INSPIRE

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Church on Fire

Read at beginning of service:

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
Acts 4:1-22 (NIV)

INTRODUCTION

Earlier this summer I took a day to seek pray and seek God’s direction for a number of things in my life – but I found myself focusing more on His direction for HPC. For sometime, as your pastor, I’ve been asking God for more specific insight into some of the unique core values and practices He has for the people in this particular body of believers. While fully embracing the vision to be a City on Hill – I realize that this vision is very broad in scope and we truly do need help in narrowing down some pathways to realizing its fulfillment! And so, while I was praying, I was continually drawn to the account of the launch of the church of Jesus Christ as recorded in Acts 2. Now if you’ve been Christian for any length of time at some point you’ve hear about Acts 2. Certainly, the account of Pentecost and the explosive effects it had on the launch of the early church has been preached about, analyzed, written about and well-covered by much better minds and more articulate folks than I. Certainly, while reading that passage, in my mind was circulating all the various things I’ve heard about and had taught to me and have read about! But then as I prayed and asked God to show me what He was wanting me to notice about this particular passage (which by the way is a good practice for any of us in studying God’s Word), four words kept coming to my mind as I thought about what was happening with the early believers as God formed this first Church. As I dwelt on these four words, it was one of those “eureka” moments – you know where the proverbial light-bulb goes off in your head.

Let’s read this passage (read Acts 2:42-47)

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity- all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)

Remember, this particular passage is the earliest description of what the church Christ established in the power of the Holy Spirit looked like. In the next four weeks, I want share with you some the things I believe God has been teaching me about the Acts 2 church that I believe He wants us, here, today to embrace. Here in Acts 2 we find the description of a group of believers who bonded together as the body of Christ and are a Church on Fire! As we look at this short passage, and draw from examples found throughout the history recorded in the letters, and teachings of God’s Word there are four verbs (or action words) that characterize the activity, and influence of this Church on Fire: Inspire; Involve; Equip; and Grow.

These action words are significant because I believe they relay not only what the church was in it’s earliest beginnings but also what it can be today (and indeed in some cases is). In fact, I believe the church today MUST demonstrate these characteristics in any description of it if it truly is to have any impact for the Kingdom of God.

The reason why I’m sharing these insights with you is because I believe God wants every local church/body of believers to be like the church described in Acts 2. Yet there are far too many that aren’t. I believe that HPC is on the road to becoming more like this church and I pray that we will get there. If we want to be a “City on a Hill” in the fulfillment of God’s vision for us then we must see evidence of these “action words” in our midst.

The purpose of this series then is:

I want to paint a picture of what the Acts 2 church looked like that gives rise to this action word description.

Then, for each action word I’m going to try and answer the question, “Why was the Acts 2 church like that? What is it that makes it obvious that this particular verb is an accurate description? Really, what I’m attempting to do is to draw principles from the answers to that question that we can apply to the church today.

And finally, in sharing with you what I believe God has put on my heart I hope and pray that our hearts will be awakened and a desire fueled to become more like the Acts 2 church with each of those four action words being an accurate description of HPC. It is a reality that I believe is in our grasp! I hope and pray that this series will create space in your thinking and in your life for the Holy Spirit to begin giving (or continue to give) personalized dreams and visions for your individual contribution (prompted by God) to this church vision! Friends, in this series of messages I’m merely introducing to you these four action words and giving some of my observations, however there are places where I’m deliberately leaving the blanks unfilled. My hope and prayer is that a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit will fill in those blanks – answering the questions that are raised as you hear me speak, and a quickening in your spirit as you think of the implications.

Today I’m going to zero in on this first verb. Inspire.

Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 2:43 (NIV)

(show “man on the street – awe and reverence by Highway Video”) (http://www.sermonspice.com/cart/?p=catalog&mode=search&display_mode=3topics&search_str=AWE&store=main&x=0&y=0)

Watching a video like that can be fairly sobering because it reveals a glimpse into the kind of impact the church of Christ, and Christians are really making in the world. Of course, the reality that it presents is influenced somewhat by where they filmed this clip and who they asked – but I wonder – would the answers be dramatically different if we were to take a video camera to the streets of any of our local communities and ask the same questions? What about if we put some of your neighbors, or family members, or friends on camera? What kind of responses would we get – it certainly is something to think about.

