A Different Picture
Pastor Bill, “But what is strangely lacking in the picture of performances, personalities, programs, and professionals is desperation for the Power of God. God’s Power is at best an add-on to our strategies. I am concerned that the church I lead (YOU) can carry on most of our activities smoothly, efficiently, even successfully, never realizing that the Holy Spirit of God is virtually absent from the picture. We can so easily deceive ourselves, mistaking the presence of physical bodies in a crowd for the existence of spiritual life in a community.”
When is the last time you read something or heard something that absolutely moved you?
I don’t mean to run to the bathroom, or to stand up and call attention to yourself
but because you actually have an opinion,
from your heart, your spirit, the very fibers of your soul?
Why did it move you?
What was it that made your spirit feel shifted like sands of the Mojave after a storm blows threw?
Could it possibly be something that God planted within you so that you could remember Him at that moment?
Pastor Bill, “But when I opened the book of Acts in the New Testament and observe the picture of the church there, I see such different images. (You all have heard some of these in the last series that I just completed).
I see a small band of timid disciples huddled together in an upper room.
They know they need God’s power. They are Galileans, disrespected by the higher class in Jerusalem as lower-class, rural, uneducated commoners. This is the group that the spread of Christianity depends on!?”
Pardon me for interrupting where Pastor is going here, but I just have to ask the question…
How many of you feel you are the Galileans of today’s society?
I mean honestly look at the separation between the upper (higher) class and the lower class. Look at what defines a person in our society today.
Are you famous?
Do you have so much money that your great great grandkids won’t ever have to work?
Is your home referred to as a compound or an estate?
Was your education guaranteed?
Or that of your children?
Pastor, “So what are they going to do? They’re not plotting strategies. They are joined together constantly in prayer. They’re not busy putting their faith in themselves or relying on themselves. They are pleading for the Power of God, and they are confident that they are not going to accomplish anything without His provision.
Then God sends His Spirit in Power, and everything changes. These uneducated Galileans start speaking the gospel in a multiplicity of languages that everyone can understand. The crowds are shocked, and Peter stands up to preach Christ. Peter, who just weeks before was afraid to admit he even knew Jesus, now stands under the power of God in front of thousands of people, proclaiming Jesus. More than 3000 people are saved.
Talk about church growth. Acts 1 started with about 120 believers. And now in Acts 2 there are more than 3000. If you do the math that’s almost 2,500% growth.
In a day!!!
The story continues. People are coming to Christ every hour.
Acts 3, Peter and John speak the name of Jesus, and a forty-year old man crippled from birth stands up to walk the first time.
Acts 4, they pray until the building where they are gathered begins to shake. In a telling commentary,
Luke says when the crowds saw the courage of Peter and John and realize that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
It only gets better from there.
Acts 5, the apostles are performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. The sick are being healed of their diseases, and the evil spirits are being cast out.
Acts 6 & 7 the danger the apostles are experiencing is increasing, and so was God’s Power among them.
Acts 8, the church is scattering to Judea and Samaria, preaching the Gospel everywhere they go. Philip gets zapped by the Holy Spirit from one place to another to lead an Ethiopian to Christ.
Acts 9 Saul, persecutor of Christians, becomes a follower of Christ
Acts 10 racial and ethical barriers to the spread of the gospel begin to collapse.
Acts 11 the church at Antioch is founded as the future based of missions to the nations.
Acts 12, as Peter sets on death row in a jail cell, the church prays and suddenly Peter’s chains fall off. He practically sleepwalks out of the prison.
Acts 13 launches Paul into his travels from city to city, preaching the Gospel, healing people of diseases, casting out demons, and even raises people from the dead.
What I love about the picture that unfolds in Acts is the intentional way, Luke, the writer of Acts, makes much of God in the way he tells the story. Listen to the language in Acts 2 when Luke records the results of Peter sermon at Pentecost. He writes, those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that they verse 41. Did you hear the passive language? They were added. It begs the question who added them? Go down to verse 47 in the same chapter, and Luke make sure we get the right answer. There he writes, the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The trend continues. Acts 5:14 says, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. When Barnabas shares the Gospel in Antioch, the result is that a great number of people were brought to the Lord Acts 11:24. Later in Antioch, a host of Gentiles who were approved for eternal life believed Acts 13:48.
This is the design of God among His people. He is giving unlikely people His power so it is clear who deserves the glory for the success that takes place.
The story of the church continues throughout the rest of the New Testament, and as I read it, I cannot help but long to be a part of this kind of scene in the church today. A scene where we refuse to operate in a mindset dominated by American dream that depends on what we can achieve with our own abilities. A scene where we no longer settle for what we can do in our own power. A scene where the church; radically Trusts in God’s great power to provide unlikely people with unlimited, unforeseen, uninhibited resources to make His name known as great. I want to be a part of that dream.Don’t you?
When is the last time you actually did something not because society told you it was the thing to do, but because you knew in the fabric of what God gave you for a soul it was right?
And were you able to do it without the conscious effort most use today?