June 8, 2014
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Acts 2: 1-4
All Were Filled!
There are two major events that take place in the Bible concerning the life of a Christian. The first, of course is the death of Christ for our sins and the resurrection after three days in the grave. But many people may not realize what the second event is. We concentrate so much on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and the triumph over death for our sins, that we may not realize the importance of this second event.
The second event would never have taken place without the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. Christ died for us – so that we can have forgiveness and be welcomed into the Kingdom of God with eternal life.
When we ask Jesus into our lives and ask for forgiveness of our sins, we are born into the body of Christ, becoming one with our God. This is the joy that we have as Christians. Yet, without the second event, the second gift from God, this joy could never be transformed into good works here on earth.
The second event, or gift, is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we would be useless as Christians. It is both Christ’s sacrifice and the coming of the Holy Spirit that defines our lives as Christians. The first is vital to our salvation and the second is vital to the good works that we are called to do. Yet, as important as the Spirit is, the Holy Spirit is one of the most misunderstood personalities of the trinity. Often we don’t even associate the Spirit as a being, or person like we do with the God of Abraham, Our Creator, the Parental God figure, and with Jesus, the Son. To many, the work, the person and the ministry of the Holy Spirit are a mystery. The other two members of the trinity are much easier to understand.
We have little problem relating to God, our Creator, as the Parental figure of the Trinity. It is easy to understand the concept since all of us have one. Our Creator is the person in charge, making the important decisions. The head of the household is the one who cares for the family and provides for them. Jesus is not difficult to identify with either, because Jesus was human. He had a mother and a father, just like we do. They were poor and without significance in their society. Jesus was a flesh and blood person just as we are. And Jesus’ sacrifice for us brings us closer to God and gives us a special bond.
But what about the Holy Spirit, can we relate to a Spirit? For many Christians the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, is some mystical “thing” that we know little about. We think that the Spirit only existed after Christ ascended into heaven. Yet, the Holy Spirit is God, just as much as Jesus and the Creator are. A.W. Tozer in his book “The counselor” says this: “The Holy Spirit is a Person, not just enthusiasm, not just courage, not just energy; the Holy Spirit is not just the personification of all good qualities, like Jack Frost is the personification of cold weather. Actually, the Holy Spirit is not the personification of anything. The Spirit has individuality. The Spirit is one being and not another… The Spirit can hear and speak, grieve and rejoice. The Holy Spirit is a person,” just as Jesus, the Son, and the Creator, the Parental Father figure, are.
Many don’t realize this; the Holy Spirit has always been present. From the beginning of time the Spirit has existed. The Holy Spirit was a part of creation. Adam became a living being because of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has been around forever. But until Christ came and died for us, the Holy Spirit did not dwell within people. We read throughout the Old Testament about persons who “were suddenly filled with the Spirit”.
The difference between the Old Testament people and those who receive the Spirit today is that in the Old Testament the Spirit would come upon people for a short- time, give them great power, wisdom or strength, but then would leave. Now, we have that same power, that same strength… that same Spirit, living in us all the time! Jesus promised us this. (John 14:16-18) Jesus said: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned.” Notice Jesus’ words here. He says the Advocate will be with you forever and that the Advocate abides with you and will be in you. The Greek word for “abide” means to stay, to prevail and to be present. This means that the Spirit lives within us and is here to stay! It is the Holy Spirit that gives us our power to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Look at what happened to the disciples before and after they received the Holy Spirit.
These men had been with Jesus for three years. They lived with Jesus, every hour of every day. Yet when Christ was crucified, where did they go? They hid behind closed doors, they ran away… afraid. Even after Jesus rose and appeared to them and hundreds of others, you didn’t hear of them proclaiming the gospel, unafraid of their enemies. These were not highly educated men. They were poor, common ordinary men. But, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were filled with a power like never before.
The words that speak to us this morning, from out of the ancient scriptures, tell us of how and when Jesus first kept his promise to send to us… an Advocate; His Living Spirit that would be here for us. What a rush that must have been for those present on that day! When one reads a bit further into the scripture it is suggested that the people, whom began to speak in various languages and to understand those languages, it was suggested that they had perhaps had too much wine! Later in the passage the Apostle Peter assures them that this was not the case and even tells us it was 9:30 in the morning. Yes, I know there are some who do drink to excess before 9:30 in the morning; however, Peter is assuring us that this was not the case!
Now suddenly, Peter is standing before thousands, preaching. Now the disciples start speaking in other languages. Now they keep on preaching about Jesus, as the Messiah,even when they are threatened with their lives. And the only thing different is the indwellingof the Holy Spirit! The only thing different is that they are filled with the Holy Spirit.
They had spent three years living with Christ. They had witnessed His death and resurrection,but it took the power of the Holy Spirit to transform them into the bold leaders, that we know they became, for the Church of Jesus Christ.
We too have that power! We, who believe in Jesus, accepting Him in His rightful place as One with our Triune God, we have the Holy Spirit living within us! The same power that the first disciples had, we have, yet, so few of us know how to tap into that power. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to witness to the world. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us words to say when our minds go blank. It is the Holy Spirit that makes us able to carry out Christ’s work, which we are called to do.
It is through the Holy Spirit that we are able to love each other and our neighbors even when we are unlovable. It is when we are filled with the Spirit that we are able to do the work that is demanded from us, in the name of Jesus Christ. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are able to continue to volunteer our time, our energy, and even our sweat to continue the work of this church. It is not always easy or joyful. But, just like the early disciples we can persevere if we allow the indwelling Spirit to lead us and give us the strength, courage and even the stamina required to do the job.
With the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that was bestowed upon us at our baptism, we are and we were given strength to preserver in our faith. With the aid of the Living Spirit we have the ability to continue our enthusiasm and continue our commitment to serve the people of God in this community. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.” Ralph Waldo Emerson continues this thought as he said: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” We are perched upon a crossroad my friends. If we are willing to accept the gift and the help of the Advocate, the living personification of our God in the form of the Holy Spirit, we shall move quickly beyond that which gets in our way at this crossing.
As we struggle to fully grasp that the Living God, in the form of the Holy Spirit is here among us, we may wish to pay heed to an old African Proverb, /Ghana/ “If you want to speak to God, tell it to the wind.”
The analogy surrounding the “Spirit” being like the wind… is deeply entrenched in and throughout Holy Scripture. [Ruach: a Hebrew word meaning: “breath” “wind” or “spirit” is found in the Old Testament. This indicates that The Spirit of God was conceived of as a kind of wind; also referred to as the “Spirit of God” or the “Spirit of Elohim.] /Wikipedia/
Catherine the Great spoke these words: “A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache.” As you and I come to trust in the presence of the Living God more fully, let us allow the Breath of God, the Spirit of God, to move us into a time of expanded and creative imagination! Let us also embrace the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it.” Let usembrace this opportunity, for this time, in which we live in, is a good time, a time for us to continue to be proud of the work of this church; and it is a time for us to boldly go forward – sharing our enthusiasm with all whom we encounter. Let us embrace this second profound event; for the Breath of God is among us today!
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.