The Holy Spirit comes upon the Church #1

Title: The Holy Spirit comes upon the Church

Text: Acts 2:1-13

Date: January 13th, 2008

We’ve been going through the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s for the last 2 months, but now I’d like to return to the Book of Acts and continue covering the topic we were learning about before: the Holy Spirit. Does anybody remember that I was teaching on the Holy Spirit before the holiday season? It seems so long ago, like last year — and it was last year, but not so long ago! I’ve already made the mistake of writing 2007 instead of 2008 this year. Has anyone else made that mistake already? I went in to pay my utility bill and wrote 2007 on the check. The woman had to ask me to correct it before I could pay my bill. I probably do that for a few weeks into the new year, but then once my subconscious mind has learned that it’s 2008 I’ll be fine for the rest of this year, that is, until next year! Then I’ll make the same mistake again for a few weeks again! But we are getting back to the Book of Acts and to the topic of the Holy Spirit. One theologian said that the Book of Acts should really be called the Book of the Holy or the Acts of the Holy Spirit instead of the Acts of the Apostles, because it’s really more of a description of the activity of the Holy Spirit than it is a description of the apostles. There is truth to that statement, although I think it is more correct to say that the Book of Acts is a description of the activity of the Holy Spirit through the apostles. The Holy Spirit works through Christians, usually not apart from them. So we see the early Christians yielding themselves to the Holy Spirit and we see the many amazing things they were able to do. It’s still the same situation today 2000 years later. If we as Christians yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit in our lives we too will do great and marvelous things because the same Holy Spirit is available today as he was available to the apostles and early Christians. But the key is making ourselves available and yielding ourselves to the Spirit. It’s like a sailboat on the sea. If we put out the sail on the sailboat the wind will catch it and move it along, but if we keep the sail tied up and furrowed it can’t catch the wind and therefore won’t go any place or do anything but sit there. That’s like a lot of Christians. Their Christian lives don’t do anything. They just sit there. That’s because they haven’t yielded themselves to the Spirit. They haven’t put out their spiritual sails in order to catch the wind of the Spirit. Therefore, their lives stay in one spot, going nowhere, when all along God wants to use them mightily but can’t because they aren’t cooperating with Him. The Book of Acts teaches us how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit of God in order to fill our lives and be useful to God and to His kingdom. Acts 2:1-13 (read). Let’s look at four things this verse teaches.

First, they were together in one place. Acts 2:1, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” Some versions like the King James say, “They were all together in one accord.” So we see that the disciples and early Christians were together, not only in one place, but they were together in unity of the spirit in once accord, in one heart and mind. There was unity in that early Christian gather. How big of a group was it? Acts 1:15 says, “In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty).” Somebody counted. There’s always somebody who counts attendance and counts the offering, even in the early church. Some people just have to know numbers; it makes them feel good. I talk to pastors and people all the time and tell them I’m a pastor of a church in Jamestown and the first question they always ask me is, “How many people go to your church?” Numbers. I always answer that we are a small church. I think it’s rude to ask about numbers. How would you like it if somebody came up to you and asked you, “How much money do you make?” That’s a rude question. Well, I think it’s just as rude to ask churches how many people attend. Anyway, there were around 120 believers in that first Pentecost prayer meeting. Notice that it was a prayer meeting that resulted in the official birth of the Christian church on the day of Pentecost. If you go back to Acts 1, you’ll find that first and foremost the disciples and early believers met to pray. They were in their prayer meeting when the day of Pentecost came and the Christian church was born. And that prayer meeting brought about a spiritual unity. They were in one accord. They were in one accord around beliefs – that is, they all believed the same things about Jesus. They were in one accord about behavior – that is they all agreed on what is right and wrong, morality, as taught by Jesus and the Bible. They were in one accord about spiritual disciplines like prayer and the Bible – they all prayed and studied the scriptures. Unity is essential in the life of the church and in the life of individual Christians. That’s why church membership is important because it unifies people together around beliefs and behaviors so that they can live in one accord. And living in spiritual unity is essential for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Are you committed to spiritual unity? Or do you still think you can act like the Lone Ranger and live independent from other believers? Only in unity will the Spirit move.

