Series: Next Things: Acts 1,2,4 - Part Five
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 8, 2003
Please turn with me to Acts 2 starting at verse 14. As you’re turning I'd like to share about where we're going this morning.
A while ago I read about a man - Luigi Corneglio - who died in New York City after having lived in extreme poverty for 70 years - having spent most of his life as a beggar. They found his dead body in an old dilapidated attic where he’d been dead for 3 days. Among the piles of old newspapers and garbage they found $225,000 in cash and 47 violins - one of which was a priceless Stradivarius. Who knows if Luigi - who loved music - loved the violin - who knows if Luigi ever played that Stradivarius?
Imagine this - a priceless violin made by the world’s most famous artist - lying silent amidst piles of garbage and the owner - relatively well off - starving to death.
So many Christians are like that. The Church can be like that. God has meant us for greatness - fullness of life - usefulness - people of great value and purpose - people who will have a tremendous impact on our world. But so many times we’re content to live with garbage - clinging to things that don’t really matter. God wants to bless us and use us out to here and we settle for this. (1)
In recent Sundays - thinking back before Lake Day and all those fun things we did with water - in recent Sundays we’ve been looking through the Book of Acts - looking at the what took place after the resurrection of Jesus - the next steps in Jesus’ work in and through His Church - through us. The potential that God desires to unleash in our lives - to move us beyond where we are - to move us forward into His possibilities and future.
Coming to Acts chapter two we began looking at Pentecost. Pentecost - being one of the three major Jewish festivals - Jerusalem was packed with a million plus pilgrims from all over the Jewish Diaspora. The disciples - about 120 believers - the disciples are gathered together in Jerusalem. Its a familiar scene - the Holy Spirit - with the sound of a violent rushing wind blows into the house where they are. Fire like little tongues - little flames - distribute themselves and rest on each believer.
The sound of the Holy Spirit’s coming was so unusual that a large crowd rushed to find out what had happened. They found the disciples all speaking the different languages of this crowd that had come from the 4 corners of the earth. And, they weren’t just speaking - like someone who had studied the language - but they were speaking like a native - same accent and local dialect - like the people that had come from all those different places. Men and women all speaking together of God’s mighty deeds - praising God.
In Acts 2:12,13 we read that those who came were “amazed” - bewildered - it blew their minds that these Galileans could speak their native tongues so well. We read that they were “perplexed” - which means that they tried to come up with an explanation. But, they couldn’t. Some suggested that those speaking were drunk. Others asked, “What does this mean? Why has this taken place? What’s the purpose of all this?”
Which brings us to Acts 2:14 - to Peter’s explanation of Pentecost. The answer to the question, “What does this mean?” Looking at this for us - what meaning - what great value and purpose has God opened up for our lives because of Pentecost?
Acts 2:14: But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel.”
Let’s pause and understand the importance of Peter’s statement.
Some years ago a ship strayed off course near San Diego and became stuck in a reef at low tide. Twelve tugboats were unsuccessful in their attempts to budge it. Finally, the captain instructed the tug boats to go back to the harbor. He said, “I’ll just be patient and wait.” He waited until high tide. All of a sudden the ocean began to rise. What human power could not do, the rising tide of the Pacific Ocean did. It lifted that ship and put it back into the channel. (2)
Something like that happened on Pentecost. A group of ordinary men and women - waiting in a room. The tide of God rolls in - lifts them - carries them along - and is still carrying disciples of Jesus today.
To explain that action of God - Peter quotes Joel - what we’re seeing - says Peter “was spoken of through the prophet Joel.”
Notice this - Peter does not say - as it says so many times in the New Testament - Peter does not say, “This is the fulfillment of what was spoken of by the Prophet Joel.” The reason is because Pentecost was only the beginning. Today - as they were at Pentecost - today we’re living in the ongoing “rising tide” - the ongoing fulfillment of that prophesy.
Say that with me, “We’re a rising tide.”
In Genesis 12 - God makes a covenant with Abraham. God promises Abraham 3 things. First God promises Abraham - land - the Promised Land. Second - that Abraham would be the father of a great nation. Third - God promised that through Abraham all the nations of the world would be blessed. The fulfillment of that promise began at Pentecost.
Jesus - descendant of Abraham - crucified and risen - becomes the cornerstone of the Church - God’s plan of salvation and blessing which goes beyond the children of Abraham to all the nations of the earth. Its no accident - no coincidence - that Jews were gathered from all over the world - that the sign of the Holy Spirit’s coming - the birth of the Church - was the declaration - the praising of God’s mighty deeds - in languages from the 4 corners of the world. God is making a statement that the Gospel is for all men - not just the Jews. But, of every ethnicity in every place.
Those that were there - that believed - 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 - and on and on. The disciples became Apostles - the pioneers of faith by which the ground of the Church was laid. The tide that is still rising today. We’re a part of that rising tide.
Let’s go on. Acts 2:17 - Peter quoting Joel’s prophecy: “And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind - that’s Pentecost - and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth My Spirit and they shall prophesy.”
The “last days” are these days - today. We’ve been in the “last days” - waiting for the return of Jesus Christ - for almost 2,000 years now. These are the days when God is using the Church to carry the Gospel to all men.
Let’s say that together, “We live in the last days.”
Notice 3 things about these days - three groups of people.
First: “your sons and daughters - and from verse 18 - My bondslaves - servants of God - shall prophesy” Prophesy is the declaration of God’s word - could be about the future - could be about the present. Prophecy is God explaining His actions to us.
We saw this in Acts 1:12-26. The disciples had a decision to make - the choice of who would replace Judas as the next Apostle. We saw that they made that decision through a process of prayer and intense study and application of the word of God. Peter is doing that here in Acts 2 - he’s declaring the word of God - teaching and applying it to the circumstances they were in - explaining what God was doing.
