The Holy Spirit Comes [Part 1]
by Pastor Mike Fortune
August 14, 2010
- Unity is not uniformity [Acts 2:1; Acts 15:19]
- The Holy Spirit can come into your life [Acts 2:1-12; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:37-38]
- We will serve even when they laugh at us [Acts 2:13; Zechariah 4:6]
Prayer is, as our video clip revealed, and as we’ll see in our passage today, a significant ingredient preceding the coming of the Holy Spirit. Not just to the 120 people in that upper room of Acts 2. But for us as well. They had gathered there for the feast of Pentecost. And of all the feasts of the Jewish year, Pentecost attracted the largest number of pilgrims from distant lands. Did you know that? I didn’t. I thought for sure it would have been Passover. But it’s not because in June seven weeks and a day after Passover, totaling 50 days which is where we get the name Pentecost, it was safer for large numbers of people to travel. Acts 27:9 describes some of those hardships you could encounter during different seasons. So Pentecost had more representatives from more nations gathered in Jerusalem. Unlike the Passover, the bread at this joyous festival emphasizing peace and consecration was leavened and with it came the spirit of release and celebration.
In Toledo this weekend, the Greek Festival is taking place and as I was driving through Sylvania the other day, I noticed the Tam-o-Shanter is hosting an Indian Festival which as you know is my fave food on earth. I am very tempted to skip the Lemonade and Picnic with Purpose in the Park happening today rain or shine and go get some Indian food instead! But instead, I will potluck it up in the park and I hope you do too! If you do, please change into some casual clothes so we look indigenous to people in the park. Why do we, by the way, go out of our way to adapt to the dress codes and cultures of countries we work in outside of the United States as missionaries but refuse to do the same inside the United States? That’s always puzzled me.
Moving on, even Paul liked to party at Pentecost. Which just sounds like a line from Cat in the Hat doesn’t it? But that’s basically what Acts 20:16 says, “16Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.” Rabbis especially liked Pentecost because they believed that on it, many years earlier, God spoke the law to the people on that day. So that’s the context to our passage today in Acts 2:1-13 so please turn with me there as we dig into Scripture this morning to learn more about Jesus and more about the coming of the Holy Spirit.
“1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. 5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs-we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" 13Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine."
Point number one: Unity is not uniformity. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” I know that’s talking about physical location, but don’t you think that could also be indicative of their spiritual frame of mind? Acts 1:14 says they had recently “all joined together constantly in prayer along with the women Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.” Though the disciples just a few weeks earlier had been arguing about petty jealousies in their failure to heal the demon-possessed boy [Mark 9:14-29], in their striving for high positions in Jesus’ kingdom [Luke 22:24, and in refusing to wash one another’s feet [John 13:3-17], apparently all that trivial stuff had been washed away by the agony of the crucifixion, the glory of the resurrection, and the majesty of the ascension. Do you remember what the angels asked them?
Acts 1:11 says, “11"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." Can you imagine how amazing that must have been to see let alone be confirmed by angels? Don’t you think it would be easier for the disciples to keep the main thing the main thing after watching that? I do. But I also know that emotions are fleeting and as times pass, so do our memories. And it wouldn’t be too long before the unity of the God-fearing Jews in that upper room would be rocked by controversy from within and without. Acts 6:1 says in those days the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were bing overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So they gathered the disciples together to figure something out. Later, and much more seriously, Acts 15:1 says representatives from Judea to Antioch gathered again in Jerusalem for the first General Conference of the early church. And there after much debate, it was decided not to add more rules, but fewer rules. One of my fave lines in Scripture is Acts 15:19 where it says, “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
Imagine what would change in the church if today we decided to not make it difficult for some of the 80% of Americans not in any church on any weekend to come. Dave did a great job talking about some of those implications for us here in Toledo last week so if you missed his message, go watch it on our church website. They’re also spelled out in length in a document we created called The Toledo First Assimilation Manual. Copies of that are also available online and in the church office. If you’ve never read that, I would encourage you to do so. If you don’t have time to read the entire thing before next week, I’d encourage you to at least read Appendix 2. Because it’s there that we explain more of point number one.
Unity is not uniformity. In essential beliefs, we have unity. For them in Acts 1, it looks like those included that Jesus died, rose again, and promised to return. That’s what the angel said. Maybe that’s why Ephesians 4:4-6 says, “There is one Body and one Spirit...there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all.” So in essential beliefs, we have unity. But in non-essential beliefs, we have liberty. And apparently, based on Acts 15, there are more of these than we think! Because when they talked about uniformity, what they settled on is this: Abstain from food polluted by idols. Abstain from sexual immorality. And finally, abstain from meat of strangled animals and from blood. And that’s about it.
Other than that, let’s have some leavened bread! Let’s have some joy and peace and release. Let’s be unified in the essential things. But let’s have freedom on everything else. A few verses in Romans 14 says it this way: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters...Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls...So then each of us will give an account of himself to God...So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God” [Romans 14:1,4,12,22]. But in all our beliefs, we must show love. Because 1 Corinthians 13:2 says, “2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Point number one: Unity is not uniformity.
