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How to Know God’s Will? June 11, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Bible, Body of Christ, Holy Spirit, Paul's Life, Will of God.
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Acts 21:1-14

There is a story told of a successful retiring from a company being questioned by a young, up-and-coming employee. The young man asked the one about to retire, “What does it take to be successful?” The older man said, “Good decisions.” “But how do I learn to make good decisions?” the young man asked. The older man replied, “Bad decisions” (adapted from The Good Book of Leadership by Borek, Lovett, Towns, 2005).

This helps us to understand that the question implied in the sermon title is the wrong question. Haddon Robinson in Decision-Making by the Book (1991) frames a better question for us to ask, “How do we develop the skills necessary to make wise and prudent choices?” Paul exemplifies for us in his life three skills we need to develop in knowing God’s will.

A. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the Holy Spirit (verses 4, 10-11). I am starting with what seems to be the hardest, guidance from the Holy Spirit.

1. The Holy Spirit never leads us astray. How do you try the spirits to know that it is the Holy Spirit speaking? First, you check it by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit breathed the Word of God into holy men of God. He will not contradict what he has already said. Second, if we think the Holy Spirit is guiding us, we had better be sure that it was the voice of God. Haddon Robinson tells about “Edgar Cayce, Cayce…known to his followers as the sleeping prophet,’ began as a Sunday school teacher. But over the years, his spiritist ‘readings’ on the truth of God began to seriously disagree with God’s revelation at all major points…the sleeping prophet had doubts about the heretical teachings that began to pop up in the readings, but his mother reassured him, saying, ‘The devil cannot speak through a righteous man’ ” (taken by Robinson from The Story of Edgar Cayce: There Is a River by Thomas Sugre, 1967).

2. The Holy Spirit does not always give us clear instructions. That is why we need not to ask, “How can I know the will of God in this decision?” but rather “How can I make a wise decision that honors God?” (adapted again from Haddon Robinson).

3. The Holy Spirit generally only leads those who will do all He demands. Are you willing to take responsibility for depending on the Holy Spirit in order to know what God wants? Prayerlessness is a characteristic of someone who does not want to know and do God’s will.

B. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the body of Christ. Now there is a danger here. “Christians who have already made up their minds about their lifestyle seek out churches and pastors who approve of it” (Haddon Robinson). Yet it is clear that Paul listened at times to other believers (Cf. vs. 4, 12-14 with 17:10-15) and recommended even to a church like that in Corinth to exercise their own spiritual judgment in settling issues between other members.

1. In some situations the church has authority. There are many issues where we do not have authority and should not attempt to force our views on others but there are some areas where a congregation has authority. It is interesting that God commanded the church in Antioch to send out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries. It is the church that made doctrinal clarifications in Acts 13 concerning circumcision. It is the church that makes decisions about who is a member and who is not, that is church discipline.

2. In other situations the church has no authority but it may have wisdom (see Proverbs 11:14; 15:22). Henry and Richard Blackaby report (in Spiritual Leadership, 2001) tell about Warren Bennis’s suggestion “that the downfall of President Richard Nixon came after he surrounded himself with clones of himself. Observes Bennis, ‘They couldn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know and so were useless to him.’ The key to effective counselors is not that they agree with their leaders and always support their decisions but that they tell their leaders things they would not know or recognize otherwise.”

C. In order to know God’s desire we should understand His Word, the Bible (Cf. 20:25 with 14:21-23). How important is it to know God’s Word? It helps us to know where we are going in life. If you know that, you have won most of the battle.

Alice, while in Wonderland, comes to a crossroads and is trying to make a decision about which road to take. The Cheshire Cat asked, “Well, where are you going?” Alice says, “I don’t know!” “Well, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will do very nicely.”
Young person, if you know and believe your Bible, the decision to marry a believer and not an unbeliever is already made for you. Which believer to marry, you need to figure out for yourself. The best decision I have ever made in my life was which girl to marry, yet I must admit her good looks spoke to me a whole lot more than the Holy Spirit did. How did I keep from making a mistake (and I have made more than enough of those), by knowing the Word of God and following it to the best of my ability.

Richard and Henry Blackaby in 2001 wrote in Spiritual Leadership, Harry Truman has been called a great leader because he had the ability to decide. But more than that, he was willing to accept the consequences of his decisions. Truman’s famous dictum, ‘The buck stops here,’ encapsulated his belief that leaders cannot shirk their responsibility to make decisions or bear the consequences of their decisions. Truman repeatedly modeled this philosophy during his presidency.”

Next week: Leaving the Children Home (Acts 21:5)

Common Sense and the Holy Spirit January 24, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Body of Christ, Christian Liberty, Guidance, Holy Spirit, Leadership, Religion, Sermons.
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During the past four weeks, we have seen that the Bible teaches that those who put their faith in Christ alone for salvation, receive the person of the Holy Spirit for indwelling. The power of the Holy Spirit for witnessing of Christ is promised. This power or ability to witness of Christ is displayed in us through the filling of the Spirit.

There are, however, those who resist the Word of God, the gospel of Christ but even among them, the power of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by the life of the Apostle Paul, can wake a man up and bring him to salvation.

Further, every believer is selected by the Spirit to function within the body in reaching the world with the gospel of Christ as well in edifying one another.

There are, of course, many obstacles (which is part of why the book of Acts is such fascinating reading) but the body of Christ is equipped with COMMON SENSE FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT. This common sense guides us in overcoming some of these obstacles.
Acts 15:1-33

If ever there is an area of life open to the non-sensical, it is that of guidance. Haddon Robinson in “Decision-Making by the Book” tells the oft-repeated story of a man who was “…attempting to discover the mind of God by taking his chances with the Bible. He simply shut his eyes, opened up his Bible, and put his finger on a passage. Opening his eyes, he read this passage from Matthew 27: ‘Then he went away and hanged himself.’ Somehow, the fellow didn’t think that gave him any direction for his problem, so he closed his eyes again and opened his Bible to another passage. He looked and read Jesus’ statement in Luke 10: ‘Go and do likewise.’ That wasn’t quite what he was looking for either, so he tried one more time. He shut his eyes, opened his Bible, and read the statement in John 2:5, “Do whatever he tells you.’”

Now this is a humorous story but it points out that there are times when we face difficulties and problems so difficult that the temptation to forsake common sense is great.

Now there are many ways to maintain common sense. Being married to a good spouse, listening to the advice of wise parents, and seeking the counsel of experts in a certain field are all ways to maintain common sense in our actions and decisions. We, however, also have, as these people in Jerusalem had, the Holy Spirit within us both as individuals and as a church. He is the source of all knowledge and of all common sense. Today I would like for us to look at three lessons that the common sense given by the Holy Spirit teaches the body of Christ.

A. The common sense given us by the Holy Spirit teaches us to depend on God’s Word for guidance (Acts 15:15-19). This should not surprise us, since we know that the Holy Spirit is the divine author of the Scriptures. Yet we have already seen that it is possible to use the Scriptures without the common sense given by the Holy Spirit.

What then do I mean when I say the common sense given us by the Holy Spirit teaches us to depend on God’s Word for guidance? It teaches us to understand God’s perspective of this world. These people had a tough problem to solve. It potentially could lead to the first division within the church along religious/ethnic lines and to the weakening of the body of Christ. The problem could not simply be solved by the apostles proclaiming, “We said so!” That is why, after Peter spoke from his own personal experience and Paul and Barnabas reported on what God had done among the Gentiles, James, the writer of the epistle of James stood up and quoted or read from Amos 9:11-12.

Now Amos is talking about the millennial kingdom which is still future for us. It would seem that this might not apply. James, however, understood God’s plan for mankind as revealed in the Old Testament and understood that God’s plan is not to make Gentiles into Jewish proselytes but rather to make Jew and Gentile alike one people in Christ. God’s plan is to join the two groups of believers spiritually and not culturally.


It is important for us to have a biblical perspective on life because perspective answers the “why” questions of life (idea from Rick Warren). Perspective will cause us to love God more. It will help us to handle trials, “My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2-3, 12). It will help us to love God more and to resist temptation, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity towards God” (James 4:4). I was speaking with one of our men this week who pointed out that his awareness that sin will keep him from some of the blessings of God helps him to resist temptation. Where does that come from? It comes from a biblical perspective of temptation and blessings.

This Holy Spirit taught dependence on God’s Word for guidance will protect us from error. This is what is happening in this chapter. Will the church fall into the error of performing rituals for salvation or will they continue to teach that Christ alone is the way of salvation? Because of the biblical perspective taught by James and accepted by the church, they did not fall into the trap of salvation by good works. Biblical perspective is not about being right about truth. It is about knowing how to live truth. That is why we have been looking at the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts and why on Wednesday nights we have been tackling the issue of perseverance in salvation. It is one of the reasons I encourage you to be in Sunday School. You need a biblical perspective of life. We need to know how to live the truth.