On the other hand. Let’s consider what the answers might be if we were somehow able to run a video feed back in time to the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem and ask those questions? You bet there’d be a significant difference in the responses. The difference is because of inspiration. But before we get into that, let’s try get a handle on what “inspire” means.

Well in my research I came across some common definitions of inspire (noted across multiple sources, dictionaries: online and offline) and I want to highlight these definitions as we look at how this verb applies to the church in Acts 2. Why is “inspire” an action word of the church of Acts 2?

The first definition of inspire is “to provoke a particular feeling – to arouse a particular feeling in somebody”.

In the case of the people in this church, Acts 2:43 says – as I’ve already pointed out:

Everyone was filled with awe…
Acts 2:43 (NIV)

Certainly there is clear indication that the people belonging to or in contact with the early church were provoked to this feeling of “awe”.

The NIV translation of this word is awe but the literal translation is fear. The weight of this word carries the recognition that what was happening was of such substance and reality that it inspired or provoked a feeling of the emotion one feels when you know you’re in the midst of something great and you’re unsure of what could happen to you. It’s the kind of feeling you have when something unexplainable happens that’s beyond your realm of experience and understanding.

There are two edges to this “fear”. Either you are drawn in closer because your curiousity is piqued and you want to know more – OR – you run away because you choose NOT to believe it or it’s too overwhelming.

It’s similar to the feeling that we guys got the very first time we asked a girl out. You manage to get enough nerve to go up to her and say her name, but then when she turns to you – this incredible fear grips you and you are in awe of her beauty but the whole time thinking to yourself “what am I doing here…I’m going mess up…she’s gonna say no…and so on” Some guys they manage to stand there and deliver the question. Others, run away – either because the pressure is too much or they’ve giving up on believing that she’ll go out with them anyways.

No one could say that people outside or inside the early church were ambivalent. People were either drawn to Christ or they ran away because of the inspiration of the church – but there was always a sense of wonder in what was taking place. Look at some of these examples:

They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Here we are-Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other. But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”
Acts 2:7-13 (NLT)

Peter got and spoke and explained what was happening as he shared about the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-32) and how God foretold that in the last days His spirit would be poured out upon all people – inferring that what Jerusalem was witnessing was in fulfillment of this prophecy. Peter introduced Jesus as the Saviour – his death and resurrection. He explained the significance of Jesus death and resurrection being yet another fulfillment of prophecy as given by David in the Psalms. Once again, the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit inspired and provoked a particular feeling. People interrupted Peter and asked the question, “What then should we do?” as the Bible records Peter’s anointed words pierced their hearts. Some believed that day, in fact over 3000 did and were baptized in water and in Spirit! Into the church! There was no carelessness within the crowd that day.

The Letters of the early Apostles are filled with accounts that demonstrate the definition of INSPIRE wherever the church of Christ was found. There was never any middle ground when it came to emotions and emotional response to the presence of Christ in believers and the church. A common denominator in every account recorded is wonder and awe.

Why is “inspire” an “action word” of the church in Acts 2?

The second definition of inspire is “to stimulate somebody to do something: to encourage somebody to greater effort, enthusiasm, or creativity.

In other words, where there is inspiration – there motivation. People respond in greater ways when they are inspired! In this case, with the church in Acts – there was definitely a stimulation to those within the church to greater effort, enthusiasm, and creative activity. But on the other hand there was also a provoking of activity outside the church as well. Again, as was the case with emotions – there was no apathetic response to this church on fire. Either people, were moved to become a part of what was happening – or people did everything they could to oppose what the church was doing. But there was no lack of activity. You couldn’t say of the church of Acts that they blended in with their communities or with world around them!

Another observation with this is that not only was the early church inspired to do something and inspiring in the process – but this church, this group of people did things in creative ways! In other words, what was inspired in the lives of the people in the church through the church is unique. Our God is a creative, and powerful, Almighty, Majestic being and it only follows that what is done through HIS people should be creative, and powerful, and unique! The church should(!) be at the forefront of creative activity in the world. God has gifted people in unique and creative ways. In manifesting the verb, “INSPIRE” this creativity and activity is released. In the church of acts we certainly see this as the case…

  • A regular experience among people of the church was miracles, signs, and wonders. People were healed, people were delivered.
  • The Bible says these early believers met together regularly and eat together.
  • The Bible says they sold their property and possessions so they could share the proceeds with those in need.
  • They regularly prayed together – and when obstacles appeared, or tragedy struck it was natural for them to get together and pray until there was resolution.
  • They shared their possession among each other!
  • Acts 4:34 says, “There were NO needy people among them…” NONE! Imagine that!

