By Christina Lowery, Co-Lead Pastor
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. - Acts 1:8
Community breakthrough sounds amazing, doesn't it? Can you imagine if God used ordinary folk like you and I to lead thousands of people to Christ? To pray for sick people and watch them become healed? To see the "Big C" Church become unified, despite denominational differences, racial backgrounds, economic status or political parties? To see walls that have separated people from God for decades...even centuries...come crumbling down before our eyes? Can you imagine?
Let me take this one step further. Imagine if we experienced this OUTSIDE of the four walls of our local church? What if God were to use you and I in the Walmart parking lot....at Starbucks....in front of the lockers at school....at the beauty salon....the gym....your cubicle at work....What if?
Anyone still with me?
What I have described here is what it may have looked like during the early days of the church. If you read through the book of Acts, you will find a wealth of witnessed accounts of miracles, healings, the dead coming to life, angelic visitations, and thousands of people coming to Christ in one day, one setting (in several different instances).
To make it even crazier, these monumental occurrences where heaven touched earth, happened through ordinary people like you and I. In the eyes of most, these people that God used were the very least of likely candidates to be used in such a mighty way. Some were fishermen, others former prostitutes. He even used formerly corrupt members of the IRS! (In bible days, they were called "Tax Collectors").
Peter, one of Jesus' disciples was perhaps the chief of unlikely candidates to later become a founding father of the Church as we know it today. Before he met Jesus, he had been a career fisherman. He was not a man of knowledge or eloquent speech. He had a short temper. He often said things with no filter or without choosing his words wisely. He jumped the gun often and acted on his emotions, in the heat of the moment. But perhaps his greatest character flaw was that he was a coward. He may have appeared tough on the outside, but when all was said and done, he was a scardy cat.
When he was with Jesus, he claimed that he was ready to die for him. Jesus' reply to Peter was this:
“Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me." (John 13:38) And it happened. Just as Jesus predicted. By the third denial, scripture says that he ran away weeping loudly. Doesn't sound like the tough burly man he seemed to be earlier in scripture, does it?
Fast forward to 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead and 10 days after He ascended to heaven. We see Peter, standing before a crowd of thousands of people. Included in that crowd were the very enemies of Jesus who had just nailed Him to the cross. There were cynical, hard-hearted, sinful and pious people alike. There were broken people, and confused people. I can imagine that there were people from every walk of life. And Peter (the fisherman and hot-headed coward) stood before them and shared a message with this crowd that so deeply pierced their hearts, that 3000 people gave their lives to Jesus.
So what happened in between Peter's cowardly denial of Jesus....and this moment when Peter made such an extremely risky move to share Jesus with a crowd that could easily riot against him and send him to the grave?
I'll tell you what happened. He had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit earlier that day.
Right before he ascended to Heaven, Jesus had told Peter and the other disciples to wait...and pray...and fast....and that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8). I encourage you to read the entire account in Acts 1&2 - it really is fascinating! So 120 followers had gathered in a room and devoted themselves to seek out in prayer, this power that Jesus had promised to them.
This experience with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, was so powerful for Peter, that he walked downstairs, went outside, and immediately began to explain the gospel to the thousands of curious people who had quickly gathered! Wait, what? What happened to the hot-headed coward we just read about? Who is this man who is speaking with such power and piercing words? Peter - the man who fasted and prayed and waited...and who was radically transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, that's who!
Friends - God wants to do something of monumental proportion in Fredericksburg. He wants to encounter US, the Church, in such a powerful way that we would walk out of our times of prayer and fasting and by the power of the Holy Spirit, see impossible things begin to happen THROUGH US!!
My challenge for each of us, is that as we conclude our fast this evening, we posture ourselves before God to receive ALL of His power that is available to EVERY believer! ASK Him - with earnest hearts, let's tell him, "Lord, we want to have that same encounter that Peter and the disciples did. We want to be filled and immersed in Your Holy Spirit. Fill me to overflowing, Lord - so that we too, can go and do great things for You and build your Kingdom here in Fredericksburg!!"
As we have always said in the Vineyard, "Come Holy Spirit."
Let's be people of His presence from here on out! Let's be first-hand witnesses of the REVIVAL that comes to Fredericksburg as His power comes upon us and we walk out into the marketplace and the workplace! As we visit with neighbors and sit in PTA meetings! Let's take it to the streets!
Questions for Reflection: