Allen Jackson - Clothed With Power
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We want to understand how to unleash the power of the Holy Spirit, and this weekend our topic is "Being Clothed with Power". I've borrowed a phrase from Luke's Gospel. In fact, in Luke's Gospel, it's the last words that Jesus shares with us. It's Luke 24:49. Says, "I'm going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high".
Now, some of you have a fashion passion. And I'm telling you, this is the best outfit you'll ever have. You can be clothed with the power of Almighty God. That's the label you want to wear, clothed with power. Those are Jesus's words. Now, those aren't words to people that are pagan, that are ungodly. He's not inviting them to turn away from something, he's inviting them to a God-experience they haven't yet had, and they've just spent three years with Jesus. They've traveled with him, they've heard him teach multiple times, they've experienced the miraculous and the supernatural with him, and yet he says to them, "There's something ahead for you where you'll be clothed with power".
Now, that's in the Gospel of Luke. There's one other book in the New Testament that Luke is also the author of. It's the book of Acts. And in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us, Luke tells us the Jesus story from his birth, through his resurrection, and ultimately his ascension. It's Jesus living out, fulfilling the Mosaic covenant. He came as an observant Jewish man and he kept the righteous requirements of the law. The book of Acts is the story of Jesus's disciples living under the new covenant. And Jesus's last instruction to them of preparation for that was to be clothed with power. So when we open the book of Acts, not surprisingly, Luke begins with the very same topic in Jesus's words.
It's Acts 1:4. You have it in your notes. It says, "On one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Don't leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father has promised, which you've heard me speak about. John baptized with water, but in a few days you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" He's picking right up where the gospel left off. This is Peter and James and John, and the crew that are closest to him; well-trained, well-taught, well-prepared. Now, he said, "Don't even consider beginning your ministry until you're baptized with the Holy Spirit". And then in verse 8 he gives us the outcome of that. He said, "You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth".
Remember the thesis: the Spirit of God and the power of God go hand in hand, and no more, anywhere in all of Scripture more clearly than in the writings of Luke. The power of God and the Spirit of God, Jesus said, "When you're baptized in the Spirit, then you'll be empowered to be my witnesses. Up until that point, you're not ready". Now, in John 20 he breathed on 'em on the resurrection day and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit". They've had an encounter with the Holy Spirit, they know the regeneration that comes from the new birth, but Jesus said, "You need to be clothed with power. You need to be prepared. You will not accomplish the purposes of God in your life in your strength alone".
If Peter and James and John couldn't, neither will we, amen. Acts chapter 2 is the fulfillment of that. The Holy Spirit falls upon his followers. Many of you know the passages and the stories. I gave you the sample in your notes, it's verse 1. "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them". Some of you know the word Pentecost. It's associated with Pentecostals. It's a theological orientation. And you associate the movings of the Spirit with Pentecostal from that passage. It's a little bit of a misunderstanding. Pentecost is a Jewish holiday, comes 50 days after Passover. And the reporting of Luke in the narrative here is that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Jesus's followers on that particular holiday.
It was the day in which it happened. From that we've gotten the theological affiliation, but the moving of the Spirit is not the property of any particular theological group or orientation or denominational perspective, it's the people of God, 'cause those events precede any of those boundaries or groups being organized or any of those fences being raised. Cooperating with the Holy Spirit will open your life to the power of God. There's no more practical example of that than in this narrative. In Acts chapter 2, after the Holy Spirit's poured out, a crowd gathers in response to the commotion. Peter speaks to them, the fisherman that Jesus recruited. Thousands of people in the streets of Jerusalem, it says, were cut to the heart. Peter says to them, "This Jesus of Nazareth whom you crucified, God made both Lord and Christ, Messiah". And thousands of people accepted Jesus as Messiah in the streets of Jerusalem. In those same streets just a few days earlier, they were shouting, "Crucify him".
