December 16, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Several years ago, Dawn and I were having lunch with a couple who were an Army chaplain and his wife, Steve and Suzanne. After lunch was over with, Suzanne made this statement to me, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Now, I need to explain the circumstances because Steve and Suzanne met and married later in life. They were struggling with infertility. After lunch was over, we were standing outside the restaurant, and Suzanne said, “We’ve been laying this before the Lord. We’ve been asking God to intervene. I’m really struggling with the pain of not being able to have a baby.” Now, you need to understand something about this woman’s faith. She is to this day one of the strongest Christian women that I’ve ever met. She was on the mission field for many years in Slovakia before coming back to the United States and marrying an Army chaplain. She said it this way: “Jeff, following Jesus and living by the power of the Holy Spirit feels like a roller coaster right now of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t take it any other way.”
At the same time that all of this was going on, there were several other couples in my unit that were all struggling with infertility. They were going to see all of the doctors and the specialists. Many of them were coming to talk to me about it because it was shaking their faith. Dawn and I know a thing or two about that. We spent a couple of years trying to have children before our first baby came, and then the floodgates opened up (that’s another story for another day). Suzanne is outside after lunch, and she says, “Jeff, we’re trying to be radically dependent on the Holy Spirit. We’re going to see the specialists. We’re going to talk to all of the doctors. We’re trying to be radically dependent on the Holy Spirit, and it feels like a roller coaster right now.” Then she said these words that I will never forget. She said, “I wouldn’t take it any other way.” Inside of this woman was a source of strength. There was some strength that this woman had that, frankly, the other ladies that were struggling with infertility just didn’t have.
I’m going to use an analogy for you to show what this looks like. Do you know when you drive across a bridge, especially when you drive across a suspension bridge, what’s holding you up? It’s not the pavement in that bridge. A suspension bridge is built in such a way that the pillars and the cables of that bridge are what’s holding that bridge together. The pavement is really not doing anything when you drive across that bridge. It’s the cables and the pillars that the strength come from. Here’s what I’m saying. The strength doesn’t come from the ground that you’re driving on. The strength comes from somewhere else.
If you’ve ever been to Tacoma, Washington and driven across the East 21st Street Bridge, this is exactly what you see. The power to hold that bridge over the water is not found in the pavement. It comes from those pillars. It comes from those cables. Just recently in Zhangiiajie, China, they created a suspension bridge across a massive gorge. The suspension bridge itself is made out of a glass bottom. To demonstrate how serious this is, they had a bunch of guys come in and take a whack at the glass. It’s not the glass or the pavement that’s holding you up. It’s the pillars and the cables that hold you up.
I was thinking about this sermon this week and of all the strong people I know. The strongest people I know, some of them in this room, all have the exact same thing in common. You want to know what it is? The strongest people I know all draw power from a source outside of themselves. It’s not their own power that gives them strength. They’re getting power from someone or something else.
What I’ve been looking forward to all week long is delivering a sermon to you that you’re probably not going to like, because what we’re going to talk about today is just hard for most of us to handle. It’s anti-American, right? We live in this fiercely independent society that teaches people, “You don’t need anybody else; become your own man; do your own thing; live on your own. you’re a big boy when you can grab the bull by the horns; you’re a big girl when you move out and pay your own bills.” That’s the way that our society was founded. That’s the message that keeps hitting you all day long every day. Here’s the problem: I am as independent as the next guy. I like to be able to handle things all on my own, just like you do. The problem is, that’s just not Biblical.
You weren’t created to be able to handle life all on your own. You were built to be in a relationship. You were created to have this radical dependent relationship on God. It’s dangerous to try to get to the point where you’re handling all of your problems and all of your issues in life on your own. You were never created for that. You were created to hold on and hang on to something or someone outside of yourself. Ultimately, you were made to have an intimate relationship with God’s Holy Spirit.
Today in the Bible, we’re going to be in Acts chapter three. You’re going to see a man who is a living example of this dependency on the Holy Spirit, a living example of what happens when somebody encounters the living God. Today’s sermon describes what it looks like and what it feels like to have this dependence this moment by moment, day by day, radical dependence on the Holy Spirit. There are many areas of your life that are going to change when you’re totally dependent on the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a look at just a couple of them today from Acts chapter three.
