The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pure Hearts - Empowered Lives - Part 2

Acts 15:8–9 (NKJV)

So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.


Last week we talked about "stuff in the basement"; junk inside of us that keeps us from experiencing the abundant life Jesus offers to us; junk that weighs us down and hinders us from running the race of life successfully.  We talked about how there is stuff in our lives, junk, that trips us up, drags us down, gets in the way of us experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10). 

This abundant life is a powerful life. We say that on the basis of how we see Jesus' promise fulfilled after the resurrection in Acts. We say this as we see the Promise of the Father fulfilled in Acts. 

The fulfillment of these promises was connected by Jesus with "power." Jesus said:

Acts 1:4–5 (NKJV)

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.”

Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

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.”

This power was real. It is real today and it is as available today as it was when it was first given. These empowered Apostles and disciples literally changed the world - turned it upside down - had an impact - made an incredible eternally significant powerful impact on their world. It was like a charge of dynamite. We need this dynamic today. We need to have the top blown off and the church unleashed to infiltrate and influence the world today.

We need to pray:

Lord, in Jesus name, make us what we need to be, to do what You call us to do, for Your glory, until Jesus returns.

And the key to this empowerment was the message of the resurrection.

When we look at Acts we see the resurrection of Jesus at the center of all these empowered people did and proclaimed. 

The incidences of the mention of resurrection of Jesus in Acts are numerous:

  Acts 1:21–22 (NKJV)

21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”


Acts 2:22–24, 30-32 (NKJV)

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. . . .  30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.


Acts 3:14–16, 26 (NKJV)

14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. . . . 26 To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”


Acts 4:1–2, 8-10, 33 (NKJV)

4 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. . . . Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. . . . 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.

Acts 5:29–32 (NKJV)


29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”


Acts 10:34–43 (NKJV)

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 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. 39 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. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 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. 42 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. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”


Acts 13:23, 26-41 (NKJV)


23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— . . . . 26 “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28 And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. 29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead. 31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. 32 And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:

‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.’

34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus:

‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’

35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm:

‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’

36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you:

41   Behold, you despisers,

Marvel and perish!

For I work a work in your days,

A work which you will by no means believe,

Though one were to declare it to you.’ ”


Acts 17:18 and 32 (NKJV)

18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?”

Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. . . . 32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.”


Acts 23:6–8, 15-21 (NKJV)


But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”

And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. . . . 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

17 “Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, 18 in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. 19 They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, 21 unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’ ”

 Why was the resurrection of Jesus so empowering to the Apostles and disciples? How did it help purify their hearts by faith and empower them for life? 

To answer those questions, we have to go to an "Upper Room," the same room, some believe, where Jesus and His disciples had their last supper before the crucifixion. 

Ten days alone with the Lord. Jesus went to the cross and rose from the dead on the Feast of Passover. Acts begins 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:1-3). 10 days before the next Feast which was Pentecost (the Feast if Harvest). It was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles and disciples. Pentecost occurs 50 ("Penta") days after Passover. This tells us the Apostles and disciples, 120 people (Acts 1:14), waited, in the upper room, 10 days before they were empowered. 

10 days is not an exceptionally long time, but it is not a short time either. Jesus always works with perfect timing (e.g. Gal. 4:4). He knew they needed some time. They needed some time to work things out. It took would take them ten days to deal with their junk.  

For ten days the Holy Spirit would bring to their minds the stuff/junk that needed to be removed: their pride, their guilt, their fears, their doubts, their junk. For ten days they would join together "of one accord" to consider, confess to the Lord, and receive cleansing - from their junk. 

In Acts 15:8-9 it states, "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." 

Why did Peter describe the empowering of the Gentiles by the Holy Spirit in this way? 

Because the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is not the believer getting more of the Holy Spirit, it's the Holy Spirit getting more, no, getting ALL of you. 

