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Monday, June 5, 2017

God's Heroes Have Power

Introduction
I used to love Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid.  One of my favorite shows was the Justice League, who were a collection of superheroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman.  They worked together and used their superpowers to fight the forces of evil. 
Perhaps the reason superheroes are so appealing to children is that children are so powerless.  You know, people are always telling them what to do and they have no real power, even over their own life.  So perhaps it is very appealing to kids—the idea of a superhero who has supernatural powers and can fly anywhere in the world or is indestructible and can do all these amazing things.
Well, we’ve been talking about the characteristics of God’s heroes.  We’ve learned that God’s heroes have a heart and that God’s heroes have courage.  But today, we learn that God’s heroes have power.  But what are the Christian hero’s superpowers?  Let’s see what the Word of God says. 

Slides – Acts 2:1-12, 32-33, 36-41
1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. 33 Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.
36 “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”
37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away[h]—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

God’s Heroes Have Power
            We see the Holy Spirit’s power and how it empowered the Christians in this story.  There was sound—the sound of a mighty rushing wind.  There were sights—tongues of fire resting over each persons' head.  There was action—speaking in foreign languages the people had never been able to speak in before. 
            There were thousands of people gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world for the Jewish festival of Pentecost.  They all spoke different languages, but the 120 Christians gathered for  together were all from Galilee.  Somehow, the Holy Spirit empowered them to speak in foreign languages so that all those thousands gathered in Jerusalem could hear the Good News about Christ in their own languages.  Interestingly, the Greek word used to describe their language leads us to believe they spoke the languages with  perfect dialects.
            You know, maybe you’ve heard people who come down to Georgia from New York and they don't sound right.  They don’t say “y’all” and “fixin’ to” and all those other southern ways of speaking we love so much down in the south.  You can understand them, but it just doesn’t sound right.  And you’ve heard someone who comes from Mexico and speaks English with a thick Spanish accent.  But when the Holy Spirit enabled these Christians to speak foreign languages, it wasn’t with an accent.  It was perfectly, with the exact dialect of the people they spoke too.  Now that’s amazing power!
            Some people say Christians don’t have that kind of power anymore.  There are even some pastor and theologians who argue that the miracles and supernatural power demonstrated in the Bible was from another age and we cannot do these things today.  But I want you to know, I don’t believe that.  I believe the same Holy Spirit that empowered Christians in the New Testament Church empowers the Church today.  We are the New Testament Church.  Nothing has changed accept maybe the way we think and what we focused on.
            I have seen it with my own eyes.  I was in a church in rural Guatemala.  It was not a fancy church.  There was no air conditioning and the floor were just dirt.  There weren't any stained glass windows and the walls were just concrete blocks.  But after the sermon, near the end of the service, the congregation of about 120 people were all praying and it was as if the very air around me was humming and vibrating.  There was a holy awe and hush over the whole congregation and the power of the Spirit was obviously present and people were being moved and responding to God.  So these kinds of external, supernatural signs still happen, but we don’t experience them as often in our comfortable American churches because we are not rightly focused most of the time.
            I want to also remind you that people look at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.  We learned this in the story of David.  God warned Samuel not to look at how tall a man was, because that wouldn’t tell him whether the man would be a good king.  God said, “People look at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.”  And this is also true when it comes to the workings of the Holy Spirit.  People look at the outward signs—the sounds, the sights, the flaming tongues of fire, and the supernatural ability speak in foreign languages.  People want to see cool signs and wonders, but God is more interested in what’s happening in the heart.  That’s what’s really important.
            Romans 8:11 says, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.”  The Holy Spirit lives inside every Christian who believes in Jesus Christ.  We have the same power available to us as the Church of Acts.  Power is “the ability to do.” 
            When we talk about cars, we talk about horsepower.  I don’t know this for sure, but I imagine the term "horsepower" developed when they first made cars and they were still comparing them the most common means of transportation—actual horses.  So they would say back in the beginning when cars were just a simple buggy with a little engine that would go put, put, put, "If you buy this automobile it will have the same power to move things as 5 horses."  We’ve come so far; today a car may have anywhere from 120-500 horsepower.  Or if you have a racecar, it might have over 1,000 horsepower.  That is horsepower—the ability to move something.
            The Holy Spirit gives us a different kind of power—the power to do what God wants us to do.  Jesus gave us a mission—to make disciples—and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do it.  And the main reason we don’t experience the power of the Holy Spirit is we don’t want to do what Jesus asks us to do.  What did Jesus ask us to do?  Matthew 28:19-20, "Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you."
            The superheroes in cartoons and movies use their superpowers to fight evil and save the world, but when I was a child I wanted those superpowers for more selfish reasons.  As a child, I just thought it would be cool to do whatever I wanted and no one could stop me!  You know, when my older brother pushed me to the ground and sat on my chest and I couldn’t move, I wanted to be able to use my supernatural strength to throw him off me and fly up into the air and shoot him with laser beams from my eyes!  In my immaturity, it was all about how I could use those superpowers for my own selfish purposes.
            And I think a lot of the time, Christians today are still immature like children.  We want the power of the Holy Spirit for the wrong reasons.  Maybe we want to be able to do cool tricks or feel an emotional high or maybe we want to heal someone we care about or to be healed ourselves.  It’s all about what we want and usually has very little to do with what God wants or the mission of the Church.  Christians today need to grow up and seek the Holy Spirit’s power to do what God wants us to do.

