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The Birthday of the Church

  • The Birthday of The Church

    The Birthday of the Church from Refreshing Hope Ministries on Vimeo.

     

    We just finished our series on the Holy Spirit. This week I want to talk about the first birthday of the Church. Jesus ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit descended on His followers in Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost. This was when “The Church” was born and about 3,000 people were added to it on the first day (Acts 2:41).

    The book of Acts is the only record that we have of what the Church should be like, and what it should be doing. Jesus left the earth, ascended to the Father, sent the Holy Spirit and then the Church got underway. Before He left, He gave clear directions and commandments to His followers, and they are written for us in the Bible. I want to go over some of those so that we can compare it to what we are living today.

    Paul wrote this to Timothy: 

    (2 Timothy 3:1–5 NKJV) “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”

    Paul said that in the later days there would be people practicing religion, appearing to be godly, but actively denying its power. They will not only disbelieve it, but will actually deny it, and oppose the power of God. They would have you believe that there is no power today, that He does not care nor speak to you, and if He did, they might even call it the work of the devil.

    Jesus told the Pharisees in (Mark 7:13) that they caused the word of God to have no affect by following the traditions that were handed down. They rendered the word of God powerless in their lives because they chose to believe in manmade traditions instead.

    Things that we should keep in mind: 

    - Church history should never be used as a blueprint for experiences or beliefs. That is what the Word of God is given to us for.

    - We cannot sacrifice our knowledge of the goodness of God on the altar of human reasoning so that we can have an explanation for a seemingly unanswered prayer.

    - If we let it, our past experience and unbelief will limit God from working in our lives today.

    (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV) “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”


    Unbelief cancels the power of God in your life:
    - It is difficult to believe that humans have the power to hinder God, but when Jesus visited His own hometown, their unbelief limited what He could do there:

    (Matthew 13:54–58 NKJV) “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”

    - When Jairus’ daughter was dying, people met them on the road and told them that she was dead. Jesus told him to not be afraid, only believe. When Jesus got to the house, He put the unbelievers outside so that He could perform a miracle:

    (Luke 8:49–55 NKJV) “While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.”And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.”Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately.”

    - Peter followed this example. In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha that died and they asked Peter to come. When he arrived, Peter first put them all outside, then he prayed for her.

    (Acts 9:40–41 NKJV) “But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.”

    Jesus left these words for us: 

    (John 14:12–14 NKJV) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

    The gospel of Mark records this conversation:
    (Mark 16:14–20 NKJV)“ Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.”

    All of these "Acts" are followed up in the book of Acts literally, snake bites and all. “The Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.” Jesus told us that these signs would follow those that believe, and that the works that He did, His followers would do also, and they did. 

    Christianity is a super natural religion with signs and wonders following it from the day that it was born:
    - This was the way that Jesus did it
    - It is the way that He said that His followers would do it.
    - It is the way that the Church originally did it.
    - Anything less is manmade rubbish.

    We know how miraculous the life of Jesus was, and we could cover miracle after miracle all the way through all four gospels, but what about after He left? What about today?

    When Jesus ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit descended on His followers in Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost. This was the day that “The Church” was born and about 3,000 people were added to it on the first day.

    Luke, a physician and friend of Paul wrote “The Gospel of Luke” and then “The Acts of The Apostles.” Together it is called Luke-Acts and covers from before the conception of Jesus to His ascension, the birth of the Church, missionary journeys, and how the disciples of Jesus lived after He ascended to heaven. You can read them back to back and get a great view of what Christianity was like in the early years.

    It is the only example that we have of how the first church worked, how they lived, and what they did, so let’s do an overview of the book of Acts:

    Acts Chapter 1: Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit: (Acts 1:5 NKJV) “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Also He said that they would receive power when this happened: (Acts 1:8 NKJV) “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

    Acts Chapter 2: On the day of Pentecost The Holy Spirit descended on the 120 people who were in the upper room. They were filled with the Spirit and began speaking in other tongues. Where they had been hiding behind closed doors in fear, they began to preach on the street and about 3,000 people were added to their numbers on the first day.

