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Sunday message 4 June 2017 – 7 things about Pentecost

READINGS AT FAMILY SERVICE: Acts 2:1-4; Galatians 4:6-7; 5:16-26

LISTEN AGAIN to  the Acts reading from the LIVING BIBLE today:

Act 2:1  Seven weeks had gone by since Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the Day of Pentecost had now arrived. As the believers met together that day, Act 2:2  suddenly there was a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them and it filled the house where they were meeting. Act 2:3  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on their heads. Act 2:4  And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t know, for the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. 

Here are 7 things about Pentecost worth mentioning today:

1. IT WAS THE BIRTHDAY OF CHURCH – yes – it was a serious launch of 3000 people believing and being baptized. Big by any standards. Jerusalem may have had 20, 30 or 40 000 people living there and up to 80 000 during the festivals

2. IT  WAS A JEWISH FEAST – 50 DAYS AFTER PASSOVER (7 weeks = 49). Shavuot was the feast of weeks (see Leviticus 23:16) – which started as a harvest festival (which we were planning by the way) and after the destruction of the temple became a celebration of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. (“Pentecost” is from the Greek). Jesus of course fulfils both these aspects of the original festivals as he brings in a new harvest, AND is the new lawgiver bring in the law of love.

3. The Spirit came on all on that day – as promised – and the church was born by the Spirit’s power. Before that the Spirit came upon prophets, priests, kings, judges and certain artists. Now all would receive.

The prophecy of Joel in the Old Testament was fulfilled: Joel 2:28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Joel 2:29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

We looked at John 3 in the children’s talk– about the spiritual rebirth.  In John 3:3 the word for “again” means “from above” – meaning born of God.

The birthday of the church is not just about the numbers –  the 3000. It’s about the new birth in each and every one of us as individuals: Joh 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

And we heard this read for us from Galatians 4: Gal 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” Gal 4:7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

4. OUR CONFESSION OF JESUS AS LORD – is because of the work of the holy Spirit.

Paul says in 1Co_12:3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

The same passage in the LIVING BIBLE:  1Co_12:3 But now you are meeting people who claim to speak messages from the Spirit of God. How can you know whether they are really inspired by God or whether they are fakes? Here is the test: no one speaking by the power of the Spirit of God can curse Jesus, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” and really mean it, unless the Holy Spirit is helping him.

5. THEY WERE EMPOWERED by the Holy Spirit. That was the promise of Jesus before his Ascension: Act 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Power to witness – with boldness – is seen throughout the book of Acts. We’ve looked at this in the life of Stephen, Philip, and Peter and John in particular.

With this came signs, wonders, miracles, healings, tongues, prophecy and more – 1 Corinthians 12 lists the “spirituals” – the spiritual gifts. I recommend Bill Johnson’s books in our library and the Auckland library to discover more about this. The gifts of the Spirit were to bless others – and ultimately bring them to Jesus and set them free from the powers of darkness. And they still are.

We should use them  – that’s why they were given!

6. THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT CHANGED THEIR CHARACTER

The fruit of the Spirit is the most well-known of His works. Listen again to Galatians 5:  Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Gal 5:23 gentleness and self-control.

This is not the soft option or Christianity light. The fruit doesn’t come without a cost.

Jesus dies for our sins – you heard the list of bad things before these nice fruits. And after Galatians 5:23 there is the small matter of verse 24:

Gal 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Or as the Living Bible puts it: Gal 5:24 Those who belong to Christ have nailed their natural evil desires to his cross and crucified them there.

7. HERE’S THE CHALLENGE TO END WITH TODAY:  Gal 5:25 If we are living now by the Holy Spirit’s power, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Gal 5:26 Then we won’t need to look for honors and popularity, which lead to jealousy and hard feelings.

PENTECOST IS EVERYTHING TO US – BECAUSE THERE IS NO CHRISTIAN LIFE WITHOUT THE SPIRIT.  And we are to be led by the Spirit!

We give thanks to God His Spirit and for these amazing gifts.  Let’s appropriate them fully.

Amen.

