As followers of Christ, we have the privilege of proclaiming the greatest news in all the world—that God has sent his Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for sinners and then to rise from the dead, conquering sin and death! However, if we’re honest, proclaiming this good news isn’t always easy. Our sins, weaknesses, and fears often get in the way. Gratefully, God hasn’t left us alone in this task of sharing the gospel and making disciples. In this message from Acts 1:1–8, David Platt reminds us that Christ has given us his own Spirit, not only to comfort us but also to empower our witness in the world.
Before we begin our time together in the Word, I want to get a couple of volunteers who would be willing to help me out. I think junior high or middle schoolers are in here. Can I get a middle school volunteer? That’s great, come on up on stage. I need a member of the praise team or in the choir. I need somebody who enjoys singing. Praise team or choir member? Ok, got one, there we go. Head up on stage. I need somebody who is a Small Group Leader. Can I get a Small Group Leader from somewhere? There we got one. Everybody is pointing at everybody else. “There that guy. He would love to do it or she would love to do it.” Now I need one of the lay pastors. Larry, why don’t you be our last volunteer? Larry, come on up man. All right. Here we go.
This crew up here is going to be our fire fighting crew. Obviously, as the fire fighting crew, their purpose is to do what? Fight Fires. Exactly, very good. What I am going to do is give them some different tasks that they will have in this purpose. All they have to do is simply act those tasks out for us and be able to remember them. Easy enough.
Let’s start with the two middle schoolers up here. You can both do this, kind of sort of. What we need you guys to do is drive the fire truck. Have you ever driven before? Yes? Are your parents here? Maybe one of you guys can drive and one can sit in the passenger seat. You can drive and you can sit in the passenger seat. Rocking out to the music on the way to the fire. Enjoying this! Very good.
Alright, supposing we make it to the fire, who’s the choir member? What we need you to do, we got these guys driving the fire truck, but obviously we need to alert some guys that we are coming, so we need a siren. If you could give us a siren, that would be great. Now, no microphone, the world is going to hear you. It’s going to be that loud. Pretty good. Very good, either it sounds like an animal dying or a siren, either one. We have somebody driving the fire truck. We have a siren.
Let’s see. Let me get a Small Group Leader, two of you to do this. What we need you all to do is when we get to the fire, we need you to hook the hose up to the fire hydrant and spray the hose on the burning building. Go for it. Very good. With smiles on their faces. Happy fire fighting crew.
Our lay pastor, why don’t you step forward? You are the responsible one in the group here and so what we need you to do is when we get to the fire, we need you to put the ladder up on the building, climb the ladder and save the babies from the top of the burning building. So that’s what you will do. Go for it. Very happy. Very happy. Save the babies. Wow, well done.
Lets see, we got guys driving the fire truck, we have a great siren, we have water, we have got spraying water on the burning building, we have someone saving the babies. What do we need in a fire fighting crew that every crew has that we don’t have yet? You know Larry, I haven’t thought about it, but every fire fighting crew does have a dog, doesn’t it? That hadn’t even crossed my mind. Larry, I know you’re the only one left, I tell you what, can we have a dog? Wow.
Let’s review. What is your purpose? What is your purpose? Driving the fire truck. Siren. Hook up hose and spray the building. Put the ladder on the building, climb and save the babies. You all give it up for our firefighting crew. Thank you very much.
Now what just happened is these very willing volunteers came up here and we said in the very beginning this is our fire fighting crew and their obvious purpose is to do what? Everyone said that their purpose was to put out fires. Then I said I am going to give them some different tasks that they need to remember, so I did. Then I went back and ask them each a question. Do you know what question I asked them? I said what was your purpose? What did they give me? They gave me the different tasks they were responsible for, but remember from the very beginning their purpose was to do what? Put out fires.
