New Life – Acts 2_1-21
May 25, 2015, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Culture, God | Tags: , , ,

It seems like such a long time ago, yet it was 38 years ago when a movie came out that totally changed what we expected to see in movies. None of us had ever heard of the characters, nor the plot of the movie, it was science fiction, we expected to see something that was less than what you would see in a “normal” movie. What a surprise – like many others, I have watched Star Wars a number of times, it is still a wonderful experience.
One of the interesting things that George Lucas did with that film was to tell us that this was episode 4 in an ongoing saga. Finally, 20 years later, Episode 1 was released. Interesting fact, it was released on Pentecost. What has this to do with Pentecost? Well for one thing, Lucas incorporated an interesting spiritual note into this film. He introduced “The Force” and everything in the movie revolved around the use of the force in the lives of the main characters.
Luke Skywalker, was being raised by his uncle on their farm, he knew nothing of the realities of the outside world, and really wanted nothing to do with what was happening out there. Then he is drawn into the adventure, and finds out about “The Force,” he begins to change and to become a man in this film. He begins to learn how to tap into this mysterious force, and to become a “Jedi Knight.”
In our reading from Acts we have the beginning of the church. The disciples have spent the last several weeks with Jesus, and then he ascended into heaven, telling them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the gift of the Holy Spirit. This was a time of celebration for the Jewish people, they celebrated the time between Passover and Pentecost calling it the feast of weeks, then finally comes the celebration of the Wheat harvest, a sacred festival of thanksgiving to God for the harvest.

All through Jerusalem were pilgrims who had come from many different lands, some from Europe, some from Asia and some from Africa. Many different languages, and people’s could be seen in the marketplace every day. Then – it happened – the disciples were together in one place, in prayer, waiting for what Jesus had promised. Like a mighty rushing wind, awesome noise and tongues of fire lighting on each of the disciples, and they were filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit of God. They began to speak to the others in Jerusalem on that day, and they were speaking in the languages of those who were around them. People are wondering what is going on. For them the Force of God had become theirs, this was not some impersonal force, this was the power of God visited upon human beings.
They had to tell others, they had to share the gospel with those around them. As the people began to wonder and to talk among themselves, Peter stands up and speaks to them first about the prophecy of Joel, he claims this prophecy for himself and the others on this day. The he begins to say: “This Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did through Him in your midst………. Him being delivered to the gentiles by your leaders, and killed….. whom God raised up” When Peter was finished speaