A Great Time To Be Alive

Bible Book: Joel  2 : 28-32
Subject: Holy Spirit, Fullness of; Church Age; Power of God

Our text today comes from Joel 2:28-32: “'And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.’”

This is a word of prophesy spoken hundreds of years before it was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. We can see Peter referring to this text in Acts 2:16-21, “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:" Peter was revealing to the people on that day, the day he preached the first sermon in the New Testament Church, that the Lord was fullfilling His promise made in the Book of Joel. The Church was birthed at Pentecost and we are still living in the Church Age. The promises from Joel 2:28-32 are ours – God has given this Word to those of us who are saved through the blood of Jesus Christ.

“In the last days, God said, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

I hear many Christians today who are deeply troubled about culture. Others are worried about terrorism. Still others are decrying to decline they see in the local church. Now, listen to me carefully, the issues we are troubled about are mere trifles when considered in the light of God's mighty power. I promise you that God is not wringing His hands over these matters. You might suggest that God doesn't have to be troubled about these matters because He is able to deal with them. Yes, you are right, and He has the power to grant to His people to face these issues as well. God arm is not shortened that He cannot save. He has not diminished in His power or strength. Perhaps we ought to look at ourselves and ask if perhaps the problem lies in the fact that we are not filled with His power - with His Holy Spirit. God can and will work in any age and generation when He has a surrendered people through whom to do His work. Do you think this day is worse than the days of Roman occupation of Jerusalem? Do you think this time is more wicked than the days when Peter and Paul ministered? Surely you know that our day is no worse than it was then. Yet, God moved in those days and the believers who lived then were used of God to turn the world upside show - or rightside up! The same power is available to us today, for the same Holy Spirit dwells in us that dwelt in them.

My friends, it’s A Great Time to Be Alive. We must not take for granted what we have been given, nor should we neglect the power available for us to carry out God’s will in our time. Most of us read the Bible and imagine what it would have been like to live in the days long ago. In reality, however, there has never been a better day to be alive and in God’s service than during our own generation. I want us to take a moment and consider how blessed we are to be living right now, in the Age of Grace, the Great Church Age, the Age of the Holy Spirit.

I.   A Day of Unprecedented Power

In the day that Joel penned the words found in our text today the people were powerless to withstand their enemies, powerless to withstand temptation and powerless in the face of satanic attack. God promised to the Church Age unprecedented power in the face of all earthly troubles, trials and temptations. That power has been given to every child of God – every person who has been born again through Christ.

While every child of God possesses all of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit does not necessarily possess every part of every Christian. The apostle Paul pleads with believers in Ephesians 5:18, "And be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit." Only by yielding ourselves to His control will we be able to walk in close fellowship with the Savior and be empowered to live a sanctified life (Luke 24:49). You see, the Holy Spirit resides in me but he may not necessarily reign in me. In order for the promised power of Joel 2 to be effective in me, I must yield myself to His indwelling presence.

A preacher once went to visit some friends in the English countryside many years ago. For a long time the couple had lived in an old-fashioned, rundown building. To the preacher’s surprise he discovered that the house had been completely remodeled with electric lights, an electric stove, and many other pieces of modern equipment, but he was even more surprised to see the lady of the house still using a kerosene stove for cooking and oil lamps for lighting. After greeting him, she said, "Preacher, don't look so confused. We've had a great change here, but we just haven't turned on the power yet." Many Christians have experienced the great change of salvation but they haven’t allowed God to turn on the power that is ready to surge through every part of their being. Many of our churches look beautiful and have the latest conveniences and accouterments, but they lack the power that only God can provide.

We are in the days of unprecedented power, but that power is only available to those who are willing to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Do we have that power at work in us in all His fullness? If we experience Him fully, we will see things done that no mere person can accomplish. You are in the process of seeking a pastor, and it is a privilege for me to be preaching during these months while your committee is at work. But let me make something perfectly clear, no preacher you call can do in you what is needed, for only God can do that. We must pray for God to fill us and empower us with Pentecost power of the Holy Spirit that Peter preached about in that very first sermon in Acts 2. Can you imagine what God might do in a spirit-filled church that calls a spirit-filled preacher? No, you can't imagine it, for it is beyond imagination. That is my prayer for you an for every church in this day.

II.  A Day of Unbroken Presence

A small child attended church with his parents and that night kneeled down to say his prayers with his dad by his side. The father reported that the lad prayed like this: "Dear Lord, we had such a good time at church today that I wish You could have been there, too!" Sadly, many adults are like that. Let me tell you, that if we don’t recognize the awesome presence of God in our worship and Christian life, our good time is just another social event. There are people today who are having a "good time" at a car race, a ballgame or at some other event. God's people need more than a good feeling - with need the infilling of God's Spirit, and we need that as much now as any time in Christian history.

You see, the Christian era is very different than the day in which Joel prophesied. In the days of old, the Holy Spirit only visited with the prophets and leaders. They were not the repository of the divine presence because He did not live in every believer all the time. Yet, in our day, we have the outpouring of God’s presence. See John 14, 15 and 16 and note the promises Jesus gave regarding the Holy Spirit – the Comforter that is ours through His indwelling presence.

Children's television personality, the late Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood), was also an ordained minister. He once said, "I remember so keenly one of the times I learned how individually the Spirit can work. It was years ago, and my wife and I were worshiping in a little church with friends of ours, another husband and wife. We were on vacation, and I was in the middle of my homiletics course at the time. During the sermon I kept ticking off every mistake I thought the preacher, who must have been 80 years old, was making. When this interminable sermon finally ended, I turned to my friend intending to say something critical about the sermon. I stopped myself when I saw the tears running down her face. She whispered to me, 'He said exactly what I needed to hear. That was really a seminal experience for me. I was judging and she was needing, and the Holy Spirit responded to need, not to judgment." [Christian Century, Apr 13, 1994. Page 383.]

