The First Martyr – Stephen

Chapter 7 of the Book of Acts

When Stephen was brought to trial before the Sanhedrin – the Jewish religious council – his life was hanging in the balance.  Yet, Stephen did not make excuses for his actions nor try to defend himself.  Rather, he used this opportunity to proclaim the mercy and grace of God to the Jewish nation.  In essence, he indicted his accusers.  He told them they were displaying the same spirit of unbelief that their ancestors had done in the past as they resisted the work of God in their nation.  He did this by illustrating God’s hand in the past history of Israel.

Abraham – the founding father of Israel.  To Abraham had been given the call to go to a land which God would show him – and someday give to his descendants.  Stephen shows that from the very beginning of their nation, God was the one in control. 

God (the God of Glory – ho theos tes doxes) – the God who possess and manifests glory.  God of the outward and visible glory.  It is the glory, radiance, brilliance of God’s Person which bursts forth from His Supreme Being.  The idea is that God appeared and revealed His glory to Abraham) appeared to Abraham – while he was still living in Mesopotamia.

God promised him a land – if he would “get out” of his present country and life.  The land was to be one of God’s choosing, not Abraham’s.  The land was to be an inheritance to his descendants.

Today, God has appeared to us while we were yet in sin (Romans 5:6-8; John 3:16), calling us to “get out” of our present country and life (Acts 2:40; 2 Corinthians 6:17-18; Ephesians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 John 2:15-16). 

Romans 5:6-8 – For when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 – Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.

God has promised us a special relationship with Him now and a future home in heaven (John 14:19-21; John 15:9-11; John 14:1-4; Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 13:14). 

John 14:19-21 – A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.  Because I live, you will live also.  At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.  He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

John 14:1-4 – Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believer also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go t prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.

Our relationship with God is something we need to pass on to our children as an inheritance Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; 2 Timothy 2:2).

Ephesians 6:4 – And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and the admonition of the Lord.

Joseph – a type of Christ. 

Joseph was chosen by God, but rejected by his brothers (Genesis 37). 

Joseph suffered for years, but gained ultimate victory. 

God had a plan (Galatians 4:4-5).  Man may try to stop it because of envy, because of rebellion, but God will always work out His plan regardless of what man does to try to stop it. 

Galatians 4:4-5 – But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Moses – the great deliverer.  The time came for God’s people to receive the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 15:1-7; Genesis 15:13-14).  But they had forgotten the promise – it was not the focus of their lives.  They had grown comfortable in Egypt.  God had to act to cause them to want deliverance and then to bring about that deliverance.  They were powerless to make the promise come true. 

Moses was stirred into action by God.  However, he apparently sought to do God’s will his way. 

Moses was originally rejected also. 

Again, it was God who appeared to Moses, it was God who called him to save the people, it was God who sent the miracles and brought Israel out of Egypt. 

Charges Against Israel

The people worshipped false gods rather than the One True God.    God turned away from them (Romans 1:21-28).

The people carried the tabernacle of false gods in their hearts.  Again, God turned away from them (2 Kings 17:5-18). (Molech was the sun god to whom children were often sacrificed.  The idol had the head of an ox and arms that stretched out.  There was a hollow place underneath the arms where a fire was built.  The fire consumed the sacrifices lying in the outstretched arms above.  Molech was the god of the Amorites.  Remphan was a god of the Egyptians, Arabs and Phoenician.  It is thought to have been the worship of the planet Saturn.)

The people had no excuse.  God had given them the tabernacle, great leaders, the temple.  Still they chose the world instead of God.

The people did not understand the temple.  They did not understand that God was not limited to one place (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18; John 4:24).

The present generation of Israelites were rejecting God just as their fathers had done.  They were “stiff-necked” (sklerotracheloi) – hard necked, obstinate, stubborn.  They were “uncircumcised in heart” (aperitmetoi kardiais) – idolaters, false worshippers, ungodly.  They “resisted” – deliberately opposed or rushed against God, actively struggled and fought against God. 

The people persecuted all the prophets – the very ones who predicted the coming of the Messiah  (2 Chronicles 36:14-16).

Acts 7:54-60 (The Amplified Bible) – Now upon hearing these things, they [the Jews] were cut to the heart and infuriated, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen].  But he, full of the Holy Spirit and controlled by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory (the splendor and majesty) of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand; and he said, Look! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand!  But they raised a great shout and put their hands over their ears and rushed together upon him.  Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And while they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit!  And falling on his knees, he cried out loudly, Lord, fix not this sin upon them [lay it not to their charge]! And when he had said this, he fell asleep [in death]. 

Do I have the faith and courage of Stephen?

