Holy Spirit Power
Acts: Faith in Action
“Holy Spirit Power”
Last week we began the series on Acts and heard about the ministry of Jesus that was being continued by the disciples, what Jesus began, they were going to continue. But before they began they were instructed to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. So they waited for ten days.
Jesus has left them and gone to heaven and the remaining eleven disciples had chosen Matthias to replace Judas so there are again twelve disciples so they could fulfill Psalm 109 verse 8 “Let another take his office.”
Please turn to Acts 2 verse 1 as we pick up the story. We find the disciples gathered with other believers numbering about 120 waiting for the gift that Jesus had promised.
This was the day of Pentecost an annual feast that followed the Feast of Firstfruits by a week of weeks (seven weeks, or 49 days) and therefore also was called the Feast of Weeks. The name “Pentecost,” in Greek, means 50 because it was the 50th day after the Firstfruits feast.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The Holy Spirit came miraculously, there could be no mistaking that this was a God thing from beginning to end. There was a sound like a violent wind that filled the whole house but without the destruction. When people experience a tornado they say it sounds like a train going by, a deafening sound that must have been a bit terrifying to those in the room.
Then there were what appeared to be tongues of fire that separated from a single source and came to rest on each of them. What must they have been thinking? Are we going to die? Disbelief? Shock?
God was beginning his church with a bang! He was giving them his own Spirit, he was breathing life into them, without his Spirit the church was dead.
John Stott a British Christian leader and pastor says this about the Holy Spirit: “Without the Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible. There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlikeness of character apart from his fruit, and no effective witness without his power. As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead.”
The Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to living the Christian life.
Woodbury Community church has this to say about the Holy Spirit in it’s Statement of Faith:
We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by Whose indwelling power and fullness the Christian is enabled to live a godly life in this present evil world.
The Holy Spirit is present to us today, right here, right now, to every one who said yes to Jesus as Lord of their life, enabling us to live godly lives.
How do we get in on the action? How do we get the power that the people present in that room got? The power that propelled them to do things that weren’t humanly possible. That power is accessible to you and to me.
It isn’t in the way described in this story, because this was a one time event, a one time move of the Spirit. There isn’t a formula that we can duplicate. There isn’t a program that we can subscribe to.
The Holy Spirit was given in different ways in the book of Acts and didn’t follow a prescribed pattern. Sometimes he was given immediately after people repented and were baptized, sometimes awhile after believing and being baptized, sometimes before.
Scripture shows us in Acts 2:38 that the gift of the Spirit came after Peter had preached a sermon immediately after the miracle we just read about. A crowd of visitors from other nations was drawn by the sound of the rushing wind and people speaking in their own foreign languages. So Peter preached a sermon explaining the Good News and the people listening wanted in on the Good News.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Here is an example of people hearing the Good News, repenting, being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit immediately.
In Acts 8:12, 14-17 there is an example of people receiving the gift awhile AFTER they believed and were baptized.
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women… 14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 10:44-48 they received the Holy Spirit BEFORE believing and being baptized with water. This is the story of Peter witnessing to Cornelius and his family, non-Jews.
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
The Holy Spirit cannot be put in a box and controlled. He can’t be manipulated or bought. There is a story in Acts 8 about Simon a sorcerer
9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw…
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!
We see the unpredictability and movement of the Spirit when Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus in John 2:8
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
These stories tell us about the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. They also tell us that we can expect to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we are empowered to do the ministry God has called us to do, to get in on the action of the kingdom of God.
I hear these stories about the Holy Spirit and how the disciples moved in his power to witness, to heal, to advance the kingdom of God in a dark and broken world. And I’m reminded that I’m not a spectator, but I’m supposed to be in on the action, alive and abiding with Christ. Why don’t I always feel like it though? Why are there times, many times, too many times when I feel weak and helpless and so unlike these followers of Jesus in the book of Acts.
I long for a miracle like the people in the story, when God unmistakably breaks in on my little world and I’m suddenly transformed. There have been moments of transformation, but the unmistakable ones have been far and few between. I remember the time I was at a healing conference and during the worship time the Spirit of God fell on me so strong that I was moved to tears. I wept as God brought healing to some brokenness I had experienced in my past.
I remember another time when I was particularly low and in need of God’s touch. It didn’t come suddenly or miraculously, but slowly and over time, lots of time. The Spirit of God moves in his own way, his own time. My time isn’t his time.
If my spiritual journey has taught me anything though, it has taught me that God is here today, right here, right now, enabling me to live a godly life. And Jesus in Matthew 7 tells us “ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
We need to be filled with the Spirit.
Peter in Acts 4:8 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, …
Stephen later in Acts7:55 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, …
Paul after his conversion in Acts 13:9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, 1afilled with the Holy Spirit,…
This could be my story: But Jim, full of the Holy Spirit…
This could be your story: But _______, filled with the Holy Spirit…
But _______, full of the Holy Spirit…
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians instructing the church in how to live a Christian life says 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
In the New Testament, the Greek verbs meaning “to fill” are always in the passive voice when filling with the Spirit is described. We “are filled,” we do not fill ourselves. God fills us.
We are going to spend some reflective time now asking God to fill us with his Spirit. I will lead us in this time and I only ask that you enter this time open to God filling you. You may feel his presence or you may not. Our faith isn’t dependent on our feelings, but it is dependent on our obedience and faithfulness. Our feelings go up and down depending on what we are going through. Faith is trusting that what God has said he would do he will do.
So please bow your head and close your eyes. Focus on God and his love for you. Accept the fact that he told us to ask for what we need. In Ephesians 1 Paul says this about Jesus 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
He fills everything. In every way he fills everything. Lord Jesus, right here, right now fill us. You say in your Word that when you went away you would send the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to be spectators Lord, we want to be empowered followers. Come and fill us with your presence, fill us with your power so we can be witnesses to a dark and broken world. So we can be a light in the darkness. So we can help advance your kingdom. Come Holy Spirit.
Eph. 1:13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
Thank you Lord for this promise. Amen.
1 Or having just been filled
a Acts 2:4; 4:8