Promised Power

Title: Promised Power

Bible Book: Acts 1 : 8

Author: Ron Hale

Subject: Spirit, Power of; Holy Spirit; Missions



There has been a revival of spirituality in America over the last thirty years. I heard one conference leader say, “America has grown more spiritual, while becoming less Christian.” As Americans explore ancient spiritual paths and mystical teachings, maybe it’s time for Christians to re-explore the simple time-tested teachings and promises of Jesus Christ. Could it be that the Church has forgotten the promises of Jesus and is too timid to step out of spiritual comfort zones into spiritual war zones? Have we grown so accustomed to depending on our human resources (education, experience, seminar nuggets from the best and brightest) that humbling ourselves to the simple promises made by a carpenter from Nazareth seems out of place and naive in the 21st century.

There are three basic ways to explore any religion:

1) Examine Its Precepts

This examination makes us ask questions. What is its body of teachings or doctrine? Does it make sense? Does it have the ring of truth?

The Psalmist said, “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart” (Psalm 19:8 NIV).

The Judeo-Christian body of truth has a sixty-six book library and it has the power to make the simple – wise. Too make the weak – strong. To make the proud – humble. To make the small – great! The precepts we proclaim have a ribbon of truth that extends back to the beginning of time. It tells us about our creation, our crash, our Christ, His cross, and His coming again.

Jesus is the Truth and we are the people of truth!

2) Examine Its People

Do these people live up to their teachings? Does their everyday behavior back up their worship day beliefs? Do their ancient teachings help them live ethical lives in the here and now? Do they really believe what they say they believe, or is it just religious jabber?

3) Examine Its Power

Does this group of people possess a supernatural strength to live up to their holy beliefs? Do they have more than a worked-up human enthusiasm to live joyful lives? Do they have more than tricks of persuasion and man-made manipulation to move human hearts to a profound change of heart, mind, and soul?

God’s Word says this about the apostles, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:38 NIV).

The apostles had a power outside themselves that propelled them to do and say things they could have never done or said on their own. These were uneducated and untrained men. They had been brought up to work with their hands not to think, speak, write, and lead. This power was obvious to sinners and feared by the religious status quo.

So in summing up these three ways of exploring a religion, we see:

* Christianity’s precepts - are the things we teach, preach, and live by. The Bible represents the most sold piece of literature in history. It has the ring of truth and still touches the hearts of both sinner and saint.

* Christianity’s people - have been promised far more than we are experiencing and living out. Either that same power the early apostles experienced is available for today or it’s a faded and jaded memory. Either Jesus told us a big fat lie or modern believers are not desperate enough to walk the walk of faith that characterized the early apostles and followers of Christ. Either we are missing much, misunderstanding much, or believing lies from the father of all lies.

* Christianity’s power - needs to be re-introduced as a natural and normal way of living out the claims of Christ. Many 21st Century evangelicals are more conscious of not appearing like some of the more extreme Pentecostal or Charismatic personalities of the last one hundred years than they are experiencing the promised power of Jesus lived out two thousand years ago by our early Church leaders.

We must understand this power is for a purpose. It’s all about His purpose, not ours. If Jesus is lifted up and glorified, it is of the Holy Spirit. If it points to me or you (not Jesus), then guess who has led us astray?

We must understand “why” He wants to empower us. We must understand that His purpose is for world evangelization, not so I can have a successful television show on TBN or bestselling Christian book, or music tape, or video.

The purpose of Christ is for the gospel to be preached, understood, and responded to within the language and context of every nation and people group. This has been God’s purpose since He issued His call to Abram in Genesis 12. God told Abram that all peoples on earth would be blessed through the calling and covenant that He placed on his life.

We see the Holy Spirit’s might for the mission in three distinct ways; it is for:

I. Conviction

The Holy Spirit works to convict the lost person of their sin and their sin is against a holy God. The Holy Spirit does a wonderful job bringing conviction; remember this is not our job!

“And He, when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8, NAS).

The King James Version uses the word “reprove,” while other versions use the word “convict” or “convince.” The English word “convict” is much closer to the Greek. It is a legal term. The picture can be of the Holy Spirit working as the prosecuting attorney presenting compelling evidence before the Judge.

The Holy Spirit shows a sinner that he is in sin, he is guilty before God, and he cannot save himself.

