Where God’s Power Flows
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Acts 3:1-3:10 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)
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READ: Acts 3:1-10
It’s 3pm in the afternoon (the hour of prayer in the Temple), Peter and John head up to join the throng at the great House of God.
And on the way in, as they came to the Gate called Beautiful (a gate inlayed with gold and precious stones, situated as an entrance in the Eastern side of the Temple courts) - they came across this man who had been crippled since birth. A man so lame that he couldn’t even hobble along with the aid of a crutch, but instead he had to be carried everywhere. And so he had some good friends who would carry him every day and lay him at this entrance to the Temple to beg from the people going up to pray.
YOU SEE he wasn’t allowed inside the Temple to join in prayer, because he was a cripple. Because of their spiritual pride they felt that he was blemished - not fit for the house of God. And so he sat on the steps and begged. And people gave him their loose change (to ease their consciences as they went to prayer!)
But, as Peter and John approached this particular day he saw them, and so he asked them for alms. (Peter and John had just recently been filled with the Holy Spirit, and so they were just full of joy and life - so this lame man felt sure to get a good offering from these guys).
Peter and John stopped as he spoke to them (not like everyone else who tried to get past him without looking), and Peter said to him: "LOOK AT US!" - perhaps the man’s head was bowed down, he never looked into the eyes of those who came by for fear of offending them. He didn’t want to embarrass, so he kept his head low - but here is Peter saying "Look at us!" So he looked up at them "expecting to receive something from them." Peter said: "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."
With that, Peter took hold of the man’s right hand and lifted him up, AND IN THAT MOMENT OF TIME "STRENGTH" came into that man’s feet and ankle bones for the very first time in his life. And he lept up! And he began to dance around - before all the hundreds of Jews coming in for prayer - and he praised God!
What a great miracle! Don’t you love to hear stories like that of the power of God. Don’t you long to see God’s power move like that in our midst?
THE QUESTION IS, THIS EVENING: In what kind of environment WILL God’s power flow?
You see, I don’t think we need great complex ideas. I believe God usually deals with us very simply. "The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things". I can see some very basic principles here in this story that we must recognize if we desire to see God’s power.
1. GOD’S POWER FLOWS WHERE HE IS.
Sounds simple / obvious doesn’t it? God’s power flows where God is.
Look at this lame man’s predicament with me for a moment. He had been sat at the entrance of the Temple for YEARS (4:22 says he was "over 40 years of age"). The Temple was supposedly the very House of God - the "HOME" of God’s presence - and yet here he was all his life camped at it’s gates AND HE WAS STILL A CRIPPLE!
In all their religious fervour, there was NOTHING that these people could offer him! The best they could do was a few copper coins to ease their consciences as they passed by - an act of pity.
AND THIS WAS THE HOME OF THE GOD WHO CREATED THE UNIVERSE BY THE WORD OF HIS MOUTH? No, my friends! HE WASN’T THERE AT ALL. When Jesus hung upon the cross and uttered those last triumphant words "IT IS FINISHED", the Bible records that the curtain in the Temple (which for centuries had barred man from the presence of God) was torn in two, right down the middle, FROM TOP TO BOTTOM (torn by the very hands of God!) What did that signify? We usually hear it preached that it signified that because of the sacrifice of Jesus man could now enter the Holy of Holies - that’s correct, BUT THAT’S ONLY ONE HALF OF THE STORY! The curtain is torn away signifying that God’s presence is no longer veiled in seclusion, but now He has come out AND HE LIVES IN HIS NEW DWELLING PLACE - the one He has always longed for since time immortal - He dwells in the lives of them that love Him. WE ARE THE VESSELS OF GOD.
Oh, but when that curtain was torn in two THE RELIGIOUS FOLK GOT REAL NERVOUS. Someone was interfering with their safe little religious lifestyle! So what did they do? They tacked that curtain back up, and just "whistled past the graveyard".
But friends, when that curtain was torn away, God was making His final declaration about where He intended to reside - BUT IN TRUTH THE GLORY GOD HAD BEEN ABSENT FROM THE TEMPLE FOR CENTURIES. For those who had eyes to see, "Ichabod" was written over it’s doorposts: "The glory has departed."
But I thank God, that when the saving, healing presence of God was no longer in this Temple, YET HE WAS IN THE LIVES OF THESE TWO DISCIPLES OF JESUS - Peter and John. The lame man had been sat at the gates of the Temple all of his life, but here now he experiences the real power of God’s presence (NOT FLOWING OUT THE DOORS OF THE TEMPLE - BUT RATHER WALKING UP THE STAIRS! - Peter and John.)
Peter "fixed his eyes on" the man. No-one else would have anything to do with him. You see the Jews believed that such a man must be a sinner (or perhaps his parents were) to be afflicted by such an infirmity - this was the punishment of God. But as Peter saw him perhaps he heard the words of Jesus ringing in his ears: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him."
And so Peter reaches out and heals the man. Tell me - is the hand that reaches out Peter’s or God’s? The answer is: YES! Yes, it’s Peter’s - but WE ARE HIS HANDS AND FEET - it’s also God’s. What does Colossians 1:27 say - "CHRIST IN YOU THE HOPE OF GLORY!"
The lame man was healed because GOD’S POWER FLOWS WHEREVER HE IS. If we would see the power we must secure the presence of Jesus.
Mary & Martha knew that. When their brother Lazarus died they called for Jesus. They knew that if He was present God’s power would flow. But Jesus arrived late, and Lazarus had already died. Remember what Martha said? "If only You had been here..." SHE KNEW THAT WHERE JESUS IS THERE IS POWER. (Her problem was that she saw Jesus as the God of YESTERDAY - "if only You had been here". Jesus said that Lazarus would live again. Martha replied - "Oh, I know he will live again in the resurrection." To her Jesus was the God of yesterday and of the dim distant future! But Jesus said to her: "I AM the resurrection and the life, he that believes on Me though he be dead yet shall he live." Friends, Jesus is THE GOD OF TODAY! Yesterday, today, FOREVER Jesus is the same! Hallelujah.
Oh, if we can but secure His presence. GOD’S POWER FLOWS WHEREVER HE IS PRESENT.
2. GOD’S POWER FLOWS WHERE THERE IS EXPECTANCY.
The word "expectancy" here means: "TO WAIT FOR SOMETHING IN SUSPENSE". There was something about these two men who would bother to talk to him that made this lame man WAIT IN SUSPENSE, expecting something good. He may have only been thinking about silver and gold - BUT AT LEAST HE WAS EXPECTING SOMETHING.
How many know that God does "exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ever ask or think"?! The problem is that so often we come to God not expecting anything at all! We come to church ready for "just another Sunday service"; we’ll sing some choruses, pray, take communion, and providing that preacher does the right thing we’ll be out and home for lunch by 12.00pm.
It’s so important to come to church longing to hear God speak. Nothing is sadder than going to church when you aren’t expecting anything to happen - and worst still when you are positively sure that nothing is going to happen! I tell you, if it gets to the stage that Pentecostals come to church not expecting anything to happen, then "WE ARE OF ALL MEN MOST MISERABLE." When you feel that way, what a surprise - nothing does happen! Yet so many people throughout the world go to church every Sunday feeling just that way.
Friends, whether it be at home in your private devotional or when you come to the house of God WE MUST COME TO GOD WITH EXPECTANCY! "They that come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Did you come here tonight EXPECTING God to do something new, something exciting, something fresh in your life. If you did then "you won’t leave here like you came in Jesus’ Name".
This lame man EXPECTED something - and he got far more than he ever expected. GOD’S POWER FLOWS WHERE THERE IS EXPECTANCY. We need to develop an attitude of expectancy.
I believe in THREE basic premises we need to get a hold of in relation to EXPECTANCY.
A. God wants us to come to Him with expectancy.
Turn with me to James 1:5-8 [READ]. Now the context here is specifically that of a person coming to ask God for wisdom, but the truth is the same whenever we come to God. This is a principle.
In 1 Timothy 2:8 Paul says, "I desire that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath AND DOUBTING."
God wants us to come to Him with believing hearts, faith-filled hearts; EXPECTANT hearts!
Hebrews 11:6 - "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
God wants us to come to Him with expectancy.
The second of my basic premises is that:
B. We have every Reason to come to Him with expectancy, because God always answers His people.
I am firmly convinced that there has never been a prayer of mine that God has not heard and answered. He answers EVERY time the righteous call.
But that brings me quickly to my third basic premise:
C. God doesn’t always answer the way we are anticipating.
God ALWAYS answers my prayers, but sometimes the answer is NO! Or sometimes He answers with a different provision than I requested. It’s here that we need to recognize the LORDSHIP of Christ. We sing "He is Lord" & "All to Jesus I Surrender", here is where the rubber meets the road! Accepting what God decides is best for our lives.
When it’s not His will, God says "NO!"
When it’s not His time, God says "SLOW!"
But when it’s His will, and the time is right, God says "GO!"
THE BIBLE CALLS US TO HAVE AN EXPECTANCY IN GOD THAT ALLOWS HIM TO BE GOD!
God will always do what is best for your eternal well-being, and most honouring to Him. We must trust Him. "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" He knows the end from the beginning - I don’t - so I am learning to trust Him. But still I live with a full expectancy of seeing the hand of God in my life every day.
This kind of expectancy ought to characterize every area of the believer’s life. For instance:
I. You Can Expect God to Direct Your Life.
II. You Can Expect God to Save You out of Dire Circumstances.
III. You Can Expect God to Provide.
IV. You Can Expect God to Heal.
Hudson Taylor’s life motto was this: "Attempt great things for God, EXPECT GREAT THINGS FROM GOD!"
