The Promise of My Father–part 1



The Word for today:
Acts 2:37-47


mark this:  Luke 24:49

“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 

and this:  (Acts 2:1-4)
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…

We are well aware of the hundreds of Old Testament promises of a Savior, the “Messiah.” (Translated as “Christ” in the New Testament, “Messiah” means “Anointed.”)  

But we may not be aware of the Old Testament promises concerning the “Anoint-ment!” 

Jesus repeatedly reminded the disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit–“the Promise of My Father“–would arrive  to anoint them with power from on high, the very same power which had filled and guided Jesus.

Over the next couple days, we’ll range from one end of the Bible to the other as we watch this promise unfold.

***

The Holy Spirit is involved in creation–

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

(Genesis 1:1-2)

(The entire Trinity was involved; God the Father created through Jesus, by the Spirit.)

When the Spirit comes, he brings newness.  “Out of the chaos, he brings the cosmos.  Out of disorder, he brings order; out of confusion, harmony; out of deformity, beauty; out of the old, the new.”  (1)

The Spirit brings life:

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)

The Hebrew word for “Spirit” in Genesis 1:2 is ruach; the word means both “breath” and “spirit.”  Just as God breathed physical life into the human being, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)

In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God came upon particular people at particular times for particular tasks.  An example is when the Spirit came upon Bezalel:

The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.  (Exodus 31:1-5)

The Spirit came upon Gideon for leadership, transforming weakness into strength.  (Judges 6:14-15, 34)

The Spirit of the LORD came upon Samson, conferring power (Judges 15:14).  So often we find that what is described in the Old Testament in a physical way is true in the New Testament in a spiritual way.  Samson, who had been bound, was able to break free.  Just so, many of us find ourselves bound by habits, addictions, patterns of thought.  When the Spirit of God comes upon us, he enables us to break free.

The Spirit came upon Isaiah, bestowing prophecy.  See Isaiah 61:1-3:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…

The experience of the Spirit is not just a nice warm feeling in our hearts.  The Spirit is the Difference Maker; he transforms individuals and the society at large.

Whenever the Spirit enters the picture, things happen.  As the Old Testament proceeds, there is a rising expectation that God is going to do things even more transformational.  This expectation is referred to as “The Promise of the Father.”

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”   (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

Under the old covenant, the people of God were given the law, written on tablets of stone.  But they found they could not keep the law.  Thus the law, instead of becoming a blessing, became their failure instead.  So God promised something new:  he would write the law inside them–so that they want to keep it, so that their obedience comes from the heart.

By the Spirit, we will keep the rules not because we have to but because we love to!–

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

To whom does the Promise of the Father apply?  It’s for everyone!–

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.  (Joel 2:28-29)

The people waited for the Promise.  They waited for hundreds of years.  And then, with the birth of Jesus, it was as if a trumpet sounds and everybody connected with his birth was filled with the Holy Spirit…

***

We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer!  Our journey to the Upper Room on Pentecost will continue tomorrow.  See you there & then.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(1) from “The Alpha Course” by Nicky Gumbel

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“I get it!”–the begetting of the begotten

The Word for today:
Acts 2:14-36

mark this: Acts 2:17
And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.

Note:
We enter into advanced study today. We will look at how, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, the life of Christ is replicated within the believer. We will also look at how sin is born. We will feature the word “begotten,” a word often encountered (in the Bible’s most famous verse) but not often explained.
If this all sounds a little misbegotten, then skip “school” for today. But we hope you’ll skip right back tomorrow!

***

As you may know, I write about scripture day and night.

And I get a lot of feedback. Some of it concerns the particular topic I wrote about that day or that week. But most of the feedback I get is about my larger theme–Jesus. And most of it sounds like this…
“I get it! Jesus permeates every passage of scripture. And everyone, everything–whether “secular” or “sacred”–is defined by his/their relationship to him. He is the one issue we must settle in this life.”

Or else it sounds like this:
“I’m reading what you’re writing, but I just don’t get the whole Jesus thing. I just don’t get it.”

I love it when the light of understanding enters heretofore dull eyes, when the Holy Spirit pulls the veil off “the eyes of the heart” and the Light shines through. I see a replay, in the spiritual realm, of the physical creation in Genesis 1.

God’s will is that everyone should “get it,” that everyone should be saved. In the Bible’s opening verses, this was expressed as “Let there be Light!”

In the New Testament, God said it this way:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Activating the Father’s will, the Holy Spirit, who is hovering over the benighted land, goes forth to pull the veil off every eye that will see. And when that veil is taken away, we see the Light of the world. We “get it”–

To this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit… (2 Corinthians 3:14-17)

***

It is imperative to remember that the Light is always there to “be gotten.”

So at the Father’s direction and through the agency of the Holy Spirit, the unseen God was literally begotten:
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

The ancient creed tells us that he was “begotten, not made.” That means the eternal Word was translated into flesh so that man could comprehend God. This came about when two wills melded into one–the willing heart of a woman and the willing heart of God.

