Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Need to Wait on God - Empowerment from on High

Luke 24:49 "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Introduction & Review
In yesterday's post we did an overview of what scripture had to teach on the subject of waiting on God and zeroed in on Jesus' final instructions to His disciples in His post-resurrection appearances in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1. Between the time Jesus ascended in Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is 10 days.  That timeframe was to be the specific time of waiting.  We saw yesterday how both sets of verses in Luke and Acts give us some reasons as to why Jesus had these disciples to wait.

1). Wait for reception of (greater illumination) of Who God is and what He has for you. Luke 24:49a & Acts 1:4

2). Wait for empowerment from the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49b & Acts 1:8a

3). Wait so as to minister the message about the Son to all people. Acts 1:8b

We focused mainly on the first thought and concluded that one of the reasons Jesus had his disciples to wait, and why He often has us to wait, is to receive what He has for us and who He is. Jesus in His post-resurrected humanity breathed out additional grace and Spirit enablement upon the disciples. He "upgraded" them so to speak so that they could relate to Jesus. Soon He was going to be ascending and was going to be glorified ever further in His post-Pentecost state at the right hand of the Father.  In order for the apostles and the early church to enjoy and commune with the Post-Pentecost Jesus, they would require the full-orbed outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Much like what would take place if we plugged a toaster wired for 120 volts into a 240 outlet, these disciples required 10 days of waiting and refreshment and empowerment from on high to operate in all God was going to be requiring from them. Today we consider the second main reason we need to wait on God, so as to receive empowerment from on high.

A great quote that relates waiting on God and prayer
E.M Bounds was a preacher who prayed and a prayer warrior who preached.  His classic book: "Purpose in Prayer" is a standard on the subject of prayer and is recommended for the reader.  In the book Bounds explains how there can be no substitute for prayer, which touches upon our subject today about the need to wait on God.  E.M Bounds writes: "We cannot run our spiritual operations on the prayers of the past generation. Many persons believe in the efficacy (effectiveness) of prayer, but not many pray. Prayer is the easiest and the hardest of all things, the simplest and the sublimest (most profound); the weakest and the most powerful; its results lie outside the range of human possibilities - they are limited only by the omnipotence (all powerfulness) of God."

Jesus had the disciples wait in order to be empowered by the Holy Spirit
Truly prayer can be likened unto a lightening rod that points up into the air.  A saint who is in a posture of waiting on God will be likened unto that lightening rod.  Lightening rods can go for long extended periods of time before lightening strikes. Saints who wait on God do so until God in His Sovereign activity chooses to strike with His Omnipotent power to both energize and mobilize the saint. As Jesus was instructing His followers in the days leading up to His ascension, He knew they would need further enablement and empowerment to operate in the level God was calling them.  Luke 24:49b states - "but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Any Jewish person would had recognized the prophecies of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from Jesus' phrase "clothes with power from on high".  Prophecies such as Isaiah 32:15 and Joel 2:28-29 looked forward to a time at the end of history where messiah would return, restore the nation in repentance and salvation and pour out the Holy Spirit.  Undoubtedly as the disciples heard jesus speak these words, they would had perhaps been amazed at the fact that Jesus was moving up some dates so to speak - and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was going to be previewed in them.  Acts 1:8 re-echoes Jesus' words - "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Why empowerment was needed, and why waiting was required
We have mentioned this already but it is worth noting again, namely that whatever experiences the disciples had with Jesus, a measure of the Spirit's presence and power was required for them to appreciate and enjoy Him.  In John 14:16-17 Jesus indicated that the Spirit of God had been "with them" in their journeys with him during his earthly ministry.  However the time was coming when the Father in His name would send the Holy Spirit to dwell "in them". When Jesus died on the cross, the Disciples' fellowship with the pre-cross incarnate Jesus ended. 

However following His resurrection, a whole new experience and level was going to occur - namely the post-resurrected incarnated Jesus. Unlike before, Jesus now could walk through walls, dissappear from plain site and take on different forms.  It is no wonder He breathed "upon" and "into them" a greater measure of the Spirit in John 20:22. For 40 days the disciples would be encountered ten times by Jesus, instructed in further teachings about the Kingdom and shown further miracles. (Acts 1:1-3). Much like a computer that receives periodic upgrades to handle greater loads of information and new demands, Jesus' did the same for His disciples.

But now the 40 days were coming to a close, and the post-resurrected incarnate Jesus was getting ready to ascend into Heaven.  Jesus in His humanity was going to be experienced by the disciples in a whole new dimension and altered way like never before. The moment Jesus began to defy gravity and ascend into the clouds, His ascension transformed his human nature from that of post-resurrection glory to what would be the post-pentecost incarnate Christ following the day of Pentecost.

Why the disciples had to wait for ten days 
The waiting period of ten days between His ascension and Pentecost is not a random period of time.  Studies throughout the Bible reveal that ten day periods of time were used by God and His people to communicate increased illumination, empowerment and further defining of identity.  David in 1 Samuel 25:38-39 acknowledges God's deliverance of him from an enemy following a ten day waiting period of silence and anticipation until the enemy died. Jeremiah in Jeremiah 42:7 had the people of Israel wait ten days until he delivered a message from God to them regarding their future. Daniel in Daniel 1:12-14 fasted from meats for ten days to demonstrate to the pagan authorities the ability of God to sustain he and his friends. When we study other passages concerning the relationship between empowerment and waiting on God (Psalm 27:14; 123:2; Lamentations 3:25; 2 Cor 12:9-10) it is crystal clear that the pattern of waiting on the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:13-2:1 was Divinely ordained was for the sake of further empowerment.

Life application: 
If we as the church today are ever going to move forward in the Lord, we need to practice waiting on God for the sake of being empowered and illuminated by His Spirit through His Word. The church of history is a connected to that infant Pentecost church by the Holy scriptures.  So if anything, we need to return back to the Bible. Waiting on God does not necessarily equal inactivity. 

Secondly, in Acts 2:1 we see the early church gathered "in one accord" in the upper room.  This phrase "in one accord" carries with it the idea of prayer and intercession, an idea we find similarly expressed throughout the book of Acts. (1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 12:12) Thus increasing our emphasis upon prayer will practically enable us to be in a mode of waiting on God. 

Then thirdly, as we return back to the Bible and become a people of prayer, waiting on God includes the idea of doing it together in assembly with one another. The repetition of "together" and "with one accord" meant that the people were placing themselves corporately in order under God's authority as a local church. Unity does not happen automatically, it require intentional effort on the church's part. By getting back to the Bible, to prayer and to fellowship with one another, we can put into practice the necessity of waiting on God, and then we will empowered by Him to move forward to do His bidding.

More tomorrow.....
1. E.M Bounds. Purpose in Prayer. Moody Press.