- Leviticus 23:9-22
- Acts 2:1-21
- “Sing unto the Lord a new Song” (Psalm 96)
- “My heart is filled with thankfulness”
- “Open our eyes, O Lord”
- “Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is in you.”
When Fridtjof Nansen started on his Arctic Expedition of 1893–96, he took a pigeon with him. After two years of desolation in the Arctic regions, he wrote a message, tied it to the pigeon’s wing, and let it loose to travel more than three thousand kilometres to Norway. Finally, the bird flew into the lap of Nansen’s wife in Norway. She knew, by the arrival of the bird, that all was well in the dark night of the North.
So, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Heavenly Dove, the disciples knew that Christ was alive, for the Spirit’s coming and manifestation of power were proofs of the fact that what Jesus Christ came to do on earth was finalised and accepted by the Father.
My dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, I look at my own spiritual life and more often than not it reminds me of dead bones the valley of Ezekiel’s vision. I hear reports of God’s working in profoundly shaking his church to life, and I ask, “Why, Lord, is so few of it seen in our churches?”
Jonathan Edwards as young minister in Boston, USA, preached a sermon on Zechariah 8:20-22, which reads:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.” (Zechariah 8:20–22, NIV)
On this verse Edwards commented:
From the prophecy, it seems reasonable to assume that this will be fulfilled in the following manner: First, God’s people will be given a spirit of prayer, inspiring them to come together and pray in an extraordinary manner, that He would help his Church, show mercy to mankind in general, pour out his Spirit, revive His work, and advance His kingdom in the world as He promised.
Moreover, such prayer would gradually spread and increase more and more, ushering in a revival of religion [the Gospel]. This would be characterized by greater worship and service of God among believers. Others will be awakened to their need for God, motivating them to earnestly cry out to God for mercy. They will be led to join with God’s people in that extraordinary seeking and serving of God which they see around them. In this way the revival will grow until the awakening reaches whole nations and those in the highest positions of influence. The Church will grow to be ten times larger than it was before. Indeed, at length, all the nations of the world will be converted unto God.
Jonathan Edwards was blessed to see a revival happening in his time. Thousands of young people came to the Lord, and the city was transformed.
The churches in Australia in this century also seem like the dead bones of Ezekiel. There are congregations in the large cities where the magnificent buildings are home to worship of only 20-30 people, most of them the product of the missionary work of many years back in Asia and the South Sea.
I pray and long to see that God would once again shake his church to life by a Spirit engendered revival. It is necessary for God to do a mighty work – something we cannot do, something we pray for, something we should long to see.
Why do we need to see God’s Spirit at work?
On average people think of the Christian church in terms of formal occasions—a christening, wedding or a funeral. Add to this days of prayer for rain, and other solemn occasions.
Some other might think the Christian church revolves around persons. The media portrays the church as a group of men dressed up in frocks, doing strange things, and miming certain formulas. The church is then put on display as an outdated human institution.
Others see the church as consisting of a building instead of a body of people, living souls with the Lord in their midst. People then attend church as a way of paying a kind of formal visit upon God and then forgetting all about Him. That is religion, the very opposite of the Christian faith.
When the Spirit of God is at work in his church any idea that the Christian church is the result of our action where we are perpetuating some tradition is replaced with what God intended for his church. The church of Christ is a community of sinners who found grace and were saved; they are equipped for service; they welcome (and expect) newcomers; they have concern for another’s wellbeing; they do not lifelessly go through the motions, but they are a thriving community who expects great things of God, and have an expectation that God will do great things in and through his Word to the millions of lost people all over the world.
It is not our church; it is not something we cooked up because it is morally better than a pub or a sports club. So, if things are not attractive anymore and we need to fix it, we cannot just look at models in the world that seem to work to attract people, and then apply those models to the church. We cannot therefore compensate for lifeless formality by producing an exciting kind of worship and have stunts and entertainment to make services lively and bright.
Martin Lloyd Jones writes:
Anything controlled by us, whether lifeless or lively, is not Christianity. Christianity is that which controls us, which masters us, which happens to us. If you can understand your religion, that is proof it is not Christianity. If you are in control of your religion, it is not Christianity.
The God who owns the church is not a vague power that is somewhere behind the universe; or a mere “force” with whom we need to connect in some airy-fairy way – whether this god may a “him” or “her”. God, some say, is love, and by that they really mean that love is God. That, it seems is the god Pres Obama is worshipping – the god who loves everyone irrespective if they are in direct opposition to what He teaches in his infallible Word. Such a god cannot save. Such a religion offers no hope, and preaching it is a waste of time. Little wonder that many people have walked away from church, disillusioned. I say of them, “Good on you, at least you are honest.”
God’s Church is his work, bought by his Son, for his glory
God made the world for Himself, He controls it for his glory, and He will end it when His time for it has come. What happened on Pentecost Day was nothing else but God’s creation of the word-wide Church of Christ, which has no boundaries, which cannot be hindered by any opposition, which will gather in the lost for the glory of Christ till the day of his return. The church is God’s creation: Christians belong to Him because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. The church exists today because of the work of the Holy Spirit, and not because we have presbyteries, assemblies or even names of members on some roll. God provides for his church, and no man can destroy His church. Men, women, powers and governments in their blindness and sin have done their level best to ruin the Christian church, but as Christ promised, the gates of hell will not prevail against it. If the church were the result of our imagination, it would have disappeared long ago, like many another institution.
