Sunday, November 12, 2017

Walking and Leaping - Acts 3 1-10

In 1982 philosopher Frank Jackson proposed a thought experiment called “Mary’s room.”  It goes like this:  There was a scientist named Mary who could only see in black and white. She never saw a color in her life, but she had heard about them. She was fascinated by the idea of color, and learned literally everything she could about color. There was nothing about color that she didn’t know, but she could not see it herself.

Then suddenly one day as she was sitting in her black and white room, the picture of a red apple appeared on her computer screen and for the first time she could see—really see—the redness of the apple.

The question Jackson proposed was this, “Did Mary learn anything new?”  She already knew everything about color, but she had not experienced it. He asked the question—are there some things you cannot know until you experience it?  Most of us would say “yes”.

This is what happened at Pentecost. Jesus told His disciples a lot about Pentecost, but they had not experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit. Even the Jewish culture around them had a rudimentary knowledge of what the Spirit was. But had not experience it either. He was there and working, but had never felt it.

The same is true of many people today. They have knowledge of the Spirit, but they have never experienced Him.

Once we know the Spirit, miracles can and do happen. We don’t even think of them as miracles. They are just the thing the Holy Spirit does.

In Acts 2 and 3, we see a Biblical equivalent of “Mary’s Room.”

Jesus had told His disciples about the Holy Spirit. He told them that when He came he would lead them into all truth, allow them to do great works, fill them with life and joy, and under His leadership take them all over the world. He says that the Holy Spirit—this invisible being—would be just like Him, and lead them in the same way He did while he was among them in the flesh. The Holy Spirit was taking over as their personal leader.

This had to seem strange to the disciples. How could an invisible being, who communicated mainly through the heart, lead them in the same way as a physical being who communicated by words and gestures?  Jesus taught them about the Holy Spirit, but it made no sense. They took it as true because Jesus said it, but they did not comprehend it. But all that changed on Pentecost, when they finally experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.

When the Holy Spirit came, they experienced three signs.

The first was a mighty wind. It filled the room they were in. Many people experience the presence of the Spirit in a room full of believers, but it is not the same as experiencing the Spirit.

The second was tongues of flame on each other’s heads. Many people see the Holy Spirit in other people, but that is not the same as seeing the Spirit.

The third was that they began to speak in tongued. Now, this was different. They did not just see Him in the room, or on others, He came out of their own mouths. The experience of the Holy Spirit is the experience of being yielded to Him and allowing Him to work through us.

Acts 3 shows us another sign of the Spirit—the first healing miracle without Christ being present. It happened like this. Peter and John were on their way to the temple, about a quarter mile from where they were staying. The Jewish temple was held at least seven times a day, based on the verse in Psalm 119:164--“Seven times a day I will praise you.”   Peter and John went every time they could, especially to the one at 3 in the afternoon.

This is the scene they saw as they approached the temple, there were priests changing money, vendors selling sacrificial animals and souvenirs. There were security guards, who were looking out for “dangerous fanatics” like the one overturned the moneychangers in the temple a few months before.
Just outside the temple, there were a crowd of beggars. Most people either ignored them or gave them a few coins out of pity.

To the disciples, this was a very natural--nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just what they did every day.

But there was one difference. They had experienced the Holy Spirit, and once you enter that relationship, you never know how or when He will show up, or what He will expect of you.
So, they were not terribly surprised when the Spirit made Himself known. With no forethought or expectation, the Spirit suddenly pointed out a beggar in the crowd.

Spirit leads us often with promptings beyond word. We suddenly just see something that we never noticed before. We read a Scripture passage a hundred times, and one day there is a new meaning and we say, “Why didn’t I see this before?” The Spirit suddenly speaks in promptings without words.

If you are a Christian and you have experienced the Spirit, then you can feel the prompting of the Spirit in your soul. Suddenly you notice something. When this happens, don’t write it off as coincidence of an idle mood. Pay attention!

Not every prompting is from God. It can be our own prejudices or, even an evil spirit. But pay attention, nevertheless. You’ll learn to tell the difference. If we commit that feeling to God, then we discover that the Spirit can move us to action.

The beggar noticed them, noticing him. So, he held out his hand and asked for money. But Peter and John said, “Look at us.”

Ever notice how rarely people look at each other?  We only see people as something to give us what we want. We don’t see a homeless person, we just see them as someone in our way. Homeless people don’t see us, either, they see us as a meal ticket. Salesmen see us as a customer. Doctors see us as a patient. Churches see us as just potential members. By saying “look at us,” Peter and John invited him to see them as human beings. They had something more for him than just a couple of coins.

Then Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold.”

If you’re a kind person who helps beggars and you don’t have any money, you avoid eye contact. But the Holy Spirit would not allow them to do that. The Holy Spirit told them to look that beggar in the eye.

 Peter continued, “But such as I have, I give.”

What did they have? They had a relationship with God through the Spirit. What they could give him was not money, but God. It’s good to help people financially and materially. But any material help we give will only last for a while. Even if we can educate them and find them a job, but it will not help them permanently unless they find Jesus. The Spirit wants to do more than that. He can change lives forever.

Then Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” What they said and did came straight out of the Spirit’s playbook. God the beggar, not them.

They took the man by the hand and lifted him off the ground. As he did, he felt the strength come back in that leg. He tried his leg. It worked. He began walking, and then he began leaping. Then he walked, leapt danced, and most importantly he praised God for healing him.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Peter and John were at Pentecost. They heard the rushing wind and saw the flames on the heads. Then they opened their mouths and heard God’s words flowing out of them. The Spirit was inside of them, and when they yielded the Spirit came out. Peter spoke, and discovered that God gave him the words to say.  Now he acted, and discovered that the Spirit guided His actions.

It was just the same as when Jesus was with him. Jesus told Him what to do, and he did it. Now the Spirit was telling him what to do, and he did it. He could trust the Spirit the way he trusted Jesus. And when he trusted the Spirit, miracles still occurred.

Now, what does this say to us?  It says this.   We can experience the Spirit when we yield our mouths, hands and hearts to Him. God can speak through you the same way He speaks through us.  He can heal you, just the way he healed the beggar.

Not only is the Spirit in us—He is contagious. As we yield to Him, he enters others. When he does, He saves, heals, and delivers.

How about you? Are you like that Mary in her room, sitting in a black and white room, never experiencing the Spirit that you know about? God doesn’t want you to know about the Jesus—He wants you to know Jesus. God doesn’t want you to know about the Holy Spirit either—He wants you to experience Him. When we do, we experience colors for the first time. We can know a joy and power we never dreamed existed.

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