Sunday, April 27, 2014
Pastor Joe Wittwer
#3—Pentecost Sunday: There’s more!
This is Day 3 of Three Days that changed the world.
Day 1 was Good Friday when Jesus died on the cross. A lot of people thought that was the end of the story, but it wasn’t.
Day 2 was Resurrection Sunday when God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection was the trigger that launched the Jesus movement, and that inspired a hope that transformed the disciples into fearless risk-takers for God. We are following the guy who predicted his death and resurrection and pulled it off—the only one ever. Resurrection Sunday was a day that changed the world—but that’s not the end of the story either.
Day 3 was Pentecost Sunday, the day the Holy Spirit filled the believers. The word “Pentecost” is from a Latin word that means “fiftieth day”—Pentecost was the 50th day after Passover. Pentecost was one of three annual Jewish celebrations. It originally celebrated the harvest, but came to commemorate God giving the Law to Moses. On Pentecost the Jews celebrate the giving of the Law; Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples for the next 40 days. He appeared at multiple times in multiple places to multiple people speaking with them about the Kingdom of God. During that time He repeated two important things.
First, He gave us our mission.
Matthew 28:18–20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Our mission is to make disciples: to help people find and follow Jesus. We are to do it wherever we go; we are to make disciples of all nations. But notice what Jesus said first: “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Why do you think He said that first? When they took the Jesus story around the world, they met with lots of opposition. The Roman government outlawed them, arrested and killed them. Jesus is reminding them, “They did the same to me, and look what happened. I’m alive! They aren’t the final authority; I am. So I don’t care who says ‘no’; I say ‘go’, and I’m the final authority!” So first, He gave us our mission.
Second, He told them wait for the Holy Spirit who would empower them.
Acts 1:4–5 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. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Here’s the mission, but wait for the power. Then He left. He ascended back to His Father—and they waited for the promise.
Here’s what happened on Pentecost Sunday and what it means.
1. What happened on Sunday? They were filled with the Spirit!
The story is told Acts 2 in the New Testament.
After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples spent the next week or so together, praying and waiting for what Jesus promised. Have you ever had to wait for something, but you didn’t know what it was?
ILL: Recently, Umpqua Bank bought out Sterling Savings. My friend, Cliff, works for Sterling, and talked with me about the uncertainty. Everyone here was waiting. They knew that change was coming, but weren’t sure what it looked like. What’s it gonna be?
In 2006, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the hardest time was waiting for the surgery. What would the surgery reveal? What would my outcome be? I knew change was coming, but wasn’t sure what it looked like. What’s it gonna be?
It must have been something like that for the disciples. Wait, Jesus said, for something you’ve never experienced before. What’s it gonna be?
Acts 1:8 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.”
Sounds good, but what’s it gonna be? No one knew. So they waited….and prayed.
On Sunday, they were all together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like a violent wind filled the whole house.
ILL: You’ve all heard loud winds. In 1995, I climbed Rainier with some buddies. We got stuck at Camp Muir in the climbers’ hut at 10,000 feet because the wind kicked up. That night, the wind roared at 70-80 miles an hour. It sounded like a freight train going by our window all night—the roar was deafening! No one climbed the mountain that day.
This was something like that—a sound like “a mighty rushing wind.” So they heard something.
Then they saw something: it looked like a huge flame of fire that separated into individual flames that came to rest of each of them.
The heard something like a violent wind; they saw something like flames of fire. Then something happened. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages—languages that they had never learned. Remember, Jesus had said that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them—power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Here’s power—an ability to speak in a language you didn’t learn. And it was put to work immediately.
People heard the noise and a crowd quickly gathered. There were Jews from many nations there—at least 15 are named—and all of them heard the disciples declaring the wonders of God in their own languages! They were amazed and perplexed because they recognized that the disciples were Galileans.
Galileans had a reputation for being country bumpkins. They had difficulty pronouncing Hebrew gutturals correctly and were in the habit of swallowing syllables when they spoke. They talked funny. Residents of Jerusalem looked down on them as provincial—hicks from the sticks.
ILL: Have you ever heard someone with a strong southern drawl and thought they weren’t real bright? You’re not alone! A new study done by the University of Chicago shows that Americans associate a southern accent with a lack of intelligence…starting as early as age 5! Don’t shoot me—I’m just reporting the facts…y’all. I have a friend who says that his southern accent drops his IQ by 20 points!
Something like that was going on here. These were Galileans. They talked funny. People assumed they weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer. But here they were talking in at least 15 different languages, and everyone is amazed! People wondered, “What’s going on?” Some made fun of them and said, “They’re just drunk!” I’ve always thought that was a crazy suggestion! Who do you know that gets drunk and starts speaking in a language they never learned? When people get drunk, they act stupider not smarter!
