I look at these guys and wonder over and over and over, "Why don't they get it? Are they that stupid or was something else going on?" They were selfish, exclusive, ambitious, angry, hurtful, fearful, negative, lacking in ability, and oblivious to their leader's purposes. They stood at the threshold of the greatest opportunities and missed them every time.
In contrast, their leader was incredible. He didn't seem a good match with the guys surrounding Him. He knew where He was headed, how He was going to get there and why He was going. Along the way He was selfless, inclusive, humble, self-controlled, healing, courageous, positive, astoundingly able and focused. And He put up with those guys.
The world went upside down as He got close to fulfilling His purpose. He was arrested and His followers bailed on Him. He faced death without them. By now you've figured out that this is the story of Jesus and His disciples. And you know that He didn't stay dead. He went to those guys again, forgave them, restored them and gave them marching orders.
Problem was they hadn't changed. They were still selfish, exclusive, ambitious, angry, hurtful, fearful, negative, lacking in ability, and oblivious. But they did one thing right. They obeyed the one instruction Jesus gave them – "wait." Sure, He told them they would go to the whole world, announcing the news about Jesus. And yes, He told them they would perform incredible works and miracles. That was for later. He told them first to wait.
To be quite honest, I don't know if they obeyed because they wanted to. Remember all the times they didn't? "Pray with me," and they fell asleep. "Love one another," and they refused to wash one another's' feet. "Feed the people" and they gave excuses why they couldn't. "Be courageous" and they ran in fear. In their hearts they wanted to obey Jesus' words to wait in Jerusalem, but I don't know if they could have tried much else. They were a powerless bunch and they may have simply been too terrified to go anywhere else.
To their credit, they prayed, worshipped God, and encouraged one another by telling about Jesus' works as they waited. And somewhere in those activities their hearts got ready for God to take residence.
Between page 960 and page 962 (in my Bible) the disciples went from Barney Fife to the Incredible Hulk. But it wasn't about them, it was about God.
On the tenth day after Jesus disappeared into the clouds, God showed up. In a way He had never shown up before. And the world has never been the same. Outwardly there were tornado like winds, dancing flames of fire and disciples speaking in languages they'd never learned. But the real change was inside of them – God moved from "out there" to "in here." The Spirit of God took charge of their inner beings and transformed them into the likeness of Jesus. From selfish to selfless, from fearful to courageous, from negative to joyful, from powerless to supernaturally powerful.
THEN they went out to follow Jesus' marching orders with success after success.
In the past week God has shown me afresh that the ability to follow Jesus comes from His Spirit taking charge of us from the inside out.
We try so hard to obey God, and we fail.
We try so hard to make Jesus Lord of our lives, and we fail.
We try so hard to treat others as we want to be treated, and we fail.
We try so hard to resist temptation, and we fail.
No matter how hard we try, it is impossible to do it. Absolutely impossible.
We only have two choices. To say it can't be done and struggle through life the best we can. Or we can say that there must be another way.
The filling and power of the Holy Spirit is the other way. God's way.
So what do we do? Admit we are unable, powerless to live as God instructs. Sign over ownership of our lives to God. Ask for His Spirit to take charge. And wait – keep praying, keep praising until it happens. Might happen in an instant. Might take ten days as with the disciples. Might take longer. But Jesus' promise is that He will do it.
" Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." John 7:37-39 (NIV)
After He does, we allow Him, from within, to give us the selflessness, courage, joy and ability to do anything He wants us to do. And it will be amazing. Your spouse will think a different being took over your body, your children will look at you differently, your circumstances will not overwhelm you, your decisions will be guided by God, you will have peace, and the devil will really be ticked.
The disciples were never the same. Life was actually harder, but they were happier. They were still thrown in jail, life was sometimes tough, and they had to deal with difficult people. But the Holy Spirit within was there to handle it. So as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, June 3, are you ready to sign over the deed of your life to God? Or you can just keep being selfish, exclusive, ambitious, angry, hurtful, fearful, negative, lacking in ability, and oblivious.
"He told them … 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God." Luke 24:49-53 (NIV)
"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4 (NIV)