The Holy Spirit indwells the person who accepts Jesus as Savior and is born again; this is the second birth. Jesus said to enter heaven "you must be born again" (John 3). The Holy Spirit is "with" a person leading them, showing them, convicting them of their sin, and drawing them to receive Jesus as Savior who makes a way for them to be forgiven their sin. If and when they do receive Jesus as Savior, then the Holy Spirit comes "in" them, indwelling them to give them spiritual life; a second birth (John 14:17; 16:8-11). 

All those waiting in the upper room had been forgiven their sins by confessing them to God and trusting Jesus as Savior. They had all been born again; indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Jesus had said, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them,’ Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22). 

Something more. But there was still some stuff/junk in the way. There was still some stuff to deal with until they could experience the power of the Spirit to be Jesus' world impacting, world changing, world saving Apostles and disciples. 

Jesus gave them 10 days to deal with their junk. It took ten days for their hearts to be purified by faith. It took ten days for their faith to be matured, perfected, for them to move on from their junk-laden lives and be emptied and fully open for the Holy Spirit to fill them. FOR TRULY THE PENTECOSTAL EMPOWERMENT WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT US GETTING MORE OF HIM, BUT HIM GETTING ALL OF US. It's letting go of our proud-junk, guilt-junk, fear-junk, doubt-junk, junk-junk, and fully surrendering to the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2; Acts 15:8-8). 

 How much of you does the Holy Spirit have? All, or just a portion?

You don’t have to wait ten days! And since this is a work received by faith, we should mention that we don’t have to wait ten days. Because this is a work of the Spirit received by faith we only need to surrender fully to Him and ask Him for this empowerment. Then by faith we receive it and walk in the power.

The Role of the Resurrection

Now we have one last thing to consider. HOW, how did they deal with their junk? What role did the resurrection play in purifying their hearts by faith; of getting rid if their junk? 

Gone again. It must have been an excruciating loss to the Apostles and disciples to see and experience the death of Jesus. For all they knew that was it, He was gone. But gory to God the Bible also continues the account that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to all the Apostles and to over 500 disciples (1 Cor. 15:1ff.) He was back! Jesus met with them, ate with them, even fished with them! (John 20-21). Wonderful!

But then He ascended from them (Acts 1:9-11). He was gone again. 

Another Helper; One just like Me. But here's the key. Jesus said He came to go to the cross to atone for sins and that three days later He would rise from the dead (e.g. Mat. 16:21). He gave them that promise and He delivered on that promise. He was faithful and He was able to fulfill His promise. They saw Him before AND AFTER the cross and resurrection. 

Now He was gone again. It was a lot to process. But there was a difference. Now, in that Upper Room, waiting together, for ten days, the Holy Spirit must have helped them remember Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit. Maybe the Holy Spirit would help them remember such words from Jesus as:

 John 14:16–18, 26 (NKJV) - 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. . . . 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

 John 15:26 (NKJV) - 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

John 16:7–11, 13 (NKJV) - Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. . . .  13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

One just like Him. The Holy Spirit was referred to by Jesus as “another Helper” which in the original language meant literally One just like Me (John 14:17). The Holy Spirit  who would testify of Jesus, make Him known, make His presence known, lead them into all truth and enable them to do things like Jesus did. “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 he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12) - incredible! 



·         Yeah but, what about this pride I acted in?

·         Yeah but, what about how guilty I feel?

·         Yeah but, what about this fear I have?

·         Yeah but, what about the doubts I have?




·         "PRIDE? Look to Jesus and let your pride go.

·         GUILT? Look to Jesus who paid the penalty for your sins and let your guilt go.

·         FEARS? Look to Jesus, He rose from the dead, HE's ALIVE; HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU, let your fears go.

·         DOUBTS! Look to Jesus, He is risen. If He can defeat death what can't He do? What claim isn't true? Let go of your doubts." 


Each time a hindrance came to their mind or heart the Holy Spirit would point them to Jesus and remind them that He died to atone for their sins; Jesus shed His blood to pay the death penalty for sin. And the blood of the risen Lord Jesus is the basis for the forgiveness for sins (1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7. 9).


Power of the Resurrection

The power of the resurrection is found in the words, "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mat. 28:20). 

The apostles and disciples had experienced 3 years with Jesus. Three years of His teaching. Three years learning true love from Him. Three years of His standing up to opposition. Three years of His walking on water. Three years of making something from nothing (feeding 4000 and 5000 people), providing money from a fishes mouth to pay taxes. Three years healing people of their acquired illnesses as well as their birth defects; the lame walking, the lepers cleaned, and the blind seeing. Three years that included raising people from the dead. Three years of courage and righteous living. Three years of His sinless life. Three years of holy living. Three years experiencing the faithfulness and capability of Jesus in all circumstances. Three years of doing God's will with Jesus. With Jesus they were able to do anything the Father called them to do. 

 It was only when Jesus was not there that they were truly shaken . The crucifixion was devastating to the apostles and disciples because without Jesus, life would return to its mundane powerless "normal," so they thought. 

But  the resurrection changed all  that. The resurrection brought Jesus back to them and they were relieved as much as rejoicing that Jesus had conquered death. 

But then the ascension. Jesus once again left them. Oh He went to heaven, yes, but He still left them. Now in that upper room for about ten days they had to work on the pollutants of the heart: guilt, pride, fear,  and doubt. They had to decide whether Jesus' words were true and worth their all. 

Jesus had said , "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7). 

Pentecost and the empowering Jesus promised is bound up in the resurrection presence of Jesus, the empowering presence of Jesus, the "and lo, I am with you always" of Jesus, the reality and truth of Jesus conveyed by the Holy Spirit. 

Pentecost is the Holy Spirit testifying to Jesus and His presence. It is the reality of Jesus presence purifying the heart from all guilt, proud self-reliance, fear and doubt. With Jesus NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. Jesus' presence in the Spirit assures us our sin is forgiven and there's no reason to doubt. Jesus' presence in the Spirit humbles us removing all pride. Jesus' presence in the Spirit encourages us not to fear. Jesus' presence in the Spirit explains all doubts away. Jesus' presence in the Spirit proves Jesus true. Jesus' presence in the Spirit is empowering.  

Whatever your "stuff in the basement," junk or heart pollutant is that hinders you from the fullness and abundant life Jesus promised, I know that the presence of Jesus in the Spirit will help you deal with it and destroy it. 

Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. With the risen Jesus we can do all things God calls us to do. That’s dynamic. That’s powerful. That’s empowering.

Jesus is not dead. Jesus is ALIVE. He is with us. The Holy Spirit makes that so. "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age," EVEN NOW! 

Release your heart impurities by faith to Jesus. Listen to the truth of the Holy Spirit. Be purified in heart and empowered in life. 

When the Holy Spirit Came Upon Them

And as “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14a), their heart searching reached a critical mass (as the Spirit was working in them) and they reached their point of letting go, their hearts were purified by faith; by faith they let go of all the “stuff in the basement” all the junk - AND THE HOLY SPIRIT FELL ON THEM!!

The Holy Spirit came “upon” them. The preposition “upon” (Greek epi) means to overflow, come upon, saturate and overflow the vessel. The Holy Spirit came upon them displacing all the “Stuff in the basement” and “junk” and freed them to live empowered lives for Jesus.

That's what is there for us. That's what we need to do. That's what the resurrected risen Lord Jesus means to us. 

 Now all that remains is taking a step of faith - let the Spirit purify your heart by faith.

Alan Redpath once said: "If you look up into His face and say, "Yes, Lord, whatever it costs," at that moment He'll flood your life with His presence and power."

Are you ready to rid yourself of the “stuff in the basement”? Are you ready to get rid of your junk? Are you ready to clean house? Are you ready to have your heart purified by faith?

