November 18, 2018
Pastor Jeff Strueker
It never ceases to amaze me how people can often put their hope in the wrong thing or in the wrong people. You probably know somebody like this. Even in the last midterm elections, if you were to go back and listen to those campaigns, it’s amazing how many people believe that Governor Elect Ivey or Governor Elect Kemp are going to make their life better. If we were honest, most of us would have to ask if that is really something that a governor, a mayor, or even the President of the United States can really do? Can they really make my life better? I’m convinced even Christians will sometimes make this fatal mistake.
They’ll get their hopes up in a person, and that person may have this grand vision, but no power to accomplish it. Let me just be honest with you and remind you it doesn’t matter how much you have the audacity to hope. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to make America great again. You’re going to crash into the brick wall of the U. S. Congress; and, there is no president that is ultimately going to be able to make your life great again. That’s just not something the President of the United States, a governor, or a mayor has the ability to do. I understand why people who are not Christians will grasp at that life preserver. However, I really don’t get why people who are Christians would put their hopes in something like this.
There are plenty of well-intentioned idiots out there that have great vision, but no power to make that vision come to pass. Then you have the opposite side of the coin where you find these guys and gals that have immense resources and great power, but they seem to have absolutely no desire, no vision, and no hope of doing anything with it that’s going to make their family or their community better. I don’t know which is worse. No vision or no power to accomplish a vision. Very rarely you’ll find this unusual combination of a guy or a gal that has a bold vision and the backbone to make that vision come to pass. I’m telling you right now church, when you find that kind of person hitch your wagon to them. Jump on that train because they’re going somewhere. Basically, what I’m reminding you is that when vision and the power to accomplish vision collide, sparks are going to fly. No vision – that’s bad. No power – that’s bad. But when you put those two things together, you’ve got an unstoppable combination. You see these two things in the book of Acts today.
I. This is a better buzz
The first thing that I want you to notice from Acts chapter two is that’s when the Holy Spirit shows up. People are confused, and some of them out there are thinking that they’re drunk. I want to remind you there is a much better buzz than just getting drunk on wine. I’m not trying to be cute. If you know anything about what’s happening with the opioid crisis in America, you know there are tens hundreds of thousands of people that are destroying their life by using prescription painkillers or illegal drugs. If you don’t believe me, go back and search this on Google today. The only thing that is wrecking more lives than illegal drugs is the legal drug of alcohol. Go back and Google search today the number of professional women who are destroying their lives with alcohol. It’s at an epidemic rate in America.
As a soldier for more than twenty years, I sat back and watched 10,000 of my friends self-medicate because they were looking for something, but they couldn’t find it. So, they turned to alcohol or they turned to drugs. I started asking the question, “What’s wrong? Why are so many people running to drugs or running to alcohol?” The bottom line is they don’t have the power to change their life. Their life is miserable. They’re in all kinds of pain. So, they’re just looking for something that will make the pain go away, just numbing their life for a moment. That’s what’s happening in Acts chapter two when the Holy Spirit is showing up on the scene. Let me remind you, we’re in the middle of a fifty day after party. The Feast of Weeks and the Feast of First Fruits is going on when the day of Pentecost happens, and the Holy Spirit shows up. Listen to how the crowd reacts.
They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But some sneered and said, “They’re drunk on new wine.”14 Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning.
I want you to go back and look at verse twelve with me because I think this is fascinating. What you’re reading here is that there’s a party that’s going on. It’s started with Passover. It’s been going on for fifty days. People have come from all over the world to Jerusalem and on the fiftieth day after Passover God chooses this as the moment where he sends his Holy Spirit. What the crowd sees is so unusual that it blows their mind. In fact, that phrase astounded and perplexed means they have nothing in their brain that can process what they’re seeing. They have no idea how to understand. This breaks my heart and I hope it breaks your heart too. Do you see what they did in verse twelve, they turned to one another, and the spiritually blind are going to ask the spiritually blind, the spiritually clueless. Or, we would use the word lost in darkness. The lost are going to ask the lost. What’s going on? What do you think is happening here? They have no way of figuring this one out. They have nothing to understand what’s happening here.
Look at the two banners that are hanging in our welcome center when you walk out the door today. By any measure, seventy to eighty percent of our community is spiritually clueless. They have no idea what it looks like when the Holy Spirit moves in and takes over residence in somebody’s life. Before you sit there and say to yourself, “Yeah, Jeff, but they can come to church any time they want. It’s free at eleven o’clock on Sunday mornings.” Let me remind you, the people that are in this crowd can’t figure it out, and many people in our community can’t figure it out. So, this is the blind leading the blind asking the simple question what’s going on here and nobody has any answers.
