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The Situation

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Acts 2 puts us in the middle of a pretty dramatic event. To catch us up to speed, Jesus has just lived, died, resurrected, and ascended into Heaven in order to accomplish salvation for self-centered people like you and me. Now, we can be free. Furthermore, Jesus has officially ushered in a new reality where he and his kingdom of grace reign. Soon, he will bring Heaven down to Earth, restoring and perfecting the whole world, where together we will worship and enjoy him forever. 
 
That sounds great. But, until then, what's next?
 
What are his closest followers going to do now that Jesus has ascended "up there?" So far, they've gathered, prayed, and are trying to figure who should lead. As usual, Peter is preaching boldly, but there seems to be a waiting period where Jesus' followers are not quite sure what to do. At least some of them probably remember that Jesus told them to wait. But wait for what? A big neon sign? A feeling? A building fund for a new church?
 
Nope. Power. Wait for Power. 
 
And apparently, they waited together, just like Jesus said. 
 
Importantly, For hundreds years, the Jews had celebrated Pentecost as one of their festivals. God, who always shows up with perfect timing, decides to align his mission to reach the world with this Jewish celebration. 
 
So, let's picture this setting. There are Jews everywhere. They've come from all over to this celebration in Jerusalem. More importantly, most of them have literally never heard of Jesus. 
 
In the middle of this, Jesus' disciples are gathered in a room somewhere in the city. And then BAM! Suddenly a miracle happens through God's mighty hand. A new chapter in the story of humanity has arrived, and -as usual- it is all about Jesus.
 
GOD COMES DOWN
What has happened? The promised power comes upon all the believers in the room. This Spirit is described as a mighty rushing wind and power. That power is God himself in the Holy Spirit. Do we catch this?
 
God himself in the Spirit has come down to live in his people, as he shows Jesus to the world through them. 
 
Importantly, we cannot lose sight of this miracle. Sometimes, we elevate other awesome things happening here to a higher place than we ought: things like the speaking of tongues, the preaching, the community life together. But those are all signs of the ultimate miracle here, which is that God has come down to dwell in believers of Jesus to empower them for the mission of God!
 
If we want to avoid a lot of frustration, we must see that this power is something that is received, not something than can be achieved through hard work and will power. Just as Jesus' rescue of you is something he 100% did -something you receive rather than achieve- so it is with the Holy Spirit and is power in you. He invades your life and you receive him and his power through child-like trust.
 
WHAT IS TONGUES?
I can't get too deep here, but below Im re-posting resources for further investigation into the Spirit-filled acts of speaking. Yes, we believe in tongues enthusiastically without hesitation. No, we aren't weirdos who think it should be done around your friends who don't know what's going on. In short, the gift of tongues is Spirit-filled evidence that in God's mission to tell the whole world about his Son, language and location will no longer be a barrier.  So check out the resources below for more information on tongues and be encouraged to look up our past sermon series on Spiritual Gifts.
 
For now, I want to talk about the big-picture (theological) significance of speaking in tongues that we see here in Acts 2. Set aside your terrible memories of goofy people swinging and missing with tongues, and stay with me for a minute because there's a beautiful connection here that gives us insight and perspective. 
 
BABEL
There's a massive reversal and contrast happening. Do you remember way back in Genesis when mankind went all delusional and thought they could build a tower all the way to God?  Sure enough, God had something to say about such arrogance. He humbled his people, causing them to speak all different languages, thus forcing them to scatter into different civilizations according to language. Pretty amazing, huh? 
 
Before, everyone was speaking in the same language, then they got cocky, then they were disciplined - forced to scatter in a divided fashion with different languages.
 
Now, at this miraclous event of Pentecost, we see the revearsal. No longer will God's people be divided by language. Now, the Spirit has come, unifying them into one body, with one language, as they worship God in humility instead of trying to be god through building a tower to heaven.
 
At Babel, man tried to work their way up to God. At Pentecost, God comes down to dwell with man.
 
