Monday, August 2, 2010

Words of Encouragement

Women charged by the Spirit
(repost of message preached in 2007)

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” ~ Acts 1:8

As I read this scripture, I had a few questions.

1. Who gives the power? This is a simple enough question, but it still needs to be answered. I cannot give you the power, nor can I take it away from you. Solely God gives this power. He instructs the Holy Spirit to indwell within the hearts of all his children. This spirit is the same spirit he sent to woo you and I. This was his prevenient grace, the Holy Spirit calling us to repentance. You or I couldn’t even accept salvation without the Holy Spirit because we were too lost to realize we were lost. God’s spirit had to bring us to the point of clarity to understand we needed saving. When he did, God’s Spirit then was promised to dwell within the life of all believers. And there should be some evidence of his indwelling. We should look like children of God. We shouldn’t be liars, cheats, or any thing that continues to reflect fleshly things. We should however show forth the fruit of the spirit, love, peace, longsuffering and the like. If there is no evidence of God’s spirit in our lives, then maybe we need to go back and check where we are standing with God. His spirit does not pick or choice just a few select to dwell in, but those that are yielded to God are the ones that the Spirit dwells within. So we must check ourselves to see if we are truly yielding all to God.

2. Who has the power? God gives the power to all that come accepting his gift of salvation through the blood of his son. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” – Joel 2:28-29. That means God does not limit who is able to come to him. In our society we have limitations on who can go to talk to the boss. You cannot just walk into your boss’s office and demand audiences you might get fired. If you wanted to talk to the president of the United State you can’t go into his office. Even those that are granted entrance have to be put through some rigorous things before they become part of that choice bunch. We are limited in access. With God, however, he does not limit who can come. There are however, some requirements for access. You have to be his, period. We cannot live an unsaved life and think we will have the Holy Spirit directing us because the two don’t mix.

3. What is the power for? – The ultimate purpose of the indwelling Spirit is so that the people of God could enact the standing orders of Jesus that he gave to his disciples before he ascended (Acts 1:2-7). That mandate has not changed for you or I. He didn’t want them wasting time on when would God reestablish the kingdom, see they were looking for power to come in God setting them back in power as a nation, they were looking for an earthly kingdom. (Acts 1:6) God’s purpose was to establish a spiritual kingdom in the earth. God doesn’t want you or I worried about earthly things, either instead he wants our complete focus to be on the building of the spiritual kingdom. And you can do that even as you go about in your day to day. Jesus was instructing them to prepare themselves to be transformed by the divine visitation of the Holy Spirit that would help them tell what they knew about Jesus Christ to others (Acts 1:8). What did they know? They knew Jesus as the Lord of all creation, redeemer of all who trust in his death for their deliverance, and stern judge of all who reject his call to repent and pledge their loyalty to him. Yes, I said he is a stern judge. We only want to talk about heaven, but never tell people that there are consequences to your rejection of Jesus. That is hell eternally, a place where there is no joy, no peace, no love of God. That is what makes hell punishment. You are forever aware of what you have rejected.

4. So how does the Spirit charge us? Let’s look back at the word transformed. To be transformed means you have been changed or altered. As I was thinking about being charged by the Spirit, my mind first went back to the disciples. Did you know they were a group of misfits? In our day, they wouldn’t get the invitation to go into see the president; they wouldn’t be part of the choice group.

Let’s look at the disciples for a moment. When we read scripture have you every wondered why the disciples so quickly left what they were doing and went with Jesus? As I was studying with a pastor friend of mine, I found that it was customary in the Jewish culture for boys age 5 or 6 to study in schools called “bet sefer”. They studied and memorized the Torah. Boys that excelled would move on to the next level in their education. They would study more complex oral traditions of the Torah.

The local rabbi hired by the community or small village/town would use this level of education to teach using the question and answer method. Male students became a religious adult at age thirteen and if a student were gifted enough he could continue his studies with the rabbi in secondary school called “Beth Midrash.” If the Jewish male student was not a good enough scholar to advance to this next level of education, they were encouraged by the rabbi to go home and continue to learn the trade of their family, as this would be far most purposeful in making a living in the coming years.

Those that went on would continue to study the rest of the Hebrew Testament. At age 15, the truly gifted would travel to study with the famous Rabbi. The student would be asked a series of questions by the Rabbi, if he was able to answer them to the satisfaction of the Rabbi, he would then become his talmid or disciple, if not, he would be sent home and told to take up the family business. It was rare for a Rabbi to ask a student to be his talmid, even though some would ask the Rabbi.

So why do I tell you this? The disciples were all from this same culture as Jesus. They had all gone through the same training, but they were not good enough to be the talmid or disciple of the rabbi, that is why they are about their business as fishermen and the like. Yet here comes Jesus and calls the misfits to be his Talmid, disciples. What an honor. First it was an honor because they didn’t have to go and ask him, he came seeking them. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16)

This group had some characters in it. There was a doubter, There was one that was quick to react, but would become doubtful to accomplish what he asked for, so he sank. They didn’t understand the nature of Jesus always and fought amongst themselves who would be in a place on honor on Jesus right hand in heaven. They scattered when trouble came. They couldn’t stay awake in times of need. This group was the ones rejected as disciples by the rabbis of their time. They were all banished to a place of misfits among the people. Oh they went about life, but they knew they had not cut it as disciples to the rabbi.

Jesus took this misfit group and taught them, walked with them and offered them something wonderful. That was because he knew what they would become. The after picture was something to behold. This same one that denied three times, never denied again. He became bold for the cause of Christ. The doubter stopped doubting. The ones that ran and hid during difficulties now stood even as martyrs for the cause of Christ. What happened? The Holy Spirit transformed them. They went from misfits trying to find a place to fit in, to having a divine assignment given to them from Jesus himself. They went form misfits, to mighty vessels of honor.

Come back next week for the next installment in the message.