assume John knows how God has used him in your life. Tell him. Okay? Take that email. That is an opportunity for you to express to him how God has used him in your life. I would strongly encourage you… Don't miss an opportunity to thank John for his investment in you.

Then here's what I know. John has personally prayed for thousands of you, so this is an opportunity for John and Laura to be prayed for by you. So, I just want to ask you even right now… If you're with someone, you can turn toward them. I want y'all to pray out loud for the Elmores. If you're here by yourself and you feel comfortable, pray out loud. Let's allow the Elmores to hear us, as a church family, gathering around them and praying to God for them. So, let's take a moment and pray out loud, pray together for the Elmores, and then we'll go from there.


Todd Anders: Dear heavenly Father, we thank you for the man that is John Elmore. We thank you for the work you have done in his life as he has yielded to you. He's one of those people who can say with confidence, "Follow me as I follow Christ." He has modeled that in our lives. He has ministered to us. He has loved us in the midst of toughness. We have seen a picture of what it means to yield to you and your Spirit through John. We celebrate that, and we know that is all you.

Father, just this morning, the verse you impressed upon my heart is "The Lord has done this; it is marvelous in our sight." We thank you, Lord. Even though we don't fully understand all that you do, we know that you are good and that your plans are better than ours. We yield to your will. Thank you, Father, for the Elmore family. We pray that you will bless every aspect of this move. We love what you're going to do in Harris Creek through John Elmore.

Mickey Friedrich: Yes, Lord. I do thank you for this man of God and his godly wife. I just thank you for the role of John in my life, just helping me understand how to pray, helping me understand how to trust you more radically, and just to live out our faith in all of the various ways you call us to. I thank you for the picture of the gospel we have in John Elmore and how you take us and draw us to yourself and write an amazing story that has nothing to do with ourselves but glorifies you.

I pray that you will continue to lead them. I pray that you will continue to make their paths straight, Lord, throughout the transition, that you will, through all of this, draw John and Laura closer to you and, as a result, draw them closer to each other, Lord. I pray for the days ahead in this new season, all that you have for them, and I thank you for all of the days we've had together here in Dallas here at Watermark and just rejoice that those days aren't over, Lord.

I do pray for Harris Creek, that you will continue to give JP and those elders and John wisdom as they lead that body, and I pray for more opportunities for us to serve together, to worship you together, anticipating the days that we get to worship you together for eternity. Thank you for John. Thank you for your Spirit, how you've led through all of this. Thank you for your love, and thank you for Jesus, amen.

Jon Abel: Church, if we can make it through, I think it's a good and right thing for us to do to praise the God from whom all blessings flow and sing the "Doxology" together. So will you join me in singing to the Lord?


John: There are a lot of benedictions throughout the New Testament, and in the Old, and Laura and I looked over about 20 of them to try to find one that fit this and this season. There's a first portion that I want to say to Harris Creek, if anyone is listening in from there, and the second, the balance of it, for Watermark. If you would, please bow your heads.

To Harris Creek: "Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you…" And to Watermark: "…may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." Amen. Lord, lead us all. Have a great week of worship. We love you.

About 'A Spirit-Led Church'

We study the work and person of the Holy Spirit so that we can more fully understand and experience the Spirit in our lives.