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You Shall Receive Power: Leaning on the Spirit

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the end of the earth.”

- Acts 1:8 -


God knows our needs. He knows we can’t make it alone in this sinful world. That’s why Jesus prayed for the Father to send the Helper to abide with us forever (John 14:16). Nothing is more key to our walk with God than this indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. We need the Spirit’s help to fulfill God’s destiny for us because the enemy, Satan, forever tempts us with the sin of self-effort. This is why the last thing Jesus tells His disciples before ascending into heaven is: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).


Paul tells those in Rome: ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit’ (8:1). Those who walk according to the flesh walk in their own self-effort. God wants us to receive help from the Holy Spirit but the devil tempts us to serve God by our own power and ability. If we succumb, it’s only a matter of time before works of the flesh rule our lives. Abraham had two sons, one born according to the flesh; the other according to the Spirit (Gal. 4:29). God promised Abraham a son, but Abraham walked in the flesh, having a son with his wife’s handmaid. God’s miracle power was not involved. It was all a work of self-effort, and to this day the descendants of Ishmael persecute the descendants of Isaac, the son born according to the Spirit.


We must have no confidence in achievements won by self-effort. The world believes success requires self-confidence. This is what the devil wants us to think. He knows the kingdom of God abhors ego and the Christian life is impossible to live by self-effort. All we can do is rest in Christ and watch the Holy Spirit’s power to work in us. Don’t be like Moses who at age forty tried to fulfill his destiny by self-effort and murdering an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave (Ex. 2:11-12). Instead, recall Paul’s words: ‘rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh’ (Phil. 3:3). Humble yourself and admit you need help in this sin-stained world.

The Helper’s arrival is recorded in Acts 2:1-4: ‘Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ These are ordinary people who God enabled to do extraordinary things. They received special abilities to help turn the world upside down. With fearless preaching and a willingness to obey, they began a movement that continues to this very day.


While the gospels tell Christ’s story, Acts shows the disciples carrying on Jesus’ work by the power of the Spirit. Jesus did many great works as He walked on the earth, but He says in John: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these because I go to My Father” (14:12). The same power that raised Jesus from the dead and then dwelt in the disciples now dwells in us. It was the Holy Spirit who enabled the disciples to continue the work of Christ. We ought to desire that same power to move and work in our lives, as the last thing we want to do is try to turn the world upside down by futile self-effort.


Remember the seven sons of Sceva who tried to cast out demons by their own strength and ability. What came from it? ‘Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded’ (Acts 19:16). As religious as these men were, they lacked a relationship with God and so did not possess the Spirit’s power. Nothing in them caused demons to pay them the slightest heed. The sons of Sceva were therefore like many modern churchgoers who have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5). They promote religious activity but reject the Holy Spirit. They need to hear Paul’s words to the church (and then act accordingly): ‘For the kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power’ (1 Cor. 4:20).

Paul says: ‘For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him’ (Phil. 2:13). This happens when we are filled with the Spirit. The Christian life is one of power. Everything we do for God is only done by the Spirit’s power. This is the same supernatural power that parted the Red Sea and toppled the walls of Jericho. This power transformed Moses from a raging killer to the meekest of leaders. It came mightily upon Samson, allowing him to tear a lion apart with his bare hands and slay a thousand men in a day. More than that, it was the Spirit’s supernatural power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that now works inside of us!


It’s impossible to live a victorious Christian life without God’s power operating in us. It gives us boldness to share Christ and sees us fulfill our destiny. Jesus operated in this same power. Even the Son of God’s ministry only began once He was baptized and filled with power from on high. By this power, Jesus preached the Word fearlessly with signs and wonders. As Peter later tells Cornelius: “You know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). The Holy Spirit gives us this Christlike boldness. It lets us look the devil in the face and fear no evil for we are ‘strong in the Lord and in the might of His strength’ (Eph. 6:10).

Early in His ministry, Jesus declares: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). Christ was anointed to help suffering humanity, and we must ask the Lord to use us to give similar light to those in darkness. There is work to do but we can ignore God’s guiding power. The biggest lie we believe is that God shut the reservoir after pouring His Spirit into the early disciples. The Spirit is alive and well on earth today as there is still much work to do in saving souls.

From the Day of Pentecost to now, the Holy Spirit has been available to all who seek Him. Jesus promises the Spirit will be with His followers until the end of time. The problem today is that most don’t desire the Spirit and don’t seek His presence. They’re content to go to church and, maybe, just maybe, read a Bible verse on a prayer card they see sitting on a shelf. But if we will just read the Scripture with a teachable spirit, our efforts will be richly rewarded. As David says: ‘Uncover my eyes that I may see the miraculous things in your teachings’ (Ps. 119:18).