Now this does not mean that all the problems you will ever have are addressed in the Bible. There are many times when we have no specific answer in the Scripture for our particular problem. These people did not have a clear Old Testament verse that directly addressed their problem. They did though have the Scriptures and they had the Holy Spirit to give them common sense in discerning what they should do.

B. The common sense given by the Holy Spirit teaches us to work together for solutions (Acts 15:1-7, 22-27, 30-33). Again, this should make sense to us. Just as the Holy Spirit is the author of the Scriptures, He is the one who unites us together into the body of Christ. So it seems reasonable to conclude that if we are all baptized by the same Spirit into the body of Christ, we should be able as a body to work together for solutions. We know, however, that this is not always easy. Some issues are especially tough.

a. We cannot get around these issues because particularly tough issues often demand solutions (Acts 15:1-7). There are several reasons for this. Tough issues demand solutions, because the consequences of a decision made are significant. There are times when the consequences are clear but we do not like them. Sometimes, though, the consequences are unclear. In either case, it can make coming to a solution difficult.

The consequences of the tough issue facing the church in this case are made clear for us by Peter in verses 7-11. There was a danger of sinning against God by tempting Him (verse 10). Peter says that God has already spoken in this case. He has already made it clear that all, both Jew and Gentile are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and not through the yoke of the law. James followed that with his statement in verse 19, “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

b. Particularly tough issues demand action by the body (Acts 15:22-23, 30-33). Now it would have been easy for Peter and James to have simply dictated to the people the proper action. They had apostolic and pastoral authority to which they could have appealed. Paul also by reason of his apostolic call from God with Barnabas also could have bypassed the other apostles and the church in Jerusalem and simply done whatever it was that they wanted. They were after all both prophets (Acts 13:1-4). The church at Antioch could have declared its independence of the church of Jerusalem and kicked the troublemakers out. None of these things happened.

i. First, the church of Antioch chose to consult with the apostles and elders of Jerusalem (15:2). There was mutual accountability that went beyond apostolic authority. Paul in Galatians 1-2 makes it clear that his authority was equal to that of the original apostles. What we have here is an understanding that we as churches are accountable to each other.

ii. Secondly, the view point of other believers within the body was heard (15:5). For fifteen years there had been no doctrinal controversy within the church. There had been many changes. Now the problem arose and within the body there were believers (not outsiders) who wanted to require circumcision for Gentile and Jew alike. Rather than attacking the people, the leaders met together for serious consideration of the issue.

iii. Third, considerable time was given to consider the truth. God could have given them a revelation at the time to settle the matter but He did not. He allowed the body of Christ to function through the guidance of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Peter, recounted the story of Cornelius which was well known but was important to the issue. Paul and Barnabas then recounted according to verse 12 how that God had worked in the Gentiles in Asia Minor similarly to how He had worked in Cornelius’ situation. Then James confirmed that this was consistent with the Word of God by quoting Amos and then giving his judgment of how to deal with this problem.

iv. After all this, the leadership and the congregation decided to follow James’ recommendation, sending two of their leaders and prophets to encourage the church of Antioch in their carrying out the requirements given. Notice that both congregations acted within their own membership and in their relationship to each other as the body of Christ. They did not act as a democracy. A physical body is not a democracy and neither is the body of Christ. Neither, however, did the leadership as a whole act as a dictatorship. You see, the apostles and elders and prophets and other leaders are not the head of the church. Christ is the head. They function merely as a part of the body. Both extremes much be avoided. We are not a democracy nor a monarchy but rather a body under the headship of Christ and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That is why these two churches and their leaders acted with common sense and that is what we should seek to do also.

C. The common sense given by the Holy Spirit teaches us the right balance of boldness and sensitivity (Acts 15:7-12; 20-21; 28-29). This balance comes when we give priority to what the Holy Spirit gives priority to, the truth of the gospel of Christ.

a. Boldness is needed to protect the truth of the gospel (15:7-12). Those who wanted to require circumcision were a powerful group. They continued to plague both the church at Jerusalem as well and Paul throughout the next few years. In fact, Paul recounts for us in Galatians 2 where Peter later lacked the boldness he needed to stand against these very same people. And lest you think that Paul was perfect in this matter, he recounts for us in 2 Corinthians that he was not always as bold as he could have and perhaps should have been. We need, however, to understand that we need to be bold for the gospel of Christ. If we had been as bold for the gospel of Christ as we have been for moral values over the last two hundred or so years, the spiritual landscape of this country might look much differently. We cannot do anything about the past but we can right now at Grace Bible Church make the gospel of Christ our top priority. We can do it and we must do it. It is the priority of God’s Word and it is the priority of the Holy Spirit and it is the priority of Jesus Christ. His gospel must be our priority also.

b. Sensitivity is needed to propagate the truth of the gospel (15:20-21; 28-29). Notice particularly verse 21. The reason given for these requirements is because of unbelieving Jews. James and the church at Jerusalem did not want the gospel to be hindered because of Gentile liberty. Now some of the things in the list are clearly sinful and some are debated even today. The point of this list is that there are certain behaviors both sinful and possibly non-sinful that can hinder the propagation of the gospel of Christ and we need to take that into consideration.

An example of this might be in a Moslem country where to lay a Bible on the ground would be highly offensive to a Moslem. A holy book deserves the respect of the high place. While that may seem silly to us, if we are aware of that, then we will avoid appearing to blaspheme God through careless behavior.

An example that hits much closer to home might be my approach to abortion. I am convinced from Scriptures that we should oppose abortion and in democracy we have the right to oppose abortion. Our opposition though should not blaspheme the gospel. When Christians in their opposition to abortion take on or defend unbiblical actions and attitudes, then they have forgotten the common sense that the Holy Spirit gives to the body.

Are you practicing Holy Spirit given common sense in your decisions, in your life? Let us learn the Word and accountability within the body and witness to the Word of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in those activities that the Holy Spirit teaches us the common sense we need to be the church in this world.

Next Week: Proverbs 30:1-6 “Confidence in Life”

Selection by the Spirit exemplified in Acts January 17, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Barnabas, Body of Christ, Church Membership, Holy Spirit, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth.
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Selection by the Holy Spirit
Acts 12:25-13:5

The Holy Spirit is the personnel officer of the Trinity. He is well qualified for this task because He has the ability to see the big picture of eternity, because He can accurately evaluate each one of us, and because He can enable us in areas where we are lacking.

“While he was manager of the Chicago Cubs, Charlie Grimm reportedly received a phone call from one of his scouts. The man was excited and began to shout over the telephone, ‘Charlie, I’ve landed the greatest young pitcher in the land! He struck out every man who came to bat. Twenty-seven in a row. Nobody even hit a foul until the ninth inning. The pitcher is right here with me. What shall I do?’ Charlie replied, ‘Sign up the guy who got the foul. We’re looking for hitters.’ ” The Holy Spirit knows exactly what is needed to accomplish the task of the church (from John Maxwell’s “Developing the Leaders Around You”).

So the first question we need to ask ourselves is this? Has the Holy Spirit selected you?

1. The Scriptures teach that every member of the body of Christ is selected by the Spirit to serve (Compare Acts 11:29-30 and 12:25 with 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and (Romans 12:3).

This particular passage (Acts 13:1-5) describes the Holy Spirit’s selection of two men, Paul and Barnabas, for missionary service. We read this and forget that the Holy Spirit was working in the whole church at Antioch in this selection process. Acts 11:19-30 tells how the church began and how that every believer was actively involved in ministry in telling others of Christ and in serving other believers. It is this church where they were first called Christians. What we find in this church is Holy Spirit working in every member. This is the atmosphere out of which the Spirit selected Paul and Barnabas.

2. Every ministry of every believer and in every church is important to the Holy Spirit (Every church in Ephesus had an overseer because every group of believers is important to the growth of the overall body of Christ, Acts 20:28-35).

a. Why? The Holy Spirit gives us our ministry to benefit others.

i. For example, the Holy Spirit was given to the body of Christ so that we might be able to witness effectively of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). This is the theme of the book of Acts, that is, how God through the Holy Spirit used the first believers to reach the world with the gospel of Christ. It is God’s intention that all men should hear the gospel through us. According to Ephesians 4, that is a benefit to us as the body of Christ.

ii. Evangelism is not however the only benefit of ministry. It is also God’s intention that all who hear and believe should be added to the church through the Holy Spirit spiritually and through open identification with Christ and His body physically. This is the way it happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:38, 41).

iii. The church’s task does not end there. All in the body of Christ should grow to be mature spiritually (Compare Matthew 28:19-20 with Acts 2:42). We do not do that in isolation (see Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12-14).

iv. Finally, all who are growing should minister to one another (Acts 2:44-45). Spiritual growth equips us for ministry (Compare Romans 12:1-2 with Ephesians 4:12). Now all this was a result of the gift of the Spirit to the body of Christ (Acts 2:38b).

b. Because the Holy Spirit gives us our ministry to benefit others, every believer has something important to contribute (Acts 11:29 compared with 2 Corinthians 8-9). What do you have? You may not have much but if you have anything at all, God expects you to give it. This may include money but it can also include time, strength, talent, insight, encouragement, and prayer. We all though have something important to contribute.

