May 23, 2010

What Does Pentecost Mean? - May 23, 2010

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Acts 2 (NIV)

1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14Then 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. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
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.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted 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. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’
36“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, 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. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday. It was commanded by God in the Old Testament. Starting on the second day of the Passover festival, the Jews were to count off seven weeks (49 days). On the fiftieth day, they were to begin a three-week-long festival of harvest, kinda like thanksgiving. They called this festival “The Fiftieth” or “Pentecost”.

However, most people today don’t associate Pentecost with thankfulness or the harvesting of grain. Today, most people associate Pentecost with things like: fire, the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues or the apostles.

That’s because God used the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection in a special way. God had gathered people from all over the world into the city of Jerusalem. Thousands of visitors had come to worship at the temple. Some had come from over a thousand miles away.

Some of them had come to thank God for the year’s harvest of grain. Others had come to sell goods and make money. Others had come with family or friends. Who knows, there were probably a million different reasons why people were in Jerusalem.

But God had one reason for bringing them there. He wasn’t gathering them to CELEBRATE the harvest, but to be PART OF the harvest! The harvest of souls for heaven.

Today we meditate on Pentecost with the help of a very simple question, “What does Pentecost Mean?” We’ll see that Pentecost means power from the Holy Spirit, communicating the Gospel, and a change in the heart.

After Jesus had been raised from the dead, he spent 40 days with His followers. He explained to them how the Old Testament had predicted all the thing that He had actually done to restore sinners to God.

During these 40 days Jesus continued to prepare His followers for their life’s work. After He ascended back to heaven, THEY would have to tell the world about Him. THEY were God’s chosen ambassadors to the dying world of sinners.

This was a huge responsibility. How could they remember all that Jesus had done and taught? How could the apostles be sure that they were writing down the right words when they recorded Jesus’ life and message in the Gospels? They were human! They would make mistakes, wouldn’t they?

And how would Jesus’ followers have the courage to speak the message? They weren’t scholars, politicians or famous people. Who would even listen to this bunch of ordinary joes?

But Jesus had promised a secret weapon. A weapon that would ensure their message was God’s message with no errors mixed in. A secret weapon that would embolden them to preach God’s Good News with courage and certainty.

They, the students, WOULD become the teachers because the Holy Spirit would come to them. Jesus told them,
“26“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27 NIV).
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ followers in a big way. First He made his presence heard with a rushing sound like the blowing of a violent wind. Then the Spirit showed them His presence through little flames of fire that appeared above their heads. Finally, they were filled with Holy Spirit Himself. And leaving the room they had gathered in, they proclaimed to the masses all that God had done so recently through Jesus.

Pentecost meant power from the Holy Spirit for the first followers of Jesus. And that power still belongs to the church of God today. We came to trust in Jesus through the word of God and the working of the Spirit. As the Scripture says,
“ one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3 NIV).
Prayer: Holy Spirit, we do need you to show your presence among us with wind and fire like you did on that Pentecost so long ago. But we do need you to stir up our faith and our courage. Remind us who we are, and who our Master and Savior is. Remind us of our horrible sins, and our horrible sins FORGIVEN. Remind us of God’s promise to be with us, and to bless us through Your presence. Move in our hearts and put Your words on our tongues. Amen.

The sound of a violent wind and the sign of fire hovering above their heads showed the followers of Jesus that the God’s Spirit was with them. But it doesn’t appear that the people outside saw these things. What surprised the crowds outside were the WORDS of the disciples.

The Holy Spirit gave them the ability to speak in languages that they had never learned. THIS was what initially got the attention of the masses on that Pentecost.

Pentecost meant communicating the Gospel. God could have done all sorts of miracles to impress the people in Jerusalem. But it wouldn’t have made a difference in their hearts if they couldn’t UNDERSTAND. The miraculous ability to speak in languages that the people understood was the most important miracle that day, because it enable the people to UNDERSTAND.

And what was it that they needed to understand? God had made Jesus of Nazareth the Master of all and the Savior of all. His own miracles had testified to the truth that He was from God, and now miracles done by the Apostles would showed that this wasn’t something mere men had dreamed up, God was here. This Jesus was truly from God.

