Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 7, 2000
Last Sunday we asked the question “What comes next?” After the events of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem - His trial, crucifixion, death, and the resurrection - after the greatest day in human history - the resurrection of Jesus - everything else seems like a let down - anticlimactic. We asked the question - “What do we do now? What’s next?”
Together we looked at John 21 - Jesus eating breakfast with His disciples by the Sea of Galilee - the answer to our question - what comes next is that we cannot just go on living like we’ve been living - the resurrection changes everything - we must go out and live telling others about Jesus Christ.
From history - we know that the disciples did this. They went out to where the name of Jesus had never been named - planting churches - converting - baptizing - discipling. Every one of the disciples fulfilled that task. Church history tells us that Thomas went to India - Peter went to Europe - others to North Africa - Thaddeus and Bartholomew went to Armenia. The disciples became Apostles - the pioneers of faith by which the ground of the Church was laid.
Their example is the example we’re to follow.... Think about that. How are we suppose to follow an example like that?
Last week a number of pest control companies from California to Florida put microscopic bar codes on 350 cockroaches and set them free in 14 cities in 13 states. If you catch one of these bar-coded insects you win $100. Catch one of the 14 special bar-coded bugs and you win a 2000 Volkswagen Bug. Catch one extra special cockroach and you get the big cash prize of $1,000,000.00. Aside from how bazaar this is - thinking about how big the USA is - what chance does any of us have of finding the million dollar cockroach? Its impossible. Its almost silly to even try.
Sometimes the Christian life seems like that. Here’s how we’re suppose to live - what we’re suppose to do - and while we’re trying to keep up with the regular things of getting through life - in our spare time somehow we’re suppose to go out and change the world for Christ. It just seems impossible. But, the Bible never assumes that the Christian life is impossible.
Last we asked the question “What comes next?” This week we want to ask the question “How? How do we do it?” I invite you to turn with me to Acts 2:1-13 - and we want to look at what happened to the early church that enabled them to do what they did.
As you’re turning let me give you a some of the background to this passage. Many Christians think that the last command Jesus gave to His disciples was to “go” and preach the Gospel to everyone in every place. But, the last command Jesus gave His disciples - before He ascended back into Heaven - was to “wait.”
In Acts 1:4: Jesus commanded His disciples - “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father - God - has promised.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “You will receive power - the promise - the power to live and do what I’ve commanded you to do - you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and - then - you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Acts 2:1-13 is the fulfillment of that promise. The disciples are gathered together in Jerusalem on a day which we know as Pentecost - which was a pretty significant day in the Jewish calendar.
Pentecost is the Greek word for 50. It was called Pentecost because it took place 50 days after the Passover Feast. The Passover being what Jesus celebrated with His disciples on the night He was arrested. In the Old Testament, Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks or The Feast of Harvest - and was tied to the harvest of certain grains. The point being that this was one of the three big Jewish festivals and Jerusalem was crowded.
So the disciples were doing what Jesus commanded them to do - waiting in Jerusalem. In the midst of this large crowd gathered for Pentecost and the festival - are these 120 disciples who are meeting together.
Acts 2:1: When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting and there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
This is the fulfillment of what Jesus said in Acts 1:8 - the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes with wind - which represents God’s power in our lives. He comes with fire - which represents God’s purifying of our lives from sin. He comes and gives the use of tongues - which were languages known to those who were around them. Languages - which enabled them to boldly - with clarity and sincerity - proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit came - and He took these 120 disciples - gathered together - held together only by a mutual experience with Jesus Christ - and He baptizes them into one Body - infills them - empowers them - transforms them into the Church of Jesus Christ - to boldly proclaim the Gospel - and transform the world of men.
Verse 5: Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven, and when this sound occurred - the rushing wind - the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them - the disciples - speak in their own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?” - these are uneducated fisherman - from Galilee - “And how is it that we hear them in our own language to which we were born?” - they were speaking local dialects without any accent - like a native - “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia - notice this - all four corners of the compass get mentioned - Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia - all to the east of Jerusalem - then to the north - Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phyrgia and Pamphylia - which were all Roman provinces of Asia Minor - then south to - Egypt and the districts of Lybia around Cyrene - in northern Africa - then west - visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and - again south - Arabs - from all over the known world - from every nation they had come to Jerusalem - with the sound of the rushing wind they had been attracted to these 120 disciples - and now they said, “We hear them in our own tongues speaking the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” - they’re drunk.
How are we to do what God has called us to do - to live proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ - to make a powerful impact in our world for Christ? Volumes could be written to answer that question. But, right here in Acts 2 - is a very basic truth we can apply today. To do what God has called us to do - like the disciples - WE MUST BE OPEN TO THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR LIVES.
This means that we need to trust the Holy Spirit with our lives.