Even a smile and a handshake are important gifts that God allows us to give to one another. I found out this week why after the offering, our men shake hands with each other. Two of our men got that started some years ago. It is a joyful symbol of Christian hospitality. We do not practice the holy kiss here. We are too American for that but when the two ushers smile and shake hands after serving you and serving God through collecting the offering, it reminds us that we are family in Christ, we are brothers and sisters. We are not just gathering money to meet a budget but we are a body of believers who love each other and are committed to each other and to our Lord and to the task which He has given us.

Is that not the significance of the laying on of hands in Acts 13:3? These men were not transferring magic powers to Paul and Barnabas. They were through this symbolic act reassuring these two men and testifying to God that they not only approved but were committed to being a part of their mission to the Gentiles and were through the laying on of hands committing their care and success to God (Acts 15:26-28). This group of men and the church that they led were committed, committed to each other, committed to the Lord, and committed to the task which He had given them to do.

This is an example of the fact that the success of the body is determined by the contribution of many. “At a Midwestern fair, many spectators gathered for an old-fashioned horse pull… The grand-champion horse pulled a sled with 4,500 pounds on it. The runner-up was close, with a 4,400-pound pull. Some of the men wondered what the two horses could pull if hitched together. Separately they totaled nearly 9,000 pounds, but when hitched and working together as a team, they pulled over 12,000 pounds.”

3. Now the reason why the Holy Spirit has decided that it was important to select each of us is clear. The Spirit has decided to make us dependent on each other (Acts 11:29; compare Acts 13:5 with 15:37-40; see also 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Very few if any physical tasks are performed using just one part of the body. Each believer has a unique design and function that is intended for dependence on others.

Dependence demands more than involvement. It demands commitment. Service or ministry is more than involvement. Football coach Lou Holtz once said, “The kamikaze pilot that was able to fly 50 missions was involved – but never committed.”

That defines one of our tasks as church leaders. We must do more than involve you in ministry. We must challenge you to commitment in ministry with this local church.

There are those who use their ministry to the greater body of Christ as a reason not to commit themselves to a local body of believers. Their lack of commitment to an individual body helps them to maintain their independence. They have chosen to remove themselves from the very source of spiritual strength and growth that God intends for them to be dependent on and have isolated themselves from others who God wants to depend on them.

Dependence on each other and commitment to each other is sometimes a very difficult. There are times when we say, I just do not want to be responsible for someone else. There is, however, no time when a body part can withdraw from the body. There are times of rest, yes, sleep is necessary to the health of the body but even at rest there is no part of my body that can become independent from the rest of my body. Dependence on each other and responsibility for each other remains as long as we are part of the body of Christ.

Independence can be dangerous. Two shipwrecked men sat together at one end of a lifeboat, doing nothing. As they watched intently, the people at the other end of the boat were bailing furiously. One man then said to the other, “Thank God that hole isn’t in our end of the boat.”

4. The Holy Spirit has made us dependent on each other, He has uniquely designed each of us for our ministry (Acts 13:1-4).

That is why no member should think too highly of himself or herself. “The most traumatizing condition in the body occurs when disloyal cells defy inhibition. They multiply without any checks on growth, spreading rapidly throughout the body, choking out normal cells… Physicians fear no other malfunction more deeply: it is called cancer” (from Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey). You see cancer is when one cell or group of cells act as if their design is more important than all others. We need to realize that every cell in the body of Christ is uniquely designed by the Spirit of Christ and is necessary to the body.

Four Applications:
1. Thank God for including you in the body
2. Present yourself a living sacrifice.
3. Tell God you’re available.
4. Tell us you’re available.

Next week: Led by the Spirit of God

Resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7) January 10, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Holy Spirit, Religion, Sermons.
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Acts 7:37-60

When I was a kid, there was an evangelist who preached a certain sermon for which he was well known. In it, he told a story about preaching in a certain town and how that there were three young men who were sitting in the back of the audience and were making fun of everything that was going on. After the service, these three young men went out and were killed in an automobile accident. The subject of the sermon was blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Now, I do not know if those teens were blaspheming the Holy Spirit but it is clear that they resisted the Holy Spirit. They rejected the Word of God. We have in this passage an example of people resisting the Spirit. We overlook, I am afraid, that these people are typical and common in life. In fact, some of you might be resisting the Spirit and certainly many of you have loved ones who are resisting the Spirit, who are rejecting Christ.

A. You or your loved ones may be very moral or religious and still resist the Spirit of God (compare Acts 6:8-15 with 7:41-51).

We have two groups of people in chapter 6. The first are those from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (verse 9). They were not from Jerusalem but were foreign-born Jews from Egypt and what is now modern day Turkey. They were devout men who came from a great distance to worship God in Jerusalem. They heard Stephen speak and saw his miracles and did not like at all what they were hearing, so they plotted to have lies told about his teaching. Based on these lies, they brought Stephen before the council, the Sanhedrin, who were the leading religious leaders of the land. Some on the council were Pharisees and some were Sadducees. These two group had significant doctrinal differences but all of them claimed to believe God’s word and obey it. They were outwardly moral and inwardly religious but they did not believe the message of Christ but rather rejected and resisted it. They even went so far as to set aside their morality and religiosity so that they might lie and murder.

Obviously, they had a spiritual problem. Stephen identifies for us what that problem is. In verse 41-43 he points out that the forefathers made the mistake of worshiping what man could create. He then answers the charge that was made against him in 6:13. He was accused of speaking against the temple. He exposes them as idolators who worshiped the temple rather than the God of the temple. Jesus Himself made the same point several times. He told the woman at the well in John 4 that the time was coming and now is when God would be worshiped neither on a Samaritan mountain nor in Jerusalem but that those who worship God would worship Him in spirit and in truth.

These moral people were different in many ways but can be loosely grouped into two camps. The first group was made up of traditionalists, of whom Paul is representative (see also Philippians 3:4-6). They included religious legalists as well as political nationalists. They were sincere in their morality or religiosity or patriotism. In fact, they were quite proud of their consistency in holding to the path they viewed as traditional. They believed in the supernatural. To sum up, they were proud of who they were. They were self-righteous. Self-righteousness is more than an attitude but is a deeply held, sincere belief about one’s self.

The second group was made up of opportunists, of whom the high priest is representative (the two cleansings of the temple are evidence from Jesus’ time of the opportunism of the high priestly party). Some were religious secularists, rejecting all things supernatural although there were probably also sincerely religious men in this group. Many of this group was in the pocket of the heathen Roman government. Some used religion for political advancement or financial gain. Their pride was found in what they could gain for themselves.

Their motivations varied, their backgrounds varied, their doctrines varied. They were, however, united in their pride and were for that reason united in their rejection of Christ. In both cases, they were blinded by their pride.

B. Those who reject God’s Word might see God’s works, even miracles, and still resist the Spirit of God (Acts 7:36). There are those who claim they would believe if God sent them a miracle. The truth though is that a miracle often does nothing to bring someone to God. Stephen performed miracles and they resulted in his death. Jesus Himself performed miracles openly and although He attracted much attention, few people believed because of the miracles. Stephen mentions how Israel saw the ten plagues of Egypt and experienced the crossing of the Red Sea and the blessings of water and manna and quail in the wilderness and yet did not believe God’s promises. The rich man in hell prayed to Abraham that Lazarus would be sent from the dead to preach to his brothers so that they would believe. Abraham said, however, that if they would not accept the Old Testament which they already had neither would they believe because someone rose from the dead. You see the problem is not an intellectual or scientific problem but rather a spiritual problem.

Because it is a spiritual problem, people might hear and even understand intellectually God’s Word and still resist the Spirit of God (Acts 7:37-41).

Christianity is fact based. The Bible is true in every statement it makes. Archaeology, science, history, logic are all on the side of the Bible and yet some archaeologists, scientists, historians, and logicians reject the Scriptures, not because of facts but because of spiritual unbelief. This does not make our archaeological, scientific, historical, and logical arguments unimportant but reminds us of their limits.

