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Taking refuge in him: How to surrender each day to God’s authority

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Topical Scripture: Psalm 2

A man was running down an airport terminal, late for his flight because he’d forgotten his wristwatch. Desperate to know the time, he stopped a traveler walking up the terminal hall while carrying two large suitcases. He asked the man if he had the time. The traveler set down his suitcases, looked at his wrist, and said, “Let’s see. It’s exactly 2:38 P.M. The barometric pressure is falling, and we’re expecting rain tonight. But it’s sunny in London, while the clouds over Singapore are increasing at this hour.”

The first man was astonished: “Your watch tells you all of that?” “Yes,” the traveler said, “I invented it myself, and there’s nothing else like it.” The first man said, “I must have that watch. I’ll pay you $500 for it, cash.” The traveler refused, and started to pick up his luggage. “No, wait–a thousand dollars.” The man shook his head. “Five thousand dollars.” The traveler still refused. “Ten thousand dollars, cash, on the spot.” The man put down his suitcases, thought it over, and agreed.

The new owner paid the money, took the watch with glee, strapped it to his wrist, and started to run off. But the traveler stopped him with a smile as he picked up the two large suitcases and said, “Wait–you forgot the batteries.”

Do you ever feel that way? Working for Jesus in your own power and motivation? We all experience times of spiritual frustration and weakness. But we’re not supposed to carry our own batteries. God has given Christians all the power we need to fulfill his purpose for our lives.

How can you experience the power of God each day? How can you lead your class to do the same?

Experience Pentecost

Jesus had told his followers to “stay in the city [of Jerusalem] until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). And so they stayed in Jerusalem, at risk to themselves. Here they “joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). And so they were “all together in one place” (Acts 2:1) on the day of Pentecost.

What happened next? A sound like a violent wind filled the house where they were meeting (2:2). “Tongues of fire” were visible, resting on each believer (v. 3). The believers were “filled with the Holy Spirit” and began to speak “in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (v. 4). These phrases mean that the first Christians yielded themselves to the Spirit’s control, and began to speak in languages known to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem but previously unknown to themselves.

And so they began sharing their faith personally (vs. 7-11). Peter preached the Pentecost sermon, and 3,000 came to faith in Christ (v. 41).

What does Pentecost mean to us today? The Holy Spirit began to indwell Christians at Pentecost, and continues this ministry today. He empowers the followers of Jesus to fulfill his missions and ministry mandate. In fact, he empowers us for just this purpose (Acts 1:8).

Surrender to the Spirit today

How can we experience the Spirit as these first believers did? Ephesians 5:18 is our key: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Let’s walk through this verse, step by step, and experience it in our lives this week.

First, receive the Holy Spirit in salvation. This verse is to believers, and it assumes that we have already asked Jesus to forgive our sins and be our Lord. When we do, the Holy Spirit moves into our lives (cf. Ro. 8:9). Have you made this decision? Have your class members?

Second, decide that you need his power. Not just his salvation, but his power. A carpenter knows that a drill needs power. Do we know that our church, our lives need power as well?

To be “filled” by the Spirit means to be under his control. Just as someone drunk with wine is “under the influence,” so a Christian is to be “under the influence” of the Holy Spirit. The first Christians needed this power, and they knew it. They were 120, charged with taking Christ to a hostile nation of 4,000,000 and an ungodly Empire of 25,000,000. This meant that each Christian had to win more than 30,000 just in Israel to fulfill God’s purpose for them.

But Jesus had promised them his help: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). So they stayed in Jerusalem, at the risk of their own lives, until they received the power they needed.

You and I need this same power today. Listen to Zechariah 4:6: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” This verse should convict us every time we hear it: “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20). Do we have all the power we should? All that we need?

God will not do for us what we try to do for ourselves. If we are comfortable and complacent with our spiritual lives, our witness, our ministry in this city and world, then we will not know the power of God’s Spirit. When we do things in our own strength, we are much like a drill which can do little good on its own without electrical power. Some of us like the credit, we don’t like being dependent on others, we’re convinced we can do it ourselves. But we cannot.

This step is the hardest for most of us, and essential: we must admit that we need him. That we need him as desperately as these first Christians did. Only then can he move in power in our lives. So I ask you, are we winning enough people to Jesus? Are you? Do you want the Spirit to have control of your life? To empower you? Make this decision right now. If you do, you can proceed to the next step.

Third, be cleansed from all that hinders the Holy Spirit. I can connect my drill to a socket and still have no power, if the plug is corroded. The plug must be clean for the power to flow. In the very same way, we are seeking the power of the Holy Spirit, and he cannot fill and control a dirty vessel. He cannot give his power with a dirty plug. We must be clean first.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is clear: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” If we confess, God will forgive. If we are clean, God will move in power.

Are you willing to be cleansed from everything which hinders the Holy Spirit in your life? Then take a moment for a moral inventory. Write on the back of your outline anything which is hindering the Spirit in your life. If you’re not sure, ask him and he’ll show you. Confess these sins specifically to God, and claim his cleansing. Cleanse the “plug” and you will know the power.

Last, ask him to control and empower your life. The drill doesn’t have to do this, for it has no will. But we do. And we must ask the Spirit to control and empower us, before he will.

Will you do this today? In prayer, simply ask the Spirit to take control of your life, your mind, your time, your abilities. Surrender your will to him. Promise to obey him wherever he leads you. And believe that he has. Nowhere does the Bible describe how it “feels” to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Some of your class members will feel something unusual; others will not. I seldom do. The proof is in the results, not the feeling. So step out in faith, believing that the Spirit has empowered you, for he has.

And do this daily. The literal Greek is, “Be continually being filled.” Whenever sin corrodes your relationship with him, confess it and claim cleansing. Then reconnect with the Spirit. Stay in communion with him all through the day–stay “plugged in.”

As you do, remember that God empowers us according to his purpose for us. The Holy Spirit never empowered a Christian in the Book of Acts except to make him or her a more effective witness. If we are not willing to share Christ, we will not have the power of the Spirit. If we are, we will.

Conclusion

Dwight Moody preached to over one hundred million souls in his ministry. He founded what became Moody Bible College, and was widely considered one of the godliest men in America. His prayers have been recorded and published; his passion for the lost was legendary. And yet Moody often said of his own soul, “I am a leaky bucket, and I need to be refilled daily.” If he needed this, so do I. Do you?

Does God still move? Can we experience the “Book of Acts” power of the Spirit today? Can come of us be the next Paul, Barnabas, Peter, Lydia? The answer is up to us, isn’t it?