    Acts Chapter 3: Peter and John were going to the temple and passed a crippled man begging, who was over forty years old. Peter looked at him and said “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6 NKJV). The man was instantly healed and went to the temple with them.

    Acts Chapter 4: The religious leaders had Peter and John arrested for preaching about Jesus, and it reads: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it” (Acts 4:13–14 NKJV).

    Those following Jesus faced persecution so they prayed: “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31 NKJV).

    Acts Chapter 5: A man named Ananias, and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of land and pretended to give the full amount to the Church, but lied to Peter about the price and kept some for themselves. They both fell dead and were carried out.

    Acts Chapter 6: Stephen did great signs and wonders among the people. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke with a wisdom they could not stand against, and his face shown like an angel.

    Acts Chapter 7: Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, saw heaven opened up, the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. This was a supernatural vision.

    Acts Chapter 8: Philip preached Christ and did great miracles, casting out unclean spirits and healing the paralyzed and the lame. In Acts 8:39 Philip was super naturally teleported from one location to another. It reads: “The Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away” and then “Philip was found at Azotus.”

    Acts Chapter 9: Saul, who was a Christian hunter at the time was on the road to Damascus when a brilliantly bright light shone around him which burned scales onto his eyes and left him blind. It must have been like staring into an arc welder. Jesus spoke to him and told him to arise and go into the city and he would be told what to do.

    Jesus spoke to another disciple in the city named Ananias and told him to go pray for Saul. Ananias went and gave Saul the word from Jesus, baptized him in the Holy Spirit and Saul became known as Paul who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament.

    Noteworthy: Here we have a second generation of Apostles / Disciples that are walking in the Power of the Holy Spirit. They had never seen Jesus alive, were not a part of the original 120, and they came to know Him long after His crucifixion.

    Acts Chapter 10: Peter had a super natural vision and the Holy Spirit told him that three men were coming to see him, and to go with them. He went down stairs and there were three men looking for him. Peter went with them to Cornelius’ house, where an angel had appeared to unbelieving gentiles. As Peter preached, the Holy Spirit fell on them all, they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. This is the first record of gentiles being filled with the Holy Spirit. The Jews did not even believe they could be saved. God broke out of their little box again and stretched their thinking.

    Acts Chapter 11: Peter tells the others about the angel that appeared at the house of Cornelius. They started to preach the gospel to all races of people. The Spirit moved on a Prophet named “Agabus” and he prophesied that a famine was coming, so the disciples took up a collection and sent it to their brethren living in Judea. The Spirit was working within the Church, and through the people.

    Acts Chapter 12: James was killed and Peter was arrested. They assigned sixteen soldiers to guard Peter, and he was chained between two of them. As the church prayed for him, an angel appeared in the prison, touched his chains and released him. Then the angel led Peter out of the prison. The iron gate of the city opened by itself, and Peter was free.

    Acts Chapter 13: There were prophets and teachers living at Antioch. As they fasted and prayed, the Holy Spirit said: “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”

    Here we have the Holy Spirit working hand in hand with the people of the Church. Again, these were not the original Apostles that walked with Jesus but second generation Christians carrying on the work of Christ.

    Acts Chapter 14: The disciples preached in Iconium and it reads: “Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” (Acts 14:2–3 NKJV).

    The Holy Spirit confirmed their message with “signs and wonders.” In Lystra, Paul healed a crippled man and the people were so moved that they tried to sacrifice to them as gods.

    Acts Chapter 15: After a huge disagreement about having to be circumcised in order to be saved, the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostles to write this: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
    (Acts 15:28–29 NKJV). Again they are working together.

    Acts Chapter 16: The Apostles received supernatural guidance on where to preach. It reads: “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.”(Acts 16:6–7 NKJV).

    Later Paul and Silas were arrested and put in prison. As they were singing hymns, there was an earthquake, all of their chains fell off and the prison doors opened. Paul then led the jailor and his family to Jesus and baptized them.

    Acts Chapter 17: Paul “demonstrated” the power of God. The Berean Christians “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11 NKJV).

    That is the attitude that we should have about the Bible. We should not just reject a teaching because it is “new” to us. All of the teachings of Jesus were new to those who first heard them. We should search our Bible and see if it is really in there.

