We need another Pentecost!
I have a confession to make: the page of my bible that includes Acts 2 is the dirtiest! Years of unseen grime from my busy fingers no doubt but also years of sincere investigation into the birth of the Church, the Jesus Shaped Body of Christ. For it was on this crucial epoch making day just under 200 years ago that the Holy Spirit without measure was poured out for the first time upon all who sought renewed relationship with Father God through Jesus, and to this day it has not stopped being poured. Emperors may have tried to persecute and kill the Spirit-filled Followers of the Way, Great Church Councils may have tried to marginalise the work of the Spirit, Popes may have tried to institutionalise the Spirit, and sadly spiritually arrogant churches and denominations have at times acted as if they don’t need the Spirit: but despite the best efforts from outside and within the Spirit Without Measure is not just our only hope its our best hope if we are serious about winning the nations once again.
Okay, but so if the Spirit Without Measure is still being poured why do we need another Pentecost? If as mentioned last week Exile and Pain are our lot for a season in the UK Church, then it is a cause of sadness for me to say that the reality today is that the Spirit Without Measure is being poured but in large measure we in the western church are still unready for it. We remain an Acts 1 Church, worshipping Jesus, praying and waiting on him, polished institution even having elections for key roles to make sure they had the right number as if by magic that will make it okay, but whilst we like the thought of the Holy Spirit clothing us with power from on high we have not yet embraced His purpose: to make us witnesses to the Ends of the Earth. And a sceptical world looks on and when eventually we do do something radical or even Pentecostal, they can simply box us as religious weirdos,
drunk on religion, and still not worth listening to. It’s noteworthy that before Peter could say anything positive on that birthday of the Church he had to defend the 120 from charges of being drunk: nothing changes. I’m so glad that Trinity has a seven-day a week dynamic community model of the Jesus Shaped Body, which people can see, touch, and experience for when we then share with them the gospel of grace they are more likely to listen, but even with that model if we have not opened ourselves to the Spirit Without Measure it to no avail.
We need another Pentecost! So if we look at what changed in those fifty days from Easter to Pentecost and what was their situation on the Day of Pentecost hopefully we might get a clue about the journey we need to take individually and corporately:
1. They encountered the Risen Jesus. There can be no substitute for meeting the Living God in Jesus: the early disciples were transformed through such experiences. Individually they received the Spirit as Jesus in the flesh breathed on them and into them His presence and power. It is the delight of the Spirit Without Measure to do that for you and me: indeed I can testify to hearing an audible voice spoken over my life saying Follow Me at my conversion in 1975, my call into Ministry in 1978, and my release in the Spirit in 1982: the rest as they way is my spiritual history! All of us need to encounter Jesus!
2. They heard His promise of the Gift of the Spirit Without Measure. They had been baptised with water for repentance (perhaps by John the Baptist), were clearly in love with Jesus, but they were told there was more: Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Not in the Holy Spirit by with, Jesus said, just like the water, meaning I think that just as the water when you are baptised by total immersion covers you completely and gets into every part of your being, so with the Spirit Without Measure, this will be more than me Jesus breathing over you, this will utterly transform
your whole life. All of us need to live in the good of this promise and crave above all its fulfilment in our lives.
3. They saw the very reality of heavens power in the Resurrection & Ascension. They had heard of Jesus’ miraculous birth from Mary, they had seen heaven open and the Father’s affirmation of Jesus at his baptism, three of them were present at the transfiguration when again the Voice from heaven proclaimed his son ship and urged them to listen to him. The Resurrection had torn religious curtains in two, released and unleashed the very power of heaven and then at the Ascension He returned to heaven and angels proclaimed the promise that one day He would return in the same way. Just eleven of them had the benefit of seeing the glorious potential about to be released. Notice it took them another 10 days before they had persuaded, prepared and prayed the others into a place of receiving for Pentecost to happen. All of us would do well to remind ourselves that Jesus is Lord and now operates the control centre of heaven giving us the resources and direction we need.
So how do we find this motley crew of followers of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost?
4. Living out the level of relational unity, which Jesus prayed for (John 17:21/23). All together in one place is I think not just a matter or description of the physical geography! It is a comprehensive result of ten days of powerful and humbling prayer and preparation when they owned their water baptism through the Cross (dying to self, burying their old life, rising with Jesus to a brand new life) and got to the place of readiness for this new baptism (of the Spirit).
