April 27th 2014 Acts 2:42-47
April 13th 2014 Acts 2:14-21To download the PowerPoint for this message, Spirit and Live Powerpoint.
Spirit and Life
By Ryan Paulson
Easter is on the way. I want to encourage you to use this opportunity to engage with people in your neighborhood, friends, and family and invite them to an Easter service here at South. We’ve tied to make that as easy as possible for you. We have created these mailers that are going to out to the community surrounding the church, but we made extras for you to take and send to your friends as well. Please do that! You can also invite through Facebook, emails, etc. The Lord uses it all. We are praying that many would step into a life-giving relationship with Jesus the Messiah this Easter season! We also have a Good Friday service and the Egg Hunt that are upcoming and great opportunities for engagement with people!
In 1989, the movie Weekend at Bernie’s was released in theaters. If you’re not familiar with the film, it follows two young executives as they take a trip to their boss’s beach-house for the weekend. While they’re there, their boss, Bernie Lomax dies of an apparent drug overdoes. These two men don’t want the other guests to know that Bernie is dead and so they spend the rest of the weekend propping Bernie up and pretending that he’s still alive. (show picture) If you’ve seen the movie, you know that there are some pretty funny scenes.
I think a lot of followers of Jesus treat the Holy Spirit a bit like Bernie. I grew up in a Presbyterian church that jokingly referred to themselves as “the frozen chosen.” I don’t think that sentiment was unique. Many Christians want the Spirit there, but are much more comfortable with a Spirit that was dead and present that was alive and active. I’m confident that there are many churches (maybe even ours at times) who are more comfortable with a dead, rather than a living Holy Spirit. We tend to like ‘Bernie Holy Spirit.’ What are our expectations of those who are alive? Well, we expect interaction, movement, and connection. Things that are dead don’t do that! We can control dead (inanimate) things. We can make them do what we want them to do and go where we want them to go. Here in lies our draw to the ‘Bernie Spirit.’
It’s easy, especially in an age where the church is married to modernity, to neglect the Holy Spirit. In fact, Francis Chan wrote a book about the person and work of the Spirit that he entitled, “Forgotten God.” I think he’s right, I think we have largely forgotten or neglected the Spirit. Why is that? There are a number of reasons. (1) Reason one is that majority of us are entrenched in a system of thinking called ‘modernism’ that has a lot of benefits, but is also has some drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is that we don’t like things we can’t explain, things we can’t measure, and things we can’t control. Now, not all of modernity is negative, but it’s probably unwise to hitch our wagon to one system of thought! (2) A second reason is that we have seen wide-range abuse of the Spirit. I can remember seeing a movie called Jesus Camp a few years back. It was a documentary that followed a group of young kids to a hyper-charismatic camp where they were emotionally manipulated into being slain in the Spirit, etc. To be honest with you, it was quite frightening; if I wasn’t already a Christian, it would not have converted me; let’s just say that!
So, if we’re honest there is some baggage. The worldview that many of us carry and the abuses we have seen both contribute to the way we view the Holy Spirit. I’m going to ask you to put those aside for a time this morning as we engage with God’s word to see what it says. What if the Holy Spirit is really still alive? What if being a follower of Jesus transcends cognitive agreement with a set of truths and actually delves into ‘the spiritual realm’? Are you willing to go there? I think C.S. Lewis engages this fear well in his book Miracles where he writes,
An “impersonal God”—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband – that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
I want to invite you not to draw back this morning, but to push forward, deeper, and to grow in expectation of the reality that God is alive… and that he is alive in you through the Spirit.
I have two goals that I want to put on the table this morning. FIRST, I WANT TO TEACH YOU HOW TO SPEAK IN TONGUES. SECOND, I WANT TO CONVINCE YOU TO EMBRACE THE REALITY THAT YOU ARE IN FACT PENTECOSTAL CHRISTIAN. Some of you just went “yes and amen” in your spirit. Others of you started to grab your Bible ready to walk out. Please stick with me; I plan on being and equal opportunity offender today!
If you have your Bible, please open to Acts 2. If you were with us two weeks you’ll remember that Aaron and I tag-teamed and gave a message on the cultural implications of Pentecost. I promised that we would come back and address the implications of the Spirit descending; and here we are. Let’s start reading in Acts 2:1-4:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The day of Pentecost was one of the three pilgrim feasts that the Hebrew people celebrated every year. Jewish people who were spread out all over the known world would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (Feast of Week or Shavuot). It was the celebration of the day that the LAW WAS GIVEN TO MOSES ON MOUNT SINAI! Now, that is going to come in handy later, so file it away. The believers were all gathered together in the upper room seeking the Lord and praying. They very well may have been praying for the gift of the Spirit that Jesus promised them before he ascended to Heaven. See in Acts 1:8a he said,
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses…
At Pentecost, we see God fulfill this promise. It’s a promise that changes EVERYTHING. If there is no Pentecost, there is no church!
Look and see what happens when the Spirit descends. There “came from heaven a sound like rushing wind… there divided as though tongues of fire!” There is a lot of debate about whether or not we should take these things literally. Dr. Luke is pretty upfront with us in saying that it “appeared ‘like’ rushing wind’ and ‘as of’ tongues of fire” which means that he in a sense grasping for words as he researches the peculiar event. We have other documented cases of the Spirit’s presence manifesting itself like a rushing wind. But, what does this event show us? It’s shows us that the Spirit of God is at work in a powerful way in this new community of believers. Both fire and wind are Old Testament symbols of God’s manifest presence.
What you’ve just read about is the inauguration of the New Covenant. It was a promised time in which God would start interacting with his people in a new way. The prophets foretold about it and the faithful looked forward to this day with baited anticipation. Well, we have to do a little bit of work in explaining the New Covenant. Both Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 11 talk about this ‘new covenant.’ Let me read to you from Ezekiel’s prophecy about it. It comes from Ezekiel 11:19-20 and reads,
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
There are a few things listed in this description of the New Covenant. Let me list a few of them for you. (1) He will place a new spirit within us. (2) He will give us a new heart. (3) We will walk with God in an intimate way. (4) We will truly be the people of God! Pentecost is when God declares, “that day you were looking forward to is NOW.” Pentecost shows us there is a different way to interact with and be in relationship with God – through and with His Spirit! Remember how I told you to file away the truth that God gave the law on Pentecost… and now he gives the Spirit on the same day. Being a Pentecostal people is about receiving the invitation from God to live as Spirit indwelt, Spirit empowered, Spiritually minded believers in Jesus! The indwelling Spirit of God empowers and awakens God’s people to live in the Kingdom!
There are a few key words that I’d like to point out before we move on. Notice how Luke makes the point that the tongues rested on “each one of them” and they were “all” filled with the Holy Spirit. See, it wasn’t just the Apostles and the leaders who got this gift. That’s normally the way it happened in the Old Covenant. God would choose a leader and he would gift the leader with the Spirit’s empowering for the accomplishing of a certain task (a limited duration of time). It’s why David prays in Psalm 51:11,
“Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”
A New Covenant Christian will never have to pray this because the Spirit is given to all permanently as our guaranteed of what is to come – at the time when we place faith in Jesus as Lord! See, in the Old Covenant God visited man, in the New Covenant He lives in man! Listen to the way Paul writes this to the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 1:13-14,
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
This New Covenant is for EVERY BELIEVER. It’s for all who would put their faith in Jesus Christ. It’s this New Covenant that invites us into a new way of interacting with our fellow believers and a new way of living in our world. As we study, my hope is that if you have a “Weekend at Bernie’s” view of the Spirit, that you would be convicted and stir to pursue the beauty, majesty, and transformation of the New Covenant.
