Tag Archives: Day of Pentecost

Learning to Live Apart from Jesus

Learning to Live Apart from Jesus

John 16:4-15 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

4 But I’ve told you this so that when it happens you’ll remember what I’ve told you. I didn’t tell you this at first, because I was with you. 5 “Now I’m going to the one who sent me. Yet, none of you asks me where I’m going. 6 But because I’ve told you this, you’re filled with sadness. 7 However, I am telling you the truth: It’s good for you that I’m going away. If I don’t go away, the helper won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 He will come to convict the world of sin, to show the world what has God’s approval, and to convince the world that God judges it. 9 He will convict the world of sin, because people don’t believe in me. 10 He will show the world what has God’s approval, because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore. 11 He will convince the world that God judges it, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 “I have a lot more to tell you, but that would be too much for you now. 13 When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into the full truth. He won’t speak on his own. He will speak what he hears and will tell you about things to come. 14 He will give me glory, because he will tell you what I say. 15 Everything the Father says is also what I say. That is why I said, ‘He will take what I say and tell it to you.’

 

Introduction

Today is Pentecost Sunday.  But what is Pentecost? This celebration of Pentecost is derived from the Celebration of the Festival of Weeks, originally a Harvest Festival observed by the Hebrew People of Israel during the time of Moses well into the modern era. Exodus 23:16 says “Celebrate the Festival of the Harvest with the first produce harvested from whatever you plant in your fields. “Celebrate the Festival of the Final Harvest at the end of the year when you harvest your crops from the fields.”  It occurs on the fiftieth day after the Passover, a celebration of Freedom from Egyptian Bondage by the Hebrew People.

From whence does this term arise in Scripture? On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those followers of Jesus who had gathered together in Jerusalem. Acts 2:1-4 records, “When Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Passover, came, all the believers were together in one place. 2 Suddenly, a sound like a violently blowing wind came from the sky and filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 Tongues that looked like fire appeared to them. The tongues arranged themselves so that one came to rest on each believer. 4 All the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.”

What happened on the first Pentecost continues to happen to Christians throughout the world today, though usually not in such a dramatic fashion. We rarely get a heavenly wind and tongues of fire anymore. Nevertheless, God pours out the Spirit upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and become his disciples (see Romans 8:1-11).

Christians are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3), empowers us to serve God with supernatural power (1 Cor 12:4-11), binds us together as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13), helps us to pray (Rom 8:26), and even intercedes for us with God the Father (Rom 8:27). The Spirit guides us (Gal 5:25), helping us to live like Jesus (Gal 5:22-23).[1]

But it didn’t start out so easily.  Jesus was labeled a blasphemer by the church of his day, cast out of its synagogues, put on trial for heresy, and finally crucified as an enemy of the State.  Jesus had to persevere in his struggle to convince a dying, hierarchal, oppressive religious system that he had found a new living way.  A new way to view God that of Father.  A new way to express God’s concern for humanity, that of Mother.  A new way for humanity to interact with one another, that of brother and sister and friend.  Jesus taught the love of God, the Compassion of God, and the Mercy of God toward all people most especially sinners, outcast, and rejected in society.  He came to liberate, celebrate, and bring justice within society.

Pentecost, then, is about liberation, celebration, and justice.  Pentecost signifies that the oppressed in the world who accept Jesus Christ as Lord have received power for living.  And this outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon believers, frees believers to live lives being led by the Spirit that do not conform to the worldview of those without such a relationship with God. The aim of believers is to live as Jesus lived meaning to meet the challenges of spiritual evil and wickedness with the same clarity of thought and power as Jesus.  Believers who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit move to a different level of knowledge and understanding.[2]

Move 2

Because of Pentecost, the world is constantly being introduced to Jesus Christ, the revolutionary man who preached justice, lived justly, and died on behalf of justice.  And the church knows that the world we live in is not a just world.  Oppression and oppressors are thriving while God’s people are living under heavy weights of persecution and injustice.  The life and message of Jesus is far reaching in its influence in the world.  The church witnesses that the manifesto of Jesus is being realized though not yet and declares that a day of reckoning is at hand.

The Holy Spirit empowers the church that makes the mission of Jesus Christ its own and brings hope, healing, and help to those in need.  A Pentecost Church is a church on the forefront of advocacy for the poor, widowed, orphaned, and immigrant.  A Pentecost Church speaks life to those engaged in alternative lifestyles, addicted to money, sex, and power; the Pentecost Church speaks a word to those on the brink of suicide reminding them that evil cannot win.  Reminding them that God has a remedy for evil.  To all those like David who think the powerful elite have it made.  The church says be patient, keep serving the Lord because Justice is coming.

