Summary: What happens to the church or an individual that encounters God’s presence? Just like 2+2 always equals 4, an encounter with God should bring CLEANSING + EMPOWERING = TRANSFORMATION.
Two young boys were out in a large field playing hide and seek. As the first boy leaned against a tree covering his eyes and counting to 100, the other boy ran across the field and climbed up into another tree to hide. Just then the first boy reached 100 and he yelled out, “ready or not here I come.” Immediately the boy ran across the field looked up into the tree and said, “I found you! Now its my turn to hide.” The other boy climbed down out of the tree, then leaning against the tree, covering his eyes he began counting to 100. The first boy made the long run across the field climbed up into the first tree to hide. When the other boy finished counting to 100, he yelled out, “ready or not, here I come.” Without hesitating, he ran across the field to the other tree, looked up and said, “Ha, I found you!” Just then a third boy ran up to his friends and asked, “Hey what you guys doing?” When the boys told him that they were playing hide and seek he excitedly asked if he could play too. In unison the other boys responded, “you can’t; there’s only 2 trees!”
These two boys had fallen into a habit of playing the game the same way and forgot that there were lots of different hiding places for them and others to hide in. We sometimes have a similar problem when we come to church. We all get together to do the same thing we did the week before, and then expect God to show up the same way we have always expected him too. When will we stop “playing church” in the same old way? It’s time to Prayerfully Encounter the Living God.
+ Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where thy were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (NIV)
God is not a “supercomputer” making a programed response to our input. God can meet with His people in many different ways. We have described encountering the presence of God as the “manifold presence of God.” That is to say that God’s presence is multifaceted having many and various forms or features. In the same way that a diamond is cut to reflect the light in many different ways, so too God can be experienced by His people in unique and different ways. God is a living God; He comes to His people powerfully and in different ways.
Over the past two weeks we have looked at how the early church encountered God’s presence. From their example we can learn how to likewise encounter God in the fullness of His presence. We have examined four basic principles that were part of how the church in Acts came to God:
1. The Church had a divine expectancy, or they had faith to earnestly seek God with all their heart soul mind and strength. The early church took Jesus at His word. He told them that when just two or three were together in His name, He would be there with them. Jesus taught them that whatever they asked in His name, the Father would do. They believed it, and guess what—Jesus did what He said.
2. The New Testament Church made a habit of prayer. The prayer meeting in Acts 4 was not a crisis prayer meeting or a call for help to a heavenly 911 operator. Believers within the church joined together on a consistent basis recognizing that Jesus was with them. We too need to make a habit of prayer—not just a private devotional prayer time, but corporate prayer with other believers.
3. When the church prayed, they acknowledged God for who He is. We too need to learn to identify the absolute truth about God and His promises. Instead of focusing on our problems, we can focus on God; again rather than telling God about our problems, we can tell our problems about our God. When we proclaim the truth about God, our faith will be increased and God will “move our mountains.”
4. With divine expectancy the church presented their requests to God. We can boldly ask God to meet our daily needs.
That’s what we see the church doing in Acts 4—with a divine expectancy they continued in their habit of praying together, declaring the truth about God they then made their requests known to God. That’s when God showed up.
Notice again how Luke records what happened in verse 31: “After they prayed.” AFTER THEY PRAYED, THEN GOD! The Lord answered the prayer of His people and met with them in a powerful way. This morning we are going to take a closer look at how God so powerfully encountered His people in response to their prayer and what it means for us to likewise experience the manifold presence of God in similar ways. But don’t overlook the necessity of prayer! God came after they prayed.