Have you ever thought about how crazy it must have sounded to the disciples when Jesus announced that He was leaving?
It’s not hard to imagine their confusion! They had seen Jesus do so many wonderful and miraculous things; healing the blind and lame, filling empty baskets with food, turning water into wine… He even raised the dead on at least three occasions!
What could possibly be better than Jesus Himself here in the flesh?
But Jesus made it clear that it was better for Him to go, so the Holy Spirit could come.
In John 16:4-7 we read, “I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’ Instead, the longer I’ve talked, the sadder you’ve become. So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you.” (The Message translation)
The word ‘Friend’ there in the text is referring to the Holy Spirit… and we see here that God’s intention was that we would go from glory to glory, empowered by the Holy Spirit within us, bringing transformation and His Kingdom in every area of culture and society to all peoples.
In fact, Jesus even promised that we would do greater things than He did!
John 14:11-12 says, “The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who He is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.” (the Message translation)
How astounding is that scripture? How could we possibly do “greater things?”
The short answer is simple: The Holy Spirit working within us and through us!
We see that exact scenario in the immediate aftermath of Pentecost… the 120 followers of Jesus were obediently gathered in the Upper Room, waiting, as Jesus had told them to do when the Holy Spirit came.
What we see begin to occur from that powerful moment in Acts 2 onward helps us to understand some of the things we can expect to see in our lives and in our community as we allow the Holy Spirit greater access to our daily lives.
Perhaps for some of us, we’ve limited the work of the Holy Spirit to moments in meetings where the worship feels deep or where healing is present, but the book of Acts shows us a far greater picture of what can happen when we fully embrace the Holy Spirit in our lives and not just in our church meetings.
Here are five things that I see occurring in the aftermath of the Holy Spirit coming in the book of Acts:
1. Preaching with Power - From Acts 2 onward, the Church experiences exponential growth. The first moment of significant change is when Peter spoke, basically explaining the things that were occurring as the Holy Spirit began to fill the 120 who’d gathered in that Upper Room.
From Peter’s very brief, but powerfully anointed message, the early church grew from that original 120 people to 3000 in one meeting. That’s a 2500% growth in congregation size! Just for context, if we had that sort of growth here at CCV, we’d be a church of 50,000 in a single meeting. Just imagine the parking issues alone!
Peter’s words were good, but it was the power of the Holy Spirit within him and the presence of the Holy Spirit around him that brought such astonishing results. Often, we think that preaching is just for Sundays and that clever words or brilliant theology and some good humour are the secrets we need for success. Those things are all fine, but without the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit, preaching won’t bring lasting transformation in our lives and in our world.
In addition, when we allow the Holy Spirit free rein in our lives, we find preaching happens naturally and in so many normal circumstances far outside of our church walls. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that our lives can demonstrate the words that preach the wonderful good news of Jesus.
2. Moving in the Supernatural – Those early followers of Jesus did what they had seen Jesus do. They’d seen Him move in supernatural power, and now as they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they too began to experience the miraculous in the everyday!
In fact, they did do greater things in some cases than they’d seen Jesus do. For example, there are no accounts of anyone being healed in the shadow of Jesus, but in Acts 5:15 we read of people trying to get into the shadow of Peter to be healed!
Those early Christians saw an increase in supernatural power, and that increase was never meant to end. We too should expect to move in the supernatural as we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our lives. The Spirit often brings power for actual healing, whether that be physical or emotional. Jesus does the miraculous through us, but it’s up to us to step out in faith, looking for the supernatural as we listen to the Spirit’s voice within us.
3. Authority – These early Christians were ordinary people with supernatural authority. The disciples were less than impressive, but the filling of the Holy Spirit gave them new authority that changed nations. The Bible tells us that “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13 NIV
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit and allowing His work in our lives, we can walk with transformational authority, making us almost unrecognisable from our former selves due to the new character, power and grace that we carry because of the Spirit’s work within us. The Holy Spirit takes ordinary people and fills them with the power to carry the extraordinary because of His authority poured out in our lives. We desperately need that authority to bring life into our workplaces, neighbourhoods and schools and not just into our meetings!
4. Generosity and Social Action – One of the most astounding things we see in the book of Acts is the level of generosity and social action that these new believers participated in. In Acts 4:32-35 we read:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (NIV)
“God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all…” This demonstrates how transformational the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives can be! Far beyond our meetings, the Spirit wants to renew our minds and change the way we live. In this instance we see radical generosity and care for the needy amongst the community as an outgrowth of the work of the Holy Spirit.
When we welcome the Holy Spirit into every area of our lives, things began to change around us. The lives of our neighbours and friends should be affected and blessed as we respond with generous hearts and with movements of compassion, seeking to live so that there are “no needy persons” among us. This too is the work of the Holy Spirit!
5. Community – For me, one of the most powerful things I see happening in the book of Acts is how the work of the Holy Spirit took an incredibly diverse group of people from many ethnic backgrounds and knit them together in unity. That can only be explained by the power of the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came, the people around that Upper Room heard the followers of Jesus speaking in all of their languages, empowered by the Spirit. They were no longer split along Jewish or Greek lines, or any other lines for that matter! They were brought into glorious unity in their diversity because of the power of the Holy Spirit.
While we often seek to see the power or the move of the Holy Spirit in our meetings, we long to see the work of the Spirit in our streets, bringing nations together and communities of great diversity into wider families marked by the love of Jesus. In these polarising and divisive times, the only way we’ll truly be able to stand alongside one another in our diversity and difference is if we’re submitted to, and welcoming of, the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our communities as well as our church meetings.
Once these early followers recognised the power that the Holy Spirit made available to them and were willing to pay the cost, they moved out into culture and society leading multiple cities to transformation. Without the partnership of the Holy Spirit in the early church Galatia, Phillipi, Corinth, Ephesus and so many other cities would not have undergone lasting transformation that grew the movement of Jesus followers from then until this very day.
As we seek to move deeper in our understanding of, and our partnership with the Holy Spirit, let’s not settle for just more exciting meetings. Let’s welcome the Spirit into every area of our lives, transforming the society and culture we’ve been called to, following Jesus as we seek to His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as in Heaven.