For I hear James the Church Moderator declare in James 5, “Pay attention to this if you’re rich. Cry and moan about the misery that is coming to you. 2 Your riches have decayed, and your clothes have been eaten by moths. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be used as evidence against you. Like fire, it will destroy your body. You have stored up riches in these last days. 4 The wages you refused to pay the people who harvested your fields shout to God against you. The Lord of Armies has heard the cries of those who gather the crops. 5 You have lived in luxury and pleasure here on earth. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered people who have God’s approval, even though they didn’t resist you.”

Thus, equal pay legislation, reform of our criminal justice system, advocacy for universal healthcare, welfare reform, and social security issues are all things that Pentecost Churches fight for.  They fight for the least of those among us and they stand to speak truth to power.  But not only do they advocate, the Pentecost Church creates.  The Pentecost Church creates programs to educate, employ, and liberate those for whom society is intent on denying freedom.  The Pentecost Church is not a begging church, it is a Church inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit to make a difference in its community and in the world.

Move 3

So, while we’re apart from Jesus, we are instructed by the Holy Spirit to do the works that Jesus did.  Jesus did not allow the Law of Moses to restrict his activity in the world, rather he reinterpreted the Law of Moses to better fit his understanding of who God is.  Jesus did not sit idly by and quote scripture to keep from influencing the world for God.  Often from the mouth of Jesus, we hear the words, “But I say unto you…”

When these words were spoken, people knew a change in attitude and behavior was expected to spring forth. When the church hears the world minimize people based on their socio-economic standing, lifestyle, neighborhood, and race the church uses these words of Jesus to say, “You have heard what the world says, but up in here we say unto you . . .

The Spirit looks at the “letter” but is not confined to the “letter.” The Apostle Paul writes, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”[3]

It is in the context of such a life-giving word followed by action against evil that the Pentecost Church impacts lives.

Finally,  “A twelve-year-old boy was saved at a revival. Later, his friends questioned him about it. One said, “Did you see a vision?” Another said, “Did you hear God speak?” The boy answered all of these questions with a simple no. “Well, how did you know you were saved?” they asked. The boy replied, “It’s like when you catch a fish, you can’t see the fish or hear the fish; you just feel him tugging on your line: I just felt God tugging on my heart.”[4]

The Holy Spirit tugs at hearts exposed to demonstrations of God’s power in the world. I trust that he is tugging on yours today.  There is much work to be done, “the world is groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God.  Beloved, a Pentecost Church can live apart from Jesus because it sees itself doing the work of Jesus, speaking the words of Jesus, and having the same results of Jesus.  Beloved, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to help us live apart from Jesus.  Amen.

 

References:

[1] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/what-is-pentecost-why-does-it-matter/

[2] 1 Corinthians 2 differentiates among the world’s wisdom and the wisdom of those led by the Spirit.

[3] 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

[4] http://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/he-felt-god-tugging-on-his-heart

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Pentecost is a Justice Movement

Slave owners selectively chose certain black men and women to teach how to read; the slaves thought themselves special. The slaves went about teaching other slaves to read and most of the time the Bible was used to do such education. Can someone tell me why the slave owners would choose the most difficult book to comprehend to use as a teaching aid to black slaves?

Anyone can learn to read; its the critical thinking piece, however, that is necessary to become learned. Slave owners taught black slaves how to read, interpret, and fight to ensure nobody questioned, analyzed, or contradicted those words and created schools to reinforce the basic teaching they gave them. It is still the same today. Blacks fear to lift their eyes above the words and think for themselves. The Bible with its fear of hell, fire, and damnation, has enslaved people for generations and those who gave it to us and other (so-called) minorities gave it to us because it served their purpose.

The descendants of slave owners still violate the teachings of the Bible and do so with impunity because Black people refuse to think critically about what they are reading and remain paralyzed to create a new ethic for the issues of our time. Could the Bible be the real “Willie Lynch Letter”?

Stop regurgitating to me what the Bible said, I need more of what the Holy Spirit has revealed as a result of your own study and critical analysis unless you believe that the interpretations of your Anglo-Saxon Scholars are the only valid ones available. This is my prayer, Lord, free me from the confines of words on a page and liberate me to a world of knowledge only revealed by your Holy Spirit through intentional study, meditation, and prayer.

Nat Turner was taught how to read; he had a natural zeal for it. But why did his reading result in an uprising while other slaves’ reading resulted in conformity to the slave owners rules? For me what transpired was Pentecost! And Pentecost always results in nonconformity. Pentecost is a justice movement not bound by literal words on a page. Pentecost comes with power to change the world! Help me Holy Ghost!

Signs of Pentecost

Scripture References:  Exodus 19: 18-20; Acts 2:1-4, 14-36 

The sound was deafening. Here I sat at the train tracks, seemingly for 10 minutes because I had heard the unnerving sound of the train blast and the engines roaring. I had stopped at the tracks and the crossing rails were down, but no train. I thought, I’m going through this train stop right now. But suddenly, as I prepared to move forward, I saw the train. I stopped and waited for that train to come speeding by. What I had heard was an echo; the train horn had sounded but the wind had carried the sound miles down the track before the train’s arrival. That’s how it was on the day of Pentecost, the fiftieth day after the Passover commemorating the day God gave his law to Moses.

Move 1

 The children of Israel had arrived at Mt. Sinai; the dawn of a new era was just on the horizon. Moses had gathered them around the mountain to meet the God who had delivered them with a mighty hand.

On that morning a thick darkness fell over Mt Sinai engulfing that majestic mountain. Rolling thunder and lightning fire made for a frightening yet memorable arrival: God, Jehovah Adonai, El Shaddai was on his way to meet the people he had chosen to live in covenant with him.

Moses remembered the scene. He said: “18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. 20 The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So he [Moses] went up.

 One hundred twenty people met in the upper room for worship service, bible study,and prayer. And after they had elected Matthias to replace Judas as an Apostle, Pentecost arrived. Pentecost Sunday, the day of the harvest, a day for them to reap the blessings of God with joy. And all they heard initially was a noise, a loud, booming noise, one that could be heard throughout Jerusalem, just like that horn on that train.

The scene echoed in the minds of those men and women waiting in the Upper Room for the promise of God’s Holy Spirit. They knew that God’s arrival would come in such a way that it could not be mistaken. It was no coincidence that the giving of the Law and the Coming of the Holy Spirit both came on the day of Pentecost. When the Law was given, “thunder rumbled and flames broke forth on the top of Mt. Sinai, and God’s Spirit engraved the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. Here there is also a sound and flames. But not on some distant mountain peak. Now the wind sweeps into a house in Jerusalem; the flames divides to rest on every believer. And, enabled by the Spirit, all were “declaring the wonders of God” showing that God’s Law is now being engraved on human hearts. ” (Richards, 1994, p. 281)

Just as the Law signaled a new day in the lives of the Hebrews, Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit would signal a new day in the lives of the New Testament believers in Jesus. Never again would they be ruled by fear. This day, Pentecost Day would be their day of empowerment to do the work of Jesus in the land. For indeed Paul was right when he wrote concerning the Spirit, “7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Lord, have mercy!

Move 2

 But what’s all the fuss about. Why does the church continue to celebrate Pentecost? Could it be possible that the church could experience more than one Pentecost, more than one infilling of the Holy Spirit? I dare say it could, should, and does. All that is required for this renewal is apostolic preaching, praying, and praising to be done. C. H. Dodd in his classic work, Apostolic Preaching, distinguishes six recurring themes in such preaching. One such sermon is recorded in Acts 2:14-41. I don’t have time to adequately discuss these now, so let me just enumerate them for you.

 An apostolic sermon 1) announces that the age of fulfillment has dawned. In other words, God has kept his promise; the Holy Spirit is present in the world. 2) Jesus is identified as the source of this new age; 3) Jesus’ resurrection and position at the right of hand of God makes this salvation efficacious. 4) The Holy Spirit is God in the Earth today and as such the Holy Spirit seals us until the day of redemption. In other words, the presence of the Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee of our salvation. 5) Jesus Christ is coming again to retrieve his church, his bride and present her to his Heavenly Father in victory. 6) Every apostolic sermon should end in a call for repentance and invitation to discipleship. Put simply preaching where Jesus is the main attraction reignites burned out saints, heals broken down disciples, and sets free those captive to sin and satan. When the saints get excited about Jesus, the Holy Spirit gets excited about the saints. Lord, have mercy! But let us move on here.

