May 19, 2024

“Come Spirit Come” (Full Service)

Passage: Acts 2: 1-11, Acts 2: 37-47
Service Type:

Sermon begins at 24:57


Sermon:   “Come Spirit, Come!”

Scripture Acts 2: 1-21 and 32-43


Let me begin with a question that some of you may have been thinking but have been reluctant to ask …   What would make a died-in-the -wool Presbyterian like me,  reach into my closet, past all the black, and variations on black blazers there, and instead choose a fire-engine red blazer and technicolour scarf to wear today?  yes, it’s springtime that’s so…but red?  It’s Pentecost!  … a unique occasion when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Jesus in a powerful way… which was preceded by  something that was like a rushing wind, and looked like tongues of fire, and sounded like many different foreign languages being spoken at once!


Did you know that the Christian celebration of Pentecost is rooted in the Old Testament Jewish celebration called the Feast of Weeks, which was much like our Thanksgiving.   The Pente of the word Pentecost means 50…and the Feast of Weeks was held 50 days after the celebration of God’s deliverance of the Jews at Passover… At the Feast of Weeks, the Jews gave the first sheaf of their wheat harvest to God in thanksgiving and the High Priest also took two loaves of freshly baked wheat bread and offered them before the Lord.


Each year, in May or early June, the Jews would gather in Jerusalem to give thanks to God for the wheat harvest.  At the same time, the Jews celebrated the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.  It was what  I would call a “command performance” meaning according to the law, all the Jewish men had to travel to Jerusalem for the celebration. No work…no school…no commerce allowed!   One might say, the Feast of Weeks was a joyful obligation!


But as we’ve heard from scripture this morning, this  particular  Pentecost was very different from all the others!  Pastor Alistair Begg has described Pentecost in this way… as an unrepeatable, unmistakeable, and unavoidable event.


In  what ways was this celebration of Pentecost unrepeatable?


Just as other events like the creation, the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension were single events in world history, so was the outpouring of  God’s promised gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit was poured out on all the apostles, as well as the people gathered together with them at this celebration of the Feast of  Pentecost.  The  wind, the fire, and the tongues were visible and audible signs of the Spirit coming upon the people.  You may remember that  Jesus had promised his disciples that when he went away that he would send a helper… an advocate… a comforter to lead them into all truth (John 14: 15-18) … and this was the day that the fledgling New Testament Church received the Holy Spirit in all its fulness.


In what ways was this Pentecost unmistakeable?


This Pentecost was unmistakeable because the power of God’s Spirit came upon the people suddenly, and in an extraordinary and spectacular way. Suddenly, they all heard something from heaven like the sound of a rushing violent wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. This unusual sound was the power of the life-giving Spirit being breathed out into his people.


Next,  they saw tongues of fire appear amongst them and tongue-like flames come to rest upon each person.  And they began to hear the word of God being proclaimed. One hundred and twenty  people were praising God together and sharing the good news of Jesus in languages other than their own, as the Spirit empowered them. As eyewitnesses to these spectacular manifestations, the apostles knew that this was no ordinary wind, and no ordinary fire… rather they realized that this was the evidence of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God. The power of wind and fire also reminded the Jewish Christians of the  unmistakeable power displayed in the lightning, thunder, fire and smoke that were evident at Mt. Sinai when the Word of the Law was given to Moses.


Finally, in what ways was this celebration of Pentecost unavoidable?


This Pentecost was unavoidable because what happened there couldn’t help but spill over to the thousands of other people who were gathered for the Jewish festival…their curiosity was piqued…they heard people whom they knew to be Galileans because of their almost unintelligible dialect, speaking clearly, not in their own tongues, but  in the  native tongues of the others there…How could this be?  They were astonished, and perplexed and they wanted to know more about this Jesus and his power… No one who was in Jerusalem could have missed the spectacular effect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that day!


And what does this outpouring of the Spirit mean for us over 2,000 years later?


First of all, the coming  of the Holy Spirit was prophesied by the prophet Joel hundreds of years before.   The prophet Joel had prophesized to the Jews that a time of restoration was coming!   He said that in the last days,  God would pour out His Spirit on all humankind.   Sons and daughters would prophesy, old men would dream dreams, young men would see visions, and even male and female servants would have the Holy Spirit poured out on them. (Joel 2:28-32)  In other words, the Holy  Spirit of God would one day be available to all believers, including you and me!


Joel also prophesied that before Jesus returned to earth at his second coming, that there would be signs in the heaven above and signs on the earth below; thunder and lightning and fire, and smoky mist.  The sun would be turned to darkness and the moon to blood.  And he finished by prophesying,  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!”


So, over 2,000 years ago, this singular celebration of Pentecost marked the beginning of what Joel described as “ last days”…the days between the celebration of Pentecost and Jesus’ Second Coming. These are the “last days” that we are still living in right now.

What is remarkable is that given that God could choose any day he wanted to pour out the Holy Spirit on his people,  that God chose this singular Jewish Festival of Pentecost as the day!  A


On this particular Pentecost, the streets of Jerusalem were already jammed with Jewish pilgrims,  from at least 15 different widespread geographical regions, to celebrate the goodness of God and the bringing in of the wheat harvest. It seems that God was not above taking advantage of this opportune moment, a captive audience and the right moment in history for the gospel to be spread.


