March 3, 2019
Pastor Jeff Struecker
If I were to invite you this week to the Peachtree Mall food court to meet me at lunchtime to sing America the Beautiful, how many of you would meet me? This phenomenon that I’m describing is called a flash mob. What would it take to get you to come join me in the middle of a very crowded food court at lunchtime and to do something that might otherwise be a little bit embarrassing? I’ve been thinking this week about what it takes to get a flash mob started. I’ve started to realize it’s not the first person that stands up on the seat and starts to sing out loud that really gets this whole thing started. In fact, most of you would just think, “I wish she would sit down. She’s annoying me. Is this lady crazy?” You would just go about eating your meal. If two, three, five, or fifteen people stand up and start to sing with her, now my guess is you’re going to think about this lady a little bit differently. Because while you’re eating your lunch in this crowded food court, you’re going to start to decide. “I wonder if I should stand up. I wonder if I should join her in singing this song.” This is what happened in a crowded mall a couple of years ago in Cary, North Carolina.
Did you notice the lady who stood up with her child? Or, did you see those two ladies who were sitting down eating a meal? They were probably eating a whopper from Burger King and then they just stood up and started singing. How many of you noticed the guy with his child in his arms who obviously was just there eating lunch that day? For whatever reason, they got swept up in this whole thing, and all of a sudden, they started to stand up and sing America the Beautiful. They probably weren’t part of this original group, but they just got wrapped up in the midst of this whole thing and started to join in.
As a research sociologist, I’m fascinated by how stuff like this works. In fact, I put a blog on our church website this week about this. What prompts total strangers to stand up and to start to sing a song in the middle of a crowded mall food court? I’m convinced it’s not the first lady who stood up on the chair and started singing. It’s the second, third, fifth, or fifteenth person, because now while you’re sitting there eating you’re thinking to yourself, I wonder if I should stand up. I wonder if I should start singing with them. Now all of a sudden, it’s not some crazy lady who’s just annoying you while you’re trying to eat your curly fries. Now you’re trying to decide whether or not you want to become part of this event.
What we’re going to read from the Bible today is a moment in time that I’m convinced the people who were involved in this moment didn’t realize was a movement that would sweep the face of the globe, and it would last for more than two thousand years. Today, we’re going to see from Acts chapter five what happens when God gets involved in a moment in time.
In fact, here’s what I want you to think about when we’re reading this passage from the Bible today: God can take what seems to be just a brief moment in time, and he can turn it into an unstoppable movement that lasts for thousands of years and sweeps all across the globe when he injects his Holy Spirit into the process. That’s what’s going on in Acts chapter five. Today you’re going to see the words of Jesus coming to pass because in Matthew 18:20, Jesus said it this way: “When two or three are gathered together [basically when they’re unified and when they’re of one accord] in my name, I am in their midst.” You and I should ask, “How can Jesus be in Asia, Africa, and North America all at the same time?” The answer to that question is by sending his Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit can take a moment and turn it into an unstoppable movement, which is what we see happening today.
I. Work toward a single purpose
The first thing that I want you to notice is how the church is united. There is unity, and they’re working together with one laser like focus. They’ve got a singular purpose. Because they have a singular purpose, the Holy Spirit does some incredible things today. By the way, not just today at this moment in time in Jerusalem in Acts thousands of years ago. He’s still doing it two thousand years later in the Chattahoochee Valley in 2019.
Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared to join them, but the people spoke well of them.
That verse sounds a little bit confusing, so I should go back and explain verse twelve and what happened before verse twelve. When the church first started in the book of Acts, it was just a handful of Jesus followers who were meeting in homes. That group of followers started to grow. It grew so big that now the homes couldn’t hold them anymore. By today in Acts, you see them meeting in part of the Temple, a rotunda called Solomon’s Colonnade. Now the church is coming together, and they’re all meeting together in Jerusalem, in the Temple like a flash mob. They’re all showing up at the same place at the same time and they’re worshipping Jesus together. If you were with us last week, you know that something really catastrophic happened. Two people from that church tried to pull a fast one on God. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the church and to God. He struck them dead in the middle of a church service for this. Now the fear of God is starting to spread all over town.
In verse thirteen, people are standing up and taking notice just like the folks in that crowded food court. Now it gets a little bit scary because you have to ask yourself, Should I stand up? Should I join them? And if I stand up and if I joined them, will people start to look down at me. Will they think that I’m crazy? Will they talk bad about me if I stand up and I joined them? This is exactly what everyone in the Chattahoochee Valley has to go through when they think about being a follower of Jesus. Some people are afraid of what it’s going to do to their reputation. Some people are skeptical about what’s happening in the midst of a church. But I want you to notice something about the end of this sentence. No one was silent about it. Everybody had a choice to make, but nobody was silent about it. Some people are going to be scared. Some people are going to be skeptical, but it is the curse of God, it is the kiss of death, for a church that is completely irrelevant and nobody in the town knows about them. Nobody cares about them.
You can’t say that about what was happening in Acts chapter five. They were all together. What made this church so powerful is they had laser like focus because they were all following the same leader. That leader was not Peter. That leader was not Jeff. They were all following the Holy Spirit, and he was giving great power, great energy, to this group of believers because they were united, and they all had a singular purpose.
