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DON'T FORGET ACTS CHAPTER ONE!
The 'Before' of PENTECOST...
In Acts chapter 1 Jesus’ disciples returned to Jerusalem from the lower part of the Mount of Olives, called Olivet (from whence he had departed)—and they waited.
The focus of Christians is frequently Acts chapter 2, but Acts 1 is the platform for what occurred in Acts 2—and in that sense, is just as important. To whom did the events of Acts 2 occur?
Here are some facts that make Acts 1 truly important...
1. They were already believers and followers.
2. Jesus had immediately after his resurrection, ‘breathed on them’ (Jn. 20:22) and said, “receive Holy Spirit” in an action (I believe) intentionally reminiscent of God breathing Adam to life. That there was an impartation then cannot be doubted because in the same sentence he also gave them authority to remit sins...one of the very things over which he had been in so much trouble! In my view, at that moment they received new life—life from above—and a new authority in the earth.
3. They were being obedient. They had returned to Jerusalem to wait, just as Jesus had told them.
4. They were aware of the Holy Spirit’s work because Peter speaks of what Holy Spirit had said through David (v.16).
5. They were of one accord.
6. They were prayerful and diligent.
7. They trusted the Spirit to guide them in the selection of the one to replace Judas and were clearly led in this by both the Spirit and the scriptures (v. 20).
8. They had also received a promise: they would be baptised with (or in) Holy Spirit (the words used by Jesus in Acts 1:5 as well as by John the Baptist in every Gospel = VERY IMPORTANT!).
Despite all this—His new life breathed into them and his authority given them—they were to await something else; a promised something else, without which they could not do as he had done or continue his work.
They were to receive power.
I believe they sound just like many among us believers today who have received life from above and are diligent, obedient, united, looking to his Spirit and his word for guidance, knowing about his Spirit—but having also received the same promise—yes, of a baptism—which Peter said was to them and to their children and to ALL (v.39 of Chapter 2).
Why is it that this remains such a ‘bone of contention’ among believers, some of whom are just like the twelve and those (more than a hundred) with them?
I think I know the answer to that.
It's simply because there is a rampant and powerful ‘resistor’ who does not want a going, running, doing, overflowing and powerful-in-witness, Church (or individual believer). This resistor’s intention is to keep us fearful of terminology, confused, arguing—anything but FILLED and overflowing with the power that comes ‘from on high’ as Jesus described it in Luke 24:49.
For, with the descent of the Spirit in Acts 2, that is exactly what they became—FILLED—and OVERFLOWING! And, not just once, but over and again (Acts 4:23-37) on which occasion the building shook and they were all FILLED and spoke the word with boldness.
And so it goes through Acts. Peter at the house of Cornelius; Paul in Ephesus where he finds some disciples. “Did you lay hold of Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asks (and that is the force of the Greek verb lambano). Clearly they were believers as Paul uses the term “when you believed.” Clearly then, the Spirit had been at work in them. But also clearly, they were lacking—and Paul instructed them, baptised them in water, laid hands on them and the Spirit ‘came upon’ them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Do I preach a two-stage conversion or salvation? This, folks, is the ‘straw man’ that many good Christians hve been taught, or like to use as a defence—even though quite happy to teach baptism in water as a distinct ‘step’.
No—I preach many more ‘steps’ than two...as does Hebrews 6: Repentance from dead works; faith toward God; Baptisms (yes plural); the laying on of hands; the resurrection of the dead; eternal judgement!
‘Conversion’ is actually the life-long experience of transformation of a life once going its own way and now continually learning to go His! Yes, it has a start-point, but very day is a ‘step’—but one of them MUST be, being FILLED—evidenced with some kind of overflow!
Eternal Life in the Here and Now!
It can happen to any of us. Every day we hear stories of people who are duped by various scams—particularly internet scams—where sincere-sounding posers manage to extract passwords, bank account details and private information from unsuspecting victims.
