May 19th, 2024 | Series: Pentecost – Life in the Spirit

This sermon focuses on the transformative power of God’s spirit, emphasizing the shift from relying on human efforts to surrendering to God’s transformative work in individual lives.

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Sermon Content

Good morning friends. How are you doing today? Fantastic. That was vocal. I love it. One person is fantastic. Everyone else is doing just fine. If you’re visiting. Today just a special welcome. My name’s Alex. I’m one of the pastors here. If you’re visiting today because someone you love, someone you care about is getting baptized thank you for being here to support them.

If you are here and someone you know or love is getting baptized and you’re like, do you know what? We seriously disagree on how the world works, maybe even faith and Jesus itself and you are still here today. Thank you for being here. Like that, to stand alongside someone going through that is a big deal and I’m just delighted and honored that you would be here with us.

I was away last week took a little trip back to England just a few days by myself to see the family. You may have heard. There is a rumor that the weather in England is not good. And so I headed back over the other side of the pond, and it’s apparently been biblical in the rain level, is how it’s been termed.

Four weeks of straight rain. And no kidding, I landed in rain, and I drove up the highway to my folks house. And the sun came out and it was sunny for the entire week. And then I got on a plane and an hour later it started raining again. And it’s still raining. And if your theology says that was God’s kindness, that’s fine.

If your theology says you got incredibly lucky, I’m also fine with that as well because I got to sit in England in May in the sun which is a big deal. Acts chapter 2, if you have a text in front of you, if you’d like to open it, feel free. If you don’t have one and you’d like one, after the service, we’d love to help you get one.

You can download an app called Bible App online as well, but I’m going to read along. We’ll go through it verse by verse later. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all to gather together in one place. Suddenly, a violent wind A sound like the blowing of violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

They saw what happened to seem to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment because each one heard in his own language You The words of Jesus.

Utterly amazed, they asked, Aren’t all these that are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya near Cyrene. If you don’t know where any of those places are, then you’re in good company, because most people in the room don’t know.

Cretans and Arabs, we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues. Amazed. And perplexed, they asked one another. What does this mean? Jesus, as we open this word and we ask what it’s saying to us today, as we take a breath from all of the things that are going on in our minds, as we gather around this old and sacred text, would you give us the courage to listen to you, to ask what it means for us to hear you speak?

And to hear you’re trying to experience your transformation because of it. Amen. I’m going to ask you to begin this morning with an exercise of imagination. I’m going to ask you to try and put yourself into the mind of a first century person living in the Middle East area of the world around 2, 000 years ago.

Now, this is really hard to do because there might not be any cultures that are more different than that culture and our culture today. They had a culture that inherently believed in the supernatural. We have a culture that are never, that believes simply in fast food. We want everything quick, we want it now.

We want everything like right this moment. They didn’t believe in any of that. They waited on God to do things That was just part of what the culture looked like. So imagine yourself in this place You are in the city of Jerusalem. The highways are dusty. The streets are full of people. It’s a festival day And as you walk down the street Your eye is caught by noise A group of people are in the streets and they’re yelling, they seem to be very excited, they’re talking about something significant that has happened.

You recognize one or two of them, you know that they’ve been with this man Jesus who was a big deal, but that was seven weeks ago. Jesus has been gone for what seems like an eternity now. The Romans made sure he was dead. The Romans make mistakes of justice, but they don’t make mistakes in execution. When they kill someone, they stay dead.

You know from a lifetime of experience that when someone’s breath is gone, their spirit is gone and their life is gone. And yet these people are yelling excitedly. They’re yelling in all sorts of different languages. You pick up the occasional word in Greek that you happen to know, but there’s languages from all sorts of places in the world.

And then finally you hear your own language in amongst them, and you hear them excitedly talking about the fact that this Jesus is not dead, he is risen. But surely that’s ridiculous. Surely no one comes back from the dead, and yet there’s something about their story is compelling, perhaps most compelling is these people themselves.

Because this has happened before. The Romans have found someone important who seems to have the will of the people, someone who seems to be leading some kind of change, and they’ve killed him, and his followers have disappeared in a moment. There’s only one solution when the Romans come looking for you.

You run, and you hide. You certainly don’t find yourself in the middle of the street in Jerusalem recruiting other followers. And who would be stupid enough to join them? This is a death sentence, and yet, you can’t get out of your mind this question. What does all of this mean? These people in the first century encountered a group of people who suddenly stand in the middle of the street and suddenly are given the ability to talk all sorts of languages.

