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Paul’s Defense Suggests What We Need to Do As We Witness July 10, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Testimony, Witnessing.
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PUTTING A BURR IN THE SADDLE
Acts 22

(From RBC by Martin DeHaan accessed at http://beenthinking.org/articles/giving-facts-a-chance/ on July 3, 2012) “In the early 1950s, a small Chicago-based religious sect predicted that the world was going to end on December 21, 1954. Their leader claimed to have received this information from an alien reincarnation of Jesus who went by the name of Sananda.
Their prophecy caught the attention of researchers from Stanford University, who decided to use the group as a case study in human nature.

Recently, author Chris Mooney wrote an article for Mother Jones magazine describing what the researchers learned. Since they were able to infiltrate the group to do their study, they were able to observe firsthand what happened when December 21 passed without incident.

First the researchers saw the confusion that occurred as members of the group tried to explain their mistake. Then the unexpected happened. The leader claimed to receive a new communication from Sananda. The new message was that the little group had not failed. On the contrary, they had saved the world from judgment by believing in the prediction. From that moment on, believers in Sananda were more convinced than ever of the truth and value of their mission. They adjusted their view of reality rather than admitting they were wrong.

So why is the study of this small religious sect worth thinking about? According to one of the researchers who studied them, this little group of fanatical believers remind us of a principle far greater than their numbers. ‘A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.’

The article goes on to suggest that many of the disagreements that divide us are rooted in our natural instincts for survival. To protect our beliefs and emotional attachments, we push threatening ideas away and pull friendly information closer. This begins to happen subconsciously even before we are aware of what is happening. Self-protective reactions mobilize thoughts and emotions to protect our beliefs as if our life depended on it.”
In our passage today we see an example of a group of people who did not want to face the facts. From this we can learn some lessons.

A. Our community may not moved by our personal testimony. It is interesting that in this scientific world that we live in, most of the decisions that we make and many of the things that we believe are not based on facts that can be demonstrated in the lab. I am not only talking about religion but about many things that intelligent people do, to take just one example, abusing their bodies with all manners of drugs, although it is clear that such abuse is destructive.

Why do people do this? Because many if not most of the decisions we make are not based on scientific facts but rather on what the accumulation of our personal experiences tells us.

1. Our society admires and confirms personal experience. This is true of conservatives and liberals. We value our experiences above any other source of truth. We value what we feel. We value what we think will give us safety or security or meaning or whatever it is that we think we need most. The problem with experience, however, is that not everyone has the exact same experiences. Maybe eating ice cream and Cheetos for breakfast has worked for you, made you more productive but I have functioned better on watercress and cucumbers. It is hard to judge and evaluate someone else’s experience. Unless we find someone’s personal experience threatening in some way, we tend to admire and confirm it in others.

2. Our society does not understand our personal experience with Christ. They may listen, they may affirm it, but they will not because they cannot understand our personal experience with Christ. That does not mean that we should not share it but they need more than personal experience. They need their conscience pricked.

B. Our community may not be moved by our miraculous experiences. It is interesting that the large number of books like “23 Minutes in Hell” do not seem to have an impact on the world. They may sell well among believers but the world seems not to be interested.

1. Many of them have also had miraculous experiences. It is not unusual to find unbelievers who have had amazing experiences. One of the leading atheists of the last century (A. J. Ayer) had an out-of-body experience in which he reportedly saw a “Divine Being” (see http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/roundtable/an-atheist-meets-the-masters-of-the-universe.php). Yet Ayer although noticeably different after “he died” did not become a Christian. Those who rejected Jesus did not disbelieve his miracles but simply attributed them to the power of the devil rather than the power of God. Belief in miracles does not necessarily open one to belief in Jesus Christ.

2. Those who doubt our miraculous experiences often will simply ignore us. This was true in Jesus’ day also. Marcus Borg, by no means a fundamentalist Christian, in “Jesus, A New Vision” wrote, “In the tradition in which [Jesus] stood, including the healings and exorcisms reported of him were not unique. Yet though the historical study of the miracles results in the loss of their uniqueness, it produces a gain in their credibility. Contrary to the modern notion that such events are impossible, we must grant that the historical evidence that Jesus stood in the stream of Jewish charismatic healers is very strong.” Perhaps this is in part why Jesus’ popularity before his death was short-lived and fickle.

