"Sovereign Surprises" - by Dr Ern Baxter - Part 3.
The final part of this amazing sermon. Ern deals with the two greatest "Divine Interventions" in the history of the time-space world - the Incarnation of Christ and the Day of Pentecost.
Now we come to the example par excellence. God Himself is going to rend the heavens and come down. How? Panoply and splendour? A great retinue of angels? No. He takes off the toga of His co-equal authority with the Father and the Spirit and lays it over the back of His throne chair and in the mystery of the Incarnation comes down into time and space and snuggles into the virgin womb of a girl by the name of Mary. And in the mysterious process of the Father making a body for Him in that womb and His identification with that Body – we have the breaking of God into time in a most unusual way. The angel Gabriel talking to Mary – I just can never get over it. Suddenly here is a little girl devout – a God-lover, obedient to her parents, walking in all of the ethical requirements of Judaism and suddenly she is confronted by this great creature. It seems every time these great creatures appear, they strike fear by their sheer presence. “Fear not Mary, don’t be afraid”. Mary was doubtless trembling as she stood in the presence of this celestial creature.
I remember when I was in South Africa many years ago travelling with William Branham. We were going through a time of bitter persecution by the Dutch Reformed Church plus the press. Thousands of people were coming to the meetings in South Africa and it was stirring. And he and I were alone one night holding our case before God. Suddenly I was aware of a Presence. Now I know the Presence of the Holy Spirit and I wasn’t getting the same registration. Brother Branham said in his very quiet way, “Brother Ern – don’t be frightened. The angel of the Lord is in the room”. Well he didn’t have to tell me. The next night, still under persecution, a Dutch Reformed minister who was bitterly opposed to us, was on his way home and he felt a hand on his shoulder. There was no one around him and he couldn’t understand it so he hurried home. It was a warm night and he had just been wearing a white shirt. He took his shirt off and looked at the back of it and a print of a hand was burned into the back of it. This was carried on in the front page of the Cape Town press I believe. Needless to say it reversed much of the criticism we had been receiving. I hadn’t laid my hand on him – Branham hadn’t laid his hand on him. Somebody had laid his hand on him and left a print. Now we were living in the realm of divine intervention that turned the whole course of our time out there. The next few days I found myself talking to Dutch Reformed ministers who couldn’t understand it – I didn’t understand it either! I’m not talking about understanding – I’m talking about having the faith to believe it can happen.
Jesus’ whole ministry is a series of surprises. His resurrection was a surprise. Finally the Day of Pentecost. Taking His disciples over the brook Kidron, He blessed them and was received up into heaven. Now just before He did that, He said, “I want you to tarry in Jerusalem until you receive the promise of the Father”. So they watched Him going up. That must have been quite a sight. Two men dressed in white appeared and said, “Why stand you gaping?”. We need those two men again to say to a large portion of the church, “Why stand you gaping?”. I believe in the Second Coming of Christ – but I can’t stand gaping. Do you remember what He said to you, “Now get on with your business”. And in the Bible it says they are daily in the temple praising and glorifying God. Daily in the temple. Now there were all kinds of groups in the temple – that wasn’t unusual. Jewish sects were there. But this was different – you can imagine someone coming up and saying, “And who are you people?”. “Well we are the followers of Jesus”. “Oh that was that prophet fellow who was crucified”. “Yes”. “Well what are you doing?”. “Well we are waiting from something to come from heaven”. “Oh. Why are you doing that?”. “Well Jesus told us to do that before He went away”. “Before He what?”. “Well, before He went back to heaven”. “He went back to heaven … ?! He was crucified!”. “Oh yes, but He rose from the dead!”. “Ah He rose from the dead ah? And then went back to heaven!? Well what are you waiting for?”. “Well … He told us it was the promise of the Father”. “Oh and what’s that?”. “Well … we don’t know”. (*laughter*). You don’t like to be put in that spot do you? I don’t like to be put in that spot! I want to know! I’m nosy! I’ve got enough nosiness for the whole congregation!
