Holy Spirit, Power, Faith, Evidence, Believers
The TV show “Home Improvement” starring Tim Allen was a hit show based on one man’s desire to always build something bigger and more powerful. It seemed that in almost every show there was a time when Allen looked for the opportunity to get more power whether it was in a lawn mower, garbage disposal, classic car, computer, washing machine or exhaust fan, the goal was the same: more power. Because of this I think “Tim the Toolman” would have loved Acts chapter 2.
In Acts 2 we see what is considered to be the beginning of the Church. This was the day the church took its first step forward. As Christians we think of the day of Pentecost as the day the Holy Spirit came to earth . . . but Pentecost (otherwise called the feast of weeks) was a Jewish festival and every male Jew within a twenty mile radius of Jerusalem was supposed to come to the temple. The festival took place in June and because of the weather was usually the best attended religious feast. It was a national holiday.
The Jewish celebration of Pentecost was a time when the people of Israel gathered with the first fruits of their harvest. It was a time for giving thanks for the blessing of God. Over the years it also became a celebration that recalled the giving of the law to Moses.
In Acts two we see the first Pentecost celebration after the resurrection of Jesus. It would be on this day that God would give His Spirit and His grace in contrast to the law. On this day the world would see the firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest as over 3000 people came to believe and trust Jesus as their Savior.
The events of Acts two have been studied and preached on by many people. You can look at this text quite deeply and find many rich truths hidden here. But that is not what I am going to do this morning. I want you to see the bigger picture. I want you to see why this event was so significant. For most people the events here seem quite strange and maybe a little bizarre. I want you to understand why this was such an unusual occurrence. As usual, there are at least three important issues in this event.
THE PROMISE WAS BEING FULFILLED
Throughout the course of the ministry of Jesus he prepared His disciples for his coming death. He told them that they needed to see His death not as a tragedy but as a necessity. His death would bring them life and would make it possible for God to send His Spirit into our very hearts. In the gospel of John, Jesus told his disciples,
7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:7-15)
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would,
- Testify of Christ
- Open hearts (He will convict the world of their sin)
- Guide believers into the truth and help them understand that truth
- Give them the words to say when they are brought before the courts
- Give them power to fulfill the commission He has entrusted to them.
- Comfort them in the difficult times
Max Lucado likens the Holy Spirit to the music for those who wish to dance. We can study dancing but we can never really dance until we learn how to move with the music. In like manner, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would enable us to live the godly life that we had read about and dreamed about.
Understand that there is a problem with these great words. Anybody can make these kinds of promises. In fact, lots of people make promises like this. If you are up late any night and you browse some of the infomercials you will see many promises that tell you that a certain product, a certain method, a certain vitamin will enrich your life. Other religions promise that following their tenets will lead you to present happiness and eternal bliss. But how do you prove these things? Promises are easy to make. And a promise about a Spirit who would live inside of us . . . well, it sounds great, but why should we believe the promise?
EVIDENCE IS BEING PRESENTED
Pentecost was a visual demonstration of the Spirit’s coming into the lives and hearts of His people. This was the evidence that the promise of Jesus was being fulfilled.
There were three primary manifestations of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. First there is the sound of the rushing wind. The NIV translates it a “violent” wind. There was no breeze, just the sound. The people in Jerusalem came to the place the disciples were not because they heard the tongues, but because they heard the wind. It must have been like the sound of a tornado. Perhaps people came running because they thought something horrible had happened.
The image of wind is very appropriate when dealing with the Spirit. The word for spirit is the same word that is translated, breath. Jesus talked about the wind and the Spirit to Nicodemus. It was a very appropriate symbol.
The second symbol was the appearance of something like tongues of fire over the head of all the believers. I picture it as sort of the look of a pilot light. Fire has always been a powerful symbol. It conveys the idea of power, purity and at times judgment. Fire was a symbol often used to portray the presence of God. Consider the burning bush, the fire on the top of Mount Sinai, the pillar of fire in the wilderness wanderings. This tongue of fire over every believer showed that God’s Spirit (a part of God Himself) was being given to all of the followers.
