God’s Power for God’s Purpose
Acts 1:8; 2:1-4
James C. Denison
These are some of the hardest days I can remember.
Hurricane disaster relief continues in Galveston and the Gulf Coast, where more than a thousand Baptist churches were destroyed or affected and millions of people are still displaced. The hurricane’s economic impact is currently estimated at $81 billion, and could rise to $100 billion.
Some economists are saying that we are going through the most tumultuous time for our economy since the Great Depression. No one knows what Wall Street will do on Monday, or how it will affect Main Street.
Closer to home, this past week was for many people the worst week of their lives. Tuesday night we learned of the death of Boogie Blackwell at the age of 16. More than 600 students came to a special worship service Wednesday night; more than a thousand came to the memorial service Friday afternoon. The grief many of us are feeling today is almost beyond description.
On a Sunday like this, what we need most is a word of encouragement from the Lord. We need to know that his power is sufficient for our pain, his hope for our despair, his comfort for our loss. I need to talk to you today about the power of God and how we can experience it today.
Our situation is not much different from that of the people in our text. They are 120, meeting in an upper room as they hide from the same authorities who have just executed their founder and leader. They are charged with evangelizing 25 million people in the harshest, most feared Empire the world has ever seen.
But the power of the Holy Spirit was greater than the power of Caesar and his legions. The power God gave them was greater than anything the enemy could do to them. What the Spirit did for them he is now ready to do for us. Let’s learn how.
Trust his power
You’ve heard the Great Commission all your life: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). But what you may not know is that a commandment preceded this commission and made it possible.
Just before his ascension, the resurrected Christ spoke these words to his disciples: “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. 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 24:46-49).
And so they did.
When the logical thing was to flee Jerusalem for the safety of their homes and families in Galilee, they chose to “stay in the city.” When the safe thing was to abandon their commitment to Jesus and return to their old lives, they waited to be “clothed with power from on high” so they could continue to serve him.
Somehow they believed that the power of God was greater than the enemies of God. Somehow they believed that when they received the power of the Spirit they would indeed become Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). And they were right.
Do you believe that the power of God is sufficient for the people of God to face any problems and win any victory? Think for a moment about the power they were waiting to receive.
Astronomers announced this week the first picture of a planet orbiting a star similar to our sun. The planet is eight times larger than Jupiter, orbiting 330 times further from its star than we orbit from our sun. And it’s just one planet orbiting one star within the 70 sextillion stars we can see with our telescopes—that’s 70 followed by 21 zeroes.
The particle accelerator in Geneva has been much in the news. It has taken 25 years to plan, $6 billion to build, and involved over 9,000 scientists from around the globe. They’re trying to learn why the Milky Way galaxy doesn’t unravel, or how gravity works, or why the universe is expanding. The accelerator is supposed to help us learn such basic facts, but a computer glitch has shut them down for now.
The simple fact is that all our advances in technology have not taught us how to make a single blade of living grass from scratch. But God knows. And Genesis says that when he made the universe, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The same Spirit of God they were waiting to receive. The same Spirit of God who will empower you and me today.
When the Spirit fell at Pentecost, every believer was “filled” or empowered. They all began to share the gospel in languages they had not yet learned. Peter preached—the same fisherman who had cowered before a serving girl and abandoned Jesus at the cross. Three thousand were saved and the church began its march across the Empire. How do we know that the Spirit can do today what he did in the lives of these first believers? Here’s what the Spirit is doing in the world today:
•Every day, 160,000 people hear the message of Christ for the first time.
•Fifteen years ago, there were about 100 prayer networks around the world. Today there are 4,000 networks involving an estimated 25 million intercessors.
•Since 1967 and the reunification of Jerusalem, more Jews have embraced Jesus as their Messiah than in all the years between AD 100 and 1967.