January 31, 2021 | Chad Gilbert
Passage: Acts 1:4-8
She was filled with anger and vengeful thoughts, so much that she wrote, “they boiled within me as he stood before me.” The woman was Corrie Ten Boom, and the man before her was a former Nazi S.S. soldier who had tormented Corrie and her sister Betsie, who had died in the concentration camp.
Yet hear her words as she recounts what happened in those moments.
“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ has died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand [to shake his]. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
The first aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, which Paul lists in Galatians 5:22, is love.
What Corrie experienced that day in the face of her enemy was the filling of God’s Spirit.
That story is on her autobiography's final pages, but I find it significant that her life's conditions, as a Christian, led to her prayer that day.
At the beginning of her autobiography, she notes the conditions of her home life:
“Father stood up and took the big brass-hinged Bible from its shelf…Scripture reading at 8:30 each morning for all who were in the house was another of the fixed points around which life revolved. Father opened the big volume and Betsie and I held our breaths. Surely, today of all days, when there was still so much to do, it would not be a whole chapter! But he was turning to the Gospel of Luke where we’d left off yesterday.”
Her father, the chief servant of his family, the leader in his home, ensured that they were Scripture-fed daily. Scripture-fed, servant-led, placed Corrie in a context in which she was saved by grace, filled with the Spirit, and then continued, in moments like that which came after the war, continued to experience the filling of God’s Spirit.
FBNO, as we continue in our Core Convictions series, I remind you that we must be Scripture-fed, we must be Servant-led, and today we will see in the Scriptures that we must be Spirit-filled.
I invite you to turn to the New Testament book of Acts, first to Acts chapter 1. Today, we are going to consider 3 passages of Scripture from the book of Acts. First, we will read Acts 1:4-8:
While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “Which,” he said, “you have heard me speak about; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Shortly after Jesus spoke these words, he ascended into heaven, and then suddenly, two angels appear to the disciples, instructing them that Jesus will return in the same way they just saw him depart. The disciples then return to Jerusalem, and then we read this description of their actions:
"They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." — Acts 1:14 (CSB)
Next, turn to chapter 2, and we will read verses 1-4,
"When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. 4 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them." — Acts 2:1-4 (CSB)
This leads to thousands of people hearing the Gospel and being saved by the Lord, but such growth in the church did not come without opposition. Peter and John, two of the disciples, were arrested but then released, and here is what happened next:
After they [Peter and John] were released, they went to their own people and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Master, you are the one who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant: Why do the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot futile things? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers assemble together against the Lord and against his Messiah. “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your will had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly. — Acts 4:23-31 (CSB)
Please pray with me.
Our Father, much have we to learn about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. We confess that we have allowed inaccurate understandings and concern over emotionalism to result in a weakened posture of dependence upon Your presence in our lives. We have relied on our minds rather than longing for the mind of Christ, which is ours by the presence of your Holy Spirit. We have relied on our might rather than calling upon Your might and power to be manifest in our weakness by the presence of your Holy Spirit. We have relied on our carefully crafted strategies, our varying levels of discipline, our ability to resource and sustain efforts rather than admitting that we are poor and needy, having received all in as much as we have received Your Holy Spirit. An experienced surgeon can diagnose an injury, often with one question or one movement, so you, The Great Physician of our souls, discern the church's condition by the engagement of our body in prayer. Please speak through your Word, by Your Spirit today, we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.
We must be Spirit-filled.
In the book of Acts, we will see that we must be Spirit-filled because we are powerless to fulfill the Great Commission apart from the Holy Spirit.
You show me a church with little to no concern about the Great Commission – that is, the command to make disciples of all nations – and I will show you a church that experiences very little of the Holy Spirit.
You show me a church with little to no concern about ethnic barriers to the Kingdom advancement, and I will show you a church that experiences very little of the Holy Spirit.
You show me a church that has little to no concern about speaking the word of God boldly, even when there is persecution for speaking the truth, and I will show you a church that experiences very little of the Holy Spirit.
But when a church is Scripture-fed, seeing that we are commanded by Christ Himself to make disciples of all nations – then I will show you a church in prayer, desperate for the Holy Spirit to lead them, fill them, and send them to the ends of the earth to make disciples of all nations.
When a church is Scripture-fed, seeing that Christ Himself has torn down the dividing wall that separated Jew and Gentile, seeing people from every nation, tribe and tongue gathered around the throne in Heaven, worshiping the Lamb that was slain and the One seated on the throne, and seeing that the Great Commission is a command to make disciples “of all nations,” including residents of other nations who are visiting or living in this nation – then I will show you a church in prayer, desperate for the Holy Spirit to draw all nations to Christ, a church desperate to overcome any barriers that exist in the body of Christ, including racial barriers among Americans, and desperate to experience the words of Jesus that this gathering, this body of believers, this body that is the temple of the living God in which He dwells by His Spirit, would be called a House of Prayer for all nations.
And when a church is Scripture-fed, they see Jesus as King, refusing to allow a political agenda, a cultural wave from the Right or the Left, a reinvention or recasting of the truth, an ardent denial of or radical commitment to a politician, a party, an organization, an ideology – then I will show you a church that prays together, praying the Scriptures, such as the church in Acts 4 prayed, quoting Psalm 2, asking, together, for boldness to speak the Word of the Lord.
So let us consider that we must be Spirit-filled because we are powerless to fulfill the Great Commission apart from the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 1, Jesus said, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.” But why?
Because you and I can’t make a disciple.