Is my testimony so great that I could possibly take some sort of physical torment by unbelievers?

Stephen was totally innocent of wrong doing in his life according to the Scriptures.  Could we fit that category – totally innocent?

Have we ever cried out in a loud voice about the goodness of God?  Is our testimony so great and persuasive that some might stop their ears?

When we are receiving verbal or possibly physical abuse for our stand for the Lord will we have the same forgiveness as Stephen?

Unlike Achan in the Old Testament who deserved punishment for his sin, Stephen did not deserve the treatment he received.  How do we respond to harsh treatment by others?  How do we respond to verbal abuse or criticism concerning our faith?

Arrested

Acts 4:1-22

Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

  • Arrested for Proclaiming the Truth
  • Arrested “as they were speaking.” 
  • Arrested by the religionist leaders.

The religious establishment was threatened by what the disciples were preaching.  If Jesus had arose from the dead, then He must have been what He claimed to be – the Son of God.  If that were true, they had murdered the Son of God.  If Jesus was really the Messiah, their very existence as priests and leaders in the Temple would be done away with. 

We should not be surprised if we are condemned, talked about, persecuted when we witness for Christ.  We should not be surprised if the very ones who cause us the most trouble are those who seem to be so righteous.

  • Their preaching bore results in spite of the persecution.

Man may hinder our witnessing, may make it more difficult, but he cannot stop the truth of God’s Word

NOTE:  The Sanhedrin was the ruling body of the Jews.  It had 72 members and was presided over by the High Priest.  The priests were made up of the male descendants of Aaron (Exodus 28:1, Numbers 3:1-3, Numbers 18:1-7).  By the time of Jesus there were over 20,000 priests.  Since there was only one temple, the priests were divided into groups.  Each group served in the temple for one week twice a year (1 Chronicles 24:1-6).  The High Priest was supposed to be a spiritual office appointed by the Jewish leaders, but by the time of Jesus, it had evolved into a political office and the Roman government appointed the high priest.  Caiaphas was the high priest appointed by the Romans.  However, Annas, who had been removed by the Romans, was apparently still the power behind the throne, and had tremendous influence among the Jewish leaders. 

  • Christ is Credited with the Power
  • Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

Matthew 10:18-20 – And you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak, for it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speaks, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Mark 13:11 – But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

Luke 21:12-15 – But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.

  • Peter and John took no personal credit
  • It was the name of Jesus Christ.  To the Jewish mind, a person’s name was the same thing as the person themselves.
  • To sign your name to a document was to pledge yourself.  The name of Jesus simply stands for the power, the might, the very being of Jesus Himself.  There is no magic in the words Jesus Christ.  The power is in the person behind the name.
  • Jesus had been crucified.  He had died.
  • Jesus had arose again.  He was alive.

NOTE:  Remember, we are reading this in the English translation of the Greek.  However, Peter would have been speaking in Aramaic.  What He would have said was Jesus the Messiah.  Christ is the Greek word for Messiah.  Peter was bolding telling the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, the promised Savior of their nation. 

  • Jesus Christ is the Source of Salvation.        
  • He is the Chief Cornerstone.  The main foundation. 

Psalm 118:22 – The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone…

Matthew 21:42 – Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’”

Ephesians 2:20 – having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

1 Peter 2:6 – Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.

  • Jesus Christ alone saves.  There is no other name to call on. 

John 3:16-17 – For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.

1 Corinthians 2:2 – For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 Corinthians 3:11 – For no other foundation can man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

NOTE:  The words used here – salvation and whole – are the same Greek word – sesotai.  It means to be saved, to be made whole, to be safe and sound, to be healed.  It means that a person is made whole and continues to be whole.  It means that the man was made whole in both body and soul.  Salvation in the Biblical sense includes all of man – spirit, body, soul (mind, emotions and will).

  • Fellowship with Jesus Christ Changes Men
  • Boldness
  • Power
  • Knowledge

Here is a challenge to us.  Do we spend enough time with Jesus that the world notices our boldness, our power, our knowledge (knowledge that does not come by natural means)?  Jesus longs for our fellowship with Him.

Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

John 14:23 – If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

John 17:20-24 – I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word (that’s you and me); that they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us….I in them, and You in Me;….that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.  Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am….

Revelation 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

  • Refusal to Compromise the Message
  • Regardless of threats
  • God must be obeyed
  • We cannot help but share what God has done for us

Matthew 5:11 – Blessed (happy) are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

2 Timothy 3:12 -“And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

1 Peter 3:15 – …be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you….

1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Matthew 5:16; John 15:8; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Colossians 1:12; Psalm 9:11; Psalm 35:28

The prophet, Jeremiah suffered persecution for proclaiming the message of God to Israel.  Finally, he said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.”  He concluded that “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire (fire shut up in my bones); I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.”