Andrew Murray in his book The Spirit of Christ gives the following comment on seeking the power of the Spirit:

In seeking for this power of the Spirit, let us note the manner of His working. There is one mistake we must especially be aware of. It is that of expecting always to feel the power when it works. Scripture links power and weakness in a wonderful way, not as succeeding each other, but as existing together. ‘I was with you in weakness . . . and my preaching was . . . in power,’ ‘When I am weak, then am I strong.’(See 1 Cor. 2:3-5; 2 Cor. 4:7, 16; 6:10; 12:10; 13:3, 4.).

The power is the power of God, given to faith, and faith grows strong in the dark. The Holy Spirit hides himself in the weak things that God has chosen, so that flesh may not glory in His presence. Spiritual power can only be known by the Spirit of faith. The more we acknowledge our weakness, the more confidently we can expect the Spirit’s power, even when nothing is felt. [1]

We should not run from our weakness but embrace it! We should not try to hide our weakness but proclaim it! If we think we aren’t weak, we are fooling ourselves, self-deceived, and not ready for the empowerment of the Spirit. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourself before God and He will exalt you in due time; He will baptize you in the Spirit (cf. 1 Peter 5:5-6).

Andrew Murray also makes a close connection between humility that is proved in obedience. We have to be humble and surrendered enough to obey the Lord. We need to truly surrender to the Lord and His will. The Spirit will only empower the person who is willing to obey and follow His marching orders. His power is not given for us to indulge. His power is given that we might glorify Christ! To this end Murray states:

Christians lose much not only by not waiting for the power, but by waiting in the wrong way. Combine ready obedience to every call of duty, no matter how weak you feel, with a dependent waiting expectation of power from on high. Let intervals of rest and communion be the exercise of prayer and faith in the power of God dwelling in you and waiting to work through you. Then your time of exertion and effort will bring the proof that by faith, out of weakness, we are made strong. . . .

Many pray earnestly for power in their work, and do not receive it, because they do not accept the only attitude in which the power can work. . . . We want to get possession of the power and use it. God wants the power to get possession of us and use us. If we give up ourselves to the power to rule in us, the power will give itself to us, to rule though us. Unconditional submission and obedience to the power in our inner life is the one condition of our being clothed with it. . . .

God gives the Spirit to the obedient. Power belongs to God and remains His forever. If you want His power to work in you, surrender to His guidance even in the least things.

Let us be clear regarding the purpose of this power and the work it is to do. Men are very careful to economize power and to store it where it can do its work most effectively. God does not give power for our own enjoyment. He gives it for one purpose – to glorify His Son. Those who are faithful to this one purpose and prove they are ready at any cost to glorify God will receive the power from on high.[2]

[1] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ, (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House Pub., 1984) pgs. 61-62
[2] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ, (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House Pub., 1984) pgs. 62-63

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pure Hearts - Empowered Lives - Part 1

Acts 15:8–9 (NKJV) - So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Acts 15:8-9 describes Pentecostal empowerment in terms of God (the Heart-Knower), purifying their hearts by faith. 

Three questions: 
1. Purified from what?
2. How were they purified?
3. What role did the resurrection play in this purifying work?

And answering these questions a fourth us implied, "So what; why is this important? What difference did/does it make?" 

We'll answer the "So what?" question first. Answering these questions is the key to unlocking the door to the empowered Pentecostal lives we see in Acts and throughout history. Answering these questions opens the door for us to apply the resurrection of Jesus in an empowering way. Answering these questions opens the door to experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised us.

And this is God's will for us.

In Paul's letter to the Philippians he was inspired by God to testify he wanted to know Jesus in the power of the resurrection:

 Philippians 3:8–10 (NKJV) - Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

In his letter to the Ephesians he prayed they'd know the same resurrection power of Jesus in their lives:

 Ephesians 1:17–21 (NKJV) - 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.


