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Making holes in the darkness

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Topical Scripture: Acts 2:1-14

Robert Louis Stevenson, then a child of six or seven years, was standing at his window one night watching the lamplighter at work. One by one, the lighter would light the streetlamps as he walked down the road. Young Stevenson watched with fascination. His nurse asked what he was doing. The little boy answered, “I am watching a man making holes in the darkness.” We need holes in the darkness today, don’t we?

Military action against al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden is imminent, and the Taliban as well. This action may already be underway as we speak. Our troops may be in Afghanistan, a country which has never been successfully invaded before.

Such action causes many to worry about a military draft and the future for their children of such age.

The stock market has seen its most chaotic days since the Great Depression. Layoffs threaten the jobs of multiplied thousands of people in Dallas. Many of you wonder about your financial future and that of your family.

And the typical problems of life in these stressful days continue unabated. Marital tensions, family problems, health issues, school struggles. We need holes in the darkness.

The light we need is available to us. In fact, if you’re a believer, you already have all the power and help you need. What God’s Spirit did for the first Christians, he’s waiting to do for us. Come with me to the Upper Room, then we’ll make this place of worship our Upper Room today.

Receive God’s Spirit

Here’s the situation. Jesus’ followers number around 120, in a hostile world of 25 million. The very people who executed Jesus are now the enemies of his followers. What they did to him, they stand ready to do to them. Yet Jesus has charged them with reaching that hostile world in its entirety—all 25 million.

One third of the world today claims to follow Christ. .0006% of their world did.

If we were in their shoes, we’d be doing something. We’d be organizing strategies, starting ministries, doing all we can. They knew better.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place” (v. 1). Pentecost was the 50th day after the Passover Sabbath. Jews from around the world were crowded into Jerusalem for the religious holiday.

Meanwhile, Jesus’ church was crowded into a single room. Where and why? Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem for the “gift” of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). So, at the risk of their very lives, they met in an Upper Room of a Jerusalem house, where they prayed constantly for God’s protection and his Spirit’s power.

And God kept his promise (vs. 2-4). A violent wind filled the room, so they could hear the Spirit’s approach. Tongues of fire rested on them, so they could see his approach. And they were each “filled” with the Spirit of God—this means that their lives were surrendered completely to the Spirit’s purpose and power for them. The Holy Spirit took up residence in their souls and lives, and he never left.

This is how you and I received the Spirit—when we asked Christ into our lives, his Spirit moved into our souls. The Holy Spirit is God alive and at home in us, the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. As a result, these first believers began to “speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (v. 4).

This was the Spirit-empowered ability to speak in known languages they had not learned. This was not the ecstatic prayer and worship language known as “unknown tongues” in Corinthians and other places. These believers were simply given the ability to share their faith in the languages of the people who had come to Jerusalem from all across the world.

The text makes this clear: “Each one heard them speaking in his own language” (v. 6); “How is it that each of us hears them speaking in his own native language?” (v. 8); “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (v. 11).

By this gift, never repeated again in the New Testament, these believers were able to share their faith with the multitudes crowded into their city. If I were in Cuba and could suddenly preach in Spanish, this would be the same gift. The point is that God gave them the power they needed to fulfill their purpose.

Now Peter stands up to preach. The same Peter who had denied he knew Christ, who had fled from his cross in fear. Now the bold power and authority of the Spirit is his. So he preaches the gospel to the very crowds who had shouted for Jesus’ crucifixion and the very officials who had carried it out.

The result of the Spirit’s work through this first Christian sermon was dramatic: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” (v. 37). Peter called them to faith in Christ, 3,000 responded in faith, they were baptized, and the church was born.

All by the power of God’s Spirit at work in the lives of God’s people.

Have you done what Peter and these first Christians did? Have you asked Jesus Christ to take up residence in your life? Have you yielded yourself to his Spirit? If you have, you have the Spirit, the person, and the power of Almighty God himself alive in your life. You are God’s temple, and God’s Spirit lives in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Today.

Be assured of God’s love

Now, how does this fact relate to our lives, our problems, our fears and needs in these troubling days? First, it assures us of God’s love. The fact that God’s Spirit lives in us is his assurance of his love and grace. And we need that assurance.