How could someone find a cure for Aids or cancer and not tell it to the world?  How could someone find a solution to the violence in our schools and not tell it to the world?  How could someone find an answer for all our abused children and not tell it to the world?

Well, we have the answer! It is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again. 

SHOUT IT OUT!!!! LET THE WORLD KNOW THAT JESUS SAVES (heals, makes whole, makes safe, complete, sound.)

NOTE:  After the disciples were released in today’s story, they reported back to the church all the threats that had been given to them.  Notice the church’s response.  They did not, as we would probably do, cry out for protection.  They did not question why God had permitted these threats?  They did not ask for God to rain down judgment on their accusers?  They did not ask God to please stop the threats or the persecution.

Rather, they asked for more boldness for themselves that they would continue to speak the Word and not be intimidated by the threats.  They asked for signs and wonders to be done through the name of Jesus.

Perhaps we need to change our prayers.

The Church Grows

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

  • The Church Received the Word Gladly. 
  • Jesus is the “Word.”  We cannot separate Jesus and the Word.  To receive one is to receive the other.  Christianity is unique among all religions in that our religion is based on a person – not a philosophy or set of teachings.

John 1:1-4, 14 – In the beginning was the Word (logos – a transmission of thought, communication, divine revelation, instruction) and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh (refers to the substance of the body) and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory….

Jesus is the living logos (John 1:1), the Bible is the written logos (Heb. 4:12) and the Holy Spirit utters the spoken logos (1 Corinthians 2:13).

  • Not everyone received the Word. 
  • Baptism followed belief.
  • Joining the church followed belief.
  • The Church Continued Steadfastly.

Steadfastly (proskarterountes) to continue, persevere, endure, stick, persist.  A person who does not quit, back off, fade away or slip back. 

  • Apostles’ doctrine (didache – the teaching, instruction).  If a church is to grow and persevere, there must be teaching of the Word. 

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples….teaching them….

2 Timothy 2:2 – And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

  • Worship and the Lord’s Supper – “Breaking of bread” refers to the observance of communion.  They observed the Lord’s Supper often because it points to the cross and all that God has done for us.  It also points toward His return.  The Lord’s Supper was a part of their worship.  Worship together is essential to the church.

Luke 22:19 – And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

1 Corinthians 11:26 – For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he comes.

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,….and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

  • Prayers – The Early Church was a praying church.  Over and over you see them gathering for prayer – when facing decisions, when facing persecution.  Look for the emphasis on prayer as you study the Book of Acts.
  • The Church Experienced God’s Mighty Power – Awe and respect were given them by the people, and wonders and signs were done through their leaders.
  • The Church Experienced Unity and Ministered to the Needy
  • There was no one in their midst who had needs unmet. 
  • They visited from house to house.
  • Their lives were lived in joy and simplicity.

Matthew 19:21; Matthew 19:29; Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:31-34; John 13:35; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesus 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Hebrews 13:5

  • The Church Experienced Worship
  • The Church Experienced Growth
  • God was the one who added to the church.  Only God can draw a person to Him and save Him.
  • The lives of the early church were used of God to draw people to Him.  God has chosen to use the church as the means to win souls. 

Acts 2:47 – praising God and having favor with all the people.

As you study Acts, note how people responded because of the lives and the actions of the church. 

Questions for us: 

  • Are we receiving the Word of God gladly?  Do we make every effort to meet regularly with fellow believers in community and Bible Study, to learn ourselves and to teach others?  Do we diligently study the Word at home?
  • Do we persevere, without slacking off, without slipping back, in study of God’s Word, in fellowship with other believers, in worship and observance of the Lord’s Supper, in prayer with other believers?
  • Are we experiencing God’s mighty power in our midst?  Are we experiencing unity among ourselves?  Are we sharing our lives together?  Are we ministering to the needy among us?  Do we even know what the needs are among us? 
  • Are we truly worshipping God as we gather each week?  Are we really allowing His presence to be among us?
  • Are we experiencing growth in our church – growth that comes as we live our lives in obedience to His Word and He draws people to Him as a result of our lives and actions?

