The Spirit’s Power

Article from the Swindoll Study Bible

“After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31, NLT.

Peter and John had been preaching in the streets and had attracted enough attention that they were called to face the religious officials, who wanted to intimidate them into silence. But when they looked those officials in the eyes, the officials “were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures” (Acts 4:13). Why was this? It was because the Holy Spirit had come and empowered them. The officials began to recognize that these were men who had been with Jesus. There was a different dynamic with them—and it was entirely due to the work of the Spirit.

Just as Jesus had promised, Peter and John had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, and they were filled with the Spirit, giving them power (Acts 1:5, 8). That power has always existed. The Spirit was there at Creation and when the Red Sea was opened. His power had been evidenced in the lives of the Old Testament prophets and had brought Jesus back from the dead. It is the same power that is active in believers today and that gives them the ability to be open and effective witnesses for the cause of Jesus Christ.

That is the secret to how these apostles, who earlier had been shrouded in fear and hiding behind closed doors, began to preach Christ openly. They had seen the resurrected Jesus, and the Spirit of God had come. After those events, these men had pushed the doors open and walked out into the streets with the audacity to face persecution and even martyrdom for their testimony about Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit would move them the rest of their lives, in and out of persecution, with and without earthly comforts, and under all sorts of adversities. We see Peter and John facing the same religious officials again in Acts 5:26-42, and there they stand, firm as ever in their obedience to God rather than people (Acts 5:29)— even up against those who would just as soon kill them (Acts 5:33).

The Holy Spirit’s power is for all believers, not just for the twelve apostles. We see in Acts 6:3 that the apostles looked among the believers and found seven men who were “full of the Spirit.” This means they were consistently tapping into the Spirit’s power, which is available 24/7 to every believer. One of those chosen was Stephen, a man who was not an apostle but was every bit a witness by the power of the Holy Spirit. He later preached such a powerful message that the religious officials became angry and stoned Stephen, making him the first martyr.

The daily question we each face is not whether we will be martyrs nor whether we will face opposition bravely. The question we face is whether we are tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit or stifling Him (see 1 Thes. 5:19). When He empowers us, it is not a matter of whether we have guts or creativity. When the Holy Spirit is in us, there is a special dynamic at work transforming us and making our lives and our words a witness. Sometimes that witness may offend others—and it will always bring conviction—but it also powerfully displays the love and humility of the Lord Jesus in its proclamation of the truth

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The Holy Spirit’s Work

Note from the New Believer’s Bible

“Peter replied, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.'” Acts 2:38-39, NLT

The Holy Spirit has been given to all believers to deepen our spiritual walk and to enable us to impact our world for Jesus Christ. This passage illustrates three aspects of the Holy Spirit’s unique work in the lives of believers:

The Holy Spirit Fills All Believers.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was given to a select few individuals and only when they needed to perform specific tasks. This chapter indicates a change in that pattern. The Holy Spirit was poured out on all the believers in the house that day (Acts 2:4), and he was present in each of their lives from that day forward.This outpouring of the Holy Spirit was used by God to establish the church—and to spread the message of the gospel to everyone everywhere (see Acts 2:39).

The Holy Spirit Draws Attention to the Savior. Notice that Peter did not focus on the unique happening that had just taken place but turned the crowd’s attention to the message of Jesus Christ and their need to repent and receive forgiveness. When the Holy Spirit fills our lives, he will increase our ability to share the gospel with others.

The Holy Spirit Inspired Peter’s Message.
Peter’s sermon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, led many in the crowd to a point of decision: “What should we do?” (Acts 2:37). The people were attracted not to Peter but to his message. The Holy Spirit worked powerfully that day, and three thousand people responded to the message. This shows us the Holy Spirit is the one who leads people to Christ. We must be open to the ways in which he wants to work through us.

The Holy Spirit is promised to all who repent and receive Jesus Christ into their lives. Many people fail to understand who the Holy Spirit is and what dimension of power is available to them through him. It may help to examine what took place after the disciples received the filling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised (see Acts 1:8).

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Powerful Witness

Devotional from the THRIVE: A Journaling and Devotional Bible for Women

“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, NLT

Love Letter from God
You are my witness in this world. When you live by the power of My Holy Spirit, you will be an effective witness for Me. Some people try to manipulate to get what they want, but that is a dangerous game. You do not have to operate your life in your own strength. Show others what I am like by how you live. Introduce them to Me, and I will do the rest. I want you to rely on the power of My Holy Spirit as you witness and tell people about Me.
Your heavenly Father

Relying on our own strength affects our witness for God. We have a limited voice with little power and only a temporary ability to influence others. Permanent change is only possible when the power of the Holy Spirit works through us, giving power to the weak and new life to the rest.

Treasure of Truth
The Holy Spirit’s power in us can accomplish infinitely more than we can on our own.

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Hands-On Bible: Say Again?

This is an activity from the Hands-On Bible to help kids understand Acts 2:1-42.

“Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”  Acts 2:9-11, NLT

Huh? Say again? All those words mean “hello” in a different language. There’s a cool story in the Bible about people speaking different languages. But they were speaking in languages they didn’t even know! Read Acts 2:1-42.