The Holy Spirit works to bring people under conviction. We see it in the life of King David as he wrote, “For I know my transgressions; And my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3 KJV).

The person under conviction senses helplessness due to personal wrongdoing. He or she cannot hide from the long arm of the Spirit. We are never outside His reach! The Holy Spirit’s goal is to bring about profound personal change.

The power of the Holy Spirit prosecutes the sinner and seeks to bring about:

* An intellectual change – the sinner’s mind is changed. I think differently!

* An emotional change – the sinner’s heart is changed. I feel differently!

* A volitional change – the sinner’s will is changed. I act differently!

It’s comforting to know that this change is brought about by relying on the Holy Spirit and not by our slick words, emotional ploys, or mental maneuvers.

We will see how this profound personal change is brought about as the sinner responds to God’s work of repentance and faith in their life, and how God delivers them (redeems us) from sin and establishes a personal relationship.

II. Conversion

You and I can’t save anyone! We can’t save ourselves, much less anyone else. We can only share the Word of God and the word of our testimony to lost friends, family, and the people God places into our lives each day.

When this is done through total dependence on the Holy Spirit, we will see our lives producing Kingdom fruitfulness. Our lives will touch other lives and God will use our words and witness.

Conversion can be pictured as a coin. Repentance is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is faith.

Again, we can be thankful that the Holy Spirit of God is at work seeking to bring about repentance and faith in the hearts and lives of unbelievers.

Let’s look at each side of the coin of conversion.

A. Repentance is a turning … “From”

The Holy Spirit works in the unbelievers’ lives to help them turn from their sinful actions and attitudes.

Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32 NIV).

In repentance, the love of sin dies in the heart of the sinner. We feel a deep sorrow for sin. We regret the things we’ve done and the lifestyle we currently live.

We know and sense a divine guilt before a Holy God. This guilt before God causes a discomfort in our lives. The Evangelist and the Pastor has seen this discomfort on the faces and in the body language of people in the pew during a gospel invitation (altar call). As the call to Christ goes forth, the Holy Spirit convicts the heart, and the decision of heaven and hell is weighed in the balance.

The witnessing layman has seen this discomfort as he or she shares Christ with co-workers, friends, and family. The non-believer nervously tries to laugh it off, make weak excuses, or blame hypocritical church members for their lack of decision.

At the age of twenty-three, I remember struggling restlessly on Sunday morning as the visiting Evangelist pleaded for unbelievers to accept Christ during the invitation. I’m sure it was on the sixteenth verse of the old hymn, “Just As I Am”, that I went forward in a public invitation to follow Christ. Out of this struggle of turning “from” my past came the Savior’s pardon!

B. Faith is a turning … “To”

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17 (NIV).

As the Holy Spirit makes application of the Word of God in our hearts, the sinner believes in Jesus Christ by turning “to” Him. We can clearly see the thief on the cross turning “to” Jesus as he got real with himself and right with God.

The Greek term pistis can mean three English words: believe, faith, and trust. We can look at “pistis” (faith) in these three ways:

Believe – I accept the truth of the gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus). I believe He has the power to save my soul, because He is the living, resurrected Lord.

The word “believe” carries a mental connotation in the English language. Just remember, real faith is more than giving mental assent to the facts of the historical Jesus. The Bible teaches that even demons believe in Jesus and they even tremble with fear at His name. Believing points to the intellectual change we talked about in repentance.

Faith – speaks to the emotional change we talked about in repentance. To place my faith in a person requires a change of heart.

I remember placing my young son on the hood of my car when he was two years old and asking him to jump into my arms. He would not jump. Intellectually my son knew who I was and that I was strong enough to catch him. However, it wasn’t until he bent his little knees and closed his eyes and took the dive of devotion into my arms that he truly placed his faith in me with that act of courage. He had to see me as a loving, caring Father, not as a man asking him to do something that he didn’t want to do.

Trust – speaks to the volitional change that we talked about under repentance as the “will” of the sinner is changed. Volition has to do with the decisions we make based on what I/we want to do. When we truly trust someone, we subordinate or yield our will to the will of that person.

When we trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we surrender our lives to him. We are willing to obey Him and follow Him.

