Impossible To Empowered

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlined a “game plan” for His followers. He showed us how to correctly apply the Scripture to our daily lives with this repeated pattern: “You have heard it said [God’s Word], but I tell you [real-life application].”  Smack-dab in the middle of this sermon Jesus drops this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). 

You might say, “But ‘perfect’ doesn’t really mean perfect, does it?” 

Actually, it does. The Greek word telios means the end goal of being complete in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character. In other words: complete in body, soul, mind, spirit—just like Jesus. 

Think about it: Jesus never misspoke, He never waited too long to act, He never acted too quickly, He never overstepped God’s boundaries, He never needed to apologize. 

Again, you might push back with, “Yes, but He is Jesus. He is God!” 

You are absolutely correct, but—miracle of miracles!—Jesus chose not to use His deity while He was on earth (Hebrews 2:17; Philippians 2:6-7). He lived a perfect life as a human, not playing His “God card,” to show us that it was possible. Jesus demonstrated that He needed to rely on the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22, 4:1, 14; John 5:19-20, 12:49-50). 

This is what Jesus wants for us as well, which is why He told His disciples to wait for the empowerment that came with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On our own, perfection is impossible. But when we baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live perfectly. 

Remember the definition I gave for perfect (telios): complete in body, soul, mind, spirit. That’s exactly how Dr. Luke described Jesus, and it’s also how Jesus described our perfect love of God (Luke 2:52, 10:27). 

On our own: this is impossible. But with the baptism in the Holy Spirit: we are empowered for perfection. 

Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. If Jesus was so reliant on the Holy Spirit, what would make us think we could live with anything less?! 

If you missed any of the other posts in this series, you can find them all listed here. 

Stand-Up Christians

“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” —G.K. Chesterton 

It’s true that no statues have been erected to committees or groups, but groups of people have been allowed to stand up because just one strong leader stood up for them. And history has shown that never has been a greater servant leader—lifting and rescuing more people than we can count—than Jesus of Nazareth. 

Before He ascended back to heaven Jesus said to His followers, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). He has called us to stand up as His representatives in the world. Jesus didn’t send His followers out under their own power, but He directed them to first be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:7-8). 

Last week I shared how Hannah’s persistence in prayer led to a revival in Israel. Hannah’s physical barrenness was a picture of Israel’s spiritual barrenness. When Hannah prayed, we read a key phrase: Hannah stood up (1 Samuel 1:9). She was really saying, “God do something IN me that will turn people to You!” 

And God literally did something IN her: she became pregnant, and the son that came from her was the spiritual leader Israel needed. 

New Testament Christians can have a new life conceived IN them when they are baptized IN the Holy Spirit. They can then spiritually give birth to a revival, just as surely as Hannah’s son Samuel led a revival in Israel! Being baptized IN the Holy Spirit empowers us to be stand-up Christians.  

Consider the disciple Peter. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter couldn’t stand up for Jesus, even though it was just two little servant girls who confronted him. Then Pentecost Sunday came, Peter was baptized IN the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit-empowered man now became a stand-up Christian (Matthew 26:69-72; Acts 2:1-4, 14). 

As Aimee Semple McPherson noted, “The Holy Spirit, when He endues you with power, puts a real ‘stand up for Jesus spirit’ within you, and removes your cowardice.” 

Peter not only stood up before a questioning crowd, he stood up to the same religious leaders who had Jesus crucified, and he stood up for the Gentiles who became Christians (Acts 4:5-10; 15:6-11).

In Peter’s first letter to the Church, he explained how Spirit-baptized Christians could…

  • stand up joyfully in trials (1:6-9; 4:7, 12-19) 
  • stand up for holiness in a wicked culture (1:13-16; 2:11-12)
  • stand up to be able to submit to and serve those in civic government positions (2:13-17)
  • stand up to serve your employer (2:18)
  • stand up like Jesus did to the people who revile and slander you (2:19-25)
  • stand up for your spouse’s salvation (3:1-7) 
  • stand up for your Church family (3:8-12) 
  • stand up to fear (3:13-14) 
  • stand up to give testimony to your faith in Jesus (3:15-17)
  • stand up to live counter-culturally (4:1-6)
  • stand up for the shepherds and the sheep in God’s family (5:1-5)
  • stand up to anxiety (5:6-7)
  • stand up against the devil’s growling (5:8-11) 
  • stand up for Jesus until the very end of life or until Jesus returns (5:12-14) 

All of this from a man who couldn’t stand up to a little servant girl! 

That’s why I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it—Don’t stop at salvation! There is SO MUCH MORE for those who will receive the baptism IN the Holy Spirit. If you want to stand up for Jesus and stand up for others who are being pushed around by the devil, you must be empowered with the stand-up-for-Jesus spirit that only comes from the Holy Spirit. 