The children of Israel were the first to receive the written Word of God. It was given to Moses by God through angelic means. The people themselves heard the voice of God boom from Mount Sinai but they would not obey. They rejected God. They had a heart problem. They loved the slavery of Egypt more than the land of rest which was promised them by God, the Promised Land.

Stephen said to these people, you have been just like them. You have come to the Temple, you have offered sacrifices, you have paid lip service to God and to His law but when the Prophet of whom the law speaks came, you betrayed Him to the Romans and murdered Him. You are guilty!

Folks, if you have heard the message of Christ and still continue to reject him as the only way of salvation, you are resisting the Holy Spirit. You may not be using blasphemous words but that is not what resisting the Holy Spirit is. It is rejection of the gospel of Christ. If you do not trust Him as your Savior then you have rejected Jesus Christ and through that rejection have resisted the Holy Spirit.

This is a bleak situation. Some of you have shared with me the sorrow and frustration you have in trying to reach your loved ones and neighbors who are not receptive or even indifferent but rather are antagonistic to Christ, who are resisting the Spirit of God. Yet there is hope.

C. There is hope for those who resist the Spirit of God and His Word (Compare Acts 7:58-8:3 with 9:1-6 and 20-22). We find that Saul in Acts 8:1 was consenting to Stephen’s death. Although he did not actually throw a stone, he was one with authority, perhaps even as part of the council (see Acts 26:9-10 for Paul’s account of this). Saul had rejected Jesus Christ and was resisting the Holy Spirit. In Acts 9, however, we see a different picture. Christ intervened and brought Saul to Himself. We have already seen that the power of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit in individuals are effective in opening the eyes of the spiritually blinded.

I think of Dietmar, a nuclear physicist in West Berlin. Dietmar’s wife was a believer in Christ but He was not. He could not believe in what could not be poured in a test tube. However, on November 9, 1989 Dietmar woke up to find that the Berlin Wall had fallen. Most of his life, he had lived with the Wall as a daily part of his life. Suddenly it was gone. Dietmar realized that he had witnessed a miracle and began at that point to study the Word of God and eventually turned to Christ. What happened? Exactly what had happened with Saul. He heard the Word of God, was prayed for and the Holy Spirit did its work in His life.

Saul heard the truth. We cannot get by this point. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It is the Word of God that the Holy Spirit uses to bring men to faith. He may knock down a Berlin Wall or use some incident in someone’s life to get their attention but they must hear the truth concerning Christ.

1. Verses 2-3: The God of glory has a plan for His creation and for that reason we are accountable to Him.
2. Verses 7-8: God has shown us His way by which we are to live.
3. Verses 38-43: We, however, have chosen our own way (See Isaiah 53: 6, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way…”).
4. Verses 37, 52: Jesus Christ, the Prophet, the Just One was sent from God to bring us back to God and to His ways.
5. Verse 37b: Hear Him!

Stephen told them as much as they would allow Him to. Saul heard the truth. At first He resisted but on the road to Damascus, he heard and believed. He said to King Agrippa in Acts 26, “I was not, O King Agrippa, disobedient to the heavenly vision.” He believed what he had heard from Stephen.

Not only, however, should we tell the gospel of Christ in all its fullness but we need to pray. Stephen’s prayer was not long. It was his dying prayer but it was a prayer of love for those stoning him, for the young man, Saul, who voted for Stephen to be killed.

You see, we need to turn to God for His power and His filling. I know many of you pray for lost loved ones. Let’s not stop. Let’s intensify our prayers and our witness to those around us, not just to those who are receptive but also to those who are resistant. They need to hear the Word and we need to pray that God will open up their hearts to the gospel.

Some are thinking, how can I. They’ve told me they do not want to hear of Jesus and the Bible. What should I do? I can pray but how do I get the Word into their hands?

The book of 1 Peter reminds us that our lives give our witness authenticity. If your life is not authentic then begin today following Christ with your whole heart and put away those sins that hinder your loved ones from hearing the gospel of Christ. Become like Stephen a person who loves even when hated, who forgives even when forgiveness is not asked for or even wanted. Become like Christ who did not fight for His rights but rather died for His enemies. That is the teaching of 1 Peter.

Take gospel literature and leave it where those people can find it and read it. Listen openly to good gospel radio and TV, so that they also might hear. Invite people to Christmas programs and Easter Sundays and baptismal services and Sunday morning services. Look for opportunities to start conversations about God’s purpose for us, our failures, and Christ’s remedy for our sin. Converse about the truth! And pray! Pray! Pray!

Perhaps you need to trust Christ for your salvation. Christ came to bring you back to the ways of God. The consequences of rejecting Christ, of resisting the Spirit are eternal and damning. Trust Jesus and His death on the cross for your sins today!

Next Week: Selection by the Holy Spirit

The Filling with the Spirit as seen in the book of Acts January 3, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Evangelism, Filling with the Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Religion, Sermons, Signs and Wonders, Spiritual Goals, Spiritual Power, Tongues, Witnessing.
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Acts 2:1-39

People often pray that I would be filled with the Spirit and I need to be. I need the filling of the Spirit so that I might have the capability to witness of Christ. I need that capability in my preaching, my praying, in my ministry. The mother, however, who is trying to teach her children the ways of Christ also needs the filling of the Holy Spirit to enable her, otherwise her efforts will be powerless. She will not be able to pass on to her children the witness of Christ. The ladies who keep our nursery and teach our preschoolers need this filling. Our teenagers need this filling. Our retirees need this filling. We all need this filling so that we might witness of Christ.

A. It is clear from the book of Acts that people can be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13). Now the word “with” can be used a couple of different ways.

In Ephesians 5:18 we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the context of Ephesians, it seems that the Holy Spirit is the filler. I am normally the one who makes the coffee in our house. There are specific things that I must do to make coffee. One of those things is to place the coffee filter into the coffee maker and then I fill the coffee filter “with” a plastic scoop “with” ground coffee. To fill a coffee filter “with” a plastic scoop is a much different meaning than to fill a coffee filter “with” ground coffee. Ephesians 5:18 seems to be indicating that the Holy Spirit is the means, “the plastic scoop”, by which we are filled. Now this is a subject for a different sermon but if you want to know with what the Holy Spirit fills us, Ephesians 3:19 indicates that it is the fullness of God with which the Holy Spirit fills us.

1. Luke, however, both in his gospel and in the book of Acts uses the phrase “filled with the Spirit” differently. The Holy Spirit is the content (the ground coffee) of the filling (compare 2:2, 4). If you look at verse 2 we have an example of a filling. It says a sound like a rushing mighty wind filled the whole house. Now we are all familiar with the way in which the sound of a blowing wind can drown out all other sounds. It is not that the other sounds do not exist but the sound waves do not go very far. They are overwhelmed by the sound of the wind. On that day, no matter where in that house you were, you could hear that sound. You could not get away from it. In fact, according to verse 6, I think you could have heard the sound outside of the house also. The people who Luke interviewed for his book were in the house, perhaps in different parts of the house but wherever they were in the house the sound like a rushing mighty wind was to be heard. It filled the house.

That is what Luke means when he says that these people were filled with the Spirit. He was in them and there was not a part of their being in which He was not.

2. His filling results in action from the ones who were filled (2:4-11). In this particular case, they were given the ability to speak in tongues, that is, in other languages. Now we need to be careful and not try to become “monkey-see, monkey-do Christians.” The filling with the Spirit is real but it does not always result in tongues speaking. In Acts 4:8, 13, 31 we see that the filling of the Spirit resulted in boldly proclaiming the gospel of Christ. That was also the main characteristic of Stephen in chapters 6-7, a man filled with the Spirit and bold to speak the gospel of Christ. After Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 9:18-25, we find him boldly preaching Jesus as the Christ.

In this chapter we find that boldness to preach the wonderful works of God also accompanied those who spoke in tongues. Miracles may or may not occur but the filling of the Spirit of God resulted in action, most often bold speaking of the gospel of Christ.

Now these actions are not always understood. On the day of Pentecost, it was assumed by some that these men were drunk. In Acts 4:13, the rulers recognized that these men had been with Jesus. In Thessalonica, the people saw Paul and Silas and Timothy and became followers of them and of Christ to such an extent that their enemies claimed that these men had turned the world upside down. It is clear that these men and women acted because of the filling with the Spirit in their lives.

B. People then can be filled with the Holy Spirit but generally it is only God’s people who are filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14-21, 38-39). This is really the point of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. It is not just that people can be filled with the Holy Spirit but that God’s people are the ones now filled with the Holy Spirit and that you can become part of God’s people only through faith in Jesus as the Christ.

