Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message on The Appointment 7; Date: 14 June 09

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The Word Key

 

What is the number one key that determines whether you receive anything from God? What – according to the Scriptures – is to be at the core of your life? What determines the depth of your relationship with God and whether you will make it long-term as a Christian? We have one last look at Cornelius. He experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit – a complete submersion into the presence of God – that is promised to all of us. I read from the Bible – Acts 10:44-47: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message … The . believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on them [original: the Gentiles]. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising GodThis was the ultimate best that could happen to Cornelius and anyone. God poured out on them the Holy Spirit – his manifest presence – which made them break forth with praise – joy that could not be contained (even in the presence of strangers).

I give you another example of one such experience which is promised to every Christian even though the precise details of our experiences vary. Charles Finney writes in his memoirs: “As I went in and shut the door after me it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face … He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at His feet … I fell down … and poured out my soul to Him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance. It seemed to me as if I bathed His feet with my tears …

I returned to the front office and found that the fire … was nearly burned out. But as I returned and was about to take a seat by the fire. I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without expecting it, without every having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, at a moment entirely unexpected by me, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves, and waves of liquid love – for I could not express it in any other way. And yet it did not seem like water, but rather as the breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me like immense wings; and it seemed to me, as these waves passed over me, that they literally moved my hair like a passing breeze.

No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. It seemed to me that I should burst. I wept aloud with joy and love, and I do not know but I should say I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, ‘I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.’ I said to the Lord, ‘Lord, I cannot bear any more.’ Yet I had no fear of death” (Charles Finney: The Origianl Memoirs Of Charles G. Finney, Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989, p16).

(Short of spending eternity in heaven) there is nothing better available from God than variations of what Finney experienced – but now you have to understand the number one key for this to happen again and again. How can you make sure that after the initial baptism in the Holy Spirit, you will receive further outpourings – further drenchings and soakings in the Spirit of God?

The answer is contained in the first Bible verse which I read to you before. Hear the same verse again – Acts 10:44: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the messageThis is how it happened. A sermon was preached – Peter took his position and spoke the words and the congregation was listening to him – which then bore the result that the spoken words released the presence of God. Without question – it was the sermon of Peter – while he was still speaking – that bore the fruit of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

This is the key for you to receive even more from God: Get into his word. Hear from him. At first we may have looked at the Cornelius story and wondered why God took such great trouble in setting up a simple preaching engagement. Remember: God had sent an angel to Cornelius who told Cornelius that he was to send messengers after Peter who resided in another city – a few hours journey along the coast. Then – while the angel was busy with Cornelius – God let Peter fall into trance and gave him a vision which included hearing a voice from heaven. The whole point of the exercise was that Peter would agree to go to Cornelius and not look down upon him because he did not belong to the people of God. The whole point of the exercise was to set up a preaching engagement. God pulled out all stops (so it seems) to make it happen – Acts 10:19-20 – I read from the actual account: “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.’”

Finally, the preacher and his congregation came together and – by that time – they all knew the importance of this. Cornelius spelled it out clearly – Acts 10:33: “ … Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell usThen the sermon was preached and the Spirit released. The key was the message which Peter acknowledged again in his subsequent report to his home congregation. He said to the church in Jerusalem – Acts 11:13-15: “Cornelius told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved. As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them … ” “He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be savedThe message is the means of access to God.

Here I may add that Cornelius also had the faith to receive the word. The angel prepared him well. He was not like those about whom the Bible says – Hebrews 4:2: “ … the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith

At first Cornelius made the common mistake – sometimes even our mistake – of thinking that the key to God’s blessings was not so much the message but the messenger – the person of Peter. Therefore, we read in the Bible – Acts 10:25-26: “As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.’” Peter was not the key. He was an instrument of God – commissioned by God – filled with the Holy Spirit – as we all can be – but he was not brilliant. He was like the rest of us. When God commanded him in the vision – Acts 10:13: “ … Get up, Peter. Kill [some of these four-footed animals and reptiles which you see] and eatPeter refused God – point blank – more than once in the same vision – saying to God – Acts 10:14: “Surely not, Lord. I have never eaten anything impure or uncleanAre these the words of a great preacher: “Surely not, Lord. How can you ask me to do something that is wrong”? Then – for all of his experience – Peter (or at least those with him) were surprised that the preaching bore any results. The Bible records – Acts 10:45: “[They] … were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on these people [original: the Gentiles].”

