How Do I Get Empowered Part 2
This morning we are picking back up in our study of the book of Acts.
If you’re new to our church, it would be good for you to know that we practice a form of preaching called “Expository Preaching”. What that means is we believe the Bible is best taught by taking books of the Bible and then studying them from beginning to end, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, in order to understand what the Bible means in our lives today.
With that said we are currently working our way through the book of Acts, in fact, we just started Acts a couple of weeks ago, so if you are new to MCF, you’ve come at a great time and I would encourage you to go online where you can watch all the messages leading up to today.
You may recall last week that we started the journey of learning what it takes to become spiritually empowered.
And when I say spiritually empowered, I’m talking about the spiritual empowerment that Jesus promised us in the Gospel of Luke. In Luke 24:49 of that chapter, Luke writes:
And when I say empowerment, I’m talking about the promise of the Father, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Jesus references this promise in . Luke writes:
49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
What Jesus is referring to in this passage is one of the works of the Holy Spirit, the work of empowerment.
An empowerment that allows us and enables us to be the witnesses Jesus wants us to be.
An empowerment that awakens the spiritual gifts and abilities God has given each of us.
An empowerment that Jesus said is necessary if we want to accomplish the mission of reaching this World with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In fact, so necessary was this empowerment that Jesus told his disciples not to do anything until they had received it. In Luke writes:
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;
Jesus said, “Don’t go anywhere or do anything until you’ve been empowered by the Holy Spirit.”
The fact of the matter is, if the disciples were going to take the Gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, they were going to need help to do it. They were going to need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
And what was true for them is true for us as well. The fact of the matter is, if we truly want to reach our community, our county, our region, our state, our country, and the entire world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we need more than a building, more than fancy marketing, more than great worship and preaching, and more than a great kids and youth program. If we truly want to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ then we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
The question then is, “How do we get that empowerment? How do we get spiritually equipped with everything we need to lead people to Jesus?”
That’s a great question, and if we’re serious about following Jesus, it’s a question we need to know the answer to.
Well, like anything that advances us or betters us, the empowerment of the Spirit comes with some prerequisites.
And when I say prerequisite, I’m talking about something that is required as a prior condition for something else to happen or exist.
The example I gave you last week was my desire to attend the Air Force Academy out of High School. And if you recall, there are four primary prerequisites that have to be met in order to attend the Air Force Academy.
To be considered you have to obtain an appointment from a congressman or state senator.
You have to complete specific high school courses that includes four years of English; Four years of math that includes geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; Four years of science that includes biology, chemistry, and physics; and two years of modern foreign language.
You need to obtain a class rank in the top 40% of your high school, but preferably be in the top 3%. Those are the ones they truly consider.
You have to obtain an average score of a 30 or above on the ACT.
The point is, most things that advance us or aid in our growth typically come with a set of prerequisites.
And what is true for getting a certain job or getting into a certain school or program is true for our spiritual journey as well. In order to grow and advance in our journey of faith, there are some spiritual prerequisites that must be met.
In other words, in order to be empowered, there are some prior conditions that we need to be committed to in our life:
Conditions that require a certain level of spiritual commitment and focus.
Conditions that requires a certain degree of self evaluation and honesty.
Conditions that when met open the door for you and I to receive the promise of empowerment.
So, what are the prerequisites for spiritual empowerment? Well, as we learned there are four primary prerequisites, and last week we looked at the first two.
So, just to make sure we are all on the same page, I want to take a few minutes and review the first two prerequisites before we move on to the final two.
You may recall the first prerequisite for spiritual empowerment revolved our our faith in Jesus. It could be stated like this:
Prerequisite #1: In order to be spiritually empowered, I must be a commited Christ follower and disciple of Jesus.
13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
The point that Luke is making here is that everybody in the this room that is waiting for empowerment, is a disciple of Jesus. They were committed Christ followers.
Men and women who had fully committed their lives to Jesus.
Men and women committed to the mission of leading others to Jesus.
Men and women who have moved beyond just being a church goer and have become Christ followers.
