|THE TESTIMONY OF THE SPIRIT
Series: The Gifts of The Spirit - Part One
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 18, 2001
Today we’re beginning as series of 3 messages focused on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit - the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in this congregation. As we begin - I’d like to share the motivation behind this series.
Recently I read about a man - Luigi Corneglio - who died in New York City after having lived in extreme poverty for 70 years - having spent most of his life as a beggar. They found his dead body in an old dilapidated attic where he’d been dead for 3 days. Among the piles of old newspapers and garbage they found $225,000 in cash and 47 violins. One of the violins was a priceless Stradivarius. Who knows if Luigi - who loved music - loved the violin - who knows if Luigi ever played that Stradivarius?
Imagine this - a priceless violin made by the world’s most famous artist - lying silent amidst piles of garbage and the owner - relatively well off - starving to death.
So many Christians are like that. God has meant us for greatness - fullness of life - usefulness - people of great value and purpose - people who will have a tremendous impact on our world. But so many times we’re content to live with garbage - clinging to things that don’t really matter. God has blessed us out to here and we settle for this.
That’s what we want to look at during these 3 messages. The working of the Holy Spirit within us to create in us and through us people living in the greatness of God’s purpose for our lives.
Today our world is moving farther away from God. There is a great need today - perhaps greater than there has ever been - a tremendous need for men and women - for churches - to be where God wants us to be - to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This morning we want to focus on “The Testimony of the Spirit.” That is, the power of God working through us to testify of who He is and what He can do in our lives.
Please turn with me to Acts 2:1-4. As we’re coming to Acts 2 - first some background. In Acts 1:4: Jesus commanded His disciples - “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father - God - has promised.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “You will receive power - the promise - the power to live and do what I’ve commanded you to do - will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and - then - you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
In Acts 2, the disciples are gathered together in Jerusalem on a day which we know as Pentecost.
Pentecost is the Greek word for 50. This day was called Pentecost because it took place 50 days after the Passover Feast - the meal that Jesus shared with His disciples on the night He was arrested. In the Old Testament, Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks or The Feast of Harvest - and was tied to the harvest of certain grains. The point being that this was one of the three big Jewish festivals and Jerusalem was crowded with pilgrims from all over the Jewish Diaspora.
So the disciples were doing what Jesus commanded them to do. In the midst of this large crowd are these 120 disciples waiting for God to do something.
Acts 2:1: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
This is the fulfillment of what Jesus said in Acts 1 - the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes with wind - which represents God’s power in our lives. He comes with fire - which represents God’s purifying of our lives from sin. He comes and gives the use of tongues - which were languages known to those who were around them - this huge crowd of pilgrims. Languages - which enabled them to boldly - with clarity and sincerity - to testify - to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit came - and He took these 120 disciples - gathered together - held together only by a mutual experience with Jesus Christ - and He baptizes them into one Body - infills them - empowers them - transforms them into the Church of Jesus Christ - to boldly proclaim the Gospel - beginning with that crowd in Jerusalem - and transforming the world of men.
From history - we know that the disciples did this. They went out to where the name of Jesus had never been named - planting churches - converting - baptizing - discipling. Every one of the disciples fulfilled that task. Church history tells us that Thomas went to India - Peter went to Europe - others to North Africa - Thaddeus and Bartholomew went to Armenia. The disciples became Apostles - the pioneers of faith by which the ground of the Church was laid.
In the Bible we read that the Holy Spirit blew into people’s lives and they were empowered to lead armies - to defy ungodly leadership - to perform superhuman feats of strength and courage - to speak boldly for God - to write Scripture - to change the course of history. This is what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives - to blow through us - to purify us - to testify through us.
Which - looking practically at our lives - seems a little beyond where most of us live our lives. What will happen if we give the Holy Spirit that kind of control over us?
An elderly Armenian minister was going to preach about the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. He wanted to make his sermon very graphic and dramatic, so he called on the church janitor to assist him.
“Sarkis,” he said, “On Sunday I am going to preach of Jesus’ baptism. I will ask you to go to the dome and stay there. When I come to the high point in my sermon and say, ’and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove,’ I want you to drop a pigeon from the dome.” The janitor promised to do as he was told.
