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Sermon 2019-06-16 Ross Woodhouse

 

A Personal Appeal and A Personal Response

Well, we’re engaged in a series on the giving of (the person of) the Holy Spirit. You will find audio and notes of all the series online at our website including Alan’s message from last Sunday where he spoke on the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost. …we’ll conclude next week in Acts 2:42-47 where we’ll talk about what church looks like, when it is full of the Holy Spirit, when it is a fully functioning biblical community when we are operating in grace and truth.

I am aware that this series has created some debate. It has made some of us feel a little uncomfortable. Concerned perhaps about where all this might be leading. What we’re attempting to do is place before you what the bible teaches and what our experience and relationship with the Holy Spirit might look like today.

We helped a friend shift last weekend and part of the task was assembling a few pieces of new furniture. We could pre-determine what that furniture would look like if we assembled it right. A little bit like a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel. A potter would pre-determine (have control over) whatever masterpiece they created. I want to suggest we can tend to be like this a bit with God, particularly when we want him to respond and behave toward us in a certain way as if we can shape God.[1]

Isaiah 64:8. “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay; you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand”

Isaiah 29:16. “You have turned things upside down as if the potter were regarded as clay. Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pottery say of the potter, “He has no understanding”?

The Holy Spirit is knocking on our door saying, give it up, give that up, let down those walls…

I cannot be full of myself and full of God at the same time. Today, we’re like lumps of clay in the hands of Almighty God. Today you choose to surrender yourself into his hands.

Those final few verses of today’s passage again…

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words, he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

What I’d us to be thinking about from the outset is this. What took place that resulted in so many been saved and baptised? What shall we do?

Our main focus is on those concluding verses but let’s look firstly at Peter’s….

  1. A Personal Appeal (v. 14-36)

We know Pete’rs sermon is immediately following the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, where the presence of the Lord was tangible in the form of a “sound like a blowing of a violent wind” (2:2) and “something that seemed like tongues of fire came” (2:3) to rest on the people gathered. “…filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4) …they spoke in languages the Holy Spirit gave them that they had not previously known, but recognisable languages of the various visiting Jews that day. Can you imagine the scene?

Peters appeal links Pentecost to Joel’s prophecy. Peter’s intent was to help them make sense of all this ‘chaos’ and piece the events together with Old Testament prophecy. But for many of the Jews – most will have been familiar with Joel’s prophecy[2] and especially the more devout will have been longing to see this occur – this was all a bit much. They had a different expectation of God, and what the “last days” might look like, obviously accusing the people of been drunk as opposed to, a genuine work of God the Holy Spirit. Which is what Peter was attempting to help them see.

In essence, his appeal was: ‘What you have been praying for[3], believing for, anticipating all these years, is now here!’ Why can you not see and believe that this is the real deal?[4]

Peter quoting Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’”[5]

 

“Last days”, what does this mean?

If that was the last days, where does that leave us today? In the last days![6] Jesus’ ministry and work was the beginning of the “last days”,[7] his coming again will signal the end of the last days. Will Jesus return tomorrow? Possibly. What should we do? Be right with God and ready!

What occurred at Pentecost and continues to this day was and is Jesus baptizing people in the Holy Spirit, so that they might receive the necessary power for witness and mission in our community, city nation and the world, and to live genuinely Christian from now till the end of the last days.

Inasmuch we are to be watchful, guarded, informed and prepared in these last days…we can have absolute confidence that in the midst of great stress, global trauma, natural disaster, persecution, and yes moral decline, Pentecost was this great event, but the Holy Spirit will be poured out again and again (NB) on the faithful, mission-oriented church of Christ, until every people and tribe and tongue has seen the light of the gospel.[8]

The Bible gives a pretty clear picture of the sorts of things we can expect to see in these last days.[9] The love of many will grow cold; there will be, and is unbelief; a greying of biblical truth, a forsaking of faith, fellowship and focus on Jesus. Let me say this again to you here: there is no more vital and important thing than for you to keep your eyes on Jesus! What, shall we do?

Peter’s point in including Joel’s words is to convey that as the Holy Spirit works, in these last days, and fills and pours out and baptises…people of all ages, gender[10] or class, will prophesy, have visions and dream dreams…3 different means of revelation and for the building up of the church.

Paul says “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort…What then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:3, 26)[11]

A quick comment about prophecy. It is a legitimate, biblical, spiritual gift. There is with any gift, an element of human involvement and imperfection. However, we do want to encourage the operation of the gifts of the Spirit, in the biblical manner they are intended for, including prophecy. We “do not want to quench the Spirit or despise prophecy…” (1 Thess. 5:19-22)

The next part of Peter’s appeal in verses 23 – 36 is all about the providence and sovereignty of God. Howso? God bringing about his will and purposes through people. For example God planned for Jesus to die on the cross (John 3:16), nevertheless, those who had him crucified were responsible for his death. A contradiction in terms to Jews, like Jesus (the King) riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was.