That's the work of the Holy Spirit. That is the power of the Holy Spirit to change your life. We will not out-think evil or out-organize evil or out-work evil. We desperately need the power of God at work on our behalf. We've got to make peace with this and welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives. This same Peter a few days earlier, the evening, the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter follows at a distance to see what will happen to his best friend. He's warming himself at a fire. Jerusalem is cool often in the night. And a servant girl that's by the fire sees Peter and she says, "You're one of his disciples". And Peter says, "Not me". He doesn't have the courage to stand with Jesus. It's just not there. In fact, a little bit later, another person looks at Peter, says, "I heard the comment of that girl, and I'm quite certain you were with Jesus". And it says this time, with profanity, Peter denied that he even knew the Lord.
Now, scroll forward. We're just a couple of weeks later, not a long time. Pentecost happens. Acts chapter 3, there's a beggar in Jerusalem healed when he asks Peter and John for help. They minister to him, and God heals him; causes such a commotion in the city that the Sanhedrin has Peter and John brought before them. Now, the Sanhedrin is the Jewish leadership group in the city. They're the ones that orchestrated Jesus's arrest, put together the charges, and then delivered him to Roman governor. The Romans had the power of crucifixion, but it was the Sanhedrin that put together the plot and the plan and delivered Jesus up and asked for it.
So Peter and John are standing before the group that orchestrated the execution of Jesus. You think that could be intimidating? And they said to them, "You are bringing this man's death on our heads. Don't ever mention his name in this city again". And Peter says, "We're not going to stop. You do what you have to do, but the one you crucified, God made Christ and King". Are you kidding me? Few days earlier he wouldn't own it with a servant girl, and now he's standing before the Sanhedrin, say, "You were right, he is the Christ, and you're right, I'm for him". It says the Sanhedrin took note that Peter and John were ignorant and unschooled men, but they were filled with boldness because they had been with Jesus. The Holy Spirit in your life unleashes the power of God for external outcomes and for internal transformation.
You see, when we talk about the power of God, I think our default position, we kind of typically frequently think about healings or miracles or supernatural things beyond us, kind of problem resolution that you can't orchestrate on your own, but the truth is there's an equal, if not even greater expression to the power of God that is more internal. That empowered life is about a life that is transformed, having received the power of God to enable us to break inwardly the power of sin over our lives, that we are set free from it. Being Christ's followers is not about pretending, it's not about being cleaned up or becoming polite, it's not a new vocabulary or a new beverage list, it's about a power at work within us to bring about transformation from the inside out. We're not just trying to be Christ's followers. There's a power at work within us that distinguishes us in all of the world from those that don't know the Lord. We are the people of God. Not that we're perfect, but something is at work within us. But when you think about the supernatural and unleashing the power of the Spirit of God, don't think about it first and foremost externally, think about it first and foremost internally.
If the human being, if the human race had the ability to transform ourselves into the good, benevolent, generous, kind face that we want to put forward, don't you think that in all the millennia we've had, we'd've worked that out? All we've gained with our cooperation and technology is new and better ways to get our way and new and better ways to satisfy our ungodliness and new and better ways to destroy one another. We're not more cooperative. We're not more generous of spirit. It takes the power of God to help us do that. And it's the ultimate expression of hubris, of arrogance, of the human carnal self that suggests we will transform ourselves apart from God. We will not. We need a power beyond ourselves 'cause we are at the very essence, we are rebels.
This book is the story of the descendants of Adam and their relationship with God. And the awkward truth is Adam and his descendants are a race of rebels. From the chapter, earliest chapters of Genesis to the conclusion of the story, that is the pattern. And we're the current crop, but there is a power available to us that's given us everything we need for life and godliness. Look at Hebrews 12. Says, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord". It's an interesting sentence, isn't it? Make every effort. You ought to circle those words. Make every effort. If you've made every effort, what have you left undone? Not much. Make every effort towards holiness. That's not typically the attitude that we have. We make every effort towards a lot of things. We make every effort towards a business decision. We make every effort to get an outcome that we want. I'm not sure we've ever really envisioned making every effort in our lives towards holiness, because he gives us a reason for it. It says without holiness, no one will see the Lord.
Now, I know that's stated in a negative way. I'd like to state it in a positive way. With holiness, you can see the Lord. Without holiness, you can't see him. No one will. Joining a church isn't enough, being kind or good or moral. You need holiness. See, I think the reason we don't make every effort for holiness is we're not really convinced holiness is a good thing. I think we typically imagine that holiness will diminish your life, that holiness will turn down the volume on a good time, that holiness will turn down the volume on pleasure, that holiness will turn down the volume on contentment and joy and meaningful things. Folks, it's a lie. Holiness will not diminish your life; holiness will turn the volume all the way up on full and then rip the knob off. That's the truth. Holiness will improve the quality of your life. And the great lie is that ungodliness will.