Why is “inspire” an “action word” of the church in Acts 2?

The third definition of inspire is “to breathe in: to inhale air or gas into the lungs

This is actually a meaning of inspire that we don’t hear very much of or use anymore. But the spiritual implication of this meaning is absolutely mind-boggling when applied as a description of the early church. So far I’ve painted a picture of the church of acts as both a church that was inspired and is inspiring – in the sense that there was a provoking of emotion (i.e. ?awe’), this in turn stimulated the church to do something – with greater effort, enthusiasm, and creativity – and of course that last word is descriptive of the creative nature in what resulted from the inspiration upon the early church and what she inspired. But what is it that inspired the church and inspired through the church?

The answer really isn’t found by asking what, but rather who? And the answer to that is, the Holy Spirit. The third definition of inspire is remarkable in the fact that it describes exactly the dependence the church of Christ must have on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Not only is He the one who inspires but we are to inspire Him – or breathe Him. Of course, Jesus Christ, the cross, and His resurrection, his imminent return and end-times judgement of God (elaborate) – is the message His followers must testify about (and indeed will share if it has truly made any difference in their lives). The restoration of relationship between a person and His Creator with the ensuing transformation and transplantation from death to life is the goal of the news. However, the vehicle to get from the message to the transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit through the church of Christ dependent on Him.

This is what happened in Jerusalem at the launch of the early Church and this is what has happened whenever the church of Christ demonstrates inspiration in it’s character and through it’s members.

Without the power of God at work in our lives and in our church we will have no lasting impact in for His kingdom. If lives aren’t transformed within the church what chance is there of lives being transformed outside the church?

It’s time to ask the tough questions:

1. If I was to ask the average person here at HPC what is a word that comes to mind when they think of our church would the word “inspire” be verbalized?

I think maybe in a few instances, but truthfully a comparison to the church of Acts reveals that we have much room to grow in this area.

2. If I was to ask the average person in our community (Hanover and surrounding area) what is a word that comes to mind when they think of our HPC would the word “inspire” be used?

I almost hesitate to even guess at the answer but I’m positive that once again it would reveal the need for great improvement.

To be like the church of Acts we must be a church that is not only willing to testify to the message of Christ and His good news, or hopeful of the transforming work of God in our own lives and in the lives of people we influence – but we must also believe, seek, and welcome the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city. Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
Acts 8:4-25 (NIV)

Notice – Peter and John became aware that something was missing in the lives of these new Christians of Samaria. Peter and John rightly understood the importance of the work, anointing, and presence of the Holy Spirit in the presence of God’s people. If this church of Samaria was to have any hope of impacting the rest of their country they required the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

How does this translate into our everyday lives today?

Well, how much do you inspire (breathe in God, The Holy Spirit) through your day(s)? Do you believe that the signs and wonders we read about in the book of Acts are possible here in Grey and Bruce County? Do you believe that God has spoken through His word incredible wisdom for the decisions we make every day? Is the Holy Spirit giving you dreams and are you willing to take a risk at seeing them become reality? Do you really want God to show up at your workplace or at your school or in your home or on the street? When someone you know shares of a difficulty in their life, do you take the opportunity to pray for God’s miraculous touch in Jesus’ name? Do people to come to you when they are sick or bring others to the church who are sick because they’ve heard reports of God’s miraculous power at work? Do you daily seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit for power and direction in everything you undertake that day? Do you come to service believing that there will be tongues and interpretation or someone healed or some other manifestation of God’s divine presence or do you secretly hope that nothing will happen that will “offend” a visitor to the church? Have you received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? Do you even understand what that is? Are you seeking it? When God does something powerful in Your life or in the life of someone you know do you seize every opportunity to tell others You know about that event? Do you give God the best of the talents and abilities that He’s given You? Do you obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit when you hear of someone in need and you are able to help them because of His provision in your life?

Listen to these words the apostle Paul wrote the church in Thessalonica once,

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (NIV)

Friends, if you leave with nothing else this morning – leave with this – If the church of Christ is going to be Inspiring then believers must inspire the Holy Spirit.

{Relate to communion as we enter that part of the service}

Series NavigationNext in Series
This entry was posted in Podcast, Sermons, Sunday Morning Service and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.