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Spirit and Flesh

The Winds of Change

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(6/9) Today we are celebrating Pentecost and I’ll get into that in a little bit to explain what that means. So, if you’ve got a Bible, go with me to Acts 2:1–13. We’re going to look at the importance of being empowered by the Spirit to follow Jesus.

Let me begin by getting you caught up to where we find ourselves in the story: Jesus is God who became a man, lived without sin, went to the cross, died in our place for our sins as our substitute, our Savior, was buried, and three days later on a Sunday he rose from death conquering Satan, sin, death, and hell, pacifying the wrath of God. Acts 1 tells us that he appeared for forty days, giving evidence of his resurrection with many proofs.

He then told his disciples, "Don’t go out and start your ministry yet. You need to wait." And in Acts 1:8 he said here’s why, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." You’ll be my witnesses in your city, your state, your country, and even the nations of the earth. That’s what he’s talking about. Then He rose into heaven and it tells us at the end of Acts 1 that for ten days, the followers of Jesus prayed, they studied the Word of God, they prepared their leadership, and they prepared themselves.

And today, we see Jesus’ promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled in Acts chapter two. And this is important, because a mission that once seemed impossible is now made possible through the Winds of Change. Just as the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism to anoint him for ministry, here Jesus is going to send the Holy Spirit on his people so that we can follow in the ministry of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s read it together beginning in Acts 2:1, where we learn that the Holy Spirit empowers Christians for ministry:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs — we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine."

(Acts 2:1-13; NIV)

No matter what your church experience is here’s what tends to happen. Whatever your first church experience is that becomes the norm for you. You assume that you’re doing it right, and if other churches are doing it different, then they must be wrong. But that’s not always the case and that wasn’t my experience either. Some of you know I was raised Roman Catholic. So I thought church was very formal. You’d kneel and sit and stand. You make the sign of the cross. And there’s this one guy who’s very close to Jesus, he’s the only one who can help you, and he’s your connection to God. But that church honestly wasn’t very relevant, it wasn’t exciting, or enthusiastic about what they believed. And so I stopped going to church when I was in my teens.

Many years later, God in His grace saved me and I became a Christian through the study of the Bible… through reading God’s Word… through reading what I discovered was God’s love letter to me. And it was only by God’s grace that I ended up in a good Bible-teaching, Jesus-loving evangelical church, because it was nothing like my old church. I mean the people there would really worship Jesus… I mean this was just so different… they called themselves "charismatic" or "Pentecostal." And when they worshiped, it was like they were plugged in, it was almost like they were doing aerobics for Jesus. But it was amazing because you knew Jesus was there.

And so they sang, they clapped, and they were enthusiastic. When they prayed it was like they were talking to a friend, they were agreeing with Jesus, and it was passionate, and some even spoke in a language I’d never heard, and I didn’t know what was going on. But one thing I knew was that they loved Jesus, they believed the Bible, and so I was like, I got to find out more about this. You know I got to find out what the Bible says about this!

And so, some of you are here, and you’re thinking, "This isn’t like my old church." But here is what I want you to know. Maybe your old church was wrong, maybe God wants more for you, maybe there’s flexibility and maybe God is approving of both. But the only way we really discover what God wants and how church should be… is not by taking our experience and making it the norm, but by going to the Word of God and seeing what the will of God is for the church. So you see we need to match our experience to the Word of God and not to the world!

Like the first believers we need to experience the Winds of Change.

1. Encountering God

So Acts chapter two, verse one, tells us, "They were all together in one place" …so it’s a church meeting of about 120 people when 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 tongues as the Spirit enabled them" (Acts 2:2-4).

So the timing is Pentecost… this is a Jewish holiday... this is fifty days after the Passover, where the Jewish people celebrated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt by the shedding of the blood of a substitutionary sacrificial lamb, all of which pointed to the coming of Jesus, our Passover Lamb, who was crucified and sacrificed just fifty days earlier. Jesus had been slain and through his shed blood, we receive our redemption from Satan, sin, and death. To put it in our language here in 2014… its like fifty days after Good Friday and Easter weekend.

So they’re meeting in Jerusalem around the temple, where the presence of God was in the Holy of Holies, and the people of God gathered together in a large room. Maybe it was like this room here, and this is important, because the Bible tells us that something unusual happened in that room; and it’s explaining a supernatural, miraculous event.

And so if you have ever been in a situation where you saw or experienced something that was totally new. Where you’re trying to figure out how to explain it, and you’re saying, "Well, it’s kind of like this and it’s kind of like that." So what we need to understand is that the Bible here is straining and trying to explain this supernatural occurrence within the constraints of our human language. So verse two describes it as "A sound like the blowing of a violent wind." It was like that they said.

And so what we find is that the first believers are gathered together… about 120 of them… and the Holy Spirit descends on them. He comes to empower them just as he came to empower Jesus, so that they too may go forth by his power. I want you to see that. The Holy Spirit comes "like" the wind and he comes "like" a fire. When he comes like this, you and I are supposed to see this as power!