Many are suggesting that the tragedy of September 11 is God’s punishment of America and even of the American church. My friends, when 7,000 people died on that day of infamy, God wept. The Creator of all the people who died grieved their death. God judges and punishes sin, but he doesn’t kill innocent people by the thousands to do it. We need to know in these days that God loves us, absolutely and unconditionally.

His Spirit’s presence in our lives is proof of this fact. Here’s how.

Over the years I’ve visited people in some harsh places. Impoverished villages in Mexico and Malaysia where basic amenities did not exist and circumstances were bleak. Impoverished homes in America where cockroaches were thick and a stench turned my stomach. I went only out of a sense of ministerial responsibility.

Those problems don’t compare to the cockroaches of rebellion and stench of sin God finds in my heart. And yet his Spirit chooses to live in my soul anyway. As proof of God’s unconditional compassion, grace, and love.

And his residence is permanent. Paul asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Then he lists the options: “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35). Here’s his answer: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vs. 37-39).

No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, no matter how hard or harsh things get, be assured of God’s indescribable, passionate love for you. His Spirit in your life is proof that it is so.

Access God’s power

In these fearful days we need assurance of God’s love, and we need to access his power and help. Worries about the future abound. For the first time in American history we have a cabinet position for Homeland Defense. For the first time we’re seeing news stories about intended responses to biological or chemical warfare against our country. We need the power and help of God.

We need what these first Christians found. They discovered that when the Holy Spirit moved into their lives, he brought supernatural strength and divine abilities they did not possess before. They could speak languages they had never learned; they could preach with boldness they did not possess; they could move crowds before whom they had cowered before. They found in God’s Spirit, God’s power.

Have you made this discovery yet? Do you know that you have all the power you need to overcome temptation, to withstand the stress and strain of these days, to live in abundant joy and purpose? Do you go to your Upper Room to meet with God every day? Do you turn to him for his help through the day? Or do you live on your own, as best you can? You can access the power of Almighty God. It is as close as your knees.

Samuel Chadwick was right: “The one concern of the Devil is to keep saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil and mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”

Because he knows that prayer is our access to the power of God by his Spirit in our lives. Do you know what he knows?

Conclusion

If Christ is your Lord, you have received his Spirit. You have the power of Almighty God alive and at work in your life. The Spirit is your assurance of God’s love and your access to his power.

Now, as you fight on the front lines of the spiritual war which is before us, will you make yourself available to the Spirit? Will you ask him to control you, empower you, use you? To make you his witness to frightened and hurting friends? To use you to share his love with lonely and hurting hearts? To pray for our leaders, our military, our people as we fight this spiritual war? To bring spiritual awakening to your part of our nation?

Today is the day to yield your life to the power of God’s Spirit. Today is the day to be ready for battle, enlisted for service, prepared to be used. Today.

Leon Trotsky was one of the foremost leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russian in 1917. Two years earlier he attended Sunday school in Chicago with a friend, but the teacher didn’t show up and Trotsky never went back.

Joseph Stalin, the force behind millions of deaths, was sent to study for the priesthood in the Russian Church, but the church had become so worldly and corrupt that he rebelled and turned to communism.

Mahatma Gandhi, leader of millions of Hindus in India, studied Christianity in England but rejected it because Christians didn’t live up to the teachings of Christ.

Lee Harvey Oswald attended a Baptist Sunday school as a child in Dallas, but the teacher told him not to come back until he was better dressed. He never did.

More people are open to spirituality than in a generation, right now. Christians have greater opportunity for ministry and witness than we have seen in 50 years. We are assured of God’s love, and given access to his power, by his Spirit alive in our hearts. Are you available to him today? Would you be?

Samuel Chadwick again: “Go back! Back to that upper room; back to your knees; back to searching of heart and habit, thought and life; back to the pleading, praying, waiting, till the Spirit of the Lord floods the soul with light, and you are endued with power from on high. Then go forth in the power of Pentecost, and the Christ-life shall be lived, and the words of Christ shall be done. You shall open blind eyes, cleanse foul hearts, break men’s fetters, and save men’s souls. In the power of the indwelling Spirit, miracles become the commonplace of daily living.”

Go to your Upper Room today, and you can make holes in the darkness tomorrow. The choice is yours.

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