I intentionally mislead them. That was the whole point of the illustration. What I want to say to you is that I think there is a great tendency in the church for us to get so consumed and caught up with our tasks, our responsibilities, our gifts and our talents, our personalities, that are all different, somewhere along the way we have the tendency to completely loose site of the purpose of the church. The purpose that we are all giving ourselves to. Leading people, men, women, boys and girls, to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. That is the purpose of why God has us here. To show and to share the gospel in Birmingham and in all nations. I think somewhere along the way we have a tendency to miss out on that purpose.
Now, I know what you are thinking, “Not another sermon about witnessing or evangelism. This is not my thing. I don’t do that. I’m not good at that.” If that is what you are thinking, what I want to say to you is you are not alone, literally, you are not alone. You are not intended to think that I can do that on my own. I can do this thing.
What I want to show you in Scripture from Acts 1 is that we are not alone in the purpose for which God has created us as a church. I want you to turn in your Bible to Acts 1. We have sung about the Holy Spirit. What I want us to see in Scripture is what the Holy Spirit’s roll is in our lives. If we are going to sing about the Holy Spirit raining down, then we need to know what the Holy Spirit does when He rains down on us.
I want us to take a biblical look amidst all the diverse opinions there are about what the Holy Spirit looks like in the church or our lives. I want to take a biblical look at what the Holy Spirit does in our lives and somewhere along the way I think we will all discover the purpose for each of our lives and the purpose for The Church at Brook Hills.
We are going to start in Acts 1 and read the first 8 verses. We are really going to camp out on verse 8 especially. I want you to see the Holy Spirit’s roll in our lives. In small groups, you have been looking at what spiritual authorities exists. Just like Paul says in Ephesians 6, “Our battle is not against the flesh of this world, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the authorities of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The Holy Spirit is given to us for the spiritual battle we are involved in everyday”. Let’s look at what He does.
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:1-8).
What is the Role of the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit Fills Us with Power
What does the Holy Spirit do in our lives? First of all, if you are taking notes, I want you to see the Holy Spirit fills us with power. The Holy Spirit fills us with power. From the very beginning of this text in this book, we see Jesus speaking to His disciples and He says, “The Holy Spirit is going to come on you and you are going to be witnesses.” Three times in this verse, verse 8, Jesus emphasizes, the Holy Spirit is going to be on you.
Now, it is important for us to understand the context here. Who wrote the book of Acts? Who wrote the book of Acts? Luke. Luke also wrote the book of? Luke. In the first book that he wrote, the book of Luke, we see Luke showing us the life of Jesus and throughout Jesus’ life we see the Holy Spirit was on Him, leading Him and guiding Him. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit would come and go on people’s lives. When we get to Luke, we see chapter 4:1, and verse 14 in the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry the Holy Spirit was on Jesus and leading Jesus. Everything He did was lead by the Holy Spirit.
So, we get to Acts 1, Jesus is about to go off the scene and ascend into heaven and He says, “Now the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you. And you are going to have His power, and He’s going to lead your life.” Almost like a relay race, passing of the baton, and Jesus is passing the baton to His disciples. The Holy Spirit that has been on me is going to be on you and you are going to need Him.
In fact, hold your place and turn back to the end of Luke 24. I want you to see what Jesus said at the end of the book of Luke. This is Luke’s version of The Great Commission, before He ascends into heaven. Look with me in Luke 24 we will read in verse 45 and the verses that follow there. I want you to hear; now these are the last words that Jesus is speaking to His disciples, so we know they are really important.
Look at verse 45 in Luke 24, it says, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high’” (Luke 24:45-49).
Did you catch what Jesus just did? He said, “All right guys here is the message: Christ suffered, died and rose on the third day. There is the message you just got and here is what you are going to do with it. You are going to go out and preach it in all nations; you are going to proclaim this message. And He says that before you even think about going to do that, don’t miss the means by which this message is going to go out. The Holy Spirit is going to fill you and you are going to be clothed with power from on high.” In other words, Jesus is telling these guys, “Don’t even think about trying to do this on your own.”
And that’s the whole point, showing and sharing the gospel in our lives. What I want to say to you and encourage you with is, if you feel inadequate, if you feel like this is not your thing and you are just not good at introducing others to Christ and telling other people about the gospel. If that’s the way you feel, that’s exactly how you should feel. That’s the whole point.
Just like we talked about a few weeks ago. If you were here as we walked from beginning to end in Scripture and looked at Psalms 67, God desires to bless us so that His glory would be made known in all nations. God has designed this whole thing we call evangelism. Designed this whole witnessing thing, so that in the end our weaknesses are put on display and He has to show His strength or else we fall flat on our faces. It is all designed so that you don’t get the credit for leading people to Christ. It is all designed so that His glory is made known and if you have had the opportunity to share the gospel with the people, then you know that it is in those times that the Holy Spirit is clearly showing that it is not you, but it is Him.
Let’s admit it. For us to go out this week into our homes and into our places where we work and to tell people about what we would even say is a foolish message. And expect them to hear our words, turn their lives upside down, rearrange their entire lives, believe in the message that we are sharing and experience an entire new life for Jesus Christ just because of what we say. Are we really good enough to do this? Are you really that smart? Are you that intellectual? That charismatic? No! That’s the whole point though. The Holy Spirit is there to fill us with power to do what we are not able to do on our own.
Go with me back to the beginning of Acts. In Acts 2, I want you to see this, a beautiful illustration of exactly what we are talking about right here. Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes down on the people of God, in what we call Pentecost. They all begin to speak in different languages. It is an amazing scene. I want you to look at verse 14. I want you to look at what happens in verse 14 after the Holy Spirit comes down, it says, “Then Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd” (Acts 2:14). Basically, Peter begins to preach the first Christian sermon. Boldly, standing up in front of the whole crowd.
Now, think about this guy, Peter. When was the last time we saw Peter in the book of Luke? What was he doing? He was denying Christ. The guy was ashamed to even admit that he knew Jesus, certainly not willing to tell people about Jesus, so how did Peter go from the place where he was afraid to even talk about Jesus to the point where he is standing up in front of a whole crowd of people boldly preaching the gospel. What’s the difference?
Well, in between the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts, Jesus died on the cross, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven and sent who down to Peter, the Holy Sprit. It made all the difference in the world and I think that’s great encouragement for you and me. A lot of us find ourselves in Peter’s situation. We are timid and we are scared of this idea that we need to be sharing the gospel and we shirk back at our responsibility. How do we go from that point to the point where we are boldly, clearly sharing the gospel? The difference is not your intellect, the difference is not your strength or the faith you can muster up, but the difference is the Holy Spirit in your life. Ordinary people are doing extraordinary things all throughout the book of Acts because the Holy Spirit is on them.
I laugh whenever I think about this; I remember in college, I was rooming with two guys at one point. All three of us living in the same room and neither of them were believers. I had shared the gospel with them many times, but they just for whatever reason had never ever accepted the gospel and their hearts were hard for the gospel. I remember one night I went to bed before they did and they were just sitting up watching TV. They told me the next morning, in the middle of the night; I apparently sat up in my bed. They were like, Dave, you sat up in your bed and you just started telling us about how Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave and how we could have our lives changed because of that. Sleep Evangelism, you ought to try it sometime. How cool would that be? To wake up in the middle of the night and see your friends at your bedside giving their life to Christ. That would be pretty amazing.
I am just willing to believe that if we give ourselves to telling people about Christ, we would see the power of the Holy Spirit work in ways that we never could have imagined. I think this is what we see throughout the book of Acts and throughout the history of the church. One of my favorite guys in the history of the church, a guy named D.L. Moody.
He started doing inner city work in Chicago. He started preaching. God was pouring down His Spirit on D.L. Moody and people were coming to Christ left and right. He began to preach in different cities in America, then in England, revival and awakening just breaking out wherever he preached. I remember reading in his biography about one particular town. They were discussing who to have come and speak at their revival meetings. Everybody was talking about D.L. Moody. We need to get D.L. Moody. One guy stood up in the front and said “I don’t understand why we need to get D.L. Moody, its not like he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit.” Everything got real quiet. Old, wiser gentlemen stood up in the back and he said, “Son you are exactly right, D.L. Moody does not have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit, however, the Holy Spirit does have a monopoly on D.L. Moody and that’s why we need to get him here.”