We’ve all see the extremes that some people have gone to in the name of being “pentecostal” - the abuse of being filled with the Holy Spirit - to the point where the extreme makes us wonder if these people are really Christian. Are they really submissive to the authority of the Bible? Are they genuinely being led by the Holy Spirit. We wonder - if we trust ourselves to the Holy Spirit will we become some type of “charismaniac” - rolling around on the floor and babbling incoherently?
Please hear this. If we are believers in Jesus Christ - then we are pentecostal. The Church of Jesus Christ was born on Pentecost. We should not let the abuse, by some, of being pentecostal, keep from trusting the Holy Spirit in our lives. We should not let the misuse, by some, of being pentecostal, rob us of the real blessings of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
Where Karen and I live in San Bruno - we live in a valley that channels wind from the ocean into the Bay Area. Basically, everything you’re breathing down the Peninsula and in the South Bay came by our house first. We know wind in San Bruno. In San Bruno if things - or small pets - or children - aren’t tied down - they just get blown away.
We’ve all seen pictures or seen first hand - the destructive effects of powerful wind. Its violent - untamed - scary.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came rushing in like a mighty powerful wind. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit - like the wind - blows where it wills - and we hear the sound of it. (John 3:8) That can be frightening. What will the Holy Spirit do in our lives?
In the Bible we read that the Holy Spirit blew into people’s lives and they were empowered to lead armies - to defy ungodly leadership - to perform superhuman feats of strength and courage - to speak boldly for God - to write Scripture - to change the course of history. All of that is a little beyond where most of us live our lives.
We need to keep in mind that this same Holy Spirit is God who also speaks in a gentle whisper - lovingly to our hearts. He knows our hearts - our struggles - our cares - our concerns.
The Bible tells us that when we come to salvation in Jesus Christ - the Holy Spirit is the one who creates the new life of God within us. (John 3:5,6) When we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. (John 14:16,17) He puts a seal on us - a post mark - that says that our final destination is Heaven - which means that He protects us from Satan while we live here on earth. (Ephesians 1:13,14)
The Holy Spirit is the one who works in our lives to help us to grow as Christians (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and to grow in our relationship with Jesus. (John 15:26) He gives us a place of service in the Church. (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12: Ephesians 4:4-13) The Holy Spirit carries our prayers and deepest concerns to the heart of God. (Romans 8:26) He leads us (Acts 8:29; Romans 8:14) - guides us. (John 16:13)
The point being that we need to think of all of the blessed and wonderful and loving things that the Holy Spirit does in our lives - and not be afraid. Even when He speaks with the sound of a mighty rushing wind its with love.
Speaking practically - I’d like to go one step further with this. Trusting is hard for us - because it means completely surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit - yielding to His authority over our lives - to do and serve as He commands. That goes against every fiber of our pride and what naturally makes us comfortable. But its the only way to live as God calls us to live.
Jack London’s masterpiece, “The Call of The Wild” is a story about a magnificent dog named Buck. Buck was half Saint Bernard, half Shepherd. He was 150 pounds of pure muscle. Because he was such an impressive animal, he was stolen, kidnapped from his home in the Santa Clara Valley and taken to Alaska where there was a tremendous need for powerful dogs to pull sleds through the wilderness snow.
Buck was treated so cruelly by his kidnappers and then by his first owners that he was nearly broken in spirit by the time he fell into the kind hands of John Thornton. Thornton was so humane in his treatment of Buck that Buck developed an undying loyalty to Thornton.
One evening during a conversation in the Eldorado Saloon, Thornton was lured into making a $1,000 wager that Buck could break a sled loaded with 1,000 pounds on it - from a frozen standstill and move the sled 100 yards. Some dogs had been known to break 500 pound loads - maybe 600 pounds - but 1,000 pounds seemed impossible. It was a foolish wager, but Thornton believed that if any dog could do it, Buck could.
Several hundred men spilled out into the streets of Dawson to see if Buck could perform the impossible. The odds were 2 to 1 - then 3 to 1 against Buck. A sled holding twenty 50 pound bags of flour was standing frozen in the snow. The ten dog team that had been pulling it was released and Buck was harnessed in their place.
John Thornton put his face against the face of his great dog. This time he didn’t playfully shake him as was he normally did. Instead he knelt down by Buck’s side and whispered in his ear these unforgettable words, “As you love me, Buck. As you love me.” Then he stepped back and allowed Buck to do the rest. And of course Buck did. “As you love me, Buck. As you love me.”
You and I face a task that the world says is impossible - claiming the world for Jesus Christ. And yet, we hear a voice that calls to our hearts, “As you love Me. As you love Me.”
Do we love Him? If we’re willing to completely love Him - passionately - devotedly - surrender to Him everything that we are - His Spirit will have the freedom to work in our lives and do in us and through us what we could never do on our own.
Dwight L. Moody - the great evangelist - pastor - and preacher once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is wholly yielded to Him.” May we be that man - that woman - who is totally surrendered to God.