Expectant Belief

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Today I have entitled my sermon “Expectant belief” and I want to give you two examples of this as we look into the first chapter of Acts.

I would invite you to turn with me to Acts 1

Read Acts 1:1-14

Let’s Pray

“Mrs Baker wanted to go ice fishing. She had read several books on the subject, and finally, after getting all the necessary equipment together, she made her way out onto the ice.

After positioning her comfy stool, she started to make a circular cut in the ice.

Frighteningly, from up above, a voice boomed, 'There are no fish under the ice.' Startled, Mrs Baker moved farther down the ice, poured herself a large coffee, and began to cut yet another hole.

Again, from the heavens, the voice bellowed, 'There are no fish under the ice.' Mrs Baker, now became very concerned so she moved way down to the opposite end of the ice, set up her stool, and began again to cut her ice-hole.

The voice rang out once more, 'There are no fish under the ice.'

Mrs Baker, stopped, looked upwards and said, 'Is that you, Lord?'

The voice replied, 'No, this is the Ice-Rink Manager.'”

I appreciate Mrs.Baker.  She had an interest in fishing, so she took the time to obtain information about fishing, she even bought all the items needed to go fishing, but the best part is, she went out and tried to fish.

She may not have had all the information needed to be successful, like the fact that there is no fish under the ice of an ice rink, but she was willing to go with the belief that she could in fact catch fish.

This is kind of a silly way to lead you into a question, but, if someone were to say to others that they want to be a fisherman, or they want to lose weight, or they want to be a Christ follower...

Q: Is it enough, that they have just committed some time to gain information about those things?  

Q: Is it enough that they have read some books on the subject, and perhaps talked to some people, but perhaps that’s it,  that’s all they do, and they never put any actions to what they’ve learned?

Q: Would you find that person who may be well read, to be a “believable” fisherman?  

In other words, would you find a man believable who says he wants to fish, but never goes outside to actually try?

Q: Isn’t it true that an action has to be performed in order to prove your beliefs about who you are and what you do?

For me, I believe that God wants me in full time ministry.  I could come to church, or enroll in a bible school and get an education, but what if I just sit at home and never apply what I have learned anywhere?  

Suppose that all the while I am sitting at home doing nothing, I still tell people that I believe God has called me to be a pastor, would you believe me?  (Probably not)

It would be better if I was more like Mrs. Baker.  Even if, in my first attempt, I went to where there was no fish able to be caught, my actions would still prove, what I said I believe.

As an intro into our sermon today in the book of Acts, I want to first turn to the book of James.

I believe James will set the stage for us to talk about Expectant belief in Acts 1.

James 1:21-25

21 “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” 

Interesting word choice here - Delude, what does that mean?

Delude means to mislead the mind.  Like saying, “we deluded ourselves into thinking that the ice cream wouldn't affect our diet.”  (Everyone but you knows that.)

23 “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.

25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

I want to thank all of you for not coming to church in your pajamas this morning.  I want to thank all of you for looking in the mirror this morning and brushing your hair.  

You are walking examples of what you believe.  I can tell by your actions, that you believe, that it is proper behavior to have taken care of yourself before interacting with other people.

Likewise family, coming to church and opening the word of God, either here or at home, and listening to me speak, is like, walking to the mirror.  Like a mirror, I try to explain to you what areas in our life in which we need to grow.

But if you or I were to walk out that door and do nothing, than we are in essence, according to James in verse 24, forgetting what kind of person we are.

As we get into the book of Acts, I want you to know that what I see, as a mirror reflecting to you the truth of God’s Word, I see that we are meant to be an authentic witness of the kingdom of God!  

Please don’t delude yourselves with a false belief that says, “I can be a citizen of the kingdom of God, and never change from the pajamas of my worldly, or “self centered” life…”

Don’t delude yourselves in thinking that because you “know the truth”, that you will likewise enter into the kingdom of God based solely on your knowledge alone.