Does the Holy Spirit have a monopoly on your life? Does the Holy Spirit have a monopoly on The Church at Brook Hills? What happens when we come to the end of our strength and we say, show your power? Show the power that only you can give. Imagine. Acts 1:15 tell us there were only about 120 people that actually stayed around in Jerusalem to do this thing. Only 120 of them. That’s pretty amazing, even what secular scholars would say was the greatest religious teacher in the history of the world, at the end of His life He leaves the earth and there is only 120 people to show for it. Is that a failure? That’s a tiny church. It is not thousands of people. It’s a tiny church, but it’s the genius of Jesus strategy that He said “I am going to give you my Spirit” and the rest of the book of Acts tells us that these 120 people, especially these 11 guys, turned the world upside down for Jesus Christ. Because of their own strength? No. They were not the sharpest tools in the shed, they had the Holy Spirit of God and it made all the difference. He fills us with His power.
The Holy Spirit Gives Us a Purpose
Second, I want you to see that He provides for us, He gives us a purpose. The Holy Spirit gives us a purpose in our life. Now, when you think about the Holy Spirit in your life, I want you to ask the question, why has God given you the Holy Spirit? As we look in Scripture there are all kinds of different answers for that.
The Holy Spirit leads us. The Holy Spirit guides our steps, guides our paths. That’s His purpose. He gives us gifts. We have different spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit gives those gifts. The Holy Spirit is our comforter. He comforts us when we are going through difficult times. The Holy Spirit does all of those things.
What I want to propose to you is those purposes are secondary compared to one other purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I want to show it to you in Scripture. We are going to take a tour of the Old Testament and the New Testament and I want to show you what I believe is the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit.
So, let’s do some Bible drills. Turn with me back to the beginning of the Bible to Numbers 11. The fourth book in the Bible, Numbers 11:24-25. I want to encourage you as we go through these verses, underline them, and put a note by them. See what the Holy Spirit is doing here. Numbers 11:24-25. I wonder sometimes if our belief about the Holy Spirit is based more on our experience than it is in Scripture. We need to make sure we have a Biblical foundation for what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. Look at Numbers 11, verses 24-25, “Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent” (Num. 11:24). Now listen to this – “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again” (Num. 11:25).
So when the Spirit came on them, what did they do? They prophesied. They began speaking about God’s Word. Let’s see if that happens a few other times. Look with me at Numbers 24. We are looking at the role of the Holy Spirit. As we already said in Old Testament, the Holy Spirit would come upon people, then He would leave, come upon people and then He would leave. Numbers 24:2 says, “Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered his oracle: ‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly’” (Num. 24:2-3).
So when the Spirit of God came on them, what did he do? He began to speak. He uttered this oracle. I think this continues. Look over in 2 Samuel 23. Turn with me over a few books. It is right after 1 Samuel. Then you will come to 2 Samuel 23. I want you to look with me at verse 2. Now we are looking at the purpose of the Spirit of God. Don’t forget when the Spirit comes upon people what are they doing. Look in 2 Samuel 23:2. The Bible says, underline it, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me” (2 Sam. 23:2-3).
So we see when the Spirit came on him the Word of God was on his tongue. He began to speak the Word of God. Let me show you one more time in the Old Testament, then we will move onto the New.
Turn with me over to Ezekiel. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and then Ezekiel 11. We could go through many, many, many different place in Ezekiel. This is just one example of a phrase we see repeated over and over and over again in the book of Ezekiel. As well as all of the other prophets for that matter. Look at Ezekiel 11:5. We are looking for the purpose of the Holy Spirit. Don’t forget. Look at what is says, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and he told me to say: ‘This is what the Lord says: That is what you are saying, O house of Israel, but I know what is going through your mind’” (Ezek. 11:5).