Grab a friend (or sibling or parent) and try this.

Together make up your own foreign language. In your new language, what words represent these pictures?

Now, with your friend, go talk to three people using only your new language. They didn’t understand you, did they? So how come on the day of Pentecost the people where able to speak in new languages and others were able to understand them? Because of God! God poured out his Holy Spirit on the people!

Spread the news, just like the disciples did!

Think of three things you can tell about Jesus, and tell to three people this week.

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The Holy Spirit’s Presence

Article from the Illustrated Study Bible

The book of Acts clearly highlights the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Before the coming of the Spirit, Jesus spoke of the Spirit’s influence on the growth of the church (1:8; see John 14:15‑17, 26; 15:26; 16:7‑15). The Spirit’s guidance was clear in the selection of Spirit- filled leaders to care for the needs of the Hellenistic widows (Acts 6:1‑7) and in the appointing of Barnabas and Saul for missionary service (13:1‑5).

When the first church council met to consider the membership of Gentiles in the church, those present followed the Spirit’s direction (15:28). Christian workers such as Stephen and Philip were filled with the Spirit and preached by his power (6:1–8:40), and Paul’s ministry was charged with the Spirit’s energy from the beginning (9:17).

In Acts, the growth, development, and expansion of the church took place entirely under the guidance and power of the Spirit (e.g., 2:4, 41‑47; 4:31; 5:32; 8:15, 17, 29; 9:31). Because of the prominence of the Spirit’s work in Acts, the book has often been called “the Acts of the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit works in many ways. He gives and restores life (Gen 2:7; Ps 104:24‑30; Ezek 37:1‑14; Joel 2:28‑32; Rom 8:9‑11). He calls and commissions workers for the service of Christ (Acts 13:2; 20:28) and guides God’s servants where and when he wants, to do as he desires (8:29; 9:15; 10:19‑20; 11:12; 16:6; 1 Cor 2:13; 1 Pet 1:12). He inspired the writing of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16‑17; 2 Pet 1:20‑21), instructing the church in Christ’s message (John 14:26; 1 Cor 12:3). He bears witness to the power of the Good News in signs and wonders (Acts 14:3; Heb 2:4), and teaches the truths of the Bible to God’s people (Acts 1:16; Heb 9:8; 10:15‑17; 1 Pet 1:11‑12). He bears witness to Jesus and brings him glory (John 15:26; 16:14). He convicts people of their sinfulness and need for the Good News (John 16:8) and warns people against hardening their hearts (Heb 3:7‑11, 15). He bestows gifts upon God’s people (1 Cor 12:4‑11), and he energizes and equips them to share the Good News, serve the Lord, and work for the Kingdom of God.

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The Holy Spirit Comes

“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. ” Acts 2:1-4, NLT

From the Wayfinding Bible

After Jesus ascends into heaven, his disciples gather in a room in Jerusalem. Not knowing what to expect, they follow Jesus’ instructions and wait. They are about to experience another high point of the big story. God came in human form to live among humans. Now he sends his Spirit to remain with us forever. The Spirit’s presence will be a comfort and a strength to every believer throughout the world until Christ comes again.

Pentecost was an annual Jewish festival that was established during the time of Moses. Originally it was an agricultural celebration called the Festival of Harvest, falling on the fiftieth day after Passover. During the Hellenistic period (300 BC-AD 300), the Jews dropped they agricultural association of Pentecost and viewed it instead as a day to give thanks for the law of Moses (the Torah). After the coming of the Holy Spirit on this day, Christians designated it as the start of the church. Both Jews and Christians continue to celebrate Pentecost today.

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What Does the Bible Say About Being Lonely?

From the HelpFinder Bible

In the lonely hours of the night, do you sometimes wrestle with God and your emotions, feeling desperately alone, rejected? Perhaps a best friend deserted you. Or the one you hoped to marry wants someone else. Or the one you did marry wants out. Maybe your child has turned against you, or your parents don’t seem to care. Ironically, you can feel equally lonely on a crowded city street, in a busy airport, or in a stadium filled with people. Have you ever sensed the loneliness of being in a crowd? There are so many people, but no one you know or truly care about is there. Everybody is there but no one is with you—truly with you—except for God, who is always with you. If you develop a relationship with him, you can disperse your loneliness. He is always there for you. You never need to feel lonely when the creator of the universe is by your side.

I’m lonely. What can I do?
• PSALM 23:4 | Even when I walk through the darkest valley . . . you are close beside me.
• PSALM 139:17 | How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
• ISAIAH 54:10 | “For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain.”

Recognize that you are not unlovable or deficient just because you are lonely. You have value because God made you, loves you, and promises never to leave you.

• EXODUS 5:21-22 | The foremen said to them, “May the Lord judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh. . . .” Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “. . . Why did you send me?”
• 1 KINGS 19:4 | He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die.

Don’t give up on God when you are lonely. It will cause you to feel sorry for yourself, become discouraged, and fall prey to temptation.