Alright, now we get into the section that talks about the implications of being New Covenant (Pentecostal) believers! Acts 2:4 stated,
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
We talked two weeks ago about how this is a highly debated word and idea in scripture. The word in the Greek is ‘Glossa’ and it literally means; tongue. With all of the debate that surrounds the word, there is no ambiguity of what it means in this passage. After telling us that there were people in Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire, Luke then tells us that spirit-empowered ‘glossa’ allows them to hear the gospel in their own language! Listen to Acts 2:11b, it reads,
“We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
So, in this instance, ‘glossa’ is an intelligible language. There have been so much controversy about the forms and the style of tongues that I think we have missed much of the substance behind it! Listen to the result of “tongues”… PEOPLE HEAR THE MIGHTY WORKS OF GOD!
What if we were more interested in the substance of tongues rather than the form? We’ve gotten lost in the charismania that tongues has become, but at its core it is a Spirit-empowered ability to boldly and applicably declare the mighty works of God. Maybe tongues (in a sense) is a gift that every believer does receive! I told you that I wanted to teach you how to speak in tongues today. I’m serious, I do! The indwelling Spirit of God empowers us: To boldly declare the mighty works of God. As we’ve already established, if you’re a believer, the Spirit lives inside of you! Hopefully he’s not ‘alive’ in the ‘Bernie’ sort of way – propped up and technically there! If he is alive, we should expect that he speak. What we see all throughout the book of Acts is one of the ways the Spirit exhibits himself in the life of the believers is through the ability to boldly declare the mighty works of God. Listen to the way Peter speaks to the rulers in Acts 4:8-10,
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.
Sometimes they do it in their language, sometimes they’re given the ability to do so in another language; but each time they speak… they do so in TONGUES!
What does it look like to become this type of person? It means that we start to live with the EXPECTATION that God speaks to us and through us. As you live with expectation, you will start to have an inner dialogue with the Spirit. The next step is IMPLEMENTATION. As you listen to him; you begin to speak the words he gives you to speak. It might be as simple as an encouraging word to someone you notice is down. It might be a person with whom you share the good news of Jesus with as you sense from the Spirit that they are open. It might be a word of forgiveness or reconciliation that is spoken. There are a variety of things it could look like. And, because this is a spiritual endeavor, I could never give you an exhaustive list of examples!
There have been numerous times when God has used people in this congregation to encourage me! There were some challenging things that happened this week. That’s every week, but sometimes it’s worse than others. Even as I was writing this message, I got an encouraging text from my wife. I’m confident that God placed it on her heart to text me so that I’d have an illustration for my message. Just kidding. I AM confident that he put it on her heart because He knew I needed to hear it. And isn’t it true that words (tongues) have the ability to sustain you through the valleys of life?
As we read on in Luke’s narrative retelling of the beginning of the church, Acts 2:12-13 reads,
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
And so, after a declaration of the mighty works of God, the first thing that ensues is mockery! In fact, the believers are accused of being drunk. The ESV translates is as “filled with new wine” and the NIV states,
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
I wish the ESV’s translation was closer to the original; the irony of the onlookers thinking that the believers were filled with “new wine” would have been epic (since Jesus invited them to this), but it’s not in the original text! The conclusion from the crowd is… “It’s still morning and these people are hammered!” Now, the bright side of that statement is that the church is known for something other that being dead or bigoted; but I digress! What is the crowd observing? The believers have relinquished their right to be in control of their life and they have given control over to the Spirit!
That’s the second thing it means to live as a New Covenant believer: To selflessly submit to the control of the Spirit. Pentecostal Christians are invited to live and UNEXPECTED life. Unexpected, but not without expectations… there is the expectation that there are things that will happen that were outside of my choreographing and outside of my control. We don’t enjoy being out of control, do we? One commentator said if you remove the Holy Spirit from the book of backs 90% of the content would disappear. He went on to say that if you remove the Holy Spirit from the church today, 90% of the activity would continue. Ouch! I have a confession to make. I am a control freak. By that I mean, when I’m out of control, I freak!
