Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rewards of being Spirit-filled

Key Principle #3: SPIRIT-FILLED (part 3)
Acts 2:41-47
Rewards of being Spirit-filled

        The tongues of fire and the understood languages were used on the Day of Pentecost to proclaim the Word, will and works of God. It was a sign of God’s power for unbelievers to see that God has poured out His Spirit on them, and 3,000 people were saved. Speaking in other languages was again shown on several occasions later in the book of Acts, each with a significant reason and each with salvation for unbelievers. Paul explained later that speaking in other languages was not a sign for believers, but for unbelievers. However, using your spirit-filled tongue to proclaim a prophetic message in an understandable language is a wonderful way to edify other believers (see 1 Cor. 14:22) and a great reward for you.

        In fact, the Holy Spirit prompting us to prophesy was direct fulfillment of prophecy from Joel 2:28-32 as shown in Acts 2:17-18. To prophesy does not only mean “fore-telling” or speaking God’s truth before it happens, but also it means “forth-telling” or speaking God’s truth that should be happening now. Both sons and daughters, men and women, will prophesy, Peter said. For nearly two thousand years, there has never been so many women so ably proclaiming God’s Word as there are today. Women like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Anne Gramm Lotz, just to name a few. Now some denominations don’t want women to serve as pastors, perhaps, but I for one don’t want them to be silenced either. And judging by the book sales, I’m not alone.

        Now it would be really cool to be able to fore-tell the future, especially in these days of economic roller coasters. But for me, I would rather forth-tell the truth of God’s word, especially if it means that people, when they hear it, will be “cut to the heart,” and be willing to change their ways (Acts 2:37). Honestly, outside of being able to be on the cover of National Enquirer, a dubious honor at best, and maybe make some serious money, or avoid losing serious money, on the stock market, what is the benefit of fore-telling the future if it is not accompanied by forth-telling the Word, will and works of God?

        Being “filled with the Holy Spirit” doesn’t mean that you don’t have the Holy Spirit when you aren’t filled (is a triple negative too hard to follow?). Let me say it again with a single negative: If you aren't filled with the Spirit, you still have God's Spirit; however, the Holy Spirit doesn’t have all of you. There may be a certain area of your life that is not under the obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and that will grieve the Holy Spirit. Still, you are always sealed by the Holy Spirit all the way until the Day Christ comes and redeems us to heaven (Eph. 4:30). Don’t think that just because you don’t feel filled that somehow the Holy Spirit has left you, because Jesus promised us that even though He went away physically, the Holy Spirit indwells us and Jesus said the Holy Spirit will abide with us forever (John 14:16).

        God baptizes us in His Holy Spirit at the time of salvation and fills us a various times after salvation to accomplish His will, including that of bringing the Good News of salvation to a lost world.  We get the power to be witnesses through the infilling of the Spirit. And Acts chapter two shows us two very important lessons to remember about spirit-filled evangelism and the both deal with the calling of salvation:

1)             God is the One who sovereignly calls sinners to repentance and salvation (verse 39). It is the responsibility of God to call people to salvation.  Acts 2:39 “For the promise is to you …as many as the Lord our God will call.” Romans 8:30 shows that God initiates the call to be justified, Romans 9:24-26 states that He calls us to become His people and children. (See 1 Cor. 1:26-28, Rom. 8:28, Eph. 4:1, 1 Thess. 2:12, 2 Thess. 2:13-14, 2 Tim. 1:9, and a good concordance or for more references on God calling us)

2)             Likewise, whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (verse 21). In response to God’s call, the sinner calls out to God for saving grace. Acts 2:21 “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (See also Rom. 10:13-15). Even though God calls us, we must respond and make the calling and election sure (1 Pet. 1:10) by calling on the name of the Lord to be saved.

        As a Spirit-filled Christian, it is not your responsibility to save anyone, nor make them be saved. Once saved, the new believers were baptized, followed the teachings of the leaders, fellowshipped with other believers, participated in the breaking of bread or communion, prayed, kept regular worship with other believers, gave a good witness to others and led others to salvation (Acts 2:42-47). All we are to do is be faithful in those things and leave the results to God. Peter, the fisherman, would probably agree with this summary of the Spirit-filled life experience:

“We catch them, God cleans them!”

Risks of being Spirit-filled

Key Principle #3: SPIRIT-FILLED (part 2)

Acts 2:12-13
Risks of being Spirit-filled

        When God’s Spirit fills you, others who look at your life may become confused or perplexed by the difference He makes in your life (Acts 2:12). Others may mock you (2:13). But some will become convicted (verse 37) and even converted (verse 41).

        Speaking the Word of God will set you apart and may even intimidate others who are unsaved, or walking contrary to the ways of God. But for other believers, there’s no greater joy than being around a spirit-filled Christian and being a part of a spirit-filled church. If you don’t know for sure if your church is spirit-filled, then it probably isn’t! I’m not talking about a church which raises hands or sings great praise choruses, for that’s not the sign of a spirit-filled church in and of itself. The Biblical test of being spirit-filled is whether the Word and Works of God are present and evident and spoken of.

        Is your church constantly talking about the things of the world or are the members talking in ways that promote gossip, worldliness, materialism, money, politics, sports or entertainment? If it is the latter, then it probably isn’t a spirit-filled church. And the same goes for you and me. You see, the risk of being a spirit-filled Christian is that you’ll be different from the world and maybe even different than your church. You’ll want a church that influences the world, and not the other way around.