Will you let the Holy Spirit put that stand-up spirit in you?

If you have missed any of the other messages in this series, please click here to access them.

We Are: Pentecostal

Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! 

Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. 

We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. We can experience an anointing and an empowering in our lives that turns ordinary Christianity into extraordinary Christianity! 

Please join me this Sunday as we continue a series of messages we started last year called We Are: Pentecostal. You can check out what I’ve taught in this series last year by clicking here. And our current messages include:

The Day Of The Lord

All we know about the prophet Joel is that he is the son of Pethuel, and his name means Jehovah is God. He appears to be addressing the southern part of Israel (Judah/Jerusalem). 

What is interesting to note about Joel’s writing is a recurring theme that goes something like this: 

Foreshadowing (or prophetic foretelling) → Calling for a godly response → God’s blessing on a right response or God’s punishment on a wrong response → An outcome which foreshadows or foretells another more dire event → repeat…

For instance, in Joel’s prophesy the massive invasion of locusts was intended to get the Israelites to pay attention to their sins. Joel calls for fasting and repentance and warns (foreshadows/foretells) that an invading army at a later date would do even greater damage (1:2-14). 

Likewise, the invading army—which would do more damage than the invading locusts—should also call the Israelites to repentance and imploring God for His help. 

Jesus, just like Joel, taught that whether it was an evil man, an accident, or even a natural disaster, painful things should cause us to consider the state of our eternal soul (see Luke 13:1-5). And Jesus and Joel both foretell of the Day of the Lord when there will be no more opportunities for repentance. 

To prepare God-fearing people for this dreadful day of the Lord, Joel foretells if the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is the same empowering Spirit that Jesus said would equip His followers to take the message of salvation to all four points of the compass (Acts 1:4-8). And just as Joel foretold 800 years earlier, on the first Pentecost Sunday after Christ’s ascension back into heaven, the Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit, prompting Peter to quote an extension passage from Joel (compare Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:14-21).

Joel’s final chapter talks about Judgment Day, and about the multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. Peter confronted his audience as well about the decision they should make to turn to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. 

The Day of the Lord could come at any moment and millions around the world are still in the valley of decision. I find these words quite sobering—

“Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?’ It is more a question with me whether we—who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not—can be saved.” —Charles Spurgeon 

We are even closer to the Day of the Lord today than we were yesterday. What will you do?

Please join me this Sunday as we continue our series learning the major lessons from the minor prophets.

4 Holy Spirit-Enhanced Habits

According to Paul, there are only two ways people can live: in the flesh or in the Spirit. That is—(1) operating separate from God, or (2) with a soul/body that is operating with God’s full involvement. 

The trouble is: we’re always—as long as we’re alive—still in the flesh because we need these bodies to carry around our soul and spirit. But changes begin to occur first at salvation (when the connection of our spirit to God’s Spirit is reestablished), and even more so after being baptized in the Holy Spirit (when we are not trying to work out things on our own). 

As a result, we have the same brain, but a mind that is being renewed; the same eyes, but insight that is being expanded; the same ears, but learning new ways to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. 

Remember that Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things differently, but to have our spirit so enlivened by the Holy Spirit that we are living, breathing, walking, talking witnesses of a life transformed.

Have you noticed that there wasn’t a steep “learning curve” for the disciples of Jesus following Pentecost? Part of that is due to four key habits that the Holy Spirit helped form in their lives. 

  1. Correct biblical application—We immediately see people going from “They didn’t understand from the Scriptures” to quickly applying biblical texts to their current situations. This is exactly what Jesus promised would happen (John 20:6-9; Acts 2:16, 25, 34; John 14:26). 
  1. Intercessory prayer—To intercede is to take someone else’s needs to God on their behalf. The Holy Spirit can help us apply Scripture to our prayers, and can even help us without words at all (Acts 4:24-26; Romans 8:26-27). 
  1. Creative thinking—Christians should be the most creative thinkers in the world (Psalm 119:99; Jeremiah 33:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10). 
  1. Healthy conflict resolution—We’re all different, so not seeing eye-to-eye is bound to happen, but Spirit-empowered Christians will be able to resolve conflicts faster and with better results (Acts 6:1-8; Acts 15:1-31). 

“Your life as a Christian should make unbelievers question their disbelief in God.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Amen! Your life as a Christian that is living out daily habits that have been empowered by the Spirit should make everyone around you want to go deeper and deeper into all that the Holy Spirit has in store for them too. 

Join me next Sunday as we take another look at what it means when we say We Are: Pentecostal. 

