This year Pentecost Sunday is May 20. It’s a day to remember the first day of Pentecost in Acts 2, where we see God the Holy Spirit descending to earth, empowering the apostles to proclaim repentance. Upon hearing the gospel, thousands come to faith and they devote themselves to God’s Word, fellowship, and continued proclamation of the gospel. If not for this day, or rather, if not for the Holy Spirit, the gospel would never have reached so many of us, and we would not have the power to live the Christian life.
In Acts 2 we are told that the apostles and Jews from all around the neighbouring nations had gathered in the city of Jerusalem. Many of us may be familiar with what happens next.
“Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech” (2:2-4).
There was wind, there was fire, there were lots of different languages. It’s also recorded that some observers thought these Spirit-filled Jews were drunk. These are the pieces of Acts 2 that many of us will remember from Sunday school. However, the story does not end here. In response to those sneering and suggesting drunkenness, Peter stands up and raises his voice.
“Men of Judah and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. For these people are not drunk…” (2:14-15).
Peter then points people to the words of the prophet Joel from hundreds of years prior, through whom God spoke promises to pour out His Spirit among His men and women. In Joel 2 God promises that in the days of the Spirit, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32).
Peter explains to the crowds that Jesus was and is the promised Lord and Saviour, that He was nailed to a cross and killed by the very people he came to save, the very people who were listening to Peter that very moment! However, as we know, death could not hold Jesus captive. Instead, God raised Jesus from the dead, who now sits at the right hand of God.
Upon hearing all of this, Acts describes the crowds as coming under deep conviction, and they ask, “Brothers, what must we do?”
Peter replies, “Repent, and be baptised, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
“Those who accepted Peter’s call to repent were baptised, all 3000 of them, and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship and prayer, and they generously held everything in common with their fellow believers. Not only that, but the Lord saved more and more people each day” (Acts 2:47).
The power behind Peter’s sermon was not Peter’s own strength, but the Holy Spirit’s. On his own strength, just a couple of months prior to Pentecost, Peter was the one who denied Jesus three times after Jesus was seized (Luke 22:54-62). But here, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we see Peter stand up to tell crowds of people about Jesus, and the salvation that can be found in Him alone.
Reading about Peter, we might find ourselves asking, “Does this mean I should be preaching to the crowds in my town?” However, rather than jumping straight into Peter’s shoes, let’s look at the Jewish crowds in Acts 2 to consider what the Spirit-filled life looks like.
The Spirit-filled life: What does it look like?
The crowds were deeply convicted upon hearing the Holy-Spirit-empowered sermon by Peter. As a result, they turn away from sin and instead devote themselves to prayer and praising God (2:42, 47). This is a great example of “spiritual breathing”, a word picture that helps us to experience moment-by-moment dependence upon the Spirit.
We do this firstly by exhaling: confessing our sin the moment the Spirit reveals it to us, agreeing with God concerning our sin, and thanking Him for His forgiveness. Confession requires repentance, a change in attitude and action.
We then inhale: surrendering control of our lives to Christ, relying upon the Holy Spirit to fill us with His presence and power by faith, according to His command (Ephesians 5:18) and promise (1 John 5:14, 15).
As Christians, we can sometimes “take for granted” the privilege we have to pray to God, and we don’t always practice our “spiritual breathing”. Rather than coming to Him in prayer when we recognise our sin, we think, “He’s already forgiven me,” or “He knows I’m sorry.” Sometimes we even hide our sin, and we forget that when we surrender ourselves and rely on Him, He gives us power to abide in Him. But our Father delights in us coming to Him in prayer. He is faithful to forgive us if we come to Him and confess our sin (1 John 1:9), and His Spirit gives us the power to turn away from it.
The Spirit-empowered words that Peter spoke to the Jewish crowds transformed the men and women that day in many ways. One way was that they became greatly devoted to the apostles’ teaching, which we now have access to in God’s Word. With the help of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word reveals to us His character, teaches us His promises, and shows us His faithfulness. When we read God’s Word we not only realise the greatness of our sin, but we also have great assurance that we have forgiveness in Jesus. The bible also helps us to know God the way He wants to be known, guiding us and protecting us from lies. His Word corrects our thinking and transforms us to be God’s chosen people, holy and unlike any other people. Needless to say, there would be no Spirit-filled Christian life without God’s Word. The Christian journey is one that hungers for, feeds on, and is filled by both the Spirit and God’s Word.
The new believers in Acts 2 are said to have met every day, praying and enjoying food together “with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favour with all the people” (2:46-7). They were also generous in sharing their possessions with one another. Again, this wasn’t by their own strength or will, but by the work of the Spirit in their lives.
How can we thank the Holy Spirit for the work He has already done in this area of our lives? And how might the Spirit help us continue to generously care for our local church?
At the end of Acts 2 we see that the Lord saved more and more people each day after the day of Pentecost. As believers, the crowds will have received the Holy Spirit, who works through His people to bring others to Christ. He does this by convicting people’s’ hearts of God’s righteousness and their sinful state. We saw this in the aftermath of Peter’s sermon.
Which of our friends and family can we commit to caring and praying for, that the Holy Spirit would show us opportunities and grant us boldness to share the gospel, that He would reveal their sin, and the grace that is found Jesus?
As followers of Christ we have the privilege of walking with the Spirit. He empowers us to repent, devote ourselves to His Word, enjoy fellowship with other believers, and proclaim the gospel to the world around us. Often however, we don’t see these things happening in our lives.
This Pentecost, let’s firstly praise the Father for sending the Holy Spirit, for we would not know Him apart from the Spirit. Secondly, let’s take this as an opportunity to reflect and pray that we would live by the Spirit in moment-by-moment dependence on Him to live the Christian life, practicing our “spiritual breathing”, repenting of sin, devoting ourselves to His Word, enjoying fellowship with other believers, and praying that God would continue to use us to grow His kingdom.
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