Our modern sensibilities struggle with that idea. But in a first century worldview, the supernatural was a possibility on any given moment. And this is what you’re seeing in this moment. You’re seeing the supernatural. There’s this moment where some followers of Jesus now find themselves stood in the middle of the street sharing the good news of Jesus for the first time after his death and his resurrection.

And the crowd asks some questions, the central one I would suggest being this one. This one. What does this mean? It’s the third of three questions that they ask and probably the most perceptive of them. A couple of notes on what we just read and the concept we’re talking about here. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

You may not know what the day of Pentecost is. It’s a festival that follows the festival of Passover in the Jewish calendar. It’s exactly seven weeks after, sorry, five weeks after Passover. Passover, it’s on all sorts of different days. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. I wish we had time to delve a little bit more into this idea of spirit. All I can say really quickly is this.

In most ancient languages. The word for spirit and the word for breath are the same thing. So when you have breath, you have spirit. When it’s gone, you don’t. When you have breath, you’re alive. When you don’t, you’re dead. When you have spirit, you’re alive. When you don’t, you’re dead. So to hear people talking about something like the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God is to hear them talking about the very breath of God.

So some people have called it something like God’s animating presence, the way that God works in the world. And yet, What we’re reading about here is not a force. This isn’t Star Wars. This isn’t some kind of fantasy adventure, and I know that’s, yeah, those are good things. You watch that all you like but right now we’re talking about something very different.

We’re talking about God’s animating personal energy in the world, the idea that God is both relatable and deeply relational, and is so with these people, and people are seeing it for the first time. Frederick Beaton says this, the word spirit, sadly, has come to mean something pale and shapeless like an unmade bed.

If I say to you, picture spirit. What comes to mind. Some people have described that image as a gray oblong for some reason. Some people have described it as a shapeless mass. And yet again, deeply personal is what we’re reading here. Now they were staying in Jerusalem, God fearing Jews from every nation and heaven.

When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly they amazed, they asked, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans, this is a deeply insulting term, this is aren’t these like the slow people? Isn’t this the Nebraska crowd?

Isn’t the I don’t even know, I don’t even know I’m just trying to fit in the Colorado world. I got nothing against Nebraska. It’s Colorado, so half of you are probably from Nebraska, you just moved here at some point. How is it that each of us hears them in our native tongues? What’s going on here?

These are the first two questions that they ask. But then this super pertinent question that appears third. We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues. Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, what does this mean? Some however made fun of them and said they have had too much wine.

That’s our explanation for every kind of weird behavior. Have you been drinking a little early, isn’t it? That’s what we do. What does this mean? This is an amazing question in almost any moment of life. What’s going on here? It’s especially pertinent in moments like this where you may encounter something supernatural, but anytime You experience something that you’re unsure of.

Asking what it means is actually key. When you have an emotion, a big emotion, that appears out of nowhere, asking what it means actually matters. Perhaps it’s your body trying to tell you, pay attention to this thing that’s going on here. It’s actually important. You actually need to spend a little bit of time processing that.

Pausing in life to say, what does this mean? You It matters. It’s good. And here it’s especially good. Because there’s a possibility that something special is happening. The Jewish worldview has been the worldview at this point for 2, 000 years for this group of people. And now Jesus has come and said, I’m doing a new thing in the midst of this old thing.

And perhaps in this moment, this is true. And then we get a response. We get to hear what it means from a character called Peter. Again, now if you’re new to the scriptures, new to reading, I want to give you a quick kind of summary of what Peter’s character is. Maybe the two words I’d give you is, he’s that alpha male type character with all of the joy, that brings.

If if that’s you, great. I was not that growing up, and so I, I had a, questionable relationship with the alpha mayor characters. They were always the ones that we would walk into an Indian restaurant and they would bravely say something like, give me the spiciest thing on the menu. They were always looking for a way to show off.

I I don’t know if Indian guys walked into our English restaurants and said, give me the blandest thing on the menu. I don’t maybe they did. But But for whatever reason, this was the way English alpha males showed their ability to be alpha males. Peter, so far in, in the story of scripture, has shown this by always talking first, even when he may not be ready to talk.

He always has an answer, and sometimes he absolutely hits the bullseye, but oftentimes he misses by a long way. And yet, being with Jesus has changed him. Has humbled him and now he stands in front of this group of people as a transformed person and shares in Amazing detail the way of Jesus and just what it means We don’t have time to go through all of it But we just can stop at this first little snippet fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem Let me explain this to you.

Listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk as you suppose It’s only nine in the morning. There’s a whole bunch of people like, no, watch me. I can do that. That’s not a problem. And no, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel. In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people.