Second, notice that “your young men shall see visions” Young believing men are going to look down the road and see the potential - the possibilities of what God is doing. Young men do this. When we’re young everything is new. We come into the world wide-eyed and excited - ready to explore and try everything. Looking into the future - young men will have visions - all kinds of limitless ideas - about what can be done to share the Gospel. Visionaries.
Third, “your old men shall dream dreams” Literally, these dreams are the kinds of thoughts that run through our minds and keep us awake at night. Do you ever have that happen? We get something in the back of our minds and we spend the whole night thinking it through. Young men see visions and the older men loose sleep. Does that sound familiar?
The older men - in Greek the word is “presbuteroi” - the word for “elder” The older men are elders - the Godly leadership of the Church - who loose sleep sifting through the ideas of the young - pondering them - considering them - weighing them.
Here’s the point. The pattern we need to follow in these days. As this tide is rising and surging along - the Godly leadership of the Church gives Godly wisdom and guidance to the visions of the young - all of which is shaped through the practical application of the word of God.
Verse 19 - the purpose for all this visioning and shaping: “And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.”
Pause and let’s understand the image that’s being used here. On the day of Pentecost there were no wonders in the heavens and signs on the earth - no blood - no fire - no vapors. The sun wasn’t darkened. The moon didn’t turn to blood. None of that. Which means that the fulfillment of this prophecy will come in the future on the Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord is a phrase used in the Bible to describe a series of future events that take place over a period of time - that take place as God is bringing history to a close. The prophet Joel - in his prophecy - in 3 chapters - discusses the Day of the Lord 5 times. He describes it as a time of destruction, famine, darkness, mourning, war, and judgment. The great final judgment when men will enter into eternal life with God or eternal death and damnation.
Therefore - coming to verse 21 - on that day - it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
The only salvation on the Day of the Lord is through Jesus Christ. Those who call on His name - who have trusted in what He has done on the cross and through His resurrection. Trusting in Jesus as their Savior only those people will be saved from eternal judgment.
We can get so distracted by so many peripheral issues. Too often when we hear about Pentecost we end up in a discussion about being “Pentecostal” or being “charismaniacs”. Are these known languages or a heavenly language? Is everyone suppose to speak in tongues? Did this just happen back then? What about being baptized in the Spirit? What about prophecy and visions and dreams? The debate goes on endlessly creating division and distraction from the purpose of the Church.
Peter gets to the point. The reason for all these people speaking in different languages - for the prophecy and visions and dreams - the reason for Pentecost - is because there’s a day of judgment coming - and the church needs to be about the work of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When eternity comes the Church - those who call upon the name of the Lord - the Church will remain. But the opportunity to invite others to join us in eternity will be gone forever. Language - signs - spiritual gifting - these are all tools - means - to accomplish the great purpose of the Church on earth - which is to proclaim the salvation of God through Jesus Christ. Amen!
Let me share a few thoughts of application. Thinking this through for us today - we who are living in the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy - we who are Pentecostal.
Today our world is moving farther away from God. Yet - too many churches today spend time and energy endlessly debating issues that lead no one to salvation - issues that have very little impact on where people really live their lives. Many churches sleep in a religious stupor or traditions dreaming about the past. Too many Christians live in a self-indulgent comfort zone - wasting God’s resources - while the time to share Christ with their neighbors grows shorter - their desperation greater.
There is a great need today - perhaps greater than there has ever been - a tremendous need for men and women - for churches - to be where God wants us to be - to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit - proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What visions do you have? So often when we ask ourselves that question the answer becomes a comparison with others. We compare ourselves to other churches - what we are not. “Such-and-such a church has X number of people attending. They have this ministry or that staff. Look at the size of their sanctuary or their budget. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be like that?” Who cares? What God does through them is not the issue.
What visions do you have? How does God desire to use us to impact our neighborhoods with the Gospel? Does that mean ministries in different languages? Multiple services? Satellite ministries in Atwater or Plenada or Chowchilla? Daughter churches? Teams of youth - music teams - missions teams - traveling in ministry? Outreach to the homeless? 100 years from now what will the ministry of this church look like? How does God want to develop and use this facility? What foundations of ministry need to be laid now?
And, while our elders are awake at night thinking about this we need to ask them, “What dreams do you have? What Godly wisdom - what guidance can you give us?” What can we learn together from God’s word about His ministry in us and through us?
Billy Graham, in his book, The Holy Spirit, shares a story about a man who looked at the obituary column of his local newspaper. To his surprise he saw his own name - indicating that he had just died. At first he laughed about it. But pretty soon his stunned friends and family began to call to inquire and offer sympathy to this man’s immediate family.
Finally, in irritation, he called the newspaper editor and angrily reported that - even though he had been reported dead - he was very much alive. The editor was apologetic and in a flash of inspiration said, “Don’t worry, sir, I’ll take care of it. Tomorrow I’ll put your name in the birth column.”
There’s a spiritual truth here. Not until we’ve allowed ourselves to die - to be crucified with Christ - can we be born into the new life that God offers to us in Jesus. (3)
So with our lives is our control of the direction and usefulness of our lives. So often we’re content to live with what is - what’s familiar and safe - rather than surrendering to God the potential of what He would like to do in us and through us.
The Holy Spirit came. He took these 120 disciples - gathered together - held together only by a mutual experience with Jesus Christ - He baptizes them into one Body - infills them - empowers them - transforms them into the Church of Jesus Christ - to boldly proclaim the Gospel - beginning with that crowd in Jerusalem - and transforming the world of men. May we who live in the fulfillment of Pentecost be that Church.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.