His Presence (Message #7)

Pastor Chuck Hill – Trinity Fellowship Church

Sunday, May 31, 2009 

Well, this morning we end our series on the UNREASONABLE nature of God.

Now, I don’t know about you – but I have really enjoyed discovering the unique way God meets us where we are. Just by way of a quick review, let me remind you with those things we have studied so far.

Week 1: His Passion

Week 2: His Power

Week 3: His Provision

Week 4: His Protection

Week 5: His Patience

Week 6: His Purpose & Plan

And this week we wrap up by looking at His UNREASONABLE Presence…and it just fits so well, because today marks the anniversary of the greatest visitation of God’s presence ever…when His Holy Spirit came and filled an upper room in the ancient city of Jerusalem.

Today is Pentecost Sunday! It marks 50 days since the celebration of Passover – and what we have come to recognize as Resurrection Sunday. 

Now, if you remember – we have called this series UNREASONABLE because God just seems to go way beyond our ability to comprehend His actions. And that continues with this area of His relationship with us. For the last time…let me read you the way Webster’s Dictionary defines the word unreasonable – because, I think it will help us to frame up the angle we are looking at the nature of God’s care in our lives.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines “unreasonable” as:

“Not governed by or acting according to reason; exceeding the bounds of reason or moderation.”

Not, this morning I want to talk to you about how unreasonable it was for Jesus to depart from planet earth, but fulfill His promise by sending His spirit to not only visit us…or meet with us…but rather to dwell within us.

Honestly, it just makes no sense!

And so, with that – let’s talk today about His presence!

“Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.”

Acts 2:1-4 (New English Translation)

One of the best books on the Holy Spirit was written by author and teacher Gordon Fee who presently teaches at Regent College in Vancouver. Fee is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God and identifies himself (unashamedly) as a Pentecostal. His book that I’m referring to is called “God’s Empowering Presence” and it highlights the presence of the Holy Spirit in the writings of the Apostle Paul.

Here are some of the things that Fee says about the Holy Spirit. He writes,

“For Paul, Christian life not only begins by means of the Spirit; the whole of Christian life is a matter of Spirit. In the kingdom of God not only righteousness but also peace and joy are effected by the Spirit (Romans 14:17). In Galatians 3:3, Paul asked rhetorically (about their conversion), “having made a beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now hoping to be made complete in the flesh?” The expected reply is “Of course not!” One must finish in the same way as one began, through the empowering and appropriating work of the Spirit. Thus the Spirit is as central to Paul’s understanding of all of the ongoing Christian life, including ethical life, as it is to conversion itself.” (p. 876)

This past week I went back to a book I had read numerous times in years past…and thought I don’t agree with everything in it, I do agree with an awful lot. It’s a book simply titled: The Holy Spirit, by world renown evangelist Bill Graham. In this book, Rev. Graham addresses how we can activate the presence of God in our own lives.

In the very first chapter of this book, he details out numerous truths about the Holy Spirit – the greatest being that the Holy Spirit is a person! He writes,

“Jesus never referred to “it” when He was talking about the Holy Spirit. In John 14, 15 and 16, for example, He spoke of the Holy Spirit as “He” because He is not a force or thing but a person.”

He goes on to write and tell some of the roles the Holy Spirit’s presence plays in our lives, and he says,

“We see from the Bible that the Holy Spirit has intellect, emotions, and will. In addition to this, the Bible also ascribes to Him the acts we would expect of someone who was not just a force, but a real person. He speaks…He intercedes…He testifies…He leads…He commands…He guides…He appoints…the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person: He is God! He is eternal…He is all-powerful…He is everywhere present…He is all-knowing…”

And after stating so many aspects of the Holy Spirit’s nature, Rev. Graham makes one powerful conclusion. He writes,

“The most important point I can make in summary is this: there is nothing that God is that the Holy Spirit is not. All of the essential aspects of deity belong to the Holy Spirit. We can say of Him exactly what was said of Jesus Christ in the ancient Nicene Creed: He is very God of very God! So we bow before Him, we worship Him, we accord Him every response Scripture requires of our relationship to Almighty God. Who is the Holy Spirit? He is God!”

That being the case, it is simply unreasonable that God would send His presence to dwell in you and me. And yet, how wonderful it is that the fullness of God – His presence, His Spirit is alive and at work in each of us who have come to trust in God.

Now, let’s listen to what Luke has to say about the Spirit…it’s interesting to note that Luke’s gospel is the one that quotes the Holy Spirit the most times…so it comes as no surprise that in the book of Acts, Luke talks about the Holy Spirit 57 times!

Turn with me to Acts chapter 3. This morning I want to show you 3 characteristics of how the PRESENCE of God works in our lives as we serve Him…and we find these in this story in Acts 3 about Peter and John. The first thing I want to show you is that…
1) HIS presence performs miracles through us. (vv. 1-10)

1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Acts 3:1-10

The Holy Spirit does miracles. Look at the ministry of Jesus. Look at the ministry of the early church in the book of Acts…the HS was empowering the people of God to do signs and wonders.

So here’s the question: have you seen any lately? I’d love to hear you testify!
· We ought to be talking more about the PRESENCE of God working in our midst. We ought to share the stories of how the Holy Spirit is working wonders all around us…because He is!

And when we talk about the HS working wonders, it doesn’t always have be the “lame man walking” miracles like this one in chapter 3…let’s talk about the mundane miracles as well! Because, nothing is small or insignificant in the Kingdom of God!

So, let’s talk about signs and wonders…like:

  • Every time a baby is born in our midst it’s a sign and wonder of God’s grace and wonder.
  • Every time you and I wake up in the morning and breathe the breath of life…

But that’s not all…there are also those active miracles that we are called to do.