    Acts Chapter 18: Paul was “compelled by the Spirit” in his preaching. Jesus spoke to Paul in a vision during the night and told him: “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”

    There was a man in Ephesus named Apollos who was preaching about Jesus. It reads: “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.” (Acts 18:25 NKJV).

    Apollos was preaching about Jesus, though he only knew the baptism of John. In other words, Apollos has not yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    Acts Chapter 19: Paul came to Ephesus and met some disciples there. He asked them: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” and they said “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” Paul explained the Holy Spirit to them and “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:6–7 NKJV).

    God began to perform a “new” type of miracle through Paul. It reads: “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.” (Acts 19:11–12 NKJV).

    Acts Chapter 20: One night Paul was speaking in an upper room and he spoke on until midnight. A young man named Eutychus was sitting in a window and nodded off. He fell three stories to the ground and died. Paul went down and fell on him, and his life returned.

    Acts Chapter 21: As Paul was traveling, some disciples in Tyre “told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem (4).” In Caesarea Paul stayed at “the house of Philip the evangelist” who had four daughters who prophesied. Again, these were second or third generation believers moving in the gifts of the Spirit.

    A prophet named Agabus prophesied to Paul: “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.(11)”

    Acts Chapter 22: Paul shares his conversion on the road the Damascus, the bright light appearing around him, Ananias coming to pray and how his blindness was healed.

    (17) Paul fell into a trance and the Lord told him to get out of Jerusalem as they would not accept his testimony.

    Acts Chapter 23-28: In these chapters, Paul makes his way to Rome, narrowly escaping ambushes along the way. The Lord appeared to Paul possibly in a vision, though it reads “stood beside him” and He said: “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.” (Acts 23:11 NKJV).

    This was to reassure Paul and let him know that though he was in jail, he was on course, and everything is fine. He needed it, the following day the Jews tried to kill him. Forty men took an oath to not eat until Paul was dead, but the Holy Spirit got him out of there.

    While onboard one of the ships, an angel appeared to Paul (27:24) and told him: “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.”

    Paul also knew that they must run aground on some island (27:26). He had supernatural revelation about what was coming. The ship crashed into some rocks, and they swam ashore on the island of Malta.

    As Paul was gathering putting some wood on the fire, a deadly viper bit him and the natives expected him to soon die, but nothing happened. So then they thought that he was a god. They then brought all the diseased and sick people to Paul, and everyone of them were healed.

    Summary:
    You can see the Holy Spirit at work all the way through the book of Acts, working hand in hand with the Church, bringing encouragement, guidance, making decisions, and confirming the word with signs following.

    This is our example of the original church life and nowhere in scripture does it say that this ended. When I first came to the Lord and started attending a local church, they taught that the gifts of the Spirit passed away with the last apostle, and that we no longer needed the Holy Spirit because we now have the Bible.

    Nothing could be further from the truth! The Bible points us to God, but it does not replace our relationship with Him, nor walking and talking and spending time with Him.

    Later I learned the truth as I watched people being instantly healed by the laying on of hands and prayer. I have watched prophecy come to pass in my life. When our computer business dried up, I had a vision on a Tuesday that I was entering a boxing ring and then that Friday I became a pastor.

    When the idea came to us to start an online church, we sat down and calculated that we needed $2500 and did not have it. So we decided that if God wanted us to do it, that He would provide for it and I pulled an old server out of the closet and began formatting it. Within thirty minutes, someone donated exactly $2500.

    This is real. The Holy Spirit wants to work with us hand in hand, day after day, but our unbelief can stop God from working in our life just as it did in Jesus’ hometown.

    We should be asking ourselves why there is no power in our life instead of making excuses to cover it up. It is the church that is dead, not God. We have fumbled the ball that He gave us. We have dropped the baton that was passed down. We have let His fire go out.


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Cathy Webb
Cathy Webb

Powerful teaching, Pastor Dion. Thank you for the targeted, concise accounting of God's work in the people of the church through the book of Acts. Praying for God's Spirit and power to be restored and His people to be rededicated to the Lord. The hour is at hand!

October 8, 2016