So when the Spirit came on him he began to? Speak. Now this is something we have seen obviously throughout the Old Testament. Now let’s think about Luke. Turn to Luke 1. Let’s go to the New Testament, Luke 1. What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit according to Scripture? Look at Luke 1. Let me go ahead and give you a preview of what we are about to see.
What I want us to do is a run through. There are eight times that Luke uses the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit”. He talks about people being filled with the Holy Spirit eight times. I want you to see there is a commonality between all 8 of those times and maybe squares with the Old Testament. Look at Luke 1:15 “he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” Circle that in your Bible, “Filled with Holy Spirit.” That’s the first time we see it. “Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17).
Who is this talking about? John the Baptist. What was John the Baptist’s whole purpose? Proclaim the coming of the Lord. Prepare the way of the Lord. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit and he would begin to speak about the coming of the Lord. Look in chapter 1:41. Same chapter, look over in verse 41. Circle this time you see “filled with the Holy Spirit” in your Bible. In verse 41 it says, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). Circle that, and look at what happens next. “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear’” (Luke 1:42). When Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit what did she do? She spoke. Are you catching on here?
One more time in Luke, 1, look at verse 67. Let’s look at Zechariah. It says in verse 67, “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people’” (Luke 1:67-68). So when Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit what did he do? He spoke. It’s like a broken record or what? Over and over again in Scripture, the Spirit is filling people and they are starting to talk. They are starting to talk about the Word of the Lord. They are prophesying, they are explaining, they are speaking.
Let’s come to the book of Acts. Come back over with me to Luke’s second book. Look in Acts 2. Acts 2, let’s look at verse 4. When the Holy Spirit comes down in the New Testament Church for the first time, at Pentecost. What happens there? Same thing? Look at verse 4 in chapter 2. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). Speaking in all kinds of different languages. The Spirit comes upon them and they begin to speak.
Acts 4:8. What happens here? This is Peter coming before the Sanhedrin with John and says, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit,” mark it down in your Bibles, what did he do? He “said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people” (Acts 4:8). He begins to preach about salvation. Salvation is found in no one else,” Peter later says, “for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” He begins to preach when the Spirit comes upon him.
One more time in Acts 4:31. Acts 4:31. Listen to this, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and” so what did they do? They “spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).
Two more times, Acts 9:17-20. I told you we were going to do a Bible drill. Look at what happens here. We have got to see the consistency. Scripture is repeating this over and over again. Look at Acts 9:17,
Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:17-20).
The Spirit comes on Saul and at once he begins to? Preach.
One more time, Acts 13, again with Saul, or rather, Paul. I want you to look with me in verse 9. Saul (Paul) has been sent off on his first missionary journey. It says, “Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, ‘You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right’” (Acts 13:9).
So eight times, Luke says people were filled with the Holy Spirit and all eight times the automatic result was they begin to speak about God. They began to speak the gospel; they began to speak the Word of God.
That’s pretty consistent. Old Testament, New Testament alike, the Holy Spirit‘s primary purpose in our lives is to enable us to be proclaimers of God’s Word. To be proclaimers of grace and mercy of the gospel that has been entrusted to us. That is the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
I want you to turn with me back to Acts 2. I want you to see my favorite part of this whole idea of the Holy Spirit is in us to proclaim the gospel. Don’t miss this. You have got to look at this. I know you have been turning a lot. I want you to turn back to Acts 2. Don’t miss the purpose of the Holy Spirit here. This is an incredible passage. Look in verse 16. As Peter begins to preach. In verse 16, the Bible says, Peter told them,
No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Acts 2:16-21).
Now, here is the first Christian sermon and Peter quotes from the Old Testament. Anybody know from where he quotes? Where is he quoting from here? Where is he quoting from? Joel. What chapter? Joel 2. Now are these just Bible scholars here? Maybe so, but you probably got a little note in your Bible. It takes you to the bottom and says Joel 2:32. We can all be Bible scholars.
Here is what I want us to do. I know you have been turning a lot. You have to see this. You can’t miss this. What I want us to do is I want us to compare, what Peter says in Acts 2 with what Joel says in Joel 2. Go ahead and turn back with me there. There is a difference.
