Tuesday, August 25, 2015

 Back to the Book of Acts
                                By Pastor Max Solbrekken, D.D.
    Revival in the Church! What is a genuine Heaven sent Revival? Is it Possible today? How does it come and whom will it affect? Why do we not have it? Do we need it? What are the prerequisites for Revival? Do we want it? Is it necessary?
      The ANSWER is that we desperately need the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives individually and corporately so that may we may enjoy the blessings of God for ourselves and others.
     It is high time to check the spiritual temperature in our own hearts and measure that with the Word of God to see where we actually stand with the Lord! We DARE NOT compare ourselves with others as their standards may be too low.
    Our objective must be to return to the place in God that we were, when Jesus became the Lord of our lives and the Bible the RULE BOOK to which we subscribed and the Holy Spirit's VOICE we heard clearly!
     The old cliche, “I'm as good as my neighbour”, doesn't cut it with God! He says: “But as He which hath called you is Holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy as I am Holy.” (1 Peter 1: 15, 16)
      “And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
     “His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire, and His feet like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in His strength.
      “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not: I am the First and the Last: I am He that liveth and was dead: and behold I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of Hell and of death.” (Rev. 1: 12-18)
     When our Crucified, Risen and Glorified Lord appeared to John the Beloved on the Isle of Patmos, He addressed the spiritual condition of the seven churches in Asia and prescribed the remedy for their Desperate Needs!
     To five of the seven churches, His admonition and command was to repent, or else He would bring judgment upon them!
      REPENT or ELSE were the words that came out of His mouth. There were no mushy words of platitude or political correctness. The Message we receive when we read St. John's visions is one of seriousness and immediacy. There is no time to dither or meander. There is an urgency in His statements that require our immediate attention!
     “You have left your first love”, thundered out the Master to the Ephesian Church. His remedy was, “Remember therefore from whence thou hast fallen, and REPENT and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Rev. 2: 4, 5)
      He also spoke with tenderness to those churches which were serving Him in purity of heart and doctrine: “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write:      These things saith the First and the Last, which was dead and is alive. I know thy works and tribulation and poverty (but thou art rich) … Fear NONE of these things which thou shalt suffer... Be thou faithful unto death and I shall give thee the crown of Life. (Rev. 2: 9, 10)
                 GO BACK TO THE ORIGINAL!
      What is our goal? What should our criteria be? Is it not to please the Master? Is it not to do the First Works? Is it not to return to our First love for Him and His Gospel?  Is it not to receive His mighty power to defeat the enemy of our souls and by His grace to build the Kingdom of God?
     The Answer is to go back to the Original! Right back to the Day of Pentecost and the Book of Acts which chronicles the Acts of the Holy Spirit! He is the Only One who has the Key to Revival, because He is the One Who inaugurated the Church on the Day of Pentecost!
      “And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
        “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak in tongues, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 1: 1-4
      Jesus had given them their MARCHING ORDERS before He left them to sit on His Father's right hand in Heaven:
     “And behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on High. And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into Heaven.” (Luke 24: 49-51)
     “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the GOSPEL to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
      “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16: 15-18)
      “So then after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with SIGNS following.” (Mark 16:19, 20)
      When God called Moses to rear up the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, He gave the former sheep herder a set of precise instructions which he followed consistently for forty years in the wilderness journey.
     Repeatedly, he relates how that Almighty God refreshed his memory on the precise measurements, the colours to use and even the minutest details on what he must manufacture and use for setting up the tabernacle and the articles therein.
      “And let them make Me a Sanctuary; that I may dwell among them, according to all that I SHOW thee, after the PATTERN of the tabernacle and the PATTERN of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.” (Ex. 25: 8, 9)
      “And look that thou make them after the PATTERN, which was SHOWN thee in the mount.” (Ex, 25:40); “And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle ACCORDING to the fashion thereof which was SHOWN thee in the mount.” (Ex. 26: 30)
       St. Paul proves without the shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is our Heavenly High Priest. As he does, he gives us a detailed report of the preciseness of God's methodology in all things. He doesn't do things at random. Here he uses the Tabernacle in the wilderness to make his point:
       “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things ACCORDING to the PATTERN showed to thee in the mount.” (Heb.8: 5)
                  VITAL CONNECTION NEEDED!
      Our PATTERN is the Day of Pentecost and the Book of Acts! Our Leader is the Holy Spirit of God. He can and does bring new and wonderful things into our lives, but He always follows the true and tested PATTERN that He used in setting up the Church on the Day of Pentecost!