Have you ever thought, Why doesn’t my life experience jive with what the Bible says or what Jesus said it should be like? Why doesn’t my life feel “abundant” when Jesus promised an abundant life? What is my life out of sync with what the Bible says it should be?

Well, if you’ve ever wondered about that, these next two messages will hopefully help you not only to answer those questions, but help you to rid yourself of whatever might by weighing you down or hindering you to experience all that Jesus has for you.


  1. Purified from what? 


Acts 15:8-9 - So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.


These words were spoken by Peter before the Jerusalem Council and were an explanation of how God was opening the door of the gospel and the church to the Gentiles. Up until Acts 10 the church was primarily viewed as a Jewish sect. Now the church was being broadened by God to include Jews and Gentiles. This may not seem like that big a deal for us, but back then it was a HUGE deal. God was using the church to bring Jews and Gentiles, who were separate and opposed to each other, together in Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:11ff.).


Before we continue there’s a few things we need to recognize from these two verses that will help us as we go further in this study.


First, what happened then and what happens now starts with God. It states, “So God.” When we talk about implementing something from the Bible into our lives we always need to understand it is God Who is taking the initiative and God who is working with and in us to bring it to pass. What is mentioned in these verse is a work of God the Holy Spirit. We merely present ourselves to God. He directs us and does the work in and through us.


Second, God knows our heart. God is described here in a very special way. He is described with the words, “who knows the heart.” These words are a translation of one Greek word kardiagnosko which literally means heart knower. God knows what’s in our heart.


There are times in life when the devil corners us, he isolates us and cuts us off from those we need. He piles on the discouragement and leads us into dark depression. He tries to get us to turn our back on God. He tempts us to believe that no one knows our situation and that no one cares. But the truth is God knows what’s going on in our heart and He definitely cares. He cares so much that He sent His only Son Jesus to die for us to free us from the bondage of such feelings and sin (e.g. Romans 8:31-32).


Third, God acknowledges us. God cares about us. The Jews were and are a special called people. But in Acts 10 God pointed to the Gentiles and was saying “You’re important too! I’ve got a plan, a wonderful plan for you too. You’re not left out. I’m including you too. You are valuable to Me. You’re important. You’re people of worth. You are worth so much to me that I sent My Son Jesus to die for you.”


It states God “acknowledged them.” The word “acknowledged” comes from the Greek term emarturesen which is a verb from of martureo which means to bear witness to, be a witness, testify. God in Jesus and at the Gentile Pentecost that you Gentiles are important to Me and My Son died for you too. So if you’re not feeling very valuable today or worth much, understand God sent His only Son Jesus to die for you. You mean a lot to Him. He wants what’s best for you.


Fourth, God affirmed the Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit. It continues, “by giving them the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit indwelled and came upon these Gentiles in a life saving, life giving way. The work that happened in these people who had formerly been outcasts, was a work of the Holy Spirit. The work of God that happens in and through us is a work of the Holy Spirit. We need to remember that.


Fifth, what happened to the Gentiles in Acts 10 was the same as what happened to the Apostles and disciples in Acts 2. Peter is inspired to state, “just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them.” God is not a respecter of persons. God is impartial. He is willing to work in the person who surrenders to Him. God is fair and equitable; impartial. “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). So we can’t use the excuse that God doesn’t want to work in and through us like He does with others. If we are willing to cooperate with Him, God will work in us just like He does in the lives of other people. The work may not be identical, it may be different, but to Him it will be of equal value.


Sixth, God’s work purifies our heart by faith. The last portion of these two verses states, “purifying their hearts by faith.”  Purifying” (Greek katharisas: Aorist/Active/Participle of verb katharidzo) means having purified which refers to the work that was done by the Holy Spirit with the Gentiles. This word means cleanse, make clean, purify.

In the Old Testament it states:


Proverbs 20:9 (NKJV)

9     Who can say, “I have made my heart clean,

I am pure from my sin”?

These verses from Acts and this study will answer this question.