Peter sees the perfect opportunity. He steps up and says, “Hey, I know that what you guys are thinking but they’re really not drunk.” This just makes sense, right? Because you have redneck friends that are like this. They can’t imagine a party without a keg in the back yard and a red solo cup. These guys are saying, “If something is happening and it’s a fifty day after party after Passover, I guess they’re all drunk with wine.” Peter is saying, “No, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. They’re not drunk. What you’re experiencing is something you may have never seen before. These men and women are filled with the Holy Spirit,” Then Peter starts to explain to them what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Peter is showing them there is something much better, something that opioids, prescription painkillers, and alcohol can’t do for you. When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, it gives you peace. He gives you his presence. You have the power of God available to you. In fact, I think I just want to remind us right now, when God sends his Holy Spirit, he sends all of his Holy Spirit to his people. Since the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside of you, you now have the power of God to face your problems. The people that are turning to pills and to the bottle to make their problems go away are just numbing their problems, but it can’t make them go away. You have the power of God to face your problems head on. You have the presence of God inside of you to help you deal with what you’re going to experience this week. Church, you also have the promise of God. When he says, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I will always be with you.” This is what you get with the Holy Spirit and it is a much better buzz than you can get from a red solo cup. That’s what we’re hearing in Acts chapter two.
II. The power of a God-given vision
Peter then tells them about this God given vision. Jesus described this for his disciples, but they couldn’t possibly understand what he was talking about when he said, “John baptized with water but I’m going to baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Even in the Old Testament, the prophet Joel made this prophecy, but nobody’s seen this come to pass. Now Peter says, “Those of you who don’t understand the things of God, what you’re experiencing now is God’s plan for humanity. God’s vision is coming to pass and it’s coming to pass because of the power of the Holy Spirit.” Listen what Peter says next.
On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 I will even pour out my Spirit on my servants in those days, both men and women and they will prophesy. 19 I will display wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
Peter’s making this analogy. When God sent his Holy Spirit, he poured it out on his people. Today is day one of the last days. Let me give you a way to understand what Peter is saying here. In the Old Testament, you have God at work in humanity. Often times God sends visions. Oftentimes God sends angels, but generally speaking, God is supernaturally controlling events. Then when you get to the first four books of the New Testament, you have Jesus on this very brief period of time in human history. Jesus walking on earth, God walking with people on earth. Then Jesus dies, is resurrected, and after the fortieth day is taken up to Heaven. Now you have today, the first day of the last days. The last days are the days of God’s Holy Spirit. Now God is with his people by dwelling inside his people. Now God is with his people to accomplish his mission.
Let me cause you to think about it this way. God is at work redeeming his people in the Old Testament. God sends Jesus to the cross to purchase his people back in those first four books of the New Testament. Then by the time you get to the book of Acts, God hands Jesus’s mission off to Jesus’s church. He says, “Don’t try to do this on your own power. Don’t try to do this by your own strength, your own abilities, your own skills. No, I’m going to give you my Spirit and by the power of my Spirit you can change this world.” These are the last days that we’re living in. I’m reminding all of us in this room church, we have work to do between now, on the day that Jesus returns again.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus isn’t greedy when it comes to his Holy Spirit? Aren’t you glad that Jesus is generous when he gives his Holy Spirit? When he gives his Holy Spirit, he gives all of his Holy Spirit to his followers. God’s given a vision to his people. He gave that vision to Joel and now Peter understands this is the moment that we’ve all been talking about. This is the moment we’ve been waiting hundreds of years to come to pass. This is the sign. This is the wonder that God promised that he was going to accomplish, and it happened the moment when the Holy Spirit showed up.
I have this God given burning passion inside of me. A vision that I believe God has given me for my life. This vision happened to me years ago when I was going back and forth overseas to combat with my friends, some of them who didn’t come home. I got sick and tired of watching warriors go off to battle and die on the battlefields fighting for our country, who did not know Jesus Christ personally as Lord and Savior. I started thinking about the eternity that they would spend in a Christ-less Hell. Then God burned into my heart in such a way that I would give anything, make any sacrifice, to reach men who are on the edge and about to slip into eternity not knowing Jesus Christ personally.
You see, I’m convinced if you can reach a man, he can reach his wife and he will also reach his children. It will change an entire family. But listen to me. I didn’t come up with this vision on my own. If you knew me a long time ago, you would know this is about as far removed from the kid that I was growing up as you can imagine. God put this vision into my heart and then he said, “Jeff, I’m not leaving you alone to accomplish it on your own. I’m giving you my Holy Spirit and all of the power that goes along with him to make that vision come to pass.” I hope you have the same kind of burning passion inside of you that Peter and all of those guys and gals in that room had when the Holy Spirit descended on them and turned them upside down and lit them on fire for God’s mission.
