November 11, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
I’m going to talk bad about Southern Baptists right up front, so don’t get your feelings hurt. I’m going to make some generalities today. We’re a Southern Baptist Church. If you listen to the language of Southern Baptists for a while, you’ll notice that something is conspicuously missing from our language. It’s actually not something but someone is conspicuously missing from the language of many Southern Baptists. That someone is the Holy Spirit. How many of you have some friends who are charismatic or Pentecostal? They can’t even finish a sentence without the Holy Spirit showing up. Then, if you listen to us Southern Baptists, sometimes you don’t ever even hear that the Holy Spirit really exists. For many of us, we’re guilty of what Pastor Francis Chan calls in his book The Forgotten God of acting like the Holy Spirit doesn’t even matter.
Today from the book of Acts, we’re going to see one of the most important moments in the Bible as it relates to the Holy Spirit. In fact, we’re going to see one of the most important moments in church history. It’s the moment that the Holy Spirit shows up on the scene. Maybe you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “Hey, Jeff, what does it really matter? I mean, I believe in Jesus. I pray to God. So, what does it matter tomorrow at work? What does it matter at school or in my classroom with this militant atheist professor? What does it matter if I believe in the Holy Spirit? What real difference does the Holy Spirit make in my life tomorrow at work or at home?” I’m going to try to answer that question for us. I’m going to try to make it really personal for me and for you from the book of Acts.
I. Jesus is generous with the gift of His Spirit
“When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them.
What you’re going to see right out of the gate from Acts chapter two, verse one is Jesus giving a gift to his church. Now, let’s just be honest. Go back and look at the Bible. Jesus gives many gifts to his church. He gives his people peace within. He reconciles us to God. He gives us harmony with other brothers and sisters. I could go on like this for an hour but there is no greater gift that you get in the Bible then the gift of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is generous with this gift.
Now, if you really want to understand the context for this event, you have to understand what this word Pentecost means. Pentecost was a pretty big celebration for the Jews two thousand years ago. In fact, this celebration happened fifty days after Passover. Think about it this way: On Passover, the biggest holiday of the year, Jews from all over the world would come to Jerusalem and celebrate this biggest of all religious ceremonies. The day after Passover started is what’s referred to in the Old Testament as the Feast of Weeks, and it lasted forty-nine days. The fiftieth day was the Old Testament celebration of First Fruits. It’s during that forty-nine days that you would bring the harvest and crops in. On the fiftieth day, you would bring portions of those crops to the temple and worship God by giving back to him a tithe (or ten percent) of what he’s given you.
Here’s really what the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of First Fruits was saying: They were saying, “God, I can’t make it rain; only you can do that. God, we can’t make the sun shine; only you can do that. We can’t really make the crops grow in the fields; only you can do that. This fruit and this harvest that we’re giving back to you really belongs to you because you made all of this stuff grow in the first place. This wheat, this barley, and this rice, we’re giving a little bit of it back to you, but it’s actually yours to begin with because you’re the one who made all of this stuff grow.”
If you really want to think about the atmosphere during Pentecost, think about it like Passover being this one-day epic party with a fifty-day after party. This is day fifty of the after party, and there are still people all over the place who have come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of First Fruits. Now we’re at the fiftieth day. Now we’re at the day of Pentecost.
I’m doing this on purpose for you today, church, because Jesus chose this as the day to send his Holy Spirit, and it wasn’t an accident. We’ll see before the end of this morning why this day. What is so big of a deal about this day? He could have chosen any day, but he chose this day, the fiftieth day, the day of Pentecost, the day of the Feast of First Fruits to send his Holy Spirit, because this is the moment that it would make the biggest impact. The Holy Spirit would make the biggest impact not just on Jesus’s people. The Holy Spirit would make the biggest impact on the crowd that sees and hears with their own ears what’s happening in that house up in Jerusalem.
