Pastor Craig Carter
There’s an old adage: “You either have it or you don’t!” What is “it”? You know…it! Some people have it and some people don’t!
“It” is hard to define, but we know it when we see it. Example: The singer on “America’s Got Talent” who sounds like many others but she’s clearly different and Simon Cowell declares she has “the it factor.”
Churches and Christians have “it” too, don’t they? Have you ever been to a church that doesn’t have “it”? It doesn’t take long to realize “it” is missing. They’re lifeless, devoid of purpose, superficial/artificial, and they definitely don’t make you want to come back!
On the other hand, a church that has “it” is alive, contagious, on fire, passionate. There seems to be a spiritual buzz in the air and a sense of divine anticipation. Clearly, it is somehow related to the Holy Spirit. All believers have the presence of God in and among them and yet, some seem to have more of “it” than others.
The Early Church definitely had “it.” They lost their leader and teacher, Jesus, but continued on without missing a beat. They were persecuted and opponents tried to exterminate them, but they grew in number and multiplied exponentially. The first Christians gave everything away, but still had more than enough. Others were afraid of them, but at the same time, felt themselves strangely drawn to them.
In Acts 2:42-47, we learn how the first followers of Christ demonstrated that they had “it.” Focus on the words in bold:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with anyone in need.They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NLT)
If that’s what it looks like, I’d sure like to have some of “it,” wouldn’t you?
Pastor and author, Craig Groeschel, prompted my thinking on this subject. In 2008, he wrote a book called, “It” and I heard him deliver a message by the same title at a Leadership Conference. Using some of his insights and applying pertinent scriptural passages, what can we say about “the it factor” as it pertains to Christians and churches? Here are four statements to introduce this 4-part sermon series:
#1 You don’t get it, it gets you.
Most folks who have “it” aren’t even aware of that fact. “It” is just part of who they are. Others try to emulate them and their behavior, but you either have it or you don’t. “It” is not something that you can gain on your own.
When it comes to getting “it” as a Christian, that’s definitely the case. Consider the first leaders in the Early Church – Peter and John. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, they tried to follow Jesus’ teaching and imitate His life and ministry…but time and time again, they failed and came up short. But then something happened because in the Book of Acts we read:
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. (Acts 4:13 NIV)
It was readily apparent to all, even to their adversaries, that they had “it.” In fact, they were possessed by it; for a few verses later, they said:
“As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20 NIV)
So what had happened to them? What had gotten ahold of Peter and John? Well, I think you know, it wasn’t an it at all, it was a He – The Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, they were filled with power from on high. So they didn’t get “it,” HE (the Spirit of Christ) got them.
Here’s a pretty good test to determine whether or not we have “it” … Do others recognize us as having been with Jesus? Can we not help but speak about how we have experienced Christ’s power and received God’s grace?
Instead of trying to be in control and getting it, maybe we need to lose control and let Him (through the power of the Holy Spirit) get us.
#2 You cannot manufacture it, God gives it.
Folks with “the it factor” don’t go to school to learn it nor do they hire a coach to show them how to attain it; it seems to be a God-given trait, part and parcel of who they are.
As I just mentioned, “it” is a He – the Holy Spirit. And Scripture makes it very clear that the Spirit is not achieved, but received.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” (Acts 1:8a NLT)
And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Acts 2:4 NLT)
The first followers of Jesus simply received, by faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit. From that time to the present, folks have tried to reproduce it or manufacture it.
Most Christians are pretty good at playing the role (i.e. doing/saying the right things). But it’s obvious to everyone else, they don’t have “it.”
It kind of reminds me of the movie, The Sixth Sense. In it, a young boy named Cole is being treated by a child psychologist played by Bruce Willis. The boy appears to be delusional as he claims to see and talk to ghosts. In a chilling scene he has a revealing dialogue with Dr. Crowe. Cole says, “I see dead people. But they don’t know they’re dead.” Dr. Crowe asks, “Where are they?” Cole replies, “Everywhere.”
I wonder if Jesus looks around and says, “I see dead people and congregations everywhere. But they just don’t know they’re dead.”
I’m afraid some churches/Christians died years ago…or maybe they were never really alive, but they just don’t know it. They go through the motions, trying to manufacture “it” but they don’t really have it. They’ll never manufacture it, because only God can give it.
#3 If you have it, you may not keep it.
Just because you have it today doesn’t mean you’ll have it tomorrow.
Just ask the A-list actor that can no longer get a job, or the All-Star baseball pitcher who suddenly can’t throw the ball over the plate, or the successful business that falls out of public favor. Those examples aren’t nearly as tragic as the person who loses “it” in the spiritual sense…but it is always a distinct possibility.
It happened to the first king of Israel: Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul… (1 Samuel 16:14a NLT)
New Testament writers cautioned their readers, “Be careful lest you fall…Don’t turn away.”
Then, in the Book of Revelation, Christ leveled this charge against the church in Ephesus: “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen!” (Revelation 2:4-5a NLT)
In other words, you had it, but you didn’t keep it.
The Righteous Brothers had a hit song about losing “that loving feeling” It’s a question we all need to ask, “Have I lost the loving feeling for God and others?”
Some related questions: Do I have something special that is from and for God? Do I worry more about pleasing the Lord than gaining the applause of others? Is Jesus the focus of my life or has someone or something else captured my attention?
The reason Christians need to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit is because we “leak.” How about you? Is your love for Christ the most it’s ever been? Do you have more of “it” than you’ve ever had? Does God have more of you than He’s ever had? If not, do you want it?
#4 If you don’t have it (or have lost it), you can get it.
The good news is we don’t have to manufacture “it” because God gives it.
“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:13 NLT)
“Ask for it and you will receive it.” (Matthew 7:7) That’s true whether it’s the first time or the umpteenth time.
And, as Christ told the church in Ephesus, “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5b NLT)
Jesus provides a 3-D formula for getting it:
1. Discern you’ve lost it (or don’t have it) [“Look how far you have fallen”]
2. Determine to get it [“Turn back to me” i.e. repent]
3. Do whatever is necessary [“the works you did at first”]
For me, that includes reading scripture, fasting, praying alone and with other Christians, and small group fellowship.
I said at the outset that if anyone ever had “the it factor” it was the Early Church. How did they arrive at that environment that is described in Acts 2:42-47?
It came in response to some directions that Peter gave on the Day of Pentecost. This was right after he and the other disciples got “it.” 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.” (Acts 2:38 NLT)
Pretty simple recipe, huh? Be a believer (repent/trust) and a receiver.
And here’s the best part for us hearing those words 2,000 years later: “This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away — all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:39 NLT)
Throughout this sermon series, we’re going to talk about what happens when we have “it.” But first we’ve got to get “it.” So let’s ask God for it, receive it by faith, and then nurture it through right action.