Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Our ability to be God’s witnesses is directly in proportion to the Holy Spirit’s control of our lives. How possessed are you? Ask your neighbor, “Are you possessed?” Does God’s Spirit have total control over your life? Your body? Your mind? Your spirit?
Imagine inviting guests over to your home for dinner and then finding out that while you were cleaning off the table they were roaming through your house, opening doors, inspecting closets and investigating under the beds. That would be a violation, right? You wouldn’t expect a guest to be so nosey, so brazen or even so interested in the first place. It wouldn’t be appropriate for a guest to go snooping around into your personal things.
There are some things you don’t want guests to be exposed to. I mean, sometimes you clean only the kitchen and family room when you are having company. We can remove clutter in a hurry as long as there is a door to close behind it to keep it out of sight. Right? There are some limits to our vulnerability and transparency when it comes to having guests over.
But let me ask you. Is the Holy Spirit supposed to be merely a guest in your life? Do you invite Him in to the kitchen and family room, but keep Him out of the other places in your life because they aren’t cleaned up and ready to be viewed? I think too many Christians think it’s possible for the Holy Spirit to be treated like a guest. We’ll let Him in on Sundays, but there are parts of our life that we won’t allow Him to inspect. Let me remind you of Romans 8:9. It says the Holy Spirit lives “in you.” That means, the Holy Spirit isn’t a mere guest, but if you are in Christ this morning, He is a permanent resident in your heart, mind, body and life. He is not a guest that you can keep out of unwanted places. The Holy Spirit should have the run of your house!
Here’s a revelation for you: If you’re a Christian He owns the house. I Corinthians 6:19 says “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. You were bought at a price.” God paid for the Holy Spirit to take possession of you through the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son.
One reason Christians struggle is because they are trying to keep the Holy Spirit from having the run of the house. They are working overtime to keep doors locked and things hidden on the top shelf of some closet rather than cooperate with the Landlord when He says wants to do an inspection. Listen, the only way to have full Pentecost power is to allow the Holy Spirit to have free reign and to cooperate with His findings. Anything else will result in an ongoing struggle. You won’t be happy, and God won’t be able to accomplish His perfect will to transform you. God has sent me here this morning to say, “Stop playing tug of war with the Holy Spirit.”
Pentecost power comes when we walk in the Spirit, live by the Spirit and are filled with the Spirit. Just the way alcohol can totally saturate a person’s being and they can become a different person “under the influence,” we are to become different people (in a positive and powerful way) when we are totally saturated by and under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” In other words, get under the influence of the Spirit of God.
We read in the Acts 2 passage that those who had been praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit were accused of being drunk when the Spirit’s power was poured out on them. They began to be “under the influence” of the Spirit and began to speak in languages they had never learned. It was as if they changed nationalities in an instant. It wasn’t just that they became bi-lingual, but the demonstration of the Spirit’s power was so amazing that they became different people, having different abilities under the influence of the Spirit of God.
Listen, God wants you to become new and different people under the influence of the Spirit so that you too can be His witnesses. I’ve preached on this passage several times and have heard countless messages on it where the emphasis has been on the Spirit giving us power to be courageous. We do receive power to be courageous, for sure. But hear me, if we aren’t people who are transformed by the Spirit’s power FIRST, all of our boldness won’t amount to anything. We’ll come off as self-righteous holier than thou hypocrites who don’t know they have a log sticking out of their own eye as they try to tell people how to get right with God. You see, you can’t be an effective witness FOR God if you aren’t right WITH God. Is anyone following me this morning?
Let me try to unpack where the Spirit is leading me today. Just as we receive power to become witnesses, I believe we receive power to experience transformation in other parts of our lives so that we can become effective witnesses.
The Holy Spirit can give us power to deal with sin. Just as God has made a way for us to get right with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, He has also made a way for us to deal with sin after we have accepted Christ. One way is through confession.