Sunday sermon 8 June – Pentecost

Readings: Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

 Act 2:1  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Act 2:2  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Act 2:3  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Act 2:4  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

 

Act 2:12  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Act 2:13  Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Act 2:14  Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.

Act 2:15  These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!

Act 2:16  No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

Act 2:17  “‘In the last days, God says, 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.

Act 2:18  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

 

1Co 12:3  Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

1Co 12:4  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1Co 12:5  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

1Co 12:6  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

1Co 12:7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1Co 12:8  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,

1Co 12:9  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,

1Co 12:10  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

1Co 12:11  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

 

D-day.

What an amazing couple of days we’ve had – the 70th anniversary of the landings at Normandy.

TV programmes have played hours of footage about that crucial day in history.

I wonder whether the day of Pentecost has the same impact on you as D-day has on those who remember those terrible years of war?

We celebrate all kinds of other days with gratitude. Wedding anniversaries, birthdays, and often the day of peoples’ deaths brings those reflective moments and immense sadness mixed with thanksgiving. We’ve had a couple of those anniversaries this week in our church family.

So what about Pentecost?

Like our Communion service – this is not a kind of Memorial Day thing.

Communion reminds us of more than Jesus’ death and resurrection – the reality is that there is a reality now – His presence with us.

So too Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God present here now.

He is the foundation of our ability to believe. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12: 3 – “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” 

He brings us to a knowledge and conviction of our sins – our need for forgiveness and a saviour – and our need for power to transform our lives.

And on that day they were waiting for = 120 of those believers – the church was launched if you like – catapulting from 120 to about 3120 after one powerful thrust shown by wind and fire and a great sermon, preached with boldness.

So today we could have a cake – celebrating the ancient birthday party of the church.

I could wear my crown of flames that Helen helped me make on Friday at Messy Church – to remind us of the tongues of fire – in Luke’s words:

Act 2:3  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Or I could illustrate the power of the invisible – like the wind (balloon release for children).

Of course Luke reminds us that it was the sound that got their attention:

Act 2:2  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  

And then the flames of fire that did not burn their heads.

We could give some thought to those images – and then call it a day –  we could go to tea – as we do on a Sunday – pleased with ourselves that we have endured another sermon – and perhaps the quickest sermon of the year.

Or we could think a little more about the Giver and His gifts. 

The waiting was for the gift Jesus’ father had promised. Remember Acts 1:4 and 5:

Act 1:4  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. Act 1:5  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

In fact this is all about the Giver. God gives His Son:  

Joh 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

The gift of the Son brings the gift of salvation. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:

Eph 2:8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Eph 2:9  not by works, so that no one can boast. 

And then we read: … wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 

And when the gift came – there was a commotion – so that Peter has this to say:

Act 2:15  These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!

Act 2:16  No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

Act 2:17  “‘In the last days, God says, 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.

Act 2:18  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 

And in Corinthians today we heard again about the gifts that the Holy Spirit in turn gives gifts to us.

Pentecost – looking back – always puts us on the spot. 

If we pretend that it’s all in the past – then we are dishonest with the bible text, and the reality of Christian history. If we take the view that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only meant for the church’s launch – then we are probably quenching the spirit. Being the spiritual fire brigade – putting out the fire.

We can just give it some thought and move on – or we could wrestle with the text that tells us that the Holy Spirit actually wants to use us – give gifts to us as part of the body of Christ, the church – in Paul’s words:  1Co 12:4  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1Co 12:5  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

1Co 12:6  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

1Co 12:7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Note – that all of this operating is for the “common good”.

If we’re open to the reality of the Spirit’s work in our lives now – we could find a whole new life that means real power and transformation now. If we are open to His leading and power.

I’m not sure that we have bought into this really. Perhaps that’s the wrong idiom.

It’s a gift – we probably don’t know the giver well enough to recognise the gifts that we havae – and to allow them to have their proper impact:

  • The gift of salvation
  • The gift of the Spirit Himself who brings power
  • The gifts of the Spirit too – all for the common good of the people of God – to strengthen the church in its witness.

It’s up to us really – to be the kind of receivers that put the gifts to work. If we do – it might break the paralysis we have in terms of people putting their gifts to work in the life of this church.

Amen.