At Babel, God disciplines his people harshly through confusing their language and causing division. At Pentecost, God gives his people the free gift of the Holy Spirit, which unifies everyone into one language.
 
At Babel, the people were sent confused to do their own thing. At Pentecost, God's people are not only gathered in unity but sent with power to share the gospel with every race, tribe, tongue, and people group - in one spiritual language! The language of the gospel of Jesus.
 
Language and location will no longer keep the gospel from spreading. This is amazing and worth careful consideration.
 
Again, for more information on tongues, check out resources below and our past Spiritual Gift sermon series.
 
WHAT IS PREACHING?
The Spirit comes to fill the disciples with power. What is the first thing that happens after tongues? 
 
Preaching.
 
Not proposing. Not suggesting. Not dialoguing.
 
Preaching.
 
But what is preaching? Many of us have heard it, yet sometimes it seems like the majority of us haven't been invited to consider exactly what preaching is and what is happening as the act is occurring. It's pretty exciting, even scary.
 
Preaching can be seen as God speaking through a man who is under the authority of the Word and filled with the power of the Spirit. 
 
It is speaking forth the Word of God in the power of the Spirit. Since we know Jesus is the Word become flesh, we can easily put it this way:
 
Preaching is proclaiming Jesus in the power of the Spirit. 
 
As we observe Peter preaching preaching here in Acts 2, we see some of the signs of Spirit-filled preaching:
 
1) It is historical: focused on acts God has been performing throughout human history.
 
2) It is understandable: using language that normal, everyday people can understand. It connects with their mind and makes sense.
 
3) It is engaging: he interacts with his hearers, connecting with their hopes, desires, and knowledge. Their heart.
 
4) It is convicting: there is no preaching apart from unapologetic speaking forth of Gods character and standards, as well as sins committed. The bad news always comes before the good news.
 
5) It is gospel-centered: It is all about Jesus. His life. His death. His resurrection. Jesus is the solution to the problem. He is the one who forgives us for our sins. He is the one who frees us. We must trust in him - not ourselves- if we stand a chance of seeing God. He is good news!
 
6) It is urgent: Jesus is alive right now. The majority of people don't know him yet. In Spirit-filled preaching like we see here with Peter, there is a bold sense of urgency to tell people the real deal about Jesus before it's too late.
 
7) It is inviting: Peter shows us that we don't just tell people about Jesus with a sense of urgency, then leave them hanging. We actually invite them to come to Jesus. " Turn to God." " Come to God." " Get out of your terrible situation." "The door is wide open to know your God who loves you."
 
As we take to heart some of these signs of preaching, we must be careful to maintain a balance. On the one hand, God is the primary one working here. He is supernaturally filling a man and working mightily through the preaching to shape, mold, transform, and change people. On the other hand, God is working through the actual man's preaching, thus that man should do everything he can in the Spirit's power to preach biblically and effectively, as he lifts up and invites people to Jesus. 
 
COMMUNITY ON MISSION
At the end of Chapter 2 here, we see a glimpse of what Spirit-filled community looks like. We see a few things the early believers did:
 
1) They loved God and together worshipped him.
 
2) They got along with each other, despite massive differences.
 
3) They took care of each other sacrificially as spiritual family.
 
4) They were learners who were excited about sitting under Biblical teaching.
 
5) They shared a lot of meals together: both physical food and spiritual food (communion).
 
These 5 things are easier said than done, particularly in the stunningly self-centered culture we live in. 
 
Perhaps we should be careful not to focus too narrowly on what is happening here, creating a situtation where " I'm not living that awesome, communal life therefore there must be something terribly wrong with me and my church!!"
 
Don't get me wrong. It is very possible that you're a selfish person living a non-communal life. But We will remember that these 5 Spirit-filled are not a moralistic equation of rules that will lead to a care-free life if you're doing it right. The deep spiritual community we see here is   not happening in an easy, emotionally tranquil environment, complete with butterflies, warm fuzzies and a update on the church white board that says: " No relational conflict in the last 187 days."
 