The Day of Pentecost Experience

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses (one who tells what he has seen or heard or knows – comes from the same root word as our word for martyr – one who bears witness by his death) to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 2:1-4

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

  • The Pentecostal Experience
  • To be baptized with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with the Spirit of God.  It is described as an outpouring of the Spirit by which the believer is filled with the presence of the third Person of the Trinity, who serves the believer as Paraclete (advocate of intercessor).  This indwelling as Paraclete gives the believer the special endowment of the power of God. 
  • The Scriptures use the term “baptize” with the Holy Spirit when God poured out His spirit on the disciples on the day of Pentecost.  This term is also applicable to the other instances recorded in the book of Acts where believers received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

Acts 8:14-17 – Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit

Acts 10:44-48 – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.  Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

Acts 19:1-6 – And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”  And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”  So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”  Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

  • The special characteristic of this experience is that the believer is filled with the Spirit.  In Ephesians 5:18, this concept of being filled with the Spirit stands in contract to being “drunk with wine.”  To be filled with the Spirit is to be brought under the influence of the Spirit of God so that the Spirit governs the personal nature of the believer in mind, emotions and will.
  • The Holy Spirit is the personal agent for the revelation of God.

1 Corinthians 2;9-11 – But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

  • His various titles in Scripture identify Him as the Spirit of God. 

Matthew 3:16 – When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.

See also Isaiah 11:2; 61:1 and Luke 4:18

  • In Romans 8:9 we see that He is called the Spirit of Christ.  In Galatians 4:6 we find Him called the Spirit of His (God’s) Son.  There are many other titles of the Holy Spirit and special characteristics of these titles are that they identify the Holy Spirit in His relationship in the holy Trinity, i.e., in His divine nature.
  • The experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is promised to those who believe on Jesus Christ for salvation.

John 14:15-17 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

  • After giving the promise of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16, Christ prayed for the sanctifying (cleansing, purifying) of the disciples in John 17. 
  • To be filled with the Spirit is to be freed from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2-4 – For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

  • It is also to walk in the Spirit, manifesting the graces of Jesus Christ. 

Galatians 5:16-25 – say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

You Shall Receive Power – for What?

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

For many of us who are from or in a Pentecostal church we sometimes forget that the “power” we are to be recipients of is more than the shouting kind of power, more than the jumping-the-pew kind of power, more than the speaking-in-tongues kind of power.  The power we have received as baptized believers is the power to be servants, the power to be witnesses, the power to be hourly and daily over comers living our lives as spiritual creations of our God rising above the sin and strife of this world.

The Word of God says where there is no vision the people perish. 

            I don’t want my family to perish.

            I don’t want my neighbors to perish.

            I don’t want my community to perish.

            I don’t want my state, my country, this world to perish.

God’s Word states that He is not willing that any should perish, but rather all to receive everlasting life.

We celebrate around the world the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and those gathered in the upper room.  His coming was to empower them for service, to empower them with grace, to empower them with the Holy Spirit to go forth and be witnesses and win the lost to Jesus Christ.

We have a great responsibility.  I am not talking about talking in tongues or the gifts of the Spirit.  I am not talking about the other things we equate with Pentecost – the emotional things.  I have no problem with speaking in tongues – it is in the Bible.  I have no problem with being slain in the Spirit – it is in the Bible.  I have no problem with the other emotional things done in Pentecostal churches- it is in the Bible.  I have been involved in these things and it is real. 

But we need to know that the Holy Spirit was not given for you to feel good.  The Holy Spirit was not given to you just so you could experience the emotional things we sometimes exhibit.  The Holy Spirit and His endowment of power was given so we would be witnesses of the grace of God.

The Holy Spirit and power will change your life.  The Holy Spirit and power will give you strength to overcome all the temptations that you are faced with.  No more will you walk around with “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”  You will be changed and you will stand and you will say, “By the grace of God and the power he has placed within me, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

God’s Spirit gets down inside of you and you cannot help but tell of the glory of God and His power.  It is time for us to get on fire for Jesus Christ.  It is time to lay down some of the habits that we picked up when we were in the world.  It is time to lay them aside and say, “By the grace of God, I will do what God has called me to do.”

You must stand determined in the power of God.  You must stand in purity and holiness.  You must stand and, having done all, stand.  You must be willing to go forth and be the witness God has called you to be.

When the Gifts of the Spirit Come to Church

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

It all began on the day of Pentecost.  John the Baptist had foretold of someone coming who would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt. 3:11).  Jesus had told his disciples that when He had returned to the Father, He would send “another Helper that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).  Then, just before He ascended into heaven, He instructed them to “wait in Jerusalem” until they were filled with power from on high (Luke 24:49).  He told them that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8).

The Early Church was founded and grew by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Throughout the book of Acts we read where the disciples healed, preached and answered their accusers as they were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

Peter in Acts 4:8 was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when he answered the rulers of Israel’s accusations after he had healed the lame man.

Peter told Ananias and Sapphira that it was the Holy Spirit they were lying to in Acts 5.

