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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Empowered by the Spirit

Pastor Shim's sermon from June 12.
(Acts 2:1-21, 37-41)
“All the joy the world contains, Has come through wishing happiness for others,
All the misery the world contains,Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.” - Shantideva, Indian Poet.
“I am the LORD All-powerful. So don't depend on your own power, or strength, but on my spirit.” - Zechariah 4:6
I have in my hands here today a balloon, something that captures the essence of the day of Pentecost - the day that God poured out the Holy Spirit upon the very first church. It’s pretty nice. But something seems to be wrong with it. It doesn't bounce or float in the air very well. Can anyone tell me what is wrong with it? Yes, it needs air. It needs the breath of life.
On the day of Pentecost God breathed life into the church by giving us the Holy Spirit. Before the people of the first church received the Spirit they were sad and afraid. They believed in God, but something was missing. They didn't go anywhere. They didn't tell other people about Jesus. But on the day of Pentecost God did for the church what I just did for the balloon. He breathed life into it. The Holy Spirit is like the breath that is in the balloon. It allows a person to come fully alive.
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower his church. The Holy Spirit came as promised by Jesus to his followers. “ will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere ... “ (Acts 1 :8). In Acts 2 we can see how the Holy Spirit came and set the followers of Christ on fire to preach the gospel to everyone and everywhere. There are three points that I want us to ponder in this chapter.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was a fulfillment of Jesus' promise. “I am going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
The coming of the Holy Spirit was evidenced by visible signs of “violent winds, tongues of fire, and all of them began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." (Acts 2:1-4). In the Old Testament, fire and wind represented God's presence. For example, Psalm 50:3 reads, "Out God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages." Here God's presence was to judge. In Acts, his presence was to show mercy. The fact that they were speaking in languages that everyone understood meant to reverse the curse of a divided language of confusion or “Babble” described in Genesis 11:7. “Come let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” We're in the age of grace. Let us live graciously and touch others with God's love. Grace is made visible by acts of kindness! The greatest act of kindness, lasting forever, is to introduce someone to Jesus Christ.
The coming of the Holy Spirit was to benefit all in the church community. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4).
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available for the asking. St. Peter instructs us how to receive the Holy Spirit and his gift. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. The gift of the Spirit is for all Christians. God will give the gift of His Spirit to all his children for the asking according to Luke 11:10-13: “Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
The followers of Christ asked for the Holy Spirit to empower them and they waited in prayer for ten days and He came and baptized with fire and boldness. The Holy Spirit transformed the followers of Jesus into bold men. Before the Resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, they were afraid and hiding behind closed doors. According to John 20:19, “It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said,“Peace be with you.”
After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with power they were out in the streets of Jerusalem boldly proclaiming that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. And they challenged all to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the savior. They said Jesus Christ was the only savior and Lord. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by whom we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
If you want to be part of the kingdom of God, repent of your sin and ask forgiveness and believe in Jesus Christ. That was their uncompromising message in the face of persecution. The disciples were persecuted by both the Jews and the Romans for claiming that Jesus was Lord.
The difference the power of the Holy Spirit made in the Disciples of Christ is exemplified in Peter, the one who denied Jesus at his worst time of trial, was completely transformed and became a bold spokesman for Christ. Acts 2:32-38, “This Jesus, God raised up. We are all witnesses to that fact. He was exalted to God’s right side and received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit. He poured out this Spirit, and you are seeing and hearing the results of his having done so. David said “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right side, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. Therefore, let all Israel know beyond question that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter’s answer is found in Acts 2:38-39. He said, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God invites.”
The people who heard Peters message about God's saving grace responded to the invitation and 3,000 people were saved and added to the church community.
The Holy Spirit comes first to change us before we can become his change agent, and the Holy Spirit gives us a new life. That's what happened to St. Augustine. There was a definite change in him before and after, as he put it in, “It is no longer I.” Soon after Augustine's conversion, he was walking down the street in Milan, Italy. There he met a prostitute whom he had known most intimately. She called but he would not answer. He kept right on walking.
Augustine,” she called again, “it is I!”
Without missing a beat and with the assurance of Christ in his heart, he replied, “Yes, but it is no longer I.” Because of Christ and His Spirit, Augustine was a changed man. He was born again, a brand new creation. -Rev. Adrian Die leman “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
History tells us that Augustine .was Christianity's second most influential person after Paul. His influence in academia is still in effect, just check any philosophy and theology book.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, was a priest for 13 years and a missionary to Georgia. His efforts failed and he went back to England. One day he was invited to a Moravian meeting in Alders gate Street, London, and on May 24, went “very unwillingly.” At that meeting, Wesley says, “About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
“Wesley and his brother Charles, who had been converted three days earlier, took this new message of grace and preached it wherever they could. Another member of their Holy Club, George Whitefield, received Christ about the same time. Together they would lead England and America into revival.” – The 100 most important events in Christian history.
John felt his heart “strangely warmed” and he became an instrument of Christ. Like Peter, Augustine, and John Wesley, we too can be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and become the agent of God's transforming grace. We're God's means to communicate his love, his grace, his care, his justice. What a wonderful privilege and responsibility we have to be God's instrument to bring positive change, where we are placed by divine appointment. God is counting on us to be his connectors, his conduit, to Jesus! That's God's plan!
What is Your Other Plan?
Erasmus, the famous Renaissance scholar, once told a classic story which was designed to emphasize how important it is that we take up the torch of Christ's ministry with great commitment. In the story, Jesus returns to heaven after His time on earth. The angels gather around Him to learn what all happened during His days on earth. Jesus tells them of the miracles, His teachings, and His death on the cross, and His resurrection.
When He finished his story, Michael the Archangel asked Jesus, "But what happens now?" Jesus answered, “I have left behind eleven faithful disciples and a handful of men and women who have faithfully followed me. They will declare my message and express my love. These faithful people will build my church.” “But,” responded Michael, “what if these people fail? What then is your other plan?” And Jesus answers, “I have no other plan.”
Jesus is counting on you and you and you and me. But the good news is, we are not alone. The Holy Spirit is here to melt us, mold us, fill us, and use us. -James W. Moore, Sermon: “What Do You Do With Such A Gift?”
Jesus promised You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. Have you received him? Jesus commanded, you will be my witnesses. Are you Jesus’ witness in words and deeds? He is counting on you to share his saving grace.
Pastor shim Habte, Willows United Methodist Church, 544 N. Shasta St. Willows, CA 95988
Email:, (530)934-3190.
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