Jesus was just hours away from ascending back to heaven after thirty-three years on this earth as a human being. Three of those years were spent in preparing a group of disciples to launch the church and the message of salvation into the world. Last week we looked at the mission He gave them and us to fulfill.
Now there are only a few moments remaining and He gives them the most special message of all. Several times during His years of ministry Jesus informed the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and be with them. Remember the Holy Spirit is not an it. The Holy Spirit is God. Look at these verses found in the book of John:
15 If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. John 14:15-17 NLT
25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative that is, the Holy Spirit he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:25-26 NLT
There was something more that the disciples needed before going out to do the ministry Jesus had called them to do. Were they Christfollowers at this point? Some would argue not but I believe they had followed Christ for three years literally so I think the answer is yes. It would be hard for me to listen to the Peter the disciple answer Jesus question, Who do you say I am? and not think that he was a follower of Christ. Peter replied, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
They were Christians but there was a need for something more.
They followed Christ but found themselves to be weak in the times of testing. They were followers but there was a wrestling match going on inside of them. They struggled to believe and they struggled to truly follow. But there was something more.
Ever since the first man Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden every person born has been born with a bent toward sin. We see it in the smallest child. We all have felt it in deep in ourselves. Even after accepting Christ as our Savior there is an issue. While we profess to love God there is something that pulls us away from God. While we are Christians, there are moments in our private lives when we struggle with an inner antagonism toward God.
This has been called many things both in the Bible and in church history. It is called carnality, inward sinfulness, the sinful nature, and indwelling sin. Simply put it is the nature of sin that we are born with and while we have been forgiven for sins committed in our life prior to coming to faith we will never be the followers Christ expects us to be without dealing with this sinful nature.
In Romans 8 we read, For this sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey Gods laws and it never will. That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit of God living in you. Romans 8:7-9 NLT
Let me give you a little clearer picture of the need. Every follower of Christ will come face to face with their need to fully surrender themselves to God at some point. This is called sanctification or holiness. Without this full surrender of ourselves, we will find ourselves living the life of a self-centered person. In other words we are far more interested in our own pleasures and way then choosing Gods way. Oswald Chambers writes about this inner sinfulness as being not something we do but something we are.
To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. (Chambers)
Richard Taylor says, There is an enlarged sense of ones own importance, a desire to have self honored, a hyper sensitivity to injures, a tendency to magnify the faults of others, an inordinate, tenacious love of ones own will, ideas, and plans that causes us to be deeply depressed or violently rebellious or sullenly stubborn when they are repudiated. This carnal condition of the self-nature gives rise to a tormenting fear of man, covetousness, unholy anger, sullenness and moodiness, worldly ambition, material mindedness, lukewarmness, revengeful feelings, impulses to retaliate, instability, and rebelliousness and bitterness of spirit. . .
This personal examination of oneself is not easy nor is it fun to do. But it is critical for the person that truly wants to follow and obey Christ. Can you stand to do a bit more of this internal looking for a moment? To feel our need for the promise of the Holy Spirit we have to know why.
If you find yourself with a lack of power to obey God you are in need of something more.
If you find in yourself a division of your loyalties when it comes to choosing God over the world or worldliness you are in need of something more.
If you find unholy ambitions or affections you are in need of something more.
If you get bent out of shape and tell people off you are in need of something more.
If you are always looking for things to criticize in others or tear other people down you are in need of more.
If you are possessed by a need to promote yourself you are in need of something more.
If you are consumed by a sense of inflated pride you are in need of something more.
If you get your feelings hurt easily and nurse your wounds by pouting and making everyone around you miserable you are in need of something more.
I have some really good news today! There is something more!
Holiness is something we should long for. Holiness is loving God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving my neighbor as myself. Holiness is Christlikeness. It is God first. It is being like Jesus.
Have you ever noticed that people who are married for a long time begin to think alike, and act alike and some even begin to look alike? (Ive seen a few people achieve this with their dogs also) Ha! As Christians, the closer we get to Jesus, the more time we spent with Him, the more we read His Word, and the more we follow His commands, it stand to follow that we will become more like Him. At the core of our relationship with Him is one word which, in itself, is His nature. That is LOVE. Out of our love for Him comes the other significant means of becoming Christ-like OBEDIENCE.
The more we love God, the more we will want to obey Him. The more we obey Him, the more we will love Him.
So now lets look at this message Jesus gave His disciples a little closer.
1. A Promised Gift
Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:4-5 NLT
The good news is that you and I have been given this same promise. We have been promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. We receive Gods spirit in part when we accept Christ as our Savior but there is more that we need to seek for.
When we discover our need for all of God we become desperately hungry for Him. Jesus said, Blessed are you when you hunger and thirst for righteousness for then you will be filled.