While he was holding on to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astonished, ran toward them in what is called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he addressed the people: “Fellow Israelites, why are you amazed at this? Why do you stare at us, as though we had made him walk by our own power or godliness? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied before Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer released to you. 15 You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. So the faith that comes through Jesus has given him this perfect health in front of all of you.
Here are some benefits of having a radical dependence on the Holy Spirit:
I. A hope to hang onto
The first one that comes along with this radical dependence on the Holy Spirit is, you get a hope that you can take to the bank. This is a hope that you can hang on to. I want you to picture in your mind what this felt like in the crowd this day. In fact, I want you to imagine what was going on in the heart of the people who just heard this news as it spread like wildfire throughout the Temple that day. This guy who everybody knows is clearly crippled (you can see it from his legs), they’ve seen him probably his entire life sitting down on the steps of the Temple begging for money. The word gets out; this guy has just been healed. Most people believe that’s impossible. If you were born this way, even God himself can’t heal him. So, they stop what they’re doing, and they come running to see this event. Maybe they think if I don’t run, I’m going to miss it. Maybe they think, Oh, this was just a temporary freak thing and he’s going to go back to crippled legs and begging for money again.
Let me remind you what Acts chapter three says in verse eleven. Don’t think that he’s leaning on their shoulder looking for support because we’ve already heard from the Bible this man is totally healed. He’s running, He’s jumping. He’s probably clicking his heels on that day. I believe he’s grabbing Peter and John and hugging them when the crowd shows up to see what’s going on.
While he was holding on to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astonished, ran toward them in what is called Solomon’s Colonnade.
They see something that I think changes their life forever. Think about this for just a second. If you were in the Temple that day, maybe you were there because you’re struggling. Maybe you were there because your marriage is on the rocks. Maybe you were there because you’re in financial trouble or you have a family that’s going nuts and you don’t know what to do to fix it. I’m convinced people go running across the Temple. They go see this guy standing up and what’s happening in their heart is, they start to develop a sense of hope. If God can do this for a man that’s born crippled, maybe God can heal my marriage. If God can fix a man’s legs, maybe God can fix my business. Maybe he can fix my wayward son. I’ve tried everything. I don’t know what to do next. Maybe God can fix me, if he can fix this man.
I am convinced, hope spreads like wildfire through the Temple that day when they saw this man who was born crippled standing up on his own two feet. Peter realizes he can’t miss this opportunity. Peter sees this as an opportunity to talk to the crowd and to strongly encourage them to put their hope in Jesus, not in this man, and certainly not in Peter and John.
It feels to me like a child who lays down to sleep on Christmas Eve. This little girl, when she goes to bed is not worried about where the money’s going to come from to buy gifts. She’s not worried about finding the time to wrap the gifts. When she lays down and goes to sleep, she has this rock-solid hope. She knows Mama and Daddy are going to make Christmas awesome. This little girl is going to sleep this week in the Chattahoochee Valley with this rock-solid hope in Mama and Daddy. She has that kind of hope and faith that Jesus talks about when they bring little children to him and Jesus picks those children up and sets them on his lap. He looks at the crowd and says, “If you really want to claim that you have faith, if you really want to say that you hope, then you’re going to have to have faith like a little child who believes, ‘if God doesn’t show up, I don’t get gifts tomorrow. If God doesn’t show up, I don’t eat. I don’t have anything because all that I own, everything that I have comes from somebody else.’” Most of us don’t live that way. I don’t live that way. Jesus says, “That’s the kind of faith that I’m looking for.” -faith like a little child has on Christmas Day.
You heard it just a few moments ago when we were singing. Christmas is the season of hope. It’s the advent season. For thousands of years, people all over the world were hoping, waiting, and longing for a rescuer. Then the Bible tells us in the fullness of time God sent forth his Son. Jesus left his throne in Heaven and came to Earth as a sacrificial lamb, the lamb that takes away the sins of the world. Today we still live in the advent because we still look forward to the coming of the King. The first time he showed up as a suffering servant that would go to the cross and pay the penalty for my sin. When he comes back, it will be as the Lion of Judah.
II. Wisdom to avoid mistakes
You don’t just get a faith a hope that you can take to the bank. You start to get wisdom to avoid some mistakes, and all of us make some mistakes. As much as I would love to be able to do this, I can’t make it as powerful to you today. -Peter’s words as they were when he preached them two thousand years ago. You have to hear these words and let them hit you in the chest like a freight train, the way that Peter preached it when he said, “You did this! You’re responsible! It’s your fault!” in verses fourteen and fifteen when he reminds the crowd that comes around him about Jesus and what’s just happened to him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer released to you. 15 You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this.
