I have a family of four sons. As a foster family, our conversations around the dinner table can be a bit different than the typical family. A lot of learning takes place around our dinner table, and sometimes we find ourselves in some really funny moments.
For instance, this week, one of my sons asked me about water baptism. So I was explaining that water baptism is an outward sign to others of the inward change that happens when a person decides to follow Jesus. I explained how baptism by itself does not get you into heaven, but is a step of obedience.
After my lengthy explanation, my 8 year old asked what exactly it meant to be baptized and I told him it was when a person was dunked under the water. To which he replied, “Oh, then Michelle has baptized me a whole bunch of times!” Back story: Michelle took our 8-year old to the pool several times this summer and he loved being cradled like a baby and then flipped backwards — or to him now, baptized.
But here’s where this cute little story became a great sermon illustration — his next question at the dinner table was this: “What happens when somebody becomes a Christian?”
Wow! That’s a big question for a little guy. But isn’t that THE question we all have to wrestle with after we decide to follow Jesus? We recognize we are sinners who need a savior and so we put our hope in Jesus to make us right with God, but then what?
Fortunately, we’re not the first people to be asking that very question — it was actually the first question pondered by Jesus’ disciples after they found out he was leaving them after his death and resurrection.
But I think Jesus’ response was one they never expected. You see, today, we are continuing our Remix Series we do in the summer where we pick up a sermon series from the past year and add to it to make it more complete. And this past Easter, you may remember, we did this series called UnExpected where we looked at Jesus’ life after he died on the cross and how the story doesn’t ever go how we would expect. But we ended the series before the very last story we read about Jesus and it’s in this story in Acts 1 where we find out Jesus’ answer to what should happen to a person after they become a Christian.
Jesus Commands His Disciples to Wait for Power
So that’s where we will be reading from today — Acts 1.
You see, after Jesus rose from the dead, the Bible says he lived on the earth another 40 days, appearing to numerous people and furthering his teaching. Those are the stores we taught in this UnExpected Series. And it’s toward the end of those 40 days where the book of Acts begins. The first several verses are simply an introduction about how Acts is written by Luke, the same author of the Gospel of Luke, for Theopolis, to tell him a detailed account of what happened after Jesus death and resurrection.
Now, picking up the story in Acts 1:4-5
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
What I find UnExpected here is that Jesus commands them not to leave. “Don’t go try to do anything great yet. You’re not ready.” Now remember, these are the same guys who spent three years in Jesus’ Official Job Training Program. These are the guys who he already sent out two by two to practice telling people about the Good News of God coming to save his people. Yet he says “Wait.”
Why? Because they aren’t ready yet. They are Christians, they are followers of Jesus, they are trained, but they’re still missing something. They need to wait for the gift the Father promised, the Holy Spirit.
What’s so critical about waiting for the Holy Spirit? Jesus answers that in 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.”
They needed to wait for the Holy Spirit because He would give them POWER. This word power is the same word used to describe how Jesus performed his miracles. It’s the power of God. In fact, it’s sometimes used as an adjective to describe God as the Mighty Lord. Essentially, this Power is the source of every supernatural act of God — it’s the source that allowed Jesus to perform miracles — and it’s being passed on to the disciples! THIS IS A BIG DEAL!
But I wonder if the disciples fully understood how big of a deal this was? Did they really understand what this power would look like in their lives? Could they ever imagine how it might change them? I’m guessing they had no idea what kind of a wild adventure they were in for.
The Disciples Transformed by Power
Here’s a quick synopsis of how that power completely transformed the lives of Jesus disciples: Acts 2 is the famous chapter where the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples. And it’s amazing to compare the disciples before and after this pivotal event.
- Before they received the power of the Holy Spirit
- they all ran away when Jesus was taken captive by Roman soldiers
- Peter denied knowing Jesus, even to a young slave girl
- After Jesus’ resurrection, they were all hiding together in a locked room
- But after receiving the Power of the Holy Spirit
- Peter got up in front of over 3,000 people to preach to them about how Jesus was the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for
- In fact, in Acts 5 many of the disciples were flogged for preaching about Jesus, and yet we read of how they rejoiced for being counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus.
- In Acts 8 Phillip took the message of Jesus to the hated Samaritans and he performed miracles and drove out demons.
In all these cases, the very men who were so easily terrified of suffering for Jesus became incredibly bold witnesses to Jesus. In doing so, they were experiencing the UnExpected Power which Jesus had promised them.
And what they found was that they needed that Power because God was bringing them to an UnExpected People. They were no longer speaking to Jews in Jerusalem. On the day they received the Holy Spirit we are told they were all speaking to people from around the Mediterranean in their native languages, empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit.
Plus, God was bringing them to UnExpected Places. Philipp went to Samaria — where the Jews’ half-breed relatives lived. Yet God called him there and Phillip willingly went.
And as they went with this UnExpected Power to these UnExpected People and Places, they experienced UnExpected Results. Could Peter have ever expected 3,000 people to respond to his first sermon ever preached? During my first sermon, I was just happy to keep the whole crowd awake! And then to see the church continue to grow so quickly and spread so widely. . . nobody ever saw that coming — and the disciples could never have manufactured that kind of growth and expansion. But when they obediently followed God’s leading and stayed in step with the Holy Spirit — the Power of God yielded UnExpected results.
