HUNGER FOR GOD 9c Jun 3-Pentecost The Power
The Power Behind Spiritual Passion
The book of Acts is a unique book in the New Testament that illustrates and describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But as people have studied His ministry, there have been 2 extremes that have emerged:
1st There are those who seek only knowledge. These people teach the Holy Spirit as if He were a concept. As a result they think that to know the facts about the Spirit is to have Him operational in their lives. But knowledge without the Spirit is dead orthodoxy.
2nd There are those who seek only experience. This group have reduced the activity of the Holy Spirit to manifestations that look make them look clownish. But experience without knowledge, is cheap sentimentalism.
So, in our pursuit of spiritual passion, we must learn to strike a balance. We must embrace and live the FACT that life in the Spirit is BOTH knowledge and experience. So let’s turn our attentions now to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Will open your Bibles to Acts 1? The Author of this book is the Holy Spirit…the writer is Dr. Luke—the physician who was converted under Paul’s ministry and who became a companion of Paul in his journeys.
Acts 1:1-3 What Luke is doing is recounting for us the final moments of Jesus with His disciples, just prior to Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. And as Jesus spends those final moments with the disciples He is introducing them to a whole new orientation of life, called Kingdom Living. Kingdom Living is the new set of guidelines on how life is to be lived by people who have entered into this new relationship with God called Christianity.
In fact, if you have been a Christian for a while, you have come to realize, that the expectations in God’s Kingdom are a whole lot different from the Kingdom you came out of. That is, there are standards that were acceptable out there, that are not acceptable in the Kingdom.
I was talking to someone who had recently come into the Kingdom who was a little frustrated. She said she was frustrated because she can’t go off on her husband like she used to…and then she reads this submission stuff and following your husband…and she said, “Follow your husband…how are you suppose to follow a parked car?” She was frustrated, because what she was hearing was very different from the life she lived in the world and so the problem wasn’t the information she was hearing, it was how to implement what she was hearing.
I mean if I wasn’t raised this way and nobody else around me is doing it, how in the world can I do it? You can’t! That is precisely why Jesus gives “orders” to the 11…to teach those who receive His gift of grace…what it means to live life in this new environment called the Kingdom. But, Jesus says, in verse 4, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for what the Father has promised.” In other words, don’t just go out there and start running your mouth just because you have some new facts, because the facts without the Spirit is a waste of time.
You see, God understands we cannot fully pull off what He expects. God knows that the challenges of our lives; the challenges of our marriages...our attitudes…our personalities…our past and our addictions will NOT be overcome merely by coming to church on Sundays in order to gather new data.
And so God, knowing of our insufficiency, has granted us a new power source Who is the Holy Spirit. And so part of the Holy Spirit’s purpose to empower Christians to live Kingdom lives. IOWs it was and it is the Holy Spirit’s job to be to us what Jesus had been to the disciples: that is a Friend and a Guide, because in the Kingdom there is no power in information alone.
So how does the Holy Spirit work on us? Let’s take this step by step. What about our first encounter with the Spirit—what’s our role? Nothing! We have nothing to do with our first encounter with the Holy Spirit. IOWs, the first the encounter is all about God’s pursuing love. In that pursuit, the Holy Spirit worked on our heart…and we had the choice as to whether or not we were going to respond.
After the first encounter however, this all changes. Suddenly at that point, there must be a personal involvement of the believer in accessing the power of the Spirit…a power Jesus makes available to every believer equally. Therefore, while no Christian has any more of the presence of the Holy Spirit than any other Christian…some Christians have more of the power of the Holy Spirit than other Christians.
That’s the reason Jesus told the disciples in verse 4: “Go and wait, until you and the Spirit have connected.” You see, Jesus wanted the disciples to know that even with their three-year personal theological education it wasn’t enough: fundamentals are not enough. Knowing the fundamentals will make you a mechanical Christian, but it won’t make you a powerful Christian. So loved ones, you don’t get that power either from merely being here on Sunday and listening to sermons.
In fact, do you want to know why some believers experience a problem in their life that is winning most of the time? Well, unless there is some physical explanation where medicinal help is needed, they have a Holy Spirit deficiency. Why do I say that—because Jesus says, transformation is found only in the power of the Holy Spirit…Jesus said, “You shall receive power…when the Holy Spirit has come.”
So, they got together in the upper room, verse 13, and were totally focused on the coming of the Holy Spirit: v 14 IOWs, they wanted power, not merely performance. So they went to the Upper Room and waited. So the key to being filled with the Spirit is waiting.
