Acts, Chapter 2017

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Here’s how I’d like you to think of the Book of Acts: as if it were written yesterday, and by that I mean yesterday, October 22, 2017. Read it not only as if it were written yesterday, but as if it were still being written today. It’s being written every day by you and by me. (That’s why we call it Acts, chapter 2017). Think of it, in other words, more like a newspaper than a book in the Bible.

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The Acts of the Holy Spirit Through Anybody Who Believes and Is Available

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What we’re about to read about and study in the Book of Acts, from the coming of the Spirit of God upon all the believers from Pentecost on, is a name changer. I’m going to suggest that it is no longer the Acts of the Apostles; it’s really: The Acts of the Holy Spirit Through Anybody Who Believes and Is Available.

There were about 120 believers huddled together in Jerusalem waiting for something — they didn’t know what — but waiting for the Holy Spirit to come, and when the Spirit came, He didn’t just settle on the Apostles, or just the twelve who were with Jesus during His ministry; He came upon all 120 of them — men and women, young and old. If you were there and you believed Jesus was the Messiah, you received the Spirit, and not only that, you were given a job to do. You got the Spirit settling on you like a flame of fire, and you started extolling the virtues of God and all that He has done, in a language you did not know.

“Here we are,” the people said, “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (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!” They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other. (Acts 1:9-12)

It means that 120 people received the Spirit of God into their inner being and were immediately thrust into being witnesses to the glory of Christ among Jews from all over the area who had gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate Pentecost. And I’m sure that each one of those 120 people were in conversation that day about who Jesus was and what He had done. That also means that all those people they shared with later went back to their homes and villages from the surrounding regions with stories to tell. I’m sure some of them even became believers that day on the strength of the ministry of 120 people, especially after Peter’s message to the crowd about Jesus and the resurrection. They were enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit in much the same way that you and I are today. They didn’t go to a seminar to learn how to share their faith; they didn’t need a course in the four spiritual laws; they didn’t graduate from Bible college; they received the Spirit, and God did the rest. Ordinary people. No big deal with them. The big deal was the Holy Spirit. The big deal still is the Holy Spirit — the Holy Spirit through anybody. You and me. It’s the same thing happening today because it’s still going on. This is just Acts, chapter 2017 of the book: The Acts of the Holy Spirit Through Anybody Who Believes and Is Available. What’s your chapter?

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Out of the shadows

These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Colossians 2:17

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.  Hebrews 10:1

Jesus dispelled the shadows. He did away with shadows because He is light. There can be no shadow in Him at all.

The Bible teaches that the law and the prophets — indeed the whole Old Testament is a shadow of the new. The 39 books of the Old Testament are full of shadows that are shadowing the coming of Christ.

Good novelists do this all the time with their stories. A good novelist foreshadows in the first part of a book what is coming so you read with anticipation. The two great tools of a good storyteller are inevitability and surprise. You are expecting something to happen based on what the first part of the story shadows, but when the actual thing happens, it surprises you because you couldn’t have known exactly how it would happen.

So when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, it was the real thing — the Holy Spirit indwelling all believers — not just a shadow of the Holy Spirit or a temporary visit, as it was in the Old Testament, but a permanent, indwelling of the Spirit of God.

In our BlogTalkRadio interview last night with Barry McGuire, he mentioned that he doesn’t say he’s following Christ anymore; he is in Christ. It’s not what you do for Christ; it’s what you do in Christ. We’re not walking with Christ; we are in Christ. Jesus is not next to us; He is in us.

So what does all this mean for us? It means, historically, we have stepped out of the shadows. We can see what kings and prophets have longed to look into. We see the fulfillment of the promised Messiah; we receive the forgiveness of our sins; we receive the promised Holy Spirit; and we have the promise of His return.

And what does that mean except that we can step out of the shadows in our own lives. No need to hide. One of the headlines today in relation to the scandalous stories about Harvey Weinstein reads, “He was hiding in plain sight.” I have areas in my own life that I would like to keep in the shadows, but Jesus wants me to step out of the shadows, because He is the light, and there is no shadow in Him, and no hiding from Him. In that light is disclosure, but also forgiveness, and that forgiveness is the beginning of our transformation.

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The key to transformation

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“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.” John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11)

The stories that unfold in the Book of Acts come from the most transformative period and place in history. This is when the Holy Spirit comes and first dwells in the heart of all believers in Christ gathered in Jerusalem, thus initiating an entirely new era where the Holy Spirit now dwells as a permanent possession in the heart of anyone and everyone who believes in Jesus as the Christ and trusts Him for the forgiveness of their sins. We divide human history into before and after Christ. We could also divide human history into before and after the Holy Spirit. Prior to the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered certain leaders, prophets and judges of the children of Israel (and even pagans as well, to accomplish His purposes) for specific tasks, but then the Spirit would leave. Now we possess the Spirit of God and the Spirit of God possesses us, and it’s a permanent relationship.

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Don’t look now but you’re on fire!

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[Unlike the California fires that lick their tongues with devastation in fast and furious ways, the fire of the Holy Spirit spreads life and requires to be known as something other than us. It is powerful and gives everlasting life and never ever destroys.]

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. (Acts 2:1-4)

They were all wondering how they would know when the Holy Spirit came. Well, it was pretty easy to tell. If you were on fire — literally — you had the Holy Spirit. Now today, we don’t explode into flames when we receive the Holy Spirit, but God does give us each a special gift, and when we use it, it’s like being on fire. The fire is symbolic of the gift and the energy to use it that comes from the Spirit.

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Go to your room!

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Once when [Jesus] was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)

My wife, Marti, likes to call this the “Go to your room” command. Jesus made it very clear that after He ascended, His disciples and followers were not to do anything but wait in Jerusalem until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. This must have been a somewhat anxious time. The risen Christ had ascended to heaven in a cloud; they would not see Him any more; and they were supposed to go to their room — the upstairs room of the house where they we’re staying, possibly the same room they had shared their last supper with Jesus — and wait to receive the Holy Spirit. They were to be baptized, or “placed into” the Holy Spirit. Problem was: no one knew what this was. No one knew what they were waiting for.

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Children of the day

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In 1 Thessalonians, the coming of the Lord is likened to a thief coming in the night. “When people are saying, ‘Everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). This story of the coming of the Lord being an unexpected interruption of our peaceful lives has been used for years by evangelicals as a means of scaring people into the kingdom. When I was a kid, there was even a movie circulating all the churches called “A Thief in the Night.” Ask anyone old enough to have remembered that movie and they will tell you it scared them out of their wits.

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Just a pawn in the game

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The early Christians believed in, talked about, and leveraged their faith on the imminent return of Christ. That was 2,000 years ago, and they believed just like we believe, that His coming was right around the corner, in fact, they probably believed it more than we do. That’s because it was an integral part of the message. It wasn’t a postscript, or a “by the way…” like it can be with us. It was the resurrection, the forgiveness of sins, and the return of Christ — in that order and that level of importance. One of our readers wrote after yesterday’s Catch, “this Catch kinda slapped me in the face and made me want to acknowledge Him more throughout the day.” That’s the idea. That’s what it should do — simply make everything about our faith move up a notch in importance. Maybe more than a notch.

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