Please note that we need the Holy Spirit to empower us but we also need Him to IMPRESS us with what God is saying to us. That is not done with mere words but with His abiding presence in us. Oh, what a day to be alive – the day of the presence of God in each believer!

III. A Day of Unbelievable Perception

The Bible says that without a vision the people perish. God has given us His Spirit that we may understand His Word and Will! God does not want us to flounder in the valley of ignorance but to stride forward in the wisdom of His Spirit’s guidance. The Spirit reveals to us all the truth we need.

 I read something interesting about the process of canning vegetables and fruits in a book by Bob George, (Classic Christianity, Harvest House, 1989, pp. 62-63). He pointed out an example of how important it is for Christians to go beyond salvation alone. Let's say that you are going to preserve some peaches. What is first thing you have to do? You must sterilize the jars into which you are going to place and preserve the peaches. Why is the process of sterilization necessary? The jar must be sterilized so that the peaches will be kept from spoiling so that the contents of the jars (the peaches) will be preserved from spoiling. Now listen carefully, you’ve never seen anyone decorate their kitchen with a “sterile” jar collection. No, the only reason to sterilize jars is because you intend to put something in them. We would never expect to find a person involved in only half the process of canning, just cleansing jars. In many cases, in the Church of our Lord, we have been guilty of doing something just like that. We have been telling people how to be cleansed but we have failed to point out that you must be filled! Christ came not just to cleanse me but to fill me with something special – actually SOMEONE I need every day – His Holy Spirit’s presence and power.

God wants us to be able to perceive His will and have the power to carry it out. I am convinced that most Christians are looking for what they want in their church and, for that matter, in their lives. What we really need is to ask what God wants in our church and what He wants in our lives. When we do that, we will discover the amazing truth that the day in which we live is indeed a wonderful time to be alive!

IV.  A Day of Unlimited Provision

What a provision God has made through the presence of His Holy Spirit! Everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. In essence, when the Spirit of God prompts a person to trust Christ, that person has the moving of the Holy Spirit revealing sin, lifting up Jesus as the risen Lord, and calling that person to faith and salvation. A place where the Spirit of God is allowed to fill and work in the people will be a place where people get saved. Joel said that "everyone" or "anyone" will have the chance to call upon the Lord and be saved. In other words, it doesn't matter where you are from, what you have done, what color your skin may be, what your family name is, you can call upon the Lord. I am praying just now that someone in this worship center is listening to God's Spirit call you to Jesus and that you will answer that call in this very service today. That you will be saved today!

To the Christians in this worship service, please know that God did not promise us mercy drops of the Spirit, but a downpour – a heavenly outpouring of His presence in us, but we need to realize that He will supply the Spirit only in the measure needed. Don’t miss this, or you will miss the entire point of this message. You see, if I can do everything I need to do in my Christian life with my own strength, He will not fill me. If I am desperate for His help, if I am totally dependent upon His power and if I am doomed without His presence, He will wash down upon me and in me the fullness of His Spirit. As long as I think I am doing okay, He will allow me to flounder around in my own strength. I believe this is the greatest problem of the Church in the Twentieth Century. We are carrying on in our strength rather than being carried forward in a flood of His Spirit.

James W. Moore says, "One of the greatest comedy acts in the history of show business was the beloved husband and wife team of George Burns and Gracie Allen. In real life, Gracie Allen was a bright, wise businesswoman, but she always played the part of a naive, off-the-wall personality, sweetly simple in her approach to life. On one of their radio programs, Gracie became very upset because her new electric clock kept losing time. Each day it lost lots of time, so she finally called a repairman. He discovered the problem immediately. There was nothing wrong with the clock--it just wasn't plugged in! Gracie Allen said, 'I know that! I didn't want to waste electricity, so I only plug it in when I want to know what time it is!' That's the way some people treat their faith. They are not plugged in to the power source. They only plug in when they want something." [Clergy Journal, Apr 1994. Page 22.]

My friends, it is time we plugged in to God’s Spirit. We can’t do what God needs done in this community. We can’t reach the lost with a plan made up in a boardroom. We can’t meet our obligations for holiness and righteousness by just trying to do better. We need that which we cannot have without God’s work in us – we need the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Sadly, though this is a day of Unprecedented Power, a day of Unbroken Presence, a day of Unbelievable Perception, and a day of Unlimited Provision, many of us are living in our own strength. Come now, how many of us know that there are things we need to see happen in our lives, in the lives of our friends and family, and in our church, that we simply cannot see occurring through mere human effort alone? Yes, we all have those situations. There is a Person and Power available to us. The Holy Spirit lives in us but we must desire Him to fill us.

The most feeble person on earth is a Christian seeking to do God' s work in the flesh. The most useless tool of God on this earth is a believer who thinks he or she is doing God a favor by coming to church or giving a gift. Without Him, we can do a little? No, without Him we can do nothing! We must be filled if we are to be fruitful.

He will not fill us unless we are clean. What use is there in trying to preserve peaches in a jar that is dirty? No, the jar must be sterilized first. WE don't need to look at our neighbor in church today and wonder if it is that person to whom God is speaking. No, He is speaking to me, to you and to every child of God in this place. Let us come today and ask God to cleanse us from head to toe so that He might fill us to the point that rivers of living water pour out from us. Ask Him, “O, God, fill me. I need you. I cannot do what you desire of me unless you work through me. I need you to do to me what you need to do so that you might do through me what you wish to do.”

Then, those who hear His voice in your heart saying, "Now is time, today is the day of salvation," come to Him just now as we sing our invitation hymn.