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14th June 2015
When you read the gospels, you become impressed with the life that Jesus led, but unimpressed with the lives of the disciples! They were not an impressive band of brothers – when their leader was arrested, they scattered and ran away! Yet there was an extraordinary turning point that led to these very unimpressive guys into powerful and courageous exploits.
The turning point was the Holy Spirit coming and filling the disciples. They would have known about the Holy Spirit already from the Scriptures – we read in the Old Testament about people such as David, Gideon, Samson, Moses and others being empowered and enabled by the Spirit. They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things when the Spirit came upon them.
So when Jesus told the disciples to wait – to not even start – until they had power, they would have had some knowledge of what He was saying to them. The prophet Joel had said hundreds of years before that the outpouring of the Spirit would, in the days to come, no longer be reserved for special people, such as kings and priests, but would be for all people, for sons and daughters. There was going to be a supernatural dimension that would make this an unprecedented, broad experience for the least to the greatest.
We live in that time now: today, we can know God at home, we can know Him in the supermarket, we can know Him wherever we are, because the Spirit has come – the same Spirit who transformed the disciples from being ineffective and scared to courageous and powerful.
We can look at the day of Pentecost and wonder where we fit in and how it relates to us. Was it just for those disciples because they walked with Jesus? For the rest of us, is there anything more after we have been saved? We read in Acts 8:12-17 that there was a group of Christians who had not received the Holy Spirit – there was a delay between their moment of conversion and their baptism in the Spirit. The Apostle Paul was converted on the Damascus road, but wasn’t filled with the Spirit until three days later (see Acts 9:17). Likewise, a group of disciples in Ephesus weren’t filled with the Spirit until Paul laid hands on them (Acts 19).
There was a supernatural dimension that followed the laying on of hands. The teaching that says you receive everything at conversion is not true for everyone – we can at least say that. The examples above show us that for some, there is a subsequent empowering that takes place as they are filled with the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, followers of Jesus didn’t grow into the things of the Spirit or have them gradually released within them – no, they were filled and empowered in a moment.
Another school of thought says that we wait and then the Spirit comes, but after the day of Pentecost no one else was told to wait. The reason the first disciples had to wait was because Jesus had not yet been glorified (John 7:37-39), but now He has! (Acts 2:32-33) So from then on the disciples just laid hands on Christians – some who had just been saved moments earlier – and the Spirit came. There was no delay; there is no longer a ‘not yet’.
Jesus didn’t tell them to wait because they weren’t ready; He told them to wait because He was not yet glorified. But now He is, so the Spirit can fill you right now. You don’t have to wait; you don’t have to be special; you don’t have to have everything in your life sorted out. Simon Peter was a mess who had just denied Jesus three times – he was not a very good Christian. You just have to come to Jesus, believing in Him, receiving the promise of the Spirit by faith (Galatians 3:2). And when you are filled with the Spirit, you will be transformed. God wants to empower us – the promise is for you!
Posted by Terry Virgo
22nd June 2014
It has always been God's intention to dwell with mankind. It was His plan from the very beginning, when He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. His presence was with them – He walked with them.
But then the snake came in. The enemy always tries to undermine your relationship with God and to disconnect you from it. Once Adam and Eve believed the snake's lie and sinned, they were banished from the garden – from the place where God dwelt – but even right back then, God promised that one day heaven and earth would once again be joined up and the presence of God would once again return to mankind.
God starts to do this with Abraham, taking hold of him and his family and blessing them. They go through ups and downs, including slavery in Egypt. But God promises to dwell with them again, among them, in the tabernacle. This was a foretaste of what was to come.
Later, when they were in the Promised Land, they made a physical representation of the tabernacle – when Solomon dedicated the temple, God's glory came. But only one man, once a year, could go into the heart of the temple where the presence of God dwelt. All of this was foreshadowing Jesus.
God told them that if they didn't follow His ways – His good ways for living – that He would remove His presence. And that's exactly what happened. The presence of God left the temple, and there's no record in the Bible of the glory returning when the Israelites rebuilt the temple. In fact, those who had seen the first temple wept when the rebuild was finished, because God's presence wasn't there.
