Pentecost: Holy Spirit and the Church



Today's verse comes from Acts two, verse one through 21. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 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, all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them. Now they were staying in Jerusalem. God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment because each one heard their own language being spoken, utterly amazed. They asked, aren't all those who are speaking Galen? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? [inaudible] mades elements, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Kasia, Ponti in Asia, FIA and fia, Egypt and the other parts of Libya near queen visitors from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Christians and Arabs.

We heard, we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues, amazed and perplexed. They asked one another, what does this mean? Some however, made fun of them and said they have had too much wine. Then Peter stood up from the 11, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, fellow Jews and all who live in Jerusalem. Let me explain this to you. Listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk as you suppose it's only nine in the morning. No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel in the last days. God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy. 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 on those days and they will prophecy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below blood and fire and billows a smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is the word of the Lord.


Well, today is a beautiful day, not only because of the baby dedications, but also because what the church celebrates on this day today is the day in which we recognize the miracle of Pentecost. That for the first followers of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came upon them, invaded their lives, filled them to the fullest measure of God's presence with them. And it was a day in which Jesus promised, right? But you can imagine if you were one of the first followers of Jesus and you were hearing these murmurs about him, these mumblings about him being the tide turning against him, people coming against him, people questioning his motives, questioning who he was, what he was doing, why he was doing it. And then Jesus, in addition to that, begins talking about his death that is pending and that he's going to Jerusalem, in fact two subject himself to the religious and governmental authorities.

And he promises that this day is going to come in the midst of this. But yet still there's all of this uncertainty. There's fear, there's anxiety. We can look at our surroundings around us and we know the uncertainty that we feel at times or the fear that we feel at times or the anxiety that we feel at times based on what is unfolding around us. And then for the first followers, Jesus words come true and that he ends up dying. And then we know also that he ends up resurrecting from the grave and ascends into heaven. And then the disciples are kind of like, what do we do now? And I don't know, it's not really recorded in scripture, but you had to know that there were debates going on amongst them in their mourning and in their grieving. Remember, Jesus was kind of talking about this and we didn't understand it at the time, but now it kind of makes a little bit more sense.

So maybe he's coming back somehow in some form or some fashion, and you got the naysayers like, no, no, we don't know what you're talking about. We don't know what's going on. We can't figure it out. And there's all this just sort of angst and anxiety and difficulty that is going on around them. And then this glorious day, this day of Pentecost happens, the Holy Spirit descends upon them in tongues of fire and fills them to the fullest with the spirit of God. Over the past several weeks, we have been journeying from Easter preparing for this celebration of Pentecost, talking about prayer, situating ourselves, learning ways to situate ourselves at the feet of Jesus so that Jesus, through the work of the Holy Spirit, can form and shape and mold us into his image. Three things that we are sort of majoring on here at Journey Community are learning to be with Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is with us at all times, but just like any other connection that we have with another person, we have to learn how to be with Jesus. We have to experience being with Jesus and allow Jesus to form and shape us, which is the next tenant to be formed into the image of Jesus. So spending time with Jesus shapes us into the image of Jesus, and then it empowers us to do the things that Jesus did, which is the whole premise of the Christian faith. We have been talking about this as an apprenticeship in love under the guidance of Jesus, and that is the focus of our congregation. Our desire is to journey onward each day and being formed like Jesus by Jesus, that each day our love for God grows, evidenced by our love for our neighbors expanding. Now, this doesn't happen by accident.

It actually requires work. The work of that that is required is the work of prayer and then the work of action as well. But the work that we are called to do is good and fulfilling work. And so it's good for us to do. I've been thinking a lot lately about our culture at large and the way in which it shapes and forms us. Robert Mulholland, I don't have this quote for us today unfortunately, but Robert Mulholland Mulholland, he was a professor at Asbury Seminary and one of his books he wrote about how every moment we are being formed and shaped by something and the way that he said it is so beautiful. It actually kind of reminds me of the language of the Shama, which is the prayer found in Deuteronomy chapter six, where it says, love the Lord your God with all your hearts so amite.