If we had the time to have open-mic night and we give everybody your shot to talk about your experiences with ungodliness, it did not fulfill, or we wouldn't be having a discussion about godliness. We tried it, and it left a bitter, destructive taste in our lives. Holiness is a good thing. And the power of God has been unleashed on our behalf. It's resonant within you to let holiness emerge in your life, to let the character of Christ be formed in you. Not to diminish your life; to bring the highest type of fulfillment and contentment and joy and meaning to your life. Say, "I don't believe that". I know, that's why we're talking about it. Look at Romans 1:4. It says through the Spirit of... speaking of Jesus, "Who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead".
I love the phrasing of that. The Spirit of holiness declared with power. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of holiness. When you cooperate with the Holy Spirit, you're cooperating with holiness. You're unleashing the power of God within your life. Now, how does the Spirit help us? What's that look like in practical language? What does it mean? Well, in Genesis chapter 6 there's a statement that I think is insightful. Some of you will remember Genesis 6 is the flood chapters, the chapter that gives us the events of Noah and his generation. Remember Noah? Noah was the one that built the huge floating barn, all right? We say Noah built a boat, but he really didn't, not in the middle of a dry field. He built an animal container. We call that a barn. It just happens that the God was the architect and the barn that God designed floated, which is a really good thing.
Genesis 6 is the story of Noah. And at the beginning of that chapter, this is the setup to the flood story, "The Lord said, 'My Spirit shall not strive with man forever.'" It's a sobering sentence, isn't it? God says, "My Spirit will not always strive with man, will not always wrestle with him". Do you have this notion that the Holy Spirit engages you, inviting you, prompting you, prodding you, nudging you towards holiness, towards godliness? And God said that won't always happen. That's the setup for Noah. And you remember what happened. For 40 years, it says, Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and at the end of the 40 years, all of Noah's converts were loaded in the ark, his family, and God sealed the ark, and destruction came. Jesus referenced that generation. I think it's helpful to understand how the Holy Spirit helps us.
In Matthew 24 is Jesus's longest prophetic discourse, and it's predominantly talking about the earth prior to Jesus's Second Coming. You know he's coming back. And Jesus is describing the conditions in the earth before he comes back. In the same way the prophets told us the conditions before Jesus's birth in Bethlehem, we have much prophetic information about our world before Jesus comes the second time. Listen to what Jesus says. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven or the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up till the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man".
Now, there are some behaviors listed in Noah's day. And we know from Genesis 6 that it says that the thoughts of man's heart were continually evil, but that's not what Jesus references. He said they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. Nothing wrong with those behaviors. They're not immoral or ungodly or uniquely pagan. They're normal life activities. It's just the people were unconcerned about the things of God. See, the great transgression of our lives isn't always our overt expressions of ungodliness, it's the general attitude within us that God's things just really don't matter that much to us. And we only cry out to him when we want a little bit of help that we're really not interested...what did Jesus teach us to pray? "Your kingdom come. Your will be done".
And we're just not, you know, we're not all that hyped up about God's will to come; we really want our will to come. And he says in Noah's day they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day that the ark was closed, and he said it'll be just like that in the season prior to Jesus returns: very little interest in the things of God, busy, busy people. Do you know Jesus's delay in his return is an expression of God's grace? Once God sealed Noah and his crowd in that boat, there was no recourse for the rest of the crowd. There was no plan B. There was no do-over. And when Jesus returns, the door to the kingdom of God has been effectively closed.
So every day that delays Jesus's return to the earth is a day of opportunity for the people that you know in your sphere of influence, for your friends, for your family, for the people that you care about, for the people that you interact with. We want to be ambassadors for Jesus with enthusiasm. The Holy Spirit will help us. He says, "My Spirit will not strive with man forever". That tug of war within you and me is not going to go on forever. Do you know the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit? Now, we talk about Holy Spirits and unholy spirits, you need to know the difference? The Holy Spirit will convict you of ungodliness in a whole myriad of ways, but you recognize that it registers with you internally. You've got to...that you're ill at ease.
There's a little discomfort. There's a little awkward sense that a word spoken or an action engaged in or some portion of your life in some way doesn't please the Lord, and you're just not quite at ease with that, and the Holy Spirit convicts you of that. That's a gift. The appropriate response to conviction is repentance. Repentance means I change the way I think and I change the direction of my behavior. I will go a new way. Thank you for that. Conviction's different than saying "I'm sorry". You know, "I'm sorry" doesn't really mean "I'm gonna make any changes," "I'm sorry" can mean a lot of things. "I'm sorry" can mean, "I'm sorry I got caught. I'm sorry you're so narrow-minded that you don't know I'm right. I'm sorry we have to have this conversation, but I'm not changing".
"I'm sorry" is not repentance. Repentance is acknowledgement of a wrong and a redirection of your thoughts and your behaviors. When the Holy Spirit touches your life like that, it's a gift. It's a gift. When the Holy Spirit's light comes on in your life...see, we have to make a choice on that, what we're going to do with that: if we're going to be offended by that, if we're going to feel awkward around that, if we're going to withdraw from that, if we're going to blame the messenger about that, we're going to put the book down. See, I would submit to you when the Holy Spirit shows you that, it's a gift. If you're a golfer and somebody walked into you, watched you play a practice round and they said, "You know, I can show you two simple things to do to reduce four strokes off your golf game," that's not criticism, that's a gift.
If somebody reviewed your financial statements and they said, "I can show you three simple things you can do, you can save $1,000 a week," they're not criticizing your spending habits, they're giving you a gift. When the Holy Spirit convicts you, it's because there is a power available to deliver you, to set you free, to give you a better outcome than you're getting. Don't hide from him. Don't be angered by it. Say, "Thank you".
Now, I'll tell you a mistake we make. Those of us that have been around a while, we think that people that need convicting and the people that need to change are the newbies, you know, the ones that still have kind of the pagan glitter on them, but the reality is the Holy Spirit in his conviction works consistently in all of our lives. Those of you that think you have tenure, you need to change just as much as the newbies. And sometimes the Holy Spirit will bring conviction about seasons from your past. He reminds you of things that you've been carrying, encumbrances, entanglements. Now, you've been making it along with him, but now in his grace and mercy, he will remind you, he'll convict you of 'em so that you can unring that bell, you can lay it down.
See, it isn't that we need repentance less as we get to know the Lord more, we want to be better at it. Give you an example. Let's suppose that you've done no physical exercise for ten years. You just been busy and life's been happening, so you just haven't been doing that other than what you had to do. Well, for you, an exercise plan would sound like: move. Stop being sedentary, and on a daily basis, move. I promise you, if you haven't done anything for ten years, you'll be sore, 'cause that's an unfamiliar habit. But let's say you persist with it, and two or three years from now, we talk to you about your exercise program. It's not just going to be about move, we'll talk about moving specific muscle groups or very specific movements to start to get more specific outcomes because just saying "move" is no longer adequate.
Well, the same is true in your spiritual life. When the Holy Spirit convicts you initially, it's different than the conviction he'll bring to you as you're growing up in the Lord, but both are equally important because we want the character of Christ formed within us, and we need God's power to do that. For the church to be alive and vibrant and a powerful force in the earth, we need people who are cooperating with the Spirit of God on a daily basis to experience his delivering power in ourselves so we have a message to share with a generation. It's important. What did we read? God in his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. The Spirit of God striving with you is a gift.
I brought you a prayer. Why don't we stand together? We're a people learning to pray. I'm so excited about that. We're a ways into this journey now, we're not just beginners anymore, but we're still learning. Your prayers are so powerful. You can't imagine. Let's read this one together:
Heavenly Father, fill me with your Spirit. Give me an understanding heart to cooperate with you. I lay aside all ungodliness that might hinder or entangle me. I forgive those who have mistreated me. Forgive me for my transgressions and willful disobedience. Cleanse me that I may walk uprightly before you. May I be clothed with power from on high to live a life that pleases you. In Jesus's name, amen.