      WHY would He want to change the most powerful and effective method He used to build the Church out of nothing? How absurd and stupid man is, if he thinks he can somehow over ride and over rule Deity in the work of Christ's Church on earth? Where does this nonsense come from, if not from Satan the world's greatest Deceiver and Manipulator?
       Deception and PRIDE in the highest degree, would have mere earthlings dictating to Jesus Christ the Creator of the world and the AUTHOR of Salvation, on how to build His Church and save the world from sin and destruction!
      Who but a narcissist or imbecile would take upon himself the prerogative of removing from God's Holy Spirit the leadership of His Church and changing the PATTERN laid out for us in our Lord's Master Plan, called the Great Commission!
      During our outstanding Crusade in Newfoundland in 1968, I was invited to be the guest of that province's Radio Network in Gander. I was being interviewed by their leading interviewer. And the Holy Spirit was present in a strong way.
      Suddenly my interviewer began to tear up and had a difficult time to speak. I asked him if he was a backslider and he answered in the affirmative. He excused himself and asked if I would take ten minutes to speak on the subject: “The Greatest Mistake the Church has made in the last 2000 years?
      I stated: “The Church's greatest mistake is two-fold: First, the Church has rejected the Holy Spirit Whom God has sent to Oversee the Church and placed that authority and power into the hands of men like popes, archbishops, bishops and pastors. And secondly, the Church has rejected the Holy Bible, the Word of God which He has anointed, as the only rule for faith, morals and conduct.”
      After I had prayed for the people of Newfoundland and we were walking toward the office, I saw several men approaching us. At first, I thought perhaps they were going to castigate me for causing their head interviewer to break down on the air.
       They were all smiles saying, “All the telephone lines have been jammed.  About 70, 000 people heard the program across the province. We have a TV Station across the street. We have it all set up for you. Please go over there and do the same thing there!”
                      FOR GOD’S GLORY ALONE!
       Those were exciting days, indeed! By God's grace, I know a little of what God has planned for His End-Time Church, operating boldly in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. For more than fifty years I have witnessed His great mercy, love and power in my own life and hundreds of thousands of lives across the world, for His honour and glory alone!
     We are children of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and by God’s grace alone we have been Born Again and Filled with the Holy Spirit. We are bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh and members in particular of His Body, the Church! We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ and sealed by the Blessed Holy Spirit!
      We are pilgrims and strangers here and one day we shall see Jesus Christ in all His Glory and fall before Him in adoration and praise and tell the story: saved by grace! Hallelujah to the Lamb forever and ever!
      We are clean through the cleansing of His precious blood, healed through the power of His Word, Name and Blood and called to be apostles sent out to preach the Gospel of Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. We are called to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. And we are signs and wonders of His amazing grace, for the glory of His precious and worthy Name!
      Can we not do what the Primitive Church did in times of great suffering, persecution and martyrdom? Out of nothing and with a handful of common plebian men, Jesus Christ would pour His great mercy, love and compassion upon a wicked world. Is not that still applicable today?
      The pivotal point, however, was His vicarious, substitutionary death on Golgotha and His glorious resurrection from the dead that would transform not only His disciples and followers, but the lives of millions for the next two centuries!
     Teaching by Word and Example, our Saviour had changed his ragtag group into men who would eventually be willing to die for Him and His cause. It was the ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ and the infusion of power that He had promised them, however, that would define them as the mighty men of God they became!
     What Jesus of Nazareth had failed to do with His little group of apostles during His three years with them, the Holy Spirit did in a moment of time when He baptized then with His Spirit and Fire!
      Jesus had promised: “If ye love Me keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not neither knoweth Him; for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you.” (John 14: 16-18)
      Who can doubt the amazing transformation that took place in the life of the Big Fisherman, Simon Peter, who had earlier denied that he knew Jesus Christ, saying, “Let a curse be upon me if I’m lying.”
      HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED: “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: for these are not drunken, as ye suppose                                                         seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
     “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on My servants and on My handmaidens, I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophecy.” (Acts 2: 14-18)
      Unafraid, He preached the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth with great intensity and wonderful results: “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the PROMISE of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.” (Acts 2: 32, 33)
                 WHAT WERE THE RESULTS?
      “Now when they heard this they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, REPENT, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
      “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Then they that gladly received his Word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:37-41)
      What an altar call that was! THREE THOUSAND SOULS repented after they had seen and heard the evidence of the mighty Baptism of the Holy Spirit and been convicted by Peter's anointed Message of the Jesus Christ's substitutionary Death and Resurrection!
      The Church that Jesus Christ purchased with His own BLOOD through His death and resurrection and inaugurated on the Day of Pentecost, functioned perfectly in great power and influence from that day forward and will continue until He returns to rapture His Bride!
