“They were all together in one place…when suddenly, all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” Acts 2
Have you ever had to start all over again when you have just experienced and been emotionally uprooted by a terrible tragedy or a tremendous change in your life? Questions flood our minds and hearts: Where do I start to get my life back on track? How and where do I begin to deal with the many changes that need to be made NOW! Will things ever be the same again? Will the hurt ever end? Where do I go from here, and how do I get there? Will life ever be better? How long, Lord? Why me, Lord?
On May 27, 2012, we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. For many Christians around the world, it’s just slightly above being “just another Sunday.” Some churches may not even recognize it. And yet, this has to be one of the greatest events in all church history. Why?
According to Jewish history, the first Pentecost occurred when Moses met with God on Mount Sinai and received the Torah. In Leviticus, God commanded this day to be observed forever by all believers as the Feast of Pentecost. Christians remember the Pentecost of Acts 2 as the “birthday of the Church” when the early believers gathered to mark this Ordained-by-God-Feast Day, and were empowered power from on high through the gift of the Holy Spirit God gave them to be the Church … to preach the Gospel in “Jerusalem, Judea,Samaria, and the uttermost ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
But to stop with the story here is a travesty. To end our story with Acts 28, the letters of Paul and others, and the Book of Revelation does not begin to honor the work of those who have gone before us. Maybe we need to ask as children often do, “Then what happened?” The next several decades were the most difficult, yet some of the most triumphant years in all of church history as the church grew and flourished in the midst of the worst persecution ever. How did they do it? What can we learn from these “bravest of the brave” early Christians as we seek to be the church our world needs today?
In many Bible studies on Acts, this may be exactly what we need to do – not so much from the historical events that Luke writes so clearly about in Acts, but from the perspective which asks, “How did these people become so strong spiritually that they were able to endure the horrific obstacles that tried to fracture and eliminate the infant church? What can we learn from them to be more like them?”
Halfway into a study I compiled on Acts, I noted the following “Points of Growing Stronger in our Faith”. As you read through these – make the connections in your own life.
* The early church began by obeying the words of the Risen Jesus who told them not to go back home to Galilee after the Resurrection, but to stay in Jerusalem and wait on the gift God would send them. For weeks, they had been on a tremendous roller coaster ride experiencing the last days of Jesus: witnessing His suffering and death on the cross; then feeling the tumultuous joy of His Resurrection and being able to be in presence of their Savior and Lord Jesus once again – only to be followed by watching Him leave them again!
We cannot begin to imagine the extremes of emotions they had endured. Going back “home” to Galilee must have seemed like the very best, most logical thing to do – but instead, they obeyed Jesus and remained in Jerusalem. They didn’t just “hang out” either, but met in the Upper Room and Temple outer courts daily – seven days each week – for prayers and worship as they listened to the Apostles teach the scriptures. Every evening, they gathered in the Upper Room as family for meals and to share the sacrament of Communion and times of sweet fellowship as the body of Christ.
Have you reached a point in your life where although you don’t know everything, you think you know enough that you don’t really need to study the Bible?
Have you ever limited your attendance at worship to occasional Sundays that are more convenient for you?
* As they grew in their discipleship, they were called to minister to the Samaritans – those half-breed Israelites that live on the other side of the tracks — they don’t even want to be near them, much less give them the Gospel message!
Has God ever called you to reach out to people you don’t like?
* The believers see the worst traits of Peter and Paul become transformed into their greatest gifts as they submit to God. They realize that there are no wasted moments with God. Our worst traits can become His best as we humble ourselves in obedience to Him and His teachings. They also learn that there are no coincidences with God! In fact the very irony of His plans stuns His followers as they see foot-in-mouth Peter become a gifted, eloquent preacher, winning thousands to Christ, and watch Paul who witnessed the stoning of Stephen become THE Apostle who will take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Try this! List the worst character traits you used to have, and how the love of Christ has transformed them and you as you have given your life to Him!
The greater their faithfulness and submission was to God, the greater was their ability to allow the Holy Spirit to work miracles through them. Good news is preached to the poor! The brokenhearted are comforted and healed! The blind see! The hungry are fed! The crippled walk! The untouchable are touched in love! Physical and spiritual captives are released from bondage and darkness! Beloved, the many needs of all humanity in this day and age are the church’s greatest opportunities to be the witnesses and disciples Christ has called each of us to be. Empowered by that same Holy Spirit, and by giving all that we are and all that we have in obedience to the love of Christ, we can grow strong and be the Church that our world so desperately needs today.
Now This is Pentecost! Then and Now!
From my heart to yours, Kay