David said in Psalm 32:3-4, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” If we think we can live in sin and walk around with unconfessed sin that we can be powerful witnesses for Christ, we’re delusional. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sin does not prosper.” We won’t have victory in our lives and we won’t be able to help others find victory if we are weighed down by sin.
Imagine a runner with a backpack on that is full of weights. He is unable to run very fast. We’ll let the backpack represent the weight of sin. The runner laboriously, with sweat pouring off his face and his knees buckling under the weight of his own sin saddles up beside another runner who is also struggling to move at all grits his teeth and says, “Here, let me tell you how to remove the weight from your backpack. You’ll be able to run so much more freely.” Isn’t that ridiculous? No one would listen to him. He couldn’t be an effective witness about running freely and finishing the race when he is bogged down himself by sin.
We’re told in Scripture repeatedly to run this spiritual race, but we’re to do more than run. We’re told to finish! And you can’t finish if you try to run with sin after sin after sin piled up on your back. It will slow you down and eventually cause you to stop.
One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin. (John 16:8) Let Him do His job. Let Him into that room that you’ve closed off and treated as off limits. Cooperate with Him by confessing your sin and let Him take the backpack off. Keep yourself free from the weight of sin through regular confession.
One problem with sin is that it can sneak up on you. You can allow yourself to get sucked in and over time, you don’t realize how much “dead weight” spiritually speaking you’ve allowed yourself to carry. I remember when I was pregnant. I gained 35 pounds with Hannah and 40 with Joshua. The weight crept on over those nine months. I put it on gradually. I didn’t realize until I had delivered my babies and gotten rid of that extra weight (I’m still working on the pre-baby weight!) how much that additional weight had not only slowed me down, but it limited me. I couldn’t ride the rides at King’s Island. I could no longer fit comfortably in a booth at a restaurant. I didn’t dare get up on a ladder for any reason. My back hurt. My balance was horrible. I had to restrict myself and limit certain activities. But with that weight gone, I was free to live a fuller and less restrictive life. Do you see what I’m getting at?
Basically, you have to come clean before you can become clean. After David confessed his sin he said, “You (God) forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5 Not only did David experience having his sin blotted out, that is the stain of sin was dealt with and removed from God’s presence, but also the part David would deal with, his guilt, the guilt that piles up and causes us to be spiritually overweight and defeated, it was gone! Hallelujah! God let him out of the prison his sin created and then said, “Not guilty” in addition!
A second way the Holy Spirit enables us to deal with sin is He gives us power to live above it! You see not only do we have the opportunity to confess our sin, but God wants us to confess, accept forgiveness, renounce the sin and turn to the power of the Spirit to help us to not keep repeating the same sinful behavior. It may sound old school, it may sound impossible, but I believe my God has the power to enable me to live above sin. Is anyone with me this morning? If the Holy Spirit is in total control of us and we yield to that control, we will not sin. I don’t know of anyone personally who has perfected that relationship, but our goal is to continue to make progress. I believe God’s Word teaches it is possible.
I have to wonder, if Christians struggle with habitual sin, if they have ever been filled with the Spirit of God or what some people would refer to as being “baptized in the Spirit?” We gain a perfect power when we yield to the Spirit that can stand up to anything.
Let me show you something. Turn to Romans 8:8-15. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
When you become a Christian, you are no longer obligated to obey the sinful nature. You are no longer obligated to do what your old patterns suggest you should do. You are no longer someone who is influenced by earthly urges or desires. You have the power to say “No!” to the flesh. Just because there is temptation and desire doesn’t mean you have to succumb to it. The Holy Spirit has the power that raised Jesus from the dead, and let me just preach for a minute: Resurrection power is big enough to say “no” to sex outside of marriage or viewing pornography. Resurrection power is big enough to say “no” to stealing company funds. Resurrection power is big enough to say “no” to addiction. Resurrection power is big enough to say “no” to lying and gossip and hate and anger and anything else out there that appeals to our flesh. If your sin is anger and you just always seem to blow up! And you cannot “control yourself” You are under no obligation to your emotions. You do not have to be a slave to your outbursts. You do not have to live as a slave to sin obeying the flesh every time or any time it cries out. You can exercise Holy Spirit power and say “no.”
