Encouragement From The Word

The Purpose of Pentecost

This weekend, the church celebrates Pentecost, the occasion recorded in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit fell upon the gathered followers of Jesus, made manifest in tongues of fire and languages heretofore unknown.

The Holy Spirit was given to equip disciples to minister in the power and authority of Jesus after he ascended into heaven.  Those first disciples had come to rely on Jesus during his ministry for the ability and the blessing to minister in his name.  When he ascended into heaven, he promised them the Holy Spirit, so that they would not be left alone.

To this day, all who follow Jesus are given the Holy Spirit to enable us to undertake God’s mission in the world.  And the first task of all disciples of Jesus is to make more disciples.  The Great Commission, given at a resurrection appearance before Jesus ascended, promised that in his authority, Jesus’ followers would be given power to make disciples of all nations.

Pentecost reminds us that this is our primary aim as the church: making disciples.

If we are pouring our primary efforts into other things, no matter how noble they be, those efforts are misdirected.

Yes, the Holy Spirit came and still comes and sometimes manifests himself in signs and wonders, as well as in less flashy ways.  But the principal purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming is to empower for making disciples.

And that starts with us, with our own formation in Christ, our own spiritual maturity.

If you want to celebrate Pentecost well, spend personal time with the Lord, and tell a friend about what Jesus has done for you.  Be a disciple, and make a disciple.

I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.18-20, NLT).

Encouragement From the Word returns on June 4.

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Songs in the Key of Life: Sage Advice

On this Pentecost Sunday, we remembered the story in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers with tongues of fire, and the unity that brought to these first Christians.  In this message, we looked at the end of Acts 2 and Psalm 133 as we considered that unity is a fruit of community.  Have a listen:

Encouragement From The Word

Happy birthday, Church!

This Sunday, on the Christian calendar, the church marks Pentecost Sunday.  Celebrated fifty days after Easter, Pentecost commemorates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the earliest believers, really marking the birthday of the church.

Whenever your local church celebrates its anniversary, the universal church celebrates its birthday on Pentecost Sunday.

What happened when the Holy Spirit was sent upon those first Christ-followers?  Miraculous things occurred!  The Spirit came, with tongues of fire, and the believers began speaking in other languages, talking about the wonderful things God had done among the Jewish people who had gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world.  The purpose of these tongues in which people were speaking was evangelism:  they were sharing their faith with people whose languages they did not ordinarily speak.

Imagine if you were sitting on a park bench, and someone sat down at the other end of the bench – someone you didn’t know.  All of a sudden, you spoke aloud, in a language you didn’t understand.  Once you were finished speaking, and had caught your breath realizing what you had done, you asked the person at the other end of the bench, “Did you understand what I just said?”

Imagine, then, if the person at the other end of the bench responded by saying, “Yes.  You told me how much God loves me, and that Jesus died for me.  And you said it in the language of my heart, which I grew up speaking.”

Remarkable, isn’t it?  And yet that very thing has happened.  God has equipped people with a gift of speaking in tongues, just like at Pentecost, for his glory.

A lot of people wonder why the gift of tongues doesn’t show up in every church.  I suspect this has something to do with the fact that people tend to congregate with others who think and act the way they do.  We’ve institutionalized this and called it “denominationalism”.  Yet how often, I wonder, are spiritual gifts like tongues lost in the church because of fear?

Is what happened at that first Christian Pentecost supposed to be normative?  Some say yes, others say no.  Either way, we can’t deny that when the Lord sent his Holy Spirit, amazing things happened, and people came to faith in Jesus Christ.

Even if tongues aren’t normative in your church or mine, one thing that should be normative is people coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  For, as Luke records at the end of the Pentecost story in Acts 2, “each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (Acts 2.47b, NLT).

Why not celebrate Pentecost this weekend by inviting a friend to church with you?  (If you’re part of St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, you can invite your friends by telling them the preacher is going to talk about sex in marriage!  You, and they, won’t want to miss it!)