of the first sins ever committed in this world was the “excuse”. After Adam had
eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he excused his sin by
blaming Eve. And then Eve excused her sin by blaming Satan. The Bible is full
of people who made excuses when God called them into service, or called them on
their sin. You may remember the story of Moses. When God called him to lead the
Israelites out of Egypt, Moses said, “I’m not eloquent.” So the Lord said, “I
gave you your mouth—I can enable you to do it.” How did Moses respond? “Send
someone else.” So God said, “I’ll give you Aaron as a spokesman! Now go!” God
doesn’t want excuses. He doesn’t want people to say, “I can’t” when He calls
text gives the same kind of scenario. Jesus had guided his disciples through
some very trying times. He had taught them for three years, preparing them for
their own ministries. He had died for them, and given them faith to believe in
Him as the Messiah when He rose from the dead. But now it was time for them to
go on their own. Jesus told them, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in
all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The only catch was: Jesus
would no longer be by their visible side to hold them by the hand. When the
truth finally had sunk in, they would be overwhelmed. How would they survive on
their own? They couldn’t!
a similar way, many of us think that God gives us tasks that are just too
difficult for us to handle. Whether it’s getting your taxes done on time,
cleaning up the house and getting the food ready before company arrives, or
watching three kids at one time, sooner or later—all of us have thought to
ourselves, “I can’t do this.” Jesus has some good encouragement for us today.
was a boy named Ricky who grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. Ricky was born
with a medical condition commonly known as club feet. The doctors had assured
his parents that he would walk normally with treatment, but that he would never
be able to run well. But the parents never told Ricky this. Day after day he
would join with the other kids, and try to run and play with them. Eventually,
in 7th grade he even tried out for the cross country team, and he made it. What
was the reason the parents gave for Ricky’s success? “We never told him he
couldn’t do it.”
is a good reflection of the humanistic approach to life today. The theory many
of our children are being given is, “you can do whatever you set your mind to.
The only thing that will stop you is when you doubt yourself.” That’s both
optimistic and less than the full truth, but you and I both know that it goes
on. Children are being taught that they can be whatever they want to be.
he or she says, “I can’t,” they are quickly corrected with a pep talk—“you
CAN!” It sounds good. It makes them feel good for a while. So, many people
today are filled with self confidence which borders on self-absorption. But
unfortunately, over confidence and false hope often leads to feelings of
disappointment and failure when the expectations are not met.
the disciples—frightened of being alone—tried to talk Jesus into staying with
them, did He say to them—“you can do it! You can carry the torch! You can make
the church grow! You don’t need me!”? Look again. Jesus never pointed his
disciples to an inner strength—He never wanted his disciples to rely on their
own self potential. With God, He works in the exact opposite way. He knows what
we are like—and He wants us to be realistic about ourselves. Jesus said, out of
the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false
only potential that we are truly born with is the potential for evil. So God wants
us to realize that we are weak; that we don’t have the ability to do whatever
we want to do.
of pointing the disciples to themselves, Jesus gave them a much greater
strength. He promised to give them a source of strength and power that would enable
them to leap much taller buildings, as it were. They would give far greater
speeches, and have unlimited potential.
said to them, “Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard
me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be
baptized with the Holy Spirit. . . You will receive power when the Holy Spirit
comes on you.” Although John’s baptism also gave the Holy Spirit—this
baptism would be an even more powerful baptism—enabling them to speak in
languages that they had never heard before.
is what gave the disciples confidence. It enabled them to say, “I can
carry the torch of faith—not just to my neighbors or friends—but to the ends of
the earth.” Jesus gave them confidence by showing them that the future of the
church was not resting on their abilities, their eloquence, or their know-how.
The future of the Christian church was in the hands of God. He would work
through them. And if that weren’t enough, God also gave them extra
encouragement. As they were staring up in the sky, what happened?
two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky?
This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the
same way you have seen him go into heaven."
only did the disciples gain confidence from knowing the Holy Spirit would work
through them, God also showed that He would also use angels to guide and
protect them. They had heavenly helpers to achieve God’s mission. This was one
reason they were able to say, “I can.”
God still works the same way. All of you who were baptized have been given the
same Holy Spirit and the same angels. They are just as powerful now as they
were then. If the Holy Spirit enabled those disciples to spread the Gospel back
then, He can do the same today. He enables us to speak in a different tongue
also—for every time we say “Jesus is Lord,” we are speaking a language that we
were not born with. To confess Jesus as God and Lord and Savior is a language
that cannot be taught to you by human teachers. It is a language foreign to
your natural vocabulary.
this changes our attitude. With God’s power, we no longer will say, “I can’t.”