QUOTE: "Many Christians estimate difficulties in the light of their own resources, and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt. All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence with them." (J.Hudson Taylor)
Perhaps you’ve never given it any thought before, but let me ask you - HOW DO YOU THINK GOD FEELS WHEN WE COME BEFORE HIM WITHOUT A SENSE OF EXPECTANCY? If He is the great God who made all of heaven and earth - how insulting it must be to Him when we come not expecting anything to happen!
We must come with expectant hearts to God. When we fully expect to see Him move, we will see his power.
3. GOD’S POWER FLOWS WHERE RIGHT AUTHORITY IS RECOGNIZED.
A most striking feature of this account to me is that THERE IS NO RECORD OF PETER AND JOHN PRAYING FOR THIS LAME MAN at all. They simply took hold of the authority available IN THE NAME OF JESUS, and the man was healed. (Now I’m sure that the apostles were "prayed up" - I’m sure they spent much time seeking the Lord, but when this man presented them with his need, they didn’t feel they had to pray - they simply brought him his healing in Jesus’ Name.)
Friends, we must recognize that there is GREAT authority in the Name of Jesus. AUTHORITY to heal and restore, to release and deliver, authority to advance His Kingdom.
In MATT 28:18 Jesus says: "ALL authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." All authority belongs to Jesus! That’s wonderful enough, is it not?! But now listen further, because if we read on we see that Jesus has made His authority available to us! [Read next verse - Matt 28:19].
In fact, we read of several occasions in the Gospels when Jesus invested His authority in His followers in order to complete tasks that He sent them to accomplish.
i) Luke 9:1-2 ... He sent out His 12 closest men.
ii) Luke 10:1 ... He sent out 70 disciples.
iii) Mark 16:15-18 ... He gave His authority to ALL THEM THAT BELIEVE!
Do YOU "believe", tonight? Are you a "believer"? Are you daily trusting in the Son of God as your Saviour, Lord and Master? THEN who shall these signs follow? - YOU!
Hear this clearly and understand it: ALL ultimate authority in the universe belongs to Jesus Christ, our King. And He has invested that authority in us, HIS CHURCH, in order to accomplish His purposes. (And that is the qualification that we must understand!)
On every occasion that we read of Jesus divesting His authority in others - every Scripture which promises us His authority - it is ALWAYS to the end that HIS purposes might be accomplished.
God’s power flows where RIGHT AUTHORITY is RIGHTLY RECOGNIZED. Oh, that Christians would get a hold of this truth - that Jesus’ authority is available to His church to complete the mission that He sent us on!
And this brings me to the last of our FOUR principles from this passage:
4. GOD’S POWER FLOWS WHERE HE WILL RECEIVE THE GLORY.
God moved in power, here in Acts 3, and healed this lame man IN ORDER THAT HIS OWN GREAT NAME MIGHT BE HONOURED. Peter and John could rightly claim the authority of the Name of Jesus because this moment was going to bring glory to God. God’s power flows where HE will receive the glory!
[O.T. ILLUSTRATION:] God opposed Saul; but exaled David. Why? Because Saul came to the place where he began to seek the glory for himself - DAVID ALWAYS SOUGHT GOD! He wanted God to receive glory.
[N.T. ILLUSTRATION:] In Acts 19 we read of the "7 sons of Sceva", they had the audacity to try to use the authority of Jesus’ Name to GAIN GLORY FOR THEMSELVES! [Read Acts 19:13-16]
God’s power flows WHERE HE WILL RECEIVE THE GLORY!
I was greatly challenged in reading an account of the REVIVAL IN WALES in 1858-1860 (often referred to as "the ’59". One of the men whom God so signally blessed and used in that revival was the REV. DAVID MORGAN. There are many incredible things about this man’s life, but I remember one account in particular. It occured in a place called "Devil’s Bridge" in North Wales - it was the evening service on New Year’s day in 1860.
An old minister who was there with David Morgan wrote these words: "The evening was terrible. So near was the revivalist to his God, that his face shone like that of an angel, so that none could gaze steadfastly at him. Many of his hearers swooned .../... ON THE WAY HOME I dared not break the silence for miles. Towards midnight I ventured to say, ’Didn’t we have blessed meetings, Mr.Morgan?’ ’YES’, he replied; and then after a pause he added: ’The Lord would give us great things, if only He could trust us.’ ’What do you mean?’ I asked. ’If He could trust us NOT TO STEAL THE GLORY FOR OURSELVES.’ Then the midnight air rang with the sound of his cry, at the top of his voice, ’Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto THY name give glory.’"
Church, we must JEALOUSLY GUARD to ensure that everything we do is genuinely for HIS glory alone.
So, there we have it. IN WHAT "ENVIRONMENT" WILL GOD’S POWER FLOW? Here in Acts 3 we have four guiding principles:
1. Where HE is.
2. Where there is EXPECTANCY.
3. Where RIGHT AUTHORITY is RECOGNIZED.
4. Where HE ALONE WILL RECEIVE THE GLORY.