 Prayer and Praising will cause the Holy Spirit to reignite the flames in any believer’s heart. They will be able to face situations with boldness and faith rather than cower in fear. The book of Acts presents countless examples of the Holy Spirit refilling the believers in response to such praying and praising.

 In Acts 4, the believers were threatened with punishment, even imprisonment if they would not stop declaring the Name of Jesus. So they prayed: “29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And God moved: 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

 And might I add right here that the emphasis is not on speaking in tongues, the emphasis is on power, the ability to get supernatural results when facing adversaries to the will of God. I stop by to tell somebody today that when you receive the filling of the Holy Spirit, you’re going to get positive results against the enemies of your God and His Christ. Hallelujah!

When African American W.J. Seymour who began the Pentecostal movement discovered that white men who spoke in tongues, could still continue to practice racism, he became convinced that “the dissolution of racial barriers was the surest sign of the Spirit’s Pentecostal presence.” (Williams, 2007, p. 219) In other words, the surest sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life is whether that person loves his brother or his sister not how many tongues he or she can speak.

Well did Paul exclaim, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Move 3

 Finally, because of the arrival of the Holy Spirit, we see a church transformed. It moves from being a church in waiting to a church in action. It moves from being a church in exile to a church engaged in its community. Signs of the Holy Spirit in the earth today can be found in the results Christians get when they are combatting institutional racism, policy brutality, poor schools, homelessness, child abuse and sex trafficking. When Christians stand up for the lost, the left out, the outcast, and the rejected in this world and see laws revised or initiated that care for the poor, widowed, orphaned and immigrant, that is a sign that God’s Spirit is present in the earth. When researchers find cures for terminal illness and pestilences around the globe, that’s a sign that the Holy Spirit is present. When communities of faith join together to combat discrimination in whichever form it raises its ugly head, that’s a sign that the Holy Spirit is present.

 When people of all nationalities come to realize that all lives matter, the black, the gay, the bisexual, the inter-gender, the transsexual, the bisexual, the queer and the asexual, that is a sign that the Holy Spirit is present. When same sex couples can live in freedom to exercise their rights as human beings to live free from discrimination and hate crimes that’s a sign that the Holy Spirit is present.

Two Texans were traveling together on vacation. They decided to stop at one of the natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls. As they took the beautiful drive from Lake Erie to the falls they were filled with admiration and awe at the size and power of the Niagara River. They were particularly impressed with the rapids just above the falls and stopped there to look. From there they could see the massive mist cloud that always hangs over the precipice.

One of the men, having already been there, said, “Come and I’ll show you the greatest unused power in the world.” Taking him to the foot of Niagara Falls, he said, “There is the greatest unused power in the world.”

Ah, no, my friend, not so!” was the reply of the other. “The greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the living God.” (Green, 1989)

And that is why the church must rise in this hour to fight against oppression, discrimination, and injustice. The church proclaims that the Holy Spirit is present, yet the adversaries of God win victory after victory. Church, it’s time for us to stir up the gift of the Holy Spirit and counterattack. We need to stand full of fire and passion that will burn away the enemies of God’s attempts to cause division, strife, war, and decay in our communities and in this world Let’s not leave the Holy Spirit dormant; let’s get filed up, let’s get fired up and stand, hallelujah!

Conclusion

 Beloved, let me proclaim to you “The Holy Spirit is present.” God, the Holy Spirit is present to heal, save, and deliver. This is good news! Pentecost is here in 2015 and the same Holy Spirit that moved in the book of Acts wants to move in Grambling, Louisiana today. It’s time for us to get excited about the Holy Spirit and turn this city upside down for Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask that your Holy Spirit would reignite the fire of action within us in such a way that we will work for a better Brambling, a better Louisiana, a better America, and a better world. We pray that you will through the power and presence of your Holy Spirit give us a steadfast mind that will not accept mediocrity nor accept second class existence in the world you have created for all of your children. Loose us now from the spirit of fear and endue us with your Spirit of boldness to stand against such apathy and slothfulness that would cause us to remain careless or unconcerned. Holy Spirit reignite fires of passion in our hearts and give us God’s wisdom on how to proceed to be people who will make a difference in our world. In Jesus Name, we pray, Amen.

References

Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Richards, L. O. (1994). The Victor Bible Background Commentary New Testament. Wheaton: Victor Books.

Williams, D. K. (2007). True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary. (B. K. Blount, C. H. Felder, C. J. Martin, & E. B. Powery, Eds.) Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.