Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 No Reason to Run Out
Acts 4:23-31

 

Introduction

Have you ever run out of Gas?  I guess that I have been lucky, because I have only run out of gas once in my life.  I can still remember what happened, because it was embarrassing and inconvenient.  I was in business for myself.  I had purchased a restaurant, and a truck came with it; it was an old truck and the gas gauge didn’t work.  Naturally, I ran out of gas at a busy intersection; and I had fish in the back of the truck, which could spoil quickly, because it was a hot day.  Well, I called Sierra and she brought me some gas and saved the day, but I learned my lesson and I have never run out of gas since then.

Have you ever heard about Christians running out of Gas?  It happens.  Nothing is more embarrassing or dangerous than believers running out of the fuel of the Holy Spirit.  The believers in the book of Acts learned quickly the lesson of needing a refueling.  Time had passed since Pentecost and the great initial experience that they all shared. 

Pentecost was a unique experience, and it energized the new believers.  They were on fire for Christ, and they witnessed with boldness.  But they also met with hardships and persecution.  Those difficult times cost them, because as they went about the business of living Christian lives, they expended a great deal of spiritual fuel.  But they recognized their need for a refilling and they came to the right place for help.  Let’s read our text for today and see what happened to the people of God. 

Our text begins just after Peter and John had healed the lame man at the temple; after that they spent the night in Jail for preaching the resurrection of Christ. 

23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’
27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together
28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,
30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
31 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.

There were three things that are evident about these early Christians:
1. First,
They were pulling a heavy load.
2. Second, They realized their need for God’s strength.
3. Third, God responded to their request.

Let’s begin our Bible lesson today by observing that these early believers were pulling a heavy load.  They had to give up a lot to live for Christ.  Some gave up homes, families, jobs and friends; they faced hardships and danger.  It’s not that way for us; we live comfortably and we can worship God as we desire, but it’s not the same everywhere. 

Every day, Sierra and I pray for the persecuted church, because there are vast numbers of Christians in the world today who are being persecuted for their faith.  There are organizations that have been established to help them, like The Voice of the Martyrs.  But many still suffer as much today as they did two thousand years ago.  But do you know that in those places where there is persecution, that the church is growing more rapidly than it is here in the United States? 

The same was true for that First Church. The Church began in Jerusalem, and all the believers lived there; but when the persecution began people left and they took their beliefs with them; and that’s how the Gospel was spread.  These early believers did not take the blessings of God and hold on to them selfishly.  They shared with each other in a remarkable way.  Those who had possessions sold them and gave the money to those who needed it. 

Last week, we read about the healing of the crippled beggar.  Peter said to him, “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.”  Peter gave the man more than he wanted. 

These new believers were passing on to others what God had given them. They shared the good news.  It was the Gospel that was having an impact on the hearts and minds of men and women. 

Peter had healed the lame man and he was walking, and leaping and praising God.  A crowd of spectators had thronged around the man and the other disciples.  They were amazed and were ready for some explanation.  Peter immediately recognized this as an opportunity to preach his second sermon.  He began by asking them a question, “Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this?”  It was a Jewish audience, so he made reference to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but he quickly brought the spotlight to bear on God’s Son, Jesus.  He described Him as the one delivered up by Pilot; whom they denied.  He said that the Jewish mob at Jerusalem had killed the Prince of life, but God had raised Him from the dead.  Peter declared that it was through His name that the lame man had been healed. 

In his sermon, Peter explained that Jesus was the Messiah, and he called upon them to repent of their sins and to believe. There was a large crowd gathered around Peter and John as they stood speaking in the temple court; and they were standing firm in the face of stiff opposition.  But there were some who did not like what they were saying; the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees seized them for preaching to the people that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  That was a doctrine that the Sadducees were violently opposed to.  Peter and John were thrown into the prison and held until the next day.  However, we are told that as the result of his second sermon, five thousand men believed. 

