THE CHURCH THAT TURNED THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN PENTECOST - 31 May 2009 Angela Brown Scripture testifies in the Book of the ACTS of the Apostles, that the early church “turned the world upside down”! This was the phrase used by Billy Graham when he said “The men who followed Jesus were unique in their generation..They turned the world upside down because their hearts had been turned right side up. The World has never been the same!” The message of the early church is that the bare simplicity of the Christian faith is what counted. The testimony of these early Christians was that God‟s people were proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit ……. and confirming it with their lives. What was their secret? Does the world marvel at the church today?? Is the world turned upside down by Christians? No – I don‟t think so I‟d like to explore now why the church seems to have so little impact – - - We seem to stand powerless before a world desperately needing what we claim to have!! For most of us when we discover that we are part of God‟s plan for the work of His Kingdom, we ask “What can I do for You God?” What we should ask is “What does God want to do through me?” It comes down to having a relationship with the One who is the gift of God to us – the Holy Spirit himself. JOHN 16 : 7 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you”. I find this an amazing statement. Jesus told His disciples that they would be better off if He left and the Spirit came. Better to have the Holy Spirit within you than Jesus beside you. Peter couldn‟t understand what Jesus was saying that night in the upper room. Peter had always fought hard to keep Jesus close, even rebuking Jesus when He talked of going to the cross. On the Mount of Transfiguration, it was Peter who had wanted to build a permanent structure and stay there. When Pentecost came and the promise of the coming Spirit was fulfilled, though, Peter and the other disciples – filled with the Holy Spirit, would never be the same – the mighty power of God flowed in and through their lives. Need to understand that the fullness of the Spirit is not reserved for the spiritual giant or the supersaint. The Spirit is given to sinners and failures who have learned to repent and have come to realize the cleansing blood of Jesus over their lives. The power demonstrated in Jesus‟ life and in His resurrection from the dead, was the power of the Holy Spirit working within Him. The same is true for all believers ROMANS 8 : 11 Paul said, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” That‟s what we need to hear today!! Resurrection power is found in the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit is found in every believer, and the measure in which we walk in the Spirit‟s fullness and power is the measure in which our lives will impact the world around us. ZECHARIAH 4 : 6 Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit „ says the Lord of hosts An important principle to understand at the outset is that if we do not walk in the Spirit – i.e. if we are living outside of God‟s will, then it‟s impossible for us to function according to any „Spiritual Gift” we may think we have. The Spirit manifests Himself in our lives to accomplish God‟s purposes and bring Glory to God. 1 COR 12 : 7 The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all If you are a believer, the Spirit will reveal himself and His activity in you….. question is … Are you ready for Him to do it?? Are you expecting Him to do his work? Be assured that He is ready and waiting to accomplish the Father‟s purposes in your life. You might reply “I don‟t have anything to offer God.” That‟s likely to be true – we‟ve all said that – but what does that have to do with the Holy Spirit working in your life? When He‟s present, it doesn‟t matter what YOU can or can‟t do. If you don‟t have a lot of natural alent, you can thank God that you‟re the perfect vessel for Him to show Himself powerful in you. 2 COR 12 : 9 My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. God can use every willing person and every gift He has given to actively build up the body – His people. One of the popular tests in the past was for folk to do Spiritual Gift Inventories - BUT in many cases these could be viewed as nothing more than natural talent lists – our areas of strength - and shouldn‟t be used as a guide for how God desires to use you in the future, because God‟s purposes are based upon His strengths and not our ours. God did create us with unique abilities, and He does want to use them for His glory, BUT he‟s far more interested in our getting to know Him better, than our finding out what we‟re good at. When Jesus said that He was the vine and we the branches he said JOHN 15 : 5 without me you can do nothing. Only through His Spirit are we truly equipped for His service. So the question we ask is this: will God ever ask you to do something you aren‟t able to do? The answer is YES – All the time! BUT, we know that we‟re called to accomplish those tasks not according to our own capacity, but according to the fully enabling power of the Holy Spirit. This was the pattern of Jesus‟ own life! When Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove, as described in Luke 3 , it was a moment that represented the beginning of a new stage in Jesus‟ life, a special anointing by the Father for extraordinary and demanding tasks. The Scriptures make it very clear that it was the work of the Holy Spirit that enabled Jesus to do all that the Father asked of Him. LUKE - “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” Then again in Luke 4 : 14 Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee and news of Him spread throughout the region. Luke 4 : 18 – 19Jesus went to Nazareth and stood in the synagogue and read from Isaiah The Spirit of the Lord is upon me – anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, sent to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. So the pattern was set ….. the assignment given by the Father, accepted by the Son, and fulfilled through the working power of the Spirit. Jesus chose to live with all the limitations of a human being PHILIPPIANS 2 : 6-7 He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant being made in the likeness of men. WHY did Jesus become fully man? Simply because He could not take our place unless He first took up our humanity with all its limitations. Salvation was dependent upon a MAN named Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. His life, therefore is a demonstration of the way in which we CAN live – full of the Holy Spirit! And so it happened. As we read in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, once the Spirit had come upon them, they began doing everything the people had seen Jesus do! Through the power of the Spirit working through them, they healed the sick, raised the dead, and taught with great authority and power - - and lives were changed. So often we operate in the ways of the world. …… even in the church! When someone is needed