Moving on, “2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Notice it was not actually a wind but a sound like a wind. And it might have been a lot quieter than you’ve been told or led to believe. We know this is true because the word describing the sound it made upon the Holy Spirit’s coming in Greek is ‘echo’ where we get our English word echo. Even in the fire we get the impression from the original language that the coming of the Holy Spirit was much less charismatic than some think. “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire.” Not actual tongues of fire. Exodus 3:2 and Malachi 3:2 reminds the reader that the coming of divinity is often associated with fire. And so it is in the description of the Holy Spirit. And then the Bible says they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Verse 9 clarifies that these tongues they were speaking in were languages native to the countries of origin represented. These were previously known and understood languages by people from other countries spoken by unilingual Galileans. Which is why it was so amazing. Pastor Anna just returned from Greece where she studied Hebrew. Maybe later we will see if she remembers any of it and can sing us a song in Hebrew to prove it. But the people in these verses would have had no problem singing the songs in these other languages because they were now uniquely capable of communicating in it. The Holy Spirit filled them so they could it. And the cool thing is, the Holy Spirit is willing to fill us to do cool things for God too. I’ve heard of stories even today of missionaries to places with languages and dialects that have never been heard of much less translated into English and you know what? When some sincere unilingual American missionaries show up, they can communicate there. How? Through the Holy Spirit. It’s pretty cool.
But as I’ll remind you next week, America is our missionary field. And it has already surpassed nearly every other field as the most in need of missionaries. When we go back to school, we are going back to the mission field. Even if it’s only crossing the street instead of an ocean. And so I want you to know today how to have the Holy Spirit come into your lives today so you can be prepared for whatever God wants you to do in this mission field. Point number two is: The Holy Spirit can come into your life. Here’s how.
Acts 1:14 said they prayed and obviously accepted Jesus as essential. So first thing we should do is pray and ask Jesus to become priority number one in our lives. You do this by remembering your ABCs. A stands for Ask. Ask Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to come into your life. Duh right? Jesus said in another context, “You have not because you ask not.” So let’s ask for Him! Let’s pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. We do this every Wednesday night @ 6:30pm by the way. B stands for believe. Just a few chapters later, Acts 12 tells the story of the church who prayed but didn’t believe in the power of it. Because when Peter showed up after being miraculously released from prison, they didn’t believe it was him at first! Believe that Jesus will do what He says and that the Holy Spirit will come and help you make wise decisions. And C stands for confess. Which I’ll use in our next step of how to have the Holy Spirit come into your life and that’s by repenting of sin.
The Bible doesn’t say so, but I have to assume those 120 people in the upper room, especially the 11 apostles left some of whom just weeks earlier arguing about stupid stuff and who would be the greatest had since then repented of their foolishness don’t’ you think? If they hadn’t, their ears would have been burning when Peter got up later in Acts 2:38 and said, “38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repentance includes not only being sorry for sin but also turning away and continuing to turn away from sin. What did Jesus tell the women caught in adultery in John 8:11? “Go and sin no more.” In other words, stop living your life this way. Turn away from this and stay away from this.
So how does the Holy Spirit come into your life? We pray and ask Jesus to become priority number one. Two, we repent of our sin. We confess that we are separated from God full of petty foolishness and non-essential things we’ve made more important than they should be. Confession really means just telling the truth about yourself and your desire to want to want God. Even if on some days you don’t. Like Teresa of Avila, we can pray, “God, I want to want you today.” And then three, get baptized. Literally. We just read Acts 2:37 says, “Repent and be baptized.” Not because there’s anything magical about being immersed in a tank of water. But because the public declaration of Jesus Christ is a powerful thing to participate in and to witness. It’s the way Jesus wants us to say “I do” to Him. He never sinned and didn’t need forgiveness, but He got baptized anyway as our example of what we should do and promised if we did, that the Holy Spirit would descend on us in a special way like a dove in His case or like an echo or tongue of fire in this case.
Step one: pray and ask Jesus to become priority number one.
Step two: repent of sin and keep turning away from it.
Step three: Get baptized.
Step four: Start serving. Acts 7:7 says, “7Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?” Apparently, once the Holy Spirit came into their lives, they started using the gifts the Holy Spirit gave right away. They all started chattering in their new languages. Just like Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, the Holy Spirit can come into your life and blow the doors off. We can live for Him. Not by might, nor by power, but by what? His Spirit [Zecharaiah 4:6]! I challenge you today to try these four steps on how to have the Holy Spirit come into your life and see if they don’t work for you too. All four steps belong in point number two: The Holy Spirit can come in our lives.
But even though we live by His power and strength, some people may laugh at us. Acts 2:13 says, “13Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’” You’re crazy! You can’t build a church community based on a few essential beliefs and freedom on the others. You can’t build a church that loves people more than prophecy. You can’t build a church that reaches the 80% of Americans not interested in the way existing churches do church. You’ve had too much Welch’s grape juice. Just joking. Since Pentecost fell in June, and fresh grapes were not ripe until August, we can be pretty sure they weren’t talking about O’Douls near-beer. They were saying instead that these guys must be punch drunk at 9am! Which means they would have fit in very well with the Cleveland Browns fans I met one Sunday morning drunk in the parking lots before a football game!
Point number three: We will serve even when they laugh at us. Mock us all you want. Doubt our sincerity. Call us unfaithful. Or “Adventist Lite.” We’re going to serve anyway. Not because we’re trying to prove you wrong. Or because some people aren’t blessed by the ordinary churches that still exist. But because we believe we’re called to reach this rapidly growing mission field in America with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We at Toledo First are determined not to make it harder for Gentiles turning to God. Instead, we are trying to make it easier.
I’ll tell you more about that next week. But before we go serve in the park today, would you please remember that unity is not uniformity? Point number one. That we can have the Holy Spirit come into our lives. Quietly like an echo. But obviously like a wind. Point number two. And that even if the missions we pursue with the Holy Spirit make others laugh, that’s okay. Point number three. We will stay sober. And vigilant. And show the world that God loves them like crazy and wants them to live like crazy. May God’s Spirit give us His resurrection power and strength to continue doing so.