But Peter says “…let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (v.36) The apostles were presenting Christ’s death, not as a defeat or failure but a victory over sin and death.

Therefore, our focus is not in attempting to comprehend why he did it but to focus on our response that he did it for us. What, shall we do?

The idea that Christ’s death was God’s plan didn’t sit well with Peter initially. In Matt. 16, Peter rebukes Jesus, when Jesus explains he must suffer and die. To which Peter says “never…this shall never happen to you”. Jesus’ response to Peter was “get behind me Satan, you do not have in mind the things of God but of men”.

David Gooding reflecting on this text: They had murdered God’s Son; he was offering them his Spirit. They had crucified the second person of the Trinity; he was offering them the third.

They had thrown God’s Son out of the vineyard in the hope of inheriting the vineyard themselves; now he was inviting them to receive God’s Spirit not just into their vineyard but into their very hearts, to be their undying life, to be the earnest guarantee of an infinite and imperishable inheritance.[12]

Those who crucified the person of grace were now recipients of grace. And like the centurion were faced with: “surely this man was the son of God”.

(v. 32,33) “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

Peter’s saying: what you see happening here before you today is as a result of what Christ has done, now exalted to Father Gods right hand and is a genuine work of the Holy Spirit,[13] “…not the unfortunate defeat of a good man who had no power to save himself from such a death”[14] and even David was able to ‘see’ this, why can’t you?

The planned and purposed work of God for the salvation of all who might believe, a work that triumphed over sin and death by the cross that meant the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  The fulfilment of OldTestament prophecy

Peter’s appeal was don’t dismiss this, what you see happening, what you’ve prayed and believed for centuries, now it’s happening. What was their response?

 

  1. A Personal Response (v. 37-41)

(v. 37) “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 

Why the u-turn? The power of the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The true word of God is his Word. He loves it, honours it and empowers it.[15] It is living and active, it is a sword, piercing to the soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). When the word of God is preached, as it was here[16] to people who for years ran, rebelled and resisted God, they are “cut to the heart”.

I’m praying Lord may your word go forth in power, may your Spirit move among us freely, may we not resist you, but be “cut to the heart”’

…what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Peter did not hesitate to bring about conviction of personal sin, because dealing with sin through repentance and water baptism[17] is the key to receiving the Holy Spirit, a promise for all. There was no skirting over the fact of sin in the lives of the hearers[18] and being confronted with its consequences.  

Anything less than living holy lives, where we understand the seriousness of sin and opposite that, the grace and mercy of God toward us, is an anemic view of what following Christ is. Luke writes…

  1. 40 With many other words, he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

 

We talk about this a lot I know, but it’s important we understand the world in which we live. Truth, for the world, is relative to whatever a person wants the truth to be. Truth, for the world, has no absolutes. Black and White truths are simply too stark in a world that wants moral freedoms. But arguably at the same time still believes in rights and wrongs and wants morality?

Even in religious[19] terms, people want the love, the empathy and the hanging-out-with-sinners part of Jesus, but not the “go now and leave your life of sin” Jesus or the didn’t come to bring peace but a sword[20], Jesus. God is not weak and morally wishy-washy, he is holy!! 

Mahatma Gandhi held Christ in high esteem but rejected his claims to uniqueness. Gandhi took from the life and teachings of Jesus principles he found useful but didn’t bother about the parts of the gospel that suggest Christ was unique. He downplayed the historical importance of the Gospels and therefore rejected the parts he found offensive. [21]

Repent, Peter says….41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

In 1935 Blasio Kigosi, a schoolteacher in Rwanda, Central Africa, was deeply affected by the lack of life in the church and the powerlessness of his own experience. He followed the example of the first Christians and closed himself off for a week of prayer and fasting in his little cottage. He emerged a changed man. He confessed his sins to those whom he had wronged, including his wife and children. He proclaimed the gospel in the school where he taught, and revival broke out there, resulting in students and teachers being transformed.

They were called abaka, meaning people on fire. Shortly after that, Blasio was invited to Uganda, to share with the leaders of the Anglican church. As he called leaders to repentance, the fire of the Spirit (abaka) descended again on the place, with similar results as in Rwanda.

Several days later, Blasio died of fever. His ministry lasted only a few weeks, but the revival fires sparked through his ministry swept throughout East Africa and continue to the present. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been transformed over the decades through this mighty East African revival. And it all began with a Christian setting himself apart to seek the fullness of God’s Spirit.[22]

I happen to think this is a modern-day equivalent of what Peter was expecting to see and how the Holy Spirit wants to move, fill and baptise believers and how this leads to salvation…

Asked the question earlier: What took place that resulted in so many been saved and baptised?

They heard the word, accepted the word, were “cut to the heart”, responded to the word, asked “what shall we do?” they repented, were water baptised and therefore would receive the gift of the Spirit. What, shall we do?

 

What does it mean to “receive the gift of the Spirit”?