Do you know that this whole idea of the power of singular purpose, some of it was pioneered by Albert Einstein? He received the Nobel Prize for this. He didn’t get the Nobel Prize for his theory of relativity. He started to research the power of light, and he received the Nobel Prize for what he referred to as the “photoelectric effect”. What Albert Einstein theorized was, light has immense power, but when you flip a light switch on, it goes everywhere. It disperses everywhere and so that power is dispersed everywhere. It’s really almost impossible to see. Einstein thought that if there were particles within (called photons), if you could focus photons, there’s immense power. He received the Nobel Prize for this idea, but in his lifetime, people really couldn’t do the research.
After Einstein died, scientists decided to put Einstein’s ideas to the test. They started to work on focusing light. They pioneered research called Light Amplification by Stimulated Emissions of Radiation. Do you know what the acronym for that is? It’s lasers. When the research started, and scientists were actually able to focus the power of light. The first laser had ten thousand watts of power. -immense power in the first laser. Do you know that last year the world’s most powerful laser was just completed? Tests were conducted in the University of Japan in Osaka. That laser has two thousand terawatts of power. That means two thousand trillion watts of power. I realize, unless you work for Georgia Power, that doesn’t mean anything to you. So, let me explain it to you this way. Take all of the electricity that the United States uses at any moment in time and multiply it by four thousand times. That’s the amount of power in that one beam of light, that laser like beam of light or power in Osaka, Japan.
A church goes down a dangerous road when it starts to do three, five, fifteen, or thirty things instead of focusing its energy on the one thing that God has called a church to do. If you’re on our campus, I hope that you can’t even make it up the driveway without seeing the laser like focus, the one thing that our church exists to do. It’s making disciples. We define that by reaching, building, and sending. If you’re not sure what we mean by those three words, we wrote a definition for you. Everybody who’s been in this church should be able to recite for you exactly what we mean by those three phrases. This is the one thing that we do as a church. We say, if we fail at this thing, we failed God. If we succeed at everything else but this, we made a mistake. This is the laser like focus that we are trying to be united behind, because we believe this is the one thing and the only thing the Holy Spirit has left Jesus’s church on planet Earth to do. The church was all together. There was great power because there was a laser like power, laser like unity, in that church.
Then let me show you what the Bible says next that came from that laser like unity. People started to stand up and take notice. Crowds were impacted by this. -not just in Jerusalem, but now word starts to spread to the surrounding communities because the believers are sharing what Jesus has done for them. They’re telling each other and witnessing to other people about Jesus’s saving power.
II. Witness about Jesus’s saving power
I’ve said this often around here. You really need to know that if you have been born again, if Jesus has radically changed, if Jesus has saved you, you have an irrefutable, unarguable story. People can argue with you all day long about what they think the Bible says, but they cannot argue with you about what you say Jesus did to you. That’s the one story that nobody can argue with. When that story is unleashed by the power of the Holy Spirit, it radically transforms communities.
Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers—multitudes of both men and women.
I want us to dissect this sentence for just a second because there’s some really weird language. That phrase, “added to the Lord”, is very unusual in the Bible. In fact, Bible scholars argue with one another about it. Does that mean that people were being added to Jesus’s church? Or does it literally mean what it says? -that they were being added to God or being added to Jesus? What I tend to believe the Bible is describing here is adoption. Men and women, multitudes of them, are being adopted into God’s family. They’re becoming the children of God. Once they were dead in their sins; now they are alive in Christ. Now they have become sons and daughters of God. Since they have become sons and daughters of God, he is therefore adding them to his church.
The language is inferring that this is happening not just on Sundays at Solomon’s Colonnade, but that this is happening all week long. We should probably step back for just a second in 2019 and say, “How did this happen? Why were people becoming Christians all day long all of the time in Jerusalem two thousand years ago?” The answer to that phrase is the very first word of verse fourteen. Believers were witnessing to others. Believers were telling other people what Jesus did in their life. This is the moment where God, through his Holy Spirit, welds the heart of a believer with the lifestyle of a believer. -where our walk and our witness are welded together and cannot be separated anymore.
Let me use some Old Testament prophet language with you. In the Old Testament, the prophets referred to people like me before I became a Christian as somebody who had a dead heart, a heart of stone. Then the Old Testament prophet say God has to create inside of me a heart of flesh. When he does that, then I respond to him in faith. What you see here is a walk and a witness that are being welded together. Do you know that when you weld something, you heat it up so hot that the molecules of one piece of metal attach to the molecules of another piece of metal? Then, when it cools down, there’s no way to separate these molecules anymore. Literally, two pieces become one piece of metal when they’re welded together. This is what the Bible describes by being born again. He heats our heart up, and he starts a work inside us. That work is so powerful that it affects the way that we live.
