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Showing posts with label Acts 2. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Acts 2. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Have You Heard


Introduction
We’ve been following the story of the very first Christians for several weeks.  We are tremendously indebted to their faith and their faithfulness.  We might could understand if they’d just given up and thrown in the towel.  They were outnumbered and subjected to severe persecution.  They never knew from day to day what would happen next.  One day, they enjoyed the favor of the people.  The next, soldiers were coming to take away their property and arrest them or chase them out of town.  Through it all, they were dependent on the guidance of the Holy Spirit while praying that Jesus would come back soon.

I want to re-visit the story from the second chapter of Acts, verses 14-24.  This was the Apostle Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.  All the believers were gathered in one place (there were so few of them, they could still all fit in one place).  The Holy Spirit fell upon them in a mighty rush of wind and it appeared as if flaming tongues of fire danced above each person’s head.  And all the Christians began talking in different languages—languages they had not previously known—about he wonderful things God had done through Jesus Christ.  And all the Jews from around the world who were gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost came running to see the commotion and they heard the Good News about Jesus in their own languages.  Some of the people who listened were amazed, but others thought the Christians were drunk.

Acts 2:14-24
14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 Some of you are saying these people are drunk. It isn’t true! It’s much too early for that. People don’t get drunk by nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, what you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel:
18‘In the last days, God said,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
19In those days I will pour out my Spirit
upon all my servants, men and women alike,
and they will prophesy.
And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below—
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
20The sun will be turned into darkness,
and the moon will turn bloodred,
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
21And anyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.’
22“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But you followed God’s prearranged plan. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to the cross and murdered him. 24 However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip.

Reflect
These are the powerful words Peter preached to the people of Israel. The people who in their time, were supposed to be the true worshipers of the one true God. Yes, of all the people in the world, the Israelites were supposed to know God the best. Yet when God sent His one and only Son to redeem the world, they led the fight to have him murdered.

In our time, we Christians are supposed to be the true worshipers of the one true God—the ones who know Him and love Him the best.  Yet how many times do we nail him to the cross again and again by sinning and doing things we know we ought not.  Lying, stealing, cheating, bickering, gossiping, lusting, drunkenness, adultery, giving more priority to the things and people of this world than to the one true God who made them all.

Acts 2:22-24
22 “People of Israel [that’s you and me], listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But you followed God’s prearranged plan. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to the cross and murdered him. 24 However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip.”

Have You Heard?
Have you heard about my Lord?  Have you heard about my Jesus?  He wasn’t born as some high and mighty king.  No!  He was born as poor peasant to a family who couldn’t even find him a room to be born in.  He ended up being born in a stable with a bunch of farm animals.

Have you heard the story of my Lord?  Have you heard the story of my Jesus?  He grew up poor, working with his hands.  His family couldn’t afford to send him college.  But he grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him.” [i]

His name is Jesus!  When he turned thirty, he was baptized by his cousin John and the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove.  And God spoke from heaven with a thundering voice of authority and said, ““You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” [ii]

His name is Jesus!  When He gathered together his disciples and followers, he didn’t choose people because of how much money they had.  He didn’t choose people because of their status.  He didn’t choose people because they were good enough or because they were well educated.  Instead he chose fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, outcasts, and ordinary people like you and me. 