The power of these three words would have penetrated people’s souls. “You did this! You did this! You did this!” I think what Peter was reminding people of, is that God sent his Son, Jesus, to rescue us from our mistakes. You can’t rescue yourself. If it were possible for you to rescue yourself, the Deliverer, the Messiah, never had to come. Instead, Peter says, “You handed him over. You denied him. The judge wanted to let him go. You refused for him to be let go. You traded a known murderer for Messiah. You killed the source of life itself.”
Like a prisoner standing before a judge, you can only imagine what this felt like having been caught in the very act of murder. What that crowd was thinking was, just a few weeks ago Jesus was standing before Pilate, and Pilate wanted to release him. The crowd started screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him! We want the known murderer, Barabbas. We don’t want Jesus released.” Now the weight of that is hitting them in the chest like a freight train. They’re thinking, “Oh, I did this like a man caught in the very act of murder.” There are witnesses. There are no alibis. There is no money that can pay for a high-profile lawyer that’s going to get you out of this. No, you were caught in the very act. The analogy that Peter is giving today is that you’re standing before the judge and you were caught in the act of murdering his Son. Imagine what it feels like waiting for the sentence when the judge delivers his verdict.
Peter says something that’s incredible; it’s mind blowing! He says, “You don’t have to worry about the sentence.” In fact, all of us mess up. All of us make mistakes. All of us need forgiveness. It doesn’t matter if they’re massive mistakes or small mistakes because we’re imperfect. We all do wrong. Nobody can make somebody forgive you when you’ve messed up. That’s the problem. You can ask for forgiveness, but you can’t force somebody else to forgive you. Peter is offering God’s forgiveness to the very ones who murdered his Son. I want this to hit you in the chest like it should hit every Christian at least once in their life. -Because, if Peter were standing here today, he would tell you, “The Jews didn’t do this. The Romans didn’t do this. Jeff Struecker’s sin did this. It’s Jeff’s fault that innocent, perfect sinless man had to go to the cross. And it’s your fault, too. You murdered him. You did it by your sins, and your sins must be paid for.” The wages of sin is death. Nothing less is acceptable in God’s sight. God, the righteous judge decides to pay the penalty of sin for you by sentencing his Son, Jesus, to die and offering you the gift of forgiveness. Though you and I are guilty, and we know that we deserve it, he’s offering you the gift of forgiveness because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross two thousand years ago. -Because he came back out of the tomb three days later and is seated right now at the right hand of God, the Father.
III. Strength from our weakness
When you’re radically dependent on the Holy Spirit, you have this hope that you can take to the bank. You and I are going to mess up, and the Holy Spirit gives us some wisdom right this moment to prevent us from making those mistakes. Do you know what else we get with the Holy Spirit? You also get this source of strength that doesn’t come from inside you.
Can I talk to guys in this room for just a second, because you probably know somebody like this? Maybe they’re in your family, at school, or at work, but they’re the kind of guy who feels like they’ve got it all figured out on their own, and they don’t need religion. They don’t need faith. That stuff is a crutch. They think they’re a big, strong, tough guy, and they don’t need that kind of stuff. Well, first of all, no, you don’t have it all figured out on your own. One of these days, life is going to knock you down and punch you in the face. When that happens, without faith in Jesus Christ, I don’t know how you’re going to handle it. Tell your friends who feel like they’re a tough guy and all Christians are wimps that they’ve never met your pastor. The truth is that real strength doesn’t come from inside. What Suzanne taught me is that real power comes from outside of you and gives you the ability to handle some of the troubles and problems in life.
Peter makes sure nobody misses this. You can’t walk away after today from Acts chapter three believing that this man healed himself. Peter refuses to let anyone in the crowd believe that Peter and John did this. In verse sixteen, Peter makes sure that they understand. It was Jesus and Jesus alone that healed this guy.
By faith in his name, his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know. So the faith that comes through Jesus has given him this perfect health in front of all of you.
