Fill 'Er Up
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 21, 2007


Main Passage: 

Well, this is our fifth birthday as a church, so we’re going to talk about the original birthday of THE Church. Yes, I know that was on the Day of Pentecost, and we’re a lot closer to Halloween than we are to Pentecost. The word Pentecost literally means “fifty”, and on our calendar Pentecost takes place 50 days after Easter. So yeah, we’re a ways away from that. But this is our birthday, so we’re going to talk about it today anyway.

Karen just read about the instant the Church was born. It was fifty days after the resurrection. Jesus had spent 40 days after the resurrection spending time with the disciples and with His other followers and speaking to crowds of people about the Kingdom of God. And then He ascended back to Heaven right before their eyes. While He was talking with His followers on a hillside, He just suddenly went up into the clouds. And just as quickly, two white-robed men--angels--stood there before the disciples and told them not to despair; one day Jesus would be coming back in the same way He went. And that’s the second coming that we’re still looking forward to today. Someday Jesus will be coming back and taking all of His followers to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

But that wasn’t the birthday of the Church. That didn’t happen for another ten days. You see, before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He gave His followers these instructions...

Acts 1:4-5 (NLT)
“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So that’s exactly what they did. After they watched Jesus ascend into Heaven, and after the Men in White told them not to worry, someday He’s coming back, they all went back to Jerusalem, went to the house where they were staying, and went to an upstairs room. All 120 of them. Must have been pretty cramped for them. But they all met there together.

Now, I don’t know everything that happened over the next 10 days. I don’t know if they pretty much stayed there, or if they came and went as they pleased. I don’t know if they set up times for them to all gather there to pray. I don’t know a lot of things. Maybe they played Charades for all I know, but I do know that after 10 days, they were all there together, and that’s the day the Church was born.

Karen read about this. She read about how while they were all meeting together there, there was a sound like a mighty windstorm that echoed through the house where they were staying. And then they saw what looked like flames of fire, and they settled on each one of them. It wasn’t just the disciples; all the believers experienced this. Peter didn’t get a bigger flame than everyone else; these flames descended on each of them, and represented to them the presence of the Holy Spirit.

And then they went outside into the streets and started telling others about Jesus, and on that very day, we’re told that 3000 people joined with the believers in following Jesus. And the Church was born.

What was it that inspired this early Church? What propelled them? What motivated them? What drove them? What spurred them on? That’s what I want to talk about this morning. I want to talk about three things that fueled the Church right at the very beginning, and that continue to fuel us today.

The Fuel of the Church:

1.    Passion of the Believers

The passion of those early followers of Jesus was very evident. They were bold in proclaiming what they believed to be true, even at great personal risk. In fact, according to tradition, 10 of the remaining 11 disciples who were part of the early church ended up being martyred for their faith. As for the only one who wasn’t killed, it wasn’t for lack of trying. The Roman authorities tried to silence him by boiling him in oil, but he just wouldn’t die! So he was exiled to the Greek island of Patmos instead.

So even with the threat of death, these early believers would not renounce what they claimed to be true about Jesus. They were passionate about it, and nothing was going to dampen their passion. If their passion cost them, they were willing to pay. Even if it cost them their lives.

And they had no delusions about this. After all, they had seen Jesus Himself be martyred. So they knew full well that it was a real possibility for them, too. But their passion propelled them to proclaim the truth despite the possible and even probable repercussions.

So when the Holy Spirit descended upon those first Christians in that upper room, they all headed straight out to the street. And they started telling everyone they met about Jesus--who He was, what He had done for them, and about His resurrection from the dead! Without the slightest evidence of fear, they boldly told people all about Him.

The apostle Peter even preached a sermon... the very first sermon from this newly formed church. And he did it right out in the middle of the crowded streets. He told people all about what he and the other disciples had seen... the miracles... the wonders,,, the teachings... the crucifixion... the resurrection.

In fact, the Bible says that Peter went further than just telling people about Jesus... he pleaded with them to do something about it. He begged them to believe what he was telling them and to turn themselves over to Jesus. Look at this...

Acts 2:40-41 (NLT)
Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

It says he strongly urged his listeners to respond. That’s in the NLT. Other translations say he pleaded, or he begged. Peter was passionate about Jesus and about spreading the good news about Jesus, so much so that he was willing to beg people to respond.

In fact, do you know just how passionate Peter and the others were? They were so passionate that they were accused of being drunk. Peter even had to clarify that in his sermon...

Acts 2:15 (NLT)
“These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that.”

Isn’t that great, though? These people were so excited about Jesus and what He had done in their lives that they were mistaken for being drunk.

I was talking with a guy at Tim Horton’s earlier this week. This guy was from Western Canada, had never been in the Maritimes before, and so he decided he’d come and take the tour. So he had flown into Halifax and rented a car, went up through New Brunswick, and then over here to PEI. And he told me about how one night, he was out drinking and was obviously too drunk to drive back to the hotel, so he walked. Problem was, the next morning he couldn’t remember where he left the car! So he called for a taxi and they drove around the general area until they found it.

Well, these disciples were not drunk, they were not hammered, they were not sloshed. They were not filled with spirits, they were filled with THE Spirit. And THE Spirit infused them with passion.

Which leads us to the second ingredient...

2.    Power of the Holy Spirit

Take another look...

Acts 2:1-4 (NLT)
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit...

And then they went outside and started speaking and preaching, and even though there were several come-from-away-ers in the crowd that day, everyone heard them and understood them in their own language. That was the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now, let’s make sure we understand who the Holy Spirit is. Because the Bible paints an incredible picture of who He is. Just a few of the references to Him describe Him this way...

