Acts is a study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a study of what happens when the Spirit falls down.. It’s about an extraordinary God working through ordinary people to accomplish an extraordinary mission. In Acts 1 the church started with 120. Acts 2, 3,000 people are added. Acts 4, 5,000 men, plus women and children, are added. The church is already very large. It’s growing very fast.
The Roman Empire was the biggest, most prominent, powerful, prosperous nation in the history of the world. The citizens lived relatively lavish lifestyles. They had multiple religions, multiple spiritualties, multiple gods, multiple goddesses. Their values included tolerance and diversity. They had widespread sexual sin. Homosexuality was very popular. Bisexuality was very popular. Cohabitation before marriage was frequent. Adultery within marriage was common. If they didn’t like the baby, they would kill it.
The church roots and grows in the midst of the culture that is very much like ours, which gives us great hope: if the Holy Spirit could work through people in that day for this kind of great mission, he could do the same through us in our day.
Acts 4:23: On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them….. ”
1. Who do you think we pray to?
They pray: “Sovereign Lord”—that’s our God. He’s above all the other gods, all the rulers, all the nations, all the tribes, all the tongues, all the languages, all the sexualities, all the spiritualties. He’s the sovereign Lord, seated on a throne—alone. They’re praying to that God. It is so important to to hide God’s word in our heart so that in the moment of need it is on our lips, so that we can remind ourselves of the truth that God has said. That’s where they start, with the Bible. And then, they proceed forward with community.
2. Which Christian friends do you go to?
Which Christian friends do you go to in your time of need, and which friends come to you in their time of need? It was a good thing they had their friends before their tragedy struck. Might I encourage you to have Christian friends before your tragedy comes, before your trial comes, before your troubles come. Pursue Christian friendship before there’s an urgent need. It’s not just, “Who can you lean on?” but “Who can lean on you?” Who are you a friend to? Who are you inviting, saying, “You know, if you need me, call me.”
3. Who do you pray with?
Your non-Christian friends may be able to give you counsel but not prayer. Christian friends open the Bible and they pray.
This is an invitation: Study the Bible for yourself. Pursue community with God’s people. And when you gather together, pray. Pray for one another, and through the week, call, text, e-mail, get together, praying for one another.
They open the Bible, they gather together, they pray.
4. When tough times come, do you trust in or doubt the sovereignty of God?
Divine sovereignty and human responsibility—two pedals on a bike
5. To whom does the Holy Spirit want you to speak boldly?
We need the Holy Spirit to empower us so that we can follow God’s plan for our life and speak boldly to others about this sovereign God.
They’re not praying, “God, get rid of our trial. Get rid of our trouble. Get rid of our tribulation. God, crush our enemies. God, close all the prisons. God, make the media sympathetic to us. God, pass some laws that make everybody agree with us. God, give us a safe place to hide our families and our money. God, make sure that it doesn’t go bad.” They don’t pray for anything out there to change.
They pray for everything in here . . . to change. Don’t get us around the valley of the shadow of death; get us through the valley of the shadow of death. That’s what they’re praying.
So, they pray for boldness. “Let us remember who the Sovereign is and speak to those who are threatening so that they can come to know him and be saved.” Why, there’s a lot of courage there.
When God’s people receive the Holy Spirit, they do so at conversion. Ephesians calls it being “sealed with the Spirit.” You’re sealed with the Spirit once upon your salvation, and then there are many fillings that happen throughout the course of your life. And the filling of the Holy Spirit is to empower you for boldness to be on mission with Jesus.
How often do you fill up your car? Being filled with the Holy Spirit is like that. Nobody’s ever buy a car and says, “I filled it up. Glad that’s over.” No, there’s fuel for that journey, then there’s fuel for the next journey, fuel for the next journey. We’re like that, all right? We’re on mission with Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills us to go on that journey, and fills us to go on the next journey, then fills us to go on the next journey. Every time you fill up your car, pray. “Holy Spirit, fill me so that I might journey with Jesus on the mission he’s laid before me. And give me boldness on that mission to talk to people about Jesus.”