Men and women who have committed their lives to Jesus. Men and women committed to the mission of leading others to Jesus. Men and women who are no longer just church goers, they are Christ followers. Everything about their lives now revolves around their relationship with Jesus.
Men and women who now revolve their life around their relationship with Jesus.
That’s the kind of person that God empowers. Somebody that has devoted their life 100% to following Jesus.
Now, when I say that, some might think, “Wow, pastor, that sounds pretty radical. It sounds like you are saying in order for a person to follow Jesus, they have to be some kind of Jesus freak.” Yeah, in a way I am saying that. If you want to follow Jesus, there needs to be a high degree of Jesus focus in your life.
So, what does that look like? Well, it doesn’t mean that you have to wear
So, what does that look like? Well, it doesn't mean you have to join a commune or move up in the alps with a bunch of monks in order to follow Jesus.
What it means though, is if you want to follow Jesus, then Jesus needs to be Lord of your life. In other words:
You’re no longer king of your life, He is.
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
You no longer call the shots, He does.
You no longer live for you, instead you live for Him.
As a Christ follower you now recognize that without Jesus, there’s nothing worth living for.
As a Christ follower you have now moved from a temporal way of viewing life to an eternal perspective. The apostle Paul puts it like this:
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
For example, your career isn’t just a way to make money, your career is now a way to share the gospel.
Paul says our relationship with Jesus should change the way we live and view life. And that my friends is radical and requires an entire shift of your worldview. Now:
Does that mean we can’t have a successful career focus? No. I know a lot of successful Christ followers who have amazing careers.
Does that mean we can’t have hobbies? No. I know a lot of Christ followers who play golf, workout, play tennis, and invest a lot of time in extracurricular activities.
Does that mean we can’t have material possessions? No. I know a lot of Christ followers who live in nice homes and drive new cars. B
Being a Christ follower doesn’t mean you have to be some kind of freak that gives up everything in this life. It just means you now understand those aren’t the most important things in life.
That how much money you make, what your title is, how many points you score, what kind of home you live in, or what kind of car you drive really doesn’t matter. Because in the end, we can’t take our career, our hobbies, or our material possessions with us.
How much money you made, what your title was, how many points you scored, what kind of home you lived in, what kind of car you drove, none of that will matter. When you stand before God at the end of your life, the only thing that will matter is this question, “Were you a committed follower of Jesus? Did you devote your life to knowing and serving him?”
The fact of the matter is, at the end of your life, the only thing that will matter is this question, “Were you a committed follower of Jesus? Did you devote your life to knowing and serving him?”
When you stand before God at the end of your life, the only thing that will matter is this question, “Were you a committed follower of Jesus? Did you devote your life to knowing and serving him?”
That’s the kind of commitment I’m talking about. And that’s the kind of person that God empowers. The person who understands that the eternal far outweighs the temporal.
This led us to a second prerequisite:
Prerequisite #2: In order to be spiritually empowered, I must be committed to a life of obedience to God’s Word.
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.
“They they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying...” (ESV)
Prior to his ascension, Jesus gave the disciples explicit orders. The order was to go and wait in Jersualem for the empowerment of the Spirit, and according to Luke, that’s exactly what they did. Luke says, they returned to Jersualem, and there they stayed.
What this illustrates is the importance of obedience. Jesus asked the disciples to do something specific in order to be empowered, and they obeyed.
But what if that hadn’t obeyed Him? What if instead, they went home? What if they went back to Galilee? What if they wouldn’t have gone back to Jersualem? Would they have been empowered? Would they have recieved the promise of the Father. While I can’t say for sure, I’d say probably not.
And what is true for them, is true for us as well. The fact is, if you want to be spiritually empowered, it begins with a commitment to obedience. A commitment to live according to God’s Word. A commitment to root out sin in your life. A commitment to live in a way that honors God. To live a life of obedience to God’s Word.
