Empowered Church

November 13th, 2016 - Acts 9:1-22, Passion for Jesus and His Purposes

Our sermon this week invited us to look at the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in Acts chapter nine. The story began with Saul passionately headed in the wrong direction. Everything that he did was informed by religious culture and fear. This led him to travel around to every town arresting and authorizing the killing of Christians. After meeting the risen Jesus on a desert road to Damascus, everything changed. Saul then met the church in Damascus and found them to be courageous, compassionate and welcoming. After getting saved, baptized and assimilated into the people of God, Saul was passionately released in the right direction. As he began preaching, Saul became more powerful and started proving to many of Jews in Damascus that Jesus was in fact the Messiah.

The question for us is, Are we passionately headed in the right direction?

More specifically, Are our passions guided by God's desires? By God's sense of purpose? By God's sense of identity? By God's sense of justice?

If we don't find ourselves passionate for Jesus and for His purposes, we must ask ourselves, Do we understand the grace that has saved us?

Just like Saul we must meet Jesus and not just once but regularly. When we do we encounter grace, because that will make us very passionate for Him and His purposes.

November 6th, 2016 - Acts 8, "Trust His leading"

This week's message looked at Philip and his interaction with the Ethiopian. It stressed that God was clearly taking the first step towards reclaiming the people of Cush and others outside the Jewish community, which shows us that the Gospel is for all peoples of all cultures. The message also demonstrated how Philip trusted God's leading, as;

1. God led Philip on a specific path
2. God led Philip to a specific person
3. God led Philip in his presentation of the Gospel

Pastor John encouraged us to seek God's leading by, 1. Taking 5 minutes every morning to ask for God's direction for that day, 2. Take a weekend to fast and seek God's direction, 3. Tell someone what God wants you to do, once He directs you, 4. Do it.

How is God leading you? It will change everything if you follow Him.

October 30th, 2016 - Acts 6, "Make your calling and gifting a priority"

Summary coming soon.

October 23rd, 2016 - Acts 4, "Nothing can stop you"

Summary coming soon.

October 16th, 2016 - Acts 3, "Healing that points to Christ"

Summary coming soon.

October 9th, 2016 - Acts 2:42-47. "Power in Fellowship"

Summary coming soon.

October 2nd, 2016 - Acts 2:1-41. "True Power"

This Sunday Pastor Pierce continued our sermon series called "Acts: The Empowered Church." He spoke on Acts 2:1-41, telling of the incredible power that the Holy Spirit gave the first disciples, and showing how that same power is available to believers today.

In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus was just about to ascend into heaven, leaving the disciples without the physical presence of their leader. Jesus knew that the disciples would feel powerless and afraid when he was no longer with them in the body, so he promised to send the Holy Spirit to give them comfort, guidance, and power. Acts 1:8 says, " will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 2:1-41 tells the amazing story of Jesus pouring out the Holy Spirit on the disciples, giving them power to speak out boldly in Jesus' name.

While there are so many things we can learn from Acts 2:1-41, Pastor Pierce pointed out three things that are especially important to know about the power of the Holy Spirit that come from this passage: (1) The Holy Spirit empowers the church to speak the gospel, (2) It empowers every individual who believes in Jesus, and (3) This power always points back to Jesus.

First, the Holy Spirit empowers the church to speak the gospel. The Spirit gives Christians the power to tell other people the good news about Jesus Christ. After a gust of wind filled the house the apostles were in and flames miraculously appeared over their heads, verse 4 says, "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." The Spirit gave the apostles the power to speak the gospel, but it didn't just spark a regular conversation about Jesus. Together the apostles could miraculously speak in many different languages, so that everyone from the surrounding countries could understand.

We you can tell how loud and excited the apostles must have been singing God's praises because of the crowd that gathered. We find out in verse 41 how massive the crowd was: at least 3,000 people. About 3,000 joined the church that day, and the crowd might have included even more people who didn't join. The apostles must have been shouting the good news at the top of their lungs to attract such a huge crowd.

It makes sense for the apostles to be so loud and excited about the gospel. The gospel has the power to save souls. The message of salvation through Jesus Christ has the power to change people's eternal destiny from death to life. The Holy Spirit gives people the strength and courage to tell people this good news and to help guide them to put their faith in Jesus. That's true power, to turn people away from hell and towards God. That's the power that the Holly Spirit gave the apostles at Pentecost, and the Spirit gives us that same power today when we believe in Jesus.

We see that power at work in the Apostle Peter when he preaches to the crowd, ultimately leading 3,000 people to saving faith. Someone had started to mock the Christians, calling them drunkards, but Peter didn't let that ridicule stop him from preaching one of the greatest sermons in history. Peter was uneducated, and he had no training in public speaking. Yet, because of the power he received from the Holy Spirit, he was able to testify about Jesus's resurrection and salvation. The Holy Spirit gave Peter power and abilities that he could have never had on his own -- the power to overcome his lack of education and the mocking of others; the ability to stand and speak boldly for Christ. That same Spirit lives in us and empowers us when we believe in Jesus. When we know the power we have in the Holy Spirit, we can speak out for Jesus no matter the circumstances. No matter who makes fun of us, no matter what we lack in eloquence, nothing can stop us from testifying to Jesus's saving power.