It is also why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so powerful. To cast out demons, to heal the sick, these things are not unusual. To rise from the dead never to die again; that is powerful, life-changing, gives hope, establishes a foundation, a solid rock on which one can stand with full confidence in the future.

C. Our community will be bothered when they see life transformation. This is evidenced when Paul accuses them of Stephen’s murder and proclaims that God wants Gentiles to hear the message of Jesus Christ. It is only when men are held personally responsible for their own sin and what repentance should produce in lives that they will be forced to make a decision. They understood the implication of Paul’s message. Ethnic and religious loyalty resulted in sin against the resurrected Christ.

Yet that is exactly where we must touch them, where it really hurts. It does no good to operate on the big toe if it is the thumb that is broken. Jesus recognized this when he said, “It is the sick and not the well; which need a physician.” If you constantly tell people who think they are okay that there is something seriously, morally wrong with them, they will react. That is, however, what they need to hear from us. They need to hear that they are sinners in the hands of an angry God, a God who is angry with their sin and will be angry with them if they do not turn from all of their loyalties and give their sole loyalty to Jesus Christ.

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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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THE FILLING WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
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

THE POWER (Capability) OF WITNESSING IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
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!

Dorcas or Tabitha October 28, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Prayer, Religion, Sermons, Will of God, Witnessing.
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SERVANTS IN ACTS: DORCAS – A PART OF GOD’S GREAT PUZZLE

Acts 9:31, 36-43

We have a Bugs Bunny Puzzle. Some of the pieces of the puzzle are fairly large. Other pieces are considerably smaller. Then there are some pieces that are really small. Even though they are not all of one size, they all interlock together to create a complete puzzle.

Some of the pieces are easy to pick out. If you look through the pieces, the ones with Bugs Bunny’s eyes are immediately noticeable. Others you look at and you wonder what could that possibly be. You cannot even tell by looking whether it is right side up or not. Eventually, though, as you continue to work through the puzzle, you come to a point where it is obvious where the piece belongs.

There are corner pieces and side pieces and inside pieces to the puzzle. Which ones do you think are the most important? You are right. Every piece has its place. Without every piece the puzzle cannot be completed.

We have another puzzle of a castle in Germany called Neuschwanstein. This puzzle has several hundred pieces. We have put it together several times and every time that we put it together we remember, there is a piece missing. We have had that puzzle for years and every time we fail to complete it, to finish it because there is one piece missing.

CHRIST’S PUZZLE

Jesus Christ has plan that appears to us as a puzzle. There are big pieces and little pieces. It is clear where some of the pieces belong and other pieces only Christ Himself knows how they fit in. There are corner pieces and there are side pieces and there are inside pieces but there is never a pieces missing.

The Bible makes it clear that from all eternity God had a plan. His plan and His purposes do not always make sense to us but every piece will fit exactly in the puzzle where He plans on it to fit and will result in His glory. We find in the book of Acts in the story of Dorcas a picture of how each individual believer fits into the plan of God.

THIS IS WHAT ACTS IS ALL ABOUT. 

Christ is accomplishing His purposes (verse 31). This is the theme of the book of Acts. In Acts 1:8, Jesus stated His plan and His purpose for the believers. In Acts 9:31, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, takes a short breath to point out that His plan is being accomplished. For the first time we find the word “churches” in the Bible. On Pentecost, the 3000 believers were called those who believed. In Acts 4:32, the believers in Jerusalem are called the multitude who believed. In Acts 5:11, they are first named the church but they are all still in Jerusalem. In Acts 6:2 they are called the multitude of the disciples. Then in Acts 8:1 the church, thanks to Saul, is scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. They cannot come together in Jerusalem anymore. What do they do? According to verse 4 those who are scattered are preaching the gospel everywhere.

Saul does not stop in Jerusalem though. He is hunting down the believers wherever he can. On his way to Damascus to find the Jewish believers there, he is struck with blindness by Christ and becomes himself a disciple of Christ. A time of peace comes and we find that there is no more a church in Jerusalem but that there are churches in all Judea, Samaria, and Galilee and at least scattered believers in other parts of the world as far away as Damascus and Ethiopia. In all this Christ is accomplishing His purposes, He is putting together His puzzle. The gospel is being preached, believers are being baptized, and they are gathering together for the purpose of encouragement and teaching and serving and all those other things that Christ commands us to do. Christ’s church is expanding as He promised.

