Last week we started out our summer ACTS series by looking at the mission that Jesus gave the Early Christian Church. It’s a mission that still is the mission of the church today. It’s the mission of our church today.
And we learned that it was different from what his disciples expected in three ways:
1) The mission to build the kingdom was spiritual, not physical.
2) The mission required them to get off the sidelines and into the game.
3) The mission wasn’t going to just be local, but global.
Which is how we got to know about Jesus.
And it’s how we got to have the same mission.
And that’s a bit intimidating.
Even if we focus just on our specific end of the earth.
North Raleigh is where we are located. Boundary wise it runs from up at Falls Lake down to Millbrook, from Creedmoor over to Durant Nature Park. It’s a couple some square miles in each direction that holds over 115,000 people. The population is made up from lifelong Raleighians, to Northerners, to Midwesterners, to Southwesterners, to Northwesterners. It has people from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Congo, Nepal, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Russia, Ukraine, Iraq, Iran, and many other places. And in the latest demographic study of the area, the most common religious group for all of these people was NONE.
God has given us – a church of about 200 – the mission to reach those 115,000 with the Gospel.
And that’s if we limit ourselves to North Raleigh.
That’s not to mention Durham, Chapel Hill, Morrisville and many others.
How can we do that all by ourselves?
Today we are continuing our study of Acts by looking at chapter 2, the story of Pentecost. In this section, God makes it very clear to us that our BIG, INTIMIDATING mission is not so intimidating, because we aren’t doing it…ALONE. Before we study, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Pentecost Scene
The scene we’re starting from is Acts 2. It takes place in a small room in the middle of Jerusalem. If you remember, that’s where Jesus told his disciples to go. “Do not leave, Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised.” (1:4)
So…after the disciples heard about their BIG, INTIMIDATING mission and Jesus left them for heaven (something else very intimidating), they went back to their house in Jerusalem ...and sat…
…and sat some more.
I imagine, things got a bit antsy.
When’s this gift coming?
How much longer do you think we have to wait?
I hope it never comes so we never have to start on this impossible mission!
Eventually, the disciples started doing things to stay busy:
In the corner, Matthew worked on an ancient Excel spreadsheet on funding for their mission.
In the kitchen, crumbs all over the table as James had been anxiety eating.
On the other side of the room was the dartboard where Philip and Nathanael had taken turns throwing darts at a rough sketch of the world – as if those darts would determine who would have to go where.
The BIG chair was occupied by Mary Magdalene who was sewing arch supports into Jude’s sandals because “to the ends of the earth,” seemed like a lot of walking.
And they sat….
…and sat some more.
When WAS this gift coming?
Suddenly, on the 10th day…Something happened.
It started as a low hum.
A few of the disciples took notice.
One went to check the kitchen garbage disposal.
As they listened, it grew louder and louder.
It sounded more like a storm. A loud, rushing, wind – a thunderstorm – a squall – something they experienced on the lake from time to time.
But they weren’t on a lake.
They were in the middle of the house. And this noise, this tornado like noise was coming right over the top of them!
As James scoured the room looking for the source of the sound, his eyes happened upon something else entirely.
A flame. A fire appeared on the top of his brother John’s head.
James panicked. He reached down, grabbed the nearest rug and threw it over John’s head as he tackled him to the floor. He smothered him in the blanket and helped him stop, drop and roll.
But after John grunted and asked him to get off, James removed the covering to discover the fire was still there.
Yet that wasn’t as shocking as to what he saw reflected in John’s eyeballs: there was fire on his own head too.
In fact, every disciple suddenly resembled a candlestick.
Fire was brimming off the top of their heads.
As if someone was turning 12 and they were the candles on the cake!
Peter looked across the room. He was marveling at the spectacle, until he saw the fire start to light off the top of Jude’s head. He noticed that the flame was dangerously close to the covering on Mary Magdalene’s head.
He shouted a warning:
Jude looked confused: “Que hablas amigo?”
“Kenichiwa.” said Matthew.
“Oui, Oui; French fries,” said Bartholomew.
The disciples looked at each other in amazement.
They hadn’t learned?
This. Was. The Gift.
Not the languages.
Not the fires.
Not the tornadolike sound.
This was the POWERFUL, UNSTOPPABLE, INCREDIBLE, DIVINE, Holy Spirit.
And He was with them.
And He was empowering them.
And suddenly…that BIG, INTIMIDATING mission?
Didn’t seem so scary anymore…
II. The Powerful Holy Spirit
This is the Pentecost story. It’s a celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Although it’s not the first time the Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout the Scriptures. It is probably THE time that He reveals Himself in such a magnificent fashion.
Think again about what the disciples witnessed the Holy Spirit doing.
(1) Tornado like Noise without the Tornado
Have you ever heard a tornado? Up in Minnesota, I remember hearing them from a distance, but (Thank the LORD) I’ve never heard them up close and personal. I’ve heard that it sounds something like a freight train coming through your living room. It’s loud. It’s harsh. It’s intense.
That’s the kind of noise that the disciples hear.
Only…as they look around…
Nobody’s hair is blowing to the side.
No one’s tunic is flopping in the wind.
Nobody’s beard is out of place.
The Holy Spirit is able to remove the visual and tangible qualities of a tornado and bring just the sound to the disciples.