But the problem with waiting is…it’s hard. Why—because we’re so use to doing things ourselves. In fact, let me make an observation about this waiting stuff. We are told (verse 15) that there were 120 men and women in the upper room who had gathered together to meet with the Lord…but… there were 500 who heard Jesus give those instructions on the mountain.
1 Corinthians 15, says 500 were addressed by the risen Lord, but only 120 were in the room.
Now that made me wonder what happened to the 380. Could it be that the 380 didn’t feel like waiting? And could it further be that only 120 really believed it would make a difference. What is more could it also be that from those 380 who decided they only needed facts, there came the group that opposed the Apostles Paul at every turn…who in fact followed Paul trying to reverse His teaching saying they had the “real facts.” And could it still further be that in liturgical congregations today, all over this nation, that 1,000’s will hear about the Spirit, but only a few will really look to the Spirit’s approach to Kingdom living? Jesus said wait on the power!
What else do you need to know about how the Spirit’s empowerment works? Well look: the Lord commands, as they wait, to come together corporately. Now He wasn’t denying their personal responsibility to wait on the Lord, but He was saying there is more leverage when you come together. You see, when I’m alone I only get as much of the Spirit as I can be filled with, but when we come together the power of compound interest comes into play, because there is strength in Spiritual numbers. Remember it was Jesus who said, “When two or more ask anything in My Name,” so even our ability to leverage Heaven is greater when we come together. So they come together, and they wait.
Now let me make a couple of important distinctions before we go to Chapter 2: the Bible talks about two events involving the Spirit; the baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12 it says this: v13 What I believe this passage and many others like it are clearly saying, is that once you become a Christian, once you put your trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit begins to indwell you. In fact, listen to 1 Corinthians 6:19…
Now there is much debate today about the need for a “second baptism,” or a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” as if it is possible to be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. But what is possible, is to be a follower of Jesus without having the Holy Spirit and hence without being a Christian. In fact, turn with me quickly to Acts 19: vv 1-6.
There are two things that I find fascinating about this passage:
#1 They are followers of Jesus. There is no question about their status.
They are followers of Jesus in the same way they had been followers of John…under whose ministry they had been baptized in a baptism of repentance. What they had not done however, was put their trust in Jesus as their Savior. So they were going around preaching Jesus without the power of Jesus. The second thing I find extremely interesting about this passage is..
#2 Because they were baptized under John’s ministry, it was necessary for them to be baptized in th name of Jesus. Once they are baptized, Paul lays on hands and they are filled with the Holy Spirit.
So, once you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit immediately comes into your life, but what He does not do, because it is not His job to do it, is keep you filled. So let’s look at being filled with the Holy Spirit.
The first observation we need to make is this: Kingdom power comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:1-2a I like that phrase – “suddenly…out of heaven,” That means it comes from a source different then I can come up with, because the only thing I have access to in the flesh is earthly strategies…but what the Holy Spirit brings is heavenly access.
The 2nd observation is this: the first followers of Jesus knew they needed power if they were going to carry out their assignment…so they went into God’s presence and that’s where they lived until they got it. So what does that mean? Well it doesn’t mean you stop going to work…and life just ceases to be. But what it does mean is that I make a conscious decision to live in God’s presence personally…on a daily basis…and furthermore, that I make a conscious effort to live with the people of God who are living in His presence. (Hebrews 10:25 Do not neglect to meet…) As a result of their obedience look what happens… ACTS 2
v2a Now the word “wind” and the word “spirit” are the same word throughout the Bible, in fact you can often just replace the word wind with the word Spirit as you’re reading and it still makes sense, sometimes more sense. The Spirit is like the wind, John 3:8 says, blowing where He wills. And so in verse 2 there is a violent, rushing wind that begins to blow, and it totally consumes the house.
And let me tell you something loved ones, given the place God is taking us, some of us need a hurricane to start blowing in our lives, and we don’t even have a fan turned on yet. IOWs, for some of us, we come to church and get a little breeze and think that’s enough, well a breeze is not going to be enough, some of us need to be knocked over by a straight line wind of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus commanded them, He didn’t make a suggestion, Jesus commanded them, He said, “You listen to Me and you listen well, this is serious business, this is a serious assignment you’ve got and so you need to be seriously in God’s presence. Now you get yourselves to the upper room and you hang out there until He shows up.” In other words, and this is the final observation about Jesus’ command: they made the Spiritual decision “Not to give up, until God shows up.” And boy did God show up…
VV 2-3 – The tongues were as of fire. Now a lot of people have fiery tongues, but that’s not what this means. These tongues were set ablaze. In other words, when these tongues spoke, words weren’t going to fall like information out of Webster’s Dictionary, these tongues were going to shake something…as a result of these tongues, things were going to change.