Have you heard about Jesus my Lord? 
1.              He spoke to one man who was paralyzed and told him to get up and walk because he was healed, he said your sins are forgiven—and the man got up and walked! 
2.              Once he was sailing with his disciples across the Sea of Galilee when a fierce storm came up and huge waves began to crash against the boat, breaking over the bow until the boat was nearly full of water.  And though his disciples were frozen with fear, Jesus calmly commanded the wind and the water to “Quiet down!” and suddenly the wind stopped and the sea was calm. 
3.              One time, a wild eyed man, foaming at the mouth, possessed by a legion of demons came running out of a cemetery, falling before my Lord Jesus screaming, “Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, don’t torture me!”[iii]  And Jesus commanded the demons to come out of the poor retched man and he sent them into a heard of pigs and sent the pigs running down into the sea where they drowned. 
4.              He made the blind to see and the deaf to hear and the mute to speak and the lame to walk.
5.              He fed 4,000 people with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish. 
6.              He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. 
7.              He said You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do!” [iv]
8.              On top of the mountain, he was transfigured and his clothing became dazzling white, and he stood and talked with Moses and Elijah, even though they’d been dead for hundreds of years.  And even though Peter and James and John were so blown away by the whole experience that they wanted to build 3 shrines and stay on the mountaintop worshiping forever, Jesus wouldn’t allow it because he knew his place was back down in the valley suffering for the people.
9.              He stood in front of Lazarus’ tomb, and though the body’d already been dead and buried for so long it’d begun to smell, he commanded, “Lazarus, come out!”  And a dead man obeyed and came back to life so that they had to unwrap the grave clothes and let Lazarus go free.
10.          Speaking of his own body he said, “Destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it again in 3 days!”

Have you heard about my Lord?  Have you heard about My Jesus?  He looked at me, a young man lost in sin, a adolescent who came from a broken home, a young teenager who wanted to have sex and get drunk and act stupid all the time, a kid who hated his father, a youth who thought it was cool to vandalize and destroy property, a 16 year old reckless driver who should’ve gotten himself or someone else killed—he looked at me and he saved me from the path to destruction down which I was heading.  And he snatched me up from the fires of hell over which I was dangling.  And he set my feet upon the rock and gave me a new life of abundance.

Have you heard about Jesus my Lord?  He looks at you, the man who is cheating on his wife.  He looks you, the kid who is getting high on drugs.  He looks you, the girl who is having sex with her boyfriend because she doesn’t want him to leave her all alone.  He looks at you, the workaholic who is neglecting your family, wasting your life climbing the corporate ladder while your family is going down the tubes.  He looks at you, the teenager who is so disillusioned with the vanity of life that you would contemplate going on a shooting spree or even taking your own life.  He looks at us all, who are dying of spiritual thirst in this dry and weary land where there’s no hope, and he says, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”[v]

Have you heard what they did to my Lord?  They arrested him in the middle of the night.  And they falsely accused him.  And they paid some worthless people to lie about the things he had said and done.  And they put him through a fraudulent trial in the middle of the night.  And they convicted him before the sun came up.  And they tricked a mob into trading the life of the sinless, spotless Son of God for the life of the murderous Barabbas.  And they spat on him, and they mocked him, and they beat him within an inch of his life, and they put a crown of thorns on his head, and then they nailed his hands and feet to a cross and hung him there until he died.  And then they chunked him in a cave and rolled a big, fat stone in front of it and thought they had seen the last of the Son of God. 

Oh, but have you heard the good news about Jesus my Lord?  Acts 2:24, However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip.  After three days, the stone was rolled away and Jesus got up and walked out of that tomb.  And he appeared to many of his followers, both men and women, and he proved to them that he was really alive.  And he’s proven it to me too, time and time again, that he is indeed alive even today. 

Acts 2:36, “So let it be clearly known by everyone in Israel [and by you and me too] that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified to be both Lord and Messiah!”

“Brothers and sisters, what should we do?”

“Each of us must turn from our sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Then we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is to us and to our children, and everyone in every part of the world.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you, as strongly as I know how, save yourselves from this generation that has gone astray!” 
           
Prayer of Repentance
Oh God, we have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Have mercy on us, O God, because of your unfailing love.  Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of our sins.  Wash us clean from our guilt.  Purify us of our sin.  For we recognize our shameful deeds—they haunt us day and night.  Against you, and you alone, have we sinned; we have done what is evil in your sight.

