Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 Obedient People Have Special Experiences
Acts 1:4; 2:1-8

 

Introduction

God has wonderful plans for people who are obedient to Him.  Isaiah 1:19 says, “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.”  And in Habakkuk, we read, “Look at the nations!  Watch them and be amazed and shocked.  I will do something in your lifetime that you won’t believe even when you are told about it. (Hab. 1:5)  God told His servant, Habakkuk, that his prayers would be answered in a way he never expected.  God was going to bring Babylon against Judah and chasten His people, because of their disobedience.  In 597 B.C., the Babylonians conquered Judah and began to deport the Jews to Babylon.  They would remain in captivity for seventy years, and even though some returned to Israel, they were never a great nation again.

From the human point of view, the invasion of the land and the captivity of the people would seem a tragedy, but it was God’s work just the same.  God’s reply to Habakkuk reminds us that His ways are not our ways.  The prophet Jeremiah wrote about the plans which God has for His people.  He wrote, “I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord.  “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you.  I will give you hope and a good future.  Then you will call my name.  You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will search for me.  And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me!” (Jer. 29:11-13) 

Sometimes we can’t make up our minds, but God is never uncertain about any decision.  Sometimes when things are not going good, we think that God is against us, but all of His thoughts and actions are good, and even those that seem harmful are for our own good.  His plans for us were made long ago, and He does exactly what He planned, and He is working to an exact timetable which only He knows.  God’s gifts are not determined by what we fear, or from the things we desire; but they come from the hopefulness of our faith, which is expressed in our prayers and requests to God. 

The scriptures for today focus on the people of the early church.  I want to read Acts 1:2-4, and 2:1-8 to you. 

“Until the day he was taken up into heaven.  Before this, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Jesus told the apostles he had chosen what they should do.  After his death, he showed himself to them and proved in many ways that he was alive.  The apostles saw Jesus during the forty days after he was raised from the dead, and he spoke to them about the kingdom of God.  Once when he was eating with them, he told them not to leave Jerusalem.  He said, ‘Wait here to receive the promise from the Father which I told you about.”’  That was Acts 1:2-4. 

Last week, we studied these verses and we saw that Jesus gave His disciples many infallible proofs of His Resurrection.  Over a period of forty days between His death and ascension Jesus appeared at frequent intervals to His apostles.  No one could seriously doubt that He was alive.  Before He left, He told them to wait for the promise of the Father.  A great deal of ink has been used attempting to explain these five words; the promise of the Father.  However, various passages of Scripture make it clear that the promise of the Father (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16) and also the promise of the Son (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) were references to the arrival of the Holy Spirit of God. 

Now, let’s read chapter 2, verses 1-8:
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a noise like a strong, blowing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw something like flames of fire that were separated and stood over each person there.  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak different languages by the power the Holy Spirit was giving them.  There were some religious Jews staying in Jerusalem who were from every country in the world.  When they heard this noise, a crowd came together.  They were all surprised, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  They were completely amazed at this.  They said, “Look! Aren’t all these people that we hear speaking from Galilee?  Then how is it possible that we each hear them in our own languages? We are from different places.”

We are told here that all the disciples were together in one place and that they were bonded together by a unity of purpose.  Then the Holy Spirit of God came with power accompanied by two signs.  The first sign was the sound of a mighty rushing wind and the second was like flames of fire that separated and stood over each one there.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues (languages). 

At Pentecost, these men were given an unnatural ability to speak in other languages.  There were Jews there in Jerusalem from all over the world to celebrate the feast of Pentecost, so there were also many languages present. 

The news of this special event taking place on Pentecost spread throughout the city, and they were all amazed.  Those who heard the disciples speak in their own languages, said to one another, “We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

The disciples were commanded, by Jesus, to wait for this very special event.  Their option was to obey and wait, or to get busy on their own.  The 120 believers obeyed and waited.  But some left and we wonder what happened to those who left rather than to obey the Lord’s command to wait. 

We are going to look at these special experiences that came to those who waited as Jesus had instructed.  There are four points that should be made about this very unusual experience:
1. It was an emotional time unlike any anyone had ever experienced.
2. It was a mystical experience.
3. It was a melting moment.
4. A movement was born.

Now the first thing that is evident is that “it was an emotional time unlike any anyone had ever experienced.” 

The Holy Spirit swept over them in an overwhelming demonstration. We are told that “Suddenly a noise like a strong, blowing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw something like flames of fire that were separated and stood over each person there.  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak different languages by the power the Holy Spirit was giving them.  They were all amazed and confused, asking each other, ‘What does this mean?”’ 