Jesus’s gift here is a gift to his church. What he does today is day one, the spiritual birthday of the church. I want you to think about this gift like a gift that you get from a family member. This is the greatest possible gift that God could give. Jesus’s greatest gift after he leaves earth and goes to heaven is the gift of himself. So, picture it like this in your mind: Let’s say you have a really close relationship with your grandparent. Maybe your grandmother taught you how to sew or cook. You loved spending time with her. Or, your grandfather spent time out in the woods teaching you how to hunt and fish. You loved your grandparents and then, all of a sudden, your pops started to get a little bit older, and he started to get sick. Then pretty soon his body started to wear down and he became a shell of himself. Then he passed away. Not long after he passed away, the whole family gets together and reads his will to determine, who does the stuff that he owned go to?
If you could have anything on earth, like if anything was an option, do you know what is the one thing you would want more than anything else from him after he’s gone? You’d want him back. All of the stuff that he has, none of that stuff would satisfy you like having him back after he’s gone. But you and I know after he’s gone, he can’t come back. This is what Jesus does for his church. He leaves earth, and he goes to Heaven. He says, “I’m going away, but I’m not going to leave you alone.” In fact, back in the Gospel of John, he says, “It’s good for you that I go away because I’m going to send another one.” This one doesn’t walk beside you like Jesus did. This one lives inside you and will dwell with you forever. That’s the gift that Jesus gives on Pentecost to his church.
II. You’ve got all of Him
When you have the Holy Spirit, you have all of it. Jesus held nothing back when he sent his Spirit. He gives his Spirit to his church. He places his Spirit on individuals in his church.
Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.
I want to do some teaching on the Holy Spirit because some of us get a little bit confused, especially with this verse. There are a couple of words that are supremely important. The first is the word all, and I want you to understand who this word refers to. There are women in the room and men in the room. There are Pharisees and fishermen who have heard Jesus’s message and have been impacted by that man. They have decided this really is Messiah. They’ve decided to risk it all to follow King Jesus. There are women of ill repute in that room, and there are guys who are tax thieves in that room. When Jesus sends his Spirit, he sends his Spirit simultaneously on everybody and equally on everybody.
Everyone is filled with his Spirit. That’s the word that I really want you to camp on with me for just a second. You see that word filled. In the Bible, this word can sometimes refer to something like when you’re totally stuffed after a Thanksgiving dinner and can’t take another bite. This is the Bible word that you would use to describe something coming to pass. The time limit has expired. The time has been fulfilled. It’s over with. There’s no more time left. This is the kind of word that you would use to describe completing a big project, and you finally fulfilled the responsibilities. This is the word that you would use to be so angry that you’re filled with rage.
But none of those phrases really describe what the Bible is saying here. In fact, you’d really have to put them all together to really understand what the Bible is saying. Picture this with me: Back in verse two when God sent his Spirit, it filled the room. Every square inch of the room was full of the Holy Spirit. That exact same word shows up in verse four. When God sent his Spirit, he filled believers, and every square inch of them was full of the Holy Spirit. There was no part of them that did not get affected, impacted or changed by the Holy Spirit.
This is why I’m a fan of celebrating spiritual birthdays – your second birthday. I’m not so much a fan of celebrating your first birthday. I mean, you didn’t do anything special. That had nothing to do with you. I like to sometimes ask people, which is the bigger task? -to take something that did not exist and to give it life or to take something that’s dead and bring it back to life? Which of the two is a bigger deal? Which of the two is harder to do? It’s a trick question, right? -because both of them are impossible. Both of them are a miracle. The Bible does something interesting for us when it starts to describe being born again, being saved, receiving new life (the language of John chapter three, verse three).
The Bible would use a word to describe the life that a mama and daddy gives. Actually, mom and daddy can’t do that because God puts an eternal soul into that baby. That’s something only God can do. The Bible word for that is bio. It’s the word that we use for biology. This is something that has life. God brought life to something. The Bible uses an entirely different word when something that was dead is brought back to life. When you and I were dead in sin and brought back to life. This is the word, zoe. This word is abundant life, eternal life, supernatural life. Unlike a living organism, this is spiritual life, second birth, and this kind of birth really deserves a celebration. There really should be a party, cake, and candles for this one, because God did a miracle in taking you or me, who was dead in sin, and creating life where there was no life, in making us alive in Christ.