"Hold on, Chad, Jesus Himself told the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. You are contradicting the Bible. Jesus wouldn’t have told the disciples to do something they couldn’t do."
I appreciate the pushback, but that is where the church is dead wrong, or better said, wrong, and therefore dying.
The entire Bible is full of God’s prescribed just, righteous, and good standard for humanity. The Old Testament and New Testament make clear the character, conduct, and care God expects from humanity. Yet we never meet a person, in either the Old or New Testament who completely manifests the character, conduct, and care – the justice, righteousness, and goodness - which God expected, all except in one person – God’s one and only Son, Jesus.
God called all men to live according to His just, righteous, and good standard, but all men – every man, woman, boy, and girl has failed because of our sinful condition. However, the Gospel says that Jesus fully lived according to God’s just, righteous, and good standard, and in the greatest exchange in history, he exchanged your sin and mine and gives us His righteousness. He took on our debt and gave us being debt-free. He took our shame and gave us dignity. He took our hatred and gave us His love. He took our racism and gave us his justice. He took from us our political division and gave us his united kingdom. He took from us death and gave us eternal life.
The Gospel says the good news is that although God asked us to do something we were incapable of doing because of sin, God made possible the achievement of his standard, his commands, in Christ. How? By giving us Christ Himself.
Christ is not a coach who tells you to work harder. Christ is not a motivational speaker who inspires you to try harder. Christ is not a survivor whose story becomes inspirational to the rest of us. No, Christ ALONE is righteous.
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid Rock I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
If we try to make disciples apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, we will sink. We will be ineffective. We will be frustrated. We will blame one another.
You see, FBNO, that is what happens in so many churches today. The congregation looks and sees that the church is not growing like it used to. So they huddle up and start to try to figure out why. The solution usually starts with “The pastor needs to…” Meanwhile, the pastor is huddled up with other pastors, lamenting the very same thing – the church is not growing. And the solution usually starts with “The people need to be…”
Today, can we – your pastor and the people of this church – agree that WE are powerless to make disciples of all nations, both locally in New Orleans and globally around the world – apart from the Holy Spirit. And if so, then we must pray together.
But as we turn anew in a Scripture-fed, servant-led call to prayer, you will notice that what I have said today is we must be Spirit-filled. Chad, doesn’t that mean you should be calling us to be Spirit-filled rather than calling us to prayer?
This is where being Scripture-fed becomes so important. There are many negative examples of what is called “being filled with the Holy Spirit in our world today.”
A dear friend of mine who attended a well-known, charismatic school here in the United States said that each day of classes on campus included a chapel service where students were instructed to speak in tongues. My friend said that chapel was jokingly called tongues on demand. He noted that there were people stationed throughout the chapel who ensured that all students were participating. So, to demonstrate a “filling of the Spirit,” students would say “Want to buy a Honda” or “Want to tie a bowtie” to satisfy looking eyes, otherwise they would be taken to the front of the chapel where the charismatic leader, often the President of the university, would lay hands on them to bring about speaking in tongues. If they still failed to manifest speaking in tongues at that point, disciplinary action would be taken against the student, including expulsion.
This is what happens when we separate the reality of being filled with the Holy Spirit from the Church's mission – to make disciples of all nations.
But when the two are joined, and we see the early church filled, for the first time, with the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues in a context in which many Jews who had been scattered for generations had gathered, in Jerusalem, for the day of Pentecost, and in that context, the Spirit enabled them to speak in tongues SO THAT people could hear about the wonders of God in their own native language. In other words, they were immediately engaging in the work of making disciples of all nations, which is exactly what we see hapThe disciples, in and of themselves, were powerless to cross that language barrier on their own, just as you and I are powerless to cross barriers – linguistic, ethnic, racial, economic, educational, and political barriers - on our own. Oh, that we would acknowledge our powerlessness more quickly, crying out to the Lord in prayer, together, to fill us with His power, His Holy Spirit that we might receive power to fulfill the Great Commission.
But when our desire for being filled with the Holy Spirit is simply to speak in tongues, it can sadly become as meaningless as tying a bowtie or buying a Honda – no offense to Honda owners. But it is not fair of me to simply indict a charismatic university, for when our desire for being filled with the Holy Spirit is simply a means to have a really great Sunday morning worship service where the preacher preaches a sermon we really enjoy or the musical worship is full of songs we really enjoy – but with no hope or anticipation that His presence is meant to give us boldness, as it did in Acts 4, to leave this place speaking boldly the Word of the Lord, then it is just as selfish, and just as empty of His presence.
Church family, we are powerless to fulfill the Great Commission apart from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we must be Scripture-fed, we must be servant-led, and we must be Spirit-filled, which is simultaneously a call to prayer.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote that the Lord’s Prayer, in his estimation, is the summation of all the prayers of the Bible, such that the Lord’s model prayer for us becomes a way to pray the Scriptures. So today, as Jesus trained his disciples in prayer, so we, as a church, return to Christ in the school of prayer, as Andrew Murray called it, to pray the Lord’s prayer.
Please turn with me to Matthew 6:9.
I want us to pray this together, praying the Word back to the Father. In this moment, some of you may want to come and bow at the steps in the front of the room. Some of you may desire to turn and bow on your knees at your seat. Some of you may desire to stand as we pray. The essence of our physical posture should match the honor and reverence for God in our hearts.
I will give us a few moments of silence before I lead us in prayer, inviting you to pray aloud the Lord’s prayer with me.
Pastor Chad Gilbert examines the five core strengths that a biblically-thriving church must exhibit.