    The Miracle Power of God startled, amazed and astonished those who witnessed the ministry of Jesus, the Twelve Apostles, Seventy Disciples, Stephen, Philip and St. Paul the apostle and founder of Christ's Church in the Gentile World.
        The Bible says: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by MIRACLES and WONDERS and SIGNS, which God did by Him the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.” (Acts 2: 22);
     “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, Who went about doing good and HEALING all who were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10: 38)
      The healing of the LAME MAN at the Beautiful Gate brought 5,000 souls to Christ and strengthened the fledgling Church: “And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple. Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms…
      “Then said Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
     “And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God: 
     "And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple: and they were filled with WONDER and AMAZEMENT at that which had happened to him.” (Acts 3:1-10)
                                MIRACLES: BECAUSE OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION!
      Simon Peter admonished the people not to look to John or himself because they are just men and have no power to heal. He said that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had glorified His Son, Jesus by raising Him from the dead and that is why this crippled man was well and walking perfectly.
     “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just and desired a murderer to be granted unto you: And killed the Prince of Life, Whom God hath raised from the dead: whereof we are witnesses. And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” (Acts 3: 14-16)
      Simon the son of Jonas closed his powerful message by inviting everyone to repent of their sins and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour:
      “Repent ye therefore, and be converted that your sins may be BLOTTED out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you.” (Acts 3: 19, 20)
     The disciples were jailed for preaching the Gospel, but five thousand men gave their hearts and lives to our Lord: “Howbeit many of them which heard the Word believed: and the number of them was about five thousand.” (Acts 4: 4)
                  SIGNS, WONDERS & MIRACLES!
     When the Church came under heavy persecution, many of their members fled Jerusalem and wherever they went they brought the Gospel message of the crucified and resurrected Jesus with them. His glorious message continued to be spread abroad by Spirit–filled believers in Christ!
     The Holy Spirit worked through several of the Seven Deacons which had been installed in the Jerusalem Church. STEPHEN was truly a mighty man of God and became the first Christian martyr. The Holy Scriptures gives us this report:
      “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Ghost…Whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And Stephen full of faith and power did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (Acts 6:5-8)
     Enemies of the Cross made false statements about him to the Jewish authorities. They asked Stephen if those things were true. His answer was power packed with Jewish history, Holy Scripture and Prophecies pointing to Jesus of Nazareth as the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God. They were so convicted by the TRUTH that they determined to kill him.
     The Scripture says: “And all that sat in the council looked steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel ...” (Acts 6:15)
     “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into Heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. He said, Behold, I see the Heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
      “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord. And cast him out of the city, and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
      “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:54-60)
     Devout men carried Stephen to his burial and great lamentation was made for him by the Church in Jerusalem. The persecution, however, increased and many believers were scattered abroad and everywhere they went, they spread the Good News of the resurrected Jesus Christ.
      The Second Deacon that God used mightily is Philip: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with  one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8: 5-7)
                                         RECEIVE YE THE HOLY SPIRIT!
      The Church grew as the blessed Holy Spirit led the Body of Christ through persecution, divisions, false doctrine, immorality, jealously, envy and other attacks of the enemy!
     There is so much more I could write about our beloved Lord Jesus the Head of the Church, and the Blessed Holy Spirit Who is still leading us into all truth.
      I will leave you with this thought. In 1987, I had been invited to speak, together with five others, at the First Latin American Pentecostal Conference of the Holy Spirit in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Cover of Newsweek had just come out with a large Headline: Latin America Prominently Cardinal Red Turning Protestant Black.
     The large article reported that 400 Roman Catholics were converting to the Evangelical Church every hour! The Protestant Black referred to the habit of Protestants carrying their Bibles to Church. My weekly column in the Edmonton Sun the next Sunday carried those statistics, with these words from me: 
     "The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Pope is the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and as such leads the Church. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and He sent the Holy Spirit to lead His Church on earth. I'm sorry John Paul 11, I didn't know the Holy Spirit had taken early retirement!"
      To clear up a misunderstanding, the Pope is not the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. The Holy Spirit is still leading and guiding His Church. And the Church is built on Jesus Christ Himself, the Solid Rock and Sure Foundation. And He is the Head of the Church! Praise God.
      My invitation today is to all who are hungering and thirsting for the Truth. Receive Jesus Christ into your heart and life and you will Know the truth because He is the TRUTH. Ask Him to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and your thirst will be satisfied.
       The Bible states: "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man  thirst, let him come unto Me, and DRINK. He that beliveth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of Living Water. But this He spake of of the SPIRIT, which they should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet, because Jesus that was not yet glorified." (John 7: 37-39). Amen.