The begetting implies a uniqueness: This will never happen again (John 1:14) because there is nothing left to give. God already gave his all:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

If you “get it,” if you comprehend and receive him, then Jesus’ lives within you–as he physically lived within Mary, as he spiritually lived within Paul:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20)

If you “get it,” if you comprehend and receive him, then the begetter, as pictured for us in the life of Mary, is the Holy Spirit.

If you “get it,” then unto you a child is born. (“A child is born” refers to the flesh which has a birthday.) And unto you a son (the eternal Son of God) is not born but given:
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
 (Isaiah 9:6-7)

***

But if you should resist, the Spirit of God can not (because he will not) dispel the darkness; he can not (because you will not) uncover your enshrouded eyes or soften your encrusted heart. If you resist the Spirit, then you yourself have begotten the uniquely damning sin in scripture:

And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:32)

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

If you resist the Spirit, you will have managed to dispel the Light: “Let there be darkness!” is your decree.

And there was darkness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Holy Spirit: no one “gets” Jesus but by Him

The Word for today:
Acts 2:1-13

mark this: 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

In Acts chapter 2, a pivotal event known as “Pentecost” is described. (Pentecost means the “Fiftieth Day” after Passover.)

There were forty days between Jesus’ crucifixion (at Passover) and His ascension into heaven (1:3). Then there were ten days between the ascension and Pentecost, during which time the apostles were directed by Jesus to wait for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit–“the Promise of My Father.” (See Acts 1:4, 8; Luke 24:49).

“The Promise of My Father.”
From the earliest chapters of the Bible, a Savior is promised. He is the Seed of the Woman, promised to Eve. He is the Son through whom all the earth will be blessed, as promised to Abraham. He is the direct descendant of David, who will rule forever from David’s throne. The Promised Son is the great theme, the grand scheme of the Old Testament.

But when was the Spirit promised to us? Over the next few days, Stand in the Rain will take a whirlwind tour through scripture in search of the “Promise of My Father.” We invite you to come along…

***

The Trinity is a tricky concept. People get it mixed up all the time. I once said, in a Bible class, that the Trinity is “three Gods in one person.” Rest assured that my students nearly jumped out of their seats as they straightened out my misstatement:
“No! You mean ‘one God in three persons!’ ” Which is exactly what I meant, despite the way it came out!

Well, the Holy Spirit makes sure that what God thinks is what comes out! As the Author of the Bible, He has conveyed God’s counsel to us; he takes the things of Christ and shows them unto us (John 16:14-15). He makes the Word of God (the Bible) and the Word made flesh (Jesus) real to us. He makes them come alive.

The Three are so inextricably bound together that they are One. To explain this, we grope for metaphors and analogies, which always fall short:
To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? (Isaiah 40:18)

But when metaphor and analogy are all we’ve got, that’s what we must use. So, here goes:

I sometimes think of the Trinity as the indispensable elements of a smile.

A mind, unseen, issues the directive to smile. This can be equated with God the Father, who remains unseen to this day:
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:18)

What is seen is the incarnation of the eternal Son. He is the express image of God (Hebrews 1:3). He responds to his Father’s direction. He smiles (or cries, etc.) according to God’s will.

(Though Jesus responds to God’s directives, there is no “rank” in the Trinity. There is a “chain of command,” but each Person’s role is as indispensable as the others’.  Better, then, to think of the Trinity as a Harmony, not a hierarchy. It must also be understood that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). In the Kingdom of heaven, our notions of “greater” and “lesser” are turned upside down: the last shall be first, the greatest is the one who serves, etc.)

As Jesus puts God’s will into action, it is the Holy Spirit who conveys Jesus to us. He emanates from Jesus, getting him through to us. The Nicene Creed states that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

Unless the Son obeys, God’s smile is unseen. Unless the Spirit illuminates it, God’s smile is uncomprehended.

All right, enough of my illustration. Let’s find a picture of Trinity in the Bible. It won’t take long to locate, because it’s the first thing we ever glimpse in scripture:

(verse 1) In the beginning, God…

(verse 2) And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters…

(verse 3) And God said, “Let there be Light…”

The Light of the World is, of course, Jesus. But does this mean Jesus was created in verse three by the Father?

No way! Jesus is the eternal Son, as eternal as the Father. God hadn’t lived in darkness all this time! When God says, “Let there be Light,” it’s a directive to the Spirit to proceed–to shine, to illuminate, to reveal, to unveil Jesus!

And there was light  (verse 4).  The Spirit’s work is effective. The Light was made apparent–real–to us. So in the Bible’s first three verses we have “The Revelation (the unveiling) of Jesus Christ.” (And you thought you’d have to wait until the end.)

***

The Light is always shining, but he is uncomprehended…
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:5)

Unless he is illuminated…
In your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9)

We will return tomorrow to chase the Holy Spirit, “the Promise of My Father,” all the way through scripture.

