Craig Smith - Powering Up Your Faith
Well, hey, welcome back to week number two of our Bootcamp Series where we’re talking about how to fast-forward our faith because here’s what we know, we know that the more progress we make in our faith, the more of a difference we’ll make in the world. And we live in a world that is desperate for the difference that you and I can and should be making as followers of Jesus.
Now, last week, Reza talked to us about having faith in the fog, about trusting God when things are uncertain, about trusting God when it can be scary. Today, we’re gonna talk about powering up our faith by engaging in a practice that I think has gotten harder in recent years. And I’m talking about the practice of living publicly, I’m talking about the practice of living with our faith kinda out there for everyone to see it.
A couple years ago, I was in England, and I was eating at a pub, I was by myself. And I was just kinda listening to conversations around me because everybody was talking in a British accent, and everything they said just sounded brilliant. And because I was doing that, I heard the guys behind me start to talk about Americans. And one of them said… it really caught my attention, he goes, “I hate Americans.” And I was like, “Oh, interesting.” So, I listened in and it was kinda some big burly British guys, and basically, they went off at how much they hated Americans. And then they kinda worked off each other and they got built up. And finally, one of them goes, “Yeah, they’re so loud and they’re so arrogant. And, honestly, you know what? I think the next American I see, I’m just gonna punch him in the face.” And then right then, like, everything in the room just got really quiet. And at that moment, the waitress chose to come up to me and go, “Hey, so what do you want?” And I was like, “Right, then. I think I’ll have me a spot of fish and chips, please.”
Because here’s the thing, right. Like, we all feel pressure to keep private what isn’t popular, don’t we? We all feel pressure to keep private what isn’t popular. We’ve all felt that. You’ve had an opinion that wasn’t popular at work, or in your family, or at school, or on a team, and we’ve all felt the pressure to keep private what isn’t popular. Or maybe you’re a Patriots fan, but you live in Denver and you’re not stupid, right. You have felt the pressure to keep private what isn’t popular.
You know, maybe back to the beginning of this pandemic, you were one of those people going, “I don’t think face masks are an unreasonable thing to ask us to do.” But you had people around you going, “Oh, so you’re a sheep?” Right? You felt the pressure to keep private what isn’t popular. And that can happen with our faith.
We can feel a pressure to keep private what isn’t popular when it comes to our faith. And the early followers of Jesus felt that really significantly, because for the first couple centuries after Jesus rose from the dead, claiming that you are a follower of Jesus was not a popular thing to do. It could get you disowned by your family, kicked out of your community, in some cases, you could be arrested or even killed because of your faith. By the way, that’s still true in some parts of the world today. But it hasn’t been true in the Western World for a long time because in the Western World, an amazing thing happened. Christianity went mainstream. Christianity went mainstream, and somehow, by the power of God, what had been an oppressed religion by the Roman Empire became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Incredible testament of the power of this thing that we call the Gospel.
But at that moment, things changed in the Western World. Following Jesus was no longer unpopular. And so, a lot of that pressure to keep it private really went away. But I think that’s changing. I think in the last couple of decades, in the Western World, and here in America, too, that there’s been an increasing tendency to think about following Jesus as an unpopular thing to do. If you’re a follower of Jesus, and especially the kind of follower of Jesus like we are at Mission Hills that you think your thinking should be informed by God’s Word, if you think your actions should be driven by what God has to say in the Bible, that’s an increasingly unpopular position. And so more and more I think we’re feeling the pressure to keep private what isn’t popular.
But, church, look at me for a second. This is so important. The more private we are about our faith, the less we experience the power of that faith, the power because of that faith. Hear me? The more private we keep our faith, the less power we experience because of that faith. Let me show you what I mean. If you wanna follow along, we’re gonna be in the Book of Acts chapter 1 today. You can follow along in your Bible, you can grab the Mission Hills app. You’ll get some notes there, you can also see some of the questions that you’ll wanna reflect on this week as we think about what is looking to put this teaching into practice.
