Allen Jackson - Unleashing The Power of the Holy Spirit
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So, I'd like to begin our study with the simplest of ideas on welcoming the Holy Spirit into our lives. And I'll just give you two or three verses to help underscore the notion. In Judges 14, in verse 6, it's a comment about Samson, one of the judges. Samson is the strong man in the Bible. He's the hippy in the Bible. In verse 6, it says, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson in power. So he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat". And without the Bible, I wouldn't have known it was easy to tear a young goat apart with your bare hands. Apparently, a lion is a far more difficult task, and Samson could only achieve that with the help of the Holy Spirit.
In fact, the phrase is used repeatedly in Samson's life, that the Spirit of God would come upon him, and then he would demonstrate these feats of remarkable strength. He would pick up the gates of a city and carry them away. He could take the jawbone of a donkey and overcome a whole contingent of foreign soldiers. He had this remarkable strength where the Spirit of God would come upon him. Now, his enemies were perplexed when they looked at Samson. They didn't understand the secret of his strength. That's why the whole Delilah initiative got launched. They wanted to know what the secret of his strength was. Samson didn't look, he wasn't like a roided up gym rat. He wasn't like 6'6" and 285 with 2% body fat. He wasn't some incredible hulk. If he was, we would've known the secret of his strength. They wouldn't have needed Delilah.
I think Samson looked a whole lot like you. I think he was just normal and ordinary, and they looked at him, and they couldn't imagine how he could accomplish such feats of strength, so they engaged Delilah, and he finally told her of the covenant that had been made and the source of his strength. While he was asleep, she shaved his hair. You know the story. And one of the more tragic statements in the Bible, it says, "She awakened him and said, 'Samson, your enemies are here.' And he went out to meet them, because he didn't know that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him". See, the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life is a good thing. You want to welcome him. Let's look at another verse you have. At this time, it's Jesus's life in Luke chapter 4 and verse 14. It says, "Jesus returned to Galilee". And he's returning from his baptism. "He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and the news about him spread through the whole countryside".
Now, at this point, Jesus is 30 years old. He has lived for 30 years in almost total anonymity. He has no ministry, no one knows who he is. They think he's Mary and Joe's boy. He's just minding his own business, doing his own thing, and at the age of 30, he goes to the Jordan River to John. He's baptized, and at his baptism you'll remember that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. God said, "This is my Son. I'm pleased with him". And from that point forward, for three years, Jesus goes public. That's when the supernatural part of Jesus's life begins and certainly the miraculous part of his life. The healings begin. His deliverance from unclean spirits begin. He walks on the water. He opens blind eyes. He stands in the cemetery and calls out a dead man, and he stumbles out of the tomb. All of those things followed the descent of the Spirit in Jesus's life.
If Jesus needed the help of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God's purposes for his life, so that the power of God be unleashed in his life, I would submit that you and I most certainly do. I'll give you one more passage, 2 Timothy chapter 1 and verse 7. It says, "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, and of love, and of self-discipline. There's an association being made between the presence of the Spirit of God and, again, the power of God. They go together. So, if we have need of a breakthrough, if we're inviting God into our lives, the certainty of that, the best pathway forward on that, as I understand it, is an invitation to the person of the Holy Spirit. You want to cooperate with him. The Spirit of God is not timid. He's not frightened. Some translations say he hasn't given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power.
There's an authority in the Spirit of God. There's another aspect of this that's worth noting, and that has to do with the proximity of the Holy Spirit to your life. Is he distant? Is he far removed? In 1 Corinthians chapter 6 and verse 19, it says, "Do you not know..." And we've learned by now, when you see that statement, what's the answer to the question? "Probably not". "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body". "Do you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit"?
Now, the language is very simple. We can understand the meaning of the words, but the magnitude of the statement, I think, is a little bit lost on us. For a thousand years, the Hebrew people had in the center of their life a place of worship, initially the tabernacle, and then the temple. And at the center of both of those structures was the holy of holies, the most sacred place on earth to the Hebrew people, because it was said that in the holy of holies the Spirit of God dwelt in the midst of his people. It was a tangible reminder that they were God's people and that he dwelt in their midst. It was in the holy of holies where the ark of the covenant was kept.