Peter is here making it clear that the outpouring of the Spirit on God’s people had been prophesied (2:14-18) and was to a certain extent being fulfilled before their eyes. Obviously, not everything that Joel predicted was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. That fulfillment is still to come when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom. What was fulfilled though was the filling of all God’s people with the Spirit of God, young and old, free and slave, man and woman and that the purpose of this fulfillment was to call people to turn to Christ as the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

At the top of your bulletin insert there is an outline from Ray Pritchard covering what the Bible teaches about the filling of the Holy Spirit.
“What Moses wished for (Numbers 11),
What Joel predicted (Joel 2:28-29),
What Peter explained (Acts 2:16-20),
Is now available to every believer (Acts 2:21).”
I might also add that this filling of the Spirit will reach it zenith when Christ comes to set up His kingdom on this earth.

It is important that we recognize that these people, although God’s people, were simply people. Peter continued to have problems with prejudice and cowardice despite experiencing the filling with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit enables you to minister effectively but it does not take you permanently to a higher spiritual plane that insulates you from sinful and selfish behavior.

Being filled with the Spirit also did not hinder Paul and Barnabas from disagreeing with one another so vehemently that they parted ways because of a difference of opinion. People wonder how it is that people who appear to be filled with the Spirit can strongly disagree with one another. It is as if they assume that being filled with the Spirit removes all hints of my own personality from my actions, opinions, and decision making. That is just not so. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 14, “The spirit of a prophet is subject to that prophet.” So being filled with the Spirit does not make me a mindless automaton incapable of controlling my own actions but rather it takes my being and empowers me, enables me, emboldens me to do consciously as God would have me to do.

C. The filling with the Holy Spirit is through Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-36). As I mentioned earlier, this is the point of Peter’s sermon. The key to being filled with the Spirit of God is faith in Christ.

1. Our witness of Christ is the reason for the filling (2:32-33). This is easily overlooked but is clearly stated in these verses. We have already seen how that in this case, the ability to prophesy or to speak in tongues was the immediate method God used to testify of the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11). God has not always used these methods and in fact, I believe, does not use these methods anymore because they are no longer needed. We have the completed written Word of God. The significance, however, is not in the method God chooses to use but rather in the message that He is revealing to men and women through our witness.

We have also seen that this boldness to witness is really the primary earmark in Acts of someone who is filled with the Spirit. You see, the Spirit’s main concern is that people know Christ. If your main concern is for people to know Christ, if you have a passion for presenting Christ to a world on its way to hell, then it is likely that you as a believer are while presenting Christ filled with the Spirit. The filling with the Spirit is not identified by passionate feelings but by Spirit-enabled actions of witnessing of Christ and bringing others to discipleship of Christ.

After almost forty years in the faith, I find it relatively easy to determine when I am filled with the Spirit because during those times when I am filled with the Spirit there is great boldness to speak the gospel of Christ. When I am more concerned about what others think of my witness than of being Christ’s witness, I am not filled with the Spirit. I want to be a pastor who is filled with the Spirit. I want to be a father and husband who is filled with the Spirit. I want my wife and my children to be filled with the Spirit. I want this church to be filled with the Spirit. I want us to be bold in our witness for Christ.

2. Not only is Jesus the reason for the filling but He is also the provider of this filling with the Holy Spirit. He receives for us from the Father what we cannot obtain for ourselves (2:33).

“…the Spirit on the day of Pentecost came to these people in answer to the prayer of Jesus, not in answer to their praying…but entirely and absolutely in answer to the request…of Christ Himself (G. Campbell Morgan)” (see John 14:16). This waiting was evidence of their faith and trust in the promise of the Father and the prayer of Christ.

The believer can receive directly from the Father through Christ just as Christ Himself has received from the Father (John 14:12-14). This is why we pray. Jesus Christ has taken the place of authority by sitting on the right hand of His Father. When I pray to the Father, based on my faith in Christ, Christ is saying that the Father will answer my prayers in the same way that He gave to Jesus. The reason He does this, though, is because of Jesus Christ and not because of anything which I may bring before the throne of God. I cannot do anything in my prayers that will guarantee that they are answered. You see, Jesus is my access to the Father. He is the guarantee to answered prayer. That is what it means to pray in Jesus’ name.

Now I typically end my prayers with some variation of “in Jesus’ name.” That phrase though is not what guarantees that God answers my prayers. Prayer is not about phraseology. It is about access. I have access to God not because of the way I pray but because I trust for my salvation, Jesus Christ. So it is appropriate to pray for the filling of the Spirit but remember it is because of Christ and not because of you that the filling comes.

Are you filled with the Spirit? If you are, it is because of Jesus Christ and it will be evident to the world because you will have power to tell others about Jesus Christ and your faith in Him.

This, however, cannot be forced. LeRoy Eims tells in his book “The Lost Art of Disciple Making” of being “…asked to develop a summer training program for some high school and college students…” He writes, “During the course, my associates and I kept them on a daily schedule of tough spiritual discipline. We demanded they have a quiet time. We required them to memorize a certain number of Bible verses each day. We forced them to do a daily Bible study. We jammed it down their throats. It was mind over matter; we didn’t mind and they didn’t matter. The whole thing had the air of a Marine Corps boot camp. After the program was over, many of the young people left the camp disillusioned with these things. We had not yet learned that faithfulness and consistency (and I might add, power through the filling with the Holy Spirit) are the result of the promptings of the Holy Spirit within, not human efforts from outside.”

That does not mean that there is nothing we can do though. In Acts 2:42 we find out what the disciples did that allowed the early church to be consistently filled with the Holy Spirit. These were not new things but simply extensions of what the original disciples were already practicing before the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (See Acts 1).

1. They learned and obeyed God’s word together (doctrine).
2. They partnered with one another (fellowship) by meeting together for communion and prayer.

We can learn from this pattern. Some of you need to start going to Sunday School and Bible studies so that you can learn the Word of God and be filled with the knowledge of Christ. Others of you need to partner, fellowship, with other believers, in some cases, with this church, with the body of Christ. Your communion with Christ needs to be communion with His body. Some of you need to start praying with us on Wednesday night or if you cannot do that then begin praying with other believers in Christ. These are simple things that we all can do that will help us in our devotion to Christ and will make us available to be filled with the Spirit. Will you do them?

Next Week: Resisting the Holy Spirit

Why the Reception of the Holy Spirit is Not Always Accompanied by Tongues/Prophesying December 30, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Evangelism, Holy Spirit, Joel, Religion, Signs and Wonders, Tongues, Witnessing.
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First, let me apologize for not getting yesterday’s promised links up. I hope to have them up by Sunday.

Many teach that the reception/baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by tongues, prophesying, some other type of miracle, or at least some supernatural power in service (R. A.Torrey, for example). It is easy to understand why. When Moses in Numbers 11 wished that all Israel would be filled with the Spirit, it was for the purpose of supernatural service, particularly prophesying. The prophesy of Joel also specifically indicates miracle gifts like prophesies and visions as being characteristic in the last days of those on whom the Spirit is poured out. It is also true that several times in the book of Acts, not just on the day of Pentecost, that miracles often accompanied the filling with the Spirit.

Yet they did not always, even in the book of Acts. Acts 3:8 speaks of Peter speaking with boldness but not of performing miracles when he was filled with the Spirit.

There are three reasons why I believe that miracles do not always accompany the reception/filling/baptism of the Spirit.

1. Hebrews 2:3-4 teaches that the purpose of these signs and wonders were confirmation of the eyewitness testimony of the disciples. Acts also indicates that these signs and wonders served as confirmation that those believing in Christ were truly believers (Acts 8 and 10-11). We do not need such confirmation today because of the confirmation(s) found in the book of Acts. Also, we have the completed Word of God today which makes confirming signs and wonders unnecessary.

2. The main result of being filled with the Spirit seems to be boldness to witness rather than miracles. Compare the various passages with 1 Thessalonians 1-2, where Paul describes the missionary experience in Thessalonica.

3. The main doctrinal passage on the work of the Holy Spirit within the believer (especially 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 8) do not emphasize the sign gifts. In fact, Romans 8 does not even mention them. It seems that the main work of the Holy Spirit within us and within the church is quite independent of signs and wonders.

For these reasons, one should not require a miracle to prove one’s salvation, to confirm one’s preaching, or to verify that someone has the Spirit of God. The Bible just does not back that up as a present reality.

The Holy Spirit though is of great importance. That is in a sense the theme of the book of Acts. The importance of the Holy Spirit, however, is not in that miracles are performed through men by Him but rather that He enables men to spread the gospel of Christ throughout the world. For that purpose, we certainly continue to need the filling with the Holy Spirit today.