Think about Peter and John…they had probably seen this beggar at the gate at other times on their way to worship…but for some reason, on this particular occasion, the Holy Spirit inspired them to have the faith to reach out to this man.

It’s interesting to me that they didn’t heal everyone…but at this particular moment in time they were called to do this miracle! One thing…one small act of faith which change the life of one man…and maybe his family!

Just like Peter and John we are called to be life givers…not necessarily resource givers…but life-givers…how can we speak words of life to those who are sick, depressed, wounded, grieving and in need of relief?

Listen, God is not calling us to go out and fix everyone…but He is, by the very presence and power of His Holy Spirit calling upon us to live a life that trusts in Him and His lead. A life of faith in the name of Jesus! And He is calling us to work wonders in the lives of the people we encounter day in and day out! 

And when we step out in faith we will work wonders in people’s lives by HIS power.

And I believe that when we are observant and obedient, that we will experience the work of the Holy Spirit to not only be a presence that performs miracles, but He will also be a presence that prompts us to talk about those miracle to others!

To testify if you will…and that leads me to another aspect of the PRESENCE of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

 

2) HIS presence speaks boldly Through us. (vv. 11-16)

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “People of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

Acts 3:11-16

When we step out in faith, and the HS does these miracles then people will be astonished. We won’t have to put on a fancy program to get people to come to our church…people will be moved by the miracle and then want to ask us questions about what is going on. And since we know that we aren’t responsible for the miracle, then we’re going to have to start talking about it and explaining what’s going on! And we will realize, like these disciples, that it was not by our own power that this miracle happened (“not by our own power or godliness” – – see v. 12).

And the HS will have to speak through us…and we will have to point to faith as the answer. Not medicine, not clever counseling, not social programs (those these can all be useful)…but…

“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes though him that has completely healed him, as you can all see” (v. 16).

The author – or translator of THE MESSAGE version of the bible has written a number of other books, one of which is entitled, “Christ plays in a Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology”. It’s one of the latest books by Eugene Peterson.

In this book he reflects and writes on the slow process of the spiritual journey of faith in Christ…in regard to the HS he talks about how the HS is linked to the story of Jesus.

On pg. 270, he writes:

“We are not to lose sight of the fundamental Jesus story line: what the community does and says and prays is continuous with what Jesus does and says and prays. (In the book of Acts) this is the same Jesus story that we read in the Gospel (of Luke) but without Jesus being visibly and audibly present. The Holy Spirit is God’s way of being present and active among us in the same way that he was in Jesus.”

 

3) His presence inviteS Others To BE REFRESHED. (vv. 17-26) 

17 “Now, brothers and sisters, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ’The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’ 24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ’Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Acts 3:17-26

From this final part of this story, we discover that just an explanation alone is never enough – the Holy Spirit’s primary objective is to always bring people closer to Jesus.

As we just read, once the crowd or the questioner knows that it is a matter of faith in Jesus, then the Holy Spirit will empower us to continue to speak boldly…and in doing so, invite others to change their ways.

The Presence of God always brings a change to people’s lives. He allows us to begin to see things from His perspective…which will always lead to a change in the way people look at the world and live their lives.

And so, in the story Peter goes on to say in verse 19,

“Repent, then and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from Lord” (v. 19).

This is what I call the ultimate, spiritual experience! It’s not simply some spiritual rest or emotional relaxation, but rather a deep  sense of God’s Presence which leads people to a deep refreshing of the soul!

Now, in our culture, it’s easy for those who are very affluent, to think that rest and relaxation is our ultimate goal in life…we are wooed by the voices of our culture that say, “You can get that cottage by the lake and there you will find the fulfillment you’ve always wanted”…or “Imagine what life would be like if you bought this dream house or vacation spot….it will be fun for the whole family”

Now I’m not anti-rest….and I’m not anti-relaxation….you’ve heard me talk about the importance of keeping a Sabbath rest in our lives before…but, when rest and relaxation are seen as the ultimate goal or destiny for our lives, then we’ve been distracted from our calling as the People of God.

Because for the People of God, we’ve been called to experience a much deeper place of satisfaction and rejuvenation…not something skin deep – but rather a refreshing that comes through repentance and salvation.

So, what about you? Have you experienced the repentance and salvation through Christ which gives you true refreshment in your soul?

Know this, the PRESENCE of God will never sit back and allow you to be fooled into thinking that the temporal is more important than the spiritual. And because of that, He will interrupt your life on an on going basis until you have the opportunity to choose the better way. This is what we have come to recognize as the CONVICTING work of the HOLY SPIRIT in our lives.

As we turn our hearts toward God, He will refresh us at the deepest level possible….and He will pour out upon us the relief that our souls long for so much.

The Holy Spirit is the supernatural, relational force within this world that is prompting and drawing people into relationship with Christ. Perhaps this morning, the Holy Spirit is drawing you closer…maybe this morning He is prompting you to make a change and experience His refreshment as you turn from your sins and accept forgiveness.

Or perhaps you’re going through a tough season of life…and God would invite you to remember his faithfulness in the past so that you will be able to trust Him to be faithful in the present.

Conclusion:

Well, in verse 24, Peter finishes his sermon with a challenge. He says,

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ’Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’  26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

God will use you and I to share this message of blessing…as we experience these signs and wonders…and as we live in the glory of repentance and refreshment…we will be a blessing to all peoples on earth.

What a powerful calling for us as the people of God! This morning I want to invite you to join me at the altars…and let’s close today by inviting the PRESENCE of God – through the Holy Spirit to fill our lives and empower us to live effective and fruitful lives for Him.

Would you gather with me? And as you come…just settle in and find a place to pray. And the staff and I will come around and lay our hands on you and ask God to fill you up with His Presence the way He did the early church on that great day of Pentecost.

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