Thursday, May 18, 2017

Great Power & Great Grace


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 caused 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 the 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 throne to 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.

Jesus was raised from the dead on a Sunday. Jesus ascended to heaven on a Sunday. And on the next Sunday after His ascension, only 50 days after the crucifixion, God sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This promise came upon all those who had obeyed Jesus’ initial instructions to wait together in Jerusalem until they were filled with the power of God.

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. Whatever ceremony took place in heaven when Jesus arrived to take His place on the throne we can’t tell but one thing we can tell, one week later, when the day of Pentecost had fully come, there were 120 men and women who believed in Jesus and were saved by the grace of God through their faith waiting in that upper room on Mount Zion. --- Well, let’s read from Acts 2:

Acts 2  NKJV
1 ¶  When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
4  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Note: Continue to give the account:
·        People were visiting Jerusalem from all around the known world.
·        Those 120 who were locked up for fear came out of that upper room with power!
·        3000 people were saved that day because they believed the Word which was preached by Peter concerning Jesus.
·        Many returned to their homes in other cities and countries and spread the Word giving birth to Churches and initially fulfilling the Great Commission.
·        Some no doubt remained in or returned to Jerusalem to become disciples of those Apostles of Christ who had walked with Jesus for 3½ years.
·        Acts 2:42 tells how the Church was growing and happy.
·        Things were going great as they often do 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. (well it hasn’t ended yet, but it did get a little harder for some along the way…)

Acts 3
1 ¶  Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
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;
3  who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.
4  And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”
5  So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.
6  Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
7  And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
8  So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them — walking, leaping, and praising God.
9  And all the people saw him walking and praising God.

Things just couldn’t have been better.
·        Because of this healing a very large crowd gathered to see the man and to hear Peter explain about this evident power as he preached on the Temple Mount that day.
·        This wasn’t done in secret but in the open and it got the attention of the Temple authorities.
·        Acts 4:4 says that about 5000 men were saved that day.
·        However, come evening Peter and John were arrested and the next day they were questioned about their doctrine.
·        Seeing that a notable miracle had been done the authorities could not do much only they threatened Peter and John and forbid them to preach or teach in the name of Jesus anymore.
·        Then they threatened them severely and let them go. (I like what the Bible has to say about these proceedings)

Acts 4
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.

When Peter and John were released from jail they immediately found the Believers gathered and they 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!