Posted by Jeremy Simpkins
8th June 2014
For a church to be healthy, it needs the Bible at its heart – we need to honour God's Word and take it seriously, allowing it to shape us. It's a means for interacting with God, just like the Law was in the Old Testament.
We see through the accounts in Exodus 18-23 that, as well as the Law, the Israelites also had God dwelling in the middle of the camp. Their encounters with God weren't limited to a fireworks show at the top of the mountain; God desired to dwell right at the centre of their camp.
Making space for God's presence was serious stuff: there are 15 chapters of instructions on what this tabernacle dwelling place would be like and 22,000 people were involved in following them! The whole tribe of Levites was set aside to be responsible for set up, pack down, guarding the tabernacle and all of the practical things that needed to be done. Imagine the rotas required to make it work!
The presence of God was a priority for God's people then and it must be for us now. The Israelites didn't create the dwelling place of God accidentally; it was intentional. Everyday life centred around it. It's what marked them out from every other people group (see Exodus 33:16). It wasn't merely a bonus feature – it was the very foundation of their identity.
And it's the same for us today. Church isn't church unless God's dwelling in us. The Bible says: "In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:22) We are individuals from different backgrounds being built into the Church to become a dwelling place for God.
"The gathered church is meant to be a place where the presence of the Holy Spirit is evident; you can't miss him if he is manifest!" – Terry Virgo
We are now the tabernacle where God lives. This is immense and so much better than the Old Testament experience. God's presence is no longer limited to one time or place. God lives in the midst of His people – Jesus' death and resurrection didn't just deal with your sin and give you entry into heaven; it has also cleaned you up so that the Holy Spirit can live in you!
The tabernacle was something special, but it's nothing compared to the Church! We are designed to be the dwelling place of God. That's what makes the Church unique from any other organisation on the face of the planet. The Church was never designed to operate in the self-sufficiency of men and women's abilities; we were designed to operate led and empowered by the Holy Spirit!
We need both truth and fire – to understand the great doctrines of the Bible and to experience the power of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul both raised the dead and wrote the letter to the Romans. One of Jesus' last commands to His disciples was to wait for power. If we're going to see fruit – if we're going to bold, see healing and miraculous works, pastor well, be convicted of sin, have words of knowledge and wisdom, be more peaceful and kind and full of joy, experience emotional healing, hear God's prophetic direction, endure hardships – for all of these things we need the same power the Apostle Paul had, that same power that raised Jesus from the dead and is now part of our inheritance.
Are you thirsty to encounter God?
One step you can take straight away today is signing up for the Encounter day on Saturday 21 June.
Download the audio of this preach and the life application questions here.
Posted by Paul Mann
20th October 2013
The story of how the Israelites left Egypt is mentioned in the Bible more than almost any other story. Many people who have never opened a Bible may be familiar with the story through films such as The Prince of Egypt.
This story is very relevant to you today, because Christians are part of that people – the moment you started following Jesus, you became part of God's people. Exodus 19:1-6 gives a remarkable description of what God's people are intended to be: namely, "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (v6).
This is how God identifies His people; it's how the Church is described in 1 Peter 2:9 and Revelation 5:10. We, God's people, are kings and priests! What on Earth does that mean?
Humans were actually always supposed to have these roles – we were created to be kings, governing the Earth wisely on God's behalf and filling it, and priests, blessing the world by representing people to God (through prayer and sacrifice) and God to people (declaring who God is, teaching).
In the Old Testament, two tribes and two individuals summed up what kings and priests were supposed to look like: Judah and Levi, and David and Aaron, respectively. And in one remarkable Psalm, the writer predicts that one day Israel will have a priest-king forever. That priest-king is Jesus: he governs the world wisely, subdues God's enemies, judges the nations, has all authority, represents God to man and man to God, offers the perfect sacrifice, and emerges victorious as the conquering King!
After this, the Holy Spirit is poured out on God's people, which thoroughly transforms us into the kings and priests that God always said His people would be! Seeing ourselves as kings and priests affects our lives in numerous ways. For example, it changes our understanding of work, suffering, evangelism, and justice.
Our identity as kings and priests rests entirely on the identity of Jesus Christ, as the great King and the true Priest. He's the Lord of the world and the once-for-all sacrifice!
To download the life application PDF and sermon, click here.
Posted by Andrew Wilson