You will be proved right in what You say, and Your judgment against us is just.  For we were born sinners—yes, from the moment we were conceived.  But You desire honesty from the heart, so You can teach us to be wise in our inmost being.  Purify us from our sins, and we will be clean; wash us, and we will be whiter than snow.  Oh, give us back our joy again; You have broken us—now let us rejoice.  Don’t keep looking at our sins.  Remove the stain of our guilt.  Create in us a clean heart, O God.  Renew a right spirit within us.  Do not banish us from Your presence, and don’t take Your Holy Spirit from us.  Restore to us again the joy of Your salvation, and make us willing to obey You.  Then we will teach Your ways to sinners, and they will return to You.  Forgive us for shedding the blood of your Son, O God who saves; then we will joyfully sing of Your forgiveness.  Unseal our lips, O Lord, that we may praise You.  You would not be pleased with anything we could try to do to earn your forgiveness, or we would do them.  Even if we spent our whole lives trying to earn Your acceptance, You would not accept us.  The only sacrifice You want from us is a broken spirit.  A broken and repentant heart, O God, You will not despise.  Look at us with favor and help us; reconstruct Your holy dwelling place within our hearts.  Then You will be pleased with the things we do and our whole way of living will be pleasant in Your sight.

In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.


[i] Paraphrase Luke 2:52
[ii] Luke 3:22b
[iii] Paraphrase Mark 5:7
[iv] Paraphrase Matthew 15:11
[v] Paraphrase John 4:10

Monday, May 6, 2019

"I'm on Fire!" - Things You Can't Say in Church (but you should)


Introduction
I’m preaching a series of sermons called, “Things you can’t say in church (but you should)”.  And I want to emphasize that last little part that’s in parentheses – (But You Should).  You see these are things that a lot of people think or feel you shouldn’t say in church, but you absolutely should.  Don’t ever let someone convince you not to say these things in church.  You must say them.  Even more, you must live them out.  They must be a core part of who you are.  Genuine Christianity is not about being respectable or dignified.  Do you think if the trumpets of Heaven blew with a mighty blast and the roof of this sanctuary were ripped away and the Holy Presence of God descended upon us that anyone would remain dignified, reserved, and respectable?  No.  You would probably turn into a blubbering idiot either fearing for your miserable life or else be overcome with immense love and admiration for your God.  But none of us would be respectable or dignified.  But there are still many who feel going to church means you must be respectable and dignified and that you can’t say certain things in church.  And I say that’s ridiculous. 

Last week, I shared how a lot of people think you can't say, "I'm broken" in church.  But I say, you you should; you absolutely should.  It's essential, because Jesus came to heal the broken.  And if you ain't broken, Jesus can't fix you.  The truth is, we're all broken.  We just need to admit it, repent, and let Jesus heal us.

I’ve got another one today:  “I’m on fire!”  Now what does it mean to be on fire in the church?  I’m talking about people who are full of passion and fire for the Lord.  A lot people are annoyed or afraid of people who are on fire for the Lord.  They just want everyone to come to church and sit down and be quiet—to be dignified and respectable and not stir up any controversy.  Just be a good boy or girl.  But Jesus wants us all to be on fire.  I know this because it’s foretold throughout the Bible.

John the Baptist foretold it in Matthew 3:11.  He said, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  And Jesus said in Luke 12:49 - “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!"  And then, in Acts 2:1-4 we see how the Church was filled with the Holy Spirit’s fire.

Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

The Church on Fire
Pentecost is an annual Jewish festival.  It is also the day Christians celebrate the birth of the Christian Church.  This year, Pentecost falls on June 9.  In this story, the faithful followers of the resurrected Jesus (which is the Church) were all gathered in the Temple in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit set them on fire.  I don’t mean that they were literally set ablaze.  What I mean is the Holy Spirit filled them with passion and power to serve the Lord.  The passion and power were so vibrant it even looked as if tongues of fire were dancing above their heads.  And these people began speaking in other languages so that anyone who was gathered in the Temple from all over the world could hear these “on fire” Christians sharing the Good News about Jesus Christ in their very own language. 

