In Acts 3 we have the story of the lame beggar who sat outside the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg from those going into worship. It was a good place to choose because almsgiving is commanded in the Torah & guilting people into doing what they should is as old as time. I expect he did pretty well out of it.
On this particular day Peter & John were heading towards the temple for the 3 o’clock prayers when this lame man called out to them, asking for money ~ you know the story. We sang it in Sunday school as children because Peter answers him:
Silver & gold have I none
But such as I have give I thee
In the name of Jesus Christ,
Of Nazareth, Rise up & walk…
And he went walking…
Great story! But I want you to stop & think for a moment about two things in this story. The 1st is something that Peter didn’t do. The 2nd is what he gave away.
Peter did not *pray for the sick*. He did not *pray for healing*. Rather he gave something away. Hold that thought for a moment because we have been talking in bible study about how we outreach; how we share the gospel; what that looks like, but all of that begins with understanding what we have been sent to do.
Well, you say, Matthew 28 ~ the Great Commission: make disciples, baptise people... or Matthew 10: heal the sick, raise the dead, cure leprosy, caste out demons. Or Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has
sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free… And that is true. Mostly we ignore all of it. Either we don’t believe what Jesus commanded us or we don’t understand the how.
I am going to assume it is the later & address that because the how is what Peter & John understood & why they were able to heal the sick, caste out demons, raise the dead & cure leprosy. Both the good & the bad news is we are commanded to do the same.
You see the Great Commission comes @ the end of a number of commands Jesus gave His disciples about what they were to do once they were on their own. We are not meant to start @ the end because we cannot give away what we do not ourselves possess. Nor can we give away that which we do not know we have.
Acts 10:38 informs us that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit. John describes the moment that happened: I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven & resting upon Him…[John 1:32] John then goes on to tell us [v33]
that Jesus is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. What Jesus received from the Father He gave away. There is an impartation. Without that impartation we are going to founder, trying to do, in our flesh & by our own strength, that which can only be accomplished through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
You will find this impartation in John 20:21 … As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you." Then he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit…
The commissioning came first, but they were not sent out until they had received the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Now we have a problem, don’t we, because when we turn to Acts Jesus instructs His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until the gift of the Holy Spirit has been sent to them. They are to wait until He comes ~ but by then Jesus has already returned to the Father.
What we need to understand is that the Holy Spirit is not one dimensional. He has a number of different characteristics & a number of different jobs. One of His first jobs is to seal us unto the day of redemption… [Ephesians 4:30]
They don’t do it anymore, but when I was a little girl, if you went to the movies, or the theatre or the ballet, you would give an usher your jacket, umbrella, bags etc & they would give you a ticket so that when you came out you could redeem your belongings.
The Holy Spirit in us is Jesus way of saying: This belongs to me! All the spirit world can see that mark & they know to whom we belong but belonging is not the same as power & authority.
See all authority has been given to Jesus ~ Matthew 28:18 & we can access that power & authority because we have His Holy Spirit residing in us. He has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, & of love & of a sound mind. [2Timothy 1:7]
Power comes before love; Power, dynamis, as in dynamite, because, much as I love the Holy Spirit, He is not given for my enjoyment & *feelies*. He is given so that I can do that which the Lord has called me to do: heal the sick, raise the dead, preach the word, cast out demons.
You don’t ever need to ask what does God want you to do, because on this matter He is very clear: heal the sick, raise the dead, preach the word, caste out demons…
So why is the church, most spectacularly, NOT doing this?
I suggest to you there are 2 main reasons. The first is fairly straightforward. Johnathon Cahn puts it this way: if you want an Acts 2 church, expect Acts 2 persecution! The early church was strong because it was a persecuted church. You weren’t a Christian because it gave you wealth & status. You were a Christian because you
had repented of your sins & the Holy Spirit indwelt in you. The lukewarm, the fence~sitters, the uncommitted did not last very long because the cost was too high ~ just like it is today in Pakistan or India or Iraq or Saudi Arabia. These are places where the church does not understand divisions amongst believers. They can’t afford the wishy~washy.
However the 2nd thing is even more important because it reveals something in us that I am going to call sin: a lack of discipline ~ & no! I am not talking about the 613 mitzvot [commands] in Torah. I am talking about what Brother Lawrence called *Practising the Presence of God* ~ by which he meant, being as much aware as possible of the presence & guidance of the Holy Spirit. And yes, it is a discipline.
Remember John 1:32. John says the spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. See there is the Spirit within & there is the Spirit upon. The Spirit within is the New Creation, what turns this fleshly house into a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit upon is the anointing. The Spirit within gives us courage but it is the anointing that empowers us. When the Spirit came as a wind in Acts 2 He empowered the disciples.
The thing though is, the anointing is like a dove. Doves are timid birds without natural defences against predators & easily put to flight. If we aren’t paying attention, if we are letting our flesh rule over our spirit we are never going to walk in the fullness of our power & authority.
John 3:34 informs us that Jesus had the spirit without measure ~ & we marvel at that but it is not so surprising. Jesus only did what He saw the Father do. He only said what He heard the Father say.[John 5:19~20]
We cannot say the same. We are not that disciplined. We are not that focused. We let other things get in the way & because of it we do not constantly walk in the anointing the way that Jesus did ~ because if we did we would be seeing more of the miraculous than we do.
This is what we see with Peter & John. They gave away what they had. They didn’t have anything in the way of silver or gold ~ but they did have Jesus. They had His Spirit. They had His power & they had His authority & they used it to do exactly the same things that Jesus did: to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to preach the word, to cast out demons.
This is the ongoing challenge to the church. Jesus tells us to pick up our cross & follow Him. Where does the cross take us? To the place of crucifixion. And What happens @ the place of crucifixion? We die to ourselves. Jesus has done all the rest for us but we have to let go of self & die to our self~interests, our pleasures, our loves, our secret sin & let the Holy Spirit do that deep work in us so that we will have credibility in the eyes of the world & move in the anointing of the Holy Spirit to heal, to preach, to cast out & raise up! Because, you see, everywhere we go, every person we see, should be impacted by Christ in us & that can only happen when Christ is, indeed, in us!