Notice that the tongues of fire rested on ALL the believers. This is significant because there are some who seem to teach that you do not truly have the spirit of God in you unless you have some dramatic experience to prove the coming of the Spirit. I don’t think that can be sustained from the Bible at all.
In verse 38 of this chapter Peter told the people who were listening that if they believed they too would receive the Spirit. We are told that 3000 did believe that day but we are told nothing about their speaking in tongues, being slain in the Spirit, or any other such thing. You would think that this would have been a noteworthy fact to report.
In Ephesians 1:13,14Paul tells the Ephesian Christians, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Paul’s declaration is that EVERYONE who truly believes is given the Holy Spirit as the seal or deposit that shows the genuineness of our salvation!
If you want to get an official document and guarantee that it is valid, the clerk will often affix the official seal on the paper. If you sign you name you will often need the seal of a notary public to guarantee the genuine-ness of the signature. Paul declared that every believer possesses God’s seal: the Holy Spirit. Practically, this means the power that is seen at Pentecost is the power that resides in you!
The third piece of evidence of the coming of the Holy Spirit was a miracle. It appears from the text that all 120 of the people in the upper room began to speak in foreign tongues or languages. Verse 4 tells us “they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
The disciples proclaimed the glory of God in languages that they had never learned. The many people who were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost ran to the place where the sound of violent wind was heard. Though they probably all spoke Greek, Hebrew or Arabic, they were hearing the gospel proclaimed in their home or native dialects.
This was a miracle that was obvious to everyone. These disciples were unschooled. These were languages these disciples of Jesus could not have known apart from something supernatural taking place.
The point of all three of these manifestations of the coming of the Spirit was for the people to see with their senses that the Holy Spirit had actually come to them as God had promised.
POWER WAS BEING IMPARTED
The purpose of Pentecost was not to produce a side show that would leave everyone stunned and impressed. The focus of the Day of Pentecost was the power given to the people to proclaim the good news of salvation. This is exactly what Jesus had said in chapter one verse 8. The Spirit would come upon them and they would be witnesses.
When God’s Spirit works through a person, things happen. People can move a crowd with their persuasive speeches. But only God’s Spirit can change a heart and life. As we rely on the Spirit’s power and not our own, we see God work in a mighty way.
A committee of ministers in a certain city was discussing the possibility of having D. L. Moody to serve as the evangelist during a city-wide evangelistic campaign.
Finally, one young minister who did not want to invite Moody stood up and said: “Why Moody? Does he have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit?”
There was silence. Then an old, godly minister spoke up: “No, he does not have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit; but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly of D. L. Moody.”
Moody used to testify that when he discovered and learned to rely on the power of God’s Spirit; when he finally yielded to the Spirit’s work in his life, he was able to preach the same sermons he had many times before . . . but now people responded and were changed.
This is why we must pray for each other. We must pray that God’s Spirit be given free reign in our lives. We must pray for our church. We must ask that God’s power be set free in our midst. You need to pray for me, you need to pray for Jon. Study, style, eloquence, ideas and hard work cannot change someone . . . only God can do that. Pray that God’s Spirit would have a monopoly on us. Pray for our radio broadcasts that God would use them in the Spirit’s power. Pray for my books in the same way. Our programs and gimmicks may draw a crowd . . . but only God can change a heart.
God has not given us His Spirit solely for our comfort and enjoyment. He has given us His Spirit to equip us to faithfully proclaim the good news to others. God can take your talents and your gifts and use them in ways you never imagined. But to do this, you have to trust Him. You need to rely on His strength rather than your own. You need to open yourself up to the work of God’s Spirit in you.
The day of Pentecost was a significant day because it was a new beginning. It was the time when God empowered His people with the Spirit of Christ. Now, instead of being with Jesus . . . Jesus was with them wherever they went. His power was within them. His wisdom was at their disposal. God equipped these common men and women to do uncommon things.
There are several conclusions we should be drawing here. First, we are reminded that the Lord did not leave us to stand and fight in this world by our own strength. I love the verses in 2 Corinthians 10: 3,4 “3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the battle before you, realize that you do not fight alone. Your battle may be against an addiction that makes you feel powerless. You may be battling a hostile work, school or home environment. You may be battling powerful people. You must remember that you do not fight alone. God has equipped you with the power of God. His strength is at your disposal.