Belief is about being a doer, and not a hearer only.

The Bible says, Blessed is he who acts upon the message, Because… “this man will be blessed in what he does.”

In other words, as I ponder these scriptures, there is a difference between someone who has an education to be a pastor, and someone who takes that knowledge and goes out and lives out what a pastor is - by their actions.

The same is true for you.  There is a difference between those who know the truth, and those who know and then do what the truth says.

Flip over to James chapter 2

James 2:14 - end

14 “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

Let me pause here for a moment -

As a word of encouragement: I loved the fact that many of you acted upon your beliefs and went to help others in need at Sheldrake and Lodi point.  Your faith, is evident by your works!

18 “But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.

24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

Are you picking up what the Bible is laying down?  

There must be visible, tangible, expressions of what you say you believe.  Faith and works are in essence two sides of the same coin.

In the book of Acts, I want to show you that the earliest disciples showed that they believed - through - their actions, beginning with this point:

The disciples displayed an Expectant Belief.

Acts 1:1-5

1 “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.

3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.

4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.””

Focus in on Verse 4: The disciples were commanded not to leave Jerusalem.

This word commanded is not something we use every day… When is the last time you said to your wife, I command you to make me dinner?  Probably never.

We would not use this word unless we were trying to exercise a dominating influence over another person.  

Q: Does Christ have the right to exercise a dominating influence of authority over our lives?  Sure He does.

The disciples showed their faith in Christ through their behavior - that when Jesus Christ gives a command, you follow it to the letter.

Skip down with me to verse 12:

12 “Then they returned to Jerusalem (That’s action) from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.”

And so we see the obedience of the disciples in being in Jerusalem.  They believe in the risen Christ, They have faith in His authority over their lives, and they show their faith through their works by being obedient to His command.

In this case, it was a very specific command.  Go to Jerusalem and stay put.  

Sometimes I wish God would leave me little notes on my pillow when I wake up.  “Jesse, today I command you to go to this town you never heard of before called Interlaken, and preach my message.”

Those messages don’t come like that for me.  But His commandments are clearly seen in Scripture and they are living messages that we need to act upon.

For Example - John 13:34

34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Whoa!! That’s a command?  Love like He loves?  You mean I need to imitate Christ like love to others to show that I am a disciple?  

The hard truth is - Yes!  It’s a command - and Our actions say a lot about Our beliefs.  

If the Savior of our soul exercises a dominating influence over our life by commanding us to love, or by commanding us to go, or commanding us to stay in Jerusalem, than our next move defines what we believe about Christ’s authority over our lives.

The disciples believe that Christ has that authority over their lives and their actions proved it.

In Acts one, Christ also gives them a reason, a motivating factor.  We see that in verse 4-5.

4 “Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me;

5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The disciples acted upon their beliefs and stayed in Jerusalem, but “They stayed together because of one thing: they believed that the Holy Spirit was going to come upon them and they were going to receive promised power.  

They “expected” the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  They had absolutely no doubt about it.   No wavering.  No discussion.” (Hughes)  

Why is that?  They had an expectant belief in their risen Lord.  They knew that when He said He was going to send the Spirit… He was going to send the Spirit.

Here’s a Hypothetical argument - if the disciples did not have an expectant belief about the Holy Spirit coming - just as Jesus predicted, and they chose not to stay in Jerusalem, would the Holy spirit have fallen on them anyway?

It is hypothetical because the disciples did believe, did stay, and did receive, but the truth is their expectant belief allowed them to receive the work of God in to their lives.

And we are not different in any way.

Flip with me to John 1

John 1:11-12  “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.  (No action) But as many as  received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”

When someone believes in Christ he is receiving a supernatural power that seals us as sons of God.  The Holy Spirit becomes a resident in the life of that person that one can listen to and obey all of the commands God lays on our hearts through His Holy Spirit.

