Heavenly Power

Bible Book: Acts  2 : 1-13
Subject: Holy Spirit, Power of; Pentecost; Birth of the Church

In the fall of 2007, Jena, LA, was making national news almost daily. Jena (3,000 pop.) was in the news not because something good going on, rather because of the bad that was going on. For days on end, America was fixed on Jena High School; racial tension there was at an all time high. The ugliest highlights were white students hanging three nooses around a tree on the school grounds. Six black students, known as the “Jenna 6” were charged arrested and charged with aggravated battery in connection with the beating of a fellow white student. You’ve probably heard that story. How many know what’s happening in Jena today? Revival not racism is the focus in Jena today! Jesus, not jail, is the focus in Jena today! FBC Jena Pastor Dominick Dicarlo, Jr. heads a pastors alliance there and says, "We have been meeting since December 2006 with intense fervency for prayer. We wanted to see reconciliation and we were burdened for that to occur between cultures -- a white community and a black community." Pat Taylor of First Jena says, "When it's God-breathed, that means God is in control. It's God's Spirit who brought all this about; we can't anybody brag about it. We prayed for a year and a half for a revival…there's no sense of competition, there's a sense of excitement, a sense of awe."

Reading about the Jena revival in recent days reminds me of the fact that God still moves. God still moves in the hearts of His people through prayer and by the power of the Holy Spirit. When God’s Spirit moves in your life, you are never the same.

Acts 2 is the story of what happened on the Day of Pentecost, the celebration of God sending Holy Spirit power into the lives of all who follow the Lord Jesus Christ. You and I need that same “Heavenly Power” today in order to be effective in our service to the Lord! Interestingly, Pentecost is not a blessing New Testament believers alone enjoy, but was also an important annual Jewish feast celebrated in the Old Testament.

I. Pentecost In The Old Testament

What is Pentecost? How and why was it celebrated in the Old Testament?

Pentecost was one of the seven annual feasts the Jewish people observed in the O.T. Pentecost, also called the “Feast of Weeks,” means “fifty” and was observed fifty days after the Passover Feast.

Passover, you may recall, served to be a reminder to Israel that God alone was their Mighty Deliverer. Passover reminded them that the blood of a perfectly innocent lamb had to be shed in order to have forgiveness of sins and new life. Jesus Christ is the perfect Lamb of God, slain before the foundations of the world. John the Baptist said of Jesus Christ, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Only through the blood of Jesus Christ and through faith in Jesus Christ can we be delivered from slavery unto sin and made “alive unto God.”

Pentecost always began one day after Passover, “one day after the Sabbath,” which is Sunday. It symbolized “harvest time.” God told Moses in Leviticus 23:16, “Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:22, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger. I am the Lord Your God.”

Pentecost was a time of joyful celebration unto the Lord because of His faithfulness in providing them a great harvest of grain. Because God was so good to them, Israel was commanded to give back a portion to God. In thankful worship unto the Lord, they would give their best first fruits to God before they partook of it for themselves.

Why did God want His people to observe Pentecost?

“One of the great struggles of the sinful nature is to give away to God or others what we have possession of. Our Sinful nature tries to hold on to everything for self.” – Dennis Marquardt

Pentecost has always been a season associated with joy, rejoicing, and giving. Even today, the most joyful people I know are people who give back to God out of a heart of love– realizing God has first greatly given to them! It’s important to see that Pentecost was not only celebrated in the N.T., but was also a major part of Old Testament worship.

II. Pentecost In The New Testament

What happened on the Day of Pentecost that we read about in Acts 2? Instead of the O.T. Pentecost harvest of grain, N.T. Pentecost produced a great harvest of souls as 3,000 people found new life in Christ!

The power of God was so evident. There was a mighty sound, a marvelous sight, and miraculous speech. Beginning in Acts 2:1, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

A. First, the mighty sound.

I have only been involved in one tornado incident. It happened when I was a little boy in Arkansas. My best friend and I were outside riding bikes when my mom called us in saying a tornado was headed our way. We all crawled into mom’s closet for safety. A few minutes later, the sound of the tornado was heard all throughout our city. I’ll never forget the fear of hearing that soul chilling sound of the tornado. It sounded like a massive train was about to collide with our house!

Dr. Luke describes the coming of the Holy Spirit as a “sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind.” In the Bible, wind often symbolizes the presence of God. You cannot control the wind, but you can see the evidence of the wind at work. The wind of God is needed to blow away fear, confusion, false beliefs in our lives!