But until then, remember two scriptures which must go hand in hand:

1. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one gets to the Father but by Him. (John 14:6)

2. No one can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)

The Holy Spirit reveals the Way (1). No one gets to the Father but by Jesus, and no one “gets” Jesus but by the Holy Spirit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Ephesians 1:16-17; Isaiah 40:13-14

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What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.

The Word for today:
Acts 1:12-26

mark this: Acts 1:1
In the former treatise, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach…

Let’s start with a trick question: Who wrote the most words in the New Testament?

If you look at your Bible’s Table of Contents, you will see that the Apostle Paul wrote 14 of the 27 New Testament books (1). Obviously, the answer must be Paul.

Wrong. Paul wrote 37,360 words.

Then it must be John. He wrote a gospel, three epistles, and Revelation.

Wrong. John wrote 28,092 words.

***

The answer to today’s trick question is Luke! He is the author of the books of Luke and Acts, which include a total of 37, 933 words. (Sitting on my front porch yesterday, waiting for the Rapture, I had a lot of time on my hands, so I counted every word!)

Luke/Acts should probably be thought of as two parts of a single entity, in the same way that we think of head and body as two parts of a single whole.  (We rarely, if ever, think of one without the other!)

The gospel of Luke is about the Head, Jesus. The book of Acts is about the Body of Christ–the church. The two are one. They must be, for neither can “act” without the other.

In fact, Jesus told them not to even bother trying to act until they were connected to the Head by being baptized into his body (at Pentecost)–
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, which, he said, “You heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
(Acts 1:4-5)

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.
(1 Corinthians 12:13)

And he is the head of the body, the church. (Colossians 1:18)

***
As the second volume in a two-part work by Luke, this book probably had no separate title. Sometimes you will see it referred to as just “Acts.” And sometimes you will see it referred to as “the Acts of the Apostles.” Actually both of those titles aren’t quite right, because they left out the Head. Unless we put “Jesus” in the title, we decapitate the body!

The key to understanding the purpose of the book is found in the very first verse:
In the former treatise, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach…

The “former treatise” is the Gospel of Luke. In the gospels, Jesus began both to do and teach. In Acts, Jesus continues to do and to teach–through his body, the church.

So the best title for this formally untitled book would be “The Acts of Jesus Christ.” Thinking of it that way makes sense of this astonishing scripture:
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
(John 21:25, which directly precedes Acts 1:1 in scripture)

Luke and Acts are one, just as Head and body are one.
So then they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Mark 10:8-9)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Biblical scholars disagree over the authorship of the book of Hebrews. For the purpose of our word count, we have assumed that Paul wrote Hebrews.

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the game plan

Acts 1 8 2014

(written by Pastor Joe)

The Word for today: Acts 1:1-11

mark this: Acts 1:8
But you 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.

What a blessing the church of Jesus Christ has been given in this book- Acts. It’s been sometimes called the Acts of the Apostles, which is true in some sense. But a much more accurate title would be the Acts of the Holy Spirit. He saturates this book- from chapter 1 to chapter 28, and beyond. He is the One promised in today’s reading. He comes into the lives of Christ’s disciples in power on the day of Pentecost in chapter 2, and then again to Gentile believers as the message spreads (1) . People such as Peter, Stephen, Barnabas, and Paul are all said to be full “of the Spirit.”(2).

The Holy Spirit speaks and leads and directs all of the actions of the “movers & shakers” in this book. He reveals truth to Peter in the matter of of Ananias and Sapphira. He empowers Stephen to speak boldly. He leads Phillip’s very travels- sending him to share the Gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch, and then whisking him away suddenly. The Spirit compels Peter to include non-Jews in the church. He personally chooses Paul and Barnabas for their missionary work. He navigates the church trough its first theological crisis. The Spirit even directs Paul where to go and not to go with the Gospel message. (3)

In short, this book is saturated in the Holy Spirit, as He leads, rebukes, opens some doors and closes others. We cannot come away from Acts thinking that the apostles, by their “own power or godliness (4)” somehow established God’s Kingdom. Here in today’s reading, the Lord Jesus lays out His game plan and His method: He ascends to the Father. The Holy Spirit comes in power. The Spirit-filled disciples are Christ’s witnesses. The message spreads from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. That is precisely what happens in the next 27 chapters of Acts.

I cannot wait to explore this book together- all the ups and downs, twists and turns, joys and sufferings- because this is no mere human endeavor. Today, we get to see the game plan. The rest of the time, we see the Holy Spirit make it reality. Never forget that all of this is God’s idea. Nothing can be more encouraging than to see flawed and ordinary people doing amazing things because it is not them, but the Spirit of Jesus Christ who carries it out! Nothing prevents any of us to join in their company because it isn’t us, but the Holy Spirit who sees things through.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Acts 8:15-17, 10:44-48
(2) Acts 4:8, 6:5, 11:24, 13:9,
(3) Acts 5:3-9, 6:10, 8:29 & 39, 11:12, 13:2, 15:28, 16:6
(4) Acts 3:12

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