pentecost - rooted in the Spirit
What a joy, and what an assurance and what a celebration Pentecost is as we celebrate and encounter afresh the pouring out of the Spirit. The following are notes from the sermon that I shared in our online service today Sunday 31st May 2020 which you should be able to find on our Vimeo page soon
The sermon is based around our Bible reading from Acts 2:1-21. It would be good to read this before reading the notes that follow.
Lockdown is nothing new!
It may be new to us in the West for current generations, but it has been experienced in the past in war times; it is being experienced not only because of coronavirus, but also from war, and famine, locust swarms, in other nations – and also from religious persecution.
We don’t have to be secretive about our gatherings, but for many in countries like North Korea, and parts of China, and some Islamic countries, gathering has to be done secretly, in a sort of ‘lockdown’ scenario.
For Jesus’ disciples, after his death, and resurrection, and then ascension to heaven, they were in a sort of lockdown.
Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem, for the gift the Father had promised – the gift of the Holy Spirit. So we read in Acts 1 that they gathered in the upstairs room where they were staying – and v14 ‘they all joined together constantly in prayer’.
Prayer is one of the effects of lockdown – pressure means that people start to look to God for hope and for help – and so we had the statistics from TearFund of around 25% of UK population having shared in some sort of streaming service since the start of lockdown; of 44% of people saying that they had been praying, and 5% of them being people who had never prayed before.
The disciples were in a similar scenario to what we are in at this time, albeit for different reasons. Most of us are now pretty much free to go around and do whatever, but to do so with wisdom – to keep socially distant, to wash hands well, and to seek to avoid infection.
And so, if we are wise, we don’t go back to life ‘as normal’, we still try and keep shopping to a minimum, only go out for essential reasons and for exercise and fresh air to keep us sane, unless we are self-isolating due to infection or for shielding because we are vulnerable.
There’s a sense in which the disciples were shielding. They were staying together – one because Jesus had told them to wait for the gift that had been promised – and two, because of their vulnerability as disciples of Jesus.
As they were gathered together, ‘they all joined together constantly in prayer.’
Across the nation, across the world, as there has been a growing movement of prayer in the last few years, so it has increased during this time of lockdown.
Is it because of desperation because of the situations being faced by different folk? Yes.
Is it because folk haven’t got anything better to do? (Maybe! But in truth, what better thing could there be to do, than to spend time in God’s presence, seeking after him, praying for his intervention and deliverance, praying for his Kingdom to come!?)
Is it something more than any of those reasons? Most definitely!
There is a hunger to be in God’s Presence; a hunger to see more of his Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven; a hunger to be living righteous and holy lives. And he is coming and meeting with us powerfully as we have gathered to pray – in different and varied ways.
I would never have imagined that you could have a powerful meeting with God in an online, video conferencing prayer meeting – and yet we are! God is not limited by the limits of our imagination or our thinking – God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are higher than our ways!!
These are the things that happen when God is bringing revival to his church. So, we have this sense that we are seeing the #firstfruits of the revival that is to come – and our cry is ‘More Lord!!’
For the disciples, did life stop as they waited?
Well, life was different, but it didn’t stop!
It’s the same for us, coronavirus has made life different, but it hasn’t stopped life!
Life still goes on – it just goes on differently.
What was going to happen when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples was going to be different to anything they had ever known before.
What happens for us in this coming move of the Spirit will probably be different – we will need new wineskins – and we will need to respond to whatever and however God chooses to move by his Spirit.
Who would have thought that we would go from no regular weekly prayer meetings to 3 passionate meetings online in the course of a few weeks – and maybe the call to gather to pray physically and virtually is going to continue to grow and develop in the coming days, weeks and months!
Certainly, the desire to be in his presence, to know him, to live for him is going to increase – and as it does the awakening in the land will come as the glory of the Lord arises upon us!
I want to bring 4 ‘P’s today to help us reflect on that first pouring out of the Spirit at the feast of Pentecost.
Pentecost was for the Jews a festival known by various names as the ‘Festival of Weeks’ – because it occurred 7 weeks after Passover – Pentecost means 50 – it was also known as the ‘Festival of Firstfruits’, and the Jews would bring an offering of the firstfruits of their grain crops.