The next morning the Sanhedrin met to discuss the problem.  The Sanhedrin was a council of Jewish leaders, made up largely of scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, and they had power to imprison and punish all those who broke the religious laws and customs. About the only thing that they couldn’t do was to sentence a man to death; they needed the consent of their Roman rulers to do that.

When Peter was brought before the Sanhedrin, he was ready to preach, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, he began his third sermon.  He boldly asserted that the lame man was healed by the power, authority and in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 

It was a heavy load for Peter and John, and it took a lot of courage for them to stand up to those powerful men. There are times when you and I feel like we are pulling a heavy load, and it takes a lot of fuel.  If you have ever owned a boat or a travel trailer you have had a good example of how much a heavy load affects your fuel consumption; the heavier the load the more gas you use.

Well, what about our spiritual life?  I believe that it takes a lot of spiritual fuel to live as a Christian in our world.  There is such a thing as spiritual burn out.  I have experienced it first hand.  You can get involved in so many things, working for God that you simply run out of Gas.  It’s embarrassing and there is a lot of guilt that comes from failing in your service to Him.  But, we don’t need to run out of fuel, and in a few minutes we will see why.

I believe that most of the time we run out of the fuel of the Holy Spirit, because we are just trying to do too much; more than even God wants us to do.  But there is another reason that we fail and run out of fuel and that is that Satan is working against us.  The more danger we are to Satan, the more opposition we will receive from him.  Those who do nothing are not his enemy, and they won’t be bothered by him.  He is after the Christian who is carrying a load and working for the kingdom of God.  Take courage when he opposes you, because he is afraid of your influence.

Those men and women who were part of the early Church were carrying a heavy load, but they realized their need for God’s strength.  Verse 29 said, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.”  They did not ask Him to remove the problem, but to enable them to face it.  They wanted God to take notice of the hatred of their enemies.  They did not dictate to God what He should do, but they appealed to Him to tie their enemy’s hands or to change their hearts.  That should be a lesson for us; that when we are threatened, we should bear it patiently and simply spread the case out before the Lord, and leave it with Him. 

Those early Christians also asked God to keep up their spirits and to animate them to go on cheerfully with their work.  Their prayer was, “and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,”  even though the priests and rulers had commanded them to keep silent. 

When we are going through troubling times our prayer should not be that the troubles be removed, but that we be enabled to go through them with cheerfulness and that we stay determined to do our work. 

Listen, those who hate Christ are daring in their fight against Him; so how much more courage and determination should we who love Him have.  We should pray, “Lord give us the grace to go on in our work, and to not be afraid of the threatening of any man.  Help us to speak with boldness and to declare the whole word of God despite who might be offended or angered.” 

It is a sad thing to say, but we need some pressures in our lives.  If God had removed the pressure from the people of the Early Church, they would have no need of His presence within.  It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. 

I have found that the greatest enemy of my faith is success and possessions.  As I look back at my life, I see that I have been closer to God at those times when things weren’t going well in my life.  Those were times when I had little and I was depending upon God the most.

Now notice that these believers had proper priorities. 

It says in verse 30, “by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”  

They (the disciples) asked God to give them the power to do miracles, because that would validate the message that they preached.  They had seen the success that the healing of the lame man had brought. 

These miracles not only caused others to believe them, but it also encouraged them, because it was a sign of God’s presence with them.  Jesus had promised them the power to work miracles, and He said that this would convince the people and confound their enemies; but they had to pray for it and they had to pray for it to continue.  Notice, that they could have accomplished something on their own, but they needed Him to make an impact.

They desired to honor Christ, so all their wonders were done in His name.  They became His channels of blessing to a struggling world.  Verse 33 says, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.”    The message they preached was the resurrection of Christ; and they proclaimed it with boldness, and confirmed it by miracles.  And during this time Christ poured out upon them an abundance of grace, which qualified them for great service and presented them with great power. 

They gave their message to the poor and needy people, which was also evidence of the grace of God in them, and it brought the respect of the people.  These people were so taken up with the hope of an inheritance in the kingdom of God that they thought very little of the things of this world.  They did not claim anything for their own, except for their sin.  What we have in the world is more God’s than it is ours; He has given us what we have, and we must use it for Him, and remember, we are accountable to Him for how we use it. 