But in the Book of Acts, basically, it’s the story of what happened after Jesus rose from the dead. After Jesus rose from the dead, there was a period of about 40 days where he kinda hung out with the disciples. And it’s interesting. We don’t really know what he was doing during those 40 days, the Bible doesn’t really say, which is weird. I mean, he taught for about three years, and we got Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all telling us what he taught during those three years of public ministry. But the 40 days after he rose from the dead, the Bible says almost nothing, which leaves us some freedom to make some guesses.
Here’s what I think. I think he was repeating everything that he said that they had just forgotten because I think they forgot a lot of it. I mean, I think, you know, that they wanted to listen. I mean, Jesus was clearly an impressive guy. He was making blind people see and walking on water. Like, we should pay attention to this guy. But the moment Jesus rose from the dead, they’re like, “Whoa, you just changed everything.”
He’s no longer just an impressive guy. They realized he’s the Son of God. And then they started thinking back like, “Wait, what did he say about that? I can’t believe it.” And so, they were like, “Jesus, can we get a do-over? Now, that we know who you are, can we get a do-over? Can we hear it all again?” I think that’s what they did for 40 days. Jesus just repeated everything that he taught them. We don’t really know, but we know at the end of that 40 days, Jesus gathered them on a hillside, a little way outside of Jerusalem. And he said this to them, he said, “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 will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So, he made them this promise, he said, “I want you to wait in Jerusalem because the Holy Spirit’s coming and you’re gonna be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Now, if you’re kinda new to church, or maybe, honestly, you’ve been going to church your whole life but you’re just a little bit confused about the Holy Spirit…by the way, can I just be honest with…how many of us don’t feel like we fully understand the Holy Spirit? Can we just be honest with each other? Yeah. There’s a word for you, it’s normal. Okay. Maybe I can clear it up. I can help you understand the Holy Spirit a lot better. I’ll tell you this, he’s the third person of the Trinity. There you go, right. You’re like, “Yeah, that just made it worse because I don’t know…” How many of you don’t really understand the Trinity? Well, Christians have not understood the Trinity for 2,000 years, okay. So, it’s complicated truth.
Here’s the only truth you really need to know to understand what we’re gonna see today. Here’s the only thing you need to know about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers God’s people, okay. Holy Spirit empowers God’s people. He’s the third person to Trinity, he is a person…he’s kinda, like, the personal manifestation of the power of God in our lives. Okay. That’s all you really need to grab a hold of for today, the Holy Spirit empowers God’s people. But the question we wanna ask is, what does he empower us to do. What’s the purpose of that power? Well, here’s what Jesus says, if you can drop down to verse 8, he says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
So, there’s the purpose of the power of the Holy Spirit, that we will be his what, his witnesses. Okay, what’s a witness? A witness is somebody who testifies the truth. Think of, you know, a court setting. The witness is somebody that the lawyer calls to the stand, and they get up and then they tell the truth, they tell the truth so that everybody else can know the truth. That’s what a witness is. They’re just people who are testifying or telling the truth.
And Jesus says, “Holy Spirit is gonna come on you, and the purpose of the power of the Holy Spirit is that you would be my witnesses in Jerusalem.” That’s kinda like home base, that was their central capital city. But not just there. He said, “You’re also gonna be my witnesses in Judea and Samaria.” That’s the surrounding regions. And he says, “To the ends of the earth.” Now you’re gonna take this message everywhere, and say, “This is our mission.” It’s not just the mission that was given to the apostles, it’s a mission that was given to us. Every single one of us as a follower of Jesus has the same mission to be his witnesses in our hometown, in the surrounding regions, and really to the ends of the earth. It’s not something for the apostles, it’s not for preachers, it’s not for church elders or church staff, it’s for every one of us.
