Call to Hear
Alex Sheen is the Founder of Because I Said I Would. This is a not-for-profit organization that has turned into a social movement reaching more than 150 countries, impacting over 8 million lives globally. Because I Said I Would was the title of Alex’s eulogy message for his father. Alex gave this speech after his father died of lung cancer on Sept. 4th, 2012. Of all the things that Alex had remembered his father for, one thing rose to the top – he was a man of his word. Alex said, “for everything that made my father ‘average’ and ‘everyday,’ there was one thing he did exceptionally well. He kept his promises.”
At the end of Alex’s speech he handed out “promise cards” to attendees and challenged them to write down their promises and follow through on keeping those promises. This is one of the game changing strategies of “Because I Said I Would”. The way the Promise Card works is simple.
Think about that for a moment. A father keeps his promises to his son and the son inspires generations to do the same. The Father’s faithfulness revolutionizes the world. How many of you know that we worship a Loving God and Father who is a more faithful Promise Keeper than Alex, his father, or the 8 million followers of “Because I Said I Would”. Should we expect anything less from our Father than what Alex received from his?
Mary Healy is the author of a book entitled, Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World. On page 13 of her book Mary Healy makes the observation that,
“vast numbers of people baptized as Christians are no longer practicing the faith and no longer have any connection with Christ or the Church. Many are living a practical Deism: they believe that perhaps in some sense God exists, but that He does not intervene in human history or act directly in our lives. The universe is a closed system in which everything can be explained by the laws of physics and biochemistry.”
Just a few weeks ago, my 23 year old daughter came to visit; we had a great time, but I always make it a point to encourage her to trust Jesus for her life before we part ways. Her reply to me was that no matter what I may say about God or the existence of God, someone else could come behind me and say why what I said isn’t true. It was at that moment that God’s voice echoed in my heart and I began to understand that much of what we refer to as Christianity and evangelism today is nothing more than a regression to the age of enlightenment where mere reason rules the day. Where, contrary to the Apostle Paul, we come preaching the Gospel in man’s wisdom with eloquent speech and carefully crafted phrases – void of power, and this leaves the potential disciples to grapple with whether or not WE were convincing enough in our testimony for them to believe in Jesus (1 Cor. 2:1-5)!
Today, I want to talk to the Church. I want to speak specifically to those of us who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. If that doesn’t describe/define you, stick around away, because God wants to speak to you too. This morning though, I want to talk about 3 things1) I want to talk about the Promise that or loving Father made to us. 2) I want to talk about the power connected to the Promise and finally 3) I want to talk about the purpose behind it all. The Promise. The power and the purpose.
The Promise (Acts 1:4-5)
So, the first thing that I want to focus on is the Promise.
The book of Acts picks up after Jesus is resurrected from the grave and just before His ascension to the right hand of the Father, about 10 days before the Day of Pentecost. In Acts, Luke chronicles the spreading of Christianity from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and then to ALL places – eventually making its way to Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, the Philippines and to us in the U.S.
At the end of Luke’s gospel we find the story about two disciples on the road to Emmaus just after witnessing the crucifixion of Jesus. They are scratching their heads trying to figure out what has just happened. Wasn’t Jesus the one who was supposed to set them free from the Romans and redeem Israel? Well, just as their hopes were beginning to fade away, Jesus shows up. Isn’t our God just like that?! When it seems like we are reaching the end of our rope and we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom – Jesus shows up!! Just last week, a young woman walked in off the streets into our building and she needed to experience the extravagant love that Herman preached on and Jesus showed up through Jo Fischer as she shared the gospel with that woman and told her of God’s amazing love for her and helped her find shelter.
So, Jesus joins these men on their 7 mile walk, but they do not know that it’s Jesus walking with them. How many people do you know who are going through life blind to the reality of Jesus? How many of them are experiencing His love and grace at work in their lives but they do not recognize Him? We pray Father, that you would open the eyes of the blind that they may see your face.