On Sunday morning the minister began his sermon. At the point when he said, “...and the Holy Spirit came upon Him” he looked up at the ceiling, but there was no pigeon. He repeated the phrase a little louder, but still there was no sign of the pigeon. Then he yelled, “Sarkis, where is the pigeon?”
Sarkis shouted back, “Badveli, the cat has eaten the pigeon. Would you like me to throw down the cat?”
The work and ministry of the Holy Spirit is too often a mystery to us. We hear so much about God the Father and God the Son. But, who is God the Holy Spirit?
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came rushing in like a mighty powerful wind. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit - like the wind - blows where it wills - and we hear the sound of it. (John 3:8) That can be frightening.
We need to keep in mind that this same Holy Spirit is God who also speaks in a gentle whisper - lovingly to our hearts. He knows our hearts - our struggles - our cares - our concerns.
The Bible tells us that when we come to salvation in Jesus Christ - the Holy Spirit is the one who creates the new life of God within us. (John 3:5,6) When we come to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. (John 14:16,17) He puts a seal on us - a postmark - that says that our final destination is Heaven - which means that He protects us from Satan while we live here on earth. (Ephesians 1:13,14)
The Holy Spirit is the one who works in our lives to help us to grow as Christians (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and to grow in our relationship with Jesus. (John 15:26) He gives us a place of service in the Church. (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:4-13) The Holy Spirit carries our prayers and deepest concerns to the heart of God. (Romans 8:26) He leads us (Acts 8:29; Romans 8:14) and guides us. (John 16:13)
The point being that we need to think of all of the blessed and wonderful and loving things that the Holy Spirit does in our lives - and not be afraid. Even when He speaks with the sound of a mighty rushing wind or seeks to purify our hearts or lead us to testify in ways that go beyond what we think we’re capable of - He does it with gentle love.
Speaking practically - I’d like to go one step further with this. Trusting is hard for us - because it means completely surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit - yielding to His authority over our lives - to do and serve as He commands. That goes against every fiber of our pride and what naturally makes us comfortable. But its the only way to live as God calls us to live.
How many of you have a computer at home? It is amazing to me how much time I spend trying to learn and to fix and to understand a device that is suppose to save me time and effort. We think that we own things. We possess things. But, too often our things possess us. A career can possess us. A house - finances - our goals and dreams - can possess us. A great tragedy in life is when we’re possessed by something or someone that is not worthy of being possessed by.
Not one of us is our own. Everyone of us has an owner - someone or something to whom or to which we belong. A father will say he is owned by his family. A teacher is owned by his students. An artist will say that there is a driving force within her that moves her to create. None of these possessions is wrong in themselves - unless they keep us back from obedience - from openness - to God’s possession of our lives.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)
Christian - you have been bought by the breaking of the body and the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ. God has does this for us. He possesses us. If we’re willing to completely surrender to the Holy Spirit - surrender to Him everything that we are - He will have the freedom to work in us - His possession - and do in us and through us what we could never do on our own - to complete the work in us that He began on the cross.
Dwight L. Moody - the great evangelist - pastor - and preacher once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is wholly yielded to Him.” May we be that man - that woman - who is totally surrendered to God.
There’s story about a man who looked at the obituary column of his local newspaper. To his surprise he saw his own name - indicating that he had just died. At first he laughed about it. But pretty soon his stunned friends and family began to called to inquire and offer sympathy to this man’s immediate family.
Finally, in irritation, he called the newspaper editor and angrily reported that - even though he had been reported dead - he was very much alive. The editor was apologetic and in a flash of inspiration said, “Don’t worry, sir, I’ll take care of it. Tomorrow I’ll put your name in the births column.”
There’s a spiritual truth here. Not until we’ve allowed ourselves to die - to be crucified with Christ - can we be born into the new life that God offers to us in Jesus.
Have you submitted your life to God? Have you ever confessed your sin to Him and repented of your sin as best as you know how? What keeps you from complete openness from the work of the Holy Spirit in you? What possesses you? Maybe sins that you’ve haven’t even begun to admit to. Most of all - as fully and as simply as you know how - have you told God that you want His will in your life - whatever it may be?