Here in Mission Hills, you’ve probably heard us say, if you come in here, if you’ve been coming in here for any length of time, we say, “The church is not a building we come to, it’s a mission we choose to be part of.” Jesus didn’t say, “Come follow me. I booked some rooms of the Marriott. We’re gonna hang out and have a good time.” No, Jesus said, “Come follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.” That’s mission. It’s being witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Now, if that feels like a big ask, if it feels like a big ask for you to be taking the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth, it is a big ask. But the good news is, it’s not a big ask of you. You don’t have to make this happen, you don’t have to somehow come up with a strategy, you don’t have to somehow come up with, you know, the ways to do it, how to persuade people because the power isn’t in you. The power to do this mission isn’t in you, it’s in the Holy Spirit. Now, the Holy Spirit, if you’re following Jesus, the Holy Spirit’s in you, but it’s his power that’s gonna make that mission possible. So, here’s what Jesus is saying is the Spirit’s power makes our mission possible. This big, crazy mission God’s given us to be his witnesses to the very ends of the earth, it’s the Spirit’s power that makes that mission possible. You know, it’s interesting. I have people come to me, pretty frequently, and they’re like, “You know what? You talk about the power of the Spirit. Can I just be honest? I’ve never experienced it. I’ve never really experienced this power of the Holy Spirit you’re talking about.”
I had a friend come to me a couple years ago, and he goes, “You know, you’re always talking about the power of Spirit. I listen to podcasts, things like that. And people talk about the power of the Spirit. I’ve never really experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.” And by the way, maybe you feel exactly like that. Maybe you can relate to my friend. You feel like we talk about it, but you’ve never actually experienced it.
My friend said that to me, and I said, “Well, can I ask you? Like, tell me about your faith, tell me what it looks like.” And he goes, “Well, I go to church, but I’ve never experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in church.” I said, “Okay.” He goes, “I listen to the messages, and I’ve learned some things, I’ve grown, but I haven’t experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “I read my Bible, but I haven’t really experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.” I said, “Okay.” He says, “I read Christian books and I listened to Christian podcasts, but I haven’t experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.” And I kind of stopped and I said, “You know, it’s interesting. Everything you’re describing is consumption. You’re describing everything that you’re consuming, all the content you’re consuming. And listen, that’s great. I’m so glad that you’re consuming that content. That’s good stuff to help you grow as a Christian. But here’s the thing, the power of the Holy Spirit isn’t the power to consume. The power of the Holy Spirit is the power to contribute. It’s the Spirit’s power that makes the mission possible. That didn’t give you the Holy Spirit to power you up so you could just take in more and more stuff. He gave you the power of the Holy Spirit so that you could actually begin to contribute to the mission of the church.”
So, listen, you should not be surprised if all you’re doing is consuming and you’re not experiencing the power. You’re not gonna experience the power until you start to contribute because that’s what the power is for. It’s so weird to me. I have Christians tell me, “I’m just not experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because you’re like a truck driver sitting in a semi going, “I thought this thing is supposed to be powerful, but I don’t feel any power.” I’m like, “Dude, you got it in park. If you wanna feel the power of that thing, put it in drive, and then come back and talk to me.” That’s when, and that’s only when you’re gonna experience the power. Way too many of us are sitting in park. We’re consuming. Like, “I just don’t feel this power they’re talking about.” Yeah, and you’re not until you start living on mission with Jesus, until you start looking to contribute to the purpose that God gave us the power for.
So, here’s a question I had to ask my friend. And I think it’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. How am I living on mission with Jesus? How am I living on mission with Jesus? I asked him, I said, “Are you serving?” He goes, “I don’t really have a lot of time.” Okay. “Are you giving? That doesn’t take a lot of time.” “My finances are really tight.” “Ever invited anybody to come to church with you?” “My friends really are not into church.” “Yeah, I think I’ve identified the problem. I think I figured out why you’re not experiencing the power, because you’re not moving towards the purpose of that power.” How are you living on mission with Jesus?
Jesus told them about this power, and then he left. I mean, literally left, he pulled a Peter Pan. He rose into the sky, and then a cloud came and covered him over. I don’t know. Like, Peter Pan, that didn’t sound real theological so I’ll make it more theological for those of you concerned about it. This is what we call the Ascension of Christ, but he pulled a Peter Pan. And the disciples did what I think any of us would do in a situation like that, they were just like…and they just stood there for a long time. I don’t know if they thought he was gonna eventually, like, come back down. They just stood there. They stood there so long that eventually a couple of angels had to show up and go, “Guys, you’re supposed to be in Jerusalem.”