On the one hand – the Bible does admonish us to honour – 1 Timothy 5:17: “especially those who labour in the word and doctrine” but – on the other hand – the messengers are never the key – the word of God is. Now – what is the word of God? What – precisely – is the core content of the message which releases the anointing? We can easily go wrong here because God is speaking to us all of the time and he produced a lot of excitement in our Bible account. He sent a messenger angel to Cornelius who – at first – stared at the angel in fear but then conversed with him. Peter experienced a trance, a vision, a voice from heaven, a Holy Spirit impression – so much was going on and all for the purpose of letting people hear from God what he wanted them to do. And for us it is the same. We also expect to hear from God – words of direction, guidance, … Even today messenger angels are visiting Christians and people fall into trances. There are some that receive visions from heaven – and this may have already happened to you or will happen to you – but these words of God – as exciting as they are – they are not the main word of God. They are part and parcel of an alive relationship with God but not the core content of salvation.

All of these prophetic communications only served to set up Peter’s sermon – the preaching of the main point – which Peter himself specified as the following – Acts 10:36: “You know the word which God [original: he] sent to the people of Israel telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of allWhat is the word? Peace with God through Jesus Christ. With this word Peter began his sermon and then – later – also concluded his sermon, confirming the same at the end – Acts 10:42-43: “Jesus commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” “ … everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his nameThis is becoming crystal clear. The word of God is peace through Jesus Christ – forgiveness of sins through him – for everyone who believes in him. It was this message that released the Spirit on Cornelius and his family.

This is very practical. Whatever you do in life, keep this word central in your heart – never fail to meditate on the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross – what it means that the holy one poured out his blood for you. Keep this word alive in your estimation – don’t become bored with what you think that you know. This is deeper than we will ever appreciate and this is more powerful than we will ever know – Acts 10:44: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message[Revelations 5:2-14: “And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll? But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne … And when he had taken the scroll … they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy … because you were slain and with your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation … ’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels … ‘Worthy is the lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’ Then … every creature … ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power for ever and ever!’ … ”]

In like manner – another preacher in the Bible said – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “When I came to you … I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified … but [and now notice what he adds] … my preaching came with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power … ” Here again – the resolve to preach nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified – the singular focus on the main message – released the power of the Holy Spirit. Can we understand now why the Bible can strike such a note of celebration, saying – Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes … ” We make this our own. Never tire of the gospel – the core word. Never be ashamed of the gospel – ever – because the content of what you share releases power – for salvation.

All right – what have we said so far? The key for you to receive from God is the word of God – and the word is not so much what angels may tell you or what you may receive in visions – but – always – the main message of salvation: Jesus Christ and him crucified. Through this word the power comes. Through the name of Jesus – and him crucified – you can operate in power. For instance, this is how the disciples healed a man with crippled legs. They said – Acts 3:6: “ … In the name of Jesus … walk.” “In the name of Jesus – and what he did on the cross for us – walk[Cf. Philippians 2:9-11.]

[Maybe here I make another reference to the faith component which is necessary to wield the word of power. The disciples – who healed the man with crippled legs – also made reference to the importance of faith. They told the crowd – Acts 3:16: “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name [the author of the salvation message] and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him … ”]

Now – I want to expand on this and draw your attention to another detail in Peter’s sermon. He explained to Cornelius that – Acts 10:43: “ … all the prophets testify about Jesus that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” which was bringing to Cornelius’ attention that the Bible (the prophetic books) confirmed what he was preaching. Jesus himself emphasized the importance of the Bible. After he rose from the dead, he said to his disciples – Luke 24:44-47: “ … ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms [that is: the parts of the Bible that were written before Jesus was born – the Old Testament].’ Then Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name … ’”

The is again practical for us. We read our Bibles and as we read, we discover that so much of the Bible points to Jesus Christ – and him crucified – and – therefore – the more we read, the more the word of God releases power into our lives. Peter preached the Bible to Cornelius and therefore – as we keep reading the Bible for ourselves – the same can happen as happened through the preaching of Peter – power is released. The Holy Spirit comes on us. This is the key: Come under the word of God. Read the Bible. Treasure the Bible. [And let this be the culture of our church – Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom … ”]

This is also the key for long-term success. We love to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be filled again and again – but everything that is to come – a long-term relationship with God – is determined by what we do with the word of salvation. Jesus told this parable – I read from the Bible – Luke 8:5-8: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sownThe disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying and therefore Jesus explained the parable to them, saying – Luke 8:11-15: “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop

This is a most sobering parable. Lots of people get attracted to God when they see him do miracles and experience his love and joy. It is a good day when you can leave the old life behind and put your trust in God. But – unless you nurture the word of salvation – let it grow in you – this will not last. Consider again this one verse: “Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall awayYou cannot sustain the initial joy, if you do not let the word put down roots in your life. A life with God is not about being zapped with wonderful experiences which you think are going to sustain you. A life with God is determined by what you do with his word and this will require from you discipline, study, perseverance, standing against the devil and temptations, and saying no to what chokes your relationship with God – the worries of life, riches and pleasures (endless distractions). You hold on and retain the word in all circumstances – even when you feel flat – and then – and only then – will you experience that power is released through the word – again and again in your life – to the effect that – according to the parable – the word in you – the one seed – produces a hundred-fold increase in others.

In the Bible you can read about others who have let the word of God grow in them. A mentor gave the following advice to a young church leader – the advice is recorded in the Bible itself – 2 Timothy 3:14-17 – he said: “ … continue in what you have learned … you know those from whom you learned it … from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness … ” Therefore – according to this advice and the experience of many – if we want an ongoing life in the Spirit of God, we treasure the Bible.

And just in case that we think that this is not exciting enough, there is this testimony from a man with a strong prophetic gift. He writes: “I remember the lady in my . church setting, who, although very proper and very nice, upset me by continually asking me to give her a word from the Lord. One day she came up and said, ‘Mr Cain, do you have a word from the Lord for me?’ This time she pushed me over the edge. Holding up a Bible, I said, ‘Oh, yes, dear lady. Here is a whole book of them! Take this and read it for yourself.’ Well, as dramatic as that was, she thought I was under the anointing, and she took the Bible, read it, and became a walking Bible. I saw her a year later … and she was aflame, aglow. She was the head of the Women’s Aglow [a Bible study organization]! It was wonderful … ” (Paul Cain: The Role Of The Word, in: Paul Cain – R.T. Kendall, The Word And The Spirit, Lake Mary: Creation House 1998, p24). The Bible can satisfy any craving for a word from God – for you. There is a whole book of them.

[And still another point – the more we master the book, the more God can make use of what we have studied. For instance, when Peter was wondering about the Spirit on Cornelius, the Bible records that – Acts 11:16: “ … he remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” The more we learn, the more God can make us remember when we need the information – according to Jesus’ promise – John 14:26: “ … the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”]

How are you feeling right now? Do we gain an appreciation for the word of God – the number one key that determines whether we receive anything from him? Are you ready now to get into the word with eagerness and enthusiasm? Let me ask you a practical question: What are your plans? Will you read the Bible tonight before you go to sleep or tomorrow before you go to work? When Peter preached his sermon to Cornelius, the Spirit was released. There is power in the word of God. It determines whether you make it long-term with God.

Maybe in this last segment of my sermon I spend some more time – hammering how powerful the word of God is. According to the Bible – God spoke the world into existence – 2 Peter 3:5: “ … by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed … ” – and even now the Son Jesus Christ is – Hebrews 1:3: “ … sustaining all things [that is: the universe] by his powerful word …” Further – Hebrews 4:12: “ . the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword … judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Ephesians 6:17: “ … the sword of the Spirit . is the word of GodIn a most dramatic vision Jesus is armed with a sword that is coming from his mouth – words of power –Revelations 19:11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True … his name is the Word of God … Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations … ”

Then, there are further references how the word of God brings us into salvation – 1 Peter 1:23-25: “ . you have been born … through the living and enduring word of God … ” James 1:18: “God chose to give us birth through the word of truth … ” [Colossians 1:6: “ … this gospel is bearing fruit and growing … ” Ephesians 5:26: “ … cleansing . by the washing with water through the word … ”] 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6: “ . our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction … you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 1:13: “ … the word of God . is at work in you who believe.” [Cf. 1 Timothy 4:5.]

This goes further still. God made an absolute commitment to confirm his word with power – the release of Spirit power in the form of visible demonstrations. Hebrews 2:3-4: “ … This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord … God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit … ” Jesus invited people to trust him, saying – John 10:38: “ … even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” John 14:11: “ … believe on the evidence of the miracles … ” Peter issued the same invitation in his first sermon after Jesus ascended to heaven – Acts 2:22: “ … listen to this: Jesus … was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” [Cf. Mark 16:20.]

