The Spirit-filled life and church - what does it look like? How do we live the Spirit empowered life? What is the difference between a Spirit filled life and a flesh driven life? These are some of the questions I will answer today.
In Acts 2: 1 – 13 speaks of the the fulfillment of the promise Jesus gave to his disciples in regards to the coming of the Holy Spirit. This extraordinary occurrence happened on the day of Pentecost (50 days after Jesus’ resurrection). There was a great sound of wind rushing in the room, tongues of fire appeared above everyone’s head and utterances of praise in foreign languages were all evidence that the Spirit of God had indeed fallen on the disciples that very day. God fearing Jews who came from all parts of the known world witnessed this event and were amazed at what they saw and what they heard. They were perplexed and amazed that the only conclusion many could come to was the believers were drunk with wine. Peter, filled with the Spirit, addresses these accusations and explains exactly what was happening on this strange day.
Verses 14 - 36 have become known as the great sermon of the Apostle Peter. I am not going to look at the full content of the sermon (we will focus more on verses 14 – 21) and then look at the amazing result of this Spirit-filled sermon and what we can learn from it today.
Verse 14: This is Peter’s first actual sermon and what a sermon it was. It is the perfect example of what Spirit-filled preaching looks like. According to author and pastor R. Kent Hughes this sermon was his greatest because, “Of the place it occupies in history of redemption, greatest by its pure results (there were 3,000 converts), and greatest by virtue of it being a model for apostolic preaching (Gospel oriented and evangelical).” In his sermon he addresses the onlookers by simply explaining what was happening at this moment. He also counters the claim made by others that the believers were drunk with wine, since it was only 9:00 a.m.
He begins his sermon with a quote from Joel 2:28 – 32 which is a passage prophesying or describing this time when the Spirit will be poured out on believers. Peter informs his listeners that they are witnessing the coming of, indwelling, empowering and filling of the Holy Spirit which was prophesied by the Prophet Joel.
Vs 17: “In the last days…” Peter tells his listeners that the beginning of the end was at hand. Here the Spirit of God is being poured out onto the believers. God will Pour out is derived from the imagery of Israel’s heavy winter rains; it speaks here of abundant provision.  When the Spirit was poured out it represented the beginning of an undisclosed time frame known as “the last days” which concludes with Judgment Day. The result of God’s outpouring of his Spirit on all flesh is sons and daughters prophesying, young men seeing visions from God and old men dreaming dreams. All flesh refers to all of Judah or more likely Jews and Gentiles. In other words the Prophet Joel is saying “There will be a day when God will pour out an abundant provision of His Spirit on both Jews and Gentiles alike.”
“Sons and daughters will prophesy…” His Spirit will be poured out and his people will prophesy. When one prophesies he/she speaks to the people and encourages, uplifts and as we will find out lead unbelievers to salvation (1 Corinthians 14:5). Steve Thompson writes in his book YOU MAY ALL PROPHESY, “Prophecy is not just speaking human encouragement; it is speaking divine encouragement. In simple terms, prophecy is ‘hearing’ from God and speaking what you hear in order to build, comfort, or encourage someone. To prophesy is to hear from God and speak to men.”
If I may be so bold as to suggest that prophesying is something the Church should be practicing more today. Now I am not referring to predicting the future or proclaiming loudly and annoyingly judgment of the end of the world. I speak about the type of prophesy that entails believers listening, seeking and hearing from God and sharing these words with one another (not to control or get what you want) for the building up of the body of Christ.
The Apostle Paul tells us Prophecy is the greater of the gifts when it comes to edification or building up the church body as a whole. It is not necessarily a greater gift as a whole, but in the church body it is more beneficial. According to the Prophet Joel there will be no gender or age discrimination, His Spirit will fall on male and female, young and old, Jew and Gentile alike. Young men will see visions (this is noteworthy since visions were generally reserved for specific people but after God’s pouring of the Spirit it will be available to all).
We notice in Joel 2:28 – 34 a promise made by God concerning an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all people regardless of race, gender or age. The Spirit will be active during the last days. God will reveal his plan, purpose and promises to his people of all ages and it will be for the building and edification of his Church. Peter tells us that the filling of the Spirit is no longer just reserved for the prophets but it is now available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. This includes you and me; we just need to pray for the Spirit of God to fall upon us and be willing to receive it when He does come.