At this point, Peter steps forward and explains that they’re not drunk, that this is in fact the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy given by Joel, promising that God would pour out His Spirit on everyone: young and old, male and female. Then Peter goes on to tell the Jesus story—His life, death and resurrection—so powerfully that people cried out, “What should we do?”
Acts 2:38–39 Peter 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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Notice Peter gives them two things they are to do: repent and be baptized. And Peter tells them two things God will do: forgive your sins and give you the gift of the Holy Spirit. “The promise is for you,” he tells them. What promise? The promise of the Holy Spirit—it is for you, for your children, and for all who are far off, all whom God will call. Friends, it’s for you! There’s more!
That day, 3000 people repented and were baptized. And 3000 people were forgiven and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Many people consider it to be the birth of the church.
There were three signs that day of the Spirit’s coming: wind, fire, and inspired speech. All three were usual Jewish signs of God’s presence. Jesus was gone…but the Spirit had come and filled each one of them. So, what does it mean?
2. What does it mean? There’s more!
A. There’s more of God to be experienced.
God wants you to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Not only is this “the promise”, but it’s also a command. Paul writes:
Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,
God promises to fill us and commands us to be filled. By the way, it’s in the present tense, indicating a continuous state of being filled. “Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” Stay under the spout where the Spirit pours out! God wants you to be filled with the Spirit.
In Ephesians 3, Paul prays this beautiful prayer
Ephesians 3:14–19 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
What’s the goal? To be filled. To be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. That’s different than being filled to the measure of your fullness.
ILL: If I take a bucket to the Pacific Ocean and dip it in and fill it up, my bucket is full. It is as full as it can be. But is it filled to the measure of the fullness of the Pacific Ocean? No—only to the measure of the fullness of the bucket.
Paul says, “I want you to be full of God. Not just as full as you can be, but as full as He is.” No matter how full of God you are, there’s more.
There’s more of God to experience! There’s more of God to know! Think of it: God is infinite, eternal. There’s always more. I heard someone say this past week, “God is always bigger than God.” What they meant was that God is always bigger than what you know of Him, what you’ve experienced so far. You’ve got a bucketful, but there’s a whole ocean in front of you! No matter where you are on your spiritual journey—if you’re a newbie or a high mileage unit—there’s more! Don’t be like the child who filled her bucket and thought she had the whole ocean in there—there’s more.
I see lots of people settling for what they have, when there’s more.
I am Pentecostal. I speak in tongues. Many Pentecostals seem to think that if you speak in tongues, you’ve got it all now. You are filled with the Spirit; your bucket is full. But there’s more. Don’t settle for a bucketful when there’s an ocean in front of you.
I am Evangelical too. Many Evangelicals don’t believe in speaking in tongues or other spiritual gifts. Some of them say it doesn’t happen any more. Some of them say it may happen to others, but they don’t want it to happen to them. “I only want to be this full, no fuller. Just one bucketful, please. That’s all for me.” There’s more! Why miss out? Don’t settle for a bucketful when there’s an ocean in front of you.
I talk with people on both sides of this issue who want to argue about it. Do you have to speak in tongues to be filled with the Spirit? I tell everyone the same thing: there’s more. The best posture for a Christian is the one Paul models in his prayer. “Fill me, God. Fill me with You! Fill me to the measure of Your fullness!” The best posture is to be open, seeking, hungry and thirsty. There’s more. “God, I want more of You.”
I pray every day, “Fill me, Lord.” Some days I’m fuller than others. How does God fill us and keep us full? I think at least one way it happens is as I spend time with Him. You’ve got to sit still before the Lord so He can fill you.
ILL: What do you have to do to fill your gas tank? You’ve got to stop and park at the gas station! You don’t have someone drive the car around while you aim the hose and spray gas at it, and hope that you get some gas in that little hole.
Too often, we pray on the run, “fill me, Lord”, and He answers, “I’m trying! Hold still!”
ILL: Years ago, when I was getting a CT scan, I saw a sticker that they give to kids that says “I was good, I held still”. I got one.
That’s what we need to do if we want to be filled with the Spirit. Get alone with God every day and hold still! There was a reason Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem and pray. Those who seek, find. Those who wait are filled.
There’s more! There’s more of God to be experienced.
Why do we need to be filled with the Spirit? We need His power to do His work.
B. There’s more power to do God’s work.
Have you ever not known what to say or what to do to help someone? You need the Holy Spirit! We need to be full of the Spirit so that we can do God’s work. Jesus said:
Acts 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.”