The Power of the Holy Spirit December 27, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Holy Spirit, Promises of God, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Power, Witnessing.
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Later this week:
Tuesday: Links For Investigation – the Holy Spirit
Wednesday: Why the Reception of the Holy Spirit is Not Always Accompanied by Tongues/Prophesying

Acts 1:1-8

Luke’s first book, his gospel begins with the Christmas story. It is, however, just the beginning. Luke goes on to tell us of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The other writers of gospel did not as far as we know write any further histories. Luke was different. He wrote a sequel. He wrote a man named Theophilus and told him that the story of Jesus did not end but continued in those who believed in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

This sequel we call Acts. Although Jesus is still an important figure in the book of Acts and men like Peter and Paul play important parts in the history, it is the story of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who follow Christ. Since many of us are followers of Christ, it is important that we know this story. This story, like Luke’s gospel begins with a promise and its fulfillment. That promise is to us as believers in Christ and its fulfillment defines the reality of the Christian. This promise is the Holy Spirit and this reality can be described with one word, “power”, that is, the power of the Holy Spirit in a believer that enables us to be witnesses of Christ.

A. Now, this power of the Holy Spirit to witness of Christ’s salvation is available the moment you believe. If you compare the passage we have just read with Acts 2:37-38, it is obvious that all that comes with the Holy Spirit is available at the moment of faith. Sometimes the gift of the Holy Spirit was accompanied by miracles but not always. Look again at Acts 2:37-47. It seems that the only ones at this time performing miracles were the apostles but they all received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the case of the power of the Holy Spirit to witness, you receive that power at the moment you believe. This was the promise given by Jesus in Luke 24:44-49. It is referred to here in Acts 1:4-5. Jesus compares here the baptism of John with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There are some significant differences between these two baptisms. The one is physical, the other spiritual. The one is by man, the other is by God. The one could be seen; the other could not normally be seen. The two baptisms have this in common: both baptisms come after one receives in faith the message of God. When one believed John’s message, John would baptize him. When one believes Christ message, the Holy Spirit baptizes him.

Think about the significance of this difference. John could have baptized someone by mistake. There were those who came to John, in whom he recognized that there was no faith in them and whom he refused to baptize. It is possible, though, that he could have baptized someone who had no faith. John was not all-knowing. The Holy Spirit, however, never baptizes the wrong person. All who he baptizes are true believers in Christ (1 Corinthians 12). That is why I am certain that every believer has the power of the Holy Spirit to witness because every believer in Christ is baptized by and with the Holy Spirit.

The Great Commission is closely connected with the Holy Spirit power (John 20:21-23). Although the word for power in Matthew 28:18-20 is “authority” rather than our word here “capability,” Matthew’s version of the Great Commission also makes it evident that “capability” from God also plays an important part. Jesus ends with this phrase, “And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Everyone who God wants to fulfill the Great Commission has the promise of the capability through the Holy Spirit to fulfill that commission. We cannot plead lack of ability. God the Father gave us, under the authority of Christ, the ability and capability to witness of Christ the moment we were saved and He will never leave us nor forsake but rather has given us the Spirit of God to be with us, to aid us, to enable us to proclaim the gospel of Christ.

Of course, we should prepare and learn. That is what Jesus is doing in this passage and what he had been doing during the past three years, teaching them and preparing them for the day when they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Even at this late date, it seems that they still had some gaps in their knowledge. Look at verses 6-7. Here the disciples are asking about the timing of the kingdom.

The reason these disciples are asking about the kingdom is clear. They know the Old Testament prophecies of Joel 2. In fact, in the next chapter, Peter uses that passage to explain to the multitude at Pentecost that what they were doing in speaking in tongues was simply a manifestation of God’s power as was connected in the minds of every Jew, that when the Messiah comes, the people would be endued with the Spirit of God for the purpose of prophesying and revealing God’s Word. It was just a foretaste. That prophecy will ultimately be fulfilled when Christ returns to this earth sometime in the future.

Of course, the disciples did not understand that there would be at least two thousand years before Christ would return. You would not have understood it and neither would have I. I think that is why Jesus answers them the way He did.

Jesus tells them two things…

First of all, you do not need to know when the kingdom will come. You need to trust that the Father’s timing is perfect and you need to be patient.

Secondly, you need to know how to spread the news of the kingdom.
1. He told them what to do, “…be witnesses of Me…” Jesus is the news of the kingdom. It is not primarily about a Jewish kingdom but about a Jewish king. It is not simply about an ethnic people but about a spiritual change to the world order. The only way to accomplish that is for the world to hear about the Jewish king, Jesus the Christ.
2. He told them where to start. “…in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
3. And He told them how they were going to accomplish this. “…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”

This power was accompanied by believers boldly or plainly witnessing of the gospel of Christ. Look at verses 32-36. Peter says in verse 32, we are witnesses of his resurrection. Boldness is implied in the word witness. It is translated occasionally “martyr”, one who is willing to die. I do not usually recommend that you witness in such a way that you get fired from your job. We are to be wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. Our witness, however, should be such that we are willing to pay a price to be a witness. I am afraid that most of us, if we had to choose between our job and our witness, we would choose our job. If we had to choose between our family and our witness, we would choose our family. If we had to choose between being accepted and witnessing of the one who has accepted us, who would we choose?

Let us continue reading verses 33-36. Peter’s witness was so bold and so plain that many of the hearers, according to Acts 2:37, were cut or pierced to the heart. Perhaps you remember the tragic story how that Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was suddenly pierced to the heart by the stinger of a stingray and how that he himself pulled the stinger out and then almost immediately died. This is same picture. It was sudden! It had immediate consequences! It resulted in immediate actions! In this case, however, it resulted not in death but in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let me again emphasize that witnessing by the power of the Holy Spirit was accompanied by boldness, that is, plain speaking (Acts 2:29; used three times in chapter 4). We do not live in a time of bold speech for Christ among Christians. This era we live in is commonly called the postmodern era. Simply put, it means that what is right and wrong changes as culture and standards change. In other words, what is sin in Michigan may not be sin in Ohio and what is good and acceptable in Indiana may be shameful and sinful here. In other words, there is no certainty, there is no plain speech. We look at each other and try to figure out what is right or wrong. Unfortunately, we at times reflect in our lives the post-modern culture.

Some believe that we cannot go long with this type of attitude. Humankind gravitates toward certainty and hope, even if it is a false certainty and hope. The growth of cults and Islam and even of some aspects of evangelical Christianity is evidence to the fact that many people want Yes to mean Yes and No to mean No. In Acts 2 and 4 and other places, we see that these men spoke plainly. They did not dance around issues but plainly gave the truth. The Holy Spirit led them in that and empowered them in that and enabled them with boldness and wisdom to just tell the facts.

Why do we not want to share with each other much less with an unbelieving world, what Christ has done in our lives? I do not have the answer but it surely has nothing to do the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit gives us plain speech, ready speech, boldness to speak of what we know.

Do you have the power of the Holy Spirit to witness? If you are a believer in Christ, the answer is yes. You need to tap into that power. There is no alternative source. the ability to tell the world of Christ is in you right now in the form of a person, the Holy Spirit.

If you have not received Christ, you do not have this power. You need a different power, the power of the gospel. Paul in Romans 1:16 writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God to salvation, to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Gentile).” You are incapable of saving yourself but the gospel of Christ will save you from your sin if you will believe it. Peter said to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” There are two actions implied in that invitation. You need to turn from your sin and you need to turn away from any other way of salvation and turn only to Christ. Turn to Christ today and receive the Holy Spirit!

God’s Word – Divine or Human (Last Sermon at Fellowship Bible Church) August 16, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Holy Spirit, Inspiration, Old Testament, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Second Peter, Sermons.

Most of my readers I do not know but you come by often. The sermon blog will continue but I will be at a new church, Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan. I trust you will continue to check in for the weekly sermon.

Finally, to the members of Fellowship Bible Church in Castleton, Vermont I say, “Thank you for your generosity and graciousness. I trust that I have been as much a help to you as you have been to me.”
Divine or Human?
2 Peter 2:20-21

Introduction: It is appropriate today that the subject today is the Word of God. It was the advertisement written by the pulpit committee of this church that emphasized the teaching of the Word of God that drew me to apply to this church. Every good thing that has happened in this church during my time here can directly be connected through the transformation worked by the Word of God in my life or in the life of some other person or persons. Also, every failure can directly be connected to disobedience to the Word of God in my life or in the life of some other person. I cannot think of an exception.

The reason every true spiritual success can be tied to the Word of God is simple. It is God’s Word and not my word or your word. It is from God. This is what Peter is reminding us of here. You can have confidence that God’s Word, in this case, the Old Testament and what had been written already of the New Testament, will change you because it is God’s Word.

“Peter, how do you know that this is God’s Word?”

Peter’s answer is found in verses 16-20. God’s Word is not confirmed by human inspiration but by divine signs (verses 16-20). Peter says in verse 16 that the message he declared was not cunningly devised, that is, it is not derived from human wisdom. Mankind has written many wonderful works of literature. When I read certain works of literature, I find them inspiring.

