I would like to start out this morning by viewing a movie clip. This is from the movie In Good Company. The film, which is a humorous look at life in the business world, tells the story of the relationship between an older, established businessman and the young upstarts who are brought in to run the company after it has been sold to a new and fashionably-hip company. Throughout the film, these young turks speak in glowing, messianic terms about the company’s mysterious owner. Who when challenged on his seemingly oblivious use of non-sequiters and buzzwords leaves his audience with the phrase, “those are good questions, and I will leave you to discuss the answers.”
Questions and Answers. It seems that the world is filled with the both, and all too often it seems that the ones we have never match. We hope and long for someone who piece things together and show us what is what. For ___________ and ___________ that hope was in the mysterious and almighty Teddy K. We may laugh at such a portrait, but I have been around, and I am sure that many of you have as well, companies that have similar views of their bosses. Yet that is not the only place people look. Some look to science. Some to art. Some to education. Another clip that I love (and considered showing) takes place in the film Life or Something Like It. Angelina Jolie’s character is in crisis and what is her super-hunky boyfriend’s response: to take her out to Yankee Stadium for batting practice. “OK,” she says, “Lay it on me. You’ve got some analogy you’re making here…. Right?” His shocked answer which promptly ends their relationship is “No, no I’m not. This is it. It’s all I’ve got.” In ways this is a much more honest answer to Angie’s questions than Teddy K gave to __________. Yet as Angie’s character can attest, it’s still unfulfilling.
So I ask you, where do we find answers to the hard questions? To whom do we go, if not to the Teddy Ks of the world? As a Christian I believe that we can, that we have the right, that we have the responsibility to take our questions into the throne room of God and lay them down at His feet. Why do I say this? How can I make that claim?
The answer is found in the passage of scripture that we have before us today. In our passage we find several group of people with questions of their own. Today we will be joining our earnest seekers in progress, as it were. If you remember the sermons from the past 2 weeks then you will remember that we have discussed how the disciples gathered to hear Christ speak to them at the Mount of Olives. He gave a command and some encouragement. Go back to Jerusalem and wait for the helper to come. You might also remember that the disciples did as told and went back to Jerusalem. That they began to gather together daily in the Upper Room to pray, read the scriptures that they had (our OT), and wait for God’s promise. And that is where we pick up our text:
READ ACTS 2:1-4
Transition– So there they were I the upper room, perhaps wondering what this helper would be, but doubtless convinced that God’s word would not return void. It is this promise that is our sure hope. Christ, himself, promised that this helper would enable the Church to do even greater things than He had done. In later years, Paul would announce to one and all that this helper would serve as the gaurentee of God’s ultimate salvation. The filling of the Spirit would act as a down payment on God’s ultimate plan to establish His Kingdom on earth. For this reason and more it is an essential doctrine for us as a church. We must seek to understand just happened in this upper room and what that means for us as Christians. I would argue that among other things, the 2nd chapter of Acts teaches us that the In-Filling of the Spirit means 4 things. We will look at three of those today.
1. The Character of the Spirit– The promised in-filling of the Spirit means waiting patiently on God’s perfect timing.
While I normally like the NRSV, I am not pleased with the translation that it makes here in verse 1. A better translation of the passage might read, “when Pentecost had completely come.” Why is that important and why am I boring you with some inane scholarly detail? Perhaps it is that I am grad student showing off, or perhaps it is because there is something important here. I think that Luke is letting us know something. He is saying that what is about to occur could have only happened exactly when and where it did. God had a purpose and a plan. He was preparing to move, but the disciples had to wait and be ready for the right time.
How frustrating is that? How hard is it to wait? There was a play written in the middle of the last century about 2 simpletons waiting for some mythical person named Goddot. The entire play is these 2 guys sitting there yapping, waiting for a man named Goddot to arrive and the play ends as it begins with the 2 men still on that bench waiting for a man that seems destined to never arrive. That is how many in our society see us as Christians– just a bunch of simpletons sitting around on benches making small talk as we wait for a person destined to never arrive. But if this passage tells us anything, it is this that our wait is never vain. To the Mothers and Fathers, waiting for their sons and daughters to come back to God, our passage says that your wait is not in vain. To you guys and girls in your teens, longing to be out of your parents house, longing for freedom, our passage says that your wait is not in vain. To the man or women stuck in a dead-end job that you hate, longing to do something important, to have a sense of purpose, our passage says that your wait is not in vain.