And please hear me, when I say that I’m not saying you have to live a perfect life. I’m not saying you’ll never make a mistake. What I’m saying is, if you want to live a spirit empowered life, you have to be in tune with the Spirit. And the only way to be in tune with the Spirit, is to walk in obedience to God’s Word. The Apostle Paul puts it like this:
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
Paul says, it’s either one or the other. You’re either walking by the Spirit or you’re not. And much of that will be determined by your commitment to living according to God’s Word. The fact of the matter is, God isn’t going to reward blatant sin or sin your unwilling to deal with.
What that means is, if you want to be empowered, then you have
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,
Paul says, “If you’re life is characterized by works like this, then not only are you not walking according to the Spirit, more than likely you’re not following Jesus at all.”
The bottom line is this. If you want to live a spirit empowered life, then you have to be committed to walking in obedience to God’s Word. You have to be committed to rooting out sin in your life.
So, those were our first two prerequisites for spiritual empowerment. In order to be spirit empowered, you have to be a Christ follower that is committed to keeping God’s Word.
This leads us to the final two prerequisites, and like the first two, they require a high degree of commitment, but there is one major difference. The first two prerequisites are more of a personal nature. In other words, they are prerequisites that individually we have to be committed to. But these final two are cooperate. In other words, they are prerequisites that together we must meet. I would state the third one like this:
Prerequisite #3 - In order to be Spirit empowered, we have to be committed to the unity of the Church.
14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Luke says as the disciples of Jesus obediently gathered together, that they did so with one accord.
The word for “one accord” here comes from the Greek word “homothymadon”:
Definition: It’s the idea of continuous, unanimous, mutual consent or agreement. The word denotes the inner unity of a group of people engaged in similar action.
A great example of how this works would be a modern day sports team. For instance, in order for a football team to win a game they must function as one accord. Meaning, in order to a win a game, the team must be unified:
Unified in the desire for victory.
Unified in the plays that are called.
Unified in an attitude of cooperation and encouragement.
Unified in their individual gifting as their gifts work together to empower them to move the ball down the field to score or prevent the opposing team from scoring.
And what is true for a football team is true for a church. If a church is going to be spiritually empowered, it requires a group of people who are of one accord.
A group of people with a shared goal of reaching a lost world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A group of people who are committed to working together as they strengthen and encourage one another.
A group of people who are unified as they use their individual spiritual gifts work together in order to advance the Gospel. The apostle Paul puts it like this as he describes the church:
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
Paul says the church is like a body that is made up of many body parts. Body parts that work together. Body parts that work in unity to move it, protect it, and nurture it. Body parts that work for the good of other parts and ultimately for the good of the entire body.
I mean think about it, how thankful do you think your arm is when it has a mosquito bite on it, and your fingers reach to scratch your bite in order to bring relief. That’s nice, right? That feels good.
Now, can you imagine if you went to scratch the mosquito bite and your fingers said, “Sorry, I don’t feel like scratching the bite. You’ll have to figure out another way to bring relief.” You’d be like: Demonstrate trying to itch a bite.
Or how thankful do you think your body is for your eyes as they help you navigate your day. Can you imagine what your day would be like if all of a sudden your eyes decided they didn’t want to work in unison with the rest of the body. If one day your eyes said, “You know what, we’re tired helping you see. We’ve been serving as your navigation system for years. We’re going to take a break for awhile.”
That would be no fun. It would be hard to function, right? You’d be stumbling around all over the place. You wouldn't’ be able to accomplish what you need to accomplish for the day. You might even stumble into trouble and not even know you’re in danger. If our eyes decided to rebel. If our eyes decided not to work as one accord, it would be disruptive to the rest of the body and inhibit our ability to function at 100% capacity in our life.
Paul says the church functions in the same way, just like a body.
So, what does that mean for us? It means if we want to be spiritually empowered as a church, we have to be “of one accord” as well.
So, what does that look like? To be honest, to be of “one accord” has two sides to it. First, to be of one accord means to be a church that is “Unified in mission”.
Paul again describes it like this in :
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
Paul says there are many parts in the body of Christ with different functions that are meant to work together.