As many of you know, last weekend I was in California officiating a wedding for two of my former staff members. It was a great trip. I worked the day I left and was running late. That’s not usually my M.O. I was running through the airport, got to go through the quick security line – so I didn’t need the full-body cavity search which was nice! I only had to take my phone and keys out of my pocket. I put them in my bag, but left the zipper open because I knew I would need them right when I got through the line. I got through the line and immediately took off for the train. I saw it coming and made it on; once I was on I went to grab my phone so that I could send my wife a quick text. It wasn’t there. I then remembered that I had put it in my bag so I reached down to get it out of my bag… it wasn’t there either! At this point the door is in the process of closing, I can’t get out and I am just along for the ride!
I think in some ways that what life with the Spirit looks like! We get on the train and allow God to take us where he wants us to go. This passage in Acts isn’t the only place where being filled with the Spirit is compared to being intoxicated. Look at what Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18-19. Listen to what he says,
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.
Just a quick note, see how one of the ways you know you are FILLED with the Spirit is by what comes out of your mouth. And what comes out could maybe even be considered speaking in tongues! So, Paul draws some parallels between being drunk on wine and being filled with the Spirit. When you are drunk on wine it leads to something: debauchery. When you are filled with the Spirit, it leads to something: a different way of speaking and living. Both of these influences come from something outside of yourself and lead to you doing something you wouldn’t ‘normally’ do. See, the Spirit-filled life is bursting with great expectation for the un-choreographed and unexpected move of God in and through our lives. Do you have space for this? Does that describe you? Or, like me, are you a control freak?
If you are a control freak, let’s talk briefly about how we can recover from that. I think there are three things God would invite us to do. (1) First is to being to expect. What if we really started to believe that God has preordained good works for us to walk into! Ephesians 2:10 states that he has, listen:
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Now, if that is the reality that you and I live in, ‘bored Christian’ should be an oxymoron. (2) Second, we need to relinquish control and step into trust. See, the control freak is really just someone who lacks faith. Our desire, my desire, to control is really just simply saying to God, “God I think I can run my life better than you. I think I know better than you. I’m not sure I trust you to keep me safe, and popular with my friends. And in good relationships with my family.” And indeed, look at the very first thing that happens to the believers as they begin to walk with the Spirit… they are mocked by the crowds. Can I be honest; most of my pushback to God revolves around that reality. (3) Finally, I think God would have us create space. Both space to hear and space to respond. Notice that this group of believers was gathered together seeking the Lord and praying. I wonder if they heard the voice of God more clearly because of it. I wonder if they were more willing to step out because they weren’t stepping out alone. What if you knew you were alone? Would it make it easier to follow the Spirit’s lead to truly love the people around you? I bet it would. Reality check, you are not alone! What would it take for you to say to the Spirit today, “You can have control?”
Our passage in Acts concludes with Peter quoting from the book of Joel. Essentially, he is trying to give some scriptural backing for what everyone is seeing and experiencing. See, Peter is not interested in an ungrounded and unbiblical spiritual experience. So he points them to the scriptures. Listen to Acts 2:14-21,
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
When Peter quotes from the book of Joel his quotation is about what God is now doing through his new covenant community. What he describes at Pentecost is now the normative promise for everybody who believes. Notice how he intentionally includes everyone by stating; young and old, slave and free, sons and daughters, male and female. No one is left out of the promise!
The movement of Jesus by it’s very nature is a movement of dreamers and visionaries. In some ways that is a very spiritual supernatural thing; but in many ways it plays itself out in very normal ways! The indwelling Spirit of God empowers us: To courageously embrace the vision and dreams of the Kingdom. There are two ways dreams and visions play themselves out. First is through direction. There are times God will speak through dreams and visions in order to guide his people. One of the reasons I am standing before you at South Fellowship Church as your pastor today is because of a dream. Two years before I had ever heard the name South Fellowship Church I had a dream. I very rarely can remember my dreams. I woke up in the middle of the night with as vivid a dream as I have ever had. I woke Kelly up and I told her this, “I just had a dream that I am the pastor of a church that meets in a strip mall. I told her the color scheme (lots of tan) and I told her there is a lot of indoor foliage – many plants!” And then I went back to sleep. Notice, God (intentionally) did not show me the outside of the building! Well, as the time came and you were looking for a new pastor, I ‘happened’ to look on Denver Seminary’s website and saw the job posting. I wasn’t looking for a new position, but God had started to stir something in my heart. I wrote a resume and sent it to Dave Carlson; the chairman of the search team. I was offered the position and when the time came to decide whether or not I was going to accept it, my previous employer came to me and made me an offer that included an increase in position and influence if I were to stay. One of the ways God led me to accept this position was through a dream he had given two years before!