Second, the Spirit moved. Acts 2:2-3, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” They were praying together for God to move and suddenly he did. The Spirit came down. This is one of the most famous scenes in all of church history, unfortunately we really don’t know what it looked like or sounded like. We just have a description that I’m sure doesn’t do it justice. Something happened; something big happened. Suddenly there was the sound of rushing wind inside the house. Last week, last Tuesday night, we had some really strong wind blowing here in Jamestown. I didn’t here what the wind speed was, but it was incredibly strong because it woke me up from a sound sleep – the wind beating up against my house and the trees blowing outside. I remember thinking, “Wow, that wind is really strong tonight.” I’ve been in Chicago, downtown, on Wacker Drive. Anybody ever been to Chicago, known as the windy city? On Wacker Drive there are some skyscrapers that have wind so strong going by on the streets outside that there have been actual reports of people being picked up off the street by the wind and thrown into the air. I think the wind speeds by those tall skyscrapers on Wacker Drive have exceeded 100 mph. But a strong wind was heard in that meeting place on the day of Pentecost. Also there was fire seen. There was no time to call the Fire Department because the fire separated into different paths and went out to each person there. Have you ever seen a streak of fire? When I was in Mexico about 20 years ago doing some missionary work in Mexico City, the economy was so bad and the unemployment was so great that men would often go out into the streets to work and try to earn a few cents to feed their families. One of the things they did was entertainment the people in the rush hour traffic by fire-breathing. They’d work at busy traffic intersections, at stop lights, and during the red light inhale butane gas into their lungs, then blow it out their mouths while lighting it with a cigarette lighter. It produced a long streak of fire; fire-breathing. It was a form of entertainment. Motorists would throw some money into a hat to help the guy out as he entertained them waiting at the stop light. One fire-breather had to be rushed to the hospital after he hiccupped! But there was wind and fire during that first Pentecost. These were not only physical phenomena, they were also symbols for the Holy Spirit.

Third, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and started witnessing for God. Acts 2:4, 11, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” And then verse 11, as described by the crowd at Pentecost, “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.” So something happened to the disciples and to these early Christians. Again, like the description of the wind and fire, it’s hard to know exactly what it exactly looked and sounded like when the Holy Spirit filled these Christians. But it says that they started immediately speaking in tongues, or in other words, they started speaking in the different languages of the people who had come to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Pentecost. There are a number of annual feast days that the Jews observed, and one of them was the Feast of Pentecost. This was an early harvest feast, the first fruits of the harvest in the spring. It took place 50 days after Passover; that’s why it’s called pent or 50, or Pentecost. Jews from all over, not just the land of Israel, but also from the many foreign countries where Jews lived. Did you know that more Jews lived outside of Israel than lived inside of Israel; that’s still the case today. These foreign Jews were visiting Jerusalem when they suddenly heard the disciples speaking in their own foreign language, so they stopped to listen. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and one of the results was they began to speak in tongues. That’s still a possible result of being filled with the Holy Spirit today, although it doesn’t have to happen in order to be filled with the Spirit. It can happen, but it doesn’t have to happen to be filled with the Spirit. Other things can happen when a person is filled with the Spirit. The Apostle Paul lists 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. He says there are all kinds of different gifts of the Spirit. There are other gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. So we shouldn’t focus in on only one gift of the Holy Spirit – speaking in tongues. We should realize that when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you are empowered and enabled to do many extraordinary things. There’s no telling what exactly might happen when a person is filled with the Spirit. In this specific instance, the disciples started speaking in different languages. Again, what happens when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit is up to God and that person. We have no way of telling what is to happen. Are you filled with the Spirit on a regular basis? Ask God.

Fourth, the question was asked, “What does this mean?” Acts 2:12, “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’” I think we might ask the same question today, “What does this mean for us today?” It’s an interesting story but how does it relate to my life today? How does it relate to us as a church today? That’s a good question. Are we to expect wind and fire as the disciples and early believes experienced? Or don’t think we should try to duplicate everything exactly as the early Christians experienced at the first Pentecost, simply because we must allow God to work individually different for each person and each group. For those early Christians wind and fire was a symbol of the invisible presence of the Spirit in their midst, but the Spirit might indicate his power and presence for somebody else differently. For example, remember the story of Elijah in the Old Testament. What was the sign of the presence of God in his life after he ran away from the evil Queen Jezebel? It was a still, small voice. It wasn’t the mighty wind or fire, it was a still, small voice. God operates differently for different people at different times. The main thing for us today is to seek the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. We need to seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day, continuously. Then, once filled with the Holy Spirit there is no telling what kind of sign of God’s presence might show. It could be something as dramatic as fire, like the disciples saw at Pentecost. It could be the strange, supernatural sound of wind inside like the disciples hear. But it also might be something entirely different; we just don’t know. Anyway, the main point of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power isn’t the visible manifestation anyway. It’s the power and presence that takes place spiritually that really matters. When the Holy Spirit comes upon a person, they are converted, changed in their hearts, saved from their sins, made into a disciple of Jesus. When the Holy Spirit comes upon a person they pray and read their Bible with a new energy and motivation; it comes alive in their life. When the Spirit fills a person they start using some gift or ability that they didn’t use before in service for God. In other words, the Spirit changes their life somehow powerfully or inspires them supernaturally. Would you like the Lord to fill you with His Spirit? You may even have the Spirit in your life, but being filled with the Spirit is something more. Would you like to be filled with the Spirit? You have to ask God for it and keep on asking God continually for it. When you become a Christian you get the Holy Spirit; you don’t have to keep asking for it. But you do have to keep asking for the filling of the Spirit. Would you like to be filled with God’s Spirit? Let’s pray.

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