So, what’s this saying to us? To be honest, more than we have time to talk about this morning. But here are a few key principles I want to point out that are critical for obtaining spiritual empowerment in order to accomplish the mission of gospel expansion.
Principle #1 - Every person that attends MCF has been placed here by God.
The fact of the matter is, you are not at MCF by chance. While you may have thought you choose MCF to be your church home, the truth is, for this time in your life, God has placed you in this body. How do I know that? I know it because if you are a Christ follower, God has a plan and purpose for your life and He is the one who leads and guides your steps The prophet Jeremiah puts it like this:
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Bottom line, you are not here by chance. God has brought you to MCF for such a time as this.
Principle #2 - God has a specific purpose for you at MCF.
Not only are you not here by chance, but God has given you a specific gift and function that is to be used for the good of this church. In other words, you have a purpose in this body. You have something to offer this body that will help MCF reach more people for Jesus.
You might say, “Pastor, what do I have to offer?” I don’t know. That’s why we need to seek the empowerment of the Spirit. That’s how you’ll discover it. Because it’s not me or you that decides what that gift and function is. It’s the Spirit that does that. He’s the coach. He’s the one calling the shots. After listing several spiritual gifts in , Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 12:
11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Paul says the Spirit is the one who empowers and provides each person with their predetermined gift. He’s the one that determines which position you play on the team. So, if you want to know what your gift and function is, you have to seek the empowerment of the Spirit. This leads to a third principle.
Principle #3 - The Spirit doesn’t empower us for our personal gain or benefit.
The fact of the matter is, the reason a person seeks empowerment isn’t so they can be a super Christian. It isn’t so you can have spiritual wisdom nobody else has. It it’s not so you can claim you’re more in tune with God than other Christians. Spiritual gifts aren’t meant to make you a Marvel Christian Super Hero. Spiritual gifts aren’t meant to make you a Super Christian, Wonder Christian, an Incredible Christian, or Captain Christian.
But, Unfortunately, I’ve met a lot of Christians who think that’s the case. Christians who seek spiritual gifts for personal gain. Christians who want to function independent of the body. Christians who think spiritual gifts are for their personal benefit and spiritual enhancement. But the fact is, it doesn’t work that way. Paul writes:
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
What Paul is saying is, the gifts don’t work by themselves. Paul says the reason a person seeks empowerment is so they can enhance and empower the church they are a part of. Because if the gift isn’t in the body, then gift is unable to function alone. Just like an eye is useless outside of the body, your spiritual gift will be useless if it’s not attached to a body of believers. This leads us to a final principle:
Principle #4 - If you’re unwilling to seek or use your gift for the body, it’s going to be difficult for you to be part of the body.
Think of it like this. What would happen on a football team if one of the guards decided they weren’t going to block defensive players anymore?
Well, a couple of things would happen.
First, more than likely the quarterback would get sacked and forward movement down the football field would cease. In fact, with a sack, the team would move backwards and the likelihood of a touchdown would be greatly diminished. Why? All because the guard didn’t want to do their part.
It’s the same with the a church. When individuals in a church refuse to seek or use their gifts for the good of the body, the church suffers. The church loses forward momentum. The church misses out on opportunities to reach and minister to people. The church loses its effectiveness. Why? All because a few, and maybe even one member decided they weren’t going to use or seek their gift and do their part. That’s how serious this is.
Second, if a guard or decided not to guard or block anymore, then it’s only going to be a matter of time before the coach removes the guard and puts somebody else in their place.
To be honest, this is why some people never go anywhere in their walk with Jesus and end up following away from the church. This is why some churches never do anything great for God in their community and why many churches are in decline.
Because the fact of the matter is, if an individual or a church is unwilling to seek or use their gifts, then God will use somebody else is who is willing. I know it’s hard to believe, but God will remove members and he’ll shut down churches that refuse to reach their community and he’ll replace them with a church that will. I’ve seen it happen.