Not only does he give direction through dreams and visions; he also gives motivation through dreams and visions. It’s those ideas and hopes that God places in your heart. It’s the reason that some of you volunteer with the food bank – the dream that God might bring freedom to some. It’s the reason some of you are passionate about Alternatives Pregnancy Center. It’s the reason that John and Raechella are starting Celebrate Recovery. It’s the reason we are mailing out invitations to Easter! But, Peter makes an important statement. This dreaming and envisioning is not for some; it’s for all! This is important because young people try to change the world and then realize they can’t and start to get cynical. And older people often believe that their best days are behind them and their best ministries are in their rearview mirror. Peter says, “They will start to dream and envision new things maybe even greater things than what they did in their ‘prime’”. When the Holy Spirit descends on a group of people both then and now the result is not simply charismatic gifting for the gifting sake or for the people’s sake. It’s always a new vision for the way that the new covenant community of people will impact the world. Whenever the Holy Spirit descends, the world is a better place because of it.
There is an interesting often-misinterpreted passage in the 1 Corinthians. Listen to 1 Corinthians 2:9-10,
9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Paul does something interesting here. No eye has seen no ear has heard no mind can comprehend… BUT the Spirit is revealing these things to believers! See, the Spirit of God within us stirs in us the desire to see his kingdom come and his will be done and it starts to manifest itself in dreams and visions. What dream or vision is flowing from the throne of God and finding fertile soil on your heart? Has he placed something there that you just can’t shake? What might it look like to start living the New Covenant Pentecostal life and following that lead and those Spirit-empowered dreams?
Well, today is Palm Sunday. It’s the day where Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. People gathered along the side of the road and hailed him King. They thought he was the messiah they had been looking for; but he wasn’t. In fact, Jesus was very disappointing to the Jewish people. I think people wanted ‘Bernie Jesus.’ By that I mean, they wanted a Jesus they could control. A Jesus they could manipulate to execute their agenda. Rather, they encountered a Jesus who had an agenda all his own. He was going to save the whole world, not just restore the nation of Israel. After it became clear that Jesus was not going to be whom they hoped, the same crowds that lined the streets and yelled “Hosanna,” eventually yelled “crucify!” This was no ‘Bernie Jesus.’ They could not control him and they didn’t like that.
For a long time I did not understand that crowd. I thought, how fickle! How could you yell hosanna one day and crucify 5 days later? Until I realized that I do that with the Spirit all the time! As you sit in this room today and hear this message, it might be easy to yell, “Hosanna!” Every time the Holy Spirit is mentioned there’s one word mentioned along with him. The word is receive; but we so often reject. May I submit to you, that like the Jews who lined the streets of Jerusalem, it’s easy for us to turn on Him. We yell crucify every time quench the Spirit. Every time we are disobedient to the things God asks us to do and the quiet promptings of the Spirit. If I’m honest, I think I yell crucify to the Spirit all the time. Can I invite you into a Pentecostal life, one where we speak in tongues, give over control, dream and live God’s dreams… and one where we yell HOSANNA! God, save us… and then use us for your name and glory as we walk with your spirit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my life of faith to resemble Weekend at Bernie’s. I’m not interested in propping God up, I’m interested in having a life-giving relationship with the Spirit of God who is alive and well. Don’t crucify the Spirit; receive him with great anticipation!
My hope and expectation is that God is alive, active, and changing me. It’s my hope for you too!
Let’s close in prayer.