Now, by the time we get to the first century and to the Jesus days, the temple in Jerusalem was a magnificent structure. Herod the Great had renovated the second temple and expanded the temple platform. It was one of the most magnificent structures in all of the Roman empire. Tens of thousands of pilgrims came every year, non-Jewish pilgrims, just to see the temple in its magnificence. Certainly, for the Israelites, it was the center of their life, of their national life. It was the grandest building in the nation. It was not only the center of worship for them, it was their national bank, it was the center of their political activity, it was the symbol of their power and authority. It unified them as a people, because in the center of the temple was the presence of God. And then when Jesus died on the cross, something happened. Remember?
Jesus, the last words, "Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit". It says that the sky grew dark, the sun wasn't shining, that there was an earthquake, that the tombs in Jerusalem, many of them were split open, and the dead were raised to life. And it says that in the temple the curtain that separated the holy of holies from the next court was torn in two from the top to the bottom. And now Paul writes, he says, "Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit"? It's not that magnificent structure that Herod the Great oversaw, took 40 years to build. Your body is the temple of the Spirit of God, that the Spirit of the living God dwells in you. It's a staggering statement. It truly is. The Bible teaches us Jesus said that you couldn't participate in the kingdom of God unless you're born again. When you make that profession of faith, it says that you become a totally new creation, that in the same way, when God created Adam and he shaped him from the dust of the ground, and Genesis says he breathed into him, and Adam became a living being.
When you make a profession of faith, the Spirit of God is breathed into you, and you become alive spiritually. The Holy Spirit lives in you. Do you recognize the dignity that brings to you? That's what Paul is saying. He says, "Glorify God. Honor God with your body. He lives in you". God said you're valuable. You are so valuable that Almighty God, the Creator God would identify with you 24/7. When Jesus said he would never leave you nor forsake you, he wasn't just using rhetoric. He dwells in you. Look at the next passage. It's Romans chapter 8 and verse 11. "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through the Spirit who lives in you". Same idea, but this time Paul adds another idea. It's about the power of God. He said that Spirit lives in you, but that's the same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead.
So, unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit isn't something beyond you. It's the recognition of how to cooperate, if you're a Christ follower, with the Spirit of God that is within you. Now, Jesus gave us some very clear instructions, thank God, in Acts chapter 1. We're going to read three or four verses. But let me just take a moment. The New Testament begins with four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the gospels. The gospels tell us the story of Jesus's life from his birth through his resurrection, in essence, from the vantage point of four different people. The next book in your New Testament, the book of Acts, tells us a different story. It's the story of Jesus's followers after Jesus returned to heaven. And in the first chapter of Acts, Jesus gives them their last instructions, but the book of Acts is an overview of the New Testament.
The first four books deal with Jesus's life, and the book of Acts gives you an overview of the remaining timespan of the New Testament. It's about a 40-year window. The New Testament, by Old Testament standards, is a very short book. I mean, it deals with about a period of 100 years. Well, the Old Testament clearly deals with a much broader span of time. The children of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 400 years. The book of Judges is a period of time of about 400 years. So, the New Testament is a short window of time, but in the book of Acts, we have this remarkable story, the Jesus story, who as the book of Acts opens, was lastly publicly seen dead on a Roman cross, and when the book of Acts concludes, the Jesus story has made it all the way from Jerusalem to the streets of Rome and has even infiltrated Caesar's palace in a 40-year window.
It's an unimaginable story, and Jesus tells us the power that's going to make that happen in Acts chapter 1. It's verse 4, "On one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them, his disciples, he gave them this command". And circle that word "command". It's worth noting that it's not a suggestion, it's not a hint, it's not a prompt, it's not a nudge. Jesus gave them a commandment. I'm thinking, if you watch someone die on a cross and be raised to life again, and then he gives you a commandment, you might lean in a little bit. You think? Okay. Now here's the command, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you've heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit". What's the command? "Don't leave Jerusalem until you're baptized with the Holy Spirit". "When they met together, the disciples asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them, 'It's not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority.'"
