This morning in part three of our series A.D. we see the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Something new and exciting was beginning to happen in Jerusalem. And maybe some of you can relate. You know, whatever your background, your church experience, whatever was normal for you was suddenly turned upside down by the living God. That was my experience. I grew up as a Roman Catholic, so I thought church was very formal. You would come in very quietly, kneel, sit, stand, and genuflect; my church experience was not exciting, not very enthusiastic, and not passionate.
Many years later, God called me and I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I didn’t know much about other churches. I didn’t know what it meant to be a Bible teaching, Jesus loving, evangelical church. I didn’t know there were decaf churches and caffeinated churches. I didn’t know there are churches where you sing with your hands at your side, churches where you sing with one hand up, and churches where you sing with both hands up. I didn’t know there were churches where they sang with all their hearts, where there was clapping, where they were enthusiastic, and where they participate. I didn’t know there were churches where they prayed and really prayed. I didn’t know there were churches where they prayed out loud, where they prayed in languages I’d never heard, I just didn’t know. But now that I had been born again, and as Jesus promised was filled with the Spirit of God, I had this intense desire to fellowship with others of like mind. To worship where people were friendly, where they love Jesus, where they believe the Bible, and so much so that they live it day in and day out. So I began to search that out, to discover how church should be based on the Word of God, and not by my experience. In every way I wanted my experience with God, with his son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit to match the promises and experiences recorded in the Word of God. I wanted my church experience to match as closely as possible within our culture and context to the church as recorded in the Bible, like we are about to see here in this series A.D.. So if you have a Bible, go with me to Acts chapter 2, and let’s look at what the Church looks like when it’s empowered by the Spirit to follow Jesus.
As you’re finding your place in your Bible let me just introduce to you where we find ourselves in the story. Jesus Christ is God who became a man. He lived without sin, went to the cross, died in our place for our sins, and effectively acted as our substitute. He is our Savior, he was buried, and three days later on Sunday morning he rose from death conquering Satan, sin, death, and hell; appeasing the wrath of God. And then Acts chapter 1 tells us that he appears for 40 days giving evidence of his resurrection with many convincing proofs.
He then told his disciples, “Don’t go out to start your ministry yet… ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised…” (Acts 1:4). Wait for the Holy Spirit, because… “When the Holy Spirit comes on you… you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8). He then ascended into heaven, and it tells us at the end of Acts chapter 1, that for 10 days they waited, they prayed, they studied, and prepared for this mission.
Today in Acts chapter 2, we see the promised coming of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled. Just as the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism in Luke’s Gospel to anoint him for ministry, here Jesus is going to send the Holy Spirit to his people so that they can follow and serve in his power. Let’s read it together beginning in Acts chapter 2 at verse 1. We are going to see what happens when the Holy Spirit shows up and is present among God’s people awakening them to the power and purpose of Jesus.
Acts 2:1, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” NIV
So the disciples were all together in one place. It was a church gathering of about 120 people (Acts 1:15), when something happened. The Bible explains a supernatural, unusual, miraculous event; a situation that really was indescribable. Like we have discovered in our Bible study of Revelation on Wednesday night, in chapter 4, as we’ve been looking at the throne room of God, and the apostle John has been trying to explain what he saw, much in the same way as Isaiah and Ezekiel attempted before him. So here in the book of Acts, in the same way, the author Luke says, “It was like this… it was kind of like that… it seemed to be…” yet what we discover is that it is impossible to explain within the constraints of our human language. It was just like that.