The sermon Peter preaches is an amazing display of the Holy Spirit empowering a believer to preach the Gospel because Peter preaches with boldness and conviction about Jesus Christ. If you recall only fifty days earlier this same man denied three times the same Jesus he is now speaking of. He feared for his own life just fifty days previous and now he stands before over 3,000 people publicly speaking unashamedly about Jesus Christ. Another way we see evidence of Peter being empowered by the Spirit is by looking at the results of his sermon. Over 3,000 people became believers on this day. Only the Spirit of God can pull this one off. Had Peter given this sermon in his abilities and power, it would have fallen on deaf ears and the end result could have ended in a riot or death. As we can see when the Spirit of God is present, things happen and they happen in a big way.
If you are a student of history take a look at some of the great revivals in church history and you will see a common thread in all of them…. Spirit-filled preaching. Take a look at the first Great Awakening in America which happened in the mid 1700’s when a man by the name of Jonathan Edwards gave a sermon entitled “Sinner’s the Hands of an Angry God”. From a pulpit Edwards stood and solemnly read from his notes with a slow cadence and not very eloquently the words that would seem to push someone farther away from God than to draw them nearer. But the Holy Spirit was at work and the second time he gave this sermon it was met with people weeping and crying out in repentance to God. It is even said that the bars were closed because there was no business because people were getting save. This led to the first Great Awakening and is one of many events in history where the Spirit of God did remarkable things. This revival was a result of the Holy Spirit as were all revivals in history. Many people today try or have tried to usher in revivals but are usually met with little to no response as a result. Why? Because we as humans cannot bring forth revival! This is the Spirit’s job and we must allow Him to do His work.
I believe as Christians we can choose to live one of two ways; in the Spirit or in the flesh. We can live in the power of God or in the power of ourselves. We can try to live the Christian life in our own strength and ability and never experience the power of God because we do not want to give up control of our lives. I wonder why would anyone ever want this? Why would you want to depend on your abilities, intellect and means to manipulate situations to make them work for you and your benefit? Why would you want Christianity to be one more thing that you do in your life? Why would you want to add it to a list of other groups that you belong to? You may be a member of the golf club, the library, the VFW, the book club and the church. But a member of the Body of Christ is not something you join, pay your dues and attend a meeting or two. The Spirit-filled life is not something you belong to it is a way of life.
God desires for us to be men and women who are fully submitted to him, empowered by his Spirit, obedient to his word, sensitive to his voice, encouraging to one another and using the gifts he has given us. He desires for us to live in His power and get our abilities from Him. He knows we are just human beings and without His power we are no more than that. The Spirit-filled life is all about being men and women who rely on the Holy Spirit for the power and ability to live for his glory. This is really what is happening in today’s text. Peter (empowered by the Spirit) gave a sermon that stirred the crowd and eventually brought 3,000 people to faith in Christ, thus giving birth to the church age. Is this something he did in his own strength? NO way! The Spirit of God was upon him and the words he spoke were Spirit filled thus the result was a supernatural phenomenon.
So what is our response for today? We can look at this passage and say, “Hmm, that’s a good story. My challenge for you today is to not settle for the self-driven, self motivated, and self reliant life. God has more for you than just “being a Christian”. Pray for God to empower you to live the Spirit filled life. He wants you and me to be children of the Kingdom who have a passion for Jesus and desire to see and lead others to faith in Jesus Christ. This cannot be done in your own power, you need to pray, more specifically pray for the gift to prophecy (as Paul wrote). How do we do this? Doesn’t God give us gifts according to his will and not mine? Let me close with the words of Jack Deere, “Ultimately, the reconciliation of divine sovereignty and effective human prayer is a mystery. The Scripture teaches both, so pray for the gifts you want, because your prayers may affect the Holy Spirit’s desire to give you gifts… God is answering prayers today for spiritual gifts. If you want the gift of prophecy, pray for it.”
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version. Includes index. (Joe 2:30). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Thompson, Steve. (2001). You May All Prophesy p. 9 Charlotte, NC: MorningStar Fellowship Church
 Deere, Jack (2001) The Beginners Guide to the Gift of Prophecy Ventura, CA Regal From Gospel Light.