What did Peter mean the gift of the Spirit? Who do (or did) we receive at conversion? The Spirit indwelling us? Baptism in the Holy Spirit? Filling with the Spirit? Being empowered by the Spirit? I don’t think we need to choose any of these, rather all of these. Because it’s all of these the Holy Spirit wants to do. I do think however that verse 33 is a clue to what Peter intends. “…the promised Holy Spirit has now been poured out what you now see and hear”. Immediately on the back of (in the context of) Pentecost, I’m suggesting this gift is more about filling…all!

Bear in mind, it was the start of the church, God wanted them immersed in the Holy Spirit for power to be his witnesses, to live the Christian life and for the church to grow.

Next week we’ll talk about what a Spirit-filled church looks like, in the meantime, we’ve talked about receiving the gift of the Spirit, let me conclude by addressing the question…

How do we know when we are filled with the Holy Spirit/baptised in the Holy Spirit?[23]

  1. Glorifying God is our #1 focus (Acts 5:29; 10:46)[24]
  2. Prayer governs all we do (Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6-7)
  3. We have boldness for the things of God (Acts 4:31)
  4. We have control over sin (Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:16)
  5. Love for Jesus and grace toward others is natural (Philippians 2; 3:7-11)
  6. Fruit is evident in our lives (Galatians 5)…for some this will tongues[25], perhaps others prophecy…
  7. We are “in step” with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25)
  8. Gods mission is our mission (Acts 1:8)

 

What shall we do? What are we prepared to do, to see God move how he wants and wills to? Are we prepared to be “cut to the heart”, respond to his word & what Christ has done for us?

Perhaps the conversation about the person of the Holy Spirit may still leave us a little wary, uncomfortable, resistant. I can only encourage you to be prayerful. Study this for yourself to be certain. Don’t be afraid of what is genuinely of God.

The Holy Spirit is knocking on our door saying, give it up, give that up, let down those walls.

 

DIGGING DEEPER: Group Study Questions 

  1. Are any of us still wary of, uncomfortable with, resistant to, the Holy Spirit? Why?
  2. Do you believe you are filled with the Spirit? If not, is this something you seek?
  3. Do you believe that God can pour out his Spirit, today?
  4. “Anything less than living holy lives, where we understand the seriousness of sin and opposite that, the grace and mercy of God toward us, is an anemic view of what following Christ is”.
  5. Do you agree/disagree with this statement? What’re your reflections?
  6. What would the gifts of the Spirit look like if put to practice in our group?
  7. What are we prepared to do, to see God move how he wants and wills to?

 

 

[1] He is God! We cannot manipulate him to suit our ways. Ultimately our peace in God is determined by our ability to relinquish and surrender self to his control.

[2] And for e.g. Ezekiel 37…

[3] At least 6oo years, possibly 900 since Joel’s prophecy

[4] Why were they blinded?

[5] See Joel 2:28-32

[6] Joel’s prophecy covers both ends of the “last days”: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the end of the last days, well at the end (see Revelation 6:12-14; 8:5-7; 20:9, etc.).

[7] See Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Cor. 10:11

[8] https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/i-will-pour-out-my-spirit

[9] See Matthew 24:9-14; Luke 21:9-11; 2 Timothy 3:3; 2 Peter 3:3

[10] Male or Female

[11] Not all will prophesy (1 Corinthians 12:29) …but all prophecy and visions and dreams shared are for the building up of the church. See also 1 Corinthians 14:12

[12] Fernando, Ajith, 106.

[13] First clear hint of the Trinity

[14] Fernando, Ajith. “A Summons to Repent and Receive Forgiveness (2:37 – 40)” In NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: Acts. By Ajith Fernando, 109. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1998.

[15] https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/repentance-forgiveness-and-the-gift-of-the-spirit

[16] Joel 2, Ps. 16, Psalm 110, Gospel of Jesus

[17] Some have understood v. 38 as implying that baptism is a necessary requirement for salvation. I want to suggest that interpretation reads too much into the text. In the story of Cornelius, people received the Spirit and spoke in tongues before they were baptized (Acts 10:44 – 48).

[18] Fernando, Ajith.

[19] For many Christians

[20] Matthew 10:34

[21] Adapted from: Fernando, Ajith. Could easily be a commentary for the world today. Save yourselves…

[22] Fernando, Ajith

[23] See Romans 6:1-10; Colossians 2:12

[24] Romans 8:14; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John 3:24; 4:12-13

[25] Speaking in tongues on its own is not the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but it is what can happen when baptised in the Spirit. There are 3 occasions in Acts regarding tongues (Acts 2:2-4; 10:44-46; 19:6) this doesn’t make it the norm. There are 9 other conversion stories in Acts with no mention of tongues (Acts 8:36; 9:17–19; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 16:14; 17:4, 34). It’s important you know you don’t have to speak in tongues in order to be saved. But if you want the full outpouring that is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, you must expect that tongues is one of the gifts you may be given.