And so what happened was that the Holy Spirit was working. It tells us that all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit descends on them, empowering them, just as he came to empower Jesus. The Holy Spirit empowers them for his mission. And so the Holy Spirit is working through them. And this is really nothing new, because from the beginning, the Holy Spirit has been working. The Bible says in Genesis chapter 1, at verse two, that “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Throughout the Old Testament we read about the Holy Spirit. He would come upon people, such as judges, kings, priests, and prophets. In the New Testament, it was the Holy Spirit that conceived Jesus in the womb of Mary (Luke 1:35)… It was the Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus like a dove at his baptism (Luke 3:22)… It was the Holy Spirit that anointed his preaching ministry (Luke 4:16)… And it was the Holy Spirit that gave him supernatural power to perform signs and wonders (Matthew 12:28). Together God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are working in unison, like Jesus said in John’s gospel, chapter 5 at verse 17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too, am working.” So what we see here is the fulfillment of Jesus promise, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit is a power released in us to partner with, to work with, and to serve God as his witnesses. Jesus baptizes those who love and obey him in the Holy Spirit, unleashing them on the earth, so that people would hear the good news. That the world would know that Jesus is God… that Jesus lived, died, and was raised again, and that Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. This message has got to get out and it is the ministry of the church to do this, but it requires the presence and power of the Holy Spirit working through us to effectively speak, to share, to teach, and to talk about Jesus. So the Holy Spirit wants the work through us today just as he has worked through people for thousands of years.
Jesus kept his promise on the Day of Pentecost pouring out the Holy Spirit upon the believers gathered there in Jerusalem. The Spirit of God empowered them and Peter and the other disciples were so emboldened that they broke out of hiding and courageously began to preach the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the streets. At that time, it was a great celebration in Jerusalem and many devout Jews from every nation under heaven had gathered. As this amazing scene unfolds, the disciples filled with the Holy Spirit, began to speak of the glory of God in languages representing the native tongues of every pilgrim gathered in that place (Acts 2:5-11).
A crowd gathers, because each one heard these followers of Jesus speaking in their own language. They were amazed… they knew something miraculous was happening, because these men who were speaking were Galileans. And of course, as there is any time God performs the miraculous, there were the skeptics who concluded that those who were filled by the Holy Spirit, those who were declaring the wonders of God in foreign tongues, were merely drunk (Acts 2:11-13).
So in the midst of that chaos, in the midst of that confusion, the apostle Peter stands up, and begins to preach. Reading at verse 14, "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! (Acts 2:14-15). Now in my hometown, where I grew up, that is not a very convincing statement, but here in Jerusalem, especially during the festival of Pentecost, it would’ve been quite unusual to see drunk people walking around at 9 a.m. at the official time for morning prayers.
So Peter empowered by the Holy Spirit, begins with a rational argument and moves to a biblical argument. He explains what’s happening through the lens of the Bible and in verse 17 he quotes directly from the prophet Joel. “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. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:16-18).
Peter takes this controversial, chaotic, confusing scene, and he explains it according to the word of God in the Bible. This is important because Spirit empowered preaching is biblical. You see the Holy Spirit loves the Bible, he inspired the Bible, and he works through each of the authors so that the words we read in the Bible are the very words of God. And not only that, but the Holy Spirit also illuminates the Bible so that when we read the Bible, when we speak and preach the Bible, when we hear the Bible, the Bible makes sense. So what Peter does is he takes these unusual circumstances that are unfolding and he uses the Bible to interpret the experience. And that’s important for us today, because we’re still in these last days, the prophecy of Joel has not completely unfolded, and we need to allow the Bible to interpret our experience. You see, we live in a very confusing world, our perspective is often distorted by sin, our reality is distorted by demonic spirits who want to take our experiences and use them to confuse us. So what we need is God to speak to us from his perspective, through his word, on what is reality… and what is important.
That’s exactly what Peter is doing here. He explains the experience of what is happening on the streets of Jerusalem through the lens, the perspective, of the Bible. Peter is interpreting our experience by the Bible and that’s the essence of Spirit empowered preaching. And then the Holy Spirit takes it a step further, and I want you to follow along if you can, let’s look at verse 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” (Acts 2:22). Here Peter is speaking to those who have physically seen and heard Jesus. These were people who actually saw him feed the hungry, heal the sick, and raise the dead. These were people who were eyewitnesses to the power of God manifested in Christ Jesus. And what he’s telling them is that it’s all about Jesus. He’s exalting the name of Jesus.