And I was thinking about it this week. I don’t know about you, but, for me, at least, I find that often I’m waiting on what was to be restored rather than what will be to be birthed in me. I don’t know if any of you ever struggle with that. Even this pandemic, I’ve struggled with it. But I miss what church looked like before this pandemic. And God, I’m just waiting for you to let us go back to what we were, and the thing is, God’s been doing all kinds of other things. I’m like, “I miss full rooms.” And God’s like, “Yeah, but you understand that there are, like, thousands of rooms around the world that people have found Mission Hills and you’re enabling them to live on mission, and their communities are communities you could never have touched if it hadn’t gone bigger than you were imagining.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but I still miss…” And he’s like, “Yeah, stop waiting on what was and get busy waiting on what will be.”
The angels had to tell these guys, “Go to Jerusalem. You’re supposed to be waiting in Jerusalem for something new that’s about to be birthed in you.” And so they went. But 10 days later, there was a big festival, it was called Pentecost, big Jewish festival. And there were Jews from all over the world, all kinds of different cultures and different languages, and they’re all in Jerusalem for the Pentecost Festival and the Christians, the followers of Jesus were wandering around, and all of a sudden, in the middle of this festival, the Holy Spirit came on them, just like Jesus promised. The Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak in tongues, is how the Bible describes it. And in that context, it’s pretty clear that tongues meant they were speaking in other human languages that they didn’t learn naturally. They were supernaturally enabled to begin speaking all these languages. And the people from all these places where those languages were spoken went, “Hey, how did you guys learn that language? Where are you from?” They could tell from their accent that they weren’t, like, really educated people, they weren’t from, like, the really up and coming provinces of Jerusalem. They were basically what they would think of as kinda hillbillies, honestly. They’re like, “You guys don’t know these kinds of languages. Where’d you learn these things?”
And Peter, follower of Jesus named Peter, stepped up to the plate, and he began to explain what was going on. He told the story of Jesus’s life, and what he’d done, and what he taught. He told the story of how Jesus was arrested and how he was eventually put in front of a crowd of Jewish people and asked, “Hey, do you want me to release Jesus, or do you want me to release this murderer, Barabbas?” And the Jewish crowd called, “Crucified Jesus.” And they crucified him. Peter told how they crucified him. And he told about how three days later, he rose from the dead. And then he closed a speech with this, if you wanna look with me, it’s Acts chapter 2, verse 36, this is how he closed that speech. He said, “Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this. God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” And can we just agree that’s a pretty bold thing to say? Can we agree that’s an unpopular thing to say? To look at the crowd, some of whom would’ve been the ones that actually said, “Yeah, crucify him,” to look at that same crowd and go, “Yeah, whom you crucified. God made this Jesus that you crucified, both Lord and Messiah, you guys screwed up big time.”
That’s an unpopular thing to say. And I promise you, Peter felt the pressure to keep private what wasn’t popular. He felt the pressure not to say that, he probably felt the pressure before we started saying anything when everybody’s going, “Hey, what’s going on here? Why are these people doing these languages? What’s happening?” I guarantee you Peter felt a little bit of a temptation to be like everybody else like, “This is really confusing. Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on.” And to fade into the background, but he didn’t do it. He didn’t give in to the pressure to keep private what wasn’t popular. Why not? Because I think, Peter, maybe more than anybody else in that moment, Peter understood that there’s a price to keeping our faith private. Hear me, church?
There’s a price to keeping our faith private. Yeah, there’s a price to keeping our faith public, too. Going public with your faith has a price. Absolutely. But it’s nothing compared to the price of keeping your faith private. Peter knew that better than anybody else because Peter was the guy with Jesus on the night before he was arrested. And Jesus was telling him what was gonna happen, and Peter was like, “Dude, I’m with you. Man, no matter what happens, I’m with you.” And Jesus was like, “Yeah, I’m not so sure that’s really the case.” He’s like, “Hey, I will die for you. I don’t know about the rest of these losers, but, man, you and me, like, we’re tight. I will die for you.” Jesus said, “No, you know, you won’t, you’re actually gonna deny me. You’re not gonna die for me, you’re gonna deny me three times.” Peter’s like, “Not a chance.”
