“Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized Him as He was breaking the bread.” Luke 24:35 (NLT)
Luke’s account of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to His followers is sensational! Each records their own personal story of how Jesus appeared to them. The excitement and thrill of their personal encounters were so meaningful they couldn’t wait to share it with the others. What about your story? Do you have a personal faith story of when you encountered the risen Christ? When did God become more than just a word to you? This is your faith story. It is unique and personal, unlike anyone else’s. The only common denominator is that the same Jesus who appeared to others has appeared to you and made His home in your heart, transforming your life and shaping you into His very image by His Spirit. It’s the moment when life becomes dynamic and real, His life living in you! It’s what transformed Saul of Tarsus into the great Apostle Paul who said, “For me to live is Christ!” That’s the only explanation for a true Christ follower today. This weekend at Woodlands Church we witnessed some 877 people follow Christ in obedience through baptism at our Super Summer Baptism Celebration! It’s always so exciting to see so many freshly redeemed people! Believe + Receive = Become! It’s the commission that Jesus gave His followers to proclaim throughout the world! Jesus said, “There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent!” That’s the Good News! When we respond to Jesus’ love and offer of forgiveness, we encounter the risen Christ and begin our own individual faith story! You can begin yours today! If you haven’t yet taken that next step of obedience in baptism, it’s not too late! Join us on June 21st and 22nd for another great opportunity at our Second Super Summer Baptism Celebration at a Woodlands Church Campus near you. Visit our website for details and register now.
“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as My Father promised. … the Holy Spirit fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:49 (NLT)
If you track the exponential growth of the church from Pentecost in the Book of Acts and throughout church history it is nothing short of miraculous! It is what I call Holy Spirit momentum! What began with three thousand new believers were baptized on the day of Pentecost, and word quickly spread throughout the known world! Those new Christ followers returned home completely changed from that Jewish feast in Jerusalem. They began to gather in homes, and churches were planted throughout the Roman world that proclaimed the risen Christ! By the time the Apostle Paul finally got to Rome, a dynamic growing young church was already developing! Although the apostles planted many new churches in their missionary travels, the same was true in Colosse where Paul had never visited. This is Holy Spirit momentum! It’s when God is moving in the hearts and lives of those who hear the good news about His Son and respond in simple faith, trusting Jesus as their Savior from sin and receiving His life in exchange for their old sinful life! Dr. Luke, who wrote the Acts of the Holy Spirit as a sequel to his Gospel of Luke, chronicles this Holy Spirit momentum from the beginning in an upper room where 120 Christ followers gathered following the ascension of Christ. They were doing what Jesus told them to do when He left them. After His resurrection, Jesus told them, “‘And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as My Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.’ Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting His hands to heaven, he blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up to heaven. So they worshiped Him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy.” (Luke 24:49-52 NLT) Luke picks up the narrative in his second book, Acts, and tells us that these followers gathered in an upper room to pray and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came, they were empowered and emboldened to proclaim the good news wherever they went! Track the Holy Spirit momentum with me from 120 believers in an upper room to 3,000 new believers at Pentecost: from 3,000 at Pentecost in Acts 2 to over 5,000 in Acts 4:4. By Chapter Five, Luke says, “Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord – crowds of both men and women!” (Acts 5:14 NLT) In Acts 6:1 he says that the believers “rapidly multiplied.” The math shifted from addition to multiplication! By this time, “… many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.” (Acts 6:7b) I could go on and on. Even when persecution against the church in Jerusalem broke out, the church simply spread wherever Christ followers fled until the message of Christ reached the ends of the earth! Wow! You can’t stop Holy Spirit momentum! I am so excited to see that same Holy Spirit momentum at work in so many lives today!
“Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” Acts 8:36-37 (NKJV)
The Book of Acts is one of my favorite books in the Bible. It is full of miracles as the Holy Spirit moved on the hearts of people radically transforming their lives! Here’s such a story of life change. It began with an official from the government of Ethiopia coming to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple in a quest for God. He left as empty as he came. On the road through Gaza, as he was returning home, he was reading from the scroll of Isaiah continuing his search for God. Recognizing his honest quest, God spoke to one of His available servants, Philip. He told him to go and meet this official. Philip caught up with the caravan as they were en route back to Ethiopia. Immediately, Philip noticed that the official was reading the scroll of Isaiah so he asked the man if he understood what he was reading. The official invited Philip to join him in his chariot and explain what the prophet was speaking about. It was the most powerful messianic prophecy in Isaiah found in Isaiah 53. God was at work in the heart of this official, and He honored this man’s honest search for truth as He always will. Philip began at that very passage and explained to him all about Jesus. The official’s response was immediate! Look what happens. “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’” I love it! There was no hesitation in this man’s faith and obedience! He wasn’t waiting to be baptized. He wanted to make a public profession that he was now a Christ follower to his entire caravan of servants traveling with him! Listen to his confession of faith. “Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” (Vs. 37) The Bible records what happened next in verse 38. “So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.” Perhaps like this leading Government Official from Ethiopia, you too have pursued an honest quest for God. You tried religion and nothing changed. Your heart was as empty when you left as it was when you entered the church or temple. It’s not about religion. It’s all about a relationship that is intimate and personal between you and God. You can have that same fulfilling relationship through Jesus Christ just as this man did! Jesus died and rose again for you as well! When you receive Him by faith, simply confessing as this man did, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”, then you can experience His life transforming power! When you do, you won’t hesitate to take the next step of obedience identifying with Christ in baptism. If you’ve taken that step, you know how refreshing it was to enter the water as a symbol of Christ’s death for you and come up out of the water with a vivid reminder of the risen Christ who indwells in you by faith! What a powerful picture of your connection with Christ! If you haven’t, I challenge you to take that step of obedience this weekend. If you’re in the Houston area, join us for our Super Summer Baptism Celebration at Woodlands Church.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NIV)
The most significant event since the coming of Christ was when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. Jesus told His faithful followers to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus had given them specific teaching about the Holy Spirit and His role in their lives following His ascension. It wouldn’t be until after it happened, as was so often the case, that His disciples would understand what He meant. In verse five, Jesus explained what would happen. “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” It happened ten days later on a Jewish festival called Pentecost. As Jewish people from all over the known world at that time gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate this annual feast, God surprised them with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Just as in baptism when you are immersed in water, the Holy Spirit descended on His followers as Peter boldly proclaimed the Good News of the risen Christ! Supernatural phenomena followed with the sound of a rushing wind, but there was no breeze felt; tongues of fire that lit on people’s heads, but they felt no heat; and the message proclaimed in multiple languages known to those who gathered from the various regions of the world by uneducated monolingual Galileans! The church that Jesus promised Peter was born on the solid rock of Christ Himself, and 3,000 people who professed their faith in Jesus were immediately baptized that day! Wow! What a way to launch the church! It was miraculous to see lives changed! Every baptism I see is like that to me! This coming Sunday, June 8th, is the anniversary of that great historical event at Pentecost! Pentecost is 50 days after Passover. Fifty days after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God sent the Holy Spirit to permanently reside in the hearts and lives of Christ followers just as He had promised! We are celebrating that event in a huge way this weekend with a Super Summer Baptism Celebration following every service on all of our campuses. If you are in the Houston area and would like to be a part of this spectacular event, you are welcome. I’m praying for another powerful move of the Holy Spirit changing lives!
“There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life.” Matthew 3:6 (MSG)
Life change charges my batteries! I love it. It’s my favorite thing about ministry. I love to see the impact Jesus makes on a life when someone receives Christ. Nothing is the same anymore! John the Baptist witnessed untold numbers of lives changed in his ministry. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets even though he preached in the New Testament. He fit the mold of what you would think about when you picture a prophet. Matthew’s gospel tells us that “John dressed in a camel-hair habit tied at the waist by a leather strap. He lived on a diet of locusts and wild field honey.” His voice thundered with a bold message of repentance. He came to prepare the way for Jesus. Matthew 3:5 says, “People poured out of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordanian countryside to hear and see him in action.” God used his powerful message to change lives! They wanted to demonstrate that change in a public way through baptism. Matthew tells us, “There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life.” Baptism wasn’t what made the change happen. It was a symbol of their commitment. Like a wedding ring that symbolizes the commitment of a husband and wife, baptism is a powerful symbol of our commitment to Jesus Christ. It shows on the outside what Jesus does on the inside when He washes our sins away. Through baptism we identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. When we go under the water, we identify with His death for us. Coming up out of the water is a picture of our identification with the risen Christ who now lives in our hearts by faith. This week we will look at some of the most amazing stories of life change in the New Testament and their experience in baptism. As we do, I pray it will encourage you in the change that Christ is bringing in your life as well.