Pastor's Blog
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September 26, 2018, 7:28 AM

God's GIft

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“God gave them the same gift as he gave us” (Acts 11:17).

In Acts 11:1-18, Simon Peter was severely criticized for fellowshipping with Gentiles (vv. 2-3). But Peter cared for his critics. He didn’t denounce them; he “explained everything to them precisely as it had happened” (v. 4). While Peter was preaching to the household of Cornelius, “the Holy Spirit came on them” as He had come on the Jewish believers at Pentecost (v. 15). God’s seal of ownership was placed on them, and that settled the matter in Peter’s mind. He ended is explanation with the words we want to underscore today: “So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us [when we] believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God!” This reveals two powerful truths:

1. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to His people. “God gave them” the Holy Spirit. The gifts of God are never trivial; they are linked to His saving purposes; they are designed to meet real needs. (a.) The Holy Spirit is given to purify Christian hearts. Peter will tell his story again, at the church council recorded in Acts 15. There he declared, “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us… for he purified their hearts by faith (15:8-9). God knows the heart, knows its deep pollution, knows how this pollution hinders growth and life, and makes provision in the outpouring of the Spirit to cleanse the heart – freeing it from sin and for service. (b.) The Holy Spirit is given to empower Christian witness. Peter quotes the Lord’s promise, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (v. 16). When Jesus gave that promise, He went on to say, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:5, 8). And when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the first recorded effect was the creation of a witnessing community – “they began to speak” and never quit! (Acts 2:4; cf. 5:42). The Holy Spirit gives ordinary people tongues of fire to tell their friends and neighbors about the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is received by faith. “God gave them the same gift as he gave us [when we] believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Holy Spirit does not come upon us in cleansing and enabling power unless and until we believe. Those who receive this power do so in a context of asking and believing. Jesus made it clear that the Heavenly Father gives the Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). Faith means taking God at His word, trusting Him to do what He says He will do. Here the promise is beautifully clear: “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” The Book of Acts makes it clear that “you” includes all races, all sexes, and all ages – “every one” of God’s people. The promise sweeps through the ages and addresses all Christians. And faith is simply our confidence in that promise. Faith is often exercised most readily in a context of fellowship and prayer. This was true of the outpourings of the Spirit referred to in this passage. You, therefore, who need to be filled with the Spirit, who hunger in your hearts for holiness and power, why not come and pray together with those who have claimed and experienced this wonderful gift of God? To resist the Spirit is to “oppose God” (v. 17). To receive the Spirit is to be fitted for the service of God.

Let’s pray: Gracious Father, cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Create within me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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