You see, what we have to understand about God, is that He’s serious about reaching people with the message of the Gospel. He didn’t send his Son down to this sin stained planet for no reason. Jesus came to reach a lost and dying world and he needs churches who are serious about accomplishing that mission. He’s looking for churches who want to be empowered. Churches who want to function in the power of the Spirit.
Here’s what this is saying to us. If we want to be a church that is effectively advancing the Gospel, then we have to be willing to seek and use our spiritual gifts so that MCF can be empowered to do what God is calling us to do. And the fact of the matter is, if we’re not willing to be that kind of church, it will only be a matter of time before we join the ranks of dead and declining churches. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. That’s what happens when a church decides it’s not going to be a Biblical church.
But here’s the deal, in order to become a spirit empowered church, we have to be of “one accord” on this. We all have to want this. Because if only a few of us desire empowerment, it’s going to be very difficult for MCF to move the gospel forward in our community.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a dead or declining church. I want to be a spirit empowered church full of people who are functioning in their gifts God has given them for the good of the body.
I don’t want to be a fan sitting in the nose bleed section of a dying church. I want to be a follower of Jesus. I want to be one of His team members out on the field helping our church advance the Gospel in this community, county, and region.
But, if you’re willing is going to be a difficult church for you to be a part of. Because we aren’t going to be a church that spectates. We are going to be a church that’s out on the field. Out in our community. Each of us doing our part, utilizing our gifts, advancing the Gospel and leading others to Jesus.
MCF, that’s where we are headed. And I’m going to tell you right now, and I say this in love, if you don’t want to be that kind of church, MCF is going to be a difficult church for you to be a part of. You’re going to struggle to find your place here. Because we aren’t going to be a church of spectators, but a church of players. A church full of people who want to do their part in advancing the Gospel.
In fact, beginning in February we are going to roll out a new ministry called Growth Tracks. It’s purpose will be to help people get more involved at MCF. It will be a ministry that helps people discover their spiritual gifts. A ministry that helps people discover how they can be part of helping MCF reach our community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But, if you’re all about the mission of reaching people for Jesus. If you’re willing to seek out and use your gift. There’s a place here for you. A place where you’ll find fulfilment. A place where you’ll function in the gift that God has given you. A place where you’ll make an eternal difference in the life of this community.
And if you’re unwilling to be on that page, in the coming days at MCF, it
But, again, for that to happen, we all have to want that. We have to be of “one accord” on this. That’s the prerequisite. Other wise God isn’t going to empower our church. If we want to be a spirit empowered church, We have to be a church "Unified in mission”. That’s one side of what it means to be of “one accord”. The second is this. To be of “one accord”, we have to be “unified against division”
Paul writes this concerning division in the church:
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
The fact of the matter is, one of the greatest weapons the enemy uses against the church is the weapon of division. The truth is, if the devil can get church members fighting and dis-unified, he can cripple if not destroy the effectiveness of a church.
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
That’s why Paul pleads with the church at Corinth to not let there be any divisions in the church. Because unforatnley the church at Corinth had allowed it in, and what was once a spiritually empowered church was now in danger of losing it’s effectivness.
So, a good question might be, “What kind of divisions is Paul talking about?” Well, there are several ways the enemy brings division into a church, but for time sake I’m going to give you the main one that tends to cause the most division in a church, and it’s the sin of “Gossip”.
To the church in Corinth Paul writes:
20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
One of Paul’s greatest concerns for the church at Corinth was their behavior towards one another, especially when it came to their tendency to gossip.
In the Greek the word for gossip here refers to “a casual conversation or unsubstantiated report about other people”. And when referring to somebody that is a gossip, it means “a person who likes talking about other people’s private lives.”
Let me ask you something, “Do you know anybody like that?” Somebody that likes to talk about the affairs of others. I think we all know somebody like that, and I think if we’re honest, we’ve all been guilty of gossip from time to time. So, what’s the problem with gossip?
One of the major problems with gossip in the church, is it leads to church members talking about each other rather than to one another. Which eventually leads to the destruction of friendships, people getting hurt, and the enemy running a victory lap around the church.
