Sermon:                       “Fire From Heaven”
                For the last couple of weeks we have looked at the power and lack of power as seen in the present day church. It doesn’t take a theologian to see that today’s church looks nothing like the early church, especially when it comes to power. We spent the first week looking at the unbelief in the church. Jesus rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith and stubborn refusal to believe the witnesses. I am pretty sure we would hear the same thing. We spent some time looking at the segregation of the denominations and the faulty teachings that go with them. Since we are supposed to imitate Jesus Christ we must be careful to test the spirits and discern the truth, as there are many false teachers around us teaching counterfeit gospels.  True worshippers worship in Spirit and in truth. We will continue looking at the Holy Spirit as taught in scripture and raise our expectations so that we truly believe the same power is available to us that was available in the early church. Many people will be held accountable before God for not speaking truth and leading many astray.
                We read earlier three different passages that talked about the fire from heaven. The first example was in response to Solomon’s prayer of dedication concerning the temple. “the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. Now in this case we are talking about a structure being filled but with us it will be us that are filled. A great example of this happening is when Saul was filled with the Spirit. 1 Samuel 10:6 “The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.” This is how Peter went from being a fisherman to an Apostle of Jesus Christ preaching the word fearlessly. And just a reminder that the Holy Spirit give gifts today, that is if we actually believed. 1 Corinthians 12:7 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits.” So after Solomon prayed the glory of God came down and filled the temple with His presence. The people “saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”
                We desperately need the fire to fall again and the glory of the Lord fill the temple once again. I think people refuse to listen because they are afraid. When the glory of the Lord filled the temple they fell on their faces before God. The same power fell on the disciples. Acts 5:3 “Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” How many would be left standing? You see we together are now that building that the glory fills. Ephesians 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” 1 Peter 2:4 “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:16 (ESV) “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.” God tells us he is looking for people who will seek him wholeheartedly. 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." In order for God to dwell in us we must be seeking him obediently. He has told us to wait and be clothed with power, so we wait. We cannot go and fulfil God’s mission until we have that power otherwise we are going in our own strength. We will not be able to stand against the enemy and proclaim God’s name. If people are going to say the Lord he is God we must have power.
                That moves us to the second reading where Elijah challenges the false prophets. He first challenges the people.  1 Kings 18:21 “Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him. But the people said nothing.” Today we have lot of waivers’. They refuse to believe unless they see. Sadly the word of God is not enough for them. Elijah then challenges the prophets of Baal. 24 You call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” The God we serve is an all consuming fire. After Elijah spent much time mocking them he simply prayed “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again. 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” This shows us we must have the power of the Holy Spirit to be victorious. The enemy does not have this kind of power. This power shows people that God is God and that he is all powerful. I am still baffled as to the stubborn refusal to accept that this power is available to us today. The fact we are not seeing power should send the church to their knees but instead they simply add and delete scripture to fit with their own theological persuasions.
                Now in these two cases God literally responded by fire but at Pentecost it was “what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Notice here that the power of the Holy Spirit crosses language barriers, culture race. They said, we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” The Peter answered them and “41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. The church today cannot even meet together. We have English churches and then other nationalities have their own church in the same building. Oh to have the power of the Holy Spirit to cross the barriers once again.
                But it wasn’t just the power of preaching the gospel, casting out demons and healing were also included. Luke 10:17 “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Acts 3:1 “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”  A little latter after the healing they were before the Sanhedrin. Acts 4:8 “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them:” Remember what Jesus said to the disciples, Matthew 10:19 “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”  Acts 4:13 “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.”
                What a shame that most of the church today does not believe this power is available. But there is a remnant that does believe and once again the remnant of the Lord will rise up and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are asking God to do the same in our day. So you have just bought a franchise and they give you the manual so that you can run the franchise according the rules of the company and be successful because the more successful you are the more money they make. They seem to like it when you get a Big Mac at MacDonald’s and not a whopper and vice-versa. Everything is in that book you need to know, but wouldn't it be weird if someone told you the examples in the book don’t apply to you just the ones at the beginning when it started. You are not allowed to have the same knowledge imparted to you as the ones at the beginning. Nope, that chapter on how to be successful in the business doesn’t apply. Nor does the one that shows you how pay off your debt, nope nor does the one about how to make money in the business, not for you. You have to figure things out for yourself. Nor do you have any access to those who have been successful the ones who started the franchise. What business does not want their employees or business partners to succeed? Yes I am being a little silly with this but how ludicrous, actually it is beyond ludicrous and it is another gospel that says the power was only available to start the church and then sorry pal you are on your own.
                Down the generations people have agreed to disagree instead of standing on the word of God and denouncing false teaching meanwhile millions are missing the truth and have turned away and the church lies in desolation. Without the power of the Holy Spirit we cannot accomplish the mission God has given us. Because of the word of God has been lost even though it is right in front of us, God has turned his face from shining on us. This promise of the Holy Spirit that was given to us, is available to us also. Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Again check scripture and nowhere does it say the power is not. I cannot believe how many people have fallen for this deception. They say we believe in the Holy Spirit but the Spirit they believe in looks nothing like the Holy Spirit. 1 Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”
                We must wait once again just like the disciples were told. Luke 24:48 “You are witnesses of these things.” If we too want to be His witnesses we must wait. “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.” Acts 1:8 “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.” We must believe what the word of God states and not the words of man. We are praying that once again His power would flow and the glory of the Lord would fill His temple.   Acts 4:29 “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”  Please know that Pentecost was not just a one-time event but the beginning of the Holy Spirit being given as needed. But since the church just like Israel has turned from the word of God to follow the ways of man he has turned from us. You cannot be the church without the power of the Holy Spirit.