5. Opening themselves to heavens breeze (2:2, John 3:8). Later reflections would repackage it as a violent wind from heaven and I guess if you and I have not gone through stage one Unity it might feel that way, but for these 120 humble souls seeking more of their Jesus it would have been the most welcome
breeze and one that they hoped would never cease to blow. And as we know especially in the Northeast you don’t resist the mighty wind, and it does make and leave its mark.
6. Not even freaked out by Holy Fire (2:3, Luke 3:16). Someone once said that if we would pay as much attention to Luke 3:16 as we do to John 3:16 then the Church would be in much better shape to impact the world in the power of the Spirit with the Gospel of Grace, the Story of Jesus. These guys and girls were not freaked out by fire: maybe they had read the Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego story, but certainly they had heard John the Baptists clear prophecy of Holy Spirit & Fire. They knew they needed cleaning up before filling up, and so they gladly embraced this step of surrender and anointing of holiness. Remember as they did that whenever Jesus spoke of the Spirit he spoke of him as a gift not a right: this left no room for spiritual arrogance, none at all.
7. All surrendered, all ready and desperate for the gift, and as a consequence: all received (Luke 11:13, Acts 2:4). This marks the hinge of scripture in terms of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Up to this point He is active, but is given to certain people, for certain God-given tasks, at certain times: He is not available to all. Then Jesus moving in the power of the Holy Spirit encourages His disciples to do the same, and then post resurrection He breathes on them, the breath of God. Then He returns to the Father’s side yet promises: I will always be with you, even to the end of the age. From this moment the Spirit Without Measure takes centre stage, clothing those early believers with power, holiness, graces and gifts all to help them embody the promise that the Jesus shaped Body would continue His work of restoring children to their Father. So notice here: all 120 received the fullness of the Spirit, not just the 12, and later 3000 more received the same.
We would do well to examine our lives and see whether these seven prerequisites are true for us, and indeed us as a local congregation? Why? Because we want to see the gospel of grace sown into the hearts of every man, women, boy and girl in this city and community, and we can’t achieve that at all without the Spirit Without Measure in all His Pentecostal fullness.
Such an outpouring created a fertile audience: just as when Jesus was there in flesh and blood so now the Living God was manifesting himself in the power of the Holy Spirit and it gathered a crowd like nothing else could do.
The Spirit Filled Jesus Shaped Community was able to communicate in a language everyone understood: how much that is needed today and its not a “come to us message”, it’s a “he’s here in your midst” message. It evokes a responsive heart, it calls for a decision.
The Spirit Filled Jesus Shaped Community was ridiculed as being drunk and Peter needed to immediately correct that perception: today people easily ridicule the Church as weird, over the top, and fanatical. We do need to respond to such charges and not give people room to make such claims. We need to rebuild ‘the favour of all the people’ place the Early Church was at. Seven Day a week Christian Communities on High Streets will hopefully help us get there. People need to see that we are Ordinary People in the Hands of an Extraordinary God!!
The Spirit Filled Jesus Shaped Community was Out of the Box, Highly Visible, Community Creating, and always expected God to turn up in His fulness: Would that we all thought that too? But be honest, some of you have heard 30/40/50 years of Pentecost Messages: you have ceased to get excited and your expectation is low. You are comfortable being an Acts 1 Church; an Acts 2 Church could be a little scary and mean change? It’s not just a sceptical world we face – some of us if we are honest
believe that the Lord has passed us by on the other side in this area of our Christian Life.
Well let me say this with all the pastoral sensitivity I can muster: in the eyes of the head of the Church (Jesus) there is no such thing as an Acts 1 Church. You are not experiencing the real thing and maybe that’s why you struggle in your relationship with God, or putting your faith into action and sharing your faith with others. Maybe like the grime on my Acts 2 page of my bible you have allowed a religious veneer to cover only your first love for Jesus: today you can turn and let him take afresh the lead! I need to ask you today to take a step of faith: I need you to say yes to the Holy Spirit and welcome Him to have full liberty to move in and through your life. Only in that place lies fruitfulness and real satisfaction.
Anointing by Prayer Team:
Receive Afresh the Spirit Without Measure!
12th June 2011.