The work of the Holy Spirit in these Gentiles as well as Jews, that led to empowerment in life, was a work of heart purification. It was something these people had to accept by faith. It was not something forced on them against their will. But they had to receive this work by faith. There is a cooperation by faith that is our part in this work of the Holy Spirit. He will present certain truths to us and what needs to be done to work them out in us, we either accept by faith or reject by lack of faith. How we respond in faith or the lack thereof determines the work the Spirit does in us.

What might these Apostles, disciples, Jews and Gentiles who accepted Jesus as Savior/Messiah, needed to have their hearts purified from? Their hearts were purified from whatever hindered them from being powerfully used by God. 




·         Peters guilt over denying Jesus three times - John 18:19-27. John 21 reinstatement of Peter with Jesus - feeling of failed or inadequate love. 


·         Peters proud desire to be first - which caused him to always speak out of turn - foot in mouth disease - John 13:36-38. The disciples were vying with each other to be first before Jesus and in His Kingdom – Matthew 20:17-28; Luke 22:24-30 (in light of Jesus speaking of His cross in Luke 22:14-23).


·         Peter's fear of people that prevented him from standing for Jesus- John 13:36-38. 


·         Disciples fear (fear to be associated with Jesus at the crucifixion and cross - Mat. 26:56 and Mark 14:59) and disillusionment (that Jesus who they thought was to be their king was crucified). 


·         Thomas' doubt - John 20:24-29


2.      How were they purified? 


To answer that I'd like us to take a walk back into history, to consider what practical psychological effect the resurrection of Jesus had on the early church. 
Something more. Even after He rose from the dead the Apostles and disciples lacked something. Jesus instructed them to wait in Jerusalem until they were empowered from on high by the baptism with the Holy Spirit:


Luke 24:45–49 (NKJV)

45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things.

49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

There was something, according to Jesus (Who was never wrong), that they were missing, something that needed to be left behind, extracted from them, purified out of them.
In the movie "Rocky Balboa" there's a scene where Rocky is talking with Paulie and Ricky is breaking down over his feelings. He talks about how he has "stuff in the basement” - junk inside him. It's as though he won't be able to move on in life unless he removes this "stuff." The "stuff" is his feelings over losing his wife Adrian, over aging and losing who he is as a fighter ("fighters fight"), his identity and purpose in life; his sense of worth and meaning. He finds the solution to removing this "stuff" in his gut by training and fighting one last fight. By Jesus telling the Apostles and disciples they needed to wait in Jerusalem for the Father's Promise, it was like telling them they still had some stuff, some junk in them they needed to get rid of. We have "junk" we need to get rid of too. We have stuff in our gut that is keeping us from moving on. 

The resurrection of Jesus played the key part in getting rid of their junk. It can and will play a key part in getting rid of our junk too. 

Your assignment this week - between triumphal entry, crucifixion, and resurrection - is to do some soul and gut searching. Hey alone with the Lord and pray and ask the Lord to show you the "stuff in the basement” the “junk" in your life, the stuff that keeps Him from using you, the junk that trips you up, the junk that drags you down, the junk that gets in the way of you experiencing the abundant life Jesus wants you to experience, the junk that keeps you from moving on with Jesus in power. 


John Wesley, a man whose heart was burning and who the Lord used to revive a nation, said:


            “If I had three hundred men who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and were             determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified, I would set the world on fire.” [1]


Next week we'll talk about how the resurrection of Jesus helps us get rid of the junk. But for now, do some reflection, do some soul searching. You may want to revisit the Holy Week passages that depict Jesus death and resurrection:


·         Matthew 26-28

·         Mark 14-16

·         Luke 22-24

·         John 13-21


Get alone with the Lord during this holy week and ask Him to:


Psalm 139:23–24 (NKJV)

23   Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me, and know my anxieties;

24   And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting.

[1]Tan, P. L. 1996, c1979. Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Bible Communications: Garland TX