The disciples aren't overly impressed with Jesus's dialog. In fact, they have issues they want him to address. They recognize now with clarity who he is and the power he represents, and they want to get their questions answered. They sound a lot like me. You know, I may take some time and read my Bible. When I get done with my Bible reading, then I whip out my to do list and show it to God, right? You know, yeah, God, I appreciate your perspective, but have you looked at what I want you to do? And that's a little bit of what the disciples are doing. Jesus gives them a commandment. Go, yeah, yeah, yeah, but are you... and Jesus, in an unrelenting fashion, brings them right back to center in verse 8. He said, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. But after he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight".
Now, we all understand that last words have a heightened significance. In this case, I would say emphatically so. Jesus's last words, because of the way that he exited, he simply ascended back to heaven through a unique authority. He said, "You will be empowered to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, to the ends of the earth, when the Holy Spirit comes on you," and that is precisely what is described in the book of Acts, that story. Now, I would submit to you it's nonsense for you and I to have an imagination that the purposes of God are going to go forth in our generation in some other way. Jesus is our teacher. He's the one that gave us the instructions. He gave us a commandment. He said, "Don't even begin your ministry".
Now, he was speaking to Matthew, and James, and John, and Peter, and Mary, the people that were closest to him. He spent three years training them personally. They've walked with him, they've traveled with him, they were in the boat when he walked on the water, they were in the cemetery when Lazarus staggered out. They picked up basketfuls of leftovers after they fed a multitude with a little boy's lunch. These folks have been up close and personal with Jesus. They've been able to ask him privately about what he meant when he spoke publicly, and yet he said to them, "Don't you even begin your assignment until you're baptized with the Spirit". Now, it seems to me, if Jesus thought that was important for Matthew, and Mark, and James, and Mary that you and I, perhaps, should get in line.
I spent my life around church and Christ followers and God's people, and it seems to me we have a pretty low threshold of expectation. We don't really have a high degree of expectancy that God will do anything. In fact, we're usually surprised, and it's unfortunate. One of the things I find when I read the book of Acts and I read through the New Testament is the people that knew Jesus came away from that season with him with an expectation that God would move. Now, we have to cultivate that expectation. It's a choice we make initially. I want to give you one example from scripture. And for the sake of brevity, I want to use a story that we talked about last weekend.
It's when Mary and Joseph bring infant Jesus to the temple to be circumcised on his eighth day. It's according to the law of Moses. When they bring him to the temple, there's a couple of people in the temple who recognize this infant Jesus as the Messiah. One of them is an elderly woman. Her name is Anna. She's a prophetess, and when she sees the baby Jesus, she speaks to Mary and Joseph and to the people who were there. I put it in your notes. It's Acts 2 and verse 38, "At that very moment, Anna came up and began giving thanks to God and continued to speak of him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem".
Now, they're in a public place. There's hundreds of people, no doubt, gathered there. And it says when Anna began to speak to Mary and Joseph regarding the newborn child, she didn't speak to them alone. She spoke to a subset of the people who were gathered. Did you catch how they were defined? She spoke to those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Not everybody in the temple was looking for the Messiah. Some of them were there because it was the place to be. It was the day when they brought newborns. There were, no doubt, dozens of families presenting. There were all sorts of people milling about. There's priests and temple workers. There's a whole collection of people, but there was a group of people there that were expecting the Messiah, and Anna spoke to them.
I want to be included in the group of people, not that just attend the services or are caught in religious activities. I want to be included in the group of people that are expecting God to do something. It's important. We're not just the collectors of Bible trivia. We are not just a people that are caught under the responsibility of religious behavior. We are the people of Almighty God in the earth, and we expect him to move in our generation, as he has in every generation through the lives of men and women of faith. We want to cooperate with his Spirit. We want to welcome him into our lives. My Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn't change. And we want to open our hearts and our imaginations to the expectation that God will work.
