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The Day of Pentecost

Date: Sep. 22, 2013

Author: Michael Mark

Acts 2:1-12

Key Verse: Acts 1:4

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

How many of you know what a moon cake is? How many of you, this past weekend, celebrated the Moon Festival? And how many of you have eaten moon cake this week? The Moon Festival is a harvest festival, celebrated primarily in China and Vietnam. It is also known as the Mid-Autumn festival. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar moon, and this year it was on Sept. 19. The festival has three fundamental concepts – and they are: gathering, thanksgiving and prayer (for conceptual or material blessings, such as children, a spouse, long life or good fortune). An important part of the festival is moon worship – although I grew up in America and did not celebrate it in this way, traditionally offerings are made to a moon goddess of immortality. There are different versions of the myth of how this woman came to be a goddess.

The day of Pentecost is a Jewish harvest festival. The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth,” and it is celebrated on the 50th day after the offering of the firstfruits (firstfruits means the first of the crop). It was the second of three pilgrimage festivals in the Jewish culture. In Biblical times, the pilgrimage festivals were gatherings where Jews from all the different nations would gather together in Jerusalem and worship God. The first was Passover, which commemorated the great work of God in delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The day after the Sabbath in the Passover Week, the priest was to make an offering of the firstfruits of the barley harvest. Then, from that day, they were to count 7 weeks (50 days) and come again for Pentecost, also known as the Festival of Weeks.

It’s interesting to note how Jesus is the fulfillment of all these feasts that God has appointed, and this truly shows us that Jesus is the Christ, the chosen one of God. He was the Passover Lamb, and it is His blood that saves us from death. His death was on Friday. The Sabbath was on Saturday. The next day was the offering of the firstfruits, and Jesus Christ was resurrected on that day. Paul writes about this in 1 Cor 15:21 “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 50 days later is Pentecost, which is the wheat harvest, and today we’ll see how Jesus fulfills his promise by sending the Holy Spirit to begin reaping the spiritual harvest. Pentecost is the commencement of the church. In other words, Pentecost is the birthday of the church we are all a part of now.

Jesus made a promise to his apostles in Acts 1:4-5. He tells them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Now what were the apostles doing, you might ask? Look at 2:1, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” They trusted Jesus, and were obedient to his command. It had been 10 days since Jesus ascended to heaven, but in these 10 days, nobody left. They stayed in Jerusalem. When I was a kid, I used to get homesick after sleeping over at my cousin’s house after 7 days. I love my cousin, and those were the best of times, and you know our families were close because who sleeps over somewhere for a week? But yes, after about a week I really started to miss home. These disciples however, we willing to wait just as Jesus told them.

           

While they were waiting, they were not idle. They didn’t just twiddle their thumbs or have staring contests with one another. They weren’t out and about in the marketplaces, as Jews and perhaps even merchants were streaming in for the big festival. Instead, as we learned last week, they joined together constantly in prayer. Their love and unity for one another grew. There may be times when we have to wait for God to answer our prayers, but how much better is it to have a friend wait with you and pray with you? Also in our ministry, as we have grown closer to one another, sometimes we have seen each other’s weaknesses, and because of our sinful natures, time apart may inflame our sinful imaginations. The cure for disunity is to come together in prayer, to see each other face to face, and to love one another in Christ. Verse 1 says they were all together in one place. The King James version says they were all with “one accord in one place,” and no, it doesn’t mean they were in one car (the Honda Accord only fits 5) J … but it has the sense that they were all in harmony, like members of an orchestra playing a beautiful symphony.

And at just the right moment in time, what happened next? Look at v.2-3, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind <WOOOOSH> 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.” The Holy Spirit came, and he didn’t just walk through the door, he exploded onto the scene. He made a glorious and powerful entrance. The Holy Spirit made himself known by wind and fire. By sound and by sight the disciples would witness the coming of the Holy Spirit, and they would recognize that it was indeed the Spirit of God.

The wind is a symbol of God. In Exodus 13:21, God was with the Israelites and led them in a pillar of cloud by day. He made a way for them to cross the Red Sea by sending a strong east wind (Ex 14:21). He was able to divide a great body of water with the wind, and make it safe for an entire nation to cross over. We also see God speaking to Job out of a storm, or whirlwind in Job 38:1-3. Imagine coming face to face with a whirlwind swirling in your face, and out of it, a voice says, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” Lastly, we see Jesus describe the Holy Spirit in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” I pray that the wind of the Holy Spirit may blow here today, and give those who have not yet received him, a new birth.