OUR LIVES ARE THE PIECES. 

In the passage we are looking at, Christ uses the lives of people in accomplishing His purposes, in putting together His puzzle (verse 36-43). How then does He do this?

He uses our church relationships (verses 37-38). We do not know a lot about the church in Joppa but we do know that this was a church that cared for each other. There are three indications in this passage that these people truly cared for each other.

HOW DO WE KNOW THEY CARED?

They cared for each other as evidenced by the two messengers sent to get Peter. This woman was important to the church. She did not preach, prophesy, perform miracles, teach, give huge sums of money, or manage important ministries but the church cared for her just the same and went to find Peter for the purpose of having her raised from the dead. They obviously cared for this woman very much.

They cared for each other as evidenced by the ministry of Dorcas to the widows in the church. Widows played a very prominent part in the New Testament church. We find that the first great dispute in the Jerusalem church had to deal with taking care of widows. Paul wrote extensively on the subject. James deals with the subject. Caring for others in tangible ways is of importance in God’s Word.

They cared for each other as evidenced by the fact that Simon the tanner was counted among their number. From the very beginning, although it took a while for the believers to understand it, Christ’s body has included male and female, free man and slave, Jew and Gentile. Simon the tanner worked in an occupation which was considered unclean because he had to handle dead bodies of animals, an occupation which was considered outside of the realm of the holiness of God. This church by including this man and Peter by staying with this man showed that he himself was not outside of the realm of the holiness of God. That is after all, why Christ died, that those who are sinful might be made holy in Christ Jesus.

GOD USES NOT JUST OUR OUTWARD RELATIONSHIPS BUT ALSO OUR INWARD RELATIONSHIP. 

Not only does God use our church relationships but He also uses our character (verses 36 & 39). Notice I did not say talents or gifts although that is also important but what God really uses in our lives is our character. Now God can use you even if you do not have a good character but it will be in a limited way. The limit, however, is not that God is limited or that you have limited God but that you have limited yourself and your availability to be used of God.

He produces in our lives good works. Romans 2:5-7 tells us that good works are the proof that one is continuing in the faith. 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us that God blesses us and enables us for the purpose of showing good works. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created for the purpose of doing good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the reason for the Scriptures is to prepare us for good works. In this passage we see a woman who was full of good works and God uses these good works.

He uses her good works to produce charitable deeds. The word we use is benevolence. We do not have a benevolence fund to find an inroad into people’s lives. Sometimes it looks like we are wasting our time helping people. They have no spiritual interest. Sometimes they are not thankful for the help they receive but Christ can use those funds to expand His kingdom, to further His purposes, to put a piece in the puzzle. We have seen that here in this church.

This is why we are making special appeals for the benevolence fund and why we participate in benevolent projects like Operation Christmas Child. We want our good works which come from our faith in Christ to produce charitable deeds. This is money that does not go into this church. Benevolence is not an investment in missions but God does use benevolence for His purposes. Not always in the way that you and I might expect but He does use it.

GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS AND PUTS A PIECE IN THE PUZZLE. 

In addition, He uses our prayers (verse 40). Even those prayers for the sick have a higher purpose than getting people well. The point of this passage is not that God answers prayer or that He answers prayer for the sick or that He sometimes answers in miraculous ways. The point of the passage is God’s plan and purposes are advanced through His answer to prayer. Let me make a bold statement. God never answers a prayer that does not further His purposes. Could Christ have raised this woman from the dead without Peter’s prayers? Absolutely, but Christ accomplishes His purposes through His people and one of the ways that He uses us is through our prayers.

We do a lot of praying for sick people here. On Wednesday night at least half of our requests are dealing with physical needs, often of people who we do not know. It is easy for us to discount those requests and not pray for them because we do not know the people (as if that had anything to do with whether God is going to answer our prayers or not). God does not answer my prayers based on whether I am feeling right about my prayers. God answers my prayers because I am His child and He is my God. If I pray to Him, He works in the situation effectually. The main passage of teaching on healing in James 5 uses the example of Elijah as a man of such passions as we are but he prayed and God answered his prayers. James then goes on to say that the effectual prayer of a righteous man makes a big, a BIG difference.