Peter says this is a Jesus thing that is happening. God is pouring his spirit out and that is a transformative thing. It’s what Jesus predicted would happen himself. Towards the end of his, oh, I didn’t change the scripture reference there, so that’s not Acts chapter 2, that’s John chapter 14. Towards the end of his ministry he said, If you love me, keep my commands.

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you, and be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. The promise of Jesus to his followers is one day their relationship with God would change.

No longer would God be external and distant, God would be present. They would be indwelt by God’s very spirit, and that would be the most transformative thing. When you look back in the first century, there are two premises for why people became followers of Jesus, and these seem to be it. The earliest Christians, It became so based on the resurrection of Jesus, which became known as something of a fact in the world around them and the transformation of his followers.

If you have had an experience of church where people have acted in a way that seems anything but the way of Jesus, I’m so sorry you’ve experienced that, but of all people, Christians should be the most transformed people and it shouldn’t be close. We should be made and formed to look like the Jesus that founded this faith and so often we fall short.

But that transformation is only possible because of what we’re reading in Acts chapter 2. It isn’t a you thing, it’s a spirit thing. You can do some transformation. You can grab a book, and you can read some stuff, and you can try a new practice, and it will work a little bit. You can go exploring the world, trying to find yourself, and it may produce some good results, but at least according to the scripture worldview, the only way there’s genuine transformation is through the spirit.

Because the problem is, the standard isn’t just trying to be good. The thing we’re trying to copy is Jesus. And he looks a little bit different to most people. The message of Acts overall seems to be this, you were made for life with God. But more than that, you were made for life with God within you, a truly transformative relationship.

And, by extension, this is what the book of Acts will argue. And God has made that possible. The work of Jesus has made that transformation. possible for you and I. Andrew Murray says this, the spirit did everything on the day of Pentecost and afterwards. It was the spirit who gave the boldness, the wisdom, the message and the converting power.

It was a God thing, a spirit thing. Gordon V says the spirit as an experienced and living reality was the absolute crucial matter for Christian life from beginning to end until it wasn’t. Until a whole bunch of followers of Jesus got so smart they decided, you know what, we can work this ourselves. We’ve got it covered.

In a letter to a church in Galatia, a church probably founded by some of the people that was stood here on the day of Pentecost, we read the words of a writer called Paul who writes to them and says this, you foolish Galatians. This is deeply insulting. This is like the way a mother writes to a wayward child who’s not been sending any kind of money back home or something like that.

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? And before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you. Did you receive the spirit? Did this Pentecost moment happen because of works of the law? Or because you believed what you heard? Did it happen because God is good?

Or because you are. How did this thing begin? And if it began that way, why are you now trying to keep it going like you’re the person that’s making it all happen? Oh foolish Galatians. Again, deeply insulting. This is like the language of attack. Paul is appalled that they’ve ended up in this The language of bewitched.

Who has bewitched you? I wanted to give you like an image. This is who’s given you the evil eye and who’s entrapped you in this way. So the best picture I could figure out for this was this person right here. This is who’s who’s hypnotized you? Who’s led you astray? Who’s brought you to this place?

This is a disaster. This story, the way he talks to these Galatians it reminds me of my childhood. I have this deep memory of a moment where I had my first soccer lesson or football coaching session or whatever and I Figured out after one session, I needed the help of the coach But after that, I got it sorted.

So I had one at like age six, and then it went down to the local park with my family, and at this time, I’m six and my dad is thirty six. Still a fairly athletic, youngish guy. Thirty six has got to be young still, I hope. But then I had my brothers and sisters dotted around, and so confident was I in my newfound abilities that I said to them this, We’ll play a game of soccer.

It’s you guys versus me. Me on my own. I got it. I don’t know what personality trait that reveals, but I’m worried it might still be there on some level. It was this moment where I said, I got this covered. You guys play, I’m going to play against you. And of course my dad at 36 just stood there with the ball under his foot, and every time I tried to come near him, he just turned around and turned around, and I’m just running around in circles, and I realize in this awful moment, I can’t do this alone, and so I come up with this solution.

I say to my family, it’s me and dad versus all of you I’m calling in some help in this moment. Some of that experience is what is going on here. I love the fact I’m just telling you that story with the hypnotizing eyes just lurking at you. This is some of what’s happening here. Did you receive the spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?

What began it all? Are you so foolish? Man, it gets even worse. After beginning by means of the spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Are you really trying to make all this happen? I’m gonna show you two images. I’ve shown them to most of you before. I’m gonna keep showing them to you until it becomes part of your spiritual formation.

