Taking refuge in him:
How to surrender each day to God’s authority
Dr. Jim Denison
A man was running down an airport terminal, late for his flight because he’d forgotten his wristwatch. Desperate to know the time, he stopped a traveler walking up the terminal hall while carrying two large suitcases. He asked the man if he had the time. The traveler set down his suitcases, looked at his wrist, and said, “Let’s see. It’s exactly 2:38 P.M. The barometric pressure is falling, and we’re expecting rain tonight. But it’s sunny in London, while the clouds over Singapore are increasing at this hour.”
The first man was astonished: “Your watch tells you all of that?” “Yes,” the traveler said, “I invented it myself, and there’s nothing else like it.” The first man said, “I must have that watch. I’ll pay you $500 for it, cash.” The traveler refused, and started to pick up his luggage. “No, wait–a thousand dollars.” The man shook his head. “Five thousand dollars.” The traveler still refused. “Ten thousand dollars, cash, on the spot.” The man put down his suitcases, thought it over, and agreed.
The new owner paid the money, took the watch with glee, strapped it to his wrist, and started to run off. But the traveler stopped him with a smile as he picked up the two large suitcases and said, “Wait–you forgot the batteries.”
Do you ever feel that way? Working for Jesus in your own power and motivation? We all experience times of spiritual frustration and weakness. But we’re not supposed to carry our own batteries. God has given Christians all the power we need to fulfill his purpose for our lives.
How can you experience the power of God each day? How can you lead your class to do the same?
Jesus had told his followers to “stay in the city [of Jerusalem] until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). And so they stayed in Jerusalem, at risk to themselves. Here they “joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). And so they were “all together in one place” (Acts 2:1) on the day of Pentecost.
What happened next? A sound like a violent wind filled the house where they were meeting (2:2). “Tongues of fire” were visible, resting on each believer (v. 3). The believers were “filled with the Holy Spirit” and began to speak “in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (v. 4). These phrases mean that the first Christians yielded themselves to the Spirit’s control, and began to speak in languages known to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem but previously unknown to themselves.
And so they began sharing their faith personally (vs. 7-11). Peter preached the Pentecost sermon, and 3,000 came to faith in Christ (v. 41).
What does Pentecost mean to us today? The Holy Spirit began to indwell Christians at Pentecost, and continues this ministry today. He empowers the followers of Jesus to fulfill his missions and ministry mandate. In fact, he empowers us for just this purpose (Acts 1:8).
Surrender to the Spirit today
How can we experience the Spirit as these first believers did? Ephesians 5:18 is our key: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Let’s walk through this verse, step by step, and experience it in our lives this week.
First, receive the Holy Spirit in salvation. This verse is to believers, and it assumes that we have already asked Jesus to forgive our sins and be our Lord. When we do, the Holy Spirit moves into our lives (cf. Ro. 8:9). Have you made this decision? Have your class members?
Second, decide that you need his power. Not just his salvation, but his power. A carpenter knows that a drill needs power. Do we know that our church, our lives need power as well?
To be “filled” by the Spirit means to be under his control. Just as someone drunk with wine is “under the influence,” so a Christian is to be “under the influence” of the Holy Spirit. The first Christians needed this power, and they knew it. They were 120, charged with taking Christ to a hostile nation of 4,000,000 and an ungodly Empire of 25,000,000. This meant that each Christian had to win more than 30,000 just in Israel to fulfill God’s purpose for them.
But Jesus had promised them his help: “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” (Lk. 24:49). So they stayed in Jerusalem, at the risk of their own lives, until they received the power they needed.
You and I need this same power today. Listen to Zechariah 4:6: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” This verse should convict us every time we hear it: “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20). Do we have all the power we should? All that we need?
God will not do for us what we try to do for ourselves. If we are comfortable and complacent with our spiritual lives, our witness, our ministry in this city and world, then we will not know the power of God’s Spirit. When we do things in our own strength, we are much like a drill which can do little good on its own without electrical power. Some of us like the credit, we don’t like being dependent on others, we’re convinced we can do it ourselves. But we cannot.
This step is the hardest for most of us, and essential: we must admit that we need him. That we need him as desperately as these first Christians did. Only then can he move in power in our lives. So I ask you, are we winning enough people to Jesus? Are you? Do you want the Spirit to have control of your life? To empower you? Make this decision right now. If you do, you can proceed to the next step.