But then they came and they arrested him and Peter ran. And three different times he denied that he even knew who Jesus was. The third time as he was doing it, he happened to be doing it in a place where Jesus could see him. Jesus looked over at him in the moment that he was saying, “Yeah, I don’t even know that guy.” And Jesus looked at him and they locked eyes, and they had a little moment. And the Bible didn’t say that Jesus looked disappointed. The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus shook his head, disgusted at Peter. It just says they locked eyes. I promise you, in that moment, Peter’s heart broke. Peter felt the searing pain. He paid the price in that moment of keeping his faith private.
So, here he is in this crowd, and he goes, “I’m not doing that again. I’m not paying that price again.” So, he stepped up and he went public.
And when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and they said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” People heard this. They were cut to the heart. And that phrase, cuts at heart, it just means they were convinced this was true and they needed to do something about it. They were convinced that it was true, Jesus was who Peter was saying he was and they needed to do something about it. They couldn’t just file that away and go, “Oh, that’s an interesting piece of trivia, that was the Messiah. Okay, good to know.” No, they had to do something about it. That’s what it means to be cut to the heart.
Years ago, I was a young youth pastor, and I went to hang out with a youth pastor friend of mine, and I could tell he was down. I said, “What’s going on?” And he told me a story about this girl he’s been trying to love in his youth group. She’s kinda new to the youth group, new to church. He was struggling to do that, and she kept pushing back. And that morning, she’d pushed back. And this is what she said to him, she said, “Yeah. Tell me this, why is it the only person in this church who loves me is the guy who gets paid to?”
And I heard that and I’ll be honest, I was cut to the heart. I realized, in that moment, that’s true. A lot of people have that experience. Feel like the only people who really love them is the people who get paid to in the church which is the pastor, it’s the church staff. Now, I can’t live that way anymore. I gotta do something about that. And that was the beginning, for me, of a lifelong goal of trying to do church a little bit differently, doing church in the way that we talk about it here which is where we say, “The church isn’t a building you come to, it’s a mission you choose to be part of.”
Every one of us who says yes to following Jesus, joins Jesus on the mission, to love other people into the Kingdom, to speak the love of God into their lives. In that moment, I was cut to the heart like they were…I realized this was true, and I realized, I can’t just file it away. I’ve gotta do something about it. That’s what they’re talking about. And they went, “What do we do, right? Well, I understand this is true, but I can’t just follow this way. What do we do now?” And what’s interesting about this, is if he asked the question, what caused that to happen. What caused them to become convinced that this was true, and they needed to do something about it? Was it Peter’s rhetorical prowess? Was it his oratory magnificence? Was it his persuasive logic? All Peter did was tell the story. All Peter did was communicate the truth. All Peter did was be a witness. So, how is it that all these people are now cut to the quick, they’re realizing this is true, and I gotta do something about it? How did that happen? Power of the Holy Spirit.
Listen to me, church, look at me, this is really important. It’s our job to communicate. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convince. You hear me? It’s our job to communicate the truth, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convince, to cut to the heart, to convince people it’s true and they gotta do something about it. All we have to do is communicate. And I find way too many Christians struggle to live on mission with Jesus because they’ve got their role wrong. They go, “Well, I can’t be a witness. I can’t share my faith. I can’t invite somebody to come to church. I can’t tell the truth about who Jesus is because I don’t have all the answers.”
