When the risen Lord Jesus left this earth to return to the headquarters of the universe, he didn't leave much behind for his followers to hang on to.  He hadn't written a single book.  He had set up no clear leadership structure.  No headquarters building.  No bank account to help them get started.  Nothing that you could lay your hands on.


All Jesus left behind for his followers were two gifts: 


             1.  The words he had spoken to them for three-and-a-half years now burned in their memories---words like no words ever spoken on this earth.


 2.  The promise that he would send them the Holy Spirit---the same Spirit

which came to him at his baptism---to give them power to live a new life and guide them into all truth.  The Spirit came.


His word.  His Spirit.  That's all they were given.


With these two gifts a handful of ordinary men and women like ourselves began turning the world upside-down. 


Today these two gifts are still here.  But it seems like they've been buried under tons and tons of tradition, man-made rules, church policies.  They're almost lost in the shuffle. 


So let's take some time now to concentrate on these two gifts which Jesus left behind: his word, his Spirit.  Because what has to happen, if we are ever to live with power, is that these two gifts have to enter and dwell inside us. 


So that Jesus' word is not just "out there."  But "in here."  Inside me.  Living in me.  Speaking to my soul.  Sustaining me.  Guiding me.  And so that the Holy Spirit is not just something I read about in the Bible.  He enters me.  Dwells in my body.  Floods my soul with God's life, God's power.  God's love. 


The word of the Lord---living in you.

The Spirit of God---living in you.

            If you have that, you have everything you need.



Cornelius was a Roman army officer living in the city of Caesarea, down by the sea.  Cornelius was a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the needy, prayed constantly to God.  But like most of us, Cornelius felt that something was missing.  He didn't know what it was, but he kept crying out to God for light.   Then one day it happened….


About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius."  And he stared at him in terror, and said, "What is it, Lord?"  And he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.  And now send men to Joppa, and bring one Simon who is called Peter; he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside."  When the angel had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those that waited on him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

                                                                        Acts 10:3-8


When Cornelius sent these men down the coast to Joppa to find Peter, he had no idea what Peter was going to bring.  Cornelius had probably never heard of Jesus when he was ministering only a few miles away in Galilee.  He knew nothing of these two gifts which Jesus left behind.  All Cornelius knew was that God had something in store for him, and that this man, Simon Peter was going to bring it. 


But there's a problem.  The problem is that Cornelius is a Gentile.  Peter is a devout Jew, who has never entered a Gentile home in all his life.  Such a thing is a no-no!   Hence, Peter is hesitant when the Spirit tells him to go with these Gentile men to the home of a Gentile Roman officer.  But he obeys, and takes six Jewish men with him for support.


Meanwhile, Cornelius has gathered his family and all his friends to hear what Peter is going to tell them.  Cornelius welcomes Peter and his friends and invites him to share whatever the Lord has given him.  


Peter talks about Jesus.  How God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power.  How Jesus went about doing good and healing.  How Jesus was killed on a Roman cross.  How God raised him from the dead.  "And we are witnesses to these things!  We were there!"


While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.  Then Peter declared, "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

                                                            Acts 10:44-48


So now these Gentiles have also received the two gifts Jesus left behind: the word of the Lord, spoken to them by Peter which is now burning in their hearts; the Holy Spirit, which came to the Jewish believers on Pentecost is now alive in Cornelius and his family and friends.  They are indwelt by the living God. 


When we read this account in the book of Acts, it seems so easy for these people.  No struggle.  No strain.  Peter comes and speaks.  Boom!  The Spirit falls!  So why is it so hard for us to receive what they received?


I remember being in a little store-front church one hot summer night.  A young man with flaming red hair went up to the front.  He wanted to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  They instructed the young man to kneel, while a small group gathered round him and laid their hands on his head---a perfectly scriptural and proper thing to do.


They started to pray.  The prayers became louder and louder.  Then they began "helping out" the process.  "Hang on, Brother!……Hallelujah!…..Let go, Brother!"  They began shaking the young man's head back and forth and from side to side.  Sweat was running down his face.  As earnestly and loudly as they prayed, nothing seemed to "work."  After about a half hour everybody gave up.  The  young man went home that night with an empty heart. 


We may not be going through all those contortions.  And yet, many of us are still struggling, uncertain, frustrated, when it comes to this gift of the Holy Spirit.  


Our Lord Jesus never makes it so complicated.  He doesn't say, "Hang on, Brother!  Let go, Sister!"  He doesn't lay out a list of things we have to do in order to receive the gift of the Spirit.  Jesus just says, "Ask…….Lift up your heart to the Father and ask."


"And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a snake; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

                                                                        Luke 11:9-13


Of course, there is one thing that gets in the way of our asking.  In order for God to fill me with his Spirit, I have to be empty of myself.  If I'm full of myself, there's no room for the Spirit.  If I'm preoccupied with my "spirituality," my feelings, my piety, my opinions, my complaints, how can the Spirit of God get in? 


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Blessed are the poor in spirit, who are empty of themselves, for they are able to receive this gift.  


So how do you get to be poor in spirit?  You humble yourself before God.    


Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.  Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.

                                                            I Peter 5:5-7


I must confess that I find it much easier to apply the above scripture to other people than to apply it to myself.  "O yeah, that guy really needs to humble himself!……She'll never get anywhere till she gets down off her high horse!"


But the Spirit isn't talking to them right now.  He's talking to me.  "Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God!  Take off your shoes.  You're standing on holy ground!  Step down!"


Step down.  That's the one thing I can do.  The only thing I can do, if I want to draw near to God.  And the minute I step down and humble myself before God, I'm sitting with the folks in Cornelius' house, with ears that can hear the word, eyes that can see the two gifts:


The word of God is already here.  All we have to do is open our hearts and receive it.  Believe it.  Act on it.


The Spirit of God is already here.  All we have to do is step down, empty ourselves of ourselves, and ask.  


There is no reason why anyone reading these words cannot receive a fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God this very hour.  Our Father is not stingy.  He's generous.  He wants to fill us with his life.  He wants to make us whole….to make his strength perfect in our weakness.  He wants to give us the Spirit.  


So what happens when you ask the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and suddenly he's there?  Inside you.  Your body has become the Temple of the Spirit.  He indwells you. 


What happens is exactly what Jesus said will happen. 


The Spirit of God in you will bear witness to the Lord Jesus inside your heart.


He will guide you into all truth.  He will convict you when you're heading the wrong way.


He will quicken your memory with the words of the Lord.  They will pop into your mind to your own amazement---just when you need them.


He will empower you to do the works of Christ.  To serve people.  To speak with boldness.


He will flood you with holy love---for God and for people.


Some folks have the idea that, once you've "got" the Holy Spirit, you've "got" him.  You're all set.  But that's not how it works.  Once you've got the Holy Spirit, you keep getting the Spirit the rest of your life.  You never stop receiving this gift.  Daily you step down, and open your heart for more of the Spirit.  Daily you go out there and walk in the Spirit.  You yield to the Spirit.  You obey the Spirit.


So for a few moments, let's forget about our traditions, and all our favorite doctrines.  Let's leave to God's mercy all the flaws we see in each other.  And let's just focus on these two supernatural gifts which Jesus left behind for us:


            His Word.


            His Spirit.


His word.  Let's take this as his word for us at this hour.  Just this brief word:


"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

                                                                        John 13: 34-35

His Spirit.


Who of us does not need a fresh measure of his Spirit.  God help us to humble ourselves before his throne right now….to empty ourselves of ourselves…to approach the Father with the heart of a child, and ask:


"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a snake; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

                                                            Luke 11:11-13