Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Great Power & Great Grace Continued … Part Two


Last week we discussed how that on the day Jesus was arrested, beaten and crucified, His closest followers went into hiding. They were confused and afraid. The disciples expected something completely different than the death of their Messiah. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the 11 several times and gave them to understand the plan of God and their part in the continued work of reaching and teaching the lost.

Over the initial 40 days after His resurrection Jesus appeared to more than 500 people and proved Himself alive from the dead with power and glory. When the time came for Jesus to ascend to His heaven and await the time of His second coming, He gave strict instructions to His disciples.

1.   Tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.
2.   Go into all the world, evangelize and equip others to continue the work of God until I come again.
3.   Powerful signs, wonders and miracles will accompany those who believe in Me.

While on earth Jesus told His disciples that He was with them but shortly He would live in them. Jesus spoke of the necessity for Him to go away so that the Father could send the Holy Spirit.

Note: We discussed what happened on the day of Pentecost.
·        People were visiting Jerusalem from all around the known world.
·        120 Believers who had been behind locked doors because they were afraid, lost their fear and with a new boldness came out of that upper room with power, speaking in tongues and glorifying God.
·        They themselves did not understand what they were saying but others visiting from many other countries understood perfectly. They heard them telling the wondrous works of God in a language native to that person’s country and culture.
·        3000 people were saved that day because they believed what they heard concerning Jesus.
·        Many of those new converts returned to their homes in other cities and countries and shared the Good News. This gave birth to Churches and initially fulfilled the Great Commission.

The Bible describes the actions of those early Believers and confirms the Four Pillars of the Church

Acts 2:42  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
1.   Apostles Doctrine
2.   Fellowship
3.   Breaking of Bread
4.   Prayers

·        Things were going great for the Church as is often the case in the initial startup of a new congregation. Such excitement and expectation permeated the Church and it must have seemed as if it would never end.

Acts 3 begins with an account of Peter and John on their way to prayer about 3 o’clock in the afternoon one day. As they went into the Temple they encountered a man who was lame. The lame man was begging and asked them for money. Something different happened in Peter’s life that day than had happened at other times when he had passed by this man.

Acts 3:2  And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple;

Acts 4: 22  For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

It is reasonably evident that Peter and John, along with the other Disciples and even Jesus Himself, had passed by this man many times. Yet this time is was different. Sometimes it is just different. We can’t control it but we do know it.

For example, Acts 19:11 says that God did special miracles at Ephesus through the Apostle Paul for a season. And, when these things were ended, according to a later verse in Acts 19, there arose in the heart of Paul to depart and go to another city.

There are special times and special seasons and specific unctions of the Holy Spirit. These moments are like a prodding, a word of wisdom or word of knowledge perhaps … at any rate it’s like: A powerful leading of the Holy Spirit within the heart of the Believer who is filled with the Power of God. This is that unction which grants the “Manifestation of Faith” spoken of by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.

It is completely unexplainable but it is so powerful. When the Holy Spirit desires to manifest, for reasons that we cannot calculate and in ways we cannot fabricate, He moves us and shows and leads us by the Spirit to accomplish His will. This act of the Holy Spirit is often called “The Anointing of God”.

I have been praying for the sick, studying the word, sensing the leadership of the Holy Spirit and acting in faith ever since I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1980. It was then and there I was filled with power to be a witness. I have seen miracles and received healings and watched God move through words of wisdom, prophecy, acts of faith and blind obedience to His Word. I’ve seen lives changed, people delivered from demons and curses reversed all in the mighty name of Jesus. However, in all I have seen in the Churches I have pastored, within my own family and around the world, I have never once been able to manufacture God or fabricate the moving of the Holy Spirit to fit my desires or at my will.

Faith cannot be reduced to a formula and God does not respond favorable to anyone pitching a fit. God is not only almighty, God is sovereign! He and He alone decides when to move and what He will do about any situation. Our part is simple. Philippians 4:19 says:
1.   Don’t worry about anything;
2.   Pray about everything;
3.   Tell God what we want;
4.   Thank Him for everything He does.

It never gets any more complicated than a child asking a loving father for something they want or need.

I don’t know all the factors that moved God to demonstrate His power that day in Acts 3 and to heal the lame beggar but I do know what moved Peter to have such faith … It was the fact that he had been baptized with the power of the Holy Ghost; he was prayed up; and he was ready when God called on him that day. We must also be prayed up, ready and willing in the day of God’s power! (Psalms 110:3; Matthew 17:21)

God responded both to and through Peter’s faith. And God will do the same through any believer who is operating under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is not by our might nor by our power but by the Spirit of the Lord and in the mighty name of Jesus! (Zechariah 4:6)

The people all imagined Peter and John had healed this man …

Acts 3
12 ¶  So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?

16  And (it was) His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

19  Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

“Just get right with God and turn your life over to Jesus and you will be given seasons of refreshing which come from the presence of the Lord” … presence of the Lord??? – talking about the Holy Spirit!!!

Acts 4
1 ¶  Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them,
2  being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3  And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.
4  However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

There is nothing like a few healings mixed with a little persecution and good preaching to grow the Church …

13  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
14  And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

Thankfully the Holy Spirit will never leave us without evidence of our faith. It baffles people when we believe the Word against the odds. But: Greater is He Who is in us than he who stands against us. What’s inside you is bigger than what’s in front of you. (1 John 4:4) So, when Peter and John were released from jail they immediately found the other Believers gathered together and reported everything to them. Let’s read:

Acts 4
23 ¶  And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
24  So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
25  “who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things?
26  The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.’
27  “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together
28  “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
29  “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,
30  “by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
31  And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
32 ¶  Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
33  And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.

The great Power of the Holy Spirit was evident among those Believers in the early Church and that same Power is available to Believers in the Church today.

We have only one example of how Church should be. The New Testament is a snapshot of only 40 years, one generation. Those first 40 years of evangelism and discipleship were accomplished by simple, ordinary, often uneducated and illiterate followers of Christ who believed the message and opened their heart in prayer to be filled with the Power of the Holy Spirit. Then, they went gave witness of the resurrection of Jesus with great power and great grace was upon them all. Go and do likewise!