You know, who else doesn’t have all the answers? Me. I promise you I’ve got more questions than you do. They might be better questions after my years of theological study, but there’s not fewer of them. And people go, “I can’t. I can’t be on mission with Jesus. I don’t have all the answers. I haven’t read enough of the Bible. I don’t know enough theological terms. I don’t know how to talk about this. I can’t do that.” And it’s interesting to me. It’s almost like when people think about the courtroom setting, right, because we’re supposed to be witnesses, right, think about the courtroom setting, they’re not thinking of themselves as the witnesses. They’re thinking about themselves as the prosecuting attorney. It’s like, “No, our job is to convince the jury.” Listen, you’re not supposed to be the lawyer. You’re supposed to be the witness on the stand. All you gotta do is speak the truth. All you gotta do is communicate. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to be the lawyer. It’s Holy Spirit’s job to convince.
And that’s what he was doing. He said, “This is the truth, guys.” And the Holy Spirit said, “Yeah, it’s true.” He whispered into their hearts. And Holy Spirit said, “You gotta do something about this.” And they felt that respond, and they said, “So, what do we do?” And so, Peter replied, he replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. That’s what you gotta do.” You gotta repent and be baptized.
Let’s make sure we understand both of those words. Two things he said to do, repent and be baptized. Now, repent equals to turn around. It’s what repent means, it means to turn around. See, because of our sin, we’re basically born living in rebellion against God. We’re born with our backs to God moving away from him. That’s the direction we’re moving. It’s what sin does. And to repent means to realize, “Hey, I’m living in rebellion against God, I’m sinning. I don’t wanna do that anymore. And to turn around. It’s what it means to repent.
Now, what’s interesting is a lot of people think, “Well, the problem is that, you know, while I was moving in that direction, I covered a lot of distance. I did a lot of sin, I did a lot of wrong, and now I’m here and I’m turning around and God’s way back there, and I don’t think I’m gonna be able to cover that distance. I don’t think I can make it up.” They’re like, “I guess I gotta start doing good things. I gotta go to church, and I gotta give at the church, and I gotta maybe join the kid’s ministry team, and I gotta do all these things to try to, you know, balance the scales. I gotta somehow cover all that distance back.” And honestly, there’s a despair that creeps in at that moment because we realize I can’t do that. I’ve gone away too far. I’ve covered way too much distance to ever get back. How can turning around be enough? Because this is the truth of the Gospel, and this is the power of it.
The Gospel is that no matter how far we’ve gone, God still loves us and he sent his Son Jesus after us. Jesus chased after us, he died on the cross to pay the price for our sin. He rose from the dead. And having risen from the dead, he offers a salvation by faith. So, what happens is the moment we repent, the moment we turn around, we find that Jesus is right there and is saying “All it takes is faith. All it takes is you gotta trust me.”
Listen to me, this is so important. Listen, the problem isn’t the distance we’ve gone, it’s the direction we’re going. Do you hear me, church? The problem isn’t the distance you’ve gone, no matter how far you’ve gone. That’s not the problem. The problem is the direction you’re going. The moment you turn around, you will be saved. Some of you need to do that right now. Some of you right now need to repent, you need to turn around, you just need to say to God right now, you can just do it right now. You’re gonna say to God, “God, I’m sinning, and I’m sorry. I don’t wanna go that direction anymore. I’m turning back to you. Jesus, I’m gonna put my trust in you. Thank you for dying on the cross. I believe you rose from the dead. Jesus, I’m gonna trust you from here on out.” Peter said, “Repent for the forgiveness of sins.”
Now, he also said, “Be baptized.” He said, “Repent and be baptized.” So, what’s baptism? Well, baptism is a public declaration of our faith in Jesus. The traditional way of baptism that we practice here at Mission Hills is immersion. What happens is when somebody goes into the water, there’s symbolizing that they’re dying to their old way of life, their old direction, and then when they’re raised out of the water, they’re symbolizing that they’re changing direction, they’re rising to new life in Christ because of their faith in him. It’s a public declaration of their faith in Jesus.
So, Peter says, “You need to repent for the forgiveness of sins, and you also need to be baptized.” Now, why does he say that? Do you have to be baptized to get saved? You don’t. It’s not necessary. And I know that because throughout the Bible, that consistent message is you have to have faith to be saved. Jesus said, very familiar verse, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him…” That’s faith. “That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” A little bit later in the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, whoever hears my Word and believes him who sent me,” that’s faith, “Has eternal life, and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.” There’s no baptism.
