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Following on from last week‘s message titled The Right to Rule and Reign, we will continue on with the many things pertaining to God’s kingdom. Remembering it is our glorious Fathers hearts desire that we know and experience the fullness of Him. That is who He is, what He has done for us and given to us.
So let us open our hearts and surrender all our thoughts, distractions and preconceived ideas to our glorious Father. And by the work of His precious Holy Spirit, may we receive a fresh experience of Him as we go deeper into His love story to us, the Bible.
Acts 1:1-3 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
Between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the kingdom of God was the central topic of conversation between the resurrected Jesus and those who He revealed Himself to.
Jesus began his earthly ministry declaring that the kingdom of God was near in His coming. For Jesus the kingdom of God is the absolute right of God to rule and reign. Jesus as a man lived in the reality of the kingdom of God, in this world damaged by evil.
He was anointed by the Holy Spirit with the power to heal. Jesus was demonstrating and proclaiming that Gods kingdom has come on earth in Him.
The only way to the Father and His kingdom is through Jesus the Son. Jesus is the rightful ruler of the God’s kingdom.
He showed us the heart of God the Father. As God gives all the benefits of His kingdom with no partiality. The Father had promised that His Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. Both the Jew and non Jew.
the healing love of God
God so loves that He freely gives all of Himself. He never imposes Himself or abuses His power. God gives free choice to receive His kingdom and His right to rule and reign. Or reject His kingdom and His right to rule and reign. It is because God so loves that He gives every individual free choice.
Acts 1:4-11 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Spirit of God
Jesus came to earth in power. He lived, died and was resurrected in power. Then ascended He into heaven in power. He will return in all His glory and power. The power that Jesus offers, is the power of God through His Spirit.
The Spirit of God is a surging, rushing, relentless wild river of new life. His new life of healing and equality, refreshing and sustaining, strengthening and flourishing, flows direct from the throne of God, through Jesus the Son, to us.
The Holy Spirit directs the flow of God’s eternal healing and redemptive mission realised in Jesus throughout the earth. The beginning of new life starts with receiving and believing God in Jesus and His right to rule and reign. His free flowing river cleanses, heals, refreshes and replenishes everything in its path.
The book of Acts records the flow of God’s river of life surging through certain disciples. Each one has a part in God’s healing and redemptive mission. After they had received power to be witnesses of Jesus, God’s kingdom advances from Jerusalem, to Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
The geographical advancement of God’s kingdom through certain diverse people of various origins, highlights God’s work. It is the commencement of the fulfilment of His promise.
The book of Acts reveals that the ascended Lord Jesus is alive, He is sovereign over all and continues to bring people to Himself. All people regardless of ethnicity, gender, age or socio economic status.
a redemptive kingdom of equality
So let us go to one such account in the book of Acts.
Picture this. Peter a Jew, has a vision about how all people are equal and what God has cleansed is not to be treated as unclean.
Meanwhile a man, a non Jew, whose name is Cornelius, honours God and has a vision of an angel. The angel tells him his prayers and his donations that he has given from his heart of compassion have come before God. They have been remembered. The angel continues. Therefore Cornelius send men to a man called Simon Peter, who is lodging in the house of Simon the tanner. When he comes to you he will speak to you.
So Cornelius did just that and sent men to Peter. God had already prepared Peter’s heart to say yes and go with these men of different ethnic origin. According to Peter’s culture it was unlawful for a Jew to keep company with a non Jew. Yet God had shown Peter that the way of the world is not His way. For all are equal in God’s kingdom.
It’s important to remember God does not control or manipulate people. Both Peter and the man of non Jewish origin had free choice. They both chose to go on the incredible adventure of discovery, led by the Holy Spirit.
Let us pickup the story when Peter arrives at the house of Cornelius.
Acts 10:34-43 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
When Jesus walked the earth as a man, Peter did life with Jesus. He walked with Him, talked with Him, ate and drank with Him. Peter was there when Jesus, a Jewish man ate with those the religious deemed unclean. Saw Jesus, a Jewish man, cross the cultural divide and converse with a non Jewish woman of no reputation.
Peter was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet like every disciple was on a daily journey. There is always more with God.
Peter came to realise that God does not show partiality in salvation or judgement. Salvation is available to all people, no matter what tribe, nation, gender or socio economic status. Salvation is activated upon believing and receivin Jesus, the anointed one of God.
Remembering Peter already knows that God accepts people just as they are.
In saying whoever fears God and works righteousness is accepted by God. Peter is reiterating what the servant of Cornelius said about his master. By the words of the angel, God has honoured Cornelius’ prayer and accepted him just as he is. So Peter starts with acknowledging and giving equal respect to Cornelius. Then Peter begins to outline God’s redemptive and healing plan throughout history.
Even tho Cornelius fears God, that is give reverence and respect, prays to God, gives out of compassion for the poor, none of that will save him from judgement or eternal death. Salvation cannot be earned, nor can it be gained. It is a free gift from God of Himself.
The creator of life, in human form, is the only one who has defeated death, evil and humanity’s selfish desires. Jesus is the one who has paid the cost for all offences said, thought and done by every individual throughout the ages. God has done it all for us to receive and believe.
What happened next while Peter was speaking was astonishing to those of Jewish lineage. They had incorrectly interpreted all the prophecies about God pouring out His Spirit on all flesh, as God pouring out His Spirit on only those of Jewish lineage. They did not fully understand God accepts us just as we are. His river of life is for all people. Anyone who receives and believes in Jesus, who is God’s ordained judge of the living and the dead receives the gift of the Holy Spirit within.
What was so powerful was that at that moment while Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. Heard is the primary verb of this statement. It means to consider what has been said, understand it and receive it. It is a head to heart to spirit connection.
From the most holy and intimate place, God poured out His Spirit. From the throne of God, from the Father’s heart in Jesus, to all who heard. Bringing His healing and redemptive mission into hearts and minds. God did the work and all who heard actively received the empowerment to be witnesses of Jesus.
God gave assurance of His presence in them and His power upon them. His undeniable gift of faith, to receive and believe. Through the Holy Spirit they received the freedom to make words of praise in another language other than their own, magnifying God.
In adoration of God, they had uncontainable joy. It is significant to note that Peter could understand what they were saying. Later on Peter testifies to the Jewish council that the Holy Spirit fell upon the non Jews the same way it did for the Jews at the Pentecost.
The evidence that they have received God’s free gift of salvation was in their heartfelt praise and subsequent public declaration of their new identity in Jesus.
The same Holy Spirit that lead Peter into the fullness of the truth, is the same Holy Spirit that descended upon the Jews at Pentecost. Who is the same Holy Spirit that descended on the Gentiles. God is continuing to pursue every individual in love. No matter where we are at in this life journey there is always more with God. He is continually pouring out His Spirit upon all flesh.
Creating a oneness throughout the whole community of disciples throughout the world. Leading all who are willing into the fullness of His truth, love and power. Praise His mighty name!