Part II of Power To Series
During this the season of Pentecost when we are celebrating that the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers and we are contemplating what that means for us as Christ followers, we are looking at how the Holy Spirit empowers us to be like Jesus. Let’s remind ourselves of the connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:34–35). It struck me as I re-read that this week, that just as Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, we too, are conceived of or born of the Spirit. There was a miracle at work in Mary’s body that enabled Jesus to be born in the flesh, and there is a miracle at work in our souls that enables us to be born again or to be “born of the Spirit” as the Word teaches. He was empowered by the Spirit for His public ministry (Acts 10:38). Any ministry we do in Jesus’ name must be fueled by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was led by and fought temptation by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1–2). If we are going to be overcomers and live without sin, it will take the leading of and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14) and He healed through the power of the Spirit (Luke 5:17). If we are going to teach others about the Word, and if we are going to be involved in the healing ministry of Jesus, we are going to have to be Holy-Spirit saturated. Tell your neighbor, “Get drenched in the Spirit.” Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Be like Jesus.
Specifically today, we will look at three ways we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. I believe we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, to change and become like Jesus and to serve.
Power to Perform Miracles
We know that Jesus performed many miracles in His earthly ministry, even more than those recorded in Scripture (John 20:30-31, Acts 2:22.) When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost miracles became regular occurrences. Acts 2:43-Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
There were demons being cast out of people, there were all kinds of healings and people being raised from the dead, being struck dead because of sin, and more. Other believers performed miracles as well. It wasn’t just the apostles who were performing miracles.
Acts 6:8 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
Stephen wasn’t an apostle, but he was clearly a miracle worker.
Acts 8:4-8 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
Philip, not an apostle, yet clearly a miracle worker.
Miracles were yet another sign that Jesus was alive. The things He had done were being done by His followers. They were increasing in faith. They were increasing in power. The Kingdom of God was advancing. Please, hear me, whenever the Kingdom of God advances there will be a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
There are people who preach and teach that the working of miracles ceased with the age of the apostles. I do not believe it. One of the gifts of the Spirit that is listed in I Corinthians 12:10 is actually “miraculous powers” or the working of miracles, depending on your translation. Why would God create a gift of the Spirit known as the ability to work miracles and then take it away or do away with it? It makes no sense.
People with the spiritual gift of miracles are only empowered to accomplish God’s will. They aren’t at liberty to just do as they please, but I believe there are those who are empowered by God to lay hands on people and to work miracles as the Spirit enables them to. The working of a miracle is always to point people to Jesus, the Miracle Worker. He always gets the credit and the glory. Miracles take place as the Spirit prompts people to move toward someone who needs a miracle. We cannot expect to be used of God to perform a miracle in Jesus’ name if we aren’t listening for the Spirit’s voice. We cannot expect to be used to perform a miracle if we aren’t willing to be led by the Spirit to go speak to someone who needs one.
The working of miracles points to the fact that we live in a broken world, a world of need. If this existence was perfect, there would be no need for miracles. No, miracles point to the fact that things aren’t right here. Miracles help us understand that the way things are isn’t the way God ordained them to be. Miracles bring an awareness to us that things need to be restored to the way God intended. The working of miracles isn’t so that we can be impressed or awed or somehow prove the existence of God, although those things might be a by-product of the working of miracles, but miracles simply point us to the day when all will be made new and that which was intended in the Garden of Eden will be completely restored! Miracles give us a glimpse of the Perfect Kingdom of God.
Writer and theologian Tim Keller says that: Miracles lead not simply to cognitive belief, but to worship, to awe and wonder. Jesus’ miracles in particular were never magic tricks, designed only to impress and coerce. . . . Instead, he used miraculous power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. Why? We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-dont-we-see-miracles/)
Miracles remind us that this mess we are living in isn’t God’s plan and that He has a plan to right it all one day when He returns.
I want to say one more thing about this miracle business. I didn’t read it anywhere. I can’t back it up with any theologian I have read, but I believe the Holy Spirit impressed it on me. Just as I have highlighted that miracles flowed in Acts 2 in the context of generosity, I also must point out that miracles flowed in the context of repentance. Acts 2:37 tells us people were “cut to the heart” after hearing Peter preach. They asked him what they should do in response to his Spirit-filled message. Here was what followed:
Acts 2:38-41 38 Peter replied, “REPENT and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the FORGIVENESS of your SINS. AND YOU WILL RECEIVE the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this CORRUPT generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Repent and Receive. Did you see it? There is a correlation between our repenting and our receiving the working of the Holy Spirit from God. God has me praying about this particular thought: Perhaps the reason we don’t see miracles as often as they did on the Day of Pentecost is because we aren’t willing to repent of sin.