As long as the Holy Spirit is not driven out of us, we will say, “I can.” We
come to realize that it isn’t dependant on us, but on the Heavenly Helper
working through us and God’s heavenly helpers standing beside us. We can bring
our children up in God’s Word. We can earn a living. We can resist temptations.
long as we keep connected to the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, there is
no reason for us to say, “I can’t.” As the angel told Elizabeth, “nothing is
impossible with God.” If that is not your attitude, then you need to get
reconnected to the Spirit. Remember that it isn’t Richard Simmons living in
you—it’s the Holy Spirit—God Almighty! [PAUSE]
told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for this gift of the Holy Spirit. This
may sound like an easy thing to do. But any of you who have waited for a
vacation, a promotion, a holiday, or graduation realize that waiting isn’t all
even more difficult when your life depends on what you are waiting for. At this
point, the disciples’ lives were constantly in danger—they needed more power to
face such hatred and unbelief. But all they could do was wait. You might
compare it to waiting in the woods for a friend who’s driven off into town to
get your rifle to get back, with a bear charging you at full speed. It wasn’t
must have been very difficult to sit there for those ten days and just wait for
the gift that would enable them to carry on God’s mission. But notice what
Jesus didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Go to your room and wait alone.” He only
said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised.”
He allowed them to spend time together as they waited for this gift. This is
what they did. In the verses which immediately follow our text from Acts today,
returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s
walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where
they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and
Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot,
and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along
with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
is the significance of this? Remember what the disciples had just been through.
They all had seen their leader—the one they expected to set up an earthly
kingdom—leave them! The angels pretty much told them, “don’t expect Him to come
back for a while!” They needed to hash this out with one another. They needed
to struggle with it—to talk about it—to come to terms with it. If they were
left alone, they might have despaired. They may have begun to think to
themselves, “There’s no way I can survive!”
by being able to meet together with the fellow believers, they were able to
encourage one another and reassure each other. They were able to talk about the
coming gift of the Holy Spirit in eager expectation. Instead of despairing—all
of the disciples and the women encouraged one another, praying for strength.
allowing them to meet together for those ten days, Jesus gave them yet another
reason to say, “I can.” They weren’t in the battle alone. They had the help and
support of other Christians to help them through this difficult time.
see, the Church works like a pile of charcoal in a grill. When coals are piled
together, they feed off of each other’s heat, keeping each other warm and
glowing. But you’ll notice that if one coal falls to the side, it soon loses
its heat, and its fire goes out.
what almost happened with Elijah. He had just won a great victory over the 450
prophets of Baal. But then Queen Jezebel threatened his life, and Elijah fled
for his life. He was left alone in a cave at Mount Horeb, hundreds of miles
away from home.
was at this point of loneliness that Elijah despaired for his life. He said to
the Lord, “I am the ONLY ONE left, and they are trying to kill me too.”
So God reassured him, “you are not alone. There are 7,000 that have not
bowed the knee to Baal.” With that reassurance, Elijah went back to
accomplish his mission. That’s the way the Christian Church works. When
Christians are left alone—they quickly despair. When they fail to worship, and
serve God and one another, and share, their faith quickly loses energy. But
when they have the support of others, they are able to grow. Jesus knew this,
so he allowed the disciples ten days to feed off of one another before sending
you have been despairing of your life, wondering if you will be able to survive
the trials and temptations that you are facing right now—let me ask you
this—have you been in fellowship with the saints as often as possible? Have you
taken the Lord’s Supper at every opportunity? Have you been coming to church
consistently? Have you been spending time talking to fellow Christians, participating
in Bible classes, and just talking about the faith we confess? The devil knows
how to attack you—by breaking you apart from the group. Those who are
despairing are most often those who have withdrawn from the fellowship.
friends, life is getting more and more difficult, and it will continue to do
so. In part because we’ve not been energetic in bringing Christ’s message to
the world around us, one of the fastest-growing faiths in the world is “None of
the above”. And without a strong, confident, faithful Church, the devil gets
more and more freedom.
are facing more problems in marriage, in child-rearing, in school, and in the
working world every day. As you can see from today’s example, you desperately
need each other, whether you admit it or not!
to church and helping out with boards and committees and chores isn’t just
about what you can get out of a service. Every time you come together—you are
encouraging someone else and being encouraged yourself, just by being present
with one another. It gets you to realize that you have the support of fellow
Christians, enabling you to say “I can” instead of “I can’t.” That is one major
reason Jesus established the Church and gives it pastors, teachers and one
another—for that very purpose of fellowship. Remember that next time you think
about skipping a dinner or worship service at church. These are more important
than we give them credit for. We need that support so we can say, both to God
and to ourselves, “I can.”
is a difference between humility and unbelief. If at this point in their
experience with Jesus the disciples still had said, “I can’t spread the
gospel,” it wouldn’t have been humility. It would have been unbelief. Dear
Christians, know the difference.
is ok for you to say “I can’t,” when you realize that you are a weak human
being. But now that you realize that you have the Holy Spirit and the support
of Christian friends, Jesus has given you two reasons to say “I can.” Continue
to listen to His promises. Continue to meet together. Continue to thankfully
receive His gifts. These sources of strength will enable you to say—“I can
spread the gospel! I can raise my children! I can stay in the
faith! I can resist the devil!”
know, and you can confidently trust in this, because you confess with His Word:
“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength!” In His Holy (+) Name,