Prophet Ezekiel had a vision of dry bones in a valley. The bones represented people who had lost all sense of hope. They were cold, cut off from the presence of God, dead and lifeless. When the wind of God came upon those dry bones, “…they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army,” (Ezekiel 37:10).

You may recall that Jesus said to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Do not marvel that I say to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So it everyone who is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:6-8). The wind of God Holy Spirit brings new life to those who are dead in sin.

B. Second, the marvelous sight.

“Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. (Acts 2:3)

Fire in the Scriptures is also associated with the presence of God. Do you remember what John the Baptist said concerning Jesus? He said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,” (Matthew 3:11).

Lloyd John Ogilve says, “We all need the fire of the Spirit to convince us of the fact we are loved unqualifiedly and released to love unreservedly. The undeniable test that we have been baptized with the fire of the Holy Spirit is a new and deeper capacity to love.”

C. Third, the miraculous speech.

One of the greatest miracles on the Day of Pentecost was the miracle of Christ followers speaking in a new language, previously unknown to them. There were people from at least 15 different countries together on the Day of Pentecost. God’s Holy Spirit so filled every follower of Christ that each nation represented at Pentecost heard about the power of God in their own native tongue!

Acts 2:8 says,

“And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?”

God’s Spirit often works in miraculous ways. Two women were arguing about whether miracles were possible. One said, “I don’t believe that Jesus actually turned water into wine.” “I know this much,” the other replied, “my husband was an alcoholic, but God’s presence has changed his life. I may not have been there to witness Jesus turn water into wine, but I have seen him turn beer into furniture.”

III. Do We Need Another Pentecost Today?

Yes and No. No in the sense that Pentecost like we read about in the Book of Acts happened only one time. Yes in the sense that daily God’s people should allow the Holy Spirit to fill them. Listen to what Robert Smith, Jr. says, “God as Father is God without human skin. God as Son is God who comes with skin. God as Spirit is God who gets inside our skin.”

Many of God’s people are wondering why their Christian life is so empty. They sense a lack of power, confidence, and joy in their personal life of faith. They are disappointed when church life lacks vitality and their own faith seems like a thing of the past.

What hope can the church bring? A church with people full of God’s Word and Spirit can do much good. Listen, discouragement and depression are abounding in our nation today. In fact, in a Wall Street Journal article entitled, “The Great Depression,” out of the fourteen nations polled, America was found to be the saddest nation.

In a sad, sin sick nation, dying nation that has lost it way, we need a revival of Holy Spirit hope! One of the greatest needs of the church today is for the people of God say, “No more dead religion. I need to be filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit once more.” Sam Gordon says, “If the greatest sin of the unbeliever is his refusal of new life in Christ, perhaps the greatest sin of the Christian is when he declines life more abundant in the Spirit’s fullness.”

Ephesians 5:18 says, ““Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” Just as the alcoholic longs for more drink, so the Christian should long for the Spirit of God to fill and empower his life to the glory of God. Just as being filled with alcohol leads to disastrous results, being filled with the Spirit of God brings wonderful benefits.

Do you want to be filled with God’s Spirit? It’s critical to your spiritual well being to spend time in the Word of God daily. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly…” Try spending some time in Acts 2 this week. Memorize a passage that speaks to your heart. Share that Scripture with another person. Ask the Lord to fill you and every believer at CWBC with the fullness of God. Thank and praise God at every opportunity this week.

IV. Are You Filled With God’s Holy Spirit?

Nancy Ortberg tells of working as an RN for 10 years before going in another direction. She says, “One of my first patients was a 14 year old girl who had been in a dirt bike accident. As a result of that accident, her leg had to be amputated right below the knee. I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to have been a 14 year old girl with part of your leg missing. I was not prepared for her spirit, however, especially when she lifted her freshly amputated leg up above the bubbling water for me to see and said, "Look at how much I have left!"

Nancy went on to say that as the young teenager kept talking, “My mind was fixed back on the "look how much I have left!" Her gratitude seemed really genuine…she knew she was missing a good part of her leg, and she wouldn't have chosen that. But she was so very thankful for this bit of good news. Her spirit made my spirit soar that day. And I had two good legs.”

Hebrews 12:28 says, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God." Our gratitude, our thankfulness, is a way in which we worship God. We can sing, and that is worship. We can say thank you, and that is worship. And that day in the hospital, the gratitude of a 14-year-old girl moved me.” – Nancy Ortberg

Let God’s blessings in your life move you with gratitude! Whose life will you impact this week with your gratitude and Christ-like spirit? Spirit filled people are thankful people! Ephesians 5:20 says, “…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God still moves. Allow Him to move in your life today.