Just because we’re born-again doesn’t mean we don’t need the Spirit’s power. The devil doesn’t fear those who are saved. He fears those with God’s power operating in their lives. And yet born-again believers often fear this power. They forget that they don’t have to struggle day in, day out, always being overcome by the devil. Recall Jesus’ promise: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In the Greek, this verse says the Lord ‘deprived the world of its power to harm you.’ Jesus overcame the world because He was anointed with power, and this power now lives in us. So ask God to fill you with the Spirit. To give you this supernatural power to help you to overcome the world just as Jesus did.


It’s a serious thing to neglect being filled with the Spirit. He seeks to abide in you and is grieved when He is not welcomed as an honored guest. Jesus teaches: “Walk while you have light, lest darkness overtake you” (John 12:35). We’ve got to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, and Jesus specifically commands us to be filled with the Spirit. When we invite Him in, we are made complete in Christ and the good work that God began in us will be finished. Heavenly thoughts and Christlike actions will replace rebellious acts and sinful self-effort. All who turn their back on the Spirit wander onto the devil’s dark path. They’ll do things tomorrow that they knew were wrong today. They’ll make sinful decisions and wonder why their life is caving in. The problem is they didn’t answer the door when the Holy Spirit came knocking.

Being filled with the Spirit is our most urgent need. We ought to hunger and thirst for His presence, all while basing our faith on the fact that God promises to grant our request. Nothing can be added to this gift, for through the Spirit all our needs are supplied. Paul says: ‘It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and He has identified us as His own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything He has promised’ (2 Cor. 1:21-22). God is not glorified when we ask minor things that suggest little is expected. No, He wants us to come in zeal, asking all that Scripture says He generously offers.


Jesus teaches: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11). God gives good gifts to His children, i.e. those who are filled with the Spirit. The more we realize our spiritual needs, the more we should desire the Spirit if we are to grow and build the kingdom! We must die to ourselves and ask the Lord with a humble heart to fill us with His glorious Spirit. After all, Jesus says: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7).

Many claim to love God yet continue to govern their own lives. They see God as a genie or a cosmic vending machine. This is wrong, wrong, wrong! We do not use the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit uses us. Hear Paul: ‘For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him’ (Phil. 2:13). Only to those who surrender their will to God will the Spirit be given. He must be received by faith. And when He comes, all life’s blessings come with Him as the Spirit is the very life of Christ. He’ll influence every decision we make and each action we take. We’ll walk in love as He conforms our will to the Father’s. The Spirit permanently connects us to the throne of grace and by Him we fulfill our destiny, acting in boldness for the kingdom of God.

There is no limit to what we can do for the kingdom once we lay our life aside and let the Spirit work. Our hearts grow so full of compassion and power that we’re willing to go to the ends of the earth to tell people how good God truly is. Sinners will give their lives to Christ and backsliders will be restored. We’ll labor with holy zeal by the Spirit’s doing. Where He goes, we go, and where we go, He goes. When we’re filled with the Spirit, we bear powerful witness to the true gospel. Special grace and divine favor rest upon us as we prepare others for Christ’s coming. Jesus teaches: “Watch, therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matt. 24:42,44). It’s time to cast off trivial matters. It’s time to be filled with the Holy Spirit.


Yield to the Spirit’s control and welcome all He would have you do. He works in powerfully unexpected ways. The Jews rejected Jesus as He skewed their expectations, so don’t allow the limitations of your finite mind to set boundaries on the Spirit. He rejects the plans and expectations of man. He’s here to do the Father’s work and none can restrict what He can and will do. Luke says of the Spirit that ‘suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting’ (Acts 2:2). Just as mighty winds sweep the earth, flattening all in its path, from sequoias to skyscrapers, so the Spirit shatters the defenses of the elect. He is not here to renovate our old lives. He is here to give entirely new lives to those chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the earth!


The Holy Spirit is the busiest Being on earth. Paul calls us ‘God’s fellow workers’ (1 Cor. 3:9), meaning nothing is impossible for those whom the Spirit works in. The pathetic limitations of self-effort are swept away. Our world is never the same and neither are the people in our presence when the Spirit is operative. Rivers of living water flow out of us and the world becomes a better place. A fount of blessing now resides in us and the Spirit uses us to impart heaven’s treasures into the lives of others in unexpected ways. He will do what we could never do on our own. This is why Jesus commands the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they receive power from on high. This same power is available to all who trust in Christ. Just don’t leave home without it!


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