No, this is happening amidst much pain, turmoil, conflict (both from within and from without).
 
In other words deep, sacrificial community simply cannot be done in your own power, no matter how many "small group gatherings" you go to. We desperately need the Holy Spirit.
 
The example we see here in Acts testifies not to the "seriousness" of the believers as much as the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit working through messed up people who are clinging to Jesus as their only hope, as they are sharing him with as many people they can in normal, everyday life. 
 
I guess we'll end with that same caution that ought not be forgotten. It's something I forget easily and need to be reminded of:
 
The amazing true stories of Acts are not about the "strength of early church believers," as much as it's about the Holy Spirit's amazing power to lift up Jesus through his weak followers who have child-like trust in their King who is ruling and reigning. 
 
Yes, we should be zealous to follow in the example of the early church we see here in Acts 2. No, it is not wise to emphasize them, while neglecting the miracle that is empowering everything.
 
That miracle is the Holy Spirit. 
 
Do you have him?
 
If you've turn from your self-centered ways and trusted in Jesus' work for you, the answer is yes. 
 
He's the one who wooed you to Jesus in the first place!

 

Posted by Wes Garner with
in Acts

Filled? Baptized? Clothed with the Holy Spirit? What does all this mean?

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So what’s the big deal about how much of the Holy Spirit we have at any given time?

What do we call it when we ask God for “more” of the Holy Spirit? Should we be asking to be baptized again - what about full? Can that even happen?

There is so much controversy regarding this topic. In fact, you might as well stick a wick in this and light it. I’m going to do the best I can to quickly and succinctly describe what it means to “have”, be “full”, be “clothed”, and be “baptized” in the Holy Spirit. This is a massive topic and I will most certainly err on the side of being too brief here so comment or email if you need more clarity.

Being “Baptized” in the Holy Spirit

There’s a classic error that comes from teachers/preachers insisting that the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2 become a repeatable model or formula for all Christians today. Many incorrectly refuse to see that this moment has overarching significance. What I mean is, many Christians (millions) believe that once a person becomes a Christian, they only receive a deposit or down payment of the Holy Spirit to be completed once we develop more faith. This is taught to occur when one is more mature and has more faith, often with speaking in tongues as a proof that it truly occurred.  This view ignores that Pentecost was a unique transition in God’s brilliant plan and reduces it to a mere formula or a code to be cracked by Christians to get more of something supernatural.

“Are you a Christian? Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit? Did you speak in tongues”  These questions and this type of teaching renders a culture that segregates the “haves” from the “have not’s” in the Church. I’ve been in that madness before on both ends of the table, and it’s debilitating, wondering what’s wrong with you and why God isn’t approving you as much as He is others. This builds a harmful caste system that rewards performance and quantifies the Holy Spirit where the Bible does not. In many cases it also assumes wrongly that all believers have an identical gift, which is tongues.

To be blunt and direct: The Holy Spirit comes in fullness and baptizes us upon salvation. There is no second occurrence that completes salvation for us. There are no “haves” and “have not’s”. There is no uber Christian, only an uber King who rescues us all from our gutters and madness.

One text that leads us to this conclusion is 1 Corinthians 12:13. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  The “body” is what we enter as we become Christians and is described in great detail in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians. If you are in the “body” of Christ, then you are a Christian. It is into this body that we are baptized by God’s Holy Spirit. Sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it.

Wayne Grudem comments that the baptism of the Holy Spirit must mean, “the activity of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Christian life when he gives us new spiritual life (in regeneration) and cleanses us and gives us clear break with the power and love of sin...it cannot refer to an experience after conversion.”

Why is Acts 2 a momentous and non-repeatable day then? Why all the theatrics in Acts 2 on that unique Day of Pentecost? So the world would know. So we would know. God has come, lived, died, lived again, and is now gathering a scattered globe into a single body and he is sending that single body into a scattered globe on mission with interlocking gifts and adequate power to get the job done, enjoy life, and glorify God. It was a “point of transition between the old covenant work and ministry of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.” This new work will equip and power us to be the joyful witnesses (Acts 1:8) our great commission calls us to (Matthew 28:19).