Fire is also a symbol of God. The Lord also appeared to the Israelites as a pillar of fire by night to light their way when they travelled in the dark (Ex 13:21). God appeared to Moses in flames of fire from a burning bush, but it was an odd sight. The bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. Usually fire burns things. Then the Lord called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses! (Ex 3:1-4)” In Mal 3:2-3, the Lord is described as a refiner’s fire, who will refine people like gold and silver. When the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord, he said, “Woe to me, I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then an angel flew to him with a live coal in his hand, and touched his mouth. Ouch! Well, it didn’t hurt actually, but the angel said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. (Isa 6:5-7).” Lastly we see in Luke 24, on the road to Emmaus, when the disciples met the risen Jesus and finally recognized him, they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Their hearts were burning as they spoke with the Lord. This is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work. The burning in our hearts when we hear about God are signs of life, and that we have feeling. Our heart burns with guilt when we become aware of our sins, but when we acknowledge our sins, God purifies us with his refining fire. Our hearts may also burn with fervor and heat with a desire to live for the Lord. Just as coals and fire were used to operate the old steam-engine trains, the Lord’s fire can drive us to carry on his work.

Wind and fire can be very terrifying things in nature. Sh. Bob told a story he heard (I hope I don’t mess it up) about a survivor of a tornado with winds over hundreds of miles per hour. He said the sound of the wind was the absolutely frightening. This was probably like the sound the disciples heard. It wasn’t like a gentle breeze where they could also hear the sound of birds chirping. It wasn’t even a strong wind. This was a violent wind. And they also saw what seemed to be tongues of fire. Most of us, if we see a flame come our way, we’d quickly run the other direction. However, what the disciples heard and saw was different. They heard a powerful wind, but it did not blow them away. They saw flames, and the flames came to rest on them, but it did not burn them.   These were not natural forces; they were supernatural forces. The sound and the sight was given to the disciples in order to confirm that Jesus had fulfilled his promise – that the Holy Spirit would come and baptize them.

The sound of the wind and the symbol of the fire was the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the disciples. I say it’s the baptism because Jesus was baptized in a very similar way, but it is fun to contrast the two. In Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3), it was out in the lush green countryside along the Jordan River. As he was praying, heaven opened up, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove, and a voice came from heaven and said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Now, in the disciples’ baptism, they were locked up in the inner city in urban surroundings – and as they prayed, the Holy Spirit descended upon them in the form of a flaming tongue, and instead of the voice of God it was the sound of a violent wind. Perhaps Jesus was baptized in the way he was to symbolize the peace he would bring between men and God, and the disciples baptized with wind and fire to symbolize the establishment of the church that would spread throughout the world. But differences aside, it is the same Holy Spirit, and the experience of the disciples was symbolic of the power they would receive in order to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

But what about us? Can we see or hear the baptism by the Holy Spirit? I don’t think any of us heard a violent wind or seen flames rest upon us. But also, any believer who is baptized in the Holy Spirit later on in this book does not see or hear these things either. That’s because these signs signaled the arrival and the coming of the Holy Spirit. He’s still here, and he is working as powerful and as mightily as he ever was. The Holy Spirit does not need to make sounds or show himself visibly – but his wind still brings renewal and regeneration, his fire still convicts us of our sins, and purifies and sanctifies us. His presence brings us comfort and peace. When we are baptized by the Holy Spirit, we are baptized into the body of Christ – whether American, Latino, African American, Asian, we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Cor 12:13). Rom 8:9 says, “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” The Holy Spirit comes to live in us when we are baptized, and in Eph 1:13-14, he is even described as a mark or a seal, a deposit guaranteeing our salvation. When we are baptized by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us permanently. From there, we may receive power for life, and to be enabled to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

           

In verse 4 we can see what kind of power the disciples received. Can we all please read v.4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Notice that it says here they were filled with the Holy Spirit. What does that mean, to be filled? In one sense, you can think of a sailboat. When the sail is filled with the wind, it moves the sailboat. In another sense, whatever takes possession of your mind is said to fill it. Have you ever been filled with joy? It comes from the mind, in eager anticipation of something. I was filled with joy before my wedding date, and I’m still filled with joy about it. Or have you been filled with anger? Your mind thinks about 10,000 things when you’re angry. Have you been filled with sadness, or loneliness, you get the idea.. So to be filled with the Spirit is to occupy the mind with the things of God. With good things, with noble things. Eph 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Col 3:16 says something similar: “Let the message of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

Those are very practical things to be filled with the Spirit. Let the word of God dwell in you richly. Seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through his word. Sing to the Lord. Music has a way to touch our souls, it can calm our hearts, it can stir us up. When we sing to the Lord, our hearts and minds can be filled with his praises. Our children can hear us sing, and when they grow up they will remember those times. We can drive the devil away when we fill the room with songs of the glorious gospel. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord. Pray continually. We can always be in a spirit of prayer. Finally give thanks to God for everything, so that the light of God may shine in your heart.

