Audio Library

The Church that Grace Built (Part 1) 

Second Presbyterian Church
Dr. George Robertson
October 8, 2017

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”


Like all of the men in my family, I like tools. I tend to like tools that are bigger than the job actually requires. For instance, I inherited an air compressor that has a 6-horsepower motor, delivers 135 PSI, and has a 30-gallon tank. This air compressor is so powerful that it can take lug nuts off of an 18-wheeler. So what do I use it for? Airing up bicycle tires, basketballs, soccer balls, and pool floats. There's no waiting in the Robertson house to air up things.


It's an illustration of underutilized power. I don't need that much power, and I don't utilize that much power. 


Maybe it's true of us that we are not tapping in to all of the power available to us since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Jesus on the church. There's not a text in scripture that says that Jesus pours out his power on the church and then took it back. He poured out his Spirit; the Spirit remains; and we must utilize it. 


So how do we tap into this power that Jesus promised through his Spirit? It might not make much sense to us from the start, but it begins with waiting. 


Wait (4-5)

In verses 4-5 it says, “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”


Remember what Jesus has done with the apostles. After his resurrection, he sends word to Peter and the others to meet him in Galilee so that he could have a worship service with them. He told them many things for their encouragement and then he gave them a great commission. Galilee was a comfortable place for them. It was a refuge where they were able to gather together corporately. Jesus shows up in their midst in a dramatically personal way, and he teaches them what they need to know. With that doctrine that he gives them, he propels them to go into all the world and make disciples of the nations, promising them that he will be with them always, to the very end of the age. 


In Galilee, they received teaching and instruction that propelled them initially. This is part of the purpose of the church. We gather corporately each Lord's Day, morning and evening. The Spirit of Christ is present there more palpably than can be imitated in any other context. You cannot get this kind of concentrated dosage of gospel vitamins ministered personally by Christ in word and sacraments and fellowship in the Holy Spirit anywhere else. You can't get it in your own personal devotions. You can't get it in a retreat. You can can't get it as powerfully in Sunday School. You can't get it in your mountain house or beach house or retreat center. Those are all important things, but there is no place as powerfully transformative as gathering in corporate worship. 


Jesus tells his disciples to go to Jerusalem and stay there. However, waiting in the Bible is never passivity. Waiting in the Bible is never indolence; it’s never running away; and it’s never laziness. Waiting in the Bible is always reliance. Jesus calls his disciples to go into the heart of enemy territory and rely on the Spirit. When the Spirit falls on them, he says, he will empower them to be his witnesses both in word and deed. 


Word. One thing that the Spirit does is enables us to share our faith. He enables us to explain to others how they can have eternal life and reconciliation with God. It's often easier to share your faith on the other side of the world than it is next door. Jesus said, “I am so powerful, I can make you my witnesses” in your neighborhood, with your family, in Memphis.


Deed. Jesus doesn't only make us witnesses by just telling people the gospel, he causes us to show the gospel too with our lives. There is no act of Christian faithfulness that is impossible to you, because you are indwelt by the resurrection power of the Spirit. Ask Jesus to pour out his Spirit on you, and he will empower you to do remarkable things for the kingdom. Your father is eager to pour out his Spirit on you. It's delightful for him to see you doing things that you never could have done unless he had come on you with power and made you his witness. 


So how do we practically rely on the Holy Spirit?

There was a famous theologian who had this habit: before he would enter a door, he would stay to his student, “you go first and I will follow.” The student saw that to be an illustration of how you live the Christian life. In every situation, say to the Spirit, “you go first and I will follow.” That's not my natural tendency, and perhaps it's not yours either. We may be more inclined to go first and then say, “come on Lord, catch up with me.” But there's no power in that.


Let’s put it a different way. The same Spirit who raised Jesus to life is the one who indwells us. So, everywhere we go, we're taking the Spirit. It's not that the Spirit depends on us to go anywhere, but he utilizes us, and where we go, assert ourselves, and step into the unknown for the glory of God, we take the Spirit and we have the privilege of watching the Spirit work in power. 


What terrifies you? What is it that you say you just can't do? Test the Spirit. Put yourself in the way and see what he does. 


Jesus says that he will make us powerful by joining us to the Holy Spirit, no matter how weak, how old, how insignificant we think we are, how few talents we have, or how limited we consider ourselves to be. In fact, the weaker we are, the more glory Jesus brings to himself in using us. All we have to do is give ourselves to him, to put ourselves in the way to be used. All we have to learn to say is “you go first, and I will follow,” and Jesus will make us his witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world. That is how Christ builds his church.