Whenever the word of God is proclaimed – salvation in the name of Jesus Christ – we can expect power demonstrations. Think about what this means for us as a church. What the apostle Paul wrote, will be our testimony – 1 Corinthians 2:4-5: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17). We will pray like the first Christians – Acts 4:29-30: “Now Lord, … enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness by stretching out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant JesusAnd we will experience the same as the Christians in the Bible – Acts 14:3: “ … the Lord . confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” Acts 8:6: “When the crowd heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said

How is our excitement level now? This is the key. With God – words are not mere words. They are power and power confirms them. His word sustains the universe, cuts like a double-edged sword – always accomplishes what it declares. And what is most amazing – (I have made mention of it already) people like Peter who was preaching to Cornelius – and people like you and I – we speak his word – with the same power. When the disciples returned to Jesus with joy, saying – Luke 10:17: “ … Lord, even the demons submit to us in your nameJesus let them know – Luke 10:16: “He who listens to you, listens to me … ” “He who listens to you, listens to me … ” God lets us have his word – in our mouth – to speak it with all of his power. Wow! [Not even the angels have this privilege. Cf. Acts 10.]

Therefore, what remains for us to do now is to speak the word and use the very key that releases the Holy Spirit. Where do we begin? What are we to say? Preaching the same sermon that Peter preached to Cornelius would be a good start. But then the Bible lets us peek into the depth of our salvation – the incomparable richness of God’s grace – and the sermon becomes rather long because – Ephesians 1:3: “ … the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . has blessed us … with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:20: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ … ” Imagine! Whatever promise we find the Bible, it is our to declare – to speak all of them into existence. What a fun way to read the Scriptures.

After decades of doing healing ministry an evangelist (Bill Johnson) discovered that whenever he announced in a church meeting that it is the most normal thing for tumors to disappear in the presence of Lord, in eighty per cent of church meetings they would disappear in numerous people. When he did not make the declaration, they could have ten days of meetings with an overwhelming sense of the presence of God but no healing of tumors. The speaking out of God’s truth – his promise – would release the healing.

My own experience over the last two years has been that whenever I preach that Jesus Christ defeated Satan on the cross – whenever I speak out the truth that demons need to leave in Jesus’ name – they would stir and people would be set free. When I don’t preach on this topic, we don’t experience the same kind of confrontation with the kingdom of darkness. [Cf. Luke 4:39; 8:24.]

The word of God is the key – for everything. How well do you know your Bible? What further promises can we declare? I give you three – Romans 8:28: “ … in all things God works for the good of those who love him … ” 1 Corinthians 10:13: “ … God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” James 4:7: “ … Resist the devil, and he will flee from you

Now – are we ready to release the power? Then – let’s speak in agreement: “On account of Jesus Christ and him crucified – no matter what is happening in your life right now, God works for the good of you.” “This temptation will not get the better of you.” “The devil will flee from you

As Christians we use the word key to Spirit power every day. In closing I want to mention two more of God’s best words – that is: (water) baptism and Holy Communion – which from ancient times have been called “visible words” (Augustine). There is much power in both of them as – in their case – the core content of salvation is acted out in words and deeds – not only heard with our ears but also experienced in water, bread and wine. As soon as a person repents and becomes a Christian, he is invited to be baptized in Jesus’ name which makes him experience the power of salvation as Jesus declares to him in this act: “I have washed you clean from sin. Your old life has died in the water and you are now raised up with me.” [Cf. Romans 6:2-7; Galatians 3:27.] The Bible explains – 1 Peter 3:21: “ … baptism . now saves you … by the resurrection of Jesus Christ … ”

The other visible word – Holy Communion – is spoken out many times throughout our lives. Jesus commanded us to – Luke 22:19: “ … do this in remembrance of him [original: me].” One day before he died Jesus conveyed the message of salvation in a meal. He was sitting together with his disciples when he took the bread and declared over it – Luke 22:10: “This is my body given for you … ” and he spoke over the wine – Luke 22:20: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for youThen the further explanation is given that – 1 Corinthians 11:26: “ … whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes

This is a visible word of power because we not only hear about the death of Jesus and salvation through his broken body and blood. We act it out – by his command – and experience the taste of his sacrifice in bread and wine. Every time we have Holy Communion we remember and reenact and bring into the present the words which Jesus himself spoke: “This is my body – for you. This is my blood – for you – a new covenant of forgiveness. Receive it – now.” [Cf. prophetic actions.]

I finish here. If you want God, love his word. It was when Peter preached his sermon to Cornelius that the Spirit was released. Amen.