The Holy Spirit gives us the power to be Jesus’ witnesses. He gives us the power to live a life of love like Jesus lived—to love those who are hard to love. Jesus said that the Spirit would give us the words to say when we’re on the spot. There’s more—there’s a lot more of God’s work to be done in our broken world. There’s more hurting people who need God’s love. And there’s more power to do that work when you’re filled with the Spirit.
ILL: Greg Boyle is a Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries. He works with gang members in inner city LA. One day, 15-year old Looney showed up in the office, just released from a 6-month stay in a probation camp. They ordered pizza to celebrate; Looney was giddy with pleasure that everyone was so delighted to see him.
Looney asked to see Greg alone in his office, where he proudly slapped on Greg’s desk an envelope extracted from his back pocket. “My grades,” he announced, “from camp.” He sat a little higher. “Straight A’s,” he says.
“Seeeerrrriiiioooo?” Greg says. “Straight A’s.”
Greg fumbles with the envelope, opens the transcript and sure enough: 2 C’s, 2 B’s and one A. Greg thinks, “Not the straightest A’s I’ve ever seen, but close enough.”
“Wow, mijo,” Greg tells him. “Bien hecho! Nice goin’!”
Greg carefully returns the transcript to the envelope. Then he says:
“On everything I love, mijo, if you were my son, I’d be the proudest man alive.”
“In a flash, Looney situates his thumb and first finger in his eye sockets, trembling, and wanting to stem the flow of tears, which seem to be inevitable at this point. Like the kid with the fingers in the dike, he’s shaking now and desperate not to cry. I look at this little guy and know that he has been returned to a situation largely unchanged. Parents are either absent at any given time or plagued by mental illness. Chaos and dysfunction is what will now surround him as before. His grandmother, a good woman, whose task it is now to raise this kid, is not quite up to the task. I know that one month before this moment I buried Looney’s best friend, killed in our streets for no reason at all.
So I lead with my gut.
“I bet you’re afraid to be out, aren’t you?” This seems to push the Play button on Looney’s tear ducts, and quickly he folds his arms on the front of my desk and rests his sobbing head on his folded arms. I let him cry it out. Finally, I reach across the desk and place my hand on his shoulder. “You’re gonna be okay.”
Greg hears him out, encourages him. Looney listens, nods. Greg finishes, “You’re gonna be just fine. After all,” and he hands him back his grades, “Straight A’s.”
Where do people find the power to work for 25 years with the gangs in LA? The Holy Spirit fills you. How do you know the right thing to say to hurting kid? The Holy Spirit gives it to you.
Every one of you do God’s work right where you live. We meet needs in Jesus’ name. We love people who are dry as sponges and soak it up. We show compassion when people are bracing for judgment. We act and talk like Jesus, because we are full of Him!
If you find yourself not knowing what to say; if you find yourself not caring about hurting people; if you find yourself not able to do what you really want—there’s more. Ask Him to fill You again.
God’s whole plan for the world is you. He wants to fill you so full of Himself that you become Jesus to your family, your neighbor, your co-workers and classmates. God’s work gets done when people like you and me simply let Him fill us and then go live as Spirit-filled, Spirit-led people.
There’s more of God’s work to get done this week, and there’s more power to do it! Be filled with the Spirit!
C. There’s more to Jesus’ story: you are in it!
The Jesus story wasn’t finished on Day 1 when He died on the cross. The Jesus story wasn’t finished on Day 2 when He rose from the dead or later when He ascended to heaven. And the Jesus story wasn’t finished on Day 3 when the Spirit came. That was only the beginning. The story goes on and you are in it!
The book of Acts in the New Testament is the story of the early church—the first 30-40 years. In ends at Acts 28, but it clearly isn’t the end of the story. That story goes on, and you’re part of it. We are living in Acts 29!
We are writing the story of Jesus in our world today. God’s whole plan for the world is you! I’d like my chapter in the story to be a good one, wouldn’t you? I’d like to know that God used me to do His work. I’d like to be someone who brings Jesus everywhere I go, so that others experience the love of God. To do that, I need to be filled with Spirit. God’s work requires God’s love and God’s power. I need to be filled with Him. So let’s ask Him to fill us again. Jesus said:
Luke 11:13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
If you ask, He will give. He will pour out the Holy Spirit on you.
Will you speak in tongues? I don’t know! Will you prophesy? I don’t know. They didn’t know either—they had no idea what to expect, and I can’t predict what God will do with you. Except for one thing: Jesus promised you would have power to do God’s work.
So ask with expectancy: God will fill you. There’s more.
Sing and pray: Spirit of the Living God.
 Boyle, Gregory (2010-02-14). Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (pp. 69-70). Free Press. Kindle Edition.