If you were with us last week, I asked you go back and read this account from Mark chapter two where Jesus heals a man in a very similar circumstance. The first thing that Jesus does is heal this man on the inside. He healed his soul. But for the crowd, that wasn’t good enough. So, then Jesus heals this man on the outside, and now he’s healed completely. Now he’s healed totally. The language from Acts today is, now he’s healed perfectly. What Peter is saying is, God didn’t just fix this man’s body. Jesus fixed this man’s body and soul. He could do it for you too, if you will turn to him and start looking to him as your source of strength. Sometimes God chooses the weak things of the world to make strong people look weak. Sometimes God chooses the foolish things of the world to make the smart people look like idiots. What God is doing here is taking this crippled, broken man and fixing him on the inside and on the outside so that Jesus will get the glory. -not Peter or John, and certainly not this guy.
When the crowds go home from the Temple that day, I’m convinced nobody goes home and tells their family the crippled man fixed himself. Today, I’m convinced they don’t even go home and say that Peter and John just fixed a man born crippled. They go home and say, “God just did a miracle in our midst today. Only God can do this. God took somebody who was weak and made him strong.” Now this man as he walked through the streets of Jerusalem is a living example of the power of God everywhere he goes. In fact, in just a few verses in the book of Acts, the religious leaders have a problem because this guy is running through the streets clearly healed. Peter is claiming this happened in Jesus’s name and by Jesus’s power alone.
Two weeks ago, I had a banker in my office talking to me about a mortgage. For those of you who are confused, let me explain. Our church is about to take over one of our two memory care buildings to remodel that building and turn it into dedicated space for our middle school and high school. We’re taking up an offering for that right now. Relax. I’m not going to ask you money in this story. Our church has had for many, many years this debt-free philosophy where we pay as we go whenever we buy something or whenever we remodel something. Unfortunately, because of the way that the debt on these two buildings is structured, I had a commercial banker in my office two weeks ago to talk to him about the memory care building becoming one source of debt belonging to the memory care corporation. Our church would take over the mortgage on the other building and start to pay that mortgage at the same time we’re raising money to remodel the building. We’re still going to do pay as you go to fix the building up. We’re just taking over the mortgage, something that our church hasn’t done in many, many years.
The banker was sitting in my office. He said, “Jeff, we haven’t done commercial lending with Calvary Baptist Church in a long time. I have to ask you a few questions. Do you have any large donations that regularly come in to the church, or do you have any endowments that I need to know about?” I literally laughed in this man’s face because I said, “There are no endowments here. There are no large donations. What you see is by the generous gifts of the people of our church every month. If they don’t give, we can’t turn the lights on. If they don’t give, we can’t pay the bills. There are zero endowments. There are zero large regular donations that come in to our church.” The banker looked at me a bit confused. He’s said, “This is unusual because many churches that I talk to have this really large endowment, and they basically help pay the bills by the endowment.” I said, “That’s not Calvary. Calvary is one hundred percent by the generosity of our church every month when they give to this ministry.”
I realized as soon as the meeting was over with, I missed the perfect opportunity. If I had that guy in my office again, I’d start to share Jesus with him. I’d tell him we have something much bigger and much more powerful than a big, fat endowment that we rely on. We don’t have that stuff around here. We trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, and every month, the money comes in to pay the bills. Every month, the money comes in to keep the light lights on. Church, I would rather have the Holy Spirit than an endowment any second. The reason why we’re able to minister in the Chattahoochee Valley and why we’re able to make an impact around the world is simply because of the generosity of you and because of the power of the Holy Spirit. I would not have it any other way. Thank you, Calvary, for your generosity around here.
I’m asking you to be honest with yourself because, frankly, many of us go through life like we don’t really need the Holy Spirit. We have it all figured out. We have it all taken care of. We handle all of our problems on our own. That’s just simply not the way that you were created. You were designed to be in a second by second, moment by moment, day by day relationship with God, where you’re radically dependent on him.
• I need the power of God to change me. Today, I surrendered to Jesus for the first time.
– I’ve lost my dependence on the Holy Spirit lately.
+ I need the Holy Spirit to give me the power to deal with challenges this week.
- Rate the level of your spiritual strength on a scale of 1-5. Why did you select that number?
- What is the greatest challenge you’ve ever overcome? Where did your strength come from to face that challenge?
- Have you ever made a big mistake because you didn’t know better? How would that decision have changed if you prayed hard for an answer before you made the decision?
- How can sickness teach you to become more dependent on God?
- Is it a type of idolatry to live without any need for the Holy Spirit? Explain your answer.
- Describe a time when God taught you to be dependent on him during difficulty.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the power to face problems tomorrow.