Scammers effect their work with false sincerity, familiarity and the use of particular key words...”good morning this is Fred Nirk from xxx Bank about your savings account. There’s been a problem with your most recent deposit...” and etc.
Those who do the devil’s work are simply imitating his ways and methods. Being aware of the methods and suspicious of any who approach us using terms that resonate with us, must be part of our vigilance. Otherwise we are vulnerable and will suffer loss.
A great apostle of Jesus Christ said that ‘we are not unaware of his schemes’ and in other references spoke of the ‘whiles’ or ‘schemes’ of the devil.
Which leads me to how he may sometimes, so easily ‘scam’, Christian believers. For, you see, he simply makes use of familiar and right-sounding keywords and false sincerity. For example, positive words like justice, fairness, solidarity, equality, kindness, freedom, empowerment, love; OR negative words like oppression, theft, de-humanising, imperialist, injustice, poverty...
We respond to these words—they elicit something from us. But...unless we are aware of who is using them and to what end, we may easily be scammed!
There is a righteous response—a Kingdom response. It will almost always be personal—and usually unseen and unsung! Like the Samaritan in Jesus’ story of the robbed and beaten man.
Believe me, Jesus saw all the injustice of the Roman tax system; saw the exploitation of the prostitutes of his day; knew about the imperialist and oppressive regime of Rome; saw plenty of beggars and abject poverty and knew close-up what self-righteous Pharisaism was like!
Yet strangely he just ‘went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.’ Never got up a rally against poverty; never organised a town march against exploitation of women.
His responses don’t appear very ‘woke’. And what’s more, those who came after him did just the same ‘not very woke’ things! For we read in Acts that they also went everywhere proclaiming this Kingdom of God just as though they believed that to be the answer and the most important thing! That if that change came to a person, everything in their entire sphere changed—just as though it worked like leaven, as their Master had said!
Don’t let the scammers get you!
Jesus' answer to THE TYRANNY OF TIME
John the apostle wrote of believers, ‘we are in Him who is true, in His son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God AND eternal life’ (1 Jn. 5:20).
Among us, Jesus demonstrated that the time realm need not tyrannise. We all know the constraints placed on us by time. Time constraints and limitations are one of the major stressors of life. Jesus showed how to live within time whilst allowing another realm to ‘work all things together for good’ (Romans 8:28). A literal translation of this verse would be, ‘and we know that everything is brought to synergy and co-operation to those who love God.’ The Greek word is indeed sunergeo – co-operation or synergy!
Here’s a demo from Jesus; an important official, Jairus by name, comes to Him, desperate for Jesus to come to heal his 12 year old daughter who is at death’s door. Jesus sets out, but is interrupted. A woman who has been ill 12 years (as long as Jairus’s daughter had lived) and had spent everything on every proposed cure, approaches him from behind – (probably ashamed of her condition and its stigma. She was ceremonially unclean and not permitted to touch anyone) – and touches His garment hem. He stops in His tracks, knowing that the power of the Spirit has been tapped. He asks who has ‘touched’ Him and there is, for Jairus, a sickening delay while Jesus deals with the woman. “Too late. Your daughter is dead, Jairus” comes the news from his home. I cannot imagine the man’s heart. Yet, immediately upon hearing those words, Jesus speaks, “don’t be afraid, only believe”!
The words of the messengers came from the time realm and from their time realm experience, but Jesus spoke words from the eternal realm – the realm where (somehow!) all things are being synergised by Him for the good of those who seek Him and love Him! This is beyond understanding. It means that the delay caused by the woman was of no consequence to the purpose of God!
When Jesus arrives at Jairus’s house He deliberately separates out those for whom His word is ridiculous – those who ridicule what He says. When He has spoken His word and assurance to us, it may to others, sound ridiculous, but we must separate ourselves from the ‘noise’ of unbelief and expect His purpose to be fulfilled. In the Father’s ‘economy’ and programme, time is not the governing factor for He is working all things together for good. Believers access life of the Eternal kind in the here and now; we are in touch with its reality and the mystery that He is synergising all things for the good of those who love Him!