        It’s not easy to tell a pastor or fellow church member you wish they were more spirit-filled without coming across as judgmental, so I don’t suggest you do so unless you know you are being prompted by God. Simply live your life and follow God’s promptings. Stephen was spirit-filled, but also filled with indignation at the religious leaders and used his tongue to call them stiff-necked and rebellious. You may not get rocks thrown at you if you are spirit-filled and you are surrounded by religious people are not, but then again, you just might get a few rock-hard glares from stone-glazed eyes, peering down some steep-sloping noses. Don't say I didn't warn you!

        In a previous posting, I made a quote about people going across the globe but not going across the street to evangelize. I say that because it is certainly true of me and I say that to my shame. But I made that comment once while on a mission trip and three people heard what I said. One thought it was good, another got convicted, and a third got angry and gave me quite a tongue-lashing later on. Sometimes our tongues can be like throwing a rock into a pack of dogs: the one who barks is likely the one who got hit!

        If you want to be spirit-filled, you had better know your Bible. As mentioned earlier, spirit-filled is symbolized not with an ear or eye and blissfully not with a nose, but with a tongue. When God’s Spirit fills you, you better be prepared to speak and what you say better be true to the Bible. As we saw in Principle #2, during the fifty days leading up to Pentecost, Peter was saturating himself with the Scriptures, and those scrolls were not available at your handy-dandy corner Christian Bookstore in those days. When Peter used his tongue on the Day of Pentecost, he quoted Scripture by heart. Verses 17-21 from Acts 2 came from Joel. Verses 25-28 as well as 34-35 are from the Psalms, written by King David. Scripture memory is important in the life of a spirit-filled Christian.

        One morning, I was at the SonRise Breakfast, a weekly event in Tyler, Texas, and the guest speaker (who happened to be my pastor at the time) had slept in and forgot he was supposed to speak. Since I was on staff with him, they asked me if I had something to say, and I did and felt the infilling of the Holy Spirit as I spoke with power. Afterwards someone said he had heard me preach numerous times before, but this was the best he had ever heard me speak.

       Paul wrote to Timothy to always be ready to give a defense for your faith and to preach the word in season and out.  A spirit-filled person runs the risk of suddenly being used by the Holy Spirit and His infilling, but also may have the blessing of seeing 3,000 come to Christ, as Peter did.

Reasons to be Spirit-filled

Key Principle #3: SPIRIT-FILLED (part 1)

Acts 2:4

        Ask yourself a painful question…is your church spirit-filled? Want an even more painful question; are you Spirit-filled? I say it is a painful question because it is to me and many of the churches I’ve seen. You may answer that and say, yes, I am spirit-filled and so is my church. What does that mean to you?

        This is what it meant to the early church and what it should mean to us today. A spirit-filled church is a power-filled church and it is a witness-filled church. A spirit-filled Christian is a power-filled Christian and a witness-filled Christian. It comes as a result of waiting on the Promise of the Father, being obedient to Christ and being saved and baptized by the Holy Spirit.

Reasons to be Spirit-filled

        I’ve always had a difficult time visualizing this scene. I’ve seen it dramatically depicted in movies, but still, most difficult is how did a divided tongue of fire appear and how did it rest on people. Have you ever wondered why a tongue?

        Why not an ear? Suppose God decided that the way to demonstrate the infilling of the Holy Spirit was to have ears of fire rest on each person and then people could hear and understand other languages or even hear the utterances of God. Or suppose God wanted to manifest His infilling Holy Spirit with an eye of fire appearing on the people, allowing them to see visions of heaven, of the future, of distant lands. I think the answer of why He chose a tongue is as obvious as the nose on your face (and I think we can all imagine why God did not choose a “nose of fire” to appear, but still He’s God and he could have). He chose a tongue so as to show that we must go and tell others of the wonderful works of God, and especially how great is His salvation.

        In Genesis chapter 11, God divided the tongues of people to scatter them abroad (11:8-9). When the people had one language and one speech, they sought to make a tower to heaven, a pagan tower to exalt themselves and to make a name for themselves. They wanted to keep from being scattered and filling the earth, which was God’s first commandment to humanity (Gen. 1:28) and repeated again to Noah and his family (Gen. 9:1, 7).

        The divided tongue brought confusion and God is the one who divided the tongues and languages. Wait! Did God author confusion? Did that contradict 1 Cor. 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” No, humanity rejected God’s commandments and thus was the cause of God coming in judgment to accomplish His will of filling the earth. In Acts, the multitudes were confused, not because they didn’t understand but because they did understand, in their own language the wonderful works of God.

        This particular type of infilling was a unique, never before occurring and never to be again repeated (at least not so far in human history) event. Pentecostal brothers and sisters and other charismatic believers may indeed practice speaking in tongues, but nothing like this. If it occurs at your church, please contact me because as I mentioned I have a hard time visualizing this. People understood not only in their language, but in their dialects.

        Pentecost came seven weeks after Passover. Passover was the first Jewish celebration of the year, marking the deliverance of the children of Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt (see Lev. 23:4). And of course, Passover was also the time in which Jesus died.

        Seven is a holy number and seven weeks of seven days is especially holy. Sometimes Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks, which is a celebration of the harvest of grain (Lev. 23:16). Each celebration of the Jews foreshadows different events to be fulfilled in the church, and Pentecost celebrates the first grain harvest for the Jews, but for the church, it celebrates the first harvest of souls with the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

        Notice that the indwelling is permanent, but the infilling is not permanent. Christians must continually and repeatedly seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and not being filled is usually a result of not being obedient to God. An infilling of the Spirit almost always accompanies a boldness to share the Word of God (see Acts 4:8, 31; 6:5 with 7:55; 5:18-19).