Acts 2:13 says, “Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”  Isn’t that a typical response of many religious people who are frightened or annoyed when they see someone else in worship who has a little too much passion for God?  They start scoffing and say, “They’re just showing off,” or “They’re mentally unbalanced,” or “They’re just a religious fanatic.”  Some people think you can’t say “I’m on fire!” in church.  But I say, you should; you must!  Because the Church Jesus established is filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit!

“Awe come on, preacher!”  You say, “That’s just stuff that happened in the Bible.  That don’t happen anymore.”  Is that so?  Are we not the same Church today as they were then?  Is not the same Jesus still our Lord?  Are not those who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior still filled with the Holy Spirit?  Is not the Holy Spirit that fills us the same Holy Spirit that filled these believers in Acts Chapter 2 on the Day of Pentecost?  I say it is.  God has not changed.  The only thing that’s changed is your belief. 

Some think God and power and miracles and real faith was something that happened long ago.  Some think God is some distant deity who lives far away and is not actively involved in our world anymore.  I say, "No sir!  He is here, right here, right now." I say God still pours out His Holy Spirit fire on anyone who does not pretend to be too dignified and respectable or uninterested to receive Him.  We are called to be a Church full of people who gladly proclaim, “I’m on fire!”

What Does It Mean to Be On Fire?
We can see what if means to be on fire in the church.  All we have to do is look at these believers in Act 2.  There are three main things we see.  

First of all, these “on fire” Christians loved God with all their heart, all their mind, all their soul, and all their strength.  They were wholeheartedly and completely committed to Jesus Christ.  And why shouldn’t they be?  The religious leaders in Jerusalem arrested their Jesus, brutally beat him, crucified him, and buried him.  But on the Third Day, Jesus Christ rose from the grave!  And everyone who truly believes Jesus Christ is no longer dead, realizes there is nothing in this world more important than following Jesus Christ with your whole heart.  These believers may have been afraid the religious leaders who killed Jesus would try to kill them.  But they didn’t let that fear keep them away.  Their faith in Jesus Christ was more important than anything else.

Second, we see that these “on fire” Christians in Acts loved their neighbor as themselvesFor as soon as the Holy Spirit set them on fire, they began to preach the Good News about Jesus Christ to everyone around them.  Some might think they would be angry and retaliate.  Some might wonder that they didn’t scream, “You killed my Lord Jesus and you’re gonna pay!”  Some might think they would use the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn up the wicked religious leaders of Jerusalem for their terrible rebellion against God.  But they didn’t do any of that.  Instead, they realized we are all broken sinners who deserved to be burned up by the fire of God, but instead God loves us and sent His Son to save us, not destroy us.  And so these on fire Christians in Acts 2 use the power of the Holy Spirit to speak in all the languages of the people gathered for worship in Jerusalem so that everyone can hear and understand that Jesus offers forgiveness and salvation.  They speak, because they know God has loved them and they offer the same love to everyone—even their enemies—hoping that all will repent of their sins and turn to God and be forgiven and become “on fire” Christians just like them.  And many of them repent and turn to Jesus.  Acts 2:41 says 3,000 new people repented of their sins and started following Jesus Christ that day.  It is incredible what happens when a few Christians get set on fire!

And there is a third thing we see.  Slide – These “on fire” Christians became a family.  Acts 2:42-47 says:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

You see, their fellowship—their being together, learning together, praying together, working together, worshiping together, eating together—became the most important thing in their life.  And their love for one another was proof to everyone, everywhere that there was something special and powerful happening.  And more and more people started turning to Jesus Christ to be saved.

Say "I'm on Fire!"
So don’t ever let anyone discourage you from saying “I’m on fire!” in Church.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would set you on fire—set us all on fire—that we might be filled with passion and power to be true believers of Jesus Christ—the continuation of the Church described in the book of Acts.

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.