Power from on High
Please turn to Acts 1.
It is Memorial Day, And we remember our soldiers who gave their lives for our freedoms. Sometimes people ask how soldiers do it - how do they face such dangerous situations knowing that they could be captured or injured or even killed. How do they face combat with bullets and bombs and seeing things that no human should see?
Well the answer is quite simple. They believe in a cause that is much bigger than themselves. They fight to preserve what they believe in. They have a mission and that mission includes self-sacrifice - not self-preservation. They have a warrior’s mindset that this is a battle worth fighting - even if it costs me my life. Which takes me to the Warrior’s Ethos from the US Army:
“I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. And I will never leave a fallen comrade.” ~ U.S. Army
I think that's very fitting as a Christian. We have a mission that’s worth fighting. For us, Christ has won the victory, therefore there is no defeat or quitting for the Christian. Why? Because we have many fallen comrades who need rescued.
So let’s turn to Acts 1. A few weeks ago we began looking at the Book of Acts to help us prepare for what is ahead. The disciples wanted to go backward, but Jesus said no we must always move forward - no retreat. Like the disciples, we must move forward with the mission. Therefore, I think we’ll be in the Book of Acts for a while - very applicable to our situation.
This is known as the Book of Acts or Acts of the Apostles. This letter has two primary purposes. First, it’s a record of the beginning of the Church. It covers roughly a 40-year period (AD 30ish to AD 70ish). And so we find all of the New Testament letters contained in Acts with exception of the epistles of John and Revelation. So, Romans, Galatians, Corinthians … is in this letter.
Secondly, it serves to reveal how the church began in a culture that became increasingly hostile to Christianity. Worshipping Jesus as God and Messiah was offensive and even punishable of death in the 1st-4th centuries. Following Jesus was difficult, dangerous and deadly. Spreading the gospel was challenging and without a “how-to” manual. They made it up, discovered, trial and error as they carried out the mission. So these new followers of Jesus had their work cut out for them. They were heading into uncharted territory. That’s where we are right now.
Listen - there was no possible way for the apostles to accomplish the mission in such a hostile world if they did it in their own strengths and abilities. If the gospel was going to reach the nations, they would need supernatural empowerment - i.e. the Holy Spirit.
See, reaching the nations is connected to Deuteronomy 32 and the allotment of the nations to the bena-elohim, the sons of God - which are divine rebels. The New Testament calls them authorities, cosmic powers, forces of evil in the spiritual realm with whom we wrestle. Taking the gospel into the nations or to the neighbor across the street really is spiritual warfare. And if it’s spiritual warfare, then the disciples need spiritual power. That means you and I need spiritual power.
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
What was Jesus’ priority after His resurrection? 1) Prove He was alive. Check! 2) He ended his earthly ministry with the same mission, the same emphasis in which He began - speaking about the Kingdom of God. Consider
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
He began by talking about the Kingdom. He ended by talking about the Kingdom. Do you think speaking about the Kingdom is important? Truthfully - talking about the Kingdom is something everybody can do. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as sometimes we make it. Let’s keep going.
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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Notice they're still talking about their kingdom - not God’s Kingdom. Jesus has been talking about the Kingdom of God for three years. They still didn't get it. Which makes me wonder, do we get it any more than they did. Whose Kingdom are we more concerned with - His or ours? Verse 7
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Again, the mission of God is paramount. And we are the recipients of that mission. Which means carrying on the mission is our responsibility. No one else will do it. No one else has been tasked to do it. We cannot allow pandemics, governments, catastrophes, fear - whatever - stop the mission. However, it’s very difficult to accomplish the mission - alone.
Before He ascended Jesus said this,
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. 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.”
In Acts 1 and Luke 24 Jesus emphasized the mission. But He also emphasized the need for spiritual power from the Father - baptism of the Holy Spirit. I know there are a lot of ideas and theological statements about what it means to be baptized in the Spirit. So, I suggest that over the next couple of weeks as we talk about this biblical truth, we do our best to rid ourselves of some of our theological boxes and fears and misconceptions about what it means to be baptized in the Spirit and simply allow Scripture to speak for itself. Don’t be afraid of the Word of God.
Before we get into the baptism of the Holy Spirit (next week), I want to end today with this: I made a list of 24 ways the Holy Spirit interacts with humanity. Each one has a specific Biblical reference. I didn't list chapters and verses for the sermon - but a assure we, these are in Scripture. There is no specific order. Some are OT, some are NT, some are both. Not going to explain these, we just need to accept this is how God interacts with this people and empowers them to accomplish the mission.
1. The Spirit often came upon and empowered select individuals for specific tasks
2. Scripture speaks of fullness in the Spirit or being filled with the Spirit
3. People who were baptized in the Spirit sometimes acted as if they were not
4. It seems that the apostles needed reoccurring infillings of the Spirit
5. The Spirit empowered people with supernatural abilities
6. Baptism of the Spirit is subsequent to salvation
7. Baptism of the Spirit sometimes involves speaking in tongues - sometimes not
8. Baptism of the Spirit involves surrender, obedience, faith and desire to be baptized
9. Baptism of the Spirit involves a purifying or cleansing of the heart - the Spirit sanctifies
10. Jesus, Son of God was baptized in water and with the Holy Spirit
11. God gives the Holy Spirit and He wants to without measure
12. We can quench the Spirit, put out the Spirit’s fire or grieve Him
13. We can fan into flame the gift of the Spirit
14. We are to walk in the Spirit, pray in the Spirit and live according to the Spirit
15. The Spirit walks alongside us, guides us, comforts, convicts, indwells, helps in our weaknesses
16. Baptism of the Spirit leads to action - never to passivity
17. Baptism of the Spirit is available to all believers in Christ - all flesh (Jew & Gentile)
18. The Spirit is called the Spirit of wisdom, of knowledge, of counsel, of truth
19. The Spirit can sometimes fall upon non-believers for a Divine purpose
20. When a person is filled with Spirit, it is noticeable
21. The Spirit speaks to us, teaches us, reveals the mysteries of God to us and lifts us up
22. The Spirit manifests Himself for the common good, for the building up of the Church
23. Spirit empowers believers to cast out demons or spiritual enemies
24. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit
25. The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control
That's quite a list and I'm certain it's not exhaustive. I know this is an odd place to stop, but we need to. Next week we'll talk more about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, I’ve emailed questions for us to consider and study. These on Faithlife.com where our sermons are posted.
1. If the mission serves as a motivation to keep going, what exactly is the mission of God? In what ways does His mission motivate me? Where does my life connect with His mission?
2. If sharing the gospel is about spiritual warfare, how much spiritual time and energy do I put into spiritually fighting for others?
3. What are three ways I can include Kingdom speech in everyday conversations?
4. Whose Kingdom am I more concerned with - His or mine? How can I make my life more about God’s Kingdom? Hint - Matthew 6:33
1. Where is the Holy Spirit active in my life in talking about the Kingdom and the gospel?
2. What is my experience with baptism or fullness of the Holy Spirit?
3. Go through the list. Which of these make you uncomfortable or are difficult to believe? Which ones make you excited? Why?
4. Ask the Spirit to point out any areas He wants you to focus on. Pray over these. Talk to Him or a trusted friend about these.