This Sunday (6/12/2011) we celebrate Pentecost. It was on this day that the events of Acts, Chapter 2 took place almost two millennia ago. It is the day that truly changed the world and saw the birth of the church.
Seven weeks earlier the Son of God had been crucified; He is the Lamb of God that took away the sin of the world. The sky was darkened, there was an earthquake, the veil of the Temple was torn in two and the dead came out of their tombs (Matthew 27:45-53). Three days later the Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead; forever establishing the New Covenant and the age of grace began. Salvation was now possible. Sins would be forgiven and cleansed. Man had been redeemed and could now be reunited with his Creator.
The disciples who had been scattered in Gethsemane had now been reunited. The fear and despair they had experienced at Jesus’ crucifixion had been replaced by a victorious hope with His resurrection. The resurrected Christ was teaching them, fellowshipping with them; even eating with them (Luke 24).
They could see the nail scars in His hands and feet. They had watched Thomas thrust his hand into the side of the Savior. Their world had undeniably changed and yet Jesus spoke to them of an even greater change that was about to take place in their lives. It is in these monumental days of history that the Book of Acts begins:
In my first book I wrote about all the things that Jesus did and taught from the time he began his work until the day he was taken up to heaven. Before he was taken up, he gave instructions by the power of the Holy Spirit to the men he had chosen as his apostles. For forty days after his death he appeared to them many times in ways that proved beyond doubt that he was alive. They saw him, and he talked with them about the Kingdom of God. And when they came together, he gave them this order:
Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift I told you about, the gift my Father promised. John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:1-5)
This is not the first mention Jesus has made of this promised gift from God the Father. One of the greatest promises concerning the power of God in the life of a believer was made in John, chapter 14:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” (John 14:12-17)
The ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was going to be duplicated in the lives of those who received the Holy Spirit. The New Covenant not only saves our lives from sin and eternity in hell but it brings us back into relationship with God.
Salvation is a work of grace; it is not an achievement of our human efforts. We do not qualify or earn our way into a relationship with God; we repent, believe and surrender our lives to the King of kings. We depend on the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is not merely a religious philosophy. The Gospel is not a set of theological beliefs and religious ceremonies. The Gospel is the message of redemption that reunites man with God. The Gospel is the message of supernatural relationship. We do not believe for the purpose of believing. We believe so that we might receive the promise; the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
Pentecost demonstrated the fulfillment of God’s promise of the New Covenant. Pentecost demonstrated the power of the resurrected Christ in the lives of those who believe. Pentecost unveiled a new level of living. The Gospel is not a plea for man to search for God. The Gospel is an invitation for man to accept God’s gift of redemption. The Gospel is God offering Himself to us. Pentecost took place as promised in the lives of those who accepted God’s great gift.
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (John 1:10-13)
There have been thousands of sermons concerning what took place on the day of Pentecost. Most of them can be summarized by saying that God empowered believers to fulfill the Great Commission through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The sermon that Peter preached to those who were witnesses to this event had three basic premises; Repent of your sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:41 gives us the immediate results of this event: “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.”
There are places all over the earth where the genuine move of the Holy Spirit is taking place. It is not limited to a style of preaching or praise and worship. It is not limited by race, nationality or economic status. It is not bound by denomination or sect. It is not restricted to a special type of Christian. It is not constrained by the prevailing moral or spiritual climate of the nation. The Holy Spirit is moving where the Gospel is preached by believers who expect God to honor the Word He has given us.
The power of the Gospel is that God is working in and through the lives of those who believe. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit should be the expectation of every believer. The power to live the life of Christ comes from the Holy Spirit in our lives. The power to share and demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ comes from the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Christian life does not exist separated from the person and power of the Holy Spirit.
The ministry of the Lord Jesus and the ministry of the New Testament are the standard for each of our lives. There is a lost and hurting world that needs to receive the message and ministry of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and it is you and I that must answer the call of heaven.
And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”
When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs. (Mark 16:15-19)
The call of Christ upon our lives is one of submission. If we will submit ourselves to God, He will empower us to live and do what He has called us to do. If the disciples who physically fellowshipped with the risen Christ waited to be “endued with power from on high” we as believers in the twenty-first century should definitely follow their example.
If the preaching of the gospel required the power, presence and manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the first century it is vital today.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 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 11:9-13)
God wants to empower you with the Holy Spirit so that your life will be an extension and reflection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are His body. We are His temple.
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. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:38-39)
May we each be filled to overflowing with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit so that the world may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. Happy Pentecost!