God’s work revealed in perfect timing
The Scriptures fulfilled
According to Lev. 23:9–14, on the second day of Passover, an omer of barley was offered in the Temple, signalling the grains from the new harvest. This first sheaf of the new crop of barley was presented as a wave offering before the Lord. This was a public acknowledgment that all came from God and belonged to Him. It was considered as the firstfruits, and symbolised bringing to God the whole of the harvest represented by this sheaf; they also professed that the fertility of Canaan’s soil was not due to one of the Baals, but rather to the Lord’s gift of grace.
On this second day of the Passover, in the fulness of time (of course was the Sunday) the day our Lord rose from the dead. It is significant that the Bible in 1Corinthians 15:23 refers to Christ the firstfruits of those whose rose from the dead. Christ is therefore the assurance that the rest of the harvest from his world-wide church will be gathered in because He is their Life.
Then, after that day the Jews counted fifty days to take them to another festival, the Feast of the Weeks. On this day they presented to the Lord two loaves made of wheat to signal the start of the wheat harvest. It was to proclaim to God that the rest of the harvest belongs to Him and to thank Him for his provision. On that day they gathered in joy and did no work.
In this sense then, God chose to pour out his Spirit so that the disciples knew that Christ was alive, his work was finished and that He was glorified at the throne of God. The Spirit’s coming and manifestation of power were proofs of the Kingship of Christ over all the world, and that all the nations are now included into the harvest that has to be brought in.
The Words of Jesus fulfilled
The last words of Jesus to his disciples according to Luke were:
The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”” (Luke 24:46–49, NIV)
Now, whilst waiting in Jerusalem for these things to happen, thousands of Jews from all over the world, speaking all sorts of languages, gathered at the Temple for the feast of Pentecost. It was mandatory for male Jews to attend this feast.
The mission to the world
Let me quote from the New Kings James Version, which I think expresses the text more accurately. Acts 2:1-2
“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.” (Acts 2:1–2, NKJV)
When it was God’s timing, his Spirit came. It would have been a mighty sound, like the sound of some tornado. The disciples, all 120 of them we assume, were gathered in a house, most probably not too afar away from the temple. It was an audible sign of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s arrival as He baptised the “firstfruits” – those who already believed in Jesus and who expecting his next command to evangelise the world. Then, like a flame of fire which divided itself in what seemed like tongues of fire and rested an all of them individually, they were baptised with the Spirit of God. This signals a new era in the plan of God to gather even those who were not of the house of Israel.
All of this was of God’s doing. Those outside, gathered from the many nations, ran towards the house and enquired about it, and now, filled with the Sprit which empowered them (or enabled them) to speak in the languages of those gathered. It was almost like Babylon reversed: what kept them apart to partake as sinful people then under the wrath of God, was no stumbling block anymore: God was gathering in to Himself a harvest made up from all nations and languages.
Peter, the one who denied Jesus three times, but who was restored but Christ Himself when the Lord commanded Him to “feed the flock” and to “tend the sheep”, explained to the Word of God. Peter did not present a theory; he did not make a psychological analysis; he did not try to explain it. He just proclaimed, and his proclamation pointed to Christ, the resurrection Son of God, “It is Jesus whom you have seen and heard and whose miracles you have witnessed.”
The prophet of Joel is now in fulfilment, with the main emphasis on the wonder of God’s action to save and brake the barriers of tradition and nationality: not only will it be Jews, or even older men, but now it will be the young and old, men and women, Jews and non-Jews: everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
When they then heard the message concerning Jesus, how He died according to God’s plan of salvation, how God raise Him from the dead, how He fulfilled the Scriptures and He would now be worshipped as the King according to the line of David, they were “cut to the heart”. Peter was just a man preaching and expounding the Word. He was used by the Holy Spirit to cut to the heart of the people who made them come to the terrible realisation, “I must be spiritually dead! I must be lifeless. I must have a heart of stone! There’s something wrong with me. I’m in trouble. What can I do?” Peter called them to be saved and pleaded with them to repent, and three thousand were added to the number of the disciples that day.
The Church is not a religion
May I once again quote Martin Lloyd Jones? He writes:
“You cannot “take up” Christianity. You can take up Christian Science; you can take up many cults; you can take up many movements; you can even join a church. But you cannot take up Christianity. By definition Christianity is something that takes you up.”
The conversion of those 3,000 people was entirely because of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Spirit using the words of a frail, ignorant man, driving them into the minds, hearts, and consciences of those listening.”
Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
O, that we will see and experience this in our day! I don’t know what exactly will happen when we start praying for a fresh manifestation of the Holy Sprit in our day, I don’t exactly know how we will react when we are enabled with that Spirit to present Christ and the Father is great to the world, but certainly, I long to see it happen.
I long to see Christ build his church here in Wee Waa. I long to stand in awe as He would make it a rule, and not and exception, for people to be added to his church. When is the last time you saw it happen here? Is it the will of God not to happen? Thousand times “No!”
May God develop in us the vision of his greatness! May He give us a longing to earnestly seek Him in prayer that He will continue and complete what He Himself started on Pentecost Day. AMEN.