And then it talks about when you're supposed to love the Lord of God, the heart and mind. And it's this elaborate explanation of when you're lying down and when you're on your feet, when you're at home and when you're away and basically every moment of your life, you are to love the Lord your God. And Robert Mohan in that sort of same descriptive way, characterizes the depth in which we are formed and shaped by our cultures, by our context, by the narratives around us. And so as I've been thinking about what does it mean for us to live according to the ways of Jesus, we all know that we are formed and shaped by the ways of the culture around us. And the thing about our culture is that we are pressured to live up to perfection, right? We are pressured to have the perfect job and the perfect family and say all of the perfect words and curate all of the perfect experiences.

And in the midst of all of that, we also are pressured to have social media worthy moments in the midst of that. But the problem with our culture's emphasis on perfection is that it requires perfection of us, but doesn't have any form of discipleship for us to get to that perfection. And also we know because we confess it here every week that perfection is a myth right now. You might say, well, Jonathan, wait, doesn't God also call us to be perfect? And the answer to that is yes, God does, but perfection in the kingdom of God is not the same as perfection in our culture. Perfection in the kingdom of God is a whole and full obedience to this apprenticeship in Jesus. It doesn't mean that things aren't going to go awry. It doesn't mean that you're going to do everything perfectly. It means that you are each and every day choosing obedience to the way of Jesus over and over and over again, and that God's grace is perfect and perfectly forms and shapes us.

So it's not about us being perfect, it's about God being perfect and us being benefactors of that. So we began to see the differences of the pressures that we feel in our culture. Oftentimes, we transfer those pressures over into the kingdom of God too and that we have to live up to this certain standard. But that's not the way the kingdom of God operates. Jesus lovingly forms and shapes us as we make ourselves available, but no matter what standards our society tells us to live up to, there is no mechanism of getting us there. You just have to do it. And when you fail, there's no grace. It's just you are done right, it's over. You've failed. We don't have any grace for you. Those are stark differences about the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. And so as we consider the way in which our society forms and shapes us, we consider our calling to be formed and shaped by the society of the kingdom of God.

And we think about this day of Pentecost and what the disciples are experiencing in this moment. We can see this identify with this struggle that they had the way of following Jesus, being a call to perfect obedience and to full discipleship is one thing, but when your leader is gone, when your inspiration to do that is taken from you, where is your hope coming from? And even after they witnessed the resurrection and the ascension, the first followers of Jesus found themselves rudderless. They found themselves without the ability to live up to what they were called to live in. Jesus called them to this way of life that confronted the ways in which they were previously caught up in. And while he wasn't physically pre, while he was physically present with them, they saw the clear path. But once he was no longer with them, they were confused in mourning and were unclear as to what was next.

Now, as we said earlier, of course, Jesus told them this was going to happen, and he told them this in John chapter 14. We're going to read beginning here in verse 15. Here's what Jesus says to his disciples. By the way, if you have an NIV V version of the Bible, the text of the heading of this passage of scripture says, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. So that's what Jesus is promising here. What happened on the day of Pentecostal. Here is how he says it. He says, if you love me, keep my commands right. That's pretty clear. Keep my commands again. When Jesus is with us, we understand that call clearly. We have a path to that. When Jesus is not with us, how can we possibly do that? And then Jesus continues, I will ask of the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and to be with you forever.

The spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him, but you know him. He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. So Jesus makes this promise. We, I will not leave you as orphans. The disciples find themselves orphaned, right? Jesus is gone, their leader is gone. Where are they going to turn? And then from what Carly read in verse three of Acts chapter two, this is what happens when the spirit of God descends on them like tongues of fire and lands on them. It fills them. They are no longer orphans as Jesus promised Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me because I live in, you also live in me. And on that day, you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me, and I am in you.

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love them and show myself to them, right? Jesus doesn't leave us and say good luck, right? He promises to fill us. And on the day of Pentecost, that came true. So the question for us today is how often do we find ourselves in situations where we put our hope and our trust in something or someone and we are let down? I promise myself each year in Sep at the beginning of September, I am not going to get excited about the Cowboys, right? I am not going to get, no matter if they win every single game in the regular season, I am still not going to get excited about it because I know that they are going to let me down.

