Lenten Luncheon Sermon is below:

Intro:

Good afternoon, this is a Lenten lunch and many of you may be expecting a service that is specifically related to Holy Week. I want to forewarn you that this message is not one that specifically relates to this week. However, I do believe that this message will relate to the resurrection as every message should. We are called to be people living in the light of the resurrection all year long and this sermon relates to the idea of living as Spirit-Filled Christians all year long. Now, my style of preaching is generally teaching and generally teaching the Bible as you will see. Now, since I have given you that disclaimer, allow me to get to the message we are here for.

We have all eaten, haven’t we? I see that we have had some soup and some delicious cookies and we have coffee and maybe you are still eating. Food is such a gift from God, isn’t it? I mean, it even taste good. I think that we can eat and we enjoy what we eat is evidence of a loving God and even evidence of a God. I mean, God could have created us to need to eat but to hate the process of eating. But that is not true. I love the process of eating, I look forward to eating. I started exercising so that I can enjoy what I eat all the more. I mean, I don’t like to exercise but it is worth it when I eat. How do we know when we are finished eating? Well, one way is that we are full or filled up, right? I’ve said it before and maybe you have as well, “I am stuffed.” Some have said, “I can’t eat another bite.”

I have titled my message, Spirit-Filled Prayer, because in the passage which I will read I see the disciples prayer as Holy Spirit-Filled or at least Holy Spirit Filling. We must also seek the same in our churches and in our prayer life.

Allow me to read Acts 4:23-31:

  1. First notice that their prayer begins with worship and an acknowledgement that God is sovereign.
  2. Now, allow me to let you know what is going on in this passage: At the beginning of Acts chapter 3, Peter and John are going to the Temple at the time of prayer. A lame beggar was there and asked for money. Peter said, “Silver or gold I don’t have but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” The man is healed. This attracted a lot of attention and Peter preached a sermon. Peter’s message reached about 5000 people with the Gospel, but this aggravated the Jewish authorities and Peter and John were thrown in prison for the night. The next day Peter and John spoke before the Jewish leadership and Peter again preached the Gospel (4:8 says that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit). Eventually they had Peter and John released.
    1. Now, following their release from prison, they come back to meet with their own people.
    2. This term translated as “their own,” usually means family but in this case it means the other Christians.[1]But the point is they immediately went back to share with the other disciples what God had done.
      1. They didn’t go to take a shower first. They didn’t go to catch up on business, emails, Facebook or other things. They went straight back to join their people.
      2. They may have gone back to the upper room or a location where they knew the church would be at.
      3. They shared about the chief priests. The Chief Priests were a small group of priest within the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin would be the Jewish Supreme Court. The Sanhedrin would be composed of 70 people plus the High priest.[2] The chief Priests are composed of former high priest and members of influential priestly families.
      4. Notice in verse 24: When “they”, which I am thinking is the rest of the disciples” heard this meaning what God had done. They went straight to prayer.
        1. We must always apply the Scripture to our lives. Let’s apply this narrative for a moment. Do we do the same? They could have gone to rest, but no, they went to prayer. Their prayer includes allusions to Old Testament prayers.

