Ephesians 1:11-17 and Acts 1:1-11
(Quoted scripture is New International Version)
Some ideas for this sermon come from a book we are doing in a Bible study on Wednesdays with some of the members of the Ironwood Wesley United Methodist Church; Relying on the Holy Spirit by Charles F. Stanley.
Emilie Vinson shares her testimony of the how the power of God worked in her life.
“I never knew my Dad. He and my mom divorced before I turned one so I never even had the chance to form a relationship with him.”
“After my mom and I moved to the United States from El Salvador she got remarried and I finally felt like I had a family. But my relationship with my stepdad was never good.”
“I desired so badly to receive love from a father and to have that special relationship, but I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I wanted to be loved and was constantly trying to establish my identity in other things like friendships and material items.”
“But nothing filled that hole. I felt like I needed the approval of those around me in order to feel valued and loved. Around my junior year of high school, my mom and stepdad got divorced.”
“I was angry, confused, hurt and felt unwanted. I turned to boys, alcohol and drugs to gain approval and love. Substances became my escape and a way to avoid my emotions. It was in that time that I was raped.”
“Before leaving for college, I was at my lowest. I felt worthless. I had nothing else to offer. I was so lost in a partying lifestyle and I was convinced that what I was experiencing was what life was all about.”
“The second week of college I was invited to Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Central Florida where I signed up for a small group. I left feeling surprisingly good.”
“I remember feeling loved and watching the other girls and the joy they had while talking about this “Savior.” I wanted what they had!”
“As I attended small group and began to be discipled I began to understand the gospel. I wasn’t ready to make the decision to follow Christ until I went home Christmas break. For the first time, I became aware of the weight of sin in my life and my need for a savior.”
“It was as if a blindfold had been removed from my eyes. I was able to see and understand why I needed Jesus, and that he LOVED me. In that moment, I accepted Christ into my life.”
“I have seen God teach me so much, I’ve come to understand that I have a heavenly Father who is crazy about me. He genuinely cares, and knows me.”
“Because of Christ’s death on the cross, I can be forgiven and live a life free in Christ. I no longer turn to temporary things for approval or worth. I know that my worth and identity lie full in Jesus and what he did for me. Although I continue to sin daily, I am daily shown God’s grace and reminded of just how much I need Him.”
Emilie does not say, yet I believe, when Emilie received Christ, it was through the power of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, that Emilie had the power to overcome her past and her addictions. There is power in the blood of Jesus!
What is this power and how does it work in us?
Jesus tells us in John 16:5-7, “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor, (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” The power comes from the Holy Spirit of God!
What about this Holy Spirit? In the Old Testament there are appearances of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon people so they could complete certain tasks the Lord God wanted them to do. The prophets so they could prophecy, kings so they could rule justly, and in Exodus 31:1-11 we read of different artisans God used in the work of the Tent of the Meeting, which the people carried with them and set up as a place of worship, and the Ark of the Covenant they carried with them containing the 10 commandments.
Exodus 31:1-11, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “See I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set the stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you: the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent—the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand—and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.”
When God wants something specific done, He sends the Holy Spirit. The trick is the person He sends the Holy Spirit to, must receive and obey, or God’s work will not get done.
Do you listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in your life, so that God can use you?
There is no evidence in the Old Testament that the Holy Spirit continued to be with those artisans after the work was done. I believe God would send the Holy Spirit to people when He wanted something done, and when the task was completed the Holy Spirit would depart.
Look at King Saul. God anointed Saul with the Holy Spirit when He made him king, but then Saul messed up. After David was anointed with the Holy Spirit to be king, we read, in 1 Samuel 16:14, “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.”
One other point about the Holy Spirit: Until Jesus’ blood was shed on the cross, the Holy Spirit would come and go in people’s lives, then Jesus says something in John 14:15-18, that changes that. “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
Up until now the Holy Spirit would come and go, but now, since Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus says the Holy Spirit will not only be with those who believe in Him, the Holy Spirit will be in them and this will be forever!