He takes their experience on the streets of Jerusalem, explains it to them through the lens of God’s word, and points them to Jesus. The Holy Spirit works through Peter, from the Bible, to emphasize the very essence of Jesus. Peter tells them that this was the same Jesus who walked among us, this was the same Jesus who performed amazing miracles, the same Jesus who was unjustly executed… “This 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. But 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” (Acts 2:23-24).
Jesus couldn’t stay in the grave, death couldn’t keep its hold on him, and he’s risen. Now he’s exalted to the right hand of the Father, he’s sent the Holy Spirit, and what you’re seeing now, what you’re watching, is the absolute proof that Jesus is who he said he was, that he is God. And he points them to the Bible, telling them even the patriarch David, the great King David, was a prophet and in verse 31 Peter says, “Seeing what was ahead, (David) spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 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” (Acts 2:31-33). Then he makes his closing statement, verse 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Now Peter cuts loose, he goes for it, he confronts them, accusing them saying, “This Jesus whom you crucified.” He’s been telling them about the greatness of Jesus, exalting Jesus, and they’re drawn in, the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts, when all of a sudden it’s like Peter punches them in the stomach and says, “You killed him!”
He confronts them with the truth. He reveals Jesus in all of his greatness and glory and simultaneously reveals to us where our thoughts, our words, and actions have caused us to be guilty of the murder of Jesus. The Holy Spirit through the Word of God calls those there in Jerusalem and us to action… to have us make a decision.
The last thing I want you see in this sermon of Peter’s, is here in verse 37, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Today we live in a culture that is leaning further and further away from the truth of God’s word, further from Judeo-Christian principles, and yet what our culture desperately needs to hear is exactly what these people in Jerusalem heard. That Jesus is God. He is both Lord and Christ. He’s the one who was anointed to bring about God’s plan of redemption… and you killed him! What are you going to do about that?
The people that day were cut to the heart, and maybe for some of you today, you’re experiencing that right now, for the very first time you feel convicted that you murdered Jesus… that his blood is on your hands too. The Holy Spirit through the Word of God is working on your heart, much like those in Jerusalem, and you’re cut to the heart. It’s as if that Roman centurion had stuck a spear in your heart too and you understand for the first time the glory and greatness of Jesus, you see for the first time that is your sin and your rebellion that killed him. And much like those people in Jerusalem you’re crying out, “What shall we do?”
In verse 38, “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” (Acts 2:38).
Peter tells the people to change their mind and their perspective. The word “Repent” in its most basic form means to do a U-turn. But really repentance is threefold: Repentance is understanding with your mind that you have sinned against God, so that in your mind you are truly sorry. Repentance is also a condition of the heart where you regret your sin, turn from your sin, and have a desire in your soul to please Jesus. And then third, repentance is also a decision of our will. It’s deciding to stop and to turn back. It’s a choice to turn away from sin and turn toward Jesus. And so the question is will you repent today? If the Holy Spirit is doing his work and you’re cut to the heart will you respond?
As we close, let’s not resist the work of the Holy Spirit. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). You see, genuine repentance results in two things: the forgiveness of sin and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit… Now more than any other time this is what we need in our personal lives… This is what we need to do in our families… It’s what we need to do in the body of Christ, in our church services, and in our prayer times. We need to make room for the work of the Holy Spirit.
You see, the Holy Spirit who hovered over the chaos and breathed order into the Creation… the Holy Spirit through whom Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary… the Holy Spirit through whom we’re born again; this creative, dynamic Spirit of the living God wants to be released into this time and space in our lives today. The Holy Spirit who was poured out on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost wants to be poured out on your life today. For that to happen, you must give the Holy Spirit room.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
April 19, 2015