Jesus was the promised one. The person who would rejoin sinners to God by taking away that which had divided them – sin. Jesus had been tortured to death on a cross, there suffering more than physical pain. There suffering hell in the place of sinners. And now God had raised this Jesus from the dead to prove it was true! Though Jesus, forgiveness was offered to all and the way of life was open.

Pentecost reminds us to communicate. The people who had come to Jerusalem were ready for the Gospel message. They had learned about sin from the Old Testament. They had learned about the True and Holy God who would have nothing to do with evil. They were ripe to hear the message of Jesus. The message of forgiveness as a gift from God through God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

But the people we meet today are not likely to be ready in this way. We need to understand the people around us. Who they are. What they know. How they think. We need to know these things so we can communicate effectively.

The Bible doesn’t have a prescribed way to express the message of Jesus. There is no single “Gospel blurb” that we can memorize and rattle off to share Jesus with others. Instead, God calls us to do two things.

First, God calls us to be in contact with Him through His Word. Reading. Praying. Meditating. Together. Alone. In small groups. With family.

Second, live with people. Know them. Treat them with forgiveness and patience and kindness and love. Be good neighbors and good friends.

When we’re actively communicating with other people, and with God, the Holy Spirit will give us opportunities to speak of our God. He’ll show us the connections and the opportunities to express the Gospel in the way that they’ll understand.

Prayer: Father in heaven, sometimes it’s taken time to get through to us. Sometimes we haven’t understood what you’re telling us the first time. Thank you for being persistent and loving toward us. Help us to be the same to the people we share Jesus with. Help us to be diligent and thoughtful and patient. Give us the right words to say, and open our eyes to say them are the right time. Help us not to hold back when we should speak, or to blabber on, when we should be silent. Help us speak the Good News of forgiveness through faith in Jesus, and through that message – do YOUR thing. Amen.

When Adam and Eve sinned the first time, death came into the world.

Isn’t that a nice tight little sentence? This one little sentence expresses the origin of all any pain or sadness we’ve felt in this life. With sin, death. Before death, pain.

And more than this, the Bible tells us that hell follows sin as well. Sin disqualifies a person from ever finishing this race in a good place. Sin makes us all eternal losers. Sinners that need to be put as far away from the Creator as possible, forever.

Sin leads to death and hell.

But Jesus means life and heaven.

You see, Pentecost wasn’t about some new religious “sect”. Kind of a “look we’ve got a slightly different way of worshipping God” type of thing. Pentecost was about a real problem and a real solution. Sin leads to death and hell. Jesus gives the free gift of complete forgiveness. He works repentance and covers our sin with His blood.

In 1 John 2:23 it says,
“23Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23 NKJV).
Pentecost means a change in the heart. It means the Holy Spirit working in sinners. Dressing them in forgiveness purchased by God’ own Son.

When Peter finished his message on that Pentecost so long ago, the crowd was devastated. They had crucified God’s Son?! They said,
“…Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37b NIV).

“38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, 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. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39 NIV).
The outward numbers were astounding. Three thousand were baptized into Jesus that day. But really, the inward change was more astounding. The Spirit had gotten through to 3,000 individuals. 3,000 souls. 3,000 people. 3,000 sinners bound for hell, now at peace with God the Father. 3,000 people starting the first day of their life with God.

You know, we can come up with a million different reasons to slog through this life. A million different reasons to be depressed. Like putrid appetizers, Satan offers us all sorts of excuses for grumbling and complaining about the cards we’ve been dealt in life.

But God dealt us these cards. And He gave us a winning hand when He gave us Jesus. We only have excuses, not reasons for complaining to God. He was once at totally opposed to us because of sin. But through His Son, we have been given peace with God, and open line of communication to Him, and a future that is as guaranteed in Christ.

Brother and sisters in Christ, Pentecost means a change in heart. But not a change that WE make, a change that God makes.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, You’ve given us so much to be thankful for. There are so few things we can really depend on in life. So few things we can trust. But we can trust You. And we do. Help us to be changed people. Help us to grow stronger in faith. Help us not to grumble about life, but look for Your plan and purpose in each event. Help us to live in the warm sunshine of forgiveness. That forgiveness that streams from Your cross and Your empty tomb. Help us to reflect that forgiveness on others, so that they can live in the light with us.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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