What Does the Holy Spirit Empower to Do? (What are the Christian’s superpowers?)
 
            Let me share three things the Holy Spirit empowers us to do.  First of all, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be born again.  Jesus told Nicodemus in the third chapter of John, you can’t enter the Kingdom of God unless you are born again (or born of the Spirit).  Do you remember how Jesus was conceived?  We say it every Sunday in our Apostles’ Creed:  “…he was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”  So the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and she conceived Jesus in her womb.  Do you see we are “born again” as Christians the very same way as Jesus?  The Holy Spirit comes upon us and we are born of the Spirit.  We become a brand new creature with a new beginning and new life and eternal life.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to become sons and daughters of God, citizens of God’s Kingdom.  And the Holy Spirit assures us that we are accepted, forgiven, saved, and loved.  We can live with the same confidence as Jesus and that changes everything.  Now we can start living like Christ and acting like Christ and doing the work of Christ in the world.
            And that’s the second thing, the Holy Spirit empowers us to live like Christ.  Romans 8:2 says, “…the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”  We have the power to live like Christ because we have the power of Christ living in us.  Sin no longer has power over us.  Yes, we may still struggle some with our old sinful habits, but they are no longer in charge.  Now the Holy Spirit is in charge and we can live a new way, a better way, if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  Listen to what Jesus said in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…  Isn’t that amazing!  We can do what Christ did and even more when we let the Spirit empower us to do what God asks.  We can love like Christ and be full of the fruits of the Spirit—joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  We can serve like Christ, because everyone who believes in Jesus receives special gifts of the Spirit that enable us to serve the Church.  Some can sing, some can preach or teach, some can encourage others or be administrators, or show hospitality, or offer healing, or have strong faith…  All of these are special gifts the Holy Spirit gives us to use for the benefit of the whole Church so we can live like Christ, serve like Christ, sacrifice like Christ, die like Christ, and rise to eternal life like Christ.
The third thing (there are so many powers the Holy Spirit gives us, but I only mention 3 today for the sake of time), the Holy Spirit empowers us to preserver.  Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Comforter.  When we are sad or down hearted, or when we are worried, or when we are hurting or struggling or weak or things are stacked against us, the Holy Spirit comforts us.  Romans 8:26 says, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.”  When we are sick or in need, the Holy Spirit renews our strength, but there is more!  Romans 8:37 says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” 
You know, the Church in Acts seems to have everything stacked against it.  They started out as only 120 Christians in a world that hated them.  They had no political power, no influence, and they were persecuted, beaten, had their property confiscated, were arrested, murdered and executed.  Can you imagine if Christians in America today were persecuted like this?  And yet it amazes me what the Church in Acts prayed for.  You would think their prayers would be filled with people praying for mercy or comfort or for the world to stop being so mean to them, but that’s not what they prayed for.  When we read through Acts, again and again find they prayed for God to make them bold to spread the Gospel despite the obstacles.  For example:  Acts 4:29, “And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.”
Perhaps Christians today need to pray less for God’s comfort and healing and protection and make our primary prayer that God would give us—His servants—great boldness in preaching His word. Then maybe we would see that the same power demonstrated in our time that we see in the Book of Acts.
 

 
Closing
            The Holy Spirit dwells inside every Christian who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The Spirit is like a well of Living Water.  It is always there within us if we believe in Christ, but we need to ask God to make the well spring up within so we can, as Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
            How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit as these Christians in Acts 2 were on that Pentecost day?  I suggest you ask Jesus into your heart.  Then I suggest you ask God everyday to fill you with the Holy Spirit.  I think you should go to Church and worship God regularly—every week--with a community of Christians believers.  Be baptized if you haven’t already.  Receive Holy Communion as often as you can, for it is one of the special means Jesus gave us to experience his presence and be filled with his gracious Spirit.  Serve God unselfishly and whole heartedly—pushing yourself beyond what you are able to do on your own (for only then will you realize how desperately you need the Holy Spirit’s power to enable you to do God’s work and He will fill you with His Holy Spirit).  Then go and make disciples of Jesus Christ and Jesus will be with you, through the Holy Spirit, always.