Well, after Jesus explains to them who He is by taking them through the OT scriptures and eating with them “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (Lk. 24:31). Jesus tells his disciples that He had to suffer, die, and rise on the third day, that repentance and remission of sins must be preached in His Name and that the disciples would testify to this. Finally, He says, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). Now, this takes us back to Acts chapter one.
What the followers of Jesus did not know about the Promise in Luke chapter 24 they would soon discover in Acts. The Promise of the Father that the disciples were waiting for was the Holy Spirit of God. You see, according to John 7:38-39, “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. However, from the moment that Jesus was glorified, the Spirit of God would be with those who believe and in them as well (Jn. 14:17). The Word of God reminds us that when we trusted in Jesus, after hearing the truth of the Gospel of our salvation, having placed the full weight our faith upon Him for the redemption of our souls, it was at that very moment that we were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise” (Eph. 1:13). He is a down payment ensuring that the Lord will return for us (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 4:30). But in the meantime, while we wait for the Lord’s return, we have work to do. Work that honors our God. Work that shines a light on His heart for the lost and which causes our world to give Him the glory He rightfully deserves (Matt. 5:16). It can’t be accomplished by reaching stratospheric heights of knowledge. You can’t do it by community activism or through the school system and certainly not through government. What you need is something only God can provide. Wait for the Father’s Promise and He will give you POWER when His Spirit comes upon you!! This brings us to our next talking point.
The Power (Acts 1:6-8a)
Secondly, not only would the disciples receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the Father had promised them, but when the Spirit came they would receive an anointing of power. The association of power with the Holy Spirit is typical as you read the pages of the Bible. Should we expect anything less?
What about Samson who tore a lion in half with his bare hands after “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily” (Judges 14:6)? How about when Saul was to be anointed king over Israel, he was told “The Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person” (1 Sam. 10:6). When Mary asked about the possibility of her becoming pregnant, “The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk. 1:35). What is clear from God’s Word is that before Mary’s encounter with the Holy Spirit she was not pregnant, but after her encounter she was!! There was a noticeable difference in Mary.
In the book Forgotten God Francis Chan says,
“if I told you I had an encounter with God where He entered my body and gave me a supernatural ability to play basketball, wouldn’t you expect to see an amazing improvement in my jump shot, my defense, and my speed on the court? After all, this is God we’re talking about. And if you saw no change in my athleticism, wouldn’t you question the validity of my “encounter”? (p32)
This is the problem with many so -called Christians today. They are claiming to have had an encounter with Jesus but their lives look no different after their alleged encounter than it did before and for that reason
the world “question[s] our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God” (p33).
I believe that we are living in a day and age where we need to begin asking God to show up in supernatural and awe-inspiring ways that are undoubtedly God at work.
Read Luke 11:9-13:
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread[d] from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
When Jesus speaks these words He is speaking them in direct reference to the Holy Spirit. Jesus is telling us that when we ASK for the Holy Spirit we will be given the Holy Spirit. When we SEEK the Holy Spirit we will find the Holy Spirit, and when we KNOCK on the doors of heaven with our prayers for the Holy Spirit that God will open up to us the wonders of knowing Him. And when the Spirit comes, He’s coming with POWER! Yes!
- Power to walk uprightly in a world given to sin.
- Power to avoid the temptations of the flesh.
- Power to resist the devil.
- Power over drugs and alcohol.
- Power over anger and sexual sin.
- Power to understand the word of God.
- Power to teach and preach God’s Word.
But not only that, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit they were given
- power to speak the word of God with boldness even when their lives were on the line.
- They were given POWER to speak in languages they had not spoken in before and to interpret those languages.
- God confirmed their testimony with miracles, signs and wonders (Heb. 2:4).
- The sick were healed.
- The dead were raised to life.
- The blind received their sight.
- They prophesied.
- They casted out demons.
- They served one another with a love and concern they had never expressed before.