(*At this point Ern begins to sing*) “And when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were altogether of one accord in one place and there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and filled all the place where they were sitting and cloven tongues like as of fire sat on each of them and they were all furnished with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance”. Where did that come from??! Where in the world did that come from!? Surprise! Surprise! (*laughter*).
Well I want to turn to one Scripture with which to conclude this morning. What translation have you got Stanley? May I borrow that? I don’t like this one. The Living Bible is great at times but other times it isn’t … great. You thought I was going to say something else didn’t you?! (*laughter*). I try to be careful. Ephesians 1:10. God told Moses some of those things that were going to happen. Others were hidden from him. Here’s something God has told us is going to happen. Now how is hidden from him. Listen. “He made known to us the mystery …”. Now ‘mystery’ is a sacred secret. Something you can’t attain to by sense investigation. It’s got to be revealed. “He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His kind intention which He purposed in Christ with a view to administration (that’s a form of house keeping) suitable to the times that is the summing up of all things in Christ – things in heaven and upon earth in Him”. Alright – that’s all.
God revealed through Paul specifically this fact – that in this age which you and I are living which is the age of the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son – that in this age, God is going to gather all things in Christ. Now I don’t how. All I know is that He said to us, that we are to go into all the world and make disciples of nations. Have we ever thought about it, have we ever talked about it, have we ever considered it? Now I don’t want to be unkind about this because I’m as guilty as most. When I was a pastor I was concerned with my congregation – my church – my Sunday school and that was alright but it’s too limited! All I’m asking you this morning to do is open your heart to expect God to do something else that is going to be of such a nature as you hadn’t thought about before. How many would have believed the Pentecostal visitation at the turn of the century? How many would have believed the Charismatic visitation? In our own century we have had such divine manifestation that is unprecedented and exciting. God is not dead! He’s alive! If there’s any charge of death, it belongs here. We are dull of hearing. We are unexciting! We are unresponsive to the divine activity. The world is dead – it’s had its day. Why be concerned with ghosts fighting in the graveyard? That’s all it is! The earth is the Lord’s! God is the One who is in charge! We’re His People! Now all I’m asking you is to make some room in your faith – make some room in your spirit for some new exciting happenings in your life – in this congregation – in Dunstable!
Don’t go off and do something silly and try and make it happen. That’s where the problem occurs! I was in the Healing Movement for many years and what bothered me so much was that when God wouldn’t act, they acted for Him. In the Charismatic dimension they simulated God. I don’t want to simulate God! I don’t have to learn the Gregorian chant to sing in the Spirit! I don’t have to simulate a confirmation service where there is no impartation, when people can get the baptism of the Spirit properly!
“God is moving by His Spirit moving through all the earth – signs and wonders when God moveth, move oh God in me”.
God I’m a candidate for a surprise! I can’t make it happen. God I deplore the pornography, the sexual perversion, the permissiveness in society! I deplore it God! But unless you rend the heavens and come down and I’m saying to you this morning, God I’m not going to lift a carnal finger to make a good meeting – I will worship you and keep my spirit open but I won’t simulate a prophecy and I won’t manufacture a healing. But God, like the ancient king with the women and children when our enemies are so vast that they intimate and appal us – here we stand. Our eyes are upon you! God this morning our eyes are on you! We’re not match for international problems – we’re no match for this thing or that. We’re Abraham in Ur – we’re a little boy in a manger! We’re a child in a carpenters shop! As far as the world is concerned they walk right past our door. They don’t hate us! We don’t even deserve their hatred. They ignore us. If they hated us it would mean that we drew their attention but they don’t hate us because they don’t even know we’re here. And God there is no way we are going to try and make it happen. We’re not going to go out and confront them on the street – no we don’t want that Lord! But oh! Rend the heavens and come down! Visit this vine which Thou hast planted! This is Your people Lord! You said you’d prune and visit and water them! You said you’d make them flourish and make them grow! And God we want to open our hearts to that element of surprise that has characterised You from that moment when You spoke worlds into existence right down to the time when you incarnated Yourself in the virgin womb of a peasant girl! Right down to that time when You came into our lives with such an impact of Your glory that we didn’t expect. Do it again Lord! Do it again!
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