Joel 2 (a little book in the Old Testament). If you need to use your concordance or table of contents, feel free to. Right after Hosea, turn with me to Joel 2. In Joel, we are going to see that there is a difference between what Peter says in Acts 2 and what Joel say in Joel 2. Let’s compare them. Let’s put them side by side and see the difference. In Joel 2:28 and hold your place in Acts 2 because we are going to have to look at them the same time. Joel 2:28 says, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”
Now compare that with Acts 2:17, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy,” – he switches it around a little bit here – “your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Now let’s look at Joel 2:29, “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Then he puts a period on it there. Come back to Acts 2:18, “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days,” – wait a second, no period here? Peter says, “And they will prophesy” (Acts 2:18).
Do you see that anywhere in Joel 2? No. It is not in Joel 2. Great job Peter! You blew it. First Christian sermon and you misquoted the Old Testament. I mean for years we are going to look back and see that Peter messed up the first Christian sermon. Did he misquote the Old Testament? Or did he do this intentionally? Why would Peter add the words “and they would prophesy” in Acts 2 when they were not in Joel 2?
Well think about the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, were a few people prophets or a lot of people prophets? Just a few people. Right? Guys like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Ezekiel. These were prophets who had the responsibility to speak for God. We get to the New Testament and the Holy Spirit comes down at Pentecost and remember in the very beginning of this thing He said, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” All you place their faith in Christ and Peter says and they will prophesy. That’s a much different picture in the Old Testament.
Now in the New Testament, we got a lot of people who are prophesying. All people who have placed their faith in Christ are prophesying. Do you realize what this means? For every single one of us who has placed our faith in Jesus Christ, have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Do you know what this makes you? You are a prophet. That’s pretty cool. We are prophets.
Now what does that mean? Does that mean we go out with big orange neon crosses on the streets of Birmingham and yell condemnation and preach about the coming judgment of the Lord? Is that what we do as prophets? No. Prophets have one simple job, take the Word of God in our hearts and speak it to His people that’s what a prophet is. What I want to say to you is every single one of you who have placed your faith in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells in you, you have the God-given responsibility of being a prophet. That which was reserved for a few people like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and heroes of the faith in the Old Testament has now been put on you. And you have the ability, the responsibility to go out and tell people the Word of God. Simply introduce others to the gospel that has transformed your life. Isn’t that incredible?
That is the purpose of the Holy Spirit; we have seen it throughout Scripture. The Holy Spirit comes on people and they go out and they speak, they give witness, they testify to what they have seen and heard. That is why we see this word “witness” used 29 times in the book of Acts. Over and over and over again the Holy Spirit is coming upon people, filling them so that they can tell people about the gospel. That’s how the gospel will go forth.
Now in light of that, I want us think about a few misconceptions that I think we sometimes get in the church about this whole witnessing thing. Sometimes people say, “Well, Dave, I really don’t have what it takes to witness effectively.” Now I know that some of us are more outgoing than others, some of us are extroverts; some of us are introverts, different gifts, and different personalities. What I want you to see from Scripture is that the Holy Spirit of God is dwelling in you. He is in you. He is in each one of you. Not just the person beside, in front of you or behind you, He is in you to enable you to proclaim the gospel, to share the gospel. So do not, please I urge you, do not say I do not have what it takes to share the gospel effectively. You do! When you say that, you are doubting the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. He is in you for this purpose.
Other people say, “Dave, I witness with my life. I witness by being a good person.” Now there is grain of truth to that. Obviously, our lives need to be able to back up our words. I think it is St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” Well, no offense whatsoever intended to St. Francis, but it’s just not biblical. If we leave The Church at Brook Hills and go out into our homes and our workplaces this week, we put a smile on our faces, and we live nice moral lives. Will the result be people bowing their heads, giving their hearts to a saving relationship with Christ? Beginning to follow Him through baptism and get involved in the church simply because we have been nice? No! It has to be verbal at some point doesn’t it?