Sin causes spiritual problems. It causes problems in our relationship with God, and it causes reception problems in our ability to experience the Spirit’s power. Do you know why 3000 people were converted on the Day of Pentecost? It’s because 3000 people were willing to come clean about their sin.
I don’t know how to be any more honest than I have just been with you. I know that even in the church we have issues being honest about what is really going on in our lives. Where there are stongholds of sin in our lives, we ought not expect the Spirit to move in power. I’m not suggesting if you are suffering with some kind of illness and haven’t been healed that you are cherishing sin, but I do know that if that is the case, your sin could be the very thing that is preventing the Holy Spirit from moving in your situation in power. Just think about that today. For some of us here today, perhaps the first step in experiencing the power of a miracle is confessing and repenting of sin in our lives. Perhaps the harvest of souls we are waiting on is tied not to a lack of the Spirit’s presence with us, but to our inability to receive it until we are willing to repent.
Power to Change
This past Friday night we heard the dramatic testimony of our addiction/recovery group leader, Mike McCormick, who was radically changed by the power of God to break free of drug addiction. He has walked in victory for five years now. Now, Mike is awesome, but God doesn’t love him anymore than He loves you. If God can set Mike free, He can deliver you.
“That’s the way He is.” “She’ll never change.” Have you heard statements like that? Both of those may be true apart from a move of God’s Spirit, but listen, there is nothing you have become that you can’t “unbecome” when God’s Spirit gets ahold of you. You don’t have to live bitter. You don’t have to swear. You don’t have to have alcohol in order to sleep. You don’t have to have a significant other in order to be “Ok.” You don’t have to be reliant on others for your confidence and worth. You don’t have to be afraid of public speaking. You don’t have to be a people pleaser. You don’t have to give in to sexual pressure or any other pressure in order to be loved or to fit in. You don’t have think negatively. You don’t have to run from conflict. You don’t have to yell when you get frustrated. You don’t have to buy something new to feel good about yourself. Be free from the demons and demands of a double life. Don’t live exhausted by sin. Instead live exhilarated by the Spirit of the Living God.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit,” 2 Corinthians 3:18.
When you are filled with the Holy Spirit and yield to the Holy Spirit, you will be transformed.
The things you are doing that aren’t pleasing God, that aren’t Christ-like, that are actually “devil-like” because they are self-serving, flesh-serving, things you have to sneak around to do and lie about to try to cover up, you don’t have to do those things. You CAN put those things down and walk in the power of the Spirit, and you can like it! You can more than like it; you can love it! You can live happy and free in Jesus and not even want to do the stuff that is currently occupying your thoughts and your time. You can change!
The disciples were living-proof that change is possible. They went from cowardly to courageous; from powerless to powerful. Because of a Holy Spirit empowering, fisherman, ex-religious leaders, former prostitutes, Jews and Gentiles, skeptics and doubters-all were transformed into a Body of Believers known as the Church! It was the fire of the Spirit that brought about that transformation.
One of the main symbols of Pentecost is fire. Tongues of fire rested on the heads of those in the Upper Room and empowered them to speak languages they had not learned. Fire is a symbol of transformation because fire transforms everything it impacts. If you pray to be changed into the image of Jesus Christ, that is a prayer God will honor because it is God’s will for your life. The fire of Pentecost will fall on you and you will be changed. How many of you remember the old song, “Let the Holy Fire from Heaven fall on me?” I want it. I want Pentecostal fire to fall on me!
Have you been transformed by the power of Pentecost? Is there evidence in your life to point to the fact that you have been changed? Galatians 5:22-26 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Are these things on display in your life? How loving would your family say you are? How much joy would your friends say you possess? How much peace do you display in the workplace? How much patience do you have with strangers or your own kids? How often has someone thanked you for your kindness? Are good works on display in your life? Could people point to you and say, “He or she is a faithful Christian?”
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Is that true of you? Have you sought to put your sinful nature to death or have you just become skilled at trying to cover your sin?