to fill a position – or for some volunteer work, just as when you fill in the Dedication of Time sheets in the Stewardship pack – our tendency is to look at or draw on a person‟s natural skill. God works in a different way! In choosing and calling His servants, He doesn‟t focus on the outward appearance or abilities – but on their heart and their walk with Him. ……. Not on the basis of natural skill, but rather on spiritual maturity and integrity. When God has a task that needs a laborer, He doesn‟t go looking for one who has the right gifts. He looks for one who has an obedient & willing, heart, so He can accomplish the task through that person and He receives all the glory. Think about this interesting quote from Roy Hession‟s book “Be Filled Now” The Spirit’s fullness is not the reward of our faithfulness, but God’s gift for our defeat. He was not given to the disciples in Acts 28 as the culmination and reward for their wonderful service. He was given in Acts 2 when they had proved themselves cowards, meeting behind barred doors. God used so many ordinary people with no ability of their own to accomplish His purposes. Gideon – probably the last person anyone would have chosen to led God‟s people into battle, but God saw him as a “mighty man of valour” JUDGES 6:12 Then in 6: 34 – The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and God‟s power was displayed through him and his men – with 300 men he defeated a well trained army of 120 000. Impossible??? For Gideon – yes – but with the Spirit of the Lord – nothing is impossible. Amos – his background certainly didn‟t qualify him to stand before a king and boldly pronounce God‟s word. But he was great used of God for a special prophetic assignment as the Spirit enabled him. Peter – a rough unpolished, abrasive commoner – could he lead the disciples? Preach the first gospel sermon at Pentecost? Stand in the temple courts defying the elite? Could the Holy Spirit work through an ordinary labourer like Peter? Very definitely He did! These are just a few of the very many champions of the faith – thoroughly made-over and transformed by the Holy Spirit – better than any Hollywood Make-over! The speciality of the Holy Spirit is using ordinary men and women – just like us - in extraordinary ways. I think we can agree that we are ordinary men and women, and the BIG question is …. do we want to be used of God through the power of His Spirit working within us? If the answer is Yes – then I must repeat what was said at the beginning of this sermon – our relationship with the Lord is the key. We must know Christ well enough that we know our answer before He gives us His assignment. Are we prepared to say “Yes Lord.” before we know what He‟s going to ask? We need to trust that God knows what He is doing! Your heart must be convinced that He is God and He is Lord! What some find is the scary bit, is that the Holy Spirit desires full and complete control of our lives. Every ounce of our being must be fully surrendered to Him so He can fully do the Father‟s will through us. In fact, the smallest part of our life not yielded to Him, may derail the accomplishment of the Father‟s will. That‟s why the Scriptures use terms like being “FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT” – not just sprinkled but fully filled! When we are walking in a right relationship with the Lord, the Holy Spirit has complete access to our lives and is not blocked by sinfulness or our self-will – or even our complacency – wanting His presence only when WE call Him to fulfill OUR needs! Any equipping of the Holy Spirit is to help bring every member of the Body of Christ to complete Christlikeness. ….. so that we should be able to say, as Paul did to the Christians in Philippi PHILIPPIANS 1 : 21 For to me to live IS Christ. Anyone who is filled with the Spirit cannot stand outside the church and watch from a distance. That‟s not spiritually possible! The words of JOHN say it all 1JOHN 3 : 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. That first Pentecost was the moment when the Spirit was sent upon all believers. He came upon them to be Jesus in them and much more. As Jesus taught, now the Spirit would teach As Jesus comforted, now the Spirit would comfort As Jesus led, now the Spirit would lead Everything needed would be found in Him who lives within. And their mission was the proclamation of the gospel of salvation to the world. That‟s our mission as well – totally impossible in our humanity, but utterly possible through the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit working through us. Our mission is to live as Jesus lived – and do as Jesus did – even greater things. Inevitably there will be times of suffering – but in all God will be glorified. I know that there comes a point in each of our lives when the Lord opens the eyes to understand what the Christian life is meant to be. It‟s not just the promise of going to heaven when we die [although that is great in itself] it‟s living selfless lives here on earth and allowing Him through the Holy Spirit to live through us. Reflect on these questions: Who is the Holy Spirit to you? What have you done with Him? OR rather …. What has He done with YOU? Have you neglected God‟s gift of the Holy Spirit in your own life? Do you want God to use your life for His purposes? When you recognise your complete weakness and total dependence upon God, - that total inability to live a Christlike life - then that will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His awesome power in you. If the Holy Spirit has been impressing His truth upon Your Spirit during the time of worship, or during this sermon, – you need to respond. This moment is not just LEADING you to an encounter with God; this moment IS an encounter with God. We pray together now, but if anyone would like specific prayer for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, after you have received Holy Communion, please go to the chapel where there will be folk ready to pray with you. MAY WE PRAY – although we are praying together as the Body of Christ – this is nevertheless, a personal prayer. Father God, I thank You for the awesome gift of God the Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, I don‟t want to miss out on Your best for me. If I‟ve been grieving, resisting or quenching the blessed work of Your Spirit in my life, then this is to my shame and yYOur dishonor. May your Holy Spirit search my heart anew and see if there is any sin in me. Forgive me and cleanse me and use me as You will. Father, I yield myself and surrender all that I am – not just part – but all of my life to the Holy Spirit and to His working of Your will in me and through me. Thank you Father, that when I pray for the enabling and equipping of the Holy Spirit for Your service, you hear me and fill me. I want to experience You full. Let your fire burn within me as I walk in the Spirit. You are the Master and I am the willing servant. Your servant is ready to obey. Come Holy Spirit, Come.
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