Let me make some observations here:
Jonathon Edwards preached one of the most powerful sermons of his day called, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He painted sinners hanging over the fires of hell by a thread. They say that the words fell on the hearts of the people so vividly, they rushed to the altar even as he delivered it crying out, “What must I do to be save?”
Now you may say, “He must have been quite a dynamic speaker.” But it is recorded fact that Jonathon Edwards was not only not a charismatic speaker, but he read his sermons, rarely even looking up at the people in the pews. No…Jonathan Edwards was not a dynamic speaker…but Jonathan Edwards had a tongue a flame. So my first observation is this: a tongue of flame happens when God lights up the words so they penetrate the eardrum and attach to the soul of the hearer. IOWs, they were given tongues a fire so that ordinary speech becomes super-ordinary communication.
The second observation is this, the tongues of fire, rested on each one of them. I like that, even though we are a part of a larger church family, God knows what tongue you need.
Now this leads to a third interesting observation: v4 These followers had already been baptized, in other words, placed into the family of God, but they had not yet been filled. That is, being baptized and being filled are not the same thing. IOWs, #3 All believers are equally baptized, but not all believers are equally filled. To illustrate this:
One of the pictures of the Holy Spirit, given at the end of John 7, describes Him as a life-giving source of water in a never ending well. Now you know when water continues to flow through something, it remains moist and supple. But when things dry up; they crack, and get crusty. And loved ones, there’s a lot of crusty Christians going around today because it’s been a long time since the Holy Spirit has flowed through them. In fact, they can’t tell you when the last time was they experienced a sudden rushing wind, they can’t say the last time heaven came out of no where. Why—because they have spent their whole Christian life doing it themselves. And as a result they’re so self-sufficient, God doesn’t even have the opportunity to show He is God.
In our passage, a 120 people are in the room—well let’s look at the crowd for a moment: You got Peter whose denied the Lord, you got doubting Thomas saying I’ll believe it when I see it; and there all scared to death locked away in the upper room…so you got a denying Christian, a doubting Christian, and there all afraid of the Jews so you have fearful Christians. In other words, you’ve got 120 defeated people gathered in that room, and that’s good news for us, because that means if you don’t have it all together yet, but you’re willing to come into God’s presence, and stay there, God can turn defeat into victory because you’re in the right room.
So where before we had scared defeated Christians…now, because they have been filled with Holy Spirit power they go out: vv 5-7
What happened? The Holy Spirit showed up. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. So what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
The filling of the Holy Spirit is when you come under God’s supernatural control and act outside of yourself. So, where you would normally cuss somebody out, you now control your tongue; where you normally would hate, you now find the ability to love, where you are normally discouraged, you now see another way because you have become filled with a force outside yourself. That’s what happened here…because they stayed in God’s presence until God showed up, they were now living at a whole new level.
You see, in the Bible, being filled with the Spirit is not an invisible thing. In chapter 6 the disciples are told to choose men filled with the Spirit. So that must mean that being filled is an observable commodity.
So what does it look like? It looks like people who live on the level of heaven even though physically they are on the level of earth. That is, earth does not control how they function because they are living based on a whole new standard.
But you say, “John, you don’t know my problem!” I know this about your problem; it’s an earthly one. So if you can be lifted higher than your circumstances, your problem may not change but your relationship to it will change.
But you say, “My spouse is never going to change!” Ok, let’s take the worse case scenario, that your spouse is never going to change. The real problem is you’re living on the same level where you are finding it impossible to live with that changeless situation. But if you are lifted up by the Holy Spirit, even if your spouse doesn’t change, because you have changed the position from which you are looking at him/her, or the problem at work or whatever it is, it changes how you are, even if there is no change in the situation.
Now we can talk about Holy Ghost power. But we say, “Oh the Holy Spirit was here today because I shouted!! Well how do you know? The Holy Spirit is more than that. The Holy Spirit is more than roaring like lions, barking like dogs, or laughing like hyenas. And although I have both laughed and cried very hard in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the job of the Holy Spirit is this and you mark it well loved ones:
#1 The job of the Holy Spirit is to get you and me to live outside of ourselves…
#2 The job of the Holy Spirit is to cause us to act in ways we wouldn’t normally act. And when that happens now you can say you found the power, because…
#3 The Holy Spirit’s job is to empower for living and NOT for momentary emotions.
God transformed those people in our passage, and they declared His mighty works. The same people who were scared to death just yesterday, went among the very people they were afraid of and declared His Mighty Works! What happened to them? – Nothing but a new wind.
But let me tell you something, my family, yesterday’s filling cannot help you today. We’ve got to have fresh wind and fresh fire. You’ve got to wait upon the Spirit and be filled.