Perhaps God chose this day because the annual Feast of Pentecost was an occasion when devout Jews would be rubbing shoulders with the Jewish converts who now considered themselves to be “followers of Jesus” or “followers of the Way”.  Because the Jewish Christians were a tiny minority, they likely still feared for their own safety and hoped to feel inconspicuous in the crowd.  But instead  the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on them gave them a distinct boldness for the gospel that they had only briefly experienced before! (Luke 10: 1-24)


As for the devout Jews who were gathering for the celebration, they were a captive audience for what transpired that day…probably feeling drawn like moths to a flame.  Hearing Galileans speaking to the Jews in their  own native tongues must have been shocking!      And equally unexpected would be that God chose the uneducated, uncultured, undistinguished Jewish fisherman, Peter, to preach his first sermon ever, to the overflow Jewish crowd gathered there!


Why Peter? Of all people he could choose?  Do you remember Jesus’ intervention with Peter on the beach after the resurrection, when Jesus asked him three times…Do you love me, Peter?  And each time Jesus admonished him… “if you love me Peter…feed my lambs, tend my sheep!”  It was in this encounter, that Peter submitted himself to the Lordship of Jesus in his life, and so, Peter was forever changed!   Filled with the Holy Spirit, and  no longer operating in his own strength or with his own pride, Peter was open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit who led him to preach to the people…to everyone who was gathered there… preaching to thousands… something he had never done before!


And with the Spirit speaking through Peter,  the Spirit touched the people in a powerful way.  In a crowd of thousands,  3,000 people repented, were baptized and saved in one day!

If you’ve been to Israel, you may remember the ceremonial baths where many of these new converts would have been baptised.   What nobody knew at the time  was that at this particular celebration of Pentecost that God intended to pour out his Holy Spirit on his followers in order to equip them to spread the good news about Jesus throughout the world.   And so later Jewish Christians came to refer to  Pentecost as a “double portion” harvest feast- incorporating  the giving of the Word at Mount Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. A celebration of the Word of God  and the Spirit of God!


So, what does this ancient Pentecost experience mean to us in 2024?


Scripture teaches that if we confess Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, that the Holy Spirit comes to us and indwells us and will remain with us forever. (Ephesians 1: 13)  The indwelling and sealing of the Spirit  of God in us takes place at the moment we believe in Jesus!  The Spirit fills us initially, and then keeps on filling us forever!


After we are indwelt by the Spirit of God, then we are gradually transformed  spiritually as we are changed into Jesus’ likeness by the working of the Holy Spirit in us.  As we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit,  our character begins to exhibit more and more of the fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


So how can we be filled with the Spirit? This happens when we repent of our sins and ask Jesus to forgive us and commit to following Jesus.  In doing this,  we make ourselves open and available to the Holy Spirit… open to be filled, and to be  filled over and over again.  Being filled with the Spirit is not something that we do, but rather it is something that God does, when we allow him to. I’m reminded of this principle in the words of an old chorus.


Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way

Over my being, absolute sway

Mold me and make me after thy will

While I am waiting, yielded and still


Being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that we have more of the Spirit, but rather that the Spirit has more of us.  Let me say that again…Being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that we have more of the Spirit, but rather that the Spirit has more of us.   The encouraging thing to remember is that we do not have to beg God to do what he has promised to do for us…once the Spirit is indwelling us, then the Spirit willingly keeps on filling us…there is no limit to the infilling of the Spirit of God.


But, if we are preoccupied with ourselves,  if we are driven by own sinful thoughts and behaviours and are disobedient to God and his Word, there will be little or no room left for the Spirit to fill us.  We must be prepared to surrender those things in our lives which are not honouring to God so that the Spirit of God has the room to come and fill us anew.


I’d like to leave you with an illustration which some of you might recognize  that I’ve used before…this illustration will help you to visualize what I’m trying to say.  Each of these three jars has the same capacity but I could also have used jars of various sizes.  The size of the jar is not important.


  1. If I asked you to fill up this jar that is already filled with a lot of things…you would reply…I can’t fill it up…It’s already full!
  2. If I asked you to fill up this empty jar with its lid screwed on tight, you would reply… I can’t fill up this jar either!  Yes, it’s empty but it’s not open to be filled.


3            Finally,  if I asked you to fill up the empty jar with no lid, you would reply go ahead…let’s fill-er-up to the brim!


In other words, you can’t fill a jar that is already full,  and you can’t fill an empty jar that’s not open.  It’s only if the jar is empty and open that it can be filled.   Likewise, it’s only when we’ve made ourselves fully available and open to the Spirit, that the Spirit of God can continually refill us.


It’s when we acknowledge before God that we are weak and empty in and of ourselves AND that we need the supernatural filling of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit will continue to fill us over and over and over again.  We need to be open to the Spirit of God moving in our hearts…convicting us of sin, and making us more and more open to his prompting.  The power of the Holy Spirit is what the disciples received at Pentecost.  And this same power is available to each of us too today.


It's my prayer that together, as the Body of Christ, we may boldly look to the future with confidence and joy like the early disciples did on the day of Pentecost.  May we experience the richness of continually being filled and enpowered by the Holy Spirit as we learn how to yield more and more of our lives to him.  And may we long to actively participate in the movement of the Spirit of God that will bring healing, restoration and reconciliation to our broken world.  At all times, and in all places, with courage and grace, may we joyfully give voice to our faith that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God our Father.  Come Spirit, Come and fill our hearts anew!  AMEN