Let’s look at this Spirit-Filled Prayer

  1. They start their prayer acknowledging who God is in relation to who we are. We should do the same. God created everything that we see and feel. God created the stars in the sky.
    1. Verse 24 starts their prayer as “Sovereign Lord.” This means that God is in control. This means “absolute ruler.” Actually the Greek word translated here is where we get the English word “despot.”[3]God is the absolute ruler and they acknowledged that as they began their prayer.
      1.                                                                                                                            i.      Let me also insert here that they were praying in unity. The Scripture says that they “raised their voices together in prayer…” This doesn’t mean they all prayed at the same time, but that they were praying in unity.
      2.                                                                                                                          ii.      Too often I believe that our churches are hindered because of our divisions. Our prayers are hindered because of our divisions. Hence, I am going to say that our divisions hinder the Spirit’s work in our prayer life. In a few verses we will see that this group of Christians experienced the Holy Spirit. I think we are missing the Holy Spirit because of our division[4].
      3.                                                                                                                         iii.      Another statement about division, I strongly believe that the devil starts and fosters our division in order to take our focus off of evangelism. I strongly believe that reaching the lost will heal our division. We will realize that the things we are divided over are not as important as sharing the Gospel with those who don’t even know the Lord.
      4.                                                                                                                        iv.      One more comment about unity and divisions: I was part of a church plant several years ago. A church plant is a start up church. In this case a church sent out about 45 people to start a new church in a different location. Now, last week I had the opportunity to talk with someone who is starting a new church in Alliance. Some would say, “Why start new churches when there are so many existing churches?” I think that is a valid question. However, I also believe that so many existing churches are struggling because they can’t work in unity; they are caught up in divisions. Consequently, God’s way may be to start a new gathering of Christians, start a new church.
      5.                                                                                                                          v.      What we need to see here is that there prayer was in unity and God blessed them with a special baptism of the Holy Spirit.
    2. Now, allow me to get back to their prayer and their acknowledgement of God as sovereign. Do we acknowledge that God is sovereign, I mean really acknowledge this?
      1. Do you go about your day to day life thinking that God is in control? Or, are you in control?
      2. Acknowledging God as sovereign includes the idea that we must surrender to His will too.
    3. Next, part of the prayer: Do we begin our prayer with worship. That is what they are doing. This is not unlike Jesus saying, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed, or holy, is Your name.”
      1.                                                                                                                            i.      Notice they are saying the Lord’s Prayer. If you read the rest of this passage they never say, “Now, we pray as you taught us to pray…” No, of course not. They are still praying the order, the pattern, which Jesus taught them to pray.
    4. Then, their prayer includes Scripture. They quote Psalm 2:1-2 in reference to Jesus.
    5. Lastly about God’s sovereignty, their prayer acknowledged that God’s plan included threats against Christians. Verse 27 references the crucifixion of Christ. Verse 28 references that in God’s sovereignty this was planned beforehand.
      1. But they never complained and that is my transition to their one request.

Read verses 27-30

  1. They prayed for boldness and an expansion of the Gospel
  2. They never complained. We would expect that they would pray that their threats would stop, but they don’t they prayed that God considers their threats. They had just been thrown in prison and they prayed nothing about that.
  3. They ask that God allows them to preach God’s Word with great boldness.
    1. Notice they say “preach.”
    2. In 2 Timothy 4:1 and following Paul’s dying words to Timothy are about preaching. Paul says that the time will come when people will want the preaching to be what their itching ears want to hear. Don’t you think that time has come? Our preaching is looked upon as entertainment and if a pastor preaches truly what God has called him to say they are called “too preachy.” If a pastor truly preaches the Scriptures they are considered too deep.
      1.                                                                                                                            i.      Today we need boldness in our pulpits. We need pastors who don’t shirk their responsibility under God because of a responsibility under man. We need pastors that quit filling their sermons with stories and a Scripture that is equal to a foot note. The disciple’s prayer in this passage is that they can Preach “God’s Word” with great boldness. Notice, they will preach God’s Word, not a few stories, poems and jokes.
        1. I think that this got started because at one time many of the churches were so far away from their people that they were too irrelevant. But now the church has swung too far to the opposite end. We are now unscriptural in our preaching.
        2. Peter and John were persecuted by unbelievers, today the Christians that do believe the Scriptures are persecuted from within the church for holding to the Scriptures.
        3. The pastors that preach God’s Word are persecuted from within the church.
        4.                                                                                                                          ii.       Now, I am a young preacher and you may walk away thinking, “that young preacher will learn.” But I want to tell you that I am standing on the shoulders of many other great older preachers when I say things such as what I just said. Among them Charles Swindoll. But most of all, I am referencing Scripture. Listen to what Rev. Dr. Swindoll writes referencing 2 Timothy 4:1-2:

Paul wrote with urgency, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (4:1-2). In other words, stick with the preaching plan God has promised to bless and use. Deliver the biblical goods! Be a man or woman of the Word!

Don’t attempt to be so creative and cute that folks miss the truth. No need for meaningless and silly substitutes that entertain but rarely convict the lost and edify the saved. Teach the truth. Will you notice something here? This exhortation is not addressed to the hearer, it’s for the speaker. The one who is to do this is the one proclaiming the message. Be ready to do it in season and out of season. Being ready implies being prepared both mentally and spiritually.

In essence, Paul says, “Don’t be lazy. Do your homework. Don’t stand up and start with an apology that you didn’t quite have adequate time to prepare. That doesn’t wash.” And do so faithfully—when it’s convenient and when it’s not.

