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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

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