III. One giant leap for mankind
Let me tell you how this story ends today, because what happens next is God takes enemies and makes them sons and daughters. This really is a giant leap forward for men and women who were in rebellion against God. Let me read to you one verse and listen to what Peter says because of this event, because God’s promise of his Holy Spirit, because God is pouring his Holy Spirit out on people, “What’s happening to us can happen to you, too.”
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Please don’t miss what Peter is saying. In that crowd there is no question that there were people around fifty-three days ago when Jesus was on trial who were crying out to Pilate to crucify him. Now Peter is saying, “Those of you who were crying out for him to be killed, if you will cry out to him for rescue, he’ll save you. He will forgive you. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done doesn’t matter how bad you are. You were his enemy fifty-three days ago but today, if you call out to him, he’ll rescue you.” You and I need to hear this today just like they needed to hear it two thousand years ago.
Here’s the truth. Everyone in this room who at one point in your life decided, “God, I will make the decisions for my life. I will call the shots in my life.” You are an enemy of God just like the people in that crowd. You see, the first commandment is to have no other gods before him. When you decide, I’m going to make the decisions for my life and not let him make those decisions, you became an idolater. You’ve committed high treason because you decided, I will assume the throne of the king of my life, not him. And you, like I and like these folks in this crowd, are guilty of the blood of an innocent man. You and I are guilty of murdering a sinless man. Like the folks in that crowd, it just hit them in the chest like a sledgehammer. Wait a second. I cried out for his crucifixion. If he really is God and if that really is his Spirit that he just poured out, then I’m in trouble. That’s what Peter is saying. If that’s you and your struggling today, I’m going to beg you to nail this one down once and for all. In fact, we’re going to give you a chance to do that in just a second.
Here’s what you’re seeing. God is taking people that were in rebellion against him, and he’s inviting them back into a relationship with them. He’s inviting them into his home, to have a meal with him at the great marriage banquet in the sky. How many of you are already dreading thanksgiving because you have that crazy family member that when they show up, they’re going to make it miserable for everybody? Nobody likes that guy, but he’s coming every year and you don’t want to be around him. But you also don’t want to avoid Thanksgiving with the family. So now you’re stuck in the middle and maybe this gal that you’re avoiding at Thanksgiving, maybe this crazy uncle or cousin of yours, maybe they did you wrong. And, what you’re thinking to yourself is, “I don’t want anything to do with them. They’ve hurt me so bad. I don’t know if I even want to have fellowship with my family because that person burned me.”
You also know hanging onto hurt only creates bitterness. It’s only going to make life miserable for you. It’s not going to make life miserable for him. So, you decide to do what God tells his children to do. You decide to do the hard thing to pull up your big girl pants, put on your big boy pants and to reach out to them and to say, “We really need to talk. Can we go to a restaurant and get dinner together? Would you come over to my house because I really believe we’ve got some stuff that we need to work through?” What God is doing in this passage is inviting men and women who were in rebellion against him to come to his table and to be considered his sons and his daughters to restore them to a right relationship with himself.
In just a moment, we’re going to take the Lord’s Supper together and this communion that we’re referring to right now is an example of God showing us what it took for him to be able to make things right between the two of us. It took the blood of his Son and his body broken and killed for you so that your sins could be paid for. It also represents what’s waiting for us when we enjoy the presence of God forever. This is what we call communion the Lord’s Supper, coming to the Lord’s table and enjoying his presence together.
• I need to be saved. Today, I surrendered my soul to Jesus for the first time.
– I don’t have a clear grasp of God’s vision for me. Pray for me to see God’s plan clearly this week.
+ I will trust the Holy Spirit for the power to accomplish God’s plan for me this week.
- What is the best indicator that the Holy Spirit is controlling someone’s life? How can you notice the Holy Spirit in another person?
- Why would the crowd mistake this event for drunkenness?
- In what ways did the Holy Spirit fill you up last week? Be specific.
- Can you state God’s vision for your life in one sentence?
- What is common about all mankind that needs to be fixed? How does God fix that problem by sending his Holy Spirit? (Explain exactly how the Holy Spirit helps someone find healing from his or her greatest problem.)
- Read Joel 2:25-27. What will the presence of the Holy Spirit restore in Israel? (In what way will the Holy Spirit make life better?)
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to have more control over your life tomorrow.