You see not only did the disciples have to wait but Jesus did as well. These are similar terms used for the starting point of Christ’s ministry. I love the story that is told of Christ’s first miracle. Mary and Jesus are at a party and the host is embarrassed to find his stock of wine running low. Mary goes to Jesus for help and Jesus says, “no, it’s not my time yet.” The passage does not tell us how old Chris was at this time, but I prefer to imagine that Jesus fixed his mom with that perpetual stare of adolescence grievance, “Mooooommmm, please, not now you’re embarrassing me.”
You might ask yourself, what was Jesus waiting for? Was it too much to ask the One who created the universe to run out to the store and get some things for his mother? I believe that Jesus was waiting for what the disciples were waiting. He was waiting for the coming of the Spirit in power. But wait he was God of God, very God of very God and He was waiting for the Spirit? Phillipians chaper 2 helps us out here. It states that Christ “Who, though He was in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
As something to be exploited
But emptied Himself
Taking the form of a slave
Being born in a human likeness
And Being found in human form
He humbled Himself….”
What does this mean? Theologians have debated, but I believe it to mean that Christ made himself the perfect man, and as an example and encouragement to us all, limited Himself to only the resources available to any man or woman. He was as a fellow Wheaton College alum has written, “the consummate man perfectly filled with the Spirit”
Transition– So I ask you that if Christ was willing to wait on the workings of the Spirit, how much more important is our waiting. How much more important was the waiting of those first disciples? The waiting is tough, but we wait not as those without hope, for we know that at some point that the time will fully come and the power of God will be brought to our situation. So if being filled with the Spirit means waiting on God, what else does it mean? Let’s go back to the text:
Read Acts 2:5-15
2. The Fullness of the Spirit– The promised in-filling of the Spirit means experiencing the power of the Spirit.
For our purposes I am not so much interested in the how’s, what’s, and mechanics of the passage. If you have been around the church long you have probably heard discussions about what the tongues of fire meant and what the wind meant and what exactly was happening with the languages being spoken. If you have not, you’re welcome to ask Bob, I’m sure that he would be glad to go into intricate detail over lunch. But for this morning let’s concentrate on the outcome of this admittedly strange occurence.
There are 2 items I would like to mention. First we need only to note that God is a God who moves in history. He is a God of the intellect who reveals Himself in the teachings of scripture and the church. He is also a God who reveals Himself directly to His power. We don’t just experience Him with our spirits. We can experience Him with our bodies. He can and does impress Himself into our senses. We get to smell, touch, taste, and see that He is good. PLUG FOR MIN TEAM / ARTS GROUP
I think it is also important to note that crowd had 2 reactions to this event: amazement and derision. We should not be surprised to find both responses to the movement of God in His power. It has been the way of life from the beginning. Abel loved God and was loved by Him. Cain was a broader who sought God wrongly and was hated by God. Even among the sons of David, we see discrepancies between those sons who served God and those sons that served themselves. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that to those who are being saved we are like a fragant aroma, but to those who are perishing we are like the smell of death. I do not know about you, but I know which fragance I prefer to be associated. It is a relief to me that we are not responsible for how the crowds around us act. We are simply called to be like Peter. To be in the moment, listening for the Spirit , and when that in-breaking of the Spirit occurs, we are to take our stand, and lift up our voices.