For the church it was a festival of spiritual firstfruits as 3000+ were added to the church as the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples
We are seeing firstfruits of the coming revival, but nothing of its fulness as yet!
4 ‘P’s then – Promise – Presence – Power – Purpose
What happened on Pentecost when the Spirit was first poured out was something that had been promised centuries before.
Peter preached, empowered by the Spirit about what people were seeing happening, and he explained that it was a fulfilment of what God had promised centuries before through the Prophet Joel
The promise of course, was not just a promise from centuries before. Jesus, through the preceding time of his ministry had spoken of the coming of the Spirit – of rivers of living water coming from within, of another Comforter, Counsellor, Advocate, Helper, coming to be with God’s people forever. And of course, Ezekiel that we referred to last week shared how the LORD had said ‘I will put a new Spirit within you’. And just 10 days before, just before Jesus was taken up and ascended into heaven with them watching, Jesus had told them to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit that was going to come and was going to baptise them, to immerse them, to drench them – and boy, did they get a drenching!!
We too live in a time of promise.
For a long time there have been prophetic voices speaking of a coming revival when Word and Spirit come together! Going back many decades Smith Wigglesworth, and then later, Jean Darnell, both prophesied of a coming revival when fires (spiritual fires!) would start burning across the UK, of how these fires would spread until the whole nation was aflame – and then it would spread across the continent too.
In recent times the prophets have been speaking of a coming revival, of the forming of new wineskins to be able to cope with what God is going to pour out – and this was all shared before coronavirus and lockdown came – and its fascinating to read some of what was spoken at a gathering of prophets from across the UK in February, which has reached fulfilment in ways they might not have imagined – I’m not sure whether Joel when he prophesied the pouring out of the Spirit anticipated what happened on the day of Pentecost!
And we are still living in the fulfilment of that prophecy, ‘In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all people….’
Revival is coming and we need to be ready!
The promise of Pentecost, and then the
Presence of Pentecost.
When God comes and makes his presence known, by his Spirit, it has an impact.
When the Spirit has turned up in our 7-11 Prayer meetings recently there have been times when he has brought joy, praise, rejoicing. There’s been times when he’s brought repentance, tears, a desire for holy living. Times when he’s brought devotion and caused our roots to go down deeper into him!
In the weeks before lockdown we had a growing sense of God coming and meeting with us as we gathered on a Sunday morning, with many of us ending up on our knees or in tears before him. Some having power encounters with the Spirit. Some having stuff broken off our lives.
When the presence of God came in the person of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost his presence was transformational!
They were filled with praise! They couldn’t keep it in! They had to let it out!! They couldn’t help ‘declaring the wonders of God’ v11
And the Spirit gave them new gifts, other tongues, and not just heavenly languages, but earthly languages that they had never learned, so instead of speaking in the international language of the time, Greek (a bit like English is for many today) they were bursting out in all the different languages of Jews from all over the known world who had gathered for the feast of Pentecost, and they heard them declaring the wonders of God in their own tongues!
This would be like going into the middle of Birmingham in normal circumstances on a Saturday afternoon in normal times, bursting out in praise to God – and everyone, with people with family origins from all across the earth, hearing you speak out in their own family language.
The presence of God brings praise; he brings joy; but his presence is transformational – these people who had been up to this time, since the crucifixion of Jesus 7 weeks before, shielding, staying behind closed doors as much as possible, apart from essential trips out etc, were now out on the streets, publicly – they weren’t being cautious, shielding carefully, staying away from folk, they were proclaiming loudly, the goodness of God.
Now, I’m not saying that we don’t socially distance appropriately as lockdown is eased – we are planning as a leadership for our physical regathering in appropriate ways depending on what guidance we receive from Government, at the appropriate time.
But what I am saying is, as we encounter the Spirit, let’s expect to be an answer to Jesus’ prophetic word in Acts 1:8 ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.’
Pentecost speaks of the promise of God. It speaks of the presence of God, and it speaks of the power of God.
Jesus prophesied, ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you’
The presence of the Spirit was like a roaring, rushing wind. It was like burning flames resting on them. This was power made manifest!
And when the Holy Spirit comes upon us today he comes with power
Now, we don’t always have physical manifestations, but sometimes the power of God’s presence can affect us physically.