People are noticing something different about us, and the community is standing up and taking notice. This is what it looks like when a walk and a witness are welded together. This is what it looks like when a man or a woman is born again. Pretty soon the way that they live is radically impacted by what they believe, which I am convinced everybody on the planet is looking for. They just want to know, is that stuff that you guys say you believe real enough that it would change me? That’s what we see when people start to walk in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
III. Walk in the Spirit’s presence
I realize this phrase is a little bit awkward. I did this on purpose. I’ll explain to you three very simple ways what this means today, but maybe the better way to describe this for us is exactly what Acts chapter five shows next. I want you to notice what happens when a brother is so impacted by the Holy Spirit that literally just walking along, the Holy Spirit starts to do miracles around him.
As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 In addition, a multitude came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
This is supernatural spiritual healing. This is a medical doctor who’s writing this account for us, and he’s saying that physical healing is happening in Acts chapter five. This is what blows my mind. Peter isn’t even taking part in this. Please don’t get this wrong. How many of you believe that it is because of Peter and Peter alone that these people are being healed? No, what the Bible is saying is when he just walks by, the Holy Spirit is doing miracles. When his shadow passes over sick people, they’re healed. When his shadow passes over people who are possessed by demons, they’re set free because of what God is doing with these believers when their walk and their witness are welded together, when they start to get singularly focused on what the Holy Spirit is calling them to do.
If you were to ask Peter and those apostles, “Hey, when did this whole thing start for you?” I’m convinced they would have never known this is the moment. What you saw in Acts chapter five is the church used to be very small, meeting in houses, and then it got a little bit bigger, and they started to come to the Temple, to Solomon’s colonnade, to meet. Then word started to spread throughout Jerusalem about what God was doing in their midst. From that moment, the Holy Spirit set fire to believers, and it became a movement that started to spread outside of Jerusalem. It’s kept on spreading for two thousand years until it’s covered the entire globe what God did through a handful of ignorant fishermen. Some of them very sinful men who denied Jesus and now are being used in the incredible ways that you’re reading about in the Bible today. This is the moment where the Holy Spirit lights a fire in his church, and they become an unstoppable movement that is still going strong two thousand years later. Do you want to know what really made them so strong? People were standing up and taking notice. These brothers, these sisters, they’re different. They don’t march to the same beat as everybody else in town.
I’ll give you an example of this from when I was a soldier in the Army. I used to regularly get picked to go be on the unit’s color guard. This means I had to show up and stand in a hot formation on a parade field in August for hours carrying the regimental colors. By the way, I learned later on the only reason that I got picked is because I was six feet tall or taller and because I had some rhythm and knew how to march. Here’s the moral of the story: Don’t be six feet tall; don’t get selected for this. -because I spent endless hours on a parade field holding the regimental colors while some general droned on and on and on. I would rather walk twenty miles with a hundred pounds on my back than listen to these generals drone on and on.
I’m just standing there holding these colors, waiting for my commander to call out, “Right wheel march.” Because as soon as he says that, now I can start to march and ultimately make my way off of the field. I’m the guy who’s holding the colors, and everybody else is watching the colors, and everybody else is going to follow those colors. Now, some of those formations on the parade field on Fort Benning had thousands or tens of thousands of people. All of those commanders calling out at different times, “Right wheel march,” and instantly, we all started to march step in step with one another.
Do you know how that’s possible? There’s an Army band on the other side of the field. Although that Army band is playing a song, there’s a drummer in the Army band, and I learned every time that drum beats, my left foot is supposed to hit the ground. It doesn’t matter what my commander says next. When I hear the drum beat, my foot hits the ground, and I am in perfect step with ten thousand other people on this parade field. Sometimes I’m in step, and my commander is not, and I have to call out to him, “Get in step, Sir.” All of us are listening to that drum, and we’re marching together. Step in step.
This is what you’re reading in Acts chapter five. I’m certain Peter didn’t understand how big this movement was. I’m convinced none of those apostles got it. Looking back years later, maybe they realized that was the moment it went from a moment in time to an unstoppable movement of God. If you’re trying to figure out how to get step-in-step with the Holy Spirit and start to march to the beat of his drum instead of listening to the beat that everybody else around you is marching to, look at these action steps.
1. Surrender your life to the Holy Spirit.
This is the moment when you go from having a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Until that happens, nothing else that happens really matters. This is the moment you become a child of God, a son or a daughter of God.
2. See the Holy Spirit at work in your life
Now you start to look at what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life. This is where some Christians will wrestle. It’s okay. Only after you figure out step number two, are you able to move on to step number three.
3. Show the Holy Spirit through your life.
I’m going to be honest with you. These are really easy things to say, but quite frankly, they’re not very easy things to do. All of us need the Holy Spirit’s help to do any one, let alone all three.
• I need Jesus’s saving power. Today, I turn from my sins and surrender to him for the first time.
– Pray for me to develop a gospel friendship this week.
+ I will follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership this week.
1. What is your life’s purpose? Explain in one sentence or less.
2. How does your life’s purpose bring glory to Jesus?
3. Do you have a gospel friendship right now? How are things going with that relationship right now?
4. List one or two practical examples of someone walking in the Holy Spirit’s power.
5. What is one indication that the Holy Spirit is using you right now for Jesus’s glory.
6. When was the last time you saw Jesus heal someone?
7. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in great power through us this week.