I want to make a distinction now between being baptized by the Holy Spirit, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit only happens once in your life. You only need to be baptized into the Holy Spirit once – because from that point the Holy Spirit lives in you. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is different. Being filled with the Spirit is something we should do every day. It’s something we should pray for every day. More often than not our minds can be filled with worldly things, or worries or cares that we should take to the Lord. It’s almost like a warm up routine before you play sports, or if you have a performance or a presentation. Rarely do you go in cold to do those things. You get ready, you practice your drills, you rehearse your lines, and then you’re more ready to go. Being filled with the Spirit will enable us to be better used by the Spirit. Be filled with the Spirit daily!

We remember that the disciples had been in prayer prior to the Holy Spirit’s coming, and that even Peter stood up and took action to replace Judas from the word of God. Look again at how the Spirit moved them in v.4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” They were given the ability to speak in foreign languages – languages that they did not know or study. We’ll speak more in detail about this later. Notice the last part of verse 4, “as the Spirit enabled them.” It was the Spirit that supplied the gift and the power – without the Spirit they could do nothing. The Spirit can decide not to enable you. But it is not because the Spirit is mean; the Spirit is just and he is wise. He can be grieved though. What happens when we grieve the Spirit? He may put up with us once. Maybe twice, maybe even seven times – but there comes a point that if we are constantly grieving the Spirit he will withdraw his power from us. We will not lose our salvation. He does not withdraw his life from us, but for a time he may not enable us to do anything, perhaps even as a form of discipline.

How do we grieve the Holy Spirit? Eph 5:18 was a good start: “Do not get drunk on wine.” I’m not opposed to a glass of wine or beer with dinner, but drunkenness, partying, bar hopping is a sin according to 1 Cor 6:10. This one I don’t like to talk about but it seems to have become an increasing problem, not specifically in this church but in the society in general. It’s the secret sin of pornography and lust. In biblical times, people went to see temple prostitutes, but people would be able to see you go there. More recently you used to have to buy magazines or videos, and even then there would be a shame factor. But these days you can commit adultery privately in your own home, degrading your mind, your body and your relationships. The Holy Spirit knows though. Other things that grieve the Spirit include lying, pride, laziness, and even a neglect of private prayer. What happens when the Spirit is so grieved? We see that we begin to lose power or control over certain aspects of our lives. Our prayers become unfruitful. When we read the Bible, we cannot understand what we read because the Spirit will not give us light. King Saul is an example of someone who the Holy Spirit had left. He started out very strong. By the power of the Spirit of God, he rescued the city of Jabesh Gilead (1 Sam 11:1-11), but when the time of testing came he disobeyed the Lord. The Spirit left him and he became a persecutor of King David, he sought out a psychic, and meets a tragic end.

If the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we have hope. He is not far from us. If we have grieved the Spirit in any way, let us confess our sins, come honestly before the Lord, and seek his help to walk in the Spirit. The Lord is merciful, compassionate, patient, kind and full of love. And if anyone does not have the Holy Spirit, there is hope for you still. He is not far from you either. Turn to the Lord, Jesus Christ, repent of your unbelief. Believe that he has died for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus rose from the dead and sends us the Holy Spirit so that we may be baptized into the family of Christ, and given power to be his witnesses. As Eph 5:18 says, and it almost sounds like a command, be filled with the Spirit.

It is through the Spirit that the wonders of God are revealed. Who was all there? Look at v.5, “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.” Notice that there are only Jews here, and all this is taking place in Jerusalem. Why the Jews? Paul says in Rom 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” The Jews were God’s chosen people, and among all other nations on earth, they received the knowledge of God. They had the Law of God. They worshipped the right God. But it’s not because they were any better, but only because God had chosen them, so they were the first to see this great outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit.

When they heard the sound, perhaps that sound of a violent wind, the crowd came together wondering what was going on. What did they hear? It probably went something like this. Let me re-enact the scene for you. It’s 9am. The Holy Spirit comes <WOOOSH> <fire>.

nuh-hi-ga nae-gae dae-hah-yeo jae-sa-jang na-ra-ga duay-myuh, guh-rook-han baek-sung-e duay-ri-ra.