And we do that with sports teams, but also we do that in more, much more significant ways. We put our hope or our faith in our trust in something or someone or how something's going to work out. And then it fails. It lets you down. And you can imagine, as difficult as that is that these first followers of Jesus, they found themselves in that place upon Jesus's departure that they felt left down here. They had put their trust in Jesus forsaking all that he had called into question. And now he's gone. Being orphaned is the ultimate in being and feeling lost. But the day of Pentecost reveals that being left without Jesus was only a temporary arrangement. And what he promised came into fruition. Now, the joy and the beauty and the amazement of this day was so peculiar and so unique that the people who responded to what transpired, that they were onlookers, who were witnessing what they were doing, and their assumption was that these people are drunk, right?

They have drank way too much wine and in their morning, they just pounded the wine and they are intoxicated. Could you imagine this morning if whatever was happening in here was happening? So much so that if somebody who wasn't a part of it came in and their response is, wow, those people started drinking early, right? That's going on here. Whatever it is that's going on, the excitement that you believe, the rejoicing, the dancing around, the jumping, whatever it was, it looked as if these people had drank too much wine. And that's partially true because they were intoxicated, but not by wine. They were intoxicated by the spirit. And just as drunkenness leads to an intoxicated state, so does being filled with the spirit, the difference though is this, I intoxication from alcohol or drugs leads to a muddled reality. Being filled with the spirit leads to a clear vision of reality.

All of a sudden, the things that had become confused and anxious, inducing and muddled, and where were they going to go and what were they going to do? It all of a sudden became clear because of how they were filled with the spirit. When we see the kingdom of God, clearly, when we, through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives are formed and shaped and molded into the image of Jesus, into people of grace and peace, we live into rhythms. We embrace rhythms at that point that might not make much sense to people observing what is going on because grace and peace are foreign entities in our world. And if we live according to the ways that our culture tells us, and we just try to be good people and read our Bibles, we are never going to be formed the way that Jesus intended. It takes making decisions to submit ourselves to the way of Jesus over and over and over again to adopt the patterns and rhythms of Jesus over and over and over again, that we can be formed and shaped into his image and live and according to this foreign kingdom of God as opposed to the kingdom in which our feet are planted.

One of those unique ways, a couple of those unique ways we value here at Journey, one of those unique ways is coming to the table each day. Each time we gather, we come to the table because this is the place where we eat of the fair of the kingdom of God. But also, once a month we have a time of prayer where we change the whole order of our gathering. Because in the scriptures, we are commanded that when someone has a need, whether that need be physical, whether that need be an illness, whether that need be spiritual, whether that need be any sort of need, when someone in your community has a need, you bring them together and you surround them as a body and you anoint them with oil and pray in the name of the Father, son and Holy Spirit as a symbol, as a sign of God, being with them. And in that moment, when we anoint one another, when we pray for each other, just as the Holy Spirit is present with the disciples on the day of Pentecost, the same spirit is here.

And one of my prayers that I don't pray out loud or I don't share with anybody, since we're just a family gathered here, I'll share it in this space. But one of my prayers is that at some point, the Holy Spirit will be so evident in this community that it will be as if we've had too much wine. And that's not as if we're running around making some sort of spectacle, but because of an authentic work of the Holy Spirit, that there will be something that takes place here that is indescribable other than to say, I don't know what in the world is going on with these people. And what I think that will look like is us living according to the ways of the generosity of Jesus, a radical generosity that continues over and over again to give without expectation, a radical generosity that says, we will welcome you here no matter what, and we are going to surround you no matter what, and we are going to be there for you no matter what. And a radical devotion to the way of Jesus that says, we are no longer going to allow the rhythms of the world to dictate our lives, we are going to end the best of our ability, take control of our lives, and spend them in the way of the kingdom of God at all costs. Because we believe fully that that is what shapes us.

So today maybe is that day, or maybe it's the beginning of that day, or it's probably a gradual process, but it begins one step at a time, one decision at a time, one choice at a time.