Second, the Holy Spirit gives power to every single person who believes in Jesus. It's not just the 'important' people or the leaders of the church who get the power. It's not just the pastors and preachers; it's everyone who believes in Jesus. Every believer receives power from the Holy Spirit. Verse 3 says that the tongues of fire fell on each of them, and verse 4 says that all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. Even though Peter was up front doing the talking, every one of the apostles received the power to testify about Jesus.

The same is true for us today: Jesus pours out the power of the Holy Spirit on everyone who believes in Him. When you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you receive the Holy Spirit within you and, whether you know it or not, you possess incredible power from God. Inside of you lies God's power to change people's lives. The Holy Spirit's power comes from God, and everyone who believes in Him is empowered.

It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from; you can receive power from the Holy Spirit. Verses 5-11 give us a long list of the different cultures and nationalities represented that day at Pentecost: people from all of those different backgrounds heard the gospel in their own language and received power from the Holy Spirit. This shows us that God cares about people from all different countries and cultures. The Holy Spirit empowers the church to spread the gospel to every nation and to every type of person. Anyone, from anywhere, who believes in Jesus can receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

Third, power from the Holy Spirit always points back to Jesus. This is obvious from the content of Peter's sermon: verses 22-24 talk about Jesus's miracles, crucifixion, and resurrection. Verse 33 says of Jesus, "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear," or in other words, it was Jesus who empowered the apostles with the Holy Spirit to preach and prophesy in other languages. Peter tells the crowd in verse 38 to repent and be baptized in Jesus's name in order to receive the Holy Spirit. Everything that the Spirit enabled Peter to say pointed people to Jesus. We have that same Spirit living in us today, pointing us back to Jesus and empowering us to bring more people to Jesus.

It's faith in Jesus that saves us, but it's the Holy Spirit living within us that gives us power. Too often we ignore the power that we have in the Spirit: power to heal and restore broken lives, power to resist the temptation to sin, power to speak boldly for Jesus no matter the consequences. True power isn't in the sword or the gun. True power comes from the Holy Spirit.

September 25th, 2016 - Acts 1:1-14, "Obeying or Gazing?"

Pastor John began our study of the book of Acts by explaining that the purpose of this sermon series was to look at how the first church was started so that we might know how to grow our new family of faith. As we turned to Acts 1, he recapped what had happened--reminding us, as Luke does, that Jesus had died on the cross, was buried in a tomb and raised to new life after three days, appearing everywhere and especially to His disciples. As Luke begins to tell the story of what happened after Jesus was raised from the dead, he no longer calls the disciples, "disciples," he now refers to them as "apostles" (meaning the sent ones). Pastor John explained that it is also significant to see the difference in how Luke tells the story of Jesus' ascension in his Gospel account versus his account of the acts of the apostles. Luke shifts the focus from what Jesus said and did to what the apostles said and did. This is important because it shows us that Acts is going to be about what Christ did through His people.

As the resurrected Jesus spent time with His apostles, He would teach them and eat with them. In His final meeting, Jesus gave His apostles a command not to leave, but instead to stay and wait for His power to come upon them. He was in a sense, commanding them to trust Him. Pastor John made the point that Jesus knew that He was about to leave and return to His place in heaven and He knew that the apostles' natural next move would have been to scatter. There was certainly a fear and insecurity among them--after watching how the Jewish crowds had turned against Jesus and crucified Him. Despite Jesus' clear command the apostles didn't understand what it was that they were waiting for--believing that it was physical, military power. Pastor John explains that Jesus demonstrated patience and explained even more clearly that they were going to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pastor John also walked us through what exactly the apostles were called to be once they received power--and that is witnesses. They were meant to be those that testified to what they had seen not simply to those in there immediate circle but to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. He explained that this is like being a witness to Providence, Rhode Island, New England and to the world! Pastor John explained that this same call is for us today.

As Jesus ascended (was taken up) into heaven, Pastor John noted that the apostles just watched or gazed. They stared up in the sky in amazement, even though they couldn't see Jesus anymore they still stood there frozen gazing up into the sky. Pastor John asked us the question, even after we know what Jesus calls us to do, do we do it? Or do we stay gazing upon His word, frozen and forgetful? Or do we obey? After the angels came down to remind the apostles to get moving, Pastor John explained that the fact of the matter is that they did obey. They did in fact return to Jerusalem and wait. The way in which they waited is important as well, because we should note that they prayed together. Pastor John reminded us that every great revival has begun with groupings of people coming together to call upon and wait upon God in prayer.

Pastor John cast some vision, asking Imagine if we obeyed God and prayed to Him, waiting on Him for His power to help us? What could be? What could God do through us, if we just obeyed? Imagine if we just went to where God commanded us and sought His power to be His witnesses?

His big idea was, "Are we gazing or obeying?"