(you guys) (to                    me) (priestly)     (nation)   (become)   (holy)             (people)      (become) 

That means “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19:6a).” They heard the dialects of all of the regions they came from – not one language was left out. Parthians, Medes, Elamites were in the far east regions. Mesopotamia is in between the two rivers, then going west you have Judea, and then Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia – these 5 areas are in modern day Turkey. Egypt, Lybia and Cyrene were from Africa, followed by visitors from Rome, and finally Cretans (those from the island of Crete), and Arabs.

All the people were utterly amazed and asked, “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?” The people from Galilee were considered simpletons, country-bumpkin type, back woods people. They were not considered very sophisticated by the Jews who lived in Judea – but here you see that all the people were utterly amazed. The Holy Spirit had empowered them to become powerful witnesses of God.

The disciples were declaring the wonders of God in the dialects of all who were there. The disciples were praising God, they were not speaking directly to the crowd. They were not preaching to them, or rebuking them. It doesn’t look like there was any interaction yet with the disciples. They were proclaiming the wonderful works of God in foreign languages. It doesn’t say what exactly they said – but I would like to declare some wonders of God, in English, to you. That God is the creator of the universe. He gives everything life, even you. God controls the nations, and he controls history. We are created in his image, so we should not think God is like any of those porcelain statues you see in Chinese restaurants and homes. We should not think God is a woman who turned into a moon spirit. In the past, he overlooked our ignorance; but he has now sent his Son Jesus Christ to testify to the truth; that He exists and that He alone is God. He will judge the world with justice by Jesus Christ, and he has given us proof of that by raising him from the dead.

Now the final question they have is an important question to us also. Look at v.12, “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’” What does all this mean? What is going on here? There’s a loud noise, fire has descended into the room, and we are hearing the wonders of God proclaimed in every language of every nation. So what does this mean? It means that salvation has come for the entire world. The Jews were the chosen people of God, who had an exclusive claim to the knowledge of God. With the declaration of the wonders of God in every language, now the world may come to know the one true God, the God of Israel, and his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the beginning of a new promise, that God spoke long ago in Eze 36:22-23, “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.” Twice the Lord said Israel had profaned his name – yet he still says he will be proved holy through Israel. Not for their sake, but for the sake of his holy name, God would use Israel to show his glory. This is a great mercy, and a great grace! Even though Israel had failed to glorify the Lord, the Lord would glorify himself through them. What is impossible with man is possible with God. The same goes for us. Although we are weak, wretched and sinful – God chooses to use his people to glorify him, and through the church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, his name will be glorified.

What else does all this mean? It means that the curse at Babel has been reversed. In Gen 11, the whole world had one common language, and decided to work together to make a great name for themselves – in rebellion against God. God confused their language, and scattered them all over the face of the earth. Here we see the curse being lifted. First, that God is speaking once again to all the nations on the earth. Second, is that the dividing wall between all people has been removed by Christ. When we are baptized by the Holy Spirit, we are baptized into the body of Christ. We all belong to Christ as one. In Eph 2:11-22, Paul talks about how Gentiles, you and me, were excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners without hope, without God. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups (Jews and Gentiles, or Jews and all people) one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, reconciling everyone equally to God through the cross.

This is the good news. The Son of God has come into the world to die for our sins, so that through him we may receive forgiveness form God and the gift of eternal life. This is the good news that must be told to the ends of the earth.

Jesus once said, in John 12:24, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Jesus is the kernel of wheat that fell to the ground and died. He rose up from the dead and sends his Holy Spirit, which produces many seeds that will become just like Christ. Through the Holy Spirit we have been harvested into his church, our sins are washed clean and we have been given true life. We shall truly be immortal, and glorious beyond words. Not even the immortal moon goddess can promise that, but Jesus can. Through the Holy Spirit we are also enabled to harvest, for which we shall also be rewarded. Let us be filled with the Holy Spirit so we may be alive, with a fire burning in our hearts, walking in faith and in purity, and be useful to our generation. The Holy Spirit has blessed us to be a part of the church has given us unique gifts in order to serve God and the church. We have all received an abundance of grace, love and mercy from God to be members of Christ’s church, which was born on Pentecost Day.

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The Result of Complacency and Pride

Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

  “I abhor the pride of Jacob
    and hate his strongholds,
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