A Voice in the Wilderness

John 1:19-23

Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”  And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”  He said, “I am not.”  “Are you the Prophet?”  And he answered, “No.” 

Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”  He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

A voice in the wilderness

  • What kind of voice? – Loud, clear and commanding
  • To whom is the voice speaking? –  He that has an ear
  • What was the message?  –  Repent, turn to Jesus
  • What was the character of the voice? –  Recognized his purpose was to draw attention to Jesus, not himself.  “I must decrease, He must increase.”

Isaiah 40:3-5 – The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

We are also called to be a voice in the wilderness

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

John 20:21 – So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.

  • What is our voice?  Are we speaking without fear of man, are we clear in our message?
  • To whom are we speaking?  Are we really to speak to all we meet, to all who show an open heart?
  • What is our message?  Are we promoting our church, our doctrine, or Jesus Christ?
  • What is our character?  Are we trying to be noticed, to have our self-admired or looked up to?  Are we lifting up Jesus, not our self?

A Changed Life

Acts 9:20-22

Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.  Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”  But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

Paul

  • Immediately – Paul began immediately to preach about the Christ, “The Anointed One.”
  • Amazed – “What a change!”  Paul was changed because of his own experience in coming face to face with the Anointed One (Acts 9:1-6).
  • Increased – Paul was increased in spiritual strength.
  • Confounded – Paul perplexed the Jews in Damascus “for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:28). 

Us

  • Immediately – We must begin immediately to serve the Lord – testifying of what He has done in our life.
  • Amazed – “What a change!”  There should be a change in us – in our reactions, our behavior, our attitude – a change that others will notice and know that there has been a change in us.
  • Increased – Where did that knowledge of Paul come from?  The same Lord is available to us to increase our knowledge of His grace and His Word.
  • Confounded – God will also give us an understanding of His Word – of the message of salvation so that we can share with others.

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?

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.

Walk as Children of Light

Ephesians 5:8-10

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.

Melody Shick, dressed as a rag doll with a teddy bear in her arms and a display of stuffed animals all about her, sat for 5 hours, 43 minutes setting a new record for the Guinness Book of Records.  Previous record was 5 hours, 32 minutes.  As this young lady sat motionless on a circular rotating display, numbers of people questioned whether she was a manikin or was real.  Imagine 5 hours, 43 minutes. 

Some church people have that record beat. The world is watching them.  They look like Christians should look.  They talk like Christians.  They even go to church, but there is no real fruit or evidence.  The world wonders, are they real or just a life-size replica of what a Christian is supposed to be.

  • Jesus has called us to be the light to the world.

Matthew 5:14-16 – You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Philippians 2:15-16 – that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

  • Jesus gave us the Great Commission

Mark 16:15 – Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 

Sharing the gospel requires us to be a witness.  What is a witness?

  1. A witness is one who knows something.  We cannot share what we do not know ourself.  That is why it is so important that we study God’s Word, that we experience ourself of His love and presence.

Joshua 1:8 – This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

2 Timothy 2:16-17 – All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

  • A witness is one who is something.

Ephesians 5:1 – Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

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.

Colossians 3:1-6 – If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.

  • A witness is one who tells something.

Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

1 Peter 3:15 – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.