I own the history of the Civil War as written by Shelby Foote. He draws you into the conflict and makes you wish you could have been there to see with your own eyes the battles and events that he describes. His history is cunningly devised.

When I was in junior high school, we had an English teacher who would read Edgar Alan Poe, O. Henry, or Mark Twain. The gang of guys I sat with were not particularly literary and the language of some of them was very inferior but we found as she read to us that these men wrote things cunningly devised.

When you go to a play or a movie or watch a TV show, occasionally the words which are being spoken take over the movie and you forget the actors and become enthralled with the words. That is a wonderful experience, cunningly devised by men and women.

But human inspiration, no matter how cunningly devised is vastly inferior to the Word of God because only God’s Word is confirmed by divine signs. That is what Peter is trying to tell us in verses 17-19a. God’s Word is confirmed. Peter mentions specifically the transfiguration of Christ but there are many other examples. The events of Christmas confirmed the prophecies of Christ through the exactness of their miraculous fulfillment. The resurrection of Christ confirms along with the other miracles that He performed that He is the Messiah of the Scriptures. Jesus said to the doubters, if you do not believe my words, believe me because of my works.

When men write, there may be scientific or historic confirmation but when God writes, the confirmation is miraculous. That is why the apostles were given the ability to perform miracles and why on occasion, the early believers spoke in tongues, to confirm the Word of God.

God’s Word, unlike human inspiration, is worthy of an active faith (verses 19-20). That is why that confirmation is necessary. We need to know what we can believe. We need to know what is worthy of an active faith.

Charles Darwin wrote his books and people began to believe and put their faith in his theories. When they did, men changed. No longer did it really matter what we do. To survive as one of the strongest was the new meaning of life. God was no longer necessary. But Darwin’s theories are doubted even by evolutionist and have proven unworthy of active faith.

But God’s Word has brought spiritual liberty and freedom and high morals everywhere where it has been obeyed. Peter describes it beautifully. It brings light into darkness. Remember though that obedience to the Word of God means faith in Christ. Obedience to the Word of God is not keeping the Ten Commandments or following the Golden Rule. Obedience is faith in Jesus Christ. That is what the Scriptures preach and teach and only through the Jesus of the Bible can one come to God (1 Peter 1:6-12).

God’s Word is disclosed clearly by God. Any human inspiration is a corruptive additive (verse 20). That is why I emphasize when I preach and teach that we must understand what God is saying through a careful but thorough reading of individual Scripture passages and their context. Great literary men are sometimes very obscure. You know they said something but you are not quite sure what they said. I remember going to a play once in Chattanooga. It was a relatively modern play. It was very funny, very literary, very cunningly devised. It was a lot of fun but I could not tell you what the playwright was trying to say because he was trying his hardest to say it in such a way that you could not truly understand it. But God speaks clearly. That does not mean that we always understand what God is saying. It is sometimes difficult because it was written during ancient times in ancient languages through ancient thought patterns for ancient readers and “most” of us really are not that ancient. But for those who take the time to simply read and study their Bibles as God’s Word through men to men, it reveals God clearly.

God’s Word is revealed only by the Holy Spirit’s working through holy men (verse 21). These men did not sit down and decide they were going to write Scripture. God decided they would write Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired them. He used their wisdom, He even used their language abilities but the words are His. If you study the chronologies of Chronicles, you will see that even the scribes, who wrote name after name after name, were well aware of the awesomeness of the task before them. They were penning God’s Word. Their motivations came from God, the message came from God, their meanings came from God. That is how that holy men through the Holy Spirit produced the holy Word of God.

This is a divine book. This summer we had the opportunity to memorize a section of God’s Word. Did you do it? It is the Word of God. It is not a Shakespearean sonnet or a political speech by Patrick Henry. Those are cunningly devised. It is not a lofty document like the Declaration of Independence or a beautiful New England description by Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson but the Word of God, worthy of faith, confirmed by miracles. What did you read this summer? What have you written down or memorized so that you would not forget it? Was it the Word of God or the words of man? Did you give yourself this summer to the Word of God or did you waste it on the cunningly devised inspiration of men? If you want light in the dark places in your life, turn to and learn the Word of God.

I am not saying that human wisdom has no value. It does and you should not ignore human words but give yourself to the Word. You have the autumn before you. Begin now! Read His Word! Hear His Word! Memorize His Word! Meditate on His Word! Study His Word! Feast on His Word!

Lessons from Creation about the Future (The Answer to Global Warming July 5, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Creation, Global Warming, Holy Spirit, Religion, Romans, Sermons.
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God’s Answer to Global Warming: What Creation Teaches Us About the Future
(Romans 8:10-25)

INTRODUCTION: One of the hot button issues of our day is global warming. On this fourth of July weekend, this ranks among one of the top political footballs. Some are absolutely convinced using scientific data that our planet is slowly but surely warming to catastrophic levels. Others, also using scientific data, are just as convinced that we are simply experiencing a warmer period during the regular cycle of warming and cooling which the earth has experienced since its existence. It is likely that the reality is that we simply do not know and the best we can do is guess about the future of this planet.

But then God enters the picture. God agrees that the earth is in a mess. In fact, He had a part in this mess. He cursed the earth, making it less fruitful than it could be because of Adam’s sin. God cursed the ground so that Adam must work harder to provide for himself and his family.

So there is a sense, if the earth is warming, it is because God has cursed it and man has added a significant portion of sin and waste and abuse to the equation. If the earth is not warming, however, this earth is still cursed and is still groaning under the consequences of humankind’s sin.

In this passage Paul refers to the burden of sin on creation and takes from creation an important lesson for us to learn that will help us in our personal battles against sin.

That is one of the main purposes of Romans 6-8. To teach us, who have been forgiven of our sin, that it is possible to have victory over sin. We are already freed from the slavery of sin but our sinful bodies are constantly tempted and we need to be equipped to fight against sin.

The Spirit of God enables us in our struggle against our sinful flesh (verses 1-16). This is actually the main point that Paul is trying to make. If we are going to have victory now over sin, we need the power of the Holy Spirit.
Why do we need the Holy Spirit (verses 1-9)? Because our flesh is too weak to keep the law of God. Romans 6 teaches us we are no longer slaves to sin and Romans 7 teaches us we are no longer slaves to law and yet we find we can still fulfill the conditions of the law through the Holy Spirit. There are only two ways of living. In obedience through the Spirit or in rebellion through the flesh. There is no middle ground. The difference maker is not that God has adjusted His standards but rather that He has given us His Spirit.
How does the Holy Spirit enable us to please God (verses 10-13)? By enabling us to put to death the deeds of this sinful body.

Dr. Charles Ryrie once called Romans 8:13 the most important single verse on the spiritual life in the New Testament. He liked it because it contains a beautiful balance. There is God’s part—”if by the Spirit”—and there is our part—”you put to death.” Victory over sin comes when we do our part as we rely upon the Holy Spirit’s enablement. Victory over sin is neither entirely passive (“Let go and let God”) nor entirely active (“I’ve got to do this all by myself”). This verse balances a moment-by-moment dependence upon the Spirit with a tough-minded attitude toward the flesh. Is victory over sin dependent upon God or upon me? The answer is Yes!
I cannot do it without God.
God will not do it without me. (with thanks to Ray Pritchard)