3. The perception of the Spirit: The promised in-filling of the Spirit means seeking the revelatory wisdom of God.
Peter stands before this confused, astonished, and mocking crowd and he begins by saying this is not an unexpected occurrence. Listen to what he says:
Read Acts 2:16-20
God has already told us that He was going do this. Listen to what Peter says, in this time and in this place God has promised to make known His presence among all peoples: male and female; rich and poor; young and old. All people who earnestly seek God. All people will have access to the revelatory wisdom of His Spirit. In the past the Spirit had been limited in its interactions with humanity. He would come for a purpose, fulfill His purposes, and then would not be heard from again. In this time due to implications of the Fall and the sinfulness of humanity, God was only to be seen briefly and that small glimmer of hope that was God’s chosen people. But with Christ’s death and reserrection the dividing wall of iniquity has been broken down. The temple veil has been torn in two, and God has moved His presence out of the Holy of Holies and into the very hearts and lives of His people.
There has been much discussion about what to do with these prophetic words. If you were to ask any of my professors at Wheaton, or at Samford in Birmingham, they would tell you that the wording in these verses simply mean that in our day and time certain people (mostly men) would be gifted to stand in front of congregations and preach well. That in our day and time that certain people (mostly men) would be gifted by God with entrepeneaural gifts and will be able to design programs, build buildings, and raise money. But surely God desires more than that from His people. There is as story told about Saint Thomas Aquainas that I love. Thomas was brought from his monestary where he had bee preparing his systematic collections of church theology to Rome to meet the Pope. When he was taken into the Vatican, an assistant was sent to give this backwater philosopher a tour of the greatness that was the papistry. At the end of the tour his guide turned to him thinking he would be understandably impressed and remarked, “as you can see the church no longer has need to say ‘silver and gold have I none.’” The uncowed Acquinas is thought to have replied, “And it seems to have no desire to say ‘rise and walk’ either.” I love that in the Vineyard Church we are allowed to say, “Rise and Walk.” Because that to me is a key point to understand about this passage. We are called not just to build ministries, and buildings. We are called to build the Kingdom of God on earth. When discussing Pentecost most evangelicals are inclined to skip this section and go straight the Gospel message of Paul which we will examine next week. But Paul included this discussion of the power and majesty of God right here for a reason. I think that it is vital importance that the Spirit inspired Peter to talk first of God’s power and then of God’s merciful intervention. I see that a God’s great pattern of showing His might, then explaing His mercy. The one does not go without the other. In the Vineyard we call this process, “Show and Tell.” You all have participated in show and tell. This is my doll, this is my football, this is my whatever…. Let me tell you what it says about me.
As I mentioned at the start of the morning, the church is under great stress. Forces within and without threaten to tear us apart. Look at these statistics from a WC master’s thesis published in the 1960s:
5% of reported church members do not exist
10% of actual church members never attend a church service
40% of actual church members never give money to their church
70% of actual church members never give money to church missions
80% of actual church members never attend church prayer meetings
90% of actual church members never have family devotions
95% of actual church members have never led someone to Christ
I am not sure where he got these numbers and this is an old survey; so I would like to think that these numbers are simply not true. But I am afraid that if anything, these numbers may be a little low. I am afraid that these numbers reveal that the modern church has too many Teddy K’s and not enough Peter, Pauls, and Marys. I am afraid that in the modern church we are like the disciples in that upper room. God as breathed his life into us, but we have not received the in-dwelling power of God that was to be found in Pentecost. The historian Merrill Tenney has this to say about the early church which had received power in that moment in that upper room:
“Christianity was not unique because it insured salvation… nor because it stressed personal ethics, nor even because it guarenteed immortality to its believers. Its distinguishing attribute was the SUPERNATURAL POWER OF THE LIVING GOD…”
We all need to meet God at the foot of the cross and so be forgiven our sins. But just as important, we all need to meet the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. What we do with the Upper Room defines who we will become. Will we be like the mockers who laughed at the experience and saw it as a cosmic joke. Will we be like those who stood astonished at the power, but then walked away seeing it of no importance. Or will be like the disciples who were forever changed. As the worship team comes forward to led us in one last song, ask yourself who do you want to be Teddy K or Peter the Apostle.
Let’s be filled with the Spirit. Let’s wait on God for His plans and purposes. Let’s learn to experience the power and presence of God. Let’s seek out his divine revelation in our world. Let’s be the men and women of God that He has meant us to be. Let’s be men and women who provide others with the answer that they need.