Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Power of Pentecost

And being assembled together with [them], He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," [He said], "you have heard from Me; "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
Acts 1:4-9 NKJV

Quite a few years ago while playing softball on my church league team, I had occasion to break my wrist rather severely on a collision at home plate. The result was having my entire arm put in a cast even up to and past my elbow for a period of six weeks or so. This was probably one of the more uncomfortable periods in my life because I was told to do absolutely nothing with that arm or hand until the cast came off.

You can imagine my relief when the time finally arrived where the doctor felt the bones had healed enough for the cast to come off. Of course, having never broken anything before it came as a severe shock to find out that although the bones had healed, the result of being totally immobilized for that length of time was that my arm was completely useless! The muscles had weakened to the point that I could barely lift my arm much less do anything with it. What followed was a few weeks of serious physical therapy in order to build up the muscles to the point where they were before the accident.

Wanting to do something and not having the power to do it was a pretty helpless feeling for me, and in a way, when I read this passage about Jesus leaving the disciples I think in a way they may have felt the same. They had witnessed, and been a part of, some very powerful moments in the last three years and yet they were facing the loss of what to them was the source of that power. It is at this point that Jesus tells them that He is going to send them a helper in the person of the Holy Spirit in just a few days.

It seems they did not at first understand exactly what Jesus was saying to them for they asked if that would be the day the kingdom would be restored. I wonder if this was the point where they knew something needed to be done, but like my useless arm, also knew they didn't have the power to perform it. Jesus goes on to explain that the plan was for them to be witnesses of all they had seen, and the Holy Spirit would be the source of the power they would need to accomplish that task.

I can't help but wonder, though, if even with the words of Jesus in their ears were they really prepared for the events that occurred on the Day of Pentecost just ten days later.

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. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.
Acts 2:1-6 NKJV

Can you even begin to imagine what this must have felt like to them? From the setting, it would seem the disciples were all together in a house when all of a sudden this sound occurs that obviously could be heard by not only the disciples, but the city of Jerusalem as well. Then what appears to be balls of fire appear and sit on each of them, and they begin to speak in different languages! Because it was Pentecost, Jerusalem was filled with Jews from other nations of the world, yet each of these heard the disciples speaking in the language of their countries.

Now some might think that the disciples knew what was happening and just “went with the flow” but I have a feeling these men were as shocked as the people around them. Imagine having coffee with some of your friends and suddenly you hear the sound of a hurricane type wind and balls of fire appear sitting on each of you and you begin to speak in a language you never even studied! I would have to say Jesus wasn't exaggerating when He said they would “receive power”. The best part of this, however, is that this was not a gift to just the disciples but a gift to the Church which means anyone who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior receives this same Spirit to indwell and empower to serve Him.

Pentecost is considered by most as the beginning of what we call the Church Age, or the birthday of the Church as we know it. Many believe that the rapture of the Church will happen on it's birthday also, which will result not only in the removal of all believers, but of the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit as well. The removal of the Holy Spirit seems to be supported by a passage in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians concerning the end of the age, and the beginning of that period of time called the tribulation. Some of them had heard that this time had already begun yet Paul tells them that “He who now restrains” must first be removed. Most scholars identify the restrainer as the Holy Spirit at work in the body of the Church, and the removal refers to the rapture of all believers at the end of this age.

And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains [will do so] until He is taken out of the way.
2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 NKJV

Anyone who has studied the events of the period of time the Bible calls the tribulation cannot help but be appalled by what occurs when evil is “unrestrained”. Yet does all that happens during that time not show just how powerful the presence of the Holy Spirit in His believers right now is? The only thing that is holding back Satan's forces from destroying the entire world is the power of the Holy Spirit, and that same power is alive inside of each of us who believe.

It was a helpless feeling for me to want to use my arm and yet not have the power to do so. There have been many times when I also wondered if I had the power to do something I knew God wanted me to do. It's at these times we need to remember just how powerful the Holy Spirit inside of us is, and we need never fear that we somehow lack the power to accomplish any task He sets before us.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

Keep watching.