When there was a complaint about the division of daily food between the Hebrews and the Hellenists, the disciples’ answer was to find men “full of the Holy Spirit” to take care of the daily administrative needs of the church (Acts 6).

Stephen was “full of faith and power” when he did great wonders and signs among the people.  Acts 6:10 tells us that the Jewish rulers could not “resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.”  When he went to his death he went “full of the Holy Spirit” according to Acts 7:55. 

Another lay person, Philip, went to Samaria and preached Christ and performed miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8).   Later the spirit directed Philip to leave the revival at Samaria and sent him into the desert to share the Gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch.  After baptizing the eunuch, it was the Spirit that conveyed Philip away. 

The great leader Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit before he began his great ministry to the Gentiles.  We could speak of the Spirit falling upon Cornelius and his household in Acts 10, of the prompting of the Holy Spirit upon a man called Agabus to prophecy of a coming famine that led to the church at Antioch taking up what was probably the first relief offering in the church, about the Holy Spirit speaking to the church at Antioch to set Barnabas and Paul forth as the church’s first missionary team to the Gentiles. 

The Bible even claims for itself that it was written by holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit so our Bible is a book whose writer is the Holy Spirit.  Every time we read the Bible, we are reading the word inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Even our last book of the Bible, Revelation, was given to John as he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10).

So, we see that the Early Church was a church in which the Holy Spirit was recognized as an essential part of the Godhead and an essential part of the believer’s life.  As the church began to become more accepted, believers began to allow the beliefs, ideas and philosophies of the world penetrate the church.  Slowly, over time, the church lost its power with God as it gained power with man. 

Still, the church record is full of times and peoples when the church returned to its desire for God’s power.  In those times, there are records of the Holy Spirit falling again as it did on the day of Pentecost. 

There have been revivals of the Pentecostal experience in our recent history.  In the early 1900’s revival came in our southern states and in California giving birth to the Assembly of God and other Pentecostal denominations.  Again, in the late 1950’s there was a move of the Spirit in the mainline denominations.  This is often referred to as the “Charismatic renewal.” 

The word “Pentecostal” – 50 – came from the feast which occurred 50 days after the Passover.  It was the Feast of Weeks or the Day of First fruits, a celebration of the first buds of harvest.  How appropriate that the Lord was crucified on Passover and the Church was born on Pentecost. Charismatic – from the Greek word charismata is used in 1 Corinthians 12 to describe the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

In recent years there has been a great revival of Pentecost in South America.  Pentecostal churches are growing so fast in what was formerly predominately Catholic countries that the Pope is sitting up and taking notice of this move of God.  We look at the church in America and we think the days of signs and wonders are over.  We think “it was only for a particular time or a particular place.”  Yet, everywhere in the world except for the USA, Canada and most parts of Europe, the church is growing by leaps and bounds and it is exhibiting the marks of the Early Church.  People are being baptized in the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit are operating.

Is it important that the gifts of the Spirit operate in our church today?  Should we be concerned if the gifts are not in operation?  Whose responsibility is it for the gifts to be in operation?

It is important only if the following things are things we desire in our church.

  • For souls to be won to the Lord.  We see by what our Lord Jesus said that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit for us to be witnesses.  (To Know, To Be, To Tell). 

Acts 1:8 – The Holy Spirit is the Person and the Power by which assistance and ability are given for serving, for sharing the life and power of God with others.      

  • For the church to be strengthened and to grow.

Ephesians 4:12 – The Holy Spirit gives the Church gifts so that we may each find our place of ministry, fill that place and see the church grow (numerical expansion) and edified (internal strengthening). 

1 Corinthians 12:7 – Profit – to bring together, to benefit, to be advantageous. 

Whose responsibility is it? 

  • The leaders – Ephesians 4:11-12 – And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ
  • The individuals – 1 Corinthians 12:31 – But earnestly desire the best gifts. Desire – to burn with desire, to pursue zealously, to desire intensely.

How do we see the gifts of the Spirit come to the church? It has always come about when there has been a real recognition by God’s people of a need for renewal in their own lives and in the lives of their church and community.  When there has been a definite effort on the part of sincere believers to receive this power of the Holy Spirit and to allow the Holy Spirit to have control and move in their lives.

Equipping Ministry Gifts – Ephesians 4:11 – And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers

  • Apostle
  • Prophet
  • Evangelist
  • Pastor
  • Teacher

Body Ministry Gifts – Romans 12:3-8 – For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

  • Exhortation
  • Teaching
  • Service
  • Administration
  • Benevolence
  • Giving
  • Hospitality

Manifestation Gifts – 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 – for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

  • Word of Wisdom
  • Word of Knowledge
  • Discerning of Spirits
  • Faith
  • Healings
  • Miracles
  • Prophecy
  • Tongues
  • Interpretation of Tongues

What is the Greatest Miracle?

