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Sermon - May 3, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                               Sermon # 1210

May 3, 2015                                                                                        Acts 5:12-32

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“Revived by the Holy Spirit”

 

 

1.The State of Things Today

 

When I was seeking God’s guidance on what to preach this week, I kept getting thoughts of the Supreme Court meeting to decide what defines marriage and I had thoughts about the thousands killed by an earthquake in Nepal and the constant bad news in the news each and every day.  Then there was the mess in Baltimore as people rioted and looted, some probably from other towns just for that chaos.  I was driving to church one day and thought about the general sense of despair in our country over the variety of issues from economics to insurance coverage to politics to jobs and so forth.  I thought about the attack on religious freedom and thus the attack on the very foundation of our nation.  When all that comes to bear on our minds, it can certainly be quite disconcerting.  And I think the Lord was leading me to his Spirit.  My first question was what does the church need today?  Perhaps we need a dose of Holy Spirit power and courage and energy.  Maybe we need a double dose!  We need a good old fashioned Holy Ghost revival.  We need a renewal of mind and heart (Rom. 12:1-2) so that we will be better able to stand firm when all these things in the world today come against the Christian faith and against Christians. 

 

We have been studying prayer in Sunday School recently and alongside that I’ve been reading a book on prayer by a Jewish theologian, Abraham Heschel.  Some of you have seen this on my Facebook page, Heschel writes, “"We worry a great deal about the problem of church and state...Sometimes there seems to be a greater separation between the church and God than between the church and state" (Man’s Quest for God, pg. 57).  We cry out to God to bring our nation back to its foundational roots of Judeo-Christian beliefs, but one can make the argument that the church itself has let things go by, slowly moving away from God’s truth in its own life.  We certainly see that in some denominations, taking the way of culture rather than the way of God.  This is why Peter’s word in Acts 5:29 is so current: “We must obey God rather than men.” 

We must obey God rather than the prevailing cultural tides. 

We must obey God rather than the ways of our very own nation as it rapidly pulls away from God’s word into the anarchy of every man and woman doing what is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). 

We must obey God rather than the justices who choose to abandon biblical justice for whatever is politically correct. 

We must obey God rather than media powers who no longer care for the good of the country but only their own bank accounts. 

We must obey God rather than progressive modernism or modern progressivism which seems to despise Christianity in all its ways.

We must obey God.

 

 

2.God’s Spirit at Work (Ezekiel 37)

 

What does the church need today?  Let’s start with Ezekiel and God’s people.  Israel was “dead”, at least spiritually dead.  Israel had no influence, no power, no standing, no life giving focus, and they were like a field of dry bones.  We know that these bones represent the people of Israel.  But what if this vision is interpreted as the American church today?  The church has been declining, certainly.  Some are compromising the gospel for the sake of cultural tides.  Some are truly the frozen chosen.  We have been so long comfortable with our position of influence and acceptance of the foundational status of the nation.  But we know that has changed dramatically.  Our position has changed.  If we are not yet like the dry bones of Ezekiel, we are at least starting to dry out!  We need the same breath that breathed life into those bones.  We need God’s Spirit to breathe on us.  Let’s look now at another time the Spirit moved in mighty ways within and through the church.

 

 

3.Post Pentecost

 

I want to move on to Acts, first back up a bit to Acts 4:29-30.

29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

The church prayed for two things: to speak the word and for God to perform signs and wonders. 

The first prayer is answered in Acts 4:31 and 33,

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

 

The second part of the prayer is answered in Acts 5:12,

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. 

 

As quickly as they had prayed, the Holy Spirit moved to answer that prayer!  What I want us to see is that the Holy Spirit is at work in the life of the church in Acts. 

 

a.Acts 5:3

Now look with me at Acts 5:3.  This is a disturbing story of two people who lied about gifts given to the church and they were immediately struck dead.  But what I want us to see is the language Luke uses to talk about the church.  “Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?”  One significant issue in this statement is that Ananias lied to the apostles, that is, he lied to the church, but what Peter says is that he lied to the Holy Spirit. 

