God did this!

It was A.W.Tozer who observed that “if God had taken the Holy Spirit out of the Early Church 95% of their activities would have stopped and everybody would have noticed the difference. But if God took the Holy Spirit out of the Church today 95% of our activities would go on as usual and nobody would notice the difference!”

We celebrate the birth of the church with the arrival of the Holy Spirit each year on Pentecost Sunday. But of course the Holy Spirit was not only responsible for the birth of the church, but for every part of the ongoing life of the Early Church. It has been said that the BOOK OF the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES SHOULD REALLY BE CALLED the “ACTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”. The story of so many stages of the birth and the growth and the life of the Early Church can be summed up in three short words. God did something interesting. The people around asked, “What happened?” And the first Christians replied simply, “God did this!”

Remember the Day of Pentecost itself.

2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
All the disciples were praising God in languages they had never learned. Everybody round about wanted to know what was going on. So Peter explained it to them.
15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “ ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
What was the explanation for all the disciples praising God in languages they had never learned?? GOD DID THIS! Result – 3000 were baptized that day. God did this!

But that was only the beginning.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. …. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
People around saw the changed lives, the signs and wonders. They realised “God did this!” and so they got saved too!

On to Acts 3: Peter and John healing the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Acts 3 THE EXPLANATION = 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.

And it wasn’t just miracles and healings. God was doing other things, changing lives.

Faced with persecution for preaching that Jesus was risen from the dead, the early church held a great big prayer meeting
Acts 4:29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
How come the first disciples were so brave about preaching the gospel? What gives persecuted Christians everywhere the courage to be witnesses for Jesus. GOD DID THIS.

In Acts 5, how did the apostle Peter know that Ananias and Sapphira were lying about the amount of money they had raised from selling a field?

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
Great fear seized all! No surprise there. Then in came Sapphira and she also lied.
9 Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
Divine knowledge – the spiritual gifts of knowledge and of wisdom. God did this!
And what was the result in the Early Church?
Acts 5:12 The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No-one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
Signs and wonders, miracles of healing and deliverance. GOD DID THIS!

My question for this evening is simply this. Page after page in Acts we read about amazing events where the only explanation is “God did this!” Where are those events in our Christian lives today? What has happened in the history of North Springfield Baptist Church ? What has happened in your experience and my experience which we can point to and say, “God did this”?

On the internet I came across the blog of a gentleman who identifies himself as the “Tall Skinny Kiwi”. He wrote a piece which fits exactly into what I am wanting us to think about.
“The Western church over the last hundred and fifty years has conformed to the prevailing culture, Modernism, and its proclamation of the Gospel has become too focussed on the mind, seeing reason and knowledge as pre-eminent over experience and relationship. We too easily view education and teaching as our access point to salvation, and focus on programmes and new models of ministry in our futile attempt to try and manufacture spirituality. We have ended up boiling our faith down to a series of logical and linear arguments that we hope will be convincing to the few that are interested enough to listen.”
He then quotes from a book by Neil Cole called Church 3.0
“There was a time when many churches condemned people for seeking a spiritual experience. Imbedded in modernism, Christianity had become mostly about a rational belief system where personal feelings were not to be trusted. A search for experience was seen as abandonment of the stability of truth in favour of pacifying ones’s own feelings. This is unfortunate because it has left many churches lacking any real encounter with the spiritual life that Jesus died to give them. Although we don’t base our faith on experience alone, God questions a faith that lacks experience”.

What these two writers are saying is that the Christian life should be much more than an intellectual exercise. Our encounters with God should spill over beyond our minds into our everyday experience. Or in other words, our lives should have at least some events and some experiences where the only explanation we can give will be “God did that!”

Acts 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

I have my own experiences of miracles of healings and deliverance I could share. Julie who had dabbled in the occult and was a drug dealer when we were first introduced to her, but who through prayer in the name of Jesus Christ was set free from the control of demons, was baptized and became a radiant Christian. And others who I have seen delivered from demons as we prayed. God did that!

And there are also experiences of miraculous healing I could share. The twin brother and sister of a friend of mine who were both born blind in one eye, but who both received the sight in those eyes at the same healing meeting. God did that! I have other stories. But the one which is most personal to me is of my own experience of healing of a sporting injury to my back. Miraculous healing. God did that!

Miracles, healing, deliverance. And then time and again in Acts we read of things which were not so much what God did, but what God said.

Every Jew knew that the blessings which the Messiah would bring would be for God’s chosen people, the Jews, and only for the Jews. So what could possibly have opened the eyes of the Jewish leaders of the early truth to the glorious truth that the gospel was for non-Jews as well? That came through a dramatic vision God gave to the apostle Peter.
Acts 11 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was pulled up to heaven again.
11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”
What opened the first Jewish Christians to the Gentiles who were being saved. It was miraculous visions. God spoke to Peter and at the same time He spoke to Cornelius. GOD DID THIS.

That was just one enormously significant fulfilment of the prophecy Peter had preached about from Joel 2.
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

Prophecy, dreams and visions. God speaking to people even today. I have shared some of my experiences of God speaking directly to me. And in the last 20 years I have had three dreams which I believe have come directly from God and which have made a significant impact on many people I have shared them with. I shared the dream of the two paintings of the picnic and the waterfall again this morning. For me the most important thing is that it was not a story I devised to make a point. It was actually a something I saw in a dream. God did this!

Miracles. Healing. Deliverance. Dreams and visions and prophesies. We haven’t time to talk about angels or earthquakes leading people out of prison. Remember Eutychus. The young man who fell asleep during one of Paul’s sermons and fell out of a third storey window to his death. But through Paul God raised him back to life again! GOD DID THIS!

These things may sound incredible and amazing to us. But surely we will all have at least one story to tell of what God has done in our lives. Paul never tired of telling His story. How he was persecuting the church until that time when he encountered the living Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road. GOD DID THIS! A complete turnaround. What could have turned Saul the persecutor of the church into Paul the apostle to the gentiles? Nothing less than an appearance by the Risen Christ Himself. GOD DID THIS. The transforming power of God which saves from the guttermost to the uttermost. We may have a spectacular story of how we became Christians. We may have come to faith gradually. Probably only around one third of all Christians have a dramatic conversion experience. But all of us have a story to tell and the story is GOD DID THIS!

So that’s what the early church was like in the book of Acts. And I’ve shared just a few of my own experiences. But what about North Springfield Baptist Church? What about us all? What can we point to and say, “God did this”?

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