Today we celebrate Jesus’ Ascension back to the One from whom he came. How does Jesus’ Ascension to His Father fit into the giving of the Holy Spirit of God?
Jesus tells us in John 7:38-39, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the (Holy) Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
Jesus prays in John 17:1, 5, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. – “And Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” When is Jesus glorified? When He is in the presence of His Father God!
The Apostle Paul writes to the young Pastor Timothy, this about Jesus. “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)
After Jesus tells the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit’s power to come upon them, we read in Acts 1:9, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”
Jesus was not glorified until after His ascension back to His Father God. The disciple John, who was there and saw Jesus ascend, would later write in John 1:14, 18, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
John was there when Jesus ascended. He knew that Jesus was now at His Father’s side!
Today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, and we also celebrate our mothers. Mothers have great influence in the lives of their children. My greatest sadness comes from the fact that mothers do not bring their children to church with them, if they even go to church at all. How are the children going to learn about Jesus being glorified in his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven; and how the power of the Holy Spirit is important in their lives, if we do not teach them? They will not.
The world has convinced the young families in our culture that they do not need Jesus Christ in their lives. They think they can fill the emptiness inside of them with material things or drugs and alcohol. They only time some people pray is when they want healing for a loved one, or something for themselves. It breaks my heart.
With what we know about Emilie’s mother, I don’t think she was a good influence on her daughter with the lifestyle she chose, and Emilie would never have found Jesus if she hadn’t encountered Campus Crusade for Christ.
There are, in my opinion, good mothers who live out their faith, by making sure their children receive a Christian education, which teaches them how to cope with life; as well as secular education, which teaches them how to make a living. Both are important to living a full and productive life.
There is an example of what I would call a good mother in today’s reading, May 13, from the Upper Room. Written by Susan Bates from Oregon, Susan writes of a doctor’s visit with her mother.
“Betty, you are my favorite patient!” the young doctor greeted my 90-year-old mother when my sister and I accompanied her to a regular checkup. Mom has been dealing with dementia for many years. The doctor asked Mom detailed questions to gauge her mental capacity. She had difficulty answering trivial questions, so the doctor asked, “Betty, can you write a sentence or two?” Without hesitation, Mom quickly wrote on a piece of paper, folded it, and handed it to the doctor.
The doctor read aloud, “Jesus said…’I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“Doctor, you can believe it!” Mom said with her countenance glowing. The doctor smiled as he completed his notes.
After the appointment, we took Mom back to her assisted living residence, where she is cherished by the staff and other residents as she shares God’s love through her joyful spirit. We will never forget how Mom ended her prayer with us that day: “Jesus, I hope you have a wonderful day!”
Despite her illness, Mom continues to be an example of God’s faithfulness, inspiring us as she leaves her spiritual legacy. Her prayer reminded us that we can always talk to Jesus as a friend. (page 19)
What a witness that mother is to her children and to the people God puts into her life. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that mother attended church with her children.
I’ll leave you with some questions. Does the Holy Spirit live in you? And, do you listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, so God can use you? Do you witness to your faith in the thoughts you think, the words you speak, and the things you do? You may answer ‘yes’ immediately, but I would caution you answering too quickly.
The world we live in is very noisy, and we may use the excuse our lives are too busy to spend time with God. Yet unless we make time to spend with God; reading the Bible and spending time communing with God in prayer, we will not know what the Holy Spirit of God wants us to do for God. If we do not make time to get to know God as He knows us, we will not hear what the Holy Spirit has to say to us. Prayerfully examine your heart before you answer these questions.
We cannot be the Christians we are called to be without the power that comes from the blood of Jesus poured out when He was crucified on the cross. There is power in the blood! Live in the power of the blood of Jesus, by spending time with the Holy Spirit of God, whom Jesus sent when he ascended back to the One from whom he came!
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: Stanley, Charles F., 2008. Relying on the Holy Spirit, Nashvillle, TN, Thomas Nelson, Inc.