 

b.The Holy Spirit in the Church

If Ananias was understood to be lying to the Holy Spirit when he lied to the apostles and to the church, it supports the idea that the Holy Spirit is the source of the church’s life and the apostle’s lives.  My point is this: We have no life as a church apart from the Holy Spirit.  The church in America needs the Holy Spirit to bring it!  You know that phrase, to bring it?  Like an athlete bringing all her talents to win the game or someone bringing all their energy to finish a project.  We need the Spirit to bring life, to renew our life.  But we must yield to the Spirit, pray to the Spirit, and welcome the Spirit.  What if the Spirit of God answered the Acts prayers for us today, to grant that we would continue to speak God’s word with boldness and to do signs and wonders through us?  It would certainly freak out our complacency and our apathy and our pious contentment with the way things are. 

 

4.The Apostles in Prison

 

Part of the story we have this morning is the result of the spirit moving in the church.  The apostles end up in prison!  They could not help but proclaim Christ and do His work.  Would we be willing to face prison for the sake of the gospel?  Will it come to that point for us at some future time in America?  We would not have even imagined the question thirty years ago, but now? 

 

5.Jail Break!

 

Prison does not last long for the apostles.  An angel quietly lets them out.  They go right back to what they were doing that got them tossed in jail.  Once they are found to be missing from jail, they are rounded up again. 

 

6.Accusations and Defense

 

When the apostles are brought back to face the council they are once again accused of defying the order to cease teaching in Jesus’ name.  Back in Acts 4 they said, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).  You get the impression that the Holy Spirit was compelling their voice.  Now in Acts 5:29 they express a similar thought, “We must obey God rather than men.” 

We are in the EPC precisely because we had to obey God and his word.  We cannot but speak of what God says is truth.  My prayer would be the same as that of Acts 4:29, specifically, that we would continue to speak the truth in love.  Are we willing to pray as the early church prayed?  29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus (Acts 4:29-30). 

 

            Maybe I will make that a Tuesday prayer on the church website!

 

 

7.Holy Spirit Given

 

I think it is safe to say that the church was filled with life in the Holy Spirit as the breath of God breathed life into them.  Through that breath, their bones were compelled to proclaim the truth of Jesus and to work wonders in his name.  I had a professor in seminary who used to use the phrase “in the marrow of her bones” when he talked about something someone could not help but do.  I think that is a great phrase to think about when we consider the Spirit working his way into our lives.  Get the Spirit in the marrow of your bones.  I don’t know if that is any deeper than having the Spirit in your heart, but it is certainly a different way to see. 

What are we given in the Holy Spirit?  Life, grace, spirit, truth, energy, devotion, justice, righteousness, hope, freedom, promise, presence, forgiveness, joy, perspective, vision, ---God!  The Holy Spirit undergirds every aspect of the early church movement.  The Holy Spirit breathes life into dry bones.  The Holy Spirit has been given to us today to show God’s life giving breath to the world. 

 

We cannot grow as a church or grow the kingdom of God by forming more committees or spending more money or marketing the church and especially not by attempting to revise theology or change the Bible.  No, the only way we grow is by the power of the Holy Spirit as we see such growth in the church in Acts.  The only way we grow is to yield to the leading of the Spirit, to actually contemplate the possibility of change.  I know that is scary.  No one likes change even if it is the only thing that will grow the church.  Perhaps that is because we get selfish with the church.  We want the church for ourselves.  But we forget that we are the church and the church is empowered only by the Holy Spirit.  We have no life as a church apart from the Holy Spirit.  I want us to know today that the Holy Spirit is still working miracles like those we see in Ezekiel and in Acts.  The Spirit breathes life.  The Spirit answers prayers.  The Spirit gives life. 

Perhaps, faced with the condition of the world today, we need a Holy Spirit breath.  We need a good old fashioned Holy Ghost revival that empowers us to continue in the word, to stand firm in the faith, to obey God rather than men or culture.   We need the Holy Spirit.  The good news is that the Holy Spirit is with us.  What then shall we do?  The simple answer is do what the church did then, pray.  I know we say that all the time.  But the simple truth is that if we truly believe God’s Spirit can revive the church and if we believe the stories of Acts, prayer is our first step.  The apostles prayed the Spirit moved.  Let’s pray!  Amen.