The writer of Proverbs offers this insight concerning gossip:
13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Solomon ays the person who gossips is a slanderer and revealer of secrets. In other words, they tell business that doesn’t need to be told. The gossiper is the opposite of somebody who is trustworthy and keeps a confidence. The gossiper can’t wait to share the juicy information they have recieved.
Solomon goes on to write:
28 A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
Solomon says the person who gossips spreads strife. In other words, they cause controversy, create conflict, and often bring confusion. As a result, they separate close friends. In other words, they cause division among people who were once friends. Why do they do it? Solomon tells us. He writes:
8 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Just like any sin, gossip tastes good in the mouth. There’s just something about chewing on information about someone else, or about somebody else’s misery, or about somebody else's situation, that gives the gossiper pleasure. But in the end, it exits the body for what it is. I love how the message translation puts it:
“Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly?” (MSG)
The bottom line is this, gossip in the church divides the church because it creates strife among members. And where there is division, it will be difficult for the Spirit to work. Paul makes this clear to the church at Corinth. He writes:
1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
Paul says, “I’d like to say your spiritual, but you’re not. And the evidence is in the way you are behaving towards one another.”
So, what’s this saying to us? It’s saying if we want to be a spirit empowered church, we need to be a gossip free church. A church that refuses to spread rumors. A church that refuses to entertain unsubstantiated information, and even when its substantiated we need to be careful that it doesn’t turn into gossip.
So, how do you avoid gossiping? Here’s a couple of suggestions:
First, when somebody starts gossiping, stop them. Remind them of what the Bible says. If they have a problem with someone, instead of telling you about it, encourage them to go to that person. If they’re unwilling to do that, then tell them to button it.
I’m serious. I’m giving you permission. If somebody comes to you and says, “Hey did you hear about so and so… Hey did you hear about this situation...” You have my permission to tell them to either go to the person their talking about or button it. Now, you might say, “Ok pastor, but what if they don’t listen to me?” Then you take it to step 2.
Second, if they won’t stop, walk away, and stay away from that person. Paul writes:
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
Paul says, if you know somebody that likes to gossip and they wont’ stop even when you warn them not to, then avoid them. Paul says at that point they’re not serving the Lord Jesus. They’re serving their own appetites.
All that to say, if we’re going to be a spirit empowered church, we need to be gossip free people.
Now, I’m not saying this because I think our church has a gossip problem. I’m sharing this with you because the enemy doesn’t like churches that are serious about the Gospel. And this is one of his favorite weapons. So I’m telling you this so we can be on guard against future attacks. So when the enemy tries to persuade some of us to gossip, we can put a quick halt to it. Because I’m telling you right now, i know of churches that have been destroyed by gossip. So we have to be on guard. We have to be “of one accord”. To be a church that is unified against division.
This leads us to our final prerequisite, and to be honest, the most important.
Prerequisite #4 - In order to be a spirit empowered church, we have to be committed to prayer.
14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Luke says the disciples of Jesus were devoted to praying with one another. What Luke is stressing here is that the empowerment of the Spirit isn’t something that just happens. It’s something that we must seek through prayer, together. What that means is, the empowerment of the Spirit is a group initiative. It’s something that we me must all prayerfully seek together.
That’s what the first disciples were committed to. So committed, that as soon as they got back to Jersualem, they started meeting together and praying that God would send his Spirit to empower them. And for several days they prayed together as they anticipated the empowerment of the Spirit.
So, what does that look like for us? Does that mean if we want to be empowered we have to pray nonstop until it happens? Does that mean we can’t leave this room or go anywhere until we get empowered?
No. That’s not what the scripture is implying they did. This wasn’t a nonstop prayer meeting. Like us, they had other obligations. Like us, they had to eat. Like us they had families. Like us they had occupations. So, the passage isn’t implying that they had a nonstop prayer meeting.
Instead, the implication is that they were habitually praying together. In other words, it was a priority for them. It was something they had incorporated into their daily routine. Habitually, and daily, they were coming together for extended times of prayer so that they could be empowered by the Spirit.
