02 - The empowered Church

 

Week 2 in our study of Acts and we come to see what the empowered Church looks like.  What could happen when the Spirit of God radically changes lives in a congregation?

One of my mentors, Chuck Lawless, once taught me that the scary thing about many people is how much “ministry” they could actually do in their own power.  Natural talents and gifts could be so visible that it appears that God is blessing something when in actuality, maybe it’s just worldly success.  It could be simple influence.

I don’t want to settle for influence.  I want the Spirit of God.

In Acts 2, the day of Pentecost has arrived and so many people have gathered in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit falls upon the scared disciples.  Here are some things to note:

  • Tongues were given for the spread of the gospel.  As with any spiritual gift, the tendency can be to face inwards instead of outwards.  The gift of tongues was originally used for the sole purpose of getting the gospel out to as many people as possible as soon as possible.  In God’s sovereign plan, people of different languages were gathered together one day when the Spirit allowed these disciples to get the message out clearly.  After this day, 3,000 converts went back to their home and spread the gospel in their native tongue.  Unfortunately, many people have been taught poorly concerning this gift.  It is a gift, not the gift.  Studying the New Testament would shock people concerning what is incorrectly taught concerning this gift.
  • The Holy Spirit illuminated biblical truth and did not give a “new” message.  Oftentimes, people will think that the Holy Spirit’s job is to tell us mystical things concerning decisions to make.  Jesus promised that we would be better off with the Spirit (John 16:7), but he also said that his role was to teach us all things and to bring to remembrance all that Jesus said (John 14:26).  Not a new message, helping us understand the old message.  It was so good, it doesn’t need to be changed, adapted, or revitalized.
  • Spiritual gifts are given to glorify the Giver – not the receiver.  Don’t turn your spiritual gifts in an opportunity to shine the light on you.  Shine it on Jesus.  Others will be more satisfied with him for sure.
  • We can fake our work; we cannot fake the Spirit’s work.  Be careful about what scorecard you are using.  Bodies, baptisms, budgets, buildings, etc. are indicators, but they are not the final indicators.  The Spirit is the only one who can change a life.  Trees are known by their fruit.  Our church can have tons of numbers soaking from baptismal waters, but unless lives are being transformed, we could be offering false assurance.  When the Spirit moves, lives are changed forever.
  • Beware when church metrics turn into a church census.  There were times when God asked King David to take a census to see how big His Kingdom was.  And there was a time when King David took a census because he wanted everyone to know how big his kingdom was.  God wanted one, punished the other.  One was about God’s glory, the other about man’s glory.  We must be very careful here.  Luke records that 3,000 people were baptized that day.  That’s incredible!  That is a piece of descriptive information and not prescriptive.  Luke does not tell us that churches need to get in the business of airing their numbers for others to see.  Once again, that is a sign, but not the only sign.  I once was at an evangelistic meeting where many were saved.  I was asked how many people were saved, and I replied, “Only God knows that, and time will tell.”  Since we all want to walk away with a tangible evidence of God’s move among us, numbers of hands raised or soaking wet bodies is a wonderful, excitable factor.  But it is so dangerous to assume that all those are legitimate.  We cannot get a spiritual pep rally going without helping people examine whether they are converted or simply excited.  We are not called to leave them there either.  The Great Commission is to make disciples – not converts.  Huge difference.  For all the numbers our churches and denominations post on conversions and baptisms, where are the people in 1 year?  Are they being discipled or are they the seeds that are having the life choked from them by the weeds?

Spirit, come.  Move in power.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.