Being “Full” of the Holy Spirit

Another common and much more accurate phrase for us today to describe the experiences we have with the Holy Spirit is to be “filled” or “full”. It’s a unique fullness where we can never be too full. Don’t think glass of water as much as big balloon with air. We see the imperative to desire and ask for this fullness in Ephesians 5:18-20: And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, and we see the disciples enjoy this in Acts 4:8 and many other places.

This is definitely repeatable and can and should occur over and over again in our lives. This brings us both fresh joy and new empowering. It allows us to both enjoy our King and glorify Him well. Later in Ephesians we see the result of this “filling” on the church…

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  

Being full of the Holy Spirit allows us to be clothed with His power, but what does that mean?

Having the “Power” of the Holy Spirit

I think there is an undue burden on many who relegate this to simply having signs and wonders. Walking in the power of the Holy Spirit doesn’t just mean being heavily laden with signs and wonders or even being highly skilled to evangelize. Sure there might be signs and wonders, and I have seen things like that, but we aren’t limited to that in our witness. It also means leading and ministering out of deep deep joy.

Galatians 5:22–23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  

Martin Lloyd Jones gives a great example in his book Joy Unspeakable. “He says it is like a child walking along holding his father's hand. All is well. The child is happy. He feels secure. His father loves him. He believes that his father loves him but there is no unusual urge to talk about this or sing about it. It is true and it is pleasant. Then suddenly the father startles the child by reaching down and sweeping him up into his arms and hugging him tightly and kissing him on the neck and whispering, "I love you so much!" And then holding the stunned child back so that he can look into his face and saying with all his heart, "I am so glad you are mine." Then hugging him once more with unspeakable warmth and affection. Then he puts the child down and they continue their walk. This, Lloyd-Jones says, is what happens when a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit.

A pleasant and happy walk with God is swept up into an unspeakable new level of joy and love and assurance and reality that leaves the Christian so utterly certain of the immediate reality of Jesus that he is overflowing in praise and more free and bold in witness than he ever imagined he could be.

The child is simply stunned. He doesn't know whether to cry or shout or fall down or run, he is so happy. The fuses of love are so overloaded they almost blow out. The subconscious doubts—that he wasn't thinking about at the time, but that pop up every now and then—are gone! And in their place is utter and indestructible assurance, so that you know that you know that you know that God is real and that Jesus lives and that you are loved, and that to be saved is the greatest thing in the world. And as you walk on down the street you can scarcely contain yourself, and you want to cry out, "My father loves me! My father loves me! O, what a great father I have! What a father! What a father!"

God does this according to His own design and from His deep love for us. But we should always be praying and asking often for the Spirit’s power to enable you to be a good witness. A question you may be asking yourself right now is, “Is it possible to be a good Christian and not have these moments all the time?” John Piper comments,

“It is not either-or. It is both-and. In the history of the church the steady-state, obedient, faithful, persevering years of life have preserved and nurtured the fruit of the times of extraordinary power. And, to put it the other way around, the times of steady-state, faithful, obedient life have prepared the soil, and extraordinary outpourings of God's Spirit have taken the work of the kingdom forward in a quantum leap, accomplishing overnight, as it were, what people have been laboring years to see.” JP

Sometimes God gives us grace to persevere when we have no deep experience of being clothed with unbelievable power, and sometimes we get grace to enjoy those moments - but it’s all God’s grace. In my experience this is exactly how it happens. I have seasons of hard labor punctuated with brief moments of unexplainable and uncontainable joy and ability. Some years there seems to be little fruit - just plowing, and some weeks there seems to be a ton of fruit. Some months where I love my King steadily and some times where I am enraptured recklessly with love for Him. God will build through eventful and uneventful moments. God uses both and we should pray for power and fullness often, acknowledging it only comes from Him.

Posted by Luke Thomas with
Tags: acts

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