Sunday, January 13, 2019
Unstoppable: The Revolutionary Gospel
Part 2: When God Shows Up
Sometimes the most foolish sounding ideas turn out to produce the most extraordinary results. Listen to these real statements made about people and products.
In 1876, a Western Union internal memo read, “This ’telephone’ [thing] has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
Marechal Ferdinand Foch, [French] Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, said this prior to WWII: “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, in 1927 said of the new so-called “talkies” movies: "Who wants to hear actors talk?"
Here’s a statement: "But what...is it [possibly] good for?" That statement was made by an engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, about a brand-new invention known as the microchip.
In 1962 Decca Recording Co. rejected an obscure music group by saying: “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” That group was called the Beatles.
Sometimes from the smallest of things come the greatest of movements. People often misevaluate the potential for success.
In A.D. 30 they were probably saying something like this: “Their leader has just been crucified; his followers are scattered. They are a bunch of spineless cowards anyway. The Jesus movement is over. It will never get off the ground.”
How wrong they were. The movement that began with a man named Jesus of Nazareth sparked a revolution which is still going on today – a revolution that has reached every corner of the globe and transformed the lives of billions of people.
Last week we began a new series on the book of Acts. The book about how Jesus’ followers took his message and changed their world. And how this revolutionary Gospel has become unstoppable.
By learning the lessons of this book, we can see how we, too, can change our world with the Good News about Jesus Christ.
This morning we are going to look at the event which sparked the empowerment of the Church, the pouring out of the Spirit of God on the Day of Pentecost.
Read Acts 2:1-21.
Pentecost was also called the “Feast of Harvest” and it was a harvest festival, to celebrate the wheat harvest. Bread made from the first grain harvested would be offered to the LORD as an offering of thanksgiving for the harvest. (It was kind of their Thanksgiving Day)
Pentecost means “fiftieth.” That’s because the festival occurs 50 days after Passover. Now remember, Jesus was crucified on Passover, so this event occurs fifty days after that. If you do your math: Jesus rose from the dead after 3 days, then spent 40 days with his disciples, before ascending. That leaves about a week before Pentecost. So, the events that occur here happened about a week after Jesus ascended to Heaven.
Something else interesting about the Feast of Pentecost, is that in later Judaism it became a celebration of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.
Now we’ve got to do some OT history here. You can’t understand the NT without knowing its OT background.
The events described in the OT book of Exodus show how God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. Moses led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea to Mount Sinai. There at Mount Sinai God made a Covenant and gave them a Law and made them their people.
We could call the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai the “Birth of a Nation.” Because Israel was established as God’s people at Mount Sinai. In fact, God says that. He says in Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I brought my Son.” Egypt was the womb that gave birth to his nation Israel.
But you see there is an interesting parallel here: If the Law at Mount Sinai was the birth of nation Israel, and Pentecost celebrated that event, it is appropriate that God would give birth to the Church, his New People on that very day.
The word “Testament” means “Covenant” or Agreement between two parties.
The OT is about God’s covenant with his people Israel. The covenant he made at Mount Sinai. The NT is about the New Covenant. The one God made through Jesus through his death and resurrection.
Just as Israel celebrated the Old Covenant at Passover and at Pentecost, so we have a time when we celebrate the New Covenant. Do you know when that it?
It is at communion, or the Lord’s Supper. At his Last Supper Jesus said, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood.” Through his death on the cross, he inaugurated the New Covenant.
This “New Covenant” is not some new idea made up by Christians. It was prophesied; it was predicted already in the Old Testament.
Jeremiah 31:31-33 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.”
You see Israel broke the Old Covenant. They were like an unfaithful wife, who had an affair; who had destroyed the relationship. So, God said he was going to make a brand new and better covenant; a permanent one.
Jeremiah continues in verses 33-34 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Look at the benefits of the new covenant.
First, God was going to write his Law on their hearts. No longer would they be dependent on long lists of dos and don’ts. (It’s like when you are first learning how to do something; say work your dvr [some of you still don’t know how to work your dvr]. But you follow all the directions step by step. But in time, you’ve got it all in here. You do it naturally. God was going to write his Law in their hearts.
Secondly, is they would all know the LORD, in an intimate way. No longer would they have
Third, they would have free and complete forgiveness.
How could people have all of these things? They could have them only in one way: Because God himself would come to live within them.
Through the permanent indwelling of his Spirit. God promised that when he inaugurated his New Covenant, he would give his people his Spirit.
Peter quotes from the OT prophet Joel 2:28-32, who predicted that the coming of this New Covenant, this New Age, would begin with the pouring out of God’s Spirit – that is what Jeremiah means by the Law written on their hearts.
Look at verse 17 of Acts 2 again, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”
God’s Spirit would come to live inside of believers. They would then have God’s Law written in their hearts (the Spirit’s guiding); the would know God (he would be permanently living with them); he would make them new (all their sins would be forgiven.
So, Israel read these passages and longed for the day when God would make a new Covenant; write his Law on their hearts; give them his Spirit on all people.
Now Peter announces, “That day has arrived.”
When God showed up at Pentecost:
1. The Age of Salvation (the “Last Days”) has begun
Many books today touting the coming of the end times. But according to the Bible, the end times began 2000 years ago. Now, don’t get me wrong. Those days may be coming to a close very soon...I hope so. I hope Christ returns in my lifetime.
But what I’m saying is you don’t have to wait for then to experience true joy of salvation. You don’t have to wait till then to receive God’s presence in your life. You don’t have to wait till then to experience true and complete forgiveness.
Let’s look at the events which happen to herald the coming of the Holy Spirit.
(1) In verse 2 we see the sound like the blowing of a violent wind: 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven
Both the Hebrew and Greek words for Spirit can also mean “wind,” and so rushing wind is symbol of the presence of the Spirit.
(2) The second thing we see in verse 3 are tongues of fire burning on top of the believers. They must have looked like candles. What’s that all about?
Fire in Scripture symbolizes the presence of God. Do you remember what happened to Moses? God reveals himself through a burning bush. Then, when Israel is in the wilderness God protects the nation with a pillar of fire going before them. It symbolizes the presence of God.
(3) Then they begin speaking in other “tongues” or languages. Verse 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there is debate today about the nature of the gift of tongues; some people believe it is a kind of prayer language. But it is obvious here in this passage what this gift is. It is the ability to speak in a language that you have never formally learned.
Look at verse 6: “When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’”
Suddenly everyone is hearing the Gospel in their own language. This is a powerful image; because language is something that brings people together.
If you have ever spent time in a place where no one understood your language, you know just how frustrating and difficult this can be. Language brings people together; and language differences break them apart, causing confusion and conflict.
These people on the Day of Pentecost began hearing the Gospel not in the common trade language, Greek, but in their own native tongue. It spoke to their heart.
The message is that God is now making his message known to all peoples in their own languages. He is breaking down the barriers that divide.
The OT is all about God’s consolidation on one people; his separation. Israel was called to come out from the rest of the nations and to be distinct, to be different.
Now that salvation has been achieved through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Messiah the time for consolidation and separation is over. Now is the time for expansion and unification.
You see before, God’s people of the Old Covenant were to form a holy huddle and protect themselves from outside influences, whereas the people of the New Covenant are to do just the opposite. They are to reach out and bring others in. To incorporate all peoples into the one people of God. To be light; to be salt. To break down the things that divide and separate.
Look at the quotation of Joel again in verse 17: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”
The Church is now facing outward. Calling people from every tribe, and nation, and language group to be part of the one great unified people of God. The role of the Church; the role of the Gospel is to break down the barriers that divide us.
Only the coming of the Holy Spirit, who brings people together as it did at Pentecost, can bring people together for the kingdom today.
When God showed up at Pentecost:
2. Believers are empowered to take the message of salvation to the ends of the earth.
To break down the barriers that divide us.
The miracle of tongues was just the beginning. On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples were empowered by the Spirit to go out and boldly preach the Word of God.
Empowered to do miracles in Jesus’ name.
Empowered to love their enemies.
Empowered to face life’s greatest crises; like suffering and persecution; like financial loss; like the pain of illness.
And so, do we. We have the same Spirit today. Same power to face suffering; financial loss; debilitating illness and cancer; broken relationships. We can come together and support one another by one Spirit.
There is a great Peanuts cartoon in which Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels.
"What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus. "These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."
"Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can’t you guys get organized like that?"
That’s a question we have to ask ourselves this morning.
We have that power, too. If we can stay focused on the same goals and the same purpose. We can accomplish great things for God. If we will come together in the power of the one Spirit, nothing can break us apart.
That means meeting the needs of those around us. Setting aside pride, selfish ambition, wrong motives. Looking out for the good of the body.
When God shows up, He comes in power and authority.