You see, It wasn’t a nonstop prayer meeting, but it was a nonstop commitment to pray together for the empowerment. And as we’re going to see in chapter 2 of Acts, eventually their commitment to pray together paid off.
So, here’s what that means for us. If we want to be a spirit empowered church, we have to be a church that is committed to pray together for this empowerment.
So, I guess a great question would be, “What does that look like for us?”
It looks like this:
First, if we want to be a Spirit empowered church, then from this point on, all of us need to be committed to praying for this. That daily, together we would be committed to praying that God would empower our church with His Spirit. That we would be of one accord in prayerful agreement together concerning our desire for spiritual empowerment.
Second, I do think we need to find times to meet together as a church body to specifically pray for this. in fact, I believe it’s essential if we really want God to empower us to the degree we need Him to.
But to be honest, I know that’s hard. The truth is, life is busy and our calendars are full of all kinds of activities, responsibilities, and obligations. And the last thing some of you want or need is another event added to your calendar. And I get that. But here’s the deal, if we want to be a spirit empowered church, then we have to make time to pray for this, together.
So, here’s what I’m asking you to consider adding to your calendar. Beginning on Wednesday evening, October 3rd, we’re going to start a new kind of prayer meeting that will focus primarily on spiritual empowerment. A prayer meeting where we will come together from 7:00pm-8:00Pm to pray and seek the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
And all I’m asking you to do, is make a 6 week commitment to attend this prayer meeting. That on the evenings of October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, and November 7th, that you make time to join other believers in our church to pray together, on one accord, for the empowerment of the Spirit.
And here’s what I’m going to do to help make it easier for some of you. If you have kids under the age of 12, we’re going to provide childcare downstairs for you during this time. We don’t want anybody to miss being a part of this.
Now, automatically some of you might be thinking, “That sounds great pastor, but I already have an obligation on that night. My kids have a club they go to. My daughter has dance class. I have a meeting.” And the list goes on.
Listen, I know there’s other stuff going on, and maybe even obligations you can’t get out of. Here’s what I would ask you to consider though. What’s more important? And I don’t say that to make anybody feel guilty or obligated. I just want you to ask yourself, what’s more important?
I’m going to be honest with you. God’s not going to empower our church to do much of anything if together we’re not willing to see His help together. It has to be more than just me the Pastor praying for this.
Think of it like this. If a football team wants to win a game, it’s not going to happen if just the coach shows up to the game. For the team to win, the entire team needs to show up. Everybody needs to be game ready to win.
The same is true for the empowerment of the Spirit. If we want to be a spirit empowered church, we all have to show up. We all have to be game ready.
So, all I’m asking you to do, is for six weeks make a commitment to be here on Wednesday nights. To make a commitment to join together and prayer with other believers as we seek the empowerment of the Spirit for our church. I promise you it won’t be boring. I promise you God is going to show up.
So, those are the prerequisites. If we want to be a spirit empowered church, we have to be committed disciples. We have to be obedient to God’s Word. We have to be committed to unity. And we have to be committed to pray.
And I’m going to tell you right now, if we’re committed to meeting those prerequisites, then devil watch out. Because that’s the kind of church God empowers. That’s the kind of church that turns the world upside down.
The Bible teaches us that when a person puts their faith in Jesus, and makes Him Lord, God puts his Holy Spirit in us. Paul writes:
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
In that moment of decision, God puts His Spirit in you. And it’s at that moment the first work of the Spirit begins as He transforms you literally into a different person. Jesus calls it being “Born again”. Paul refers to it like this:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Paul says the Holy Spirit begins to change and transform you. The theological word is “Sanctification”. It’s the idea that from that point forward you begin the journey of becoming more and more like Jesus as the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in you. Paul writes:
In addition to that, you now have the guarantee of salvation. The hope to know that as long as you as God’s Spirit lives in you, you have the promise of life and life eternal. Paul writes:
11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
The bottom line is this, the first work of the Spirit involves the work of salvation through faith in Jesus. In that moment, God puts the seal of salvation upon you. Paul writes:
22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.