But there is a difference in the Holy Spirit being just a resident, versus the Holy Spirit being the President of one’s life.

All of us who believe in the name of Jesus Christ have the Holy Spirit working in our lives, but not all of us experience the fullness of His spirit because He is not given the right to command our lives like a president.

Said another way, Dr. Hughes would say, “The primary problem with believers in this matter of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is their lack of believing expectancy.  We believe it is possible for others, but not for us.  Do we truly expect Christ to fill us with His Holy Spirit and thus empower our lives?”

It is a transition from resident to president that makes all the difference.

Someone who makes the Holy Spirit president over their lives, and obeys all of His commands in how he lives his life, will experience a growth in the fullness of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

According to Galatians 5, these things look like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;”

The chapter ends by saying:
25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  In other words, some Christians receive the spirit and have eternal life, but not all Christians are experiencing the fullness of that Spirit because they don’t walk by the Spirit.

Again, it’s the difference between a resident Holy Spirit and a President Holy Spirit.

This fullness of the Spirit, as acting president, prompts us to plant seeds, or water seeds, it in fact motivates us to do things we wouldn’t normally do... it begins by having an expectant belief that God wants to empower us through His spirit, and in receiving that Spirit, he fulfills his divine purposes for our life.

The second thing that I want to look at is the Expectant Prayer of the Disciples.

Acts 1

12 “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying;”  Skip to verse 14

14 “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”

Q: I wonder what they were praying about?

I’d like to suggest to you, that because of Christ’s command to stay in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps a teaching they heard from Christ found in Luke 11, that they were doing what they were taught, that of praying expectantly for that Holy Spirit as promised by Christ.

 

Turn with me to Luke 11:5

5 “Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’

8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?

13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Here is almost an exact copy of what we saw in Acts one.  Christ says to His disciples, that if you persistently pray, the Heavenly father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for Him.

So, Acts 1, what are the disciples waiting for? The Holy Spirit.  How does he come into our lives?  Through prayer.  The disciples in Acts 1 are persistently praying for that Spirit and receive it in a powerful way in the day of Pentecost.

Now, on a separate note, if we are saved, is it still ok to pray for the Holy Spirit to impact our lives in an even greater way?

1 Corinthians 12

4 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.

7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;

9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”

Skip down to verse 27

27 “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.

29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?

31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.  And I show you a still more excellent way.”

So yes, I believe we can ask for greater gifts which are given to us by the Holy Spirit.

And by the way - by implication - it is also means that it is possible to have a ministry where the Holy Spirit is barely being used at all.

Although He lives inside all of us, there could be entire churches out there in which the people never seek to utilize His power or obtain the greater gifts at all.

I would say that in the lives of those people, they struggle with  - expectant belief, or even expectant prayer.

But if we do desire to live in the fullness of the Spirit, how else can we receive spiritual blessings if it were not through prayer?

Again, I would have to lean on Luke 11:10

10 “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”

You see, it all comes back to what we believe.

Let me conclude this way:

Q: Do we want to see lives walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit?  

Q: Are we willing to be persistent in our prayers, praying constantly for His impact into our lives and the lives of our community?

For the disciples, their expectant belief resulted in thousands of saved souls.

The Holy Spirit filled these people, and Peter spoke to them, which resulted in the birth of the church, in one day 3,000 souls were added to the church.

You may say:

Alright pastor, I understand expectant belief displays action, and I understand that expectant prayer can unleash the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, but how does that apply to my family's situation?

Or I am really struggling at work, how does that apply to my work situation? In other words, where do I begin to step out in my expectant belief?

Let me give you a verse that wraps this all together.

Let’s go back to where we started -

James 1:5

5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, (that is a spiritual gift) let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

In other words, if you don’t know where to start, start with prayer for a greater fullness of His spirit in the form of the spiritual gifting - called wisdom.

God won't judge you because you lack wisdom.  Pray for it!

But... pray with expectant belief, or you will not receive it.