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Sermon - Acts 2 - The Day of Pentecost

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Sermon – Acts 2 – The Day of Pentecost – preached @ FCC 10/12/08

Lay Reading:  Eph 1:17-23

Pages 1078 and 1692

The book of Acts was written by Luke.  If he sounds familiar, it is because that’s the same guy who wrote the gospels of Luke.  In fact, Luke and Acts are almost like a two volume set of one book.  The book of Luke leads right into Acts, but John gets put in between so all 4 Gospels come together at the front of the New Testament.  Between these two books, they make up almost 30% of the NT, so we are talking about a significant portion of Scripture.  In the book of Acts there are two main themes that run throughout the book.  They are that we are called to be witnesses of Christ (31 times), and the continual role of the Holy Spirit in our lives which is referenced 56 times.  Keep these in mind as we spend the next 8 or so weeks looking at this wonderful book.

I think it’s generally true that people are always looking to improve, to change their lives for the better. That’s why the self help section of the book store has grown so big.  That’s also why there are so many commercials for diet and exercise products – lots of people out there trying to change their appearance for the better. Have you ever seen how you can have something called botox injected into your face, and that will take away your wrinkles?  People are always looking to improve, to change for the better. Isn’t that why people go to school? Isn’t that why people go to conferences and seminars? People want to be changed for the better.

What is it about yourself that you would like to change? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Is it the way you look? Something to do with your health? Something to do with your level of expertise on a certain subject? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

God is interested in change. He’s interested in changing you. Today we are looking at Pentecost, and as we take a look at what happened on Pentecost many years ago, we see that God changed many people’s lives. And as we learn about these things, we will see that God is also interested in changing you - there are certain things about you that God wants to change. What are those things? And how does God plan to do that? We will find the answers as we study God’s Word.  So there is no confusion, today is NOT Pentecost Sunday.  That came shortly after Easter, in May earlier this year.

Two major changes took place on Pentecost. The first change was what happened to the disciples. If you are familiar with the Scriptures, you know that the disciples believed in Jesus as their Savior, but they were still very confused about all kinds of different things. They still didn’t fully understand Jesus’ mission, why he had come to earth. They were still wondering if Jesus would be an earthly king. They were confused, and as a result, they were timid. They had thought he was going into Jerusalem to straighten things out and take over the world basically.  As we know, Christ went into Jerusalem and was killed instead.  He of course rose from the grave three days later, and then ascended into Heaven a while after that, saying he would send someone to them after he was gone.  So the disciples were pretty confused.  They weren’t confident about sharing the Gospel with others. How could they be, if they didn’t fully understand what it meant?

But then Pentecost came. The disciples were together, when the sound of a blowing wind came down from heaven. What seemed to be tongues of fire settled on their heads. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in foreign languages they had never learned before. A crowd gathered, people from all over the world, and that crowd listened as the disciples praised God and preached the Gospel. The Apostle Peter stood up and addressed the crowd – he gave a beautiful sermon that God the Holy Spirit inspired him to preach, a sermon that converted nearly 3000 people in one day.

Do you see the changes that took place on Pentecost? No longer were the disciples confused. Now they understood the plan of salvation completely. No longer were they timid. Now, they were confident, speaking publicly. Think about Peter – two months earlier he was so afraid that he denied Jesus three times. Now he was speaking to the crowd with confidence and understanding that he had never had before.

There was another change that took place on Pentecost, and you could argue that this change was more spectacular than what happened to the disciples. After Peter preached his sermon on Pentecost, 3000 people came to faith and were baptized. We don’t know much about these people. We do know that Jerusalem was packed with people, because of the Festival of Pentecost. Back then, Pentecost was an agricultural festival – God had told the Jews to gather in Jerusalem 50 days after Passover to celebrate the harvest. Jews from all over the Roman Empire came. 3000 of them who were not Christians, who did not believe in Jesus Christ, were changed that day. Their whole way of looking at God, at themselves, at the world, at eternal life – everything had changed. The Holy Spirit was the one who converted those 3000 people that day. Now these people knew how to get to heaven. Now they knew that they were at peace with God. Now they knew that Jesus was their Savior.

Pentecost can be summed up in one word, and I believe that word is change. We see the change that took place in the disciples, and the change that took place in those 3000 people. Our world today needs change. There are so many people who do not believe in Jesus Christ, who do not know how to get to heaven. And there are so many Christians who are like those disciples were before Pentecost – confused, weak, timid. We need the Holy Spirit to come to us, and change us.