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

The Promise

  • Power
  • Witness

The Event

  • One accord
  • Prayer and supplication

Acts 1:14 – These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Acts 2:1 – When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

The Results

  • Boldness (Peter spoke up)
  • Prophecy (the prophet Joel was quoted)

Acts 2:14 – But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.

Acts 2:16 – But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel

The great miracle on the day of Pentecost

  • 3000 added to the church
  • They continued faithfully in doctrine/teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread (hospitality and communion) and prayer
  • There was signs and wonders
  • There was sharing with one another
  • There was unity

Acts 2:41-42 – Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:47 – praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The Holy Spirit is a gift, not a miracle, but it will produce miracles in your life.  

The greatest miracle that happened was the gospel being preached and believers coming to know Jesus as Savior. The only event that causes angels to rejoice in heaven is when one soul comes to know Christ in salvation.  

Luke 15:10 – In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – What is the Sign and Purpose?

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

  • What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
  • The initial evidence of the Holy Spirit – Biblical view and denominational view
  • The continuing evidence of the Holy Spirit
  • Some misconceptions of the initial reception of the Holy Spirit
  • Some misconceptions of the reason of and the work of the Holy Spirit in our life
  • Can I speak in tongues or sing in tongues at will?

Acts 1:8 – But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

  • You will receive power
  • You will be witnesses
  • No tongues mentioned

Luke 24:48-49 – And you are witnesses of these things.  Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

  • Were to tarry until endued with power
  • No tongues mentioned

Isaiah 44:3 – For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.

  • God will pour out His spirit and blessing
  • No tongues mentioned

Joel 2:28-29 – And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.  And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

  • God will pour out His spirit
  • Prophesy – dreams – visions
  • No tongues mentioned

John 14:26-28 – But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.

  • Holy Spirit will be a helper (a comforter)
  • He will teach and bring to remembrance what Jesus has said
  • No tongues mentioned

Zechariah 12:10 – And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication.

  • Spirit of grace
  • Spirit of supplication (prayer)
  • No tongues mentioned

Ezekiel 11:19-20 –  Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,  that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

  • New Spirit that will give them a new heart
  • They will then walk in God’s Laws and keep His commandments
  • They will be God’s people

Acts 2:4 – And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

  • They were all filled and they did all speak with other tongues
  • They spoke in tongues “as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Mark 16:17And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues.

  • Tongues would be one of the signs of believers

Acts 10:44-46 – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.

  • Tongues was an indication to Peter and the other Jews that the Holy Spirit had been given to the Gentiles – the tongues were used to praise God

1 Corinthians 12 & 13 & 14 – entailed use of tongues in the church

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 – But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

  • Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the profit of all
  • Holy Spirit gives as He wills

1 Corinthians 12:30 – Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

Acts 19:2-7 — he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”  And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”  So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”  Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.  Now the men were about twelve in all.

  • Spoke with tongues
  • Also prophesied

Acts 4:31 – And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

  • They spoke the word of God with “boldness”
  • No tongues mentioned

Acts 8:16-19 – For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.  And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

  • Obviously something happened that could be “seen” but what is not said
  • No tongues is specially mentioned

Acts 9:17-18 – And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.

  • His eyes were healed
  • No tongues mentioned

Acts 13:52 – And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

  • Joy
  • No tongues mentioned

1 Corinthians 14:2-4 – For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.  But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

  • Tongues improves himself
  • Prophesy improves the church
  • The continuing evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life
  • You will be a witness
    • You will have boldness
    • You will have power over sin
    • You will live a holy life
    • You will have a desire for the Word of God
    • You will have a desire to communicate with the Father
  • Speaking in tongues at will?

Acts 2:4 – And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Galatians 2:20 – And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

  • If Christ lives in me, He is the cause of my speaking.  I am not the one controlling the tongues.  The Holy Spirit is the one who speaks though Me.  He is in charge.
  • Coaxing/encouraging “baby talk”

There are many different ideas of how one becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  People are told to repeat some word over and over.  As they repeat it over and over, faster and faster, it becomes gibberish.  Someone then shouts “Praise the Lord!  They have received the Holy Spirit.”  The individual goes back to their seat filed with unholy gibberish.

Many times people are told to “practice” this gibberish until they become proficient at it.  Can you “practice” the Holy Spirit?  Can you “practice” the other gifts of the Spirit? 