Everyday Evidence

Last week we learned that speaking in tongues was one of the most noticeable and consistent characteristics of those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

Speaking in tongues as the Spirit enables you is the unmistakable, objective, outward, initial physical evidence. The Bible makes clear that continuing to pray in tongues has huge benefits for both our personal prayer lives and for the corporate church body. But don’t stop there! 

The initial, outward evidence is primarily for the individual Christian—it’s a way of knowing that you know that you have indeed been baptized in the Spirit. But there also needs to be some everyday evidence for others that testifies to them that something is different about your life. 

Consider the disciples of Jesus before and after being baptized in the Holy Spirit…

Their vocabulary

Before being baptized in the Spirit they said stupid things because they didn’t know what to say (Mark 9:5-6) But after being baptized in the Spirit there was no more foot-in-mouth disease. Just as the Holy Spirit enabled them to praise God in an unlearned tongue, He also empowered their natural dialect. The same Greek word is used in Acts 2:4 (enabled by the Holy Spirit), 2:14 (Peter addressed the crowd), and 26:25 (what I am saying is true and reasonable). 

Their spiritual power

Before it was limited, and often thwarted, but afterward, it was limitless and effortless (Mark 9:17-18; Acts 3:1-8; 5:15; 6:8).

Their understanding of servanthood

Before they argued about who was the greatest. Afterward, they gladly gave all that they had to others (Mark 9:33-34; Acts 2:44-45). 

Their boldness in the face of adversity

Before they abandoned Jesus, ran away, and hid in locked rooms. Afterward, there was no intimidating or silencing them (Acts 4:8, 13, 18-20). 

Their understanding of Scripture

Before they had virtually no understanding of Scripture’s application. Afterward, they understood how to apply God’s Word in almost every situation (Acts 2:16, 33-35; 4:24-26). 

Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things for Him. There’s nothing wrong about doing Jesus-glorifying things, but in themselves, they are too short-sighted. Jesus doesn’t want us empowered to do things, but TO BE a living, breathing, walking, talking witness of a life transformed by His power. That’s the reason why I say to you again and again: Don’t stop at salvation. Press on and press in to be baptized in the Holy Spirit so that you can BE an empowered, transformed and transforming witness for Jesus!

Join me this Sunday as we continue to explore what it means for Christians to be Pentecostal. 

The Unmistakable Evidence

That Pentecost Sunday immediately following Christ’s resurrection forever changed what Pentecost stood for. From this point forward, Christians who have encountered the Holy Spirit as those 120 followers of Jesus did now call themselves Pentecostal. (Check out Acts 2:1-12, 16, 22-24, 37-39.)

If you had been present on that day, there were three pieces of evidence you would have noticed:

  1. Wind—this is the Greek word pneuma, which is the same as the Hebrew word ruach. This is the impartation of the Spirit that brings a true life connection to the Trinity (Genesis 2:7). This power was foretold by Jesus when He promised, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” (Acts 1:8a). 
  1. Fire—this was foretold by John (Luke 3:16). This fire was to light up our witness to a dark world (Matthew 5:14-16). Again Jesus promised, “you will receive power to be My witnesses…” (Acts 1:8b). 
  1. Tongues—this fulfilled the promise of Jesus, “to be My witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8c). 

Some have tried to call this speaking in tongues an “ecstatic utterance,” or just nonsensical gibberish. But notice the descriptions Luke gives: each one heard them speaking in his own language (v. 6), each of us hears them in his own native language (v. 8), and declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues (v. 11). Luke lists visitors from over 15 different places around the world that heard their native tongue being spoken by these native Galileans. Luke pointed out that these Spirit-baptized Christians spoke like this as the Spirit enabled them (v. 4b). 

Two types of vocabulary are happening here—language (vv. 6, 8), which is the Greek word dialektos, and tongues (vv. 4, 11), which is the Greek word glossa. 

Dialektos is a learned language. Glossa can also be learned, but it’s not something that one just casually picks up. The Greeks said glossa is “not a word of everyday speech but one belonging to dignified and elevated discourse.” The Greeks called glossa the language of prophets, wisemen, and philosophers.

“But,” you might say, “speaking in tongues sounds weird!” Yes, it does. As N.T. Wright said:

“God acts completely unexpectedly—as He always said He would.” 

Remember this—God is God. He is uncontainable, indefinable. If we can define Him, He is not God, but we are. He always does things “out of the box”—at least out of our box, not His! Like sending His Son born of a virgin, and empowering Jesus to restore sight to one born blind, and enabling Jesus to cure someone who contracted leprosy, and even reversing the laws of biology to bring Jesus back to life! 