Some thought that they were drunk, so Peter addressed that thought.  He said, “These people are not drunk, as you think; it is only nine o’clock in the morning!”  Then he told them, “But Joel the prophet wrote about what is happening here today: ‘God says: In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.  ….  Then anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved.’” (Acts 2:2-4, 12, 15-21) 

When Peter spoke to the crowd, he was assuming the role of leadership.  Notice that the Eleven stand behind him giving their full support to his message.  Peter warns the onlookers that the one hundred and twenty are not drunk as everyone thought, but what they are viewing is in actuality a fulfillment of prophecy. They should not be surprised at what they see, for it was predicted hundreds of years before by the prophet Joel.

This was an emotional experience, but is it good to experience such emotion?  Well, we accept emotional experiences in every other area of our lives, so why not accept emotion as part of our spiritual experiences.  After all, if love is an emotion, then God has expressed that emotion toward us.  John 3:16, says, “For God so loved the world,” and there is the verse, “God is love.”  And Paul said, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”  We are also told, “That He first loved us.” 

When you come to believe that God loves you, it is an emotional time; and that knowledge leads to obedience, because you want to please Him.  Obedient Christians have a warm, loving feeling toward God.  They are open and responsive to his movement in their lives.

There are people, who refuse to obey God, and I believe that they are Christians; they may be faithful to their church and for all appearances look like they are walking with God.  But they are not obeying Him, and disobedient people are afraid that they will give away their true selves.  They can’t bring themselves to give up some sin or they covet something that is sin, so they’re not happy.  Their sin prevents them from having a relationship with Jesus, and there is the constant fear that they will have their sin exposed. 

I have lived in this terrible condition.  For me it was smoking.  I believed that for me smoking was wrong, so I tried to hide my addiction to protect my Christian witness.  I would sneak into the restroom and smoke, and at noon, I would eat alone in my car, so I could smoke. It was like being in prison; and I was very unhappy until I was able to break the habit, with God’s help. 

There have been other addictions in my life, and there are some that I am still fighting, but with God’s help I am getting more successful in defeating these sins.  I want to obey the Lord, but I can’t do it without the help of the Holy Spirit!  Thank God, His Spirit is right here in my heart.

Let me ask you a question, “Could our world be waiting for people who are willing to turn God loose in their lives?”  Someone said, and I don’t remember who, “That the world has never seen what one man can do who is completely committed to God.”  I certainly don’t believe that man has ever lived.  But it is something to strive for, isn’t it.  Can you imagine how God might bless that person who was fully committed to Him; can you imagine the victorious Christian life they would live? Now, allow me to correct myself; there was a man who was completely committed to God. His name is Jesus Christ. What he did was to change the world and give men and women everywhere, hope!

We come now to our second point, “It was a mystical experience.” 

Some things cannot be explained or understood.  They can only be experienced.  I don’t like to use myself as an example, but this may clarify what I mean.  I am not a preacher, and I struggle speaking in front of people because I am very self-conscience.  I practice my sermons before I give them to you and usually I forget things and lose my place and generally feel like I am going to fall on my face, and embarrass my Lord.  Then on Sunday morning, when I stand here, I lose all my fears, and things come to my mind that I never thought of before.  To me this is a mystical experience that I can’t explain.  And I can’t explain the feelings that pass through me when I am preaching God’s word.  All that happens is from God; it’s the Holy Spirit doing work in me.  It’s wonderful!

In verse 6 we read how those that were present understood the words of the disciples in their own languages.  That’s a miracle, that can’t be explained scientifically, or by human reasoning.  It happened to people who were being obedient to God.  That’s when God moves in the lives of His people; obedient people enjoy the workings of God. 

But, wherever God moves, some mystery is involved.  In Job 5:9 we read, “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed.”  Job certainly didn’t understand what was happening to him.  He lost everything he had; he lost his possessions, his family, and his health.  His friends said that he was receiving God’s judgment for some great sin, and then his wife suggested that he curse God and die.  His misery was so great that he covered himself with ashes, sat down on a dung hill and cried out to God, “Why are you treating me like this?” 

Our finite minds cannot fathom the infinite mind of God.  In the end God blessed Job more than He did in the beginning of his life, but Job endured all this without ever knowing the reason.