The Holy Spirit’s enablement is a distinguishing mark of a child of God (14-16). How does the Spirit do this?
He leads us in our battle against sin. Verse 14 teaches us that there is a connection with being a Son of God and being led by the Spirit of God to fight our sinful flesh. The Holy Spirit convicts us through the Word of God and says to us this is the way, walk in it, do not pay debts to your sinful flesh (verse 12), you do not owe yourself anything. That is why in Ephesians 6:18, Paul commanded the believers to pray in the Spirit with watchfulness because Satan is out to tempt us to pay debts to our sinful flesh. We need the Spirit of God to lead us in the right ways and to protect us from the ways of evil.
He also assures us of our relationship to God (verses 15-16). Now why does that matter in our fight against sin? 1 John 3:1-3 tells us that confidence in our relationship to God is our motivation to purify ourselves, that is, to put to death the deeds of our body. Further in that same chapter, in verses 19-22, John tells that it is the Holy Spirit who gives us that confidence.
Our glorification with Christ is the purpose for our struggle against our sinful flesh (verses 17-18). Our struggle is pictured in this chapter as suffering. It is true that we are looking forward to the day when we will have new bodies with no pain and suffering but what is in view in this passage is the suffering that Christ endured and which we also endure as a result of our battle against sin. There are several reasons why I think it is specifically referring to our battle against sin.
Romans 7:24 makes it clear that this battle against sin for the believer is a hard battle. That is why Paul wrote Romans 8, to assure us that this battle is reasonable. Romans 6 tells us this battle is winnable, Romans 7 tells us it is a deadly battle, and Romans 8 tells us how to win that battle.
Secondly, the whole concept of being crucified with Christ is a picture of our submission to Christ and our battle against sin. Battles produce pain, suffering, terrible injuries, and death. The battle of sin is no different. It is like the crucifixion of Christ in its pain and suffering if we are willing to enter into that battle.
Finally, the immediate context has to do with the pain and suffering of sin. Our struggle against sin is won, not when we die but rather when we our glorified with Christ at His coming. That is what verses 17-18 teaches. Last Sunday, one of the founding fathers of this church, Dale Avery, passed away after a long and painful battle with cancer. His wife is grieving her loss as one would expect but as often happens, there is a sense that she is comforted because she knows that he is with the Lord and that his pain is over. God, however, is not finished with Dale Avery. When Jesus Christ comes to be glorified in His kingdom, Dale Avery will rise from the grave in Ephrata, Pennsylvania with a glorified body and will take his place as an heir and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. Because He identified Himself with Jesus Christ through faith, he will be exalted with Jesus Christ above the angels to the highest position in the universe under God the Father to rule and to reign through all eternity with the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Although His part of the battle against the suffering of sin is over, his glorification with Christ is still to come and it will be well worth it all, in fact, every struggle against sin and its suffering will seem nothing when he is crowned with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The good news is this: not just Dale Avery but every believer in Jesus Christ will also be glorified with Christ on that day. But there is more…
Our glorification with Christ is the point in time when creation is finally released from the bondage of sin’s corruption (verses 19-22). For thousands of years the earth has been cursed because of sin and has been in bondage to corruption. When God sent the flood, He reduced the amount of sin from the earth but the earth remained cursed and in bondage to corruption. There is no physical force that can release the earth from this bondage. It is only when we are glorified with Christ in that last day that the earth will finally be delivered from bondage. If there is a global warming coming, then it is certainly because our sin has corrupted this world. It is inevitable.
Verse 20 points out that the earth in its present state is subjected to futility, frailty, vanity, weakness. This is a wonderful world from our point of view but it groans under the weight of sin. Why are we constantly in danger of famine? Because this planet under the bondage of sin cannot reach its potential.
God’s answer is the glorification of Christ and of His children with Christ at His coming. The earth will have new leadership: Christ and His royal family of brothers and sisters who have put their faith in Him will rule over this earth according to verse 22 with glorious liberty. It will be freed to produce as God intended for it to produce. This planet will become the utopia God intended for it to be.
This is described for us in the Old Testament in Isaiah 65:17-25 as well as in other prophets when the millennial kingdom is described and will be extended throughout all eternity through the new heaven and the new earth.
So what? How does this lesson from creation help me? We learn hope and patience. Like creation, we have an expectation in our glorification with Christ and that hope is our motivation to persevere in our struggle against our sinful flesh (verses 23-25).
Verses 23-25 teaches us those who have the first fruits of the Spirit have hope. In fact, our glorification is guaranteed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. We cannot see that hope yet. We cannot even imagine that hope but it is coming to every believer in Jesus Christ.

We have learned three wonderful lessons from creation. We have learned according to Romans 1 that creation teaches us the power and existence of God. We have also learned from Psalm 8 that we, humankind, is the center of God’s created universe. Today we have learned why. Creation is waiting for our glorification with Christ and the resulting freedom that it will enjoy as a result. For that reason, this battle against sin that we are constantly fighting is worth every moment. The purpose of the battle, the hope of our suffering is our honor and glorification with Christ. When you are weary of fighting against the pain and suffering of sin, be patient, persevere, remember you have the Holy Spirit to help you, to lead you and the future glory that you will have with Christ will be worth it.

Invitation: Commit yourself to killing sin as a believer. If you are an unbeliever, let me invite you to a relationship with Christ to become a son of God.

Barnabas the Risk Taker October 7, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Barnabas, Holy Spirit, Religion, Sermons, Witnessing.
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Acts 13:46: “Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.”

Think of the risk that is taken in this verse. These men are putting their reputations as faithful Jews on their line. These men are putting their safety on the line. They are well aware of the price that Christ paid and that others have paid and that they themselves have been threatened with over the past years. They know that what they are going to say is not going to endear them to the natural prejudices of the nationalistic Jews nor to those Jews who are simply ethnically and religiously proud. They are aware that there is no human guarantee that their message would be accepted by the Gentiles. Yet, these two men take that risk. For Barnabas this is typical of his Christian life. Barnabas was a risk taker.


  1. Barnabas was a good man. Inside he was good. He did not just look good. He did not just keep up good appearances, he was truly good. His goodness though was not just a matter of maintaining a high standard by keeping the rules. His goodness is accompanied by kindness. In fact, this is where his name comes from. His given name is Joses according to Acts 4:36 but the apostles called him, Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, one who is called alongside to help, one of whom it is known that if you need help, you can call on him. That is what it means to be a good man.

  2. Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit. We do not know what type of person Barnabas was before he accepted Christ but he like many others mentioned in the book of Acts were full of the Holy Spirit, controlled by the Spirit of God. There are many things that we cannot transfer from the book of Acts to our present day but the very premise of the book of Acts is that Jesus has gone away and left us the Holy Spirit to empower us to tell the world of Jesus Christ. Barnabas is an exhibition of what it means to be filled with that Holy Spirit. He sold his property and gave the money to the poor of the church through the power of the Holy Spirit. He invested his life into Paul and Mark when others were suspicious of him and he did this by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. His life in every area is typified by the fact that he is full of the Holy Spirit.

  3. Barnabas was full of faith. You cannot be full of the Holy Spirit unless you are full of faith in Christ. This does not come from ourselves. Spiritual risk taking is a direct result of dependence on Christ. Certainly there are many people who take risks and there are a lot of different reasons why people take risk. People take risks for money, for fame, for power, for family, for survival but the risks that Barnabas took and the spiritual risks that you and I should take are established on the foundation of faith in Christ.


The Empowerment of a Risk Taker – Boldness comes through goodness and being filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith (Acts 9:27, 13:46, 14:3) The power of the Holy Spirit takes away any excuse to not be bold in our witness for Christ (Acts 1:8). This power was always accompanied by believers boldly witnessing of the gospel of Christ. Boldness is implied in the word witness. It means martyr. One who is willing to die. Our witness should be such that we are willing to take huge risks to be a witness. I am afraid that most of us, if we had to choose between our possessions (1 Corinthians 9:3-7) and our witness, we would choose our possessions. If we had to choose between investing our lives in others who may not be dependable and those with whom we are comfortable, we would choose the comfortable safe way. If we had to choose between personal safety and witnessing of the One Who is our Salvation, who would we choose? Why do we not want to share with the unbelieving world, what God is doing in our lives? I don’t have the answer but it surely has nothing to do the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit gives us plain speech, ready speech, boldness to speak of what we know. (This paragraph is a reworked portion of this sermon.)

Let’s look at Acts 13:45-50. Barnabas’ and Paul’s witness was so bold in Antioch Pisidia that after the Jews rejected the gospel, they did something that was unheard of, they preached to the Gentiles, to the outcasts from the Jewish nation the message of Jesus Christ and these Gentiles became glad and glorified the Word of the Lord and believed to eternal life. Those of the Jewish religion who rejected the gospel persecuted Barnabas and Paul and expelled them, not out of the city but out of the whole region.

Witnessing by the power of the Holy Spirit was accompanied by boldness (See also Acts 2:29; used three times in chapter 4). They didn’t dance around issues but plainly gave the truth. The Holy Spirit led them in giving the truth and empowered them in giving the truth and gave them the wisdom to just tell the truth.


Being bold today does not guarantee that you will be bold tomorrow. Everyone of us have an Achilles’ heel. Barnabas was no different. Look at Galatians 2.


    11 ¶ Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;

    12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.

    13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

    14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you {NU–Text reads how can you.} compel Gentiles to live as Jews?


    What happened? Did Barnabas change his mind about the message of God for the Gentiles? I think not. It appears that Barnabas allowed a great man, Peter, to become a great hindrance, to lead him into hypocrisy. Here is a good man overcome by hypocrisy. Here is a Spirit-filled, Spirit-controlled believer allowing himself to follow the lead of a man, a great man, but still just a mere man. Here is a man who is full of faith in Christ living in such a way that denies the very Christ who died for him, who lives for him, who has helped him to do great things but he got his eyes off of Christ and on to Peter and it caused him to fail and to fall.


    Are you motivated by the Spirit of God working in your heart and producing goodness and faith? Is He giving you boldness to witness and to invest your life in others?