The great news about conversion is that it is a work of God in our hearts and is not dependent on the works of man. He draws us to Himself by giving us the faith (faith comes by hearing) to believe in Him. He works Godly sorrow in our hearts through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Then God redeems us by making us a new creature in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).

God is good!

III. Conquest

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NIV).

“… make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

We are commissioned for the conquest of souls. Jesus commands us to make, mark, and mature disciples, while we are going, starting where we are, and then going to the ends of the earth. The only command in the Great Commission is “to make disciples.”

This conquest is lived out by capturing men, women, boys, and girls with the good news of Jesus Christ! We march victorious from an empty tomb and with a resurrected Lord by invading the dominion of darkness.

Our assignment is: invasion, occupation, pursuit, attack, ambush, and takeover, as we relentlessly fight the forces of evil by winning the lost and making them devoted disciples of Jesus.

Jesus does not leave us alone and without resources. He gives us a Divine Helper, the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught that it was necessary that He go away, so the Holy Spirit (the Helper) could come to us. Now we have the never-ending spiritual and universal presence and power of the Holy Spirit to help us make disciples of all people groups.

We can praise God that He desires to empower us even before we are asked to be witnesses. When we choose to accept this commission of conquest, and as we go forth in faith, the power comes for the job at hand. No “go,” then no “mo” (momentum). It’s just that simple.

Because the conquest is still before us, we need to remember or relearn the three principles that Dr. J.B. Lawrence taught us in the early 1950’s.

The Believer Has the Spirit

While believers at Pentecost had to wait for the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit came upon them and they were filled; believers today receive the Spirit at conversion. I Cor. 12:13 teaches that: “for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” and then we are “made to drink into one Spirit.”

So the believer has the Spirit, but this doesn’t mean we are always filled with the Spirit.

The Spirit May Not Have the Believer

“Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 KJV).

The new believer still has an ongoing struggle with virtue and vice, with sin and self.

The new believer may pray or not pray. He may go to church or not go to church. He may read the Bible or never open the precious Word of God. He may strive to be a verbal witness for Christ, or always talk about himself. He may pray each day to be filled with the Holy Spirit, or choose to live by his own brains and brawn.

The new believer can literally grieve the Holy Spirit though personal ignorance and ignoring.

Ignoring - If he pays no attention to the Holy Spirit that is always willing and waiting to be the Helper, this is ignoring the Spirit’s help.

Ignorance - If has not been taught to rely on the person and power of the Holy Spirit, this is ignorance and lack of discipleship.

In both cases, the believer has the Spirit, but the Spirit may not have the believer.

The Spirit May Have the Believer

No one can have the power Jesus promised without the infilling of the Spirit; this only comes as each believer gives the Holy Spirit full charge of his life. When Paul says, “…but be filled with the Spirit”, he is sharing that Christians are commanded and expected to live Spirit-filled lives! This verse teaches that we can have an ongoing replenishment of God’s Spirit! This means that we can’t depend on yesterday’s blessings and spiritual victories, we must face each new day with glad surrender to the Spirit’s fullness. We can only walk in the fullness of the Spirit as we daily surrender and give Him complete possession of our:

* Intellect – Why? So, the believer can have a continual renewing of the mind; the mind of Christ.

* Heart – Why? So, the believer’s emotions will not be held hostage by mood, misery, or misfortune. The believer must learn to live by faith, not feeling!

* Will – Why? So, the Christian’s behavior lives up to what he or she says they believe. The Holy Spirit wants to empower every believer to make decisions that glorifies the Father, extends the Kingdom, and aids the believer in triumphant living.

The Tennessee Valley Authority Project came out of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. It promised power for thousands of people over thousands of square miles. Rivers were dammed, valleys were flooded, and power lines were stretched along rivers, ridges and roads.

Then one day the switches were thrown and the promised power began to flow to every nook and cranny in the vast region of the rural south. Slowly but surely, this new found power brought new life into the backwoods and boondocks. That promised power is still flowing today. That initial mind-boggling promise is still being lived out each day with the flip of a light switch.

Beloved, do you really want what Jesus offers? Do you want to live a life that can see the Holy Spirit at work bringing?

* Conviction?

* Conversion?

* Conquest?

Jesus is still the same, yesterday, today, and forever! He has not changed, nor His promise!

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