The Israelites did not understand the destruction of Jericho.  Jericho was a wicked city; but there was one woman there who believed in God.  Her name was Rahab, and she was a prostitute; but when God destroyed the city, He saved her and her family. 

Obedient people have unforgettable experiences.  The Israelites obediently marched around Jericho for six days, and then returned in silence to their camp.  On the seventh day, after they walked around the city they blew their trumpets and shouted.  They were obedient, and their reward was that the walls of the city fell down and they were able to walk in and defeat the people that lived there.  They destroyed them all except for Rahab and her family. 

Obedient people have unforgettable experiences. 

Our third point is that, “it was a melting moment.” 

These obedient people were blended together in a very special way.  They shared a mystical experience, which gave them greater faith in God, and a common connection.  Obedient people are so focused on their relationship with God that they easily relate to others.  They experience wonderful fellowship.

We learned that after this incident, “They spent their time learning the apostles’ teaching, sharing, breaking bread, and praying together.  We read that, “The apostles were doing many miracles and signs, and everyone felt great respect for God.  All the believers were together and shared everything.  They would sell their land and the things they owned and then divide the money and give it to anyone who needed it.  The believers met together in the Temple every day.  They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts.  They praised God and were liked by all the people.  Every day the Lord added those who were being saved to the group of believers.” (Acts 2:41-47) 

When Peter preached his first sermon, on the Day of Pentecost, he was so effective that three thousand souls were added to the Church on that day.  Each one that was saved was nurtured in the faith as they learned the doctrine of the apostles.  They fellowshipped with the other believers; each one partook of the Lord’s Table on an equal basis with their older brothers in Christ.  They prayed and shared their burdens.  And not only that; they shared their possessions.  And at this time, as the Church was being born, sharing was absolutely necessary, because many who came to know the Lord were rejected by society and disinherited by their family. 

The early church was noted for its harmony; they were persistent in praising God and fellowshipping with His people.  Obedient people love one another.

The last thing to be said about this incident is that, “A movement was born.” 

These obedient people started a movement that has affected the entire world.  Jesus only traveled outside Israel on one occasion. He spent most of His time in Judea and Galilee; but his disciples started a movement that has gone farther than any of them could have imagined.  They took the gospel to every part of the world, and the gospel is still going out today. 

It was the birthday of the Church.  Paul said that, “Christ died for the Church.”  The first time the Church met there were only one hundred and twenty souls present; but they grew dramatically.  Today, there are millions who are born-again believers and members of the Church of Jesus Christ.  The movement was powerful; and in verses 43 and 46-47 we read that the world took notice of them. 

God had waited for the proper time to send His Son.  The Bible says that He sent His Son in the fullness of time.  This new religion, at that time called The Way, spread like wild fire through the Roman Empire.  As it spread, it was met with persecution, but that only served to scatter the people, and wherever they went, they took the gospel with them.  The early Church was made up of obedient believers, and God’s blessings are in proportion to our obedience.  Christianity grew faster in the beginning than at any other time in history. 

They were obedient to God and they had special experiences that blessed them and increased their faith.  The special experiences began with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; but the apostles had also been given the ability to heal the sick and to drive out demons.  This was their credential and they did many miraculous things, and we are going to study them in the weeks ahead. We can learn from these men and women, who began the Church. 

Today, we have seen that God blessed them because they were obedient, and that they had special experiences that built their faith, and enabled them to be witnesses for Christ in the face of hardships and danger.  As modern-day believers become obedient, we, too, will experience special times with God. 

Jesus is still building His Church, and He uses men and women just like us to do it.  Let’s pray that we will be obedient servants, and let’s ask for Him to bless us with experiences that will increase our faith, and strengthen our dedication. 

Conclusion

Obedience does not always lead us down a comfortable path.  That’s because we live in a fallen world that is dominated by Satan.  There are obstacles that are put in the path of Christians that will test our faith, but we are blessed to have the Holy Spirit inside us, and He is the source of our strength.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome the world. 

The secret to the successful Christian life is to be obedient to God.   Obedient people have special experiences about which others only dream. God is looking for some people who will allow Him to have His way in their lives.  He wants to be our Lord as well as our God.  We know that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ; but it is not until He is our Lord that we enjoy those special experiences.  So make Him your Lord by being obedient to Him-Trust Him for all things, read His word and do what He tells you to do in His word, love Him and do your best not to sin.  But when you sin, ask Him to forgive you, and believe that He will. Praise God! 

Let’s pray and ask God to help us to be obedient to Him and to bless us with special experiences.

 

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