What happens when a parent gives in to a screaming toddler who is throwing a temper tantrum because they want the candy at the checkout line? The parent becomes captive to the screaming cry of a two year old when all along the parent is not obligated to obey a two-year old no matter how loud he cries or what scene he makes. You tell a toddler “no” and stand firm and walk out of the store without the candy and over time, the cry subsides. Listen, we are not obligated to give in to the flesh!
Did you catch verse 13 of Romans 8? “But if you live by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body.” You can put sin to death in the power of the Spirit. And guess what? People who have put sin to death in their lives make great witnesses to the power of God!
The Holy Spirit can give us power to deal with people.
It’s almost ludicrous to think God will use us to minister His Gospel to people we don’t know if we can’t even get along with the people we know. Where the Gospel of Jesus is on display or looks like a sham is in our day to day relationships.
Ephesians 4:30-31 says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
Where do bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice show up? In our relationships with other people. Not every personality type is going to mesh. We aren’t all going to be BFF’s. We aren’t going to agree with each other’s decisions 100% of the time. We’re all going to over react sometimes. We’re all going to read into people’s statements and judge their motives inaccurately from time to time. We’re all going to say and do things that are received in a way different from what we intended. We’re all going to get frustrated and blurt something out or blow something off just to try to deal with our woundedness from time to time. We’re all capable of a cold shoulder or of putting up walls with people. Do I need to repeat that paragraph or are you all with me?
That’s why we need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit in our relationships with people. Conflict is a part of life. If two people are in the same room with each other long enough there will be conflict. But people who are possessed by the Holy Spirit will take initiative to resolve the conflict if possible. People who are possessed by the Holy Spirit care that the relationship is restored as much as possible to the state it was before the conflict happened. Holy Spirit possessed people care that they may have said or done something that caused someone harm or injury. If it matters to God, it matters to Holy Spirit possessed people. And guess what? God wants us to live in unity with one another. It does matter to Him. Here is some proof: “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, be at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
This verse helps us understand that we aren’t responsible for the way other people respond to our attempts for peace. We can’t change people’s minds. We can’t make people feel badly about their part or make them be sorry or ask for our forgiveness. We may have to choose to love some people and forgive some people whether they understand the extent to which they hurt us or whether they ever apologize.
One way we can minimize the damage from offenses is by dealing with things as they happen rather than letting things pile up. If we choose to give someone the benefit of the doubt or overlook something they say or do, chalking it up to them having a bad day that’s alright. We should probably do that more often than anything else. But we can’t then keep the offense in our back pocket to add to something else down the road. If someone does something, and you can’t let go of the hurt, go to that person (Matthew 18:15) and do what Ephesians 4:15 says, “Speak the truth in love.” After you express what is bothering you in a calm and grace-filled way, you may find out that something you said or did contributed to their response. You may need to ask for their forgiveness as well.
I’m preaching hard this morning, but God’s word tells us that unreleased anger and an unforgiving spirit can halt the work of God in our lives and give Satan an opportunity to corrupt our character. People don’t want to be around angry, bitter people. They don’t want to work for them, have them over for dinner or take them out on the golf course.
We read Ephesians 4:30-31 just a minute ago. Why do we need to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice? Because they grieve the Holy Spirit. An unforgiving spirit will shut the work of the Holy Spirit down in your life.
You can’t hide unforgiveness and anger. It makes you cold and walled off to people. It will absolutely keep you from freedom in Christ and from Christian service with a pure heart. You can’t be the witness the Spirit wants to empower you to be if you aren’t right with the people you interact with daily and weekly. One problem with unforgiveness and bitterness is that it seeps into all of your other relationships. You start treating people in general differently when you have the cancer of unforgiveness and anger in your spirit.