He’s the Breath of Life, He’s the Breath of the Lord, He’s the Counsellor, He’s the Eternal Spirit, He’s the Wind that comes and goes as He wishes, He’s the Fire that refines us, He’s the Spirit that Rains down on His people, He’s the Spirit of Truth, He’s the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, He’s the Spirit from whom streams of living water flow… He’s described as God Himself.

We know Him as the third person of the Trinity. That means that He is God. The Bible teaches that there is only One God, but that He exists as three Persons… God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. It’s a mystery of God that theologians and scholars have struggled to explain for centuries. We don’t have the time to go into that this morning, but what you do need to understand is that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity and therefore is Himself God. And He has played a pivotal role in the history of the world, in the history of the Church, and continues to do so in the life of the believer today. He empowers us to carry on the work of God in this world today.

Now, just to clarify, the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force like you might find in Star Wars. No, the Holy Spirit is a person... the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit…

•    Possesses Intellect (1 Cor. 12:11)
•    Experiences Emotion (Romans 15:30)
•    Has a Will (1 Cor. 12:11)
•    Can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4)
•    Lives with believers (John 14:16-17)
•    Provides guidance for believers (John 14:16-17)
•    Teaches and Comforts (John 14:26)
•    Experiences sorrow (Eph. 4:30)
•    Is referred to as “He”, not “it” (John 15:26)

The Holy Spirit is a person--not an impersonal invisible force--He cares about us, He watches over us, and He empowers us today just like He empowered those early believers.

What was an early example of this power? Well, the disciples and other believers went out in the streets and started speaking in all kinds of foreign languages that they had never studied. That’s pretty amazing.

Now, I don’t have any experience with that myself. I’ve never done that myself, and as far as I know I’ve never been present when someone else did that. But then, just about everyone I know speaks fluent English. I haven’t had a need for that particular gift.

But I have heard of missionaries who have experienced this. I’ve heard of one Wesleyan missionary in Haiti who had to travel to the other end of the island where Creole (CREE-’ol) was the main dialect. And even though he had never learned Creole, he was able to communicate in it for the five years he spent there. But as soon as he left, the ability to speak in Creole was gone.

How could he do that? Simple. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit propels us. He enables us. He inspires us. He persuades us. He convicts us. He guides us. He equips us.

Oh, and just to clarify what we were saying earlier, the believers were not drunk; they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul years later would make a comparison between the two...

Ephesians 5:18 (NLT)
Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit...

Which sounds great, doesn’t it? But how? How are you filled with this Holy Spirit of God?

Well, let’s start at the beginning. When you first become a Christ-follower--when you first make the decision that you will live for Him--the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your life. That’s a promise you’ll find in several passages in the Bible. You are guaranteed the Holy Spirit if you are a believer.

So when you become a Christ-follower, you have all of the Holy Spirit. But that’s not the filling of the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Holy Spirit is when He has all of you. You see the difference? The filling of the Holy Spirit is when you get to the point where you’ve completely surrendered every part of your life to God. There’s nothing you’re holding back, you’re living in complete obedience to His Will, and there’s no sin or resistance that prevents Him from filling you completely.

So first of all you make the decision to be a Christ-follower. Then you seek for the Holy Spirit to fill you. You pray for His filling. And perhaps most importantly, you live in obedience to the Word of God.

And when that happens, you will experience an incredible freedom, passion, and power at work in your life and through your life.

Okay, so the Church--then and now--is propelled by the passion of the believers, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the...

3.    Purpose of the Gospel

And what is that purpose? What do you think that purpose is? Well, let’s back up. We’ve been centering our talk this morning around the second chapter of the book of Acts. But let’s go back to the first chapter. In Acts 1:8... this is after the resurrection and just before Jesus returns to Heaven... this is what Jesus says...

Acts 1:8 (NLT)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

So our purpose is to tell people everywhere about Jesus. Tell about who He is. Tell about what He’s done in our lives. Tell about the forgiveness and life that He offers to all who will receive Him today.

Going back to Acts chapter 2, when Peter was speaking, he did just that. He told everyone who would listen about Jesus. And then he gave them this challenge and this promise...

Acts 2:38 (NLT)
“Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Take a look at that verse. Is that where you’re at? Have you done that? If not, then the purpose of the Gospel has to first and foremost transform your life. You need to choose for yourself that you will be a Christ-follower from this day forward. That’s a choice only you can make... your parents can’t do it for you, you spouse can’t do it for you, I can’t do it for you. It’s your choice to make.

So why not make it? Right now, just in the quietness of your heart, you can say to God... in fact, go ahead and do this... you can say, “Okay God, I’m making that choice. I will live for You. I’m sorry for all the ways that I’ve rejected You and disobeyed You in the past, but today I ask for a new start with You.” You can pray that right now as you sit there. And you know what? If you do that... if you’ve just done that... then you are a new person. And this isn’t just a birthday for Sunrise... it’s a birthday for you!

There you have it--the fuel of the Church. Back at the very beginning all the way through to the present day.

The Passion of the Believers
The Power of the Holy Spirit
The Purpose of the Gospel

All three ingredients were important 2000 years ago and they’re important for us today. Without them, the Church would be ineffective, lacking direction, confused, and meaningless. But with these three ingredients we are the primary vehicle through which God communicates and operates today. We represent God and offer God’s love, forgiveness and hope to a world that desperately needs it.

We’ve had a great first five years. But I believe wholeheartedly that there are better, more exciting, more powerful days ahead. And they will happen, as long as we keep fueled up with all the passion, power, and purpose that God has to give.



Copyright © 2007