So it’s not unexpected that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by someone praising God in a dialect they have never learned. Speaking in tongues as the Spirit enables you is the unmistakable, objective, outward, initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus wants us to have rivers of living water flowing—bursting!—out of us. This living water can flow out of anyone who has the Spirit IN them! Don’t wait another day: be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Please join me this Sunday as we consider some of the ongoing evidences in the life of someone baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

The Empowerment Of Pentecost

The Feast of Pentecost was an annual celebration for Jewish people for a long time, with nothing really noteworthy happening. Until…

…on the Day of Pentecost that took place just 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven, a new breed of Christian was unleashed on the world. Those followers of Jesus who were baptized in the Holy Spirit on that day begin living a lifestyle that we now refer to as Pentecostal. 

Most people were familiar with water baptism is an outward sign of an inward commitment. It’s not something that was new to Christianity: Greek philosophy teachers and Jewish rabbis baptized their followers. So did John the baptizer (or the Baptist). 

But John, as the forerunner of Jesus, promised that there would be something more—a baptism in the Holy Spirit that Jesus would bring. Jesus Himself said this baptism was so important that He didn’t want His followers to even attempt to begin to evangelize the world until they received this baptism (Luke 3:3, 16; 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-8). 

What is important about this Holy Spirit baptism? What are its origins? To answer these questions, we have to go back to the very beginning of Time itself. When God created humans, the Holy Spirit was breathed into us, giving us a living soul (Genesis 1:26, 2:7). This Spirit-breath set us apart from all other living creatures (Job 33:4, 32:8; Proverbs 20:27).

We were created to be intimately connected with God, but our sin severed that. Our hearts became sin-calloused and selfish and stone-hard toward God. 

The Cross of Jesus allowed us to be reconciled to God. By placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the Cross, we could receive forgiveness of our sins. We were now saved from the penalty of our sins, but Jesus wanted more for us—He wanted us also to be saved to a new life that was as intimately connected to God’s heart as His life was. 

So Jesus told His followers to wait and pray for the promised baptism in the Holy Spirit. 

They prayed. And on that Day of Pentecost, they were indeed baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Actually, the word filled literally means “fulfilled”—the baptism in the Holy Spirit fulfilled what Jesus had promised. 

From that day forward, those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit are called Pentecostal people. I know there are some who would argue that was only for “back then,” but let me tell you from personal experience that there is no other way that I would try to live the Christian life than by being an unashamed Pentecostal! 

Jesus wants us to not only be water baptized to announce our faith in Him for forgiveness of sins, but also to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to empower us to live holy, extraordinary, fulfilling lives. If you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can be simply by asking God (Luke 11:13).

Join me next Sunday as we continue to explore what it means to live the Pentecostal lifestyle.

We Are: Pentecostal

Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! 

Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. 

We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. We can experience an anointing and an empowering in our lives that turns ordinary Christianity into extraordinary Christianity! 

Please join me this Sunday as we begin a series of messages called We Are: Pentecostal. You can find a map here, or if you live too far away to join us in person, be sure to check out our Facebook Live broadcasts every Sunday morning.

Pentecost Shows That God Is For Us

I have been trumpeting this truth: God is for you! He’s not looking for opportunities to blast you, but to bless you. 

Yesterday we remembered Pentecost. In Jewish history, Pentecost is simply a celebration that took place fifty (pente) days after the Passover. But the first Pentecost celebration after Christ’s resurrection became the launching point for the Church. On this Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were baptized in the Holy Spirit. This baptism is primarily for two things: 

  1. Christians are empowered to know more clearly that “God is for me.” 
  2. Christians are empowered to tell others more persuasively that “God is for you.” 

We only continue to grow in our understanding of God’s favor by believing what Jesus did for us on the Cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Holy Spirit helps us to know this—

Now we have not received the spirit that belongs to the world, but the Holy Spirit Who is from God, given to us that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly bestowed on us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12 AMP) 

Check this out…

(1) The baptism in the Holy Spirit empowers me to know more clearly that God is for meFor you are becoming progressively acquainted with and recognizing more strongly and clearly the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ—His kindness, His gracious generosity, His undeserved favor and spiritual blessing—in that though He was so very rich, yet for your sakes He became so very poor, in order that by His poverty you might become abundantly supplied (2 Corinthians 8:9 AMP). 

(2) The baptism in the Holy Spirit empowers me to tell others more persuasively that God is for them—You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses (Acts 1:8). All this is from God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). 

Because God is for you, He wants to baptize you in His Holy Spirit!

If you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit, ask for that gift that God wants to give you. The more of the Holy Spirit there is in your life, the more you will recognize God’s favor and be equipped to be His witness. 

We will be continuing to explore this topic of God’s favor on Sunday. I hope you can join me either in person or on Facebook Live.

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