Is there too much obsession with tongues over other manifestations of the Holy Spirit?  What about the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Galatians 5:22-26 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Living Sacrifices

The Bible teaches in the following passage how we are to live as Christians.  Living sacrifices are a greater influence to mankind in this sinful world, much more than a dead sacrifice.  Martyrs cannot preach the Gospel any more.  Martyrs are not able to witness anymore.  It takes someone alive in Christ to continue the work of winning souls.

Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!   “For who has known the mind of the LORD?  Or who has become His counselor?”, “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

  • These scriptures speak to us of the greatness, the wisdom, the mercy and the love of God toward His creation.  That’s US.  You and I are the objects of God’s attention.  Did you know that?  That is something to get excited about.  God loves you.

Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

  • Let us look very carefully at these first two verses of chapter 12.  Note that what is about to be said is not to the world, but to the church, to the people of God, that people who call themselves “Christian.”
  • There is not a worse advertisement for the church and the work of the church than those who call themselves “Christian” and live like the world. 
  • Someone said “If you run with the goats on Saturday night, don’t expect to smell like a sheep on Sunday morning.”
  • There is more to being a Christian than shedding a few crocodile tears at the altar.  It is walking straight after you go out the door.
  • There is more to living for Christ Jesus than the 10:30 or 11:00 worship hour on Sunday morning. 
  • There is more to being a Christian than joining a church or living a creed.  It is called dedication, consecration, sanctification and a whole lot more.  Be a good advertisement for the Lord.

Give your all for Him – He gave His all for you.

  • I beseech you – I implore you, I beg you.  Remember this verse is addressed to the people of God.  Did you know that some people in the church need to be coached, begged, counseled, and convinced of what is right and what really is the truth?  People attending church may point to a particular sin and say, “I would never do that.”  Yes, you would if sin is in control.  If you have not been truly changed by the saving grace of Jesus and the indwelling power of the Spirit, who knows but God what you are capable of doing.
  • Brethren – to the house of faith.  That is you and I.  This passage is addressed to us, the church, the believers, the body of Christ.  One passage of Scripture states that “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”  Another states, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, what of the ungodly?”  As ambassadors of Christ, we must be holy, blameless, walking worthy of the calling that Christ has called us to. 
  • Is holy living popular today?  In some churches it will get you in trouble if you preach it.  Let’s look at someone who lived in the early 1700’s who was not popular because of his stance on holiness – John Wesley.  Here is a single passage from the journal of John Wesley:

1738
Sunday a.m., May 7, preached in St. Lawrence’s, was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday p.m., May 7, preached at St. Katherine Cree’s church, deacons said, “Get out and stay out.”
Sunday a.m., May 14, preached at St. Ann’s, can’t go back there either.
Sunday afternoon, May 21, preached at St. John’s, kicked out again.
Sunday evening, May 21, preached at St. somebody else’s, Bennet’s maybe, deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.

1739
Tuesday, May 8, afternoon service, preached in a pasture in Bath, 1,000 people came to hear me.
Sunday, September 9, preached to 10,000 people three weeks in a row in Moorfields

It may not be popular, but most people really do want to hear the truth.

  •  By the mercies of God – How do you measure the mercies of God?  Were it not for the mercies of God, you and I would not be here today.  It is only His great mercy that we are able to get ourselves out of bed, dress ourselves, feed ourselves and find our way to the House of God.  We take so much for granted.
  • It is only because of His mercy that we were born in this great country.  Yes, it is a great country even with its sin. 
    • It is only because of His mercy we have a place like this beautiful sanctuary to worship in.
    • It is only because of His mercy that somebody somewhere told us about the saving grace of Jesus.
    • It is only by His mercy that we have a mind capable of coming to the conclusion that He is the one who will take us, shape us, and make us in the image of his own self.  GLORY!!!
  •  That you present your bodies – You cannot present your body to serve God and continue to allow your mind and your will to go unbridled and service the flesh.  It’s all or nothing. You cannot walk the fence and serve God.  The devil, the enemy of your soul, can duplicate everything in the Christian’s life.  Everything except one thing.  Think about it.  The devil cannot duplicate consistent holy living.  You must have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing and holy before God.  You are just not strong enough on your own.  You need help!  God’s help – daily, hourly, every moment 24/7 365.

Psalms 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength.  A very present help in time of trouble.”

James 4:7 – “Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

You cannot get past the temptation if you are debating the devil or continuing to dwell on the temptation.  The scripture says to first, submit to God.  Another passage says He will give you a way of escape.  To resist the devil so that he will flee from you may take many forms.  One way would be, instead of dwelling on the temptation, go and do a good deed, start singing praises to God, or reach for your Bible.  Do anything except debate the devil unless you can quote him a scripture or two.  BUT IT STARTS WITH SUBMISSION TO GOD.