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, there was a thief next to him. And the thief expressed faith in Jesus, the thief said to him, “Would you remember me when you come into your Kingdom?” In other words, I see it, I see who you are, and I’m gonna trust you, I’m gonna depend on you. And Jesus’s response to him was, “Truly I tell you, today you’ll be with me in paradise.”
Do you see baptism anywhere in there? I don’t even know what that would’ve looked like in that situation. Jesus would’ve been like, “Okay, I’m gonna spit on you.” And like…okay, so, if you don’t have to be baptized to be saved, why does Peter say you need to repent for the forgiveness of sins, and you need to be baptized? Why does he say that? Well, it’s because of something else Jesus said. Matthew 10:32, Jesus said this, he said, “Therefore, whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” Whoever acknowledges me, whoever’s public about their faith in me, I’m gonna be public about their salvation in front of my Father. And what Peter is picking up on, what Jesus taught is that saving faith is public faith. Saving faith is public faith. Now, that doesn’t mean that it has to be public before it saves you, but it means that genuine saving faith will always express itself publicly. It’s the natural way it’s gonna play itself out. It’s one of the ways that you know it’s a genuine faith. It’s not the public part that saves you, but the genuine faith that saves you is always gonna show itself publicly. And so, Peter said, “Yeah, you need to be baptized because saving faith is public faith.”
But that wasn’t where he stopped. He also went on to say this, he says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.” And he said, “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children, for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord, our God will call.” He says that when you go public with your faith, the Holy Spirit comes into you. He said, “This is a promise for you and for your children, for all who are far off.” And by the way, that’s us. We’re all the far-off ones. We’re, most of us not Jewish so we’re ethnically far off. It’s been 2,000 years, so we’re far off in that way, but the promise is still true. The promise is still for us. The promise of the Holy Spirit. When we put our faith in Jesus and we’re willing because of the genuineness of that faith to go public with it.
But, of course, what’s the purpose of that power? Its mission. It’s to be his witnesses, right? And check out what happens next. Now with many other words, he warned them and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. And those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day.” That is church growth, right. Three thousand that day, man. And again, how did that happen? Was it because Peter was so convincing and persuasive, and such a powerful speaker? No, it wasn’t Peter’s power, all Peter did was communicate. It was the Holy Spirit who convinced, it was the Holy Spirit working him. All Peter did was go public.
Listen to me, public faith is powerful faith. And if you’re here today, and you’re feeling like, “I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced that power,” then you might need to engage in this really important practice of going public because that’s where we experience the power because that’s what the power is for. When I look back on my life, all the instances where I’ve experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, most tangibly have been periods where I was living in faith, and I was looking to live on a mission.
Maybe the most powerful, for me, years ago, I was in Eastern Europe with a Christian rock band, not long after the Iron Curtain came down. We were sharing the Gospel in places that had never heard it. But those were different days, I had hair, it was actually in a ponytail. We were out in the edge, we were going public in a place where, honestly, it wasn’t popular. But this one day I was singing and playing guitar, we were doing this concert. And there were a group of satanists that had showed up. And they got to the front row, and eventually, they started throwing stuff at us. I’ve never done music where I was, like, singing about Jesus and dodging beer bottles.
And at a certain point in this…so I was looking at them. Something came over me, I think the power of the Holy Spirit began to move in me. And before I knew what was happening, I had set my guitar down. I had gotten off the stage and I was walking up to the satanists. The whole time, I’m like, “This is a bad idea. This is a bad idea. What are we doing? What are we doing? What are you doing?” But I couldn’t stop. And then I walked up to these…and there was this one guy. And he had, like, upside-down crosses painted on his face with mascara. And I walked up to him and I said to him, I remember saying to him, “What are you so angry about?”