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. One way you keep in step with the Spirit is to respond to and cooperate with God every time the Holy Spirit speaks to you. Don’t wait until you get home. Don’t put off dealing with something for a more convenient time. The devil will never make it convenient for you to deal with sin.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Are you walking around with a chip on your shoulder? Do you find yourself constantly saying the rules are stupid and you don’t apply to you? Do you look for ways to push people’s buttons and to stir up trouble? Are you constantly jealous of someone else’s relationship or life or position at work? Let me tell you what the Holy Spirit can do for you. The Spirit of God can transform you to the point where your eyes are on Jesus only and what other people do or have or become doesn’t impact how you view yourself.
The Scripture tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. Only with the Spirit at work in our lives can we live appropriately authentic, appropriately transparent, appropriately humble, and appropriately dependent on God.
Lastly, I believe the Holy Spirit can give us the Power to Serve
I am a pastor, but we are all ministers. Each one of us can serve somehow. Each one of us has been graced by God and gifted by God to serve. That includes the way that He created us but it also includes a Holy Spirit empowering to carry out the work He gives us.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
That’s a long list, but it isn’t an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts. Also check out Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. Our job as Christ-followers is to become like Jesus. Jesus was the ultimate servant. It didn’t matter if the job lasted all day, if it was a hard job, a dirty job, or if anyone else was going to help shoulder the load. Jesus just did it.
One way you demonstrate you have been filled with the Holy Spirit is that you serve the Lord somehow. We aren’t empowered to sit. We are empowered to serve. Just as miracles were flowing in the context of generosity and in the midst of repentance, so too, miracles were flowing in the context of service. There was a lot of Kingdom work going on at Pentecost and in the days after. People were rolling up their sleeves to help one another. So don’t expect to be empowered if your goal is to sit. God empowers and moves in those who are willing to move.
I have seen more miracles in the midst of serving the Lord than I have in the midst of a worship service. Far more, in fact. It is when I am helping people one-on-one, when I am lending a helping hand, that I see God begin to network people with people, God begin to bring hope to people, God begin to stir people’s hearts to receive spiritual things.
Let me point something out that perhaps you hadn’t thought of before. In John 2, when Jesus changed the water to wine at the Wedding in Cana, His very first miracle, that miracle was seen and experienced by the servants. Those who served at the wedding and those who served at Jesus’ command, when He asked them to take the ceremonial water pots and fill them to the brim with water, they, the servants were the ones to witness the miracle. The guests never even knew it had happened. The same is true for us as we serve in increasing ways, we will have a front row seat to miracles in increasing ways.
I believe serving is like getting into the shallow end of a pool. Once you get in and warm up you will start to venture further and further from the steps. Your confidence will increase. Your faith will increase, and the Holy Spirit will empower you to go out into the deep! I believe our level of faith will grow as we serve which gives God’s Spirit more and more to work with. The more we trust Him, the more He empowers us.
Serving the Lord is important for our personal discipleship because it keeps us from getting self-focused. Serving the Lord is central to our witness as well as we read in Matthew 5:16 that we are to let our lights shine in this world so that as others see our good works they will glorify God. What we do for others is one way God has ordained that unbelievers will see and experience Him.
Serving others will give our lives meaning and give us the ability to keep on keeping on when life is difficult. There was a rich young man who had a series of disappointments which made him feel that life was not worth while, as if he really had nothing left to live for. On his way to the river where he intended to end his life, a street urchin met him and begged for a little money to buy bread. The young man, seeing by the pinched face of the child that he was really hungry, said to himself, “I will see that this boy gets one good meal before I die.”
He took the boy to a good restaurant and ordered for him such a meal as he had never before seen in his life. As the young man saw the child eat, a strange feeling of joy crept into his own heart. Then he thought that if he were to commit suicide, the boy would soon again be as hungry as before. So he decided that he would make it his business to see that that child always had enough to eat. The young man had found happiness, for he had something to live fora human being he could help.
Serving the Lord as we serve others gives us meaning and purpose that sustains us as we move through life. And we can make an eternal difference in the lives of others as we serve them in the power of the Holy Spirit. Could we serve in such a way that those around us are spiritually fed for the rest of their lives?
The power to do miracles is the power to change circumstances. The power to change is the power to transform your own life. The power to serve is the power to change other peoples lives.
Each of these comes with an infilling of the Holy Spirit. Will you seek to be filled today and possess the power to…