Ephesians 5:8 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.

  •  A living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God – A lot of things have come down the pike regarding the term “holy” or “holiness.”  What does the Word of God say about the matter?  It is not what Aunt Tillie, Uncle Joe or grandmother says.  It is not what a church organization says.  It is not what some ecclesiastical potentate of some sort says.  It is what “thus says the Lord.”  Are you pleasing to God?  That is what matters.
  •  Your reasonable service – Reasonable, rational, intelligent, logical, not in any way unreasonable.  He never demands or asks anything you cannot do. 

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

1 Corinthians 6:20 – “For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

  •  Do not be conformed to this world – You do not belong to this world any more.  You are a child of God.  Act like it; speak like it; live like it.  You are fashioned after, shaped as, conformed like Him if you indeed have received Him.  You are not your own.  You belong to Him and you belong to each other.  When you live in a manner less than your Heavenly Father intends for you to live, you bring reproach on Him, on the church and on each other.  We are all part of the same body, so we need to have respect for Him, for the church, for each other.

1 John 2:15-16 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Romans 6:6-7 – Know this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

  •  Be transformed by the renewing of the mind – When you came to Christ, you had a heart transplant, but you also needed your thinking rewired.  That did not happen necessarily at the same time.  You were changed, but the change did not happen automatically.  The mind changed when God’s presence so overwhelmed you at your request and His delight as you became one with Him in the sanctifying grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
  •  That you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God – If we are living as we should, we will show forth the Lord’s glory in our life and be in His perfect will.  Are you living in His perfect will?  Is your life bringing glory to Him?

Being holy is not a dispensational thing.  God has demanded holiness from all time.  Look at one more example of a man who tried to live holy – John Chrysostom.

John Chrysostom was one of the greatest of the Greek Church fathers.  He lived in A.D. 347-407.  Pastor of Antioch and Bishop of Constantinople, he was called “Golden Mouth.”  He preached a lengthily series of sermons on Genesis, Matthew, John and Romans, most of which are still available today.

As a very young Christian he was brought before the emperor, who said that if he would not give up Christ; he would be banished from the country.  Chrysostom said, “You cannot, for the whole world is my Father’s land.  You can’t banish me.”  The emperor said, “Then I will take away all your property.”  “You cannot.  My treasures are in heaven,” was the reply.  “Then I’ll take you to a place where there is not a friend to speak to.”  Chrysostom replied, “You cannot.  I have a friend who is closer than a brother.  I shall have Jesus Christ, forever.”  The emperor finally threatened, “Then I’ll take away your life!”  The answer was, “You cannot.  My life is hid with God in Christ.”  And the emperor said, “What do you do with a man like that?”

Running the Race

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

  • What is right and what is wrong?
    • Right – those things that bring glory to God
    • Wrong – those things that go against the very nature of God’s holiness
    • Gray area?
    • Acquired sin factor – those things taught, believed, culturally identified with wrong, but in and of itself was not wrong.

2 Timothy 2:15 – Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

1 Corinthians 9:19-22 – For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;  and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;  to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;  to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

These verses speak of freedom but are followed by verses 24-27 which emphasize a life of strict discipline.  The Christ walk involves both freedom and discipline.  The goals of Paul’s life and our life are to bring glory and honor to God and bring people to Christ.

So then…glorify God, honor God, and bring someone to the knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

You might ask yourself, “Can I do this?  Can I participate in this?  Can I go there?  Can I say this?  The Bible states that we are to “abstain from the very appearance of evil.”

Paul compares the Christian life to a race.  Someone who is getting ready to run a marathon will be very careful of their diet, will exercise and get needed rest before the race.  They will not sit up watching movies until the wee hours of the morning and indulge in a huge meal the night before the race.  There is nothing wrong with sitting up late watching movie or indulging in a huge meal in and of itself.  But if they want to win, they discipline their body.

So it is with our Christian walk.  They are things that in and of them self are not wrong, but we must ask our self  will they sidetrack us or someone else?  Will they cause us to be entangled in the cares of this world?

if they hinder us from spending time in God’s Word, in being in fellowship with other Christians, in showing to our community, we need to reject them.

Freedom and discipline are both important.  We can have varied opinions on a lot of things but we must discipline ourselves and also care about how our freedom will affect others.

! Corinthians 10:1-6 – Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.

The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—“First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.  (The Message Bible)

Free is fine, but do not use your freedom to stray, to walk in those areas that could lead you into wrong doing. 

Take care that your freedom does not cause you to rebel.