And he said something, and I don’t remember what he said, I don’t even know what language it was in but we started a conversation. And I kid you not, I don’t remember anything was said. I don’t even remember what language the conversation was in. I might have been speaking in tongues. It’d be my only instance of that, if that’s what it was. I don’t know. I don’t remember what happened in the conversation. I do remember it and I’ll never forget that when it was over, this guy, he was kneeling on the ground and he was praying to ask Jesus to be his Savior. He was committing to follow Jesus, and he began to weep. And as he wept and his tears began to flow, they started to wash away those upside-down crosses on his face. That was the power of the Holy Spirit.
Power the Holy Spirit is yours, but not to consume, to contribute. Listen to me, saving faith is public faith, and public faith is powerful faith. That’s where you’ll experience the power. If you wanna experience more of the power, if you wanna fast-forward your faith, you need to start living publicly. So, here’s what we’re gonna do. Look at me. We’re all gonna do this. Okay? I want you to find one person this week, find one person who doesn’t know you follow Jesus and tell them that you follow Jesus. One little step, but little steps, enough little steps in the right direction take us places we wouldn’t have thought possible. So, just find one person who doesn’t know you follow Jesus and tell them you follow Jesus. But don’t make it weird. Okay? But don’t make it weird. Like, don’t be like at Walmart, and when the cashier hands you your stuff, you’re like, “I wanna let you know I follow Jesus. Okay, bye.” That’s super weird. Don’t do that.
You’re like, “Well, how do I not make it weird?” Pray about it, just pray that the Holy Spirit would go before you and provide an opportunity and make sure that you don’t miss it. And I promise you, as you respond to that, you’re going to begin to see the power of the Holy Spirit flowing in you in a way that you haven’t yet, maybe. Find that one person, and maybe even ask yourself this question, what’s my next step in powering up my faith by going public about it. What’s your next step? You know, maybe you’ve said yes to following Jesus recently, but you haven’t told anybody. Maybe you said it earlier today when I was talking about repenting, or maybe you said it over the last couple of weeks, but you haven’t told anybody about it. Maybe your next step of powering up your faith by going public is to let somebody else know about it.
Here at Mission Hills, we make it really easy to take that first step, just text the word Jesus to 80875. And you’re gonna let us know that you made the decision. We’re gonna get you some resources. But maybe that’s the first step, or maybe your next step is to invite somebody to come to church with you. Well, actually, no, don’t invite somebody to come to church. I like to tell people, “Don’t invite other people to church, invite people to the series that we’re doing at church.” You know why I say that? Because if you invite somebody to church, and they say no, then, you know, next time you’re like, “Well, we’re still doing church,” and they already said no to that so it doesn’t really make sense to ask again, but you invite them to the series and they say no, we’ve got another series coming around. You’re like, “Well, hey, they hadn’t said no to this series. I’ll try again.” We got another series coming up in a few weeks called Unleashed. It’s gonna be a very powerful series, great opportunity to invite somebody. Maybe that’s your next step, to invite somebody to come to church with you.
Or maybe you need to get baptized. Maybe at some point, in the past, maybe it was 15 minutes ago, maybe it was 5 days ago, maybe it’s 50 years ago, you said yes to following Jesus but you’ve never been baptized. You’ve never gone public in that way. In just a second, we’re gonna baptize a whole bunch of people who are gonna go public with their faith today. But maybe you need to join them, maybe right now the Holy Spirit’s moving your heart, and you’re like, “I think I need to do that,” then you need to do that. In just a second, we’re gonna watch a video, we’re gonna see some of their stories. During that video, if you’re realizing right now that that’s my next step in powering up my faith by going public with it is to get baptized, during this video I want you to walk down to this side of the room. At the back of the line there’s gonna be some people that you just tell them, “Hey, I wanna go public with my faith in Jesus, I wanna get baptized.”
We’ve got some clothes for you. You don’t have to walk out of here soaking wet. We’ve got some new clothes for you. Last service we had several…a bunch of people who decided to do it on the fly, and it was awesome. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you need to make that decision right now. So, during this video, go down there and tell them you wanna get baptized, go public with your faith in Jesus.