GOD CAN USE BOTH PETS AND POLITICIANS 

Recently, we had a discussion on Wednesday night about children praying for pets and how we should handle that situation. I was reminded this week of what G. Campbell Morgan said when someone said that they did not pray about the little things. The British preacher said that in the sight of God, all our requests are little. Rather than teaching our children to only pray for big and important things, we need to teach them that everything, from sick people to sick pets can be used of God to bring others to them. That is how we should pray? Lord, use this thing in my life to put another piece in the puzzle.

This is clearly how God wants us to pray. When Paul taught Timothy about praying for the government in his first epistle, he made it clear that the purpose of our praying for the government is that we might more effectively reach others with the gospel. If Mike Huckabee will make us better witnesses, Lord, give us Mike Huckabee. If Hillary or Rudy or Kucinich or McClain or whoever it might be, Lord, give us a president that will result in God using us to put the pieces in the puzzle. Forget the Supreme Court and forget the balanced budget and the Iraq War and abortion and all the other issues, God give us a government that will enable us to please you, whether through persecution or peace to be better witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS OR MISTAKES WITH GOD. 

He uses our church, our character, or prayers but, finally, He uses our circumstances (verses 37-42). The circumstances here are not good. This woman is dead. This is a tragedy. She has suffered great pain going through sickness and death but Christ uses these horrible circumstances in combination with a caring church, her good character, and a praying apostle to bring about a situation where more people would come to Jesus Christ as Savior.

Not every tragic situation is used so obviously by God but He does use our circumstances to accomplish His purposes. Think of the circumstances of your life. There are those here who came to Christ because they wanted premarital counseling. Others have come to Christ because they wanted their children to get some religious training. Others were in circumstances where there was no tragedy but God opened their eyes through some sermon or statement or in at least on situation that I am aware of through a rock opera. Some of us were reared in Christian families and God has used that. Others were raised in non-Christian families and God used those specific circumstances to bring us to Him. Circumstances vary as much as people but in every circumstance God’s hand was and is at work.

 THE PIECES

Who was most important? Peter? Dorcas? The men who came and got Peter? The widows that Dorcas helped? The church that cared for each other? Everyone of them was essential in Christ’s plan, to make the puzzle complete.

Whatever He is using in our life, it is a part of the puzzle of Christ’s purpose for the universe (verse 42). We are a vital part in Christ’s plan. Why? Because Christ desires it.

LOOK AT YOUR LIFE! 

What did Christ do to bring you to this service this morning? You might say, well I decided for myself to come this morning and that is no doubt true but God could have kept you away. Christ has given you an opportunity this morning. What are you going to do with it?

There is no guarantee that you will have another opportunity to take what you have heard this morning and apply it to your life. Do you need to trust Christ as Savior? The same power that raised Dorcas from life and that raised Jesus Christ from the dead will give you eternal life if you will trust Christ as Savior. Take that opportunity today!

Believer, God is working in your life. Are you working with Him? Some of you need to be involved in this church so that God can work more effectively in your life. Others of you need to begin serving others rather than yourselves. Prayer needs to become a greater part in many of your lives. Whatever your situation, you need to be depending on Christ to use the circumstances in your life for His purposes. God wants you!

Barnabas the Risk Taker October 7, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Barnabas, Holy Spirit, Religion, Sermons, Witnessing.
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SERVANTS IN ACTS: BARNABAS THE RISK TAKER

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.

THE CHARACTER OF A RISK TAKER (Acts 11:24)

  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.

RISK TAKERS ARE POWERFUL PEOPLE 

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.

THE RISK TAKER WHO REFUSED TO TAKE A RISK 

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.

    WHICH BARNABAS ARE YOU?

    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?

My father has a new blog July 7, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Blogroll, Family, Witnessing.
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Growing-Old is the name of my father’s new blog. His latest post is a recent witnessing experience of his. You can find the link for Growing-Old on the blogroll or you can click this http://journals.aol.com/talleyarthur/Growing-Old/