You want to know something interesting; Acts 1:8 says, “You will be my witnesses.” In the original language of the New Testament – I am going to impress you a little bit with a little Greek here. Are you ready? Hold on to your seats. This word “witness” in the New Testament is “martyres.” The only reason I share that with you is because that is the word from which we get the word “martyr” today. It is pretty amazing. Jesus says these words to eleven guys in Acts 1:8. Ten out of eleven of them die a “martyr’s” death. I want to ask you a question? Did they die because they lived good moral lives? No! These men lost their lives because they stood up and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Two teenage girls died recently in Indonesian, not because they went out and put a smile on their faces, but because they went out and told people Jesus is good and He is gracious and they lost their lives because of it. People, I read just last night in Nigeria, have lost their lives, not because they went out with smiles on their faces and lived good moral lives. They lost their lives because they staked their life in Jesus Christ and they proclaimed that to those around them. May we not hundreds of miles away look at them and say that’s good for you but we are going to witness with our lives.
Other people say, and we have the tendency to think, “Dave, I witness when the Holy Spirit leads me.” And again, there is a grain of truth to that. We need to be lead by the Holy Sprit of God. I would definitely say that. These Words in Acts 1:8, written in red in some of your Bibles, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.” Do you know what this means? You can now consider yourself led, by the Holy Spirit of God. This frees you up. You don’t have to wait for some tingly feeling to go down your spine and think. Ah, I guess I need to share the gospel now. That’s not the way Scripture works. If the Holy Spirit is in you, you walk out of these doors, you are led by the Holy Spirit of God to tell people about how great Jesus is. We don’t have to wait for some special emotion, or some tingly thing to come over us. This is the purpose that the Holy Spirit is in us for. If we are led by the Holy Spirit, if we witness when the Holy Spirit leads us then we would be active in sharing the gospel. He has already led us to do it.
Finally and maybe one of my favorites is, “Well, Dave, the Holy Spirit would never lead me to do something I am uncomfortable doing.” We don’t have the opportunity, but I wonder what Stephen would say if we asked him how comfortable it was when he shared the gospel. I wonder what Paul would say if we said how comfortable was it when you shared the gospel. These guys realized that the gospel is more important than their comfortability, the gospel is more important than their reputation, the gospel is more important than anything in their lives. That’s why Paul says, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I can go everywhere and testify to the gospel of grace. It’s that important.
That’s the purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and I want to ask you, not to put a guilt trip on you or anything along those lines, but just to say, are you fulfilling the purpose of the Spirit in you? Because I believe with all my heart that if we walk out of here and we don’t give ourselves to this purpose, then we will miss out completely on His power. He fills us with power and He gives us His purpose.
The Holy Spirit Outlines Our Plans
Finally, He outlines our plans. He outlines the plans for our life and for the church. In Acts 1:8 you see Jesus say to these guys you are going to take the gospel from “Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Some of you know that is an outline for the entire book of Acts. Acts 1-7, you can write it down, the gospel goes to Jerusalem and then with Stephen’s death at the end of Acts 7 and you get to Acts 8, the gospel begins to spread to Judea and Samaria. You get to the end of chapter 9 and you see the gospel has gone throughout Judea and Samaria and now it’s in the hands of these guys named Paul and some of his companions. And we see the church begin to take hold in Acts 10 of the nations. Antioch becomes a sending base for sending the gospel to the ends of the earth from Acts 10 all the way to Acts 28. Acts 1-7— Jerusalem; Acts 8-9—Judea and Samaria; Acts 10-28—to the ends of the earth. That was the plan of the Holy Spirit. We are going to take this gospel, the whole gospel, to the whole world, through the whole church. That was the plan.
And I have got this feeling that plan has not changed from that day until now. The plan is still the same. The Holy Spirit, who is in this room and who is dwelling our lives, wants to take the whole gospel, through the whole church to the whole world. When you look at this picture and you see 120 people filled with the Spirit of God turning the whole world upside down. We have got to ask the question: what would happen if we took serious the purpose of the Holy Spirit in our life and we gave ourselves to this plan. Somewhere along the way we have a tendency to lose site of the purpose.
I remember a little over a year ago, I had taken a group of students from seminary to India. India is an incredibly unreached nation. Many people, many people have never heard the name of Jesus or heard the gospel. There are 1.4 billion people India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. 1.4 billion of them and Baptists have about 200 missionaries there for 1.4 billion people. Great need. We were in this city, a city with 7 million people most of whom had little or no knowledge of the gospel. We were going up to people on the streets, sharing the gospel, and they would say, “Who is Jesus, I am not familiar with this.” Never heard His name.
We took them one day to the highest point in this city, the Hindu Temple, there is this temple and people are just bowing down and worshiping all these gods that they had set up, giving their money to the gods. We walked around some and came to this point where you could look out over the whole city. We looked out over that city and literally, if you could just imagine with me, looking out over that city of 7 million people and knowing that most of the people who are in your eyesight have little or no knowledge of the gospel.
As I looked out over that city, God just kept bringing two words to my mind and to my heart. I looked out over that city, God said, “Dave, wake up! Wake up. Dave, stop trying to build your own kingdom, stop getting so embroiled with the little world that is around you. Get in on the plan of my Spirit. I want the world for Christ.” Brook Hills wake up! It’s not about our differences, it’s not about the different opinions or ideas we have on this or that, it’s not about our different gifts, our personalities, or what we bring to the table. It’s about winning Birmingham for Christ and the nations for Christ with the Spirit of power that has been entrusted to us. That is why He is in us.
And Satan, I believe will do everything he can to get us sidetracked from that purpose. He will bring division. He will get us focused on all kinds of different things in the church, as long as he can get our focus off the mission. What I want to say to you, the Spirits plan is to take Birmingham for Christ and I want to challenge you as a church to get in on it. The Spirit’s plan is to take the nations for Christ and I want to challenge you to get in on it. Say, “God use us at this church, use us as individuals, we want to change the world for Jesus Christ.”
It’s that kind of heart; it’s that kind of surrender to the Spirit, that kind of surrender that says Holy Sprit has a monopoly on us. I believe, I believe, we can see the same things happen we saw in the book of Acts happen in our lives today. Do you want that? Do you long for that? The Holy Spirit fills us with power and gives us purpose and He outlines the plan.
As I was praying this week through this passage of Scripture and thinking about this morning, I wanted to give you an opportunity to put feet to this passage, to apply it in your lives. I want to do something a little different; I want to challenge you, to take God at His Word in your life. I know that there are very few of you who would say I am eager, I feel great, I know that I can do this; I’ll go out and share the gospel. Many of us feel very uncomfortable when it comes to this thing. Just like we have seen in Scripture that’s the point. That’s when God will show His strength the most. So I want to challenge you to take God at His Word.
I challenge you to pray this prayer this week: “Lord thank you that your power works in me through the Holy Spirit. Show your power through me as I witness to others today and in the coming days. I know that I am not alone. I know that it is in your strength and your ability, that I share the gospel of Jesus Christ with this friend. Thank you for using me for your kingdom. Amen.”
What I want to do is I want to challenge you to take God at His Word. I want to invite you, if you are willing to say in your life, I believe that I am not alone; I believe it is not in my power. I am going to be intentional about sharing the gospel, sharing God’s Word with people.
You know something I have learned in evangelism, when it comes to sharing the gospel, it is not automatic. Yes, it’s the overflow of our relationship with Christ, but it doesn’t happen automatically. We need to get intentional about it. So I want to give you a way to put some feet to this. If you are willing to say I am going to be intentional about sharing the gospel with people in my life this week and the next couple of weeks, pray “God I know that I am completely inadequate for this task, show your power in me.”
I know that I have been talking to believers, to Christians who have the Spirit in them. I know that there are some of you who don’t have the Holy Spirit in you because you have never placed your faith in Christ and ask Him to forgive you for your sins. If you would like to begin a relationship with Jesus for the first time and you want the Holy Spirit in your life, then I want to invite you to say I am ready to believe in Jesus.