I’ve never seen tongues of fire on anyone, but I have experienced and seen others experience incredible heat in their body, when the Spirit comes.
I have been and have seen others filled with tears of joy, and of laughter, as the joy of the Lord is their strength.
I have been physically shaken, and seen others physically shaken to varying degrees as the presence of God comes in power.
For people seeing the effects of the Spirit’s presence in Acts 2, they concluded that the disciples were drunk, inebriated, v13 ‘They have had too much wine!’
Sometimes when the Holy Spirit comes in power upon us, it can be like we are inebriated! We may fall to the floor. It may be that we feel unsteady on our feet and need some support to walk – certainly has been the case for me on numerous occasions!
The presence of God coming in power reminds us that our God is a powerful God. That his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and his ways, higher than our ways
But the power of God doesn’t come to manifest God’s presence in just a physical way – the power of God comes supremely to manifest God’s presence in a verbal way – ‘you will be my witnesses’ Jesus said!
And when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost there was a verbal manifestation of God’s presence and power.
There was speaking out of the wonders of God, there was praise, in their own natural tongues, but also in gifts of tongues given by the Spirit. There was the promise of prophetic gifts v17,18
‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy.’
The presence and the power of the Spirit releases both praise and prophecy. And it all comes with the last of the ‘P’s’ I’m sitting with today:
The Holy Spirit isn’t given to just give us a good time, to give us an exciting experience – though often our experience when the Holy Spirit comes in presence and power is that it is a good, blessed, exciting time,, but he comes with
Acts 1:8 ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses’.
That witness is released in prayer and praise and prophecy.
And it’s also released in preaching!
Peter, the bolshy fisherman who was shut up by a servant girl who said that he was one of Jesus’ disciples, who went on to deny 3 times that he even knew Jesus, was now the one who stood to the fore with the other leaders, and explained what was happening.
He explained what was happening, rooting it in Scripture – being both Word and Spirit – and he went on to talk about the most important person in human history – Jesus!
Jesus is the most important, most significant man in history. What happened to him in his crucifixion, death and resurrection are the most significant events in history, because through them Jesus bought salvation, a restoration to a right relationship with God for all who would believe, trust, put their faith in him and seek to follow him.
Peter brought the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus together with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit into a few short sentences: v32-36
‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear…..God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’
Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension and the pouring out of the Spirit are life changing events.
They fulfil God’s promise through the Jewish scriptures.
They restore us to a place where we can know the intimacy of God’s presence, up close and personal, just as Adam and Eve were able to be up close and personal with God in the Garden of Eden.
And they make known God’s power, as we see God sacrificing his own Son out of love for us on the cross, as we see him bearing our own sin in his body, the prospect of which was so horrific that the night before he sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, hematidrosis, and we see him raised to life again, reigning now at the Father’s side in heaven and pouring out his Holy Spirit to bring hope and life to all who will receive him.
When the people heard what Peter shared, they said, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’
If you are reading this, and have never come to a place where you have put your faith and trust in Jesus, and received the gift of his Spirit and the new life he wants to give, then maybe you need to hear Peter’s response right now: v38,39
‘Repent and be baptised, 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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’
I believe, if you are reading this now, it is because the Lord is calling you. He wants you to turn now from your own way of life, and set yourself to follow him. He wants you to put your faith and trust in Jesus and his sacrifice on your behalf and to ask for the Holy Spirit to come into your life, that you might know his presence and his power at work within you.
You might like to pray to him now. Tell him that you want to follow him and live for him now. You want to stop doing things your own way. Thanks Jesus for dying in your place on the cross so that you can know cleansing and forgiveness and ask God to give you that forgiveness and new life. Ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit so that you might know God personally for yourself and have his help to live your life for him.
The promise of the Spirit is for all people, that we might all know his presence and his power, but it’s for purpose.
If we are going to share in this great Word and Spirit Revival that is coming, that we are starting to see the #firstfruits of, then we need to be a people who are rooted in God’s Word, but we also need to be rooted in his Spirit, so that the Spirit’s power and presence flow through our whole beings.
Lord, we pray for that moving of your Spirit right now. Come and make your presence known to each on reading and sharing in this now. In Jesus name. Amen.