Hello, and welcome to Lechem Panim. In our study of the book of Acts we have been talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, where the disciples of Christ were anointed with the Holy Spirit and given the gift to speak in other known tongues so that ALL might understand the Gospel and have it speak through their own mother-tongues (their heart languages) so that it might touch and resonate with them at the deepest possible level. And a crowd gathers because of this mighty outpouring and they want to know what all of this means. So Peter has been explaining how this coming of the Holy Spirit proves that Jesus (whom they crucified) was indeed the Messiah because Jesus had foretold that all this would happen following His ascension. And Peter goes on to show from the Old Testament how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Messiah they had been waiting for. And it says…
Acts 2:37-41 (ESV)-- 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Church on Fire-- [When trying to motivate Christians, Billy Sunday used to speak graphically of the well-known village atheist, who was seen running vigorously to a burning church building, intent on joining with others in subduing the flames. A neighbor, observing him, exclaimed facetiously, “This is something new for you! I never saw you going to church before.” “Well,” the atheist replied, “this is the first time I have ever seen a church on fire.”] OUCH!!!!
The Source of Spiritual Power-- Some time ago I was asked a very difficult and troubling question by someone. And that was: Why is it that the Church (at least in America) seems to be losing its ability to affect culture; at least to the degree it has in times past? And you know that is an excellent question, especially as we talk about Pentecost; when the Holy Spirit came and birthed the Christian Church. And you saw so much change; this upheaval of culture. We look and see the explosion of growth that took place in the early church; how people were changed; how communities were changed; how cities were won; then nations; and eventually much of the world. Christianity spread like an uncontrollable wildfire. But now often we find ourselves struggling to maintain the ground we already have, much less gaining new ground. And the ground we have seems to be slipping away day by day. What is the source of spiritual power and how can we have a fresh outpouring of that power so that we can start gaining more ground?
Relationship With The Spirit-- First of all, the key to having spiritual power lies in our relationship to the One from whom spiritual power comes; the Spirit of God. When the Holy Spirit came, He consecrated the Christian Church, setting it apart as holy unto God. It was no longer conformed to the pattern of the world, but became conformed to the image of Christ. It was in and through the Church’s being set apart to Christ and conforming to His image that it found its spiritual power. So the question comes down to this: “Are we truly consecrated to Christ?” Do our minds, our hearts, our patterns of behavior, our use of finances, and especially our use of time reflect a life consecrated unto God? Does what I fill my mind with build me as a Christian or steal the opportunity for God to give me something truly good.
Time-- As a pastor, I have found that one of the chief causes of relational discord between couples is caused by a breakdown in communication. When we cease to communicate and give of our time, we lose closeness and intimacy with our spouses. And this is true in our relationship with God as well. I am finding more and more that the most sacred and important thing we can give God is our time; time in the Word; time in prayer; time in communal worship and fellowship. In and through these means of grace we are brought into the very presence of God; and it is in His presence that we discover His power made available to us in Christ Jesus. That is what these early Christians were discovering as it says in…
Acts 2:42-47 (ESV) The Fellowship of the Believers-- 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Being Consecrated-- Now we will explore these practices more in the coming weeks. But the bird’s-eye message I want you to catch today is that these disciples lived life in such an incredible way as a result of a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. And these verses give us a window into the hearts of what was driving these early believers; an energy and excitement that flowed out of their being consecrated to Jesus Christ.
The Individual-- Let’s go back to the question we asked earlier. How does change (lasting change that can truly transform culture) take place? Well, it comes through Christians who have consecrated themselves (who have set themselves apart) from the world to Christ Jesus. And that begins on a personal level; with the individual. A man who has had an incredible impact on my life in and through his preaching and his writing is Dr. Dennis Kinlaw. Of all devotionals I have used over the years, his devotional This Day With The Master is the one I come back to time and time again; because it is both profound and yet simple enough for people like me to understand it. And in it he says this…
People, Not Institutions-- “We live in a day when most people believe that institutions are the determining factors. They declare that if we could just change institutions, then we could change society. This is the appeal of the politician. Scripture tantalizes us with the amount of space it devotes to individual people rather than institutions. People seem to be the tools that God uses to bring change. The implication is clear. Ultimately, persons determine institutions; institutions do not determine persons. The decisions that are made deep in the heart of an individual in the intimacy of aloneness with God are the decisions that will be historically significant for deciding the future.”
Personal Consecration-- The key to bringing spiritual power back into our churches and lasting change to our culture lies in our first becoming consecrated to God in our own personal lives; making the decision to conform to His image and to receive a new mind, a new heart, and a new nature. And that is something only the Holy Spirit can do.
Awaiting The Spirit-- Now I really want to clarify this because Jesus was very adamant that the disciples wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And that was (partially) because they did not yet have the spiritual equipment needed to accomplish all that He intended for them to accomplish. Because keep in mind the message of the Gospel is more than just information; about knowing what Christ did on the cross; more than about knowing that He rose from the dead. It’s not just about embracing these doctrinal statements as being true; no, it has to go further than that; to where we experience those realities in our own lives. Yes Jesus died on the cross, but then he tells His disciples (and us) to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24-25). Yes, He rose from the dead, but (as Colossians 3:1 says) we also have been raised with Christ. Our old self has died with Christ and we are given a new resurrected self. Christ’s death and resurrection are realities that you and I participate in. And the same is true of Pentecost. Pentecost is more than just an important event to remember. It is a present reality.
Not Then, But Now-- And that why it is always so dangerous to preach a message on Pentecost, because we always talk about it in the past tense and never allow it to gain access to our present. But Christ wants Pentecost to be every bit as real and present in our lives today as it was then. Christ wants you to have a Pentecost in your home that changes your relationship with your spouse for the better; that enables you to be a better parent; that empowers you to be a spiritual leader in your home; that gives you victory over temptation and keeps you holy in Christ Jesus. Pentecost can happen to any of us right now; if we but remain open for the Holy Spirit to actually apply Christ’s death and resurrection to our own hearts.
An Attractive Love-- I’m telling you, it was more than doctrine that drew all these people to become followers of Christ; it was doctrine enfleshed in these disciples; a transformation that was unexplainable except by the mighty work of God that drew all these people to early Christianity. And whether it was through their fellowshipping together, their praying together, their eating together, their compassionate acts of ministry, their selling what they had to meet one another’s needs, the thing that marked these early Christians the most was their absolute love and willingness to serve one another. Now this was a fulfillment of what Jesus had said all the way back in…
John 13:35 (ESV)-- 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love Caused Growth-- Well here the world is beginning to witness that love in the lives of the disciples. And that love is making them hungry to know just what all this Jesus business is about. And in discovering the secret, it says (verse 47) And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
A Pentecost for Us-- All this because of a personal Pentecost in the lives of each of these disciples. And I want to tell you today that the power of Pentecost is available to you as well. You can have done in your heart and life exactly what happened to these first disciples. All it takes is a willingness to surrender your life to Christ. So let us surrender to Him today. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.