We have seen that they were pulling a heavy load, and that they realized their need for God’s strength, and now let’s look at how God responded to their request. 

We read, And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken.” 

This first-century, fledgling church was not only a persecuted church, and a powerful church, it was a praying church.  They had found that prayer was the groundwork of power. 

The Spirit of God was so evident that the place where they met was shaken with an earthquake when they prayed.  And once again they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  This was a fresh filling by the Spirit, but it was not considered a fresh baptism.  The only baptism by the Holy Spirit they would experience came at Pentecost, for it was then that the Holy Spirit baptized them into the Church of Jesus Christ.  With the increased filling came an increased boldness to speak the word of God. 

One of the characteristics of a praying church is its lack of selfishness; and another is its love for other believers.  Each member of this Jerusalem church was interested in the welfare of every other member.  They are described as having one heart and one soul, and that shows their remarkable unity. 

Richer members of the church provided for the poorer members.  No one was in want or hunger.  Those who had a house or land sold it, and the money was brought and laid at the apostle’s feet; and they distributed the money to everyone according to their need. 

The believers were praying for a refilling of the Holy Spirit, and we know that their prayer was accepted, because it was answered.  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, more than ever before; and this encouraged them, and they began to once again speak the word of God with boldness.  Here we see that God will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him; for here we see that those who prayed for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit received an improvement of that gift, because those who have it and use it can receive more.

The message of the ministers of the early church was the resurrection of Christ.  That’s a message that most churches today reserve for Easter.  The resurrection was everything and they preached it with enthusiasm and confidence, and the miracles that accompanied the preaching confirmed their words. It was just like Pentecost all over again.  The apostles and the other believers were excited and willing to tell everyone about Jesus, and there was power in their witness. 

God is not limited to a particular time or place.  He went wherever His people went.  The people of the early church went door to door preaching the resurrection, and many believed and were saved.  When persecution came and they were forced to leave Jerusalem, they continued to be bold witnesses for Christ where ever they went. 

We see here that God is deeply committed to those who want Him.  Isaiah 65:24 says, “It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.”   God anticipated their prayers and He blessed them with His goodness.  He didn’t even wait until they were finished praying.  In the same way, God is willing to hear our prayers, and it is comforting to know that Christ, our mediator, is at His right hand. 

No one ever has to beg to be filled, because He wants us to be comforted and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.  That’s why He has placed Him in our hearts.  But the power of the Holy Spirit is not released until we allow Christ to control us; we call that making Jesus Lord of our life. 

We must learn, as those in the early church did, to seek His guidance in our decisions.  Think about it; how many times a day do you reflect about God and Jesus?  And how often do you ask God’s guidance before you make a decision?  We endanger our effectiveness when we fail to seek Him.  Remember, we still have that old nature, and we live in a Satan dominated world, so very often our decisions do not reflect God’s will for us. 

Sometimes we forget that after our crisis experience is over; we still need fuel to keep going.  That crisis may have weakened us and caused fears and doubts to enter our minds.  We cannot store up enough fuel ahead of time to get us through life.  Therefore, we must go to God in prayer and ask for a refilling of the Holy Spirit.  God may only need to remove the doubts and fears or He may just cause the Holy Spirit to triumph over them.

 

Conclusion

There is no reason for anyone to run out of spiritual fuel and you never will if you are consistent in prayer, Bible study and remain faithful to your calling.  But if you ever recognize your need for God’s help, He will give it to you.  God will respond just like He did for the believers in Acts.

The station is open.  This could be your day for a fresh filling. If you have been carrying a heavy load, and you don’t feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, go to God in prayer and ask to be filled with His Holy Spirit. Ask Him to remove any obstacles in your life that are hindering the work of the Holy Spirit in you. The presence of His Spirit in you is the greatest expression of His love for you.

Praise God!

Let’s pray now that we will be filled with the Holy Spirit and that everything we say and do will be directed by Him. 

 

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