It’d be like taking a soundtrack, putting it on some computer audio software and scrubbing out background noises.
The Holy Spirit does that with a storm.
Amazing! If he can empower the dead room temperature air with such a sound, imagine the incredible Gospel words He would do through the disciples.
(2) Flamelike Apparitions
The Bible is clear. These things looked like little flames of fire, but they weren’t fire. The disciples don’t get hurt, but they clearly see this glimpse into the divine manifesting itself above their heads.
They are like candles without the wax.
Like blowtorches without the gasoline.
Like campfires without the logs.
By the way – if you are feeling skeptical about this whole scene and you think it’s just a figment of one disciples’ imagination, remember – There were at least 12 people in that room. Probably more. I imagine that when they saw the fire on each other’s heads, they too were skeptical. They too investigated. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them touched it.
But…none of them came to the conclusion that this is all a big illusion similar to the illusion of our leader Jesus dying on the cross and rising form the dead…the illusion we’ve seen over 7 times.
Jesus was real.
Pentecost was real.
And if the Holy Spirit had no problem lighting a fire without fuel on their heads, he would have no problem lighting the fire of faith in people’s hearts.
(3) Instantaneous Foreign Language Fluency
I have an app on my phone for Duolingo. It pops up on a daily basis and tells me to practice my Spanish by going through quick three-minute lessons. I’ve been doing it for about a year and 1/2. I am only recently 50% fluent in Spanish. It takes that long to learn a language.
It was a lot faster.
And we know it isn’t just gibberish. At what happens when the people outside the house hear what’s going on.
Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
That’s over 15 languages represented.
Over 15 languages clearly communicated.
Unless the disciples have each been secretly learning one of those languages without telling the others…which just so happen to be the very languages needed for that Pentecost Day – This is a miracle!
If the Holy Spirit can teach them human languages like that, he would certainly teach them the spiritual words to say to convert hearts to their Savior.
This all leads to one awesome truth about the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is God
He is the third person of the Triune God.
He is all powerful, all knowing and all divine.
And on Pentecost, he proves that he is with the disciples on their mission.
III. The Holy Spirit and You?
But Pastor…Who cares? That’s nice that the disciples had the Holy Spirit with them, but how does that help me?
I can’t conjure up tornado noises.
I can’t snap my fingers and make flamelike apparitions appear.
I can’t speak any language beyond English – and dog; at least I can tell when he’s hungry – but I don’t have those powerful signs with me.
You might not.
But that doesn’t mean that same Powerful Holy Spirit isn’t with you.
Look at the following three passages:
“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:3)
“Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 6:19)
“Our gospel comes…with the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thess. 1:5)
The first passage is clear. If you believe that Jesus is Lord. If you authentically trust Jesus as your Savior, then guess what? You’ve got the Holy Spirit inside of you.
The second passage is speaking to believers. It reiterates that point – the Holy Spirit dwells within you! His temple is your body.
Finally, the last passage points out that the message of Jesus – that he is our savior from sin – comes packed with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s the truth:
The powerful Holy Spirit of Pentecost is with you, too.
His power to teach instantaneous language has spoken the message of grace to your heart.
His power to light a flamelike apparition lights a fire for God in your hearts.
His powerful to conjure up the sound of the storm is infused with your message that “Jesus saves.”
The Holy Spirit of Pentecost is with you, too.
You need not fear the BIG, INTIMIDATING mission.
You need not fear telling your spouse about their Savior.
You need not fear inviting your friends to church.
You need only BE BOLD.
That’s what he disciples did. They went from sitting around, nervously waiting in a room, constantly thinking about this BIG INTIMIDATING task to running into the streets. Many who had shouted for Jesus’ death no more than 53 days earlier. The disciples found some steps and a few soap boxes; they stood up and started street preaching!
You ever done any street preaching before? It’s intimidating.
Imagine that as a downtown activity later today!
But the disciples didn’t fear that because the Holy Spirit was with them.
That same Holy Spirit is with you.
And…to be fair…I’m not asking that you start with street preaching. Not today. 😊
But, if I could challenge you, why not do some living room preaching?
Or maybe some employee’s break room teaching?
Or some social media gospel sharing?
Don’t be afraid. The Holy Spirit is with you.
In fact, here’s verse 21. It’s the main verse in Peter’s sermon that he gives to tens of thousands in the middle of Downtown Jerusalem. Look at his message: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It’s a pretty awesome summary of the Gospel message, because it (1) implies our need for saving and (2) points out who the Savior is and (3) gives confidence that all who believe will be saved.
Write it down. Memorize it. If you’ve got your phone here today, why wait to share this until later? Do this. Go to your social media. Write it down. Check in at Gethsemane. Boldly share the message of Jesus.
And later this afternoon, take your family aside. Talk to the one who isn’t here today. Share this passage. Boldly share the message of Jesus.
Granted. You might be thinking. Will it work?
Check out the following verse.
It happens at the end of Pentecost.
It happens at the end of the impromptu street preaching.
It happens after Peter calls out the very men and women who crucified Jesus!
“Those who received the message were baptized, and about 3000 were added to their number that day.” (2:41)
Does the Holy Spirit work? Absolutely.
Will someone you tell immediately come to faith? Maybe not.
But the message will work.
Because the Holy Spirit works.
And the Holy Spirit is with you.
Share the Gospel. Amen.