Sadly, in an alarming number of churches today, God’s people are being told what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. They are being fed warm milk, not solid meat. A watered-down gospel may attract large crowds (for a while), but it has no eternal impact. I’ve not been able to find any place in the Scriptures where God expresses the least bit of concern for drawing numbers. Satisfying the curious itching ears of our postmodern audiences is an exercise in futility.

The task of ministry is to deliver Truth. Frankly, I intend to continue doing just that, by God’s grace, until the day He calls me home. And I think there is an ever-increasing number of believers who long for nourishing messages based on the Word of God, not human opinion.

The world urgently needs more Christians with the fervor and faith of Paul. Will you be one of them? Will you answer the charge? If so, there’s no better time than now to begin.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations . . . and I will be with you” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV). There is no greater challenge and no more comforting promise. Believe it. Trust it. And by the grace of God, go do it!

 

  1. We also need prayers that we can preach God’s Word with great boldness.
  2. Verse 30 is a prayer for miracles.
    1. Do we pray for miracles? I must ask if I am praying for miracles. That is a challenge. We serve a God who brings about miracles.
    2. Verse 31 is a confirmation of their Spirit filled prayer.
      1. The place is shaken.
        1.                                                                                                                            i.      Did this really happen? It is possible it is metaphorical, but I favor that this is literal. God is so great that when He is present, I mean truly present there are consequences that defy natural laws.
    3. They also speak the Word of God boldly. That is the answer to their prayer.
    4. I want to read Isaiah 6:1-7:
      1. Notice this special revelation of God. God is present here. This really happened.

We eat and we want to be filled. We should pray desiring to be filled as well. We are New Testament Christians living in an increasingly secular world. Because of this we must go to the Word of God to be filled up with the Holy Spirit. Now, Christians are filled with the Spirit when we receive Christ as Savior and Lord; however, I believe as we grow in Christ we can experience special times of being filled with the Spirit. We should pray for this every day. I think this will mostly happen in small prayer circles and we need these as Christians. I think this will mostly also happen when our prayers are in the manner expressed in this passage. We must pray with worship acknowledging God as sovereign. We must pray in petition with our basic need, but also we must pray for the greater good submitting to God’s sovereign will. This prayer is for the building up of the church and it is spirit filled. Verse 31 says that they were filled with the Spirit.

Christ followers, let’s do the same. Whether or not you are a preacher, go forth and preach God’s Word including the Gospel. Do this with boldness. Pray in groups of Christians, pray in this manner and experience the Holy Spirit and get ready. Lastly, set aside diversity and instead embrace unity for the cause of the Gospel. Then, you ought to really be ready for the Holy Spirit’s work. Just last week in a small prayer gathering I experienced the gift of tongues being spoken and interpreted, though not by me. This confirmed God’s message in that prayer meeting. We need the type of prayer illustrated in this passage. I certainly do. We need, I need, Spirit-filled prayer meetings in our churches.  

Go and be Spirit-filled Christ followers, living as post resurrection Christians.

Listen as I read the words to a newer worship song:

Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble

Did you feel the mountains tremble?
Did you hear the oceans roar?
When the people rose to sing of
Jesus Christ the risen one

Did you feel the people tremble?
Did you hear the singers roar?
When the lost began to sing of
Jesus Christ the risen one

And we can see that God you’re moving
A mighty river through the nations
And young and old will turn to Jesus
Fling wide your heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord

Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring your hope
Songs that bring your joy
Dancers who dance upon injustice

Did you feel the darkness tremble?
When all the saints join in one song
And all the streams flow as one river
To wash away our brokeness

And here we see that God you’re moving
A time of Jubilee is coming
When young and old return to Jesus
Fling wide your heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord

Written by Martin Smith ©1995 Curious? Music UK

Let’s pray.


[1] Witherington III, Ben. The Acts of the Apostles : A Socio-Rhetorical

Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997.  Page 201.

 

[2] Arnold, Clinton E. Acts. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary.

Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007. Page 32

 

[3] Witherington III 201

[4] We may be able to take 1 Peter 3:7 which references our relationship with our spouse as hindering our prayer life to also mean if we are divided as a church it hinders our prayer life. Psalm 66:18 talks about cherished sin hindering our prayers. 

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