- And those who sat in darkness saw the light of the glory of God and the veil which Satan had placed on the hearts and minds of unBelievers was ripped away as they trusted in Jesus for their salvation (2 Cor. 4:3-4).
While this same promise of the Holy Spirit and demonstration of power applies to the church today, the sad reality is that
[Many Christians] don’t see, hear, or believe in the power of God because we have constructed lives for ourselves without Him (Matt Chandler).
“Everything can be explained by the laws of physics and biochemistry” (Healy, p13).
What would it benefit the church? What would it benefit the world? if the people of God, actually took God at His Word and trusted Him to fulfill His promise to them?
The Purpose (Acts 1:8b)
So, let’s talk about why this matters. “…and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” One of the many reasons why God has fulfilled His promise to us is so that we may effectively evangelize our world. Jim Cymbala, lead pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle church, asks,
If we do not have access to spiritual power, how can we accomplish what needs to be done?
We would face so many such obstacles from satanic strongholds that we would never evangelize the world effectively without the power that only the Spirit can impart (Spirit Rising, p 105).
Every year around Easter our church goes out into the community to meet our neighbors, to give them bread, and to share the truth and love of Jesus with them. We will be going out again next month. I want to encourage you to get your K-Groups, Sunday school classes, Wednesday night groups and join Pastor Herman and his team. This is a great opportunity to let the Spirit of God use you as a witness.
One of the main reasons why Bible-believing Christians do not share the gospel or engage in any form of evangelism is due to a fear of a lack of knowledge. Christians are afraid that if they start talking about Jesus they are going to be stumped by questions from unbelievers. Now, certainly you have to spend time studying God’s word. You should be able to “give a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pt. 3:15), to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Proverbs 15:28 tells us that the heart of the righteous studies how to answer. Reason/Logic is good and useful when sharing the gospel, but if your level of Biblical knowledge is what’s keeping you from talking about Jesus then you are making the Gospel about you and not about God. Daniel chapter 11:32 tells us that “the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” Do you know Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life? Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good? (Ps. 34:8). Are you convinced that the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world? (1 Jn. 1:4). Don’t be afraid, because at the mere mention of His Name, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess – to the glory of God that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11)!
Look, Jesus understood that being His witness was not going to be easy, that’s why He encouraged His disciples with these words and I hope they encourage you this morning, “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12). When we rely on God to do the work He has called us to do, He gets the glory and not us. God keeps His promise so that, “…your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5). And you shall be His witnesses wherever you go!
Call to Respond
I said today’s message was mainly for The Church, so if that’s you ….If you’ve already believed in the promise of salvation, the Holy Spirit has sealed your salvation for eternity. And because you’re still alive here on earth, you can be confident that he has something in mind that he wants to accomplish through you. He wants you to help make Him famous. To bring him glory. To share the message that will set captives free. To bind up the broken hearted.
What an honor! How exhilarating – the God of the universe wants to use you and me to fulfill his purpose. So do we just sit on the Promise that he will give us his spirit? Do we fumble around wondering how we’re going to carry out this daunting mission? Do we wrack our brains and try to figure out ? No, we ASK…and it will be given. We SEEK, and He promises we will find.
I invite you to join me at the altar – let’s get on our knees and ask God to give us that power to accomplish his purpose. Ask for the Holy Spirit to be evident in your life… Seek him in the area that He’s placed on your heart. Knock on the doors of heaven for God to open up to you the gift of His Spirit.
In order for the Promise of the Holy Spirit to be fulfilled in your life you have to believe the promise of salvation. Because sin entered our world God the Father sent God the Son to save us from His wrath against sin. Jesus lived a perfect life unlike anyone else and He died in your place. He was crucified on a cross for YOU. He was buried in a borrowed tomb for YOU. And on the third day He rose from the grave by the power of the Holy Spirit of God for YOU. Because He loves you He is offering you forgiveness for your sins an eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Our heavenly Father says that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13). The Promise of the Father begins with Jesus. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
This post is also available in Spanish