You see the Holy Spirit comes as a power… like the wind… like a fire… He overwhelms; He overtakes. He is an all-consuming unstoppable force. God the Holy Spirit is a power like that. And we know it’s only like fire ’cause if their heads were on fire, this would not be good news, right? But it’s like tongues of fire resting upon their heads. So these are the outward symbols… called metaphors… that the Holy Spirit is using to reveal his working in the church.

So the Holy Spirit’s like that. He fills us, lifts us, and brings life to us so that we are now one with God, moving in the power of God. He fills us, like wind in sails of a large boat. He warms us like a fire, setting us ablaze with the truth of God. And he illuminates our hearts and the world in which we live… warming them with the love of Jesus.

2. Empowered To Overcome

So all of this happens on the day of Pentecost. And what we discover is that the Holy Spirit comes not to take us from the world but to send us to the world by the power and presence of Jesus. We discover that the Holy Spirit comes not to send us to a holy place, or a temple, but instead Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to make you a holy place. And so no matter how we might describe Him, the Holy Spirit is working today in your life, and Jesus’ mission requires that we be filled with the Holy Spirit. You see we can’t be who Jesus made us to be, and we can’t do what Jesus has called us to do, unless we are filled by the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

After the resurrection, when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had heard the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had only been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that, "Peter and John placed their hands on them (prayed) and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:17).

So, what I want you to understand is that the Bible talks about us being baptized in the Holy Spirit. That is the language of the Bible. And what it really means is being immersed, doused, and saturated by the Holy presence of God (Mark 1:8).

You see it is important that we invite the Holy Spirit to come in, that the gift of the Holy Spirit’s been poured out, and that we are not shocked by a move of the Holy Spirit when we gather together. This was normative in the early church and should be the norm for us today (Romans 8:14). And so as we read about the baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter two, we find the Spirit of God continuing to move repeatedly in the remainder of Acts and the New Testament. Because the Holy Spirit has empowered the Church, the Holy Spirit’s empowering you to overcome, empowering you to persevere, and empowering you to become more like Jesus!

That being said, there are barriers that need to be overcome in ministry. And the Holy Spirit empowers Christians for ministry because we’ve all been called to serve. And so what we learn here is that the Holy Spirit overcomes barriers to the gospel. Here in Acts chapter two there are two barriers.

Now the Holy Spirit loves Jesus and the Holy Spirit loves people, made in the image and likeness of God. And so the Holy Spirit, because of this love, wants people to meet Jesus, right? That’s what we believe, but there are barriers that need to be overcome for people to meet Jesus. One here is location. So the Holy Spirit overcomes location by waiting until the day of Pentecost when people have come from all over to one location; here in Jerusalem.

Secondly, there is the language barrier. These people all have different languages, they can’t communicate with one another, and maybe you’ve had this frustration. How many of you have traveled internationally and you don’t speak the language? It can be really frustrating because it’s hard to get anything done. You can’t communicate.

3. Removing Gospel Barriers

So, all these people are coming together and the Holy Spirit waits until they’re all in one place. Because God is removing Gospel barriers and if they meet Jesus and are filled with the Holy Spirit and then return home, they return home as missionaries. But how would the Holy Spirit overcome the language barrier to connect people with Jesus?

We could call it the Rosetta Stone spiritual gift. What we see here is the use of tongues for evangelism. We’ve got two groups of people. One that knows and loves Jesus. And these others who have not yet heard about Jesus and they speak different languages. So, the Holy Spirit allows people who know Jesus to talk the people who don’t yet know Jesus so that they can have an opportunity to come and meet Jesus.

So that is what we see in Acts chapter two; that the way we overcome and remove the language barrier and the national or cultural barrier is by the power of the Holy Spirit. You see, the nations are not unified by multi-culturalism… they’re not unified by some vague commitment to peace… and they’re not unified by mutual understanding. The nations are unified around Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. And this really foreshadows Revelation 7:9 where it says, "A great multitude… from every nation, tribe, people and language, was standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb."

You see, in the kingdom of God we’ll be gathered around the throne of Jesus, people from every tribe, language, tongue; and we’ll all be singing Jesus’ praises together. And he’s there in the center, he’s on the throne, and I believe that we’ll be singing that heavenly language, language barriers will be no more. And so, what’s happening in Acts chapter two is, the Holy Spirit is showing us that Jesus has dealt with a sin problem, and this unity, reconciliation, and supernatural love between people is ultimately going to be that way forever in the kingdom of God.

As we close, here’s my question to you: have you received or rejected Jesus? Have you received the Holy Spirit’s conviction and instruction, or have you rejected the Holy Spirit’s instruction and conviction? I don’t want you to get distracted by the tongues. The point is this: the Holy Spirit is totally committed, to whatever means are required, to get the message of Jesus out with power. And if a language is in the way, he will work through the language. If geography is in the way, he will work through the geography. If people are in the way, he will move those people aside. He will literally move heaven and earth to get the news of Jesus to lost people so that they have an opportunity to turn from sin and trust in him.

As we close I invite you to join me, to embrace the winds of change, and pray for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to work through us. If there is any opportunity for us to speak, to share, to teach, to talk about Jesus, do it and overcome whatever barriers might get in the way so that people can receive him and join us forever as the family of God, amen? That’s what it’s about. Acts is the book of the acts of the Holy Spirit; and he wants to work through us as he has worked through people for thousands of years.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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