I want you to hear something very clearly from me, church. I’m going to try to correct some bad teaching from a lot of pastors out there. You don’t need a second baptism in order to receive the Holy Spirit. This is bad teaching from bad theology. But you do have to have a second birth. There is no need for a second baptism. If you haven’t experienced the second birth, you haven’t received the Holy Spirit. When you’ve been born again, God gives his Holy Spirit. He gives all of his Holy Spirit to his people. -which now leads to a very significant question.
You’ve got all of the Holy Spirit. Does the Holy Spirit have all of you? Do you have this area of your life that you know you’re holding on to, that you know you’re holding back, that you know God wants control over, but yet you’re holding onto this secret sin or hidden area of your life? You’re saying, “God, you can have everything else but not this one area. I want control of this area.” Tomorrow, when you get up, you’ve got to decide. God’s given all of his Holy Spirit to you. Have you given all of you to the Holy Spirit? Tomorrow, are you going to hold something back or hang on to that secret sin? Or tomorrow, are you going to decide he has every aspect of my life, every area of my life? This is a conscious choice that you and I have to make, not just tomorrow but every day of your life. You have to decide, how much of you are you going to give to the Holy Spirit? When Jesus gave the gift of his Spirit, when he gave himself, he gave it all.
III. Outsiders can detect the difference
Are you living a life in such a way that when people see it, they stand up and take notice? When I say outsiders here, I’m not talking about people who live outside of the Chattahoochee Valley. I’m not talking about a bunch of rednecks over in Harris County. I’m talking about the folks who are outside of the faith. When they see you, when they watch the way you live, do they notice something different? Or, do you just basically go through life exactly like they do?
This true story is recorded in a book by a pastor named W. P. King from Gainesville, Georgia. He tells the story about Mahatma Gandhi, the famous world leader who not only was a voice for all of India, but at the height of his life, captured the attention of the whole world. It is because of this man that England granted independence to India in 1947. Gandhi was notorious for using passages from the Bible when he was teaching and speaking in public. In fact, Gandhi would often quote Jesus and specifically quote passages from the Sermon on the Mount.
A famous missionary by the name of E. Stanley Jones was trying to reach India for Christ. He wanted the entire country of India to come to know Jesus Christ as Savior. Jones kept listening to Gandhi’s speeches, and he was fascinated because Gandhi was well known to be Hindu, yet he used the words of Jesus in his speeches. So, one day in the 1920s, E. Stanley Jones had the opportunity to meet with Gandhi. He asked Gandhi this question: “Gandhi, you often refer to Bible passages, to the words of Jesus, and the Sermon on the Mount. How is it that you are not a Christian?” Gandhi replied famously, “I like your Christ – I dislike your Christianity.”
Basically, what Gandhi was saying is, “I’ve watched the way you Christians live. What I hear from Jesus and see in your life – these two things don’t add up. If they added up, maybe I would be a Christian.” You can imagine how E. Stanley Jones felt when he heard those words back in the 1920s. I sometimes want to ask, “What do your neighbors, your coworkers, your friends at school think about Jesus because of the way that you live your life?” I mean, can people outside of the faith detect there’s something different about you because that’s exactly what happened two thousand years ago when God sent his Holy Spirit.
Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout people from every nation under heaven. 6 When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 They were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 How is it that each of us can hear them in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the magnificent acts of God in our own tongues.
There are two things that I want you to notice about this passage. One is the timing of this. God could have chosen any day to send his Spirit. It’s not an accident that God chose this day, the day that the whole world is still in Jerusalem, when he sends his Holy Spirit. -because this is the day that’s going to make the biggest impact not just on Jesus’s church, but on the people who are in Jerusalem, who are witnessing, hearing, and seeing what’s happening in that upper room. I want you to notice how this happened, because this is where some pastors get it wrong. In fact, I’m convinced they teach their church some jacked up theology here because some pastors teach that in order for you to receive the Holy Spirit, you have to have this miraculous experience where you’re speaking in tongues, this unknown language that’s recorded for us in the book of Corinthians.
This isn’t an unknown language. This is one language that everybody in the world can hear, and everybody in the world understands this language. This isn’t the miracle of unknown language. This is the miracle of global language. I said a few weeks ago, if you want to know what language we’re going to speak when we get to Heaven, this is it. -because with this language, everybody understands everybody. You can even understand the rednecks from lower Alabama with this language. The people are listening, and they’re saying, “Everybody in that room, they all come from the same region. They all come from Galilee. But we hear them and understand what they’re saying because we’re hearing their words in our own tongues.” Why do you think God did it this way? It’s pretty obvious to me, and I hope it is to you too. God did it this way and on this date because this will have the biggest impact on the crowd in Jerusalem.