You say, "Well, I don't understand that, Pastor. You say that, but I still have problems". Me, too, and I've read this book a few times. You know, start with the people in the book. We've carried a mistaken idea that saying you believe in God, and that you believe God does miracles, and that you believe the power of God works today, to believe that does not mean you never have problems and stresses and disappointments and heartaches, because every Bible story you know of a miracle is a miracle in response to a hard place. Well, there's one more piece I'll give you. Prayer, expectancy, and honor God's Word. Cultivate the habit of honoring the Word of God in your life. Treat God like he's smarter than you. Don't read God's Word to decide what you disagree with. Let God's Word read you and decide what God disagrees with in you.
Now, I mentioned Luke 2. I want to step back into that narrative, because you know the scenario now. Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus in the temple. The first man they meet that recognizes Jesus is a man named Simeon. Let's read it. It's Luke 2:25. "There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he's seen the Christ, the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts, where the parents brought the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required".
Let's stop there a minute. Three verses about Simeon. In each verse, there's a phrase repeated. Something was accomplished in his life by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and Luke uses the literary device of repetition to draw our attention to the person of the Holy Spirit in Simeon's life. Look back with me a moment. In verse 25, it says of Simeon, "The Holy Spirit was upon him". In verse 26, it said something had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, that he would see the Messiah before he died. How did he know that? It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. In the next verse, in verse 27, it says he went into the temple court that day, moved by the Holy Spirit, prompted by the Holy Spirit. Luke is emphasizing something, that what's happening in Simeon's life is a result of the person of the Holy Spirit's involvement with him.
If he wasn't trying to emphasize that, you could've made that statement in a far more efficient way. There was a godly man named Simeon that recognized Jesus in the temple. But Luke is emphasizing something for us. Who's the author of the book of Acts? It's not a trick...Luke. This isn't the gospel of Luke. But Luke's thought and Luke's objective in writing is consistent. There is an emphasis upon the person of the Holy Spirit, because in Luke's language, and in Luke's thought, the person of the Holy Spirit and the power of God are synonymous. Now watch what happens in Simeon's life. It says he's moved by the Spirit, and he went into the temple courts.
I love that statement. Simeon has had a revelation by the Spirit of God that he's going to see the Messiah before he dies. And where do we find Simeon on this day? He's in the temple. He's in the temple on the day when they're presenting the babies for circumcision. The Temple Mount, Herod's Temple Mount is an enormous place. Our church is large, but you could sit our church on that Temple Mount and overlook it. The Temple Mount's a huge place, all sorts of gathering areas and different things happening, and Simeon is standing there where the newborn children are being presented in the temple.
Now, Jerusalem, there's many places in the land of Israel where you could've presented your child, but the temple in Jerusalem is the epitome of all the places to go. It is the expression of the religious authority of the nation, and so it's a logical place to look. Of all the places Simeon could've been... did you know in Jerusalem in the first century there was a hippodrome, a place for horse races? He could've been at the trifecta window between the second and third race. There was a Roman theater in first century Jerusalem. He could've been at the theater seeing the latest presentation. Neither of the above options were evil or wicked, but there'd been something revealed to him.
So what does Simeon do with his time and his days? He spends time in the place where the baby would be presented, most likely. It's the one bottleneck, it's the most likely opportunity for him to see the child. Releasing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life and mine has a great deal to do with the desire to see God move. If we don't care about it, if we're not interested in him, you can relax. It's highly improbable he will bother you. God does not intrude where he's not invited. But if we have a desire, a hunger, the Bible says, if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, then we will be filled. I brought you a prayer.
Why don't you stand with me? I'm so excited we're a people learning to pray. I can't imagine what the implications of that will be for us fully, but I know they're going to be good. Have you found your prayer? Let's read it together:
Heavenly Father, pour out your Spirit upon my life. I offer myself as a living sacrifice yielded to you. I want to know you in the power of your truth. I choose the truth for my life, turning away from all deception. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, in Jesus's name, amen.