Even worse, I’m gonna keep showing them to you until it becomes part of my spiritual formation. And that may take a lot longer. Does your spiritual life, whatever that looks like, does it reflect this image? Or does it reflect this image? Does it reflect this image? Or does it reflect this image? Or even this image?

The two things are very different, inherently different, you might say. One relies on a power that is not your own. You get to participate, you get to do something, but you’re not crafting the power yourself. The second one is absolutely about you and about only you. You make the thing happen. When you think about life with God, which of those two images do you think about?

What does it look like for you? Augustine of Hippo said this, without God we cannot, without us God will not. It speaks to those elements of participation, but also to the truth of our own helplessness. We cannot make these things happen. I cannot change myself. And yet I find myself routinely getting into a pattern of saying, I am going to make myself better.

I’m going to work it, I’m going to improve. Watch me grow. Watch me glow. I just came up with that moment of poetry for you. But the truth of scripture is this, you were made for life with God within you. And God has made that possible. The thing we experience is only based on grace, none of it based on you.

And that always comes free from all other aspects, free of charge on the house, no strings attached. So before we get to baptisms, before we celebrate, we have these people who are gonna celebrate like they did on the day of Pentecost. They’re gonna do the same thing, the same act of obedience that those first followers of Jesus did 2, 000 years ago.

Some of them are children, some of them are adults, some of them are going through those first elements of transformation, some of them have been working at it for a long time in participation with the Spirit. All of them have more to do All of them are going to grow in ways that will maybe even surprise them.

But right now, they’re in a place of saying, what we long to do is say to you, our friends and family and community, we have experienced transformation. God has done something in us, and we want you to know about it. Before we get there, I’m going to ask you to just pause for a second. We’re going to work through this acronym.

We’re going to pray, you’re going to pray, perhaps for the first time in the service, perhaps for the first time in a long time. We’re going to begin by pausing, just taking a breath, realizing that maybe there’s some distraction. Maybe you’ve got a lot on your mind, maybe you’ve lost a job this week, maybe there’s been an argument on the way here, maybe there’s been all sorts of things going on, maybe you’ve not been in church for a long time and this is I don’t know about these people, they seem awfully happy and I don’t know if I like that.

We’re going to pause. And then we’re going to reflect. We’re going to reflect on what we heard. Some of the things that we’ve just talked about. I’m going to ask you a couple of questions. Then I’m going to give you an opportunity to ask God for something. And then the final one, yield. In actual fact, I prefer surrender, but it really messes up the acronym.

It just doesn’t look the same. Pass? I don’t know what that means. Pause, reflect, ask, and yield. So we begin by pausing. If you’d like to close your eyes,

I’m going to invite you to gather your scattered senses, all of the things that are on your mind. Just let them go. Realize that they may not be important right now.

Maybe put your cynicism aside, your sense of I’ve done this before. Maybe if you’re not a follower of Jesus saying, am I open to that?

Then we’re going to move to reflect. We’re going to reflect on a story that is all about God and very little about you. And the truth is most of us recognize that we’re the heroes in our own story. We think about ourselves an awful lot. And yet in this moment we reflect on the fact that this is a God driven story, not an us driven story.

I’m going to ask you to bring to mind those two images, sailing and rowing. You’re gonna reflect on which of those images for a moment reflects how you live life in the way of Jesus Or how you live life in general if you I’m not a follower of Jesus You’re gonna feel for a moment the beauty of what it is when a sailboat catches the wind And starts to move under a power that is maybe a little controlled but far beyond anything you could conjure up And then you’re going to think about the exhaustion of rowing rowing and rowing.

For a second I’m going to ask you to think about how your life feels like that at times. How there’s always another thing to do, so much to fix.

Going to ask you maybe to reflect on your own baptism, if that’s a journey you’ve taken. The excitement you felt, the first steps into faith.

And then finally, or not finally, penultimately, we’re going to ask,

God, would you speak to hearts in this room, wherever we are? Would you let us know that we’re loved exactly as we are? The following you doesn’t begin with good behavior, doesn’t begin with us doing anything.

It begins with your story for us.

Perhaps you might ask in this moment for God’s spirit to Refill you. Maybe the tank feels empty. Maybe your heart feels dull. Maybe there’s ways that you’d say it feels like there’s a blockage somewhere and you’re not sure how to fix that and you don’t need to fix that. You’re simply gonna say God can you move in my life?

Can you be transformative in new ways? And finally we’re gonna surrender. We’re gonna yield. and say, God, I need you. I cannot do this alone. All that I have is yours.