This is the church on day one. Acts chapter two is the spiritual birthday of Jesus’s church. But I hope you didn’t miss it. God did it the way that he did it, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit when he sent him the way that he sent him, so that this would have the biggest impact on the crowd in Jerusalem and the majority of people would see it, hear it, and be changed by it. Here’s what I’m saying: Those folks were in that upper room for days after Jesus left, and nobody in the crowd could care. But when the Holy Spirit came in one second, everybody stood up and everybody took notice because of the difference the Holy Spirit makes when he dwells inside a man or a woman who follows Jesus Christ.
I want you to listen carefully to what I’m going to say next because it’s very important. Please hear what I have to say. Maybe you’re really struggling at work right now, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Man, my boss is such a jerk. I don’t know how I’m going to make it.” Or maybe for you it’s your marriage and you’re saying, “If my husband were the man that God wanted him to be, if my wife treated me the way that the Bible says she’s supposed to treat me, I wouldn’t be going through this misery right now.” Maybe for somebody out there, it’s finances, and it’s all falling apart. Maybe it’s health for you, and you’re thinking to yourself, “God, do you know what I’m going through? God, do you even care what I’m experiencing right now?” It’s natural when things start to hurt really bad to ask those questions. “God, do you know? God, do you care?”
For some of you, you’ve gotten to the point where you realize, “Oh, God knows exactly what I’m going through, and maybe he’s not causing it, but he’s allowing it to happen to me.” Now you’re wrestling with an even bigger question because you’re saying, “God, if you’re supposed to be a good God and if you’re supposed to be a big God, if you really did care, you could make this pain go away and you’re not.” Now you’re wrestling with “God, why don’t you make this pain go away?” This is what the Christian apologist, this famous Oxford atheist who became a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, C.S. Lewis, referred to as God’s megaphone. He said pain is God’s megaphone. God uses it to shout to you about your faith. God also uses pain to shout to others about faith in Jesus because they’re watching the way that you handle yourself.
This whole sermon today is building towards this one point. Why did God choose this day? Why did God choose this method? Why did God do it when he did it and the way that he did it? Does God still send his Holy Spirit? Does the Holy Spirit really make a difference in 2018 in the Chattahoochee Valley? Well, here’s the answer to that question. When God sends his Holy Spirit, that Holy Spirit becomes a fire that will consume a man or a woman. Oftentimes, God does it the way that he does it so that it will have the biggest impact on the people around you. God will set a man or a woman on fire so that others around you will watch you burn, and they’ll make a decision. Is your God big enough to make a difference when life gets really hard? Does your God really care? Does he help you deal with the problems that everybody deals with? Does it make a difference that you have the Holy Spirit?
The way that you live should communicate to those students at college or to those folks you work with, there’s something different about you because God lit you on fire with his Holy Spirit. Now you’re a different woman or a different man because of it. This is kind of like a bonfire in the woods on a cold Friday night. People come from all over town to gather around that bonfire and to hang out and watch that fire burn. It makes that kind of a difference for everybody who sees it. I am convinced God is still in the business of sending his Spirit like a consuming fire so that your friends and your family see there’s something different about you.
• I want the Holy Spirit to make me into a new person. Today, I surrendered to Jesus for the first time.
– I’m not living by the strength of the Holy Spirit right now. Pray for me to seek His power for my problems this week.
+ I will show my neighbors what a person on fire by the Holy Spirit looks like this week.
- When did you most strongly feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the past?
- Describe one way in which you showed a total dependence on the Holy Spirit last week.
- Do you know people who “speak in tongues”?
- Which is worse: to believe the Holy Spirit isn’t real or to live like the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist in your life?
- Can you think of an example of God acting in history that didn’t involve a work of the Holy Spirit?
- Is there an area of your life that is still at war with the Holy Spirit?
- Pray for people to see the power of the Holy Spirit in your life this week.