It’s time to quit seeking revenge and start seeking release. God’s Holy Spirit can empower you to do it! Let’s remember who each of us is. We’ve all caused hurt and pain in someone’s life. We’re all guilty of mistreating people. We’ve all been there. The person who has offended us is no different from each one of us. We’re all weak and capable of sinning against a friend, co-worker, church members or family member. We’re in need of grace ourselves. Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Didn’t you need forgiveness? Why not be willing to give to others what you have needed yourself?
It takes the grace of the Holy Spirit flowing through you to help you forgive. I know your flesh doesn’t want to. I know you think you have a right to be mad. I know the insult or the dig or the betrayal was deep and had lasting effects, but I’m telling you that in the power of the Spirit you can shake it off and move on in freedom and restoration with people which will make you a vessel God can then flow through in order for you to be His witness.
It’s not wrong to be angry. Ephesians 4:26-27 simply says, “In your anger do not sin.” Because when you do, it gives the devil a foothold. If the anger causes you to lash out at others, it destroys the relationship. That grieves the Holy Spirit. If the anger causes you to speak poorly about someone to others, that is divisive and creates division. By adding more people to the mix of the conflict, whether spoken or unspoken, people will take sides. If the anger causes you to avoid certain people or make you feel indifferent towards them and unable to pray for them if they need God’s help-that grieves the Holy Spirit. If the mere mention of a person’s name raises your blood pressure or causes you to feel angry, you haven’t forgiven them yet.
Being successful in relationships will give you credibility with non-Christians. It will add to your character. You will be someone people can trust with their hurt and pain. They’ll seek you for wisdom because they will see that you aren’t critical and mean-spirited with people. They’ll know you don’t talk badly about others even though you may have a grievance against someone. You’ll become someone safe in their eyes, someone credible that God could speak through in the power of His Spirit to tell them about Jesus.
Basically, like confession, forgiveness just needs to be a way of life. It’s not a one-time act. Peter asked Jesus in Matthew 18 how many times he should have to forgive someone. Jesus’ response basically said, “As many times as necessary.” Just make it a way of life. I’d much rather make forgiveness a way of life than anger a way of life.
It’s not only a way of life for the Spirit-filled Christian, but it’s also the way of love. You see, when you offend someone, you become indebted to them. You owe them. See Matthew 18:27 and the “Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.” But love releases people.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget what someone did to you. But forgiveness prepares the way for healing, for trust to be rebuilt, and ultimately for the offense to be turned in to a testimony! Way to give Satan a black eye! Let Christ turn the offense into a testimony to His healing and restoring power!
Even if someone won’t accept your apology, you can gain peace by knowing you did what God requires which is to pursue peace with all people.
Consider the opposite of being filled with or controlled by the Spirit. The Bible depicts it as resisting the Spirit or “putting out the Spirit’s fire” or worse yet, “grieving the Spirit.” What a lifeless existence. What a sad place to be. Who might be looking to you for some kind of evidence that God can truly change a life? Who might be watching you to try to answer the “So what?” question? So what difference does knowing Jesus make? So what if I give my heart to Christ? If they see angry, mean-spirited, bitter, negative, critical Christians who are content in sin thinking they can keep gaining some kind of cheap forgiveness . . . there is no power in that kind of witness. Oh, we’re all witnesses. But what is my life saying? What is your life saying? Are we demonstrating that God can have total control over a person’s life and make them completely different and new according to God’s will or are we showing that someone can know God and remain unaffected, unchanged, and powerless to live any other kind of life except ordinary?
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Before God’s power can flow through you to be His witness, it must first work in you. Pray to receive the fullness of God’s Spirit that will enable you to live in such a way that you are right with God and others. Then, you can be a powerful and compelling witness the Spirit can flow through.