On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
This morning, we want to ask this question, “The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost…so what?” Why would we even mark or celebrate this day? Does it make any difference? In The Wesleyan Church, we have typically downplayed the church calendar, thinking of it as high church or cold formalism. In a way, that is correct. Unfortunately as usually happens, the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. Over this past year we have marked the church seasons, just the way we would mark time by observing the earthly seasons. There is a natural rhythm to the earthly seasons that God put into place. There is also a natural rhythm to the church year. The natural points of celebration, at least in the past for us Wesleyans was Christmas and Easter. We left the marking of the other seasons to the mainline denominations.
Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the church at Jerusalem. What would have happened if the Holy Spirit would have never come? Number one, Jesus would have lied. Three times in chapters 14, 15, and 16 of John, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. He calls him an Advocate – one who speaks in favor of Christ or who is a supporter or defender of Christ – who will teach us everything and remind us of everything Christ has taught us. The Spirit will testify of Jesus and his ministry and the Spirit of God will testify to all truth – he will only speak the things of the Father.
In Luke’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and died and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of signs for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of these things. And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fill you will power from heaven.”
The first thing that we understand from the Scriptures is that for the Holy Spirit not come would have meant that Jesus was a liar and a false prophet. The one who fulfilled many prophecies, would have himself been a false prophet. The coming of the Holy Spirit fulfills Christ’s prophecy of the Holy Spirit’s coming.
So is there anything else? What else is significant about the Holy Spirit’s coming? Why is it so important? Jesus answered the question for us when He commanded His disciples to stay in Jerusalem. Jesus promises that when the Holy Spirit comes to the disciples, they will receive power from heaven. We can see a result of that power in Acts chapter two which I read at the beginning of the message. When the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples they were endued with power to preach the gospel. Yes, Peter goes on to preach a wonderful message on the power of Christ; the same Peter who had fifty days earlier denied Jesus, because he was afraid of the crowd in Jerusalem. What happened? Peter and the others were given power from heaven. What does that mean to us?
The first thing that happens when we received the Holy Spirit is that we are endued with power. So what? So we are endued with power, who cares? God cares. God cared enough to send us the Holy Spirit that we could be His witnesses. Without the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives we are nothing but failures in our attempts to witness for Christ. All we have to do is look at Peter’s pathetic attempts before he received the Holy Spirit and then look at his messages after receiving the Holy Spirit. Peter was a changed man in more than one way. God wants His believers to be filled with the Spirit, so that we can be His witnesses. This is something that Jesus has called each one of His followers to do. This is something that Jesus has called His church to do. We are to be witnesses and if we are to be effective at all in sharing the gospel of Christ, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When Peter got done preaching his message on the day of Pentecost, three thousand people were added to the church in one day. Talk about your filling of the Holy Spirit. The amazing thing is that it didn’t stop on the first day. Acts 2:46-47 record, “They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” This is what being filled with the Holy Spirit is all about. The Holy Spirit’s filling in the early church enabled them to be witnesses to the city around them. Are we a church that desires to be filled with the Holy Spirit? I know that there are individuals who make that their prayer everyday. Why would we need to pray for the Spirit’s filling everyday? Because we leak – just ask an expert, that would be me.
The Holy Spirit’s filling allowed the early church to speak on behalf of God. So…the Holy Spirit’s (the Advocate’s) indwelling in the church at Jerusalem, allowed them to be advocates as well. Did you catch that? When we are filled with the Holy Spirit or (God’s Advocate) we are empowered to speak on behalf or defend God as well. I think that’s cool but also scary at the same time. That God would want me to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that I could speak on His behalf and yet that is what He has called me to be as the shepherd of His people.
So I believe that the Holy Spirit’s coming empowers us to witness, that is the primary reason the Holy Spirit came. The Holy Spirit give us power to witness. Is there anything else? Did you notice what else happened. They shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared it with those in need. They enjoyed the goodwill of the people. The Holy Spirit’s power in our lives empowers us to live lives of service. Remember this scripture from James 1:27? “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for the orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Part of our calling as God’s people is to serve those around us. The Salvation Army – a sister denomination – I believe does a great job of this. This is part of their over all mission. Scholars believe that one of the reasons that England avoided the revolutions that happened in mainland Europe, was a result of the Wesley revivals. Wesley was just as much about taking care of those who were in need as he was about preaching the gospel. His motto was, “earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we are endued with power from heaven to live lives of service. This is not just a job for the preacher, but for every believer. If the church was really filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to do what the Holy Spirit can do in our lives, I wonder if we would need to rely as much on government programs? We are to take care of widows and orphans in their distress, that is the job of the Spirit-filled church.
So…the Spirit empowers us to be witnesses to the gospel of Christ…it empowers us to live lives of service to the Kingdom…and it empowers us to live Spirit-filled lives.
Some of you are asking, “What do you mean, preacher?” Remember the second part of that scripture from James? Refusing to let the world corrupt you. Let’s go to Romans 8.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinner have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s filling in our lives, allows us to live lives free from sin. We are God’s people. So many times we try to live life on our own. Just as we are powerless to preach and teach the gospel without the Holy Spirit’s infilling, we are powerless to live the life that God has called us to live without filling of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot please God. Look what happens when we are not filled with the Spirit.
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
The believer needs to ask for the Holy Spirit’s filling, it is the only way to please God. Paul continues, “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (and remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raise Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do (No, that’s just they way I am. No, the devil made me do it, or God made me that way. These are lies from Satan himself.) For if you live by its dictates (the sinful nature) you will die, But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you have received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.
If we are God’s children and we love him as He commanded us to love, this should be no problem, especially if we ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit. If we are living as children of God, we don’t live as fearful slaves of God. No, we are his children. The word Abba here is translated to “Daddy.”
Her is my challenge this morning. I believe that every Christian should be filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit. When we are filled to the brim with God’s Spirit, we will want to live lives that please him. We will want to live lives that serve him and our fellow man. We will want to live lives that testify to the gospel of Christ.
This morning my prayer is that what began as a spark, will be fanned into flames and those flames will become a consuming fire. I hear Christians and even pastors talking about getting burned out in the ministry. Perhaps the reason so many are getting burned out in the ministry is because the are not being consumed by the Holy Spirit’s fire and they are only being consumed by their own fire…wanting to do it all on their own. This morning, the Holy Spirit is willing to fill you so that you don’t burn out, but that you are a holy flame…the flame of witness, a flame of service, a flame of living the life that God has called you to live. What difference does the Holy Spirit make? It makes all the difference. My challenge is that you would ask the Holy Spirit to consume you — That you would live a life passionate for the things of God – that the Holy Spirit would fill you – that because of the Holy Spirit’s filling Preston Wesleyan Church would never be the same again – but we would be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit – if that is your prayer, the altar is open.