When a Person Becomes a Christian
But now, back to the question around my dinner table. What changes when a person becomes a Christian? From this passage, we see two things: We receive purpose and power.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells his disciples that they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. And in doing that, he gives them their mission — their marching orders. No longer are they to be content with life and go back to their careers as fishermen, they are to be witnesses to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
And it’s important for us to understand that this is still the mission for every follower of Jesus. No, we aren’t all expected to go overseas as missionaries preaching about Jesus — but we are expected to be a witness to Jesus in our own lives we cultivate here in Des Moines. Here at Ashworth Road we regularly talk about how as followers of Jesus we are to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. We are to love the unloveable, serve the poor and oppressed, and share the message of Jesus with those who have never heard about his saving grace. That’s the new life purpose every person receives when they become a Christian.
But here’s the more UnExpected piece of what changes after we become a Christian — the part we don’t talk about as often — probably because it’s more mysterious, harder to define, and quite honestly, not as much a part of my own life — the Power.
Just like the disciples of Jesus received power from the Holy Spirit to do things beyond what they ever could have imagined, those of us who follow Jesus have that same power available in our own lives. But, I think, just like the disciples, we don’t realize we’re missing it, and we don’t know what to expect if we did operate out of that power.
Unfortunately for us in America, we think that any sort of supernatural action is totally outside the box of how God still operates today. We relegate stories of miracles to the Bible, or maybe some divine healing of a friend’s aunt’s co-worker – a story we heard from somebody else a long time ago. But we don’t have any of our own stories. And so we have lost our expectation for God’s Power to do anything remarkable in our lives.
Here’s a fun fact — missionaries around the world see supernatural miracles, healings, and divine gifts from God all the time. The rest of the world, especially those without the means to be as self-reliant as we are, have learned to DEPEND on the power of God to transform their lives.
But I don’t want us to only focus on the miraculous, supernatural aspect of the power of God. The power of God in our lives is ultimately given to fulfill our purpose — to be a witness for Jesus. So that power might look like you sharing your faith in an unexpected place with some unexpected people — not because you are such a bold person, but because the Power of God was alive inside you and prodded you to speak out. Now you may not think sharing your faith is a big deal, but who knows? That’s all Peter did, but because he was obedient to the Unexpected Power, he saw Unexpected Results — 3,000 conversions and the birth of the church!
I wish I could put a slide up on the screen describing what the Power of God might look like in your life, but the truth is, I can’t. God works in incredible ways, ways beyond definition, ways we might never imagine until we experience it for ourselves.
How to Operate in Power
But even while I can’t box in what the Power of God might look like in our lives, I can point out what’s needed for us to experience that Power.
1. Have an Expectation
Reading through the book of Acts, we see that the Christians very quickly recognized that the Power they were given was changing everything. And they learned to expect it. Both Peter and Paul were willing to pray for people who had died, expecting them to be brought to life. Phillip was praying to drive out demons. They were all preaching everywhere they went, expecting God to stir the hearts of the listeners. They had an expectation. And we need that too!
We need to have an expectation that God has given us power to do things we never thought we could do. We have the power to kick that addiction or break that unhealthy habit. We have the power to get past our fear of speaking out for Jesus to tell that family member about the love and grace of God. We have the power to pray into the impossible situation and expect God to do answer. The God who created the universe out of nothing has given that power to us — let’s expect to see something amazing happen!
2. Walk in Step with the Spirit
We also see in Acts that the disciples were listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and walking in step with the Spirit. We read about how the people were devoting themselves to prayer and learning about Jesus. They were striving to be obedient to their mission. When the church at Antioch heard the Holy Spirit told them to set apart Paul and Barnabas for missions, they listened.
In the same way, we need to be walking in step with the Spirit in order to operate out of the power of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit can’t operate through a person who isn’t listening and who isn’t focused on the same things God is focused on. This supernatural power isn’t for ourselves – it’s to glorify God and make Him known. And we only do that when we live each day focused on what God wants us to do and say — by staying in constant relationship with him through the Holy Spirit.
3. Be Obedient to the Prodding of the Spirit
Ultimately, even after the disciples learned to expect the power of God to work through them and they walked in step with the Spirit and heard his voice, they still had a decision about whether to obey or not. Peter didn’t have to get up and preach to all those people after the Holy Spirit descended on him at Pentecost. He could have stayed in the upper room. The disciples who were locked up for preaching about Jesus could have stayed home. But they chose to be obedient.
In the same way, if we want to see the power of God operate in our lives, we have to choose to obey the prodding in our Spirit of God telling us what to do. Though the task may seem impossible — it may be the scariest conversation you’ve ever faced — if you feel like the Holy Spirit is telling you to do it, then trust the Power of God to yield Unexpected Results.
Expect the Power of God to Transform Your Life
Here’s the question each one of us has to ask ourselves: Do you Expect the Power of God to Transform Your Life?
When I look at my own life, the answer most days is NO. I’ve lost the expectation. I don’t pray big prayers. I unconsciously doubt that God would ever give Ashworth Road UnExpected Results and instead plan out all my events, hoping to manufacture some consistent level of growth through my own merit. I pray puny prayers. I worry that things will never change.
But if that’s what the disciples were going to count on to build the early church, then they were sunk! Jesus knew that — that’s why he told them to wait. “Wait for the Power you will need.” And we need that same power — the supernatural power that comes from God has been given to YOU. How is it going to transform your life?