The phrase baptism of the Holy Spirit means a lot of different things in different church context so let me quickly give you a summation of what we believe and teach this Gift to be. We believe that this baptism of Gods Holy Spirit is manifested in a surrendered life or love and holiness instead of emotional experiences or outward demonstrations that tend to draw attention to ourselves. In other words, the life of holiness is one of humility and perfect love for God spurred on by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The focus is on Him living in us and the results are godliness and righteousness not necessarily outward expressions of emotional experiences. There will be an outward expression but it is rooted in purity of heart, genuine love for God and others and a continual hunger to be like Christ in our relationships, actions and even our reactions.
2. A Powerful Grace
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?
7 He replied, The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:6-8 NLT
The message of holiness and the Holy Spirit is one of power as well as purity. This baptism of the Holy Spirit brings a divine empowering for service. Fire is a symbol of power. The sound of a rushing mighty wind on the day of Pentecost was suggestive of power. The promise of Jesus to his disciples here was for power to become witnesses around the world.
In Acts 2, we read of what happened after Jesus ascended back to heaven and the disciples in obedience to Christ has waited and tarried in a room for the filling of the Holy Spirit.
When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
5-11There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck.
Acts 2:1-11 The Message
It was a powerful grace that descended on 120 disciples that day. They literally burst out of the room they were gathered in and began to do the work of Christ around the world. Could it be that these same men and women that nearly all forsook Christ when He went to the cross to die are now going without fear to tell the story and message of Jesus? Could it be that these same people that had no power or strength are now filled with the Spirit of God? There must be more!
These disciples went out and turned the world upside down with the message of Christ. Many of them were killed for sharing this message but they did without fear and their blood and deaths moved others to pick up the message of the cross and share it. It was power that filled their lives on the day of Pentecost. They were give power for service and power for purity of life.
When we accept this message we are given the ability to be so in love with Jesus Christ that the notion of a sinning religion becomes foreign to us. Those that fully surrender their lives to Christ are so in love with Him that they stop willful sinfulness. Through this grace we are given the power to obey Christ and His word.
I continually think of how many people are faithful to their marriage vows and pledge to love one person. I know we are capable of breaking this vow and can be redeemed from it but how many people are committed to another person so much that they wouldn't think of cheating or committing adultery. How much more than do we love God?
3. A Poured-out God
17 In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants men and women alike
and they will prophesy. Acts 2:17-18 NLT
The simple fact is that there is an outpouring of Gods Spirit that we desperately need. We need this out pouring as a church and we need it as individuals. What does it mean to dream dreams and see visions? It means that we will live to do the will of God. What does it mean to prophesy? It means we will preach the good news to the world. We will go and tell the story of Christ. We will become burdened that the world may know Him and His resurrection power in their lives. We become empowered to tell the story introduce others to Christ.
Has God been poured into your life? Have you waited on the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit? Have you received this inner cleansing that will enable you to be faithful in your walk and witness for Christ?
4. A Personal Pentecost
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. Acts 2:1-6 NLT
Joe Brice writes about Pentecost with these words, We see them there as last gathered behind closed doors, a wistful company of disciples, paralyzed by fear and menace of disillusion. But their presence there is the sure witness that they were conscious of their need of something better.
Then came Pentecost. . .The disciples emerged from that experience as a world changing fellowship, no longer cowed by the monstrous defilement and terrible indifference of the pagan society around them, but filled with spiritual dynamic to change it. Something had transformed them. There was victory in the air. The old helplessness had gone. They were no longer afraid of failure, but sure of success; yet they were very humble in their consciousness of effective grace. They no longer tried to cultivate a protective resemblance to the world, but stood out from it courageously and challenged the strongholds of sin in the name of Christ. Here was the very courage, sanity, and power of Christ himself.
The Process Given
First we are found out then we are called to sell out and lastly the Holy Spirit is poured out
The idea is that when you discover this need or lack that you begin to pray about it and then you start liquidating all the junk in your life that you need to surrender to God. We sell out to God. We give Him all of us.
. . .be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us. . . Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV
Today we are calling you to consider this message. I don't believe that it is a message that you run down here to the altar and respond to in a couple of minutes on your knees. I think that might be part of the process but it is a process that will take some time. It will take time to let Gods Spirit show you yourself and give you a self-awareness that will lead you long for more of God.
I call you to search your own hearts today. I call you to examine your life and let God begin to show you a more excellent way to live.
In your weakness know there is more.
In your struggles to be like Christ, know there is more.
In your attempts to overcome a waywardness you sometimes feel that pulls you away from God, know there is more!
In your daily life, you don't have to continually struggle in your relationship with God, know that there is more.
3 Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?
4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell
5 They will receive the Lords blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. 6 Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob.
Psalm 24:3-6 NLT
In The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
The cross is laid on every Christian. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death we give over our lives to death. The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.