Our problem is, we don’t think we need to be changed. “I’m alright the way I am,” we say to ourselves. “What do I need to change about myself?” The answer is, a lot. Yes, it’s true, we are Christians, but we still have sinful habits that we don’t want to get rid of. We still have moments when we are selfish. We still have moments when we completely misunderstand what God is telling us in the Bible. We still have moments when we fail to share our faith because we’re too timid. It is true that many of us are Christians, that those who are will be going to heaven, but we still need to change. We still need to become more and more the people that God wants us to be.  We need to be Jesus-like people doing Jesus-like things.

How does a person change his soul? You can’t do it by trying to be a better person. That’s like saying that there is something wrong with my car, but I’ll try to change that by being a better driver. You need someone to work on your engine, your soul. But the thing is, your soul is too complicated for you to fix yourself. You need someone to fix it for you. And that someone is the Holy Spirit.

But how? On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came directly to those disciples. Today, he could do that if he wanted to, but in the Bible, he tells us that he works in a different way. He no longer comes with the loud sound of a wind, or with what looks like tongues of fire, or with the ability to speak in foreign languages. Pentecost was a one-time event.

Today, the Holy Spirit comes to you through the quiet, humble preaching of the Word. On the surface, it doesn’t look like anything spectacular. But on the inside of you, all kinds of changes are taking place.

And what happens when we combine God’s Word with bread and wine, as Jesus did on the night he was betrayed? Once again, it doesn’t look like anything spectacular, but it is. Because when we partake in communion the Holy Spirit can change us.  He can strengthen our faith, and he increases our love for Christ and our love for one another.

Do you want to be more confident? Do you want to be more at peace with God and yourself? Do you want to be less confused about the Bible? Do you want to understand it better? Do you want to be able to share your faith more naturally, more confidently? Do you want to be able to live the way God tells you to live in the Bible? Do you want to change your soul for the better?

This is what the Holy Spirit does. He did that in a miraculous, unusual way on that first Pentecost.   The color of Pentecost is traditionally red.  Why is that?  Red reminds us, of course, of Jesus’ blood, which he shed as a payment for our sins. Red also reminds us of what looked like tongues of fire on the disciples’ heads. Red reminds us of the invisible fire of faith that’s burning inside of us, the gift that the Holy Spirit has given to us. If you were to give the Holy Spirit a color, maybe the best color to describe him would be red, the color of fire. Every time you come into contact with the Word of God, fire enters your heart, and burns away that selfishness and confusion. That fire becomes the fire of faith, a fire which trusts and loves Jesus Christ as Savior. If you could sum up Pentecost in one word, that one word would be change. May the Holy Spirit continue to work in you, to change you, to fan into flame the fire that is in each one of you.  Amen.


 

THEME: The Holy Spirit

OBJECT: A Kite and some small pieces of paper that you have torn up.

SCRIPTURE: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4 (NIV)

How many of you like to fly kites? It is great fun to watch a kite soaring high into the sky. What is it that keeps the kite up there? It is the wind, isn't it? How many of you have ever seen the wind? That was a trick question! No one has seen the wind. We can't see the wind because it is invisible. Well, if we can't see the wind, how do we know that it is there?

One way we can know the wind is there is that we can hear it. When I wake up in the morning, I sometimes turn on the TV to see what the weather is doing. There are some mornings that I don't even have to look at the TV to know that the wind is blowing because I can hear it! I can hear it whistling through the trees, down the chimney, and around the windows and doors. We can't see the wind, but we know it is there because we can hear it.

Another way we can know that the wind is there is that we can see it moving things. (Take some bits of paper in your hand and blow them into the air.) We can see it moving the leaves on the trees and blowing bits of paper around. In the winter we can see it blow the snow.  We can't see the wind, but we know it is there because we can see what the wind is doing.

Still another way we can know that the wind is there is that we can feel it. Blow onto the back of your hand. Did you see anything? No, but you could feel something, couldn't you? We can't see the wind, but we can feel it blowing against our faces and blowing through our hair.

Today we are studying a special day called Pentecost. It was on the day of Pentecost that God sent his Holy Spirit to the church. The Bible tells us that the apostles were all gathered together when suddenly there was a sound like a mighty, rushing wind. Then, it says, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. God's Holy Spirit is like the wind, we can't see him, but we can know that he is there, just like we can know that the wind is there.

PRAYER:  Father, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit. Even though we can't see him, we are thankful that we can hear him speak to our hearts, feel his presence in our daily lives, and see him moving us to do your will. Amen.

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