• 1 KINGS 19:10 | “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
• MATTHEW 11:2-3 | John the Baptist, who was in prison . . . sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
• 1 PETER 4:19 | So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

Sometimes we feel alone in our stand for Christ. We can take comfort in knowing that there are others who are equally committed and that God rewards our bold commitment.

• ROMANS 12:4-5 | Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Be around other people. Get involved in a local church. Volunteer in local community events.

• ISAIAH 41:10 | “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
• JOHN 14:1 | “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”

Loneliness can cause us to be afraid. But God calms our fears.

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Reader Question: Why Does the NLT Use “Justice” in Romans 5:6?

We had a reader ask us why the NLT uses the word “justice” instead of “righteousness” in Romans 5:6. Mark Norton, Bible Editorial Director and member of the NLT Bible Translation Committee, talks about this translation choice.

This is a good question. The NLT translators used the term “justice” in Matthew 5:6 to translate the Greek noun dikaiosune, rather than the more general rendering “righteousness.” The alternate rendering “righteousness” is given in the textual footnote, showing that the translation committee recognizes the value of both “justice” and “righteousness” for catching dimensions of the intended meaning here. The English term “righteousness” is most often associated with the idea of imputed and personal purity before God. The term “justice” is a term used to describe the relational actions demonstrated by the righteous person. In this verse we are called to hunger and thirst for personal righteousness and the justice that flows from it. If we truly hunger for righteousness in our hearts and personal actions, we will demonstrate it in our just and loving relationships with others, making possible the justice and peace promised in the Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul most often speaks of righteousness as imputed to those who are in Christ (for example, Romans 5:1-2), but Matthew’s emphasis is on the practical side of righteousness, relating to righteousness expressed in our lives and in God’s Kingdom through just actions (compare 1:19; 5:10, 20, 45; 6:1, 33). Those who live in view of the nearness of the Kingdom of God long not only for personal righteousness, but also for righteous living to permeate society as a whole in justice.

The NLT translators recognize the challenge of translating the Greek term here, and have chosen to put “justice” in the text, while recognizing “righteousness” in the footnote. Both terms catch nuances of the meaning in this case.

God Loves You Reading Plan Day 8

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.

Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.” 1 John 3:1-10, NLT

Note from the Christian Basics Bible

We live in a world where people constantly imitate others—their favorite football player, movie star, or business guru. They wear the same clothes as them and imitate their behavior; but their attempts to be like them are doomed to failure, for they have neither the wealth, good looks, nor skills to achieve what they did.

And some Christians’ attempts to be like Jesus are equally doomed to failure. They try so hard, putting so much effort into becoming like Christ; but it doesn’t work. In fact, they are left disappointed and frustrated. And yet, God’s goal is for us to become like Christ (1 John 3:2).

What we must realize is this: We cannot become like Christ simply by our own human effort—praying harder, reading the Bible more, giving more, or fasting (valuable though these things are). We become more like Christ as “the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is the Spirit’s work, not ours! And yet, for that to happen, we have to yield to him. This means making right choices—choices to forgive, serve, sacrifice, love, give.

For it is as we make these choices that the Spirit enables us to live them out; and as we do, we discover that—little by little—we are becoming less like our old selves and more like our Savior.

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God Loves You Reading Plan Day 7

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 3:3-8, NLT

Notes from the Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition

Paul emphasizes that God chose us to make the point that salvation depends totally on God. We are saved not because we deserve it but because God graciously and freely gives us salvation. Our wisdom or good behavior does not influence God’s decision to save us; in his mercy, he has saved us according to his plan. Thus, we cannot take credit for our salvation or take pride in making the right decision. The mystery of salvation originated in the timeless mind of God long before we existed. It baffles us why God would accept us. But Christ, by his sacrifice, makes us holy and blameless in his sight. If we are in Christ, God looks at us as if we have never sinned. All we can do is express our thanks for his wonderful love.

That God “decided in advance to adopt us” is another way of saying that salvation is God’s work and not our own doing. In his infinite love, God has adopted us as his own children. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, he has brought us into his family and made us heirs along with Jesus (Romans 8:17). He did this on purpose for his own pleasure (Luke 12:32).

In Roman law, adopted children had the same rights and privileges as biological children, even if they had been slaves. (For more on the meaning of adoption, see Galatians 4:5-7.) Paul uses this language to show how strongly we are related to God through Christ and how strongly God desires a relationship with us. Have you entered into this loving bond with him

God has showered his kindness—his grace—on us. This is his voluntary and loving favor given to those he saves. We can’t earn salvation, nor do we deserve it. No religious, intellectual, or moral effort can gain it, because it comes only from God’s mercy and love. Without God’s grace, no person can be saved. To receive God’s salvation, we must acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves; only God can save us. We can receive this loving favor by believing in and uniting with Christ. Imagine that you are trying to go on an ocean voyage but have no passport, money, or credit cards—and then Jesus comes along to pay your way so you can travel in first class. This is a small illustration of how lavishly and freely he gives his grace to each of us.

Look inside the Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition