Empowered To Stand Your Ground
Today I want to begin a sermon series on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. The series is called “Empowered to Live in the Moment.” The purpose of the series is to demonstrate through scripture that when one lives a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life, he or she is empowered to handle any moment he or she may face.
The backdrop of this teaching is found in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, otherwise noted as the Acts of the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts provides for us a wealth of content from which to gain information, insight and illustrations. Now just because the book of Acts will serve as our main text, that does not mean we will ignore the whole counsel of scripture in series, for much is said about the Holy Spirit throughout the Scriptures, both in the Old and New Testament.
As we begin, let us recall that two weeks ago was deemed Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost Sunday is observed more readily in the Pentecostal and Holiness traditions, but in recent years, churches across the board who have an appreciation and respect for the liturgical calendar have begun embracing the celebration of Pentecost Sunday.
Pentecost Sunday remembers the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the people of God who waited as instructed by Jesus in the Upper Room until they had been endowed with “power from on high!” (Luke/ ).
Well the day had come and the people were with one accord praising God and suddenly there was a phenomenon like non other. There was a sound, like a might rushing wind. There was a sight, cloven tongues of fire appeared and rested upon everyone of them. There was a sign, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit of God gave them utterance. In the words of the old saints of God who either believed in the old fashion Pentecostal tarrying or the Baptist mourners bench, both of which required that sinners or new believers go down on your knees and call on the name of the Lord until you had an experience. In that experience, the people would testify that they heard something, they saw something and they felt or experienced something.
Likewise, these 120 in that upper room heard something, saw something, and they experienced something that radically changed their lives and the lives of those who would also experience something new. Peter now filled with the Holy Spirit stands with boldness and preaches until 3000 souls come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The atmosphere is electric. There’s a movement taking people by storm. It’s different than ceremonial religion. It’s more than going to synagogue or Temple. It’s beyond the Sunday morning 8 or 11 o’clock service, Facebook or Live Stream. This thing is fire, it’s life, it’s heightened expectation, it’s so powerful until Peter and John’s level of expectancy is heightened.
So heightened is their expectation that one day they were headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. There at the gate of the Temple named Beautiful, there is a lame man lying there begging for a handout. He obviously had been there for many years because he was lame from birth. No doubt Peter and John had seen him before, perhaps even Jesus since the man is more than forty () years old. But this time something was different, so different until Peter and John engages in a behavior contrary to most folk when approaching someone who is reduced to begging for survival. While most people approaching someone like this would display their unwillingness to engage them by looking away, Peter and John look at him. The King James Version says, “They fastened their eyes on him.” The NLT says, “They looked at him intently.” The NASB95 says, “Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him.”
It is clear from these expressions that Peter’s intent was to engage the moment. He had no intention of missing this moment. This was a moment of truth, a moment to be true to one’s conviction. It was a moment that created an opportunity for Peter and John to demonstrate publically what they professed privately. Believing that the power of Pentecost was more than an occasion of speaking in other tongues, more than a proclamation to the point of winning 3000 souls to the church, Peter and John now stepped into the moment of mimicking what Jesus did when he told the lame man to rise, pick up his bed and walk, Peter recalling that moment, along with hearing Jesus declare, “The works that you have seen me do, greater works will you do,” () Peter with the boldness that he alone possessed says to this man,
“I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazarene, get up and walk!” () Instantly, this man’s ankle bones receives strength and he jumps up, stands on his feet and begins to walk, leap, and give God praise. People were astatic and celebrated this man’s healing, his deliverance and his new liberation.
But while this man, his family and the general populous celebrated and gave God praise, there was a group of people who prided themselves as the gatekeepers of the Law, who took issue with the man’s healing. The religious leaders, the Pharisees, Scribes, the Sanhedrin Council, the religious elite of the day were too consumed with the fellas who performed the miracle. These experts in the study of the Prophets, the Psalms, the Law of Moses, with all that sacred text tucked away in their psyche’, with all of their biblical knowledge, were yet so distant from the God of signs, wonders, and miracles, until instead of celebrating the blessing of healing, they investigated the what, when, how and why of the healing.
Like these men, you and I could often find ourselves facing some scrutiny when we attempt to bring honest healing, deliverance and liberation to others who are relegated to a less than humane existence.
Today, Disney and ABC have fallen under the attack of our divisive President for taking a stand against systemic racist remarks that were tweeted by conservative comedian Rosanne Barr who thought it was humorous to speak of a well respected former White House employee under President Barak Obama VJ as resembling an ape. There is a pervasive permeating posture of those who feel they no longer have to shield their racist and demeaning thoughts and opinions. People, now more than ever, feel empowered to unleash rhetoric that cuts, divides and demeans. But Disney the Parent Company of ABC was not willing to tolerate this kind of racist tweeting but stood their ground and cancelled her show.
Another assault is under weigh and that is the assault on families, for we are watching the destruction of the family as Mexican children are being taken away from their parents for crossing the boarders in search for a better way of living. Children are being taken from their parents, placed in somewhat concentration camp type existences, awaiting a foster system all without informing the parents or without the consent of the parents. It sound like the same tactics used in slavery to destroy the black family. Sadly, these tactics are being deployed by a president that represents a political party that deems itself conservatively Christian, and although I am not the brightest light bulb in the pack, I am not the sharpest knife in the kitchen, and I may not be the most solid theologian among us, but I don’t think Jesus would do something like that.
Church, there are so many atrocities facing humanity and so many deplorable acts going down in our country that are adversely affecting people of color, poor people, the elderly, and those who are already finding it challenging just to live from day to day, until we something to help us speak out, show up and stand our ground no matter what. When I speak in terms of “We” I am talking specifically about the church. We the Church need some help. We’ve got activist, we’ve got major player involved in politics, we’ve got people in places of influence in every echelon of civic life. We’ve got more education now than ever before. We’ve got more resources at our disposal than ever before; and yet we still need help.
We need what our ancestor had, we need a power that cannot be pimped, we need a toughness that cannot be threatened by ill treatment. We need a conviction that cannot be compromised. We need a boldness that cannot be bought. We need a sense of purpose that cannot be persuaded by the rhetoric of a classless, distasteful, entitled society that feels its okay to step on others while exalting one-selves. We need the power of the Holy Spirit that renders one steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
In other words, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to help us stand our ground. Stand our ground regarding biblical truth, a liberating gospel, a Christ that healed the broken hearted, recovered sight for the blind, set a liberty them that are oppressed, regarding human rights, our own personal testimonies, and stand our ground when facing those who would shut us down when we argue for healthcare, fair housing, and a judicial system that really provided justice for all.
Don’t get it twisted, was not just about witnessing, but it was also about resisting, because in order to be a witness, one needed dunimus (dynamite power), the power of the Holy Spirit enabled one to be a witness (martyr) meaning that every time you dare shared your faith in Christ, your life could be required because witnesses were not just talking about how good God was, but it was also a public statement that pledged an allegiance to one other than the political leadership of their day, and in order to live under the constant threat of persecution and even death, they needed power! If the disciples needed power, then we also need power!
For forty years this man was lame, carried around and placed here and there to beg for survival, and during this season in his life there is no word or action from those in religious or political power. However, the moment these ordinary men take steps to change the destiny of a broken individual, folks have issues.
However, I propose that when you are Holy Spirit filled, and Spirit-led, then you are empowered to stand your ground even when facing opposition.
My sermon is brief today, just two points for your consideration and I’ll take my seat.
When we consider “standing your ground” obviously in our context the who issue of protecting what’s yours comes to mind. The hideous and tragic death of Travon Martin comes to mind because his murderer was exonerated based on his premise that his actions were protected by the “stand your ground” law in Florida. To stand your ground means to protect what’s yours. I propose this morning that based on the text that I’ve lifted in our hearing, believers have two things that warrant standing our ground on, your miracle and your message.
When you are really about Kingdom work, folk will try to do two things. First they will try to diminish your miracle. We find here in the text that these religious leaders did not celebrate the miracle of this man’s healing, but instead they questioned how it happened? You would think that being religious they would have rejoiced, they would have given God glory, but instead they went after the men who performed the miracles and questioned their authority. In essence, they pushed back the miracle, they diminished the miracle, they downplayed the miracle and went after the miracle workers.
Peter answered with boldness that this miracle was wrought by the name of Jesus the Nazarene, the one whom they had crucified, but had been raised from the dead by the powerful hand of God. Peter spoke with such boldness until the Scribes, Pharisees and religious leaders of that day took notice. Peter was definitely not seminary material and these boys had no formal religious training, but it was clear that they had been with Jesus.
Church, when God works out something powerful in your life, you would think that those who claim to know God would rejoice with you, but so often the opposite is true. The folk that should celebrate you don’t, but instead they questions the authenticity of your miracle, your testimony, your story. They challenge whether or not this think really is from God, and they begin to project their own limited thinking on you. What is so apparent, particularly in the scripture is that the man whose miracle is was, was standing right in front of them and the scriptures say that they could not deny this miracle.
I can’t tarry here long, but you just help me preach this point a moment! Tell somebody, they may not like your miracle, but they cannot deny your miracle. Oh, they may not like your gift, your talent, your promotion, your opportunity, your blessing, but they cannot deny it. They cannot deny it because when God does something, God does it in a way that no one can deny it. God make so obvious that even your enemies have to declare that it was hand of the Lord. When you’ve been stuck all your life long, when you’ve have been a loser all life long, when you’ve been broken, last, lost, and God delivers you, no matter what people want to say or believe, they cannot deny the fact that you are blessed and favored by the hand of a Mighty God!
Secondly, they will try to denounce your message. Even when they cannot deny your miracle, they will still try to denounce your message. When the religious men realized that they could not deny the miracle that stood before them, then they decided to mess with the method or means by which this miracle was performed. They told Peter and John, “We don’t want you preaching or teaching any more in the name of Jesus. Peter is different now. He’s not filled with the Holy Spirit and he now walks in the spirit of boldness and his message will not be denounced.
Secondly, they will try to micromanage your message.
He told them, whether it is right to obey man rather than God, that was for his haters to decide, but as for him and John, they could not help but testify regarding the things they have seen and heard. And when they were released, they went to join the rest of the Apostolic crowd, they prayed and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the word with boldness. Some of you might as well get ready for it and prepare for the fact that one day somebody is going to attempt to quiet you message, They will ask you to change your rhetoric, take out the Jesus portion of your talk/speech, or to stop utilizing the name of Jesus so much in your conversation.
May I encourage you today? I’ve come back to tell you that you have been empowered to stand your ground! You have dunimus and exusia, you have the power and the authority to stand your ground. You are anointed to stand your ground, called to it, and you must stand your ground. Stand on your testimony, miracle, faith, biblical truth, stand your ground.
When you stand your biblical ground, God backs you up with more power, more authority, more anointing, more victory, more opportunity, more grace, more conviction, my success, but you have to stand your ground!