Second, I must remind you that God’s Spirit is not given to everyone. He is given only to those who believe. We’ll talk about this much more in the weeks to come, but a true believer is one who not only affirms the facts about Jesus (He was God in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died for our sin, and rose literally from the dead), but they are a person who also stands on, commits to and relies on these facts. The true believer is one who knows that they are a sinner. They no longer try to compare themselves with others. They know they have no hope of salvation apart from Christ. They run to His mercy and His grace. Is it possible that you know nothing of the power of the Holy Spirit because although you are doing Christian things, you have never given your life to Jesus? If you are unsure of your spiritual state please become sure. Let’s talk. Or better yet, talk to the Father.
Third, as powerful as God’s Spirit is, the Bible teaches us that we can restrict His power. In Ephesians 4:30 we are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us that we grieve the Spirit when we engage in unwholesome talk and allow bitterness, anger, and resentment to build within us. If we want the Spirit to work freely in us we must keep these things from our lives. We must be diligent in pursuing godly living.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 we are told to make sure we do not “put out the Spirit’s fire.” We hinder the work of God’s Spirit when we sin. The power is within us but every time we drift from the Lord, every time we cater to sin we put obstacles in the way of God’s Spirit. It is like driving your car down the street. You can avoid a few obstacles in the road (a branch, a box, a piece of a tire) but if the number of obstacles in the road increases it becomes increasingly difficult to maneuver through them. There can come a point when there are so many obstacles that you have to stop and wait until the obstacles are cleared away. So it is with God’s Spirit when He encounters the sin and rebellion in our lives.
I don’t think something dramatic has to happen in our lives to show us that God’s Spirit is available and at work within us. We have the evidence of Pentecost to know that God is true to His promise. But I can’t help but wonder what God could do in you, in me, in our church, and through the Christian community if we were better at tapping into His power. Would we witness more miracles? I think we might. Would we see more people transformed by God’s grace? I think we would be staggered by the response. Would we have a greater impact on our society? I think our society would change just as the world was changed in the first century. So, what should be we be doing? Surely, this is what we want. So, let’s try to be very practical,
- First, we must take God at His Word. We must actually and really believe that the power of Pentecost is the same power that lives in you and me. We must come to understand that God has equipped us not only to be successful and influential people, He has equipped us to walk and work in the power of God. He has given us the power to see lives changed, circumstances altered, and mountains of many kinds, moved.
- Second, we must ask for the help of God’s Spirit. We must look for the music of life. Instead of merely asking God to solve our problems, we should ask Him to empower our lives. We need to ask God’s Spirit to guide us as we read His word. We need to ask for the Spirit to make us sensitive to the opportunities God gives us. We must ask for the Spirit to give us the words and boldness we will need. We must ask God to show us the barriers that hinder the Spirit’s work in our lives and then seek His forgiveness when He does. We need to stop playing at our faith and begin to realize that God has given us a very serious job to do and the power to do that job.
- Third, we must step out in faith. As long as we do only what we are comfortable doing, we will continue to trust our strength rather than His. If we want to know the power of Pentecost in our lives we must be willing to live boldly for the Lord. Dare to bring up the subject of faith in a conversation; take advantage of an opportunity you have to minister even though it seems bigger than you can handle; dare to go to the home of someone who is hurting even though you don’t know what to say; offer to pray with someone going through a rough time even if you are in a public place; write a check that’s bigger than you think you can “afford”; volunteer for a ministry you think you’d enjoy but aren’t sure you can handle. We need to learn how to say “yes” instead of making excuses. In my experience I have found that every time I have tried something new in the belief that it was what God wanted me to do (even though it may not have been what I wanted to do) I have been amazed at God’s faithfulness. We can’t see God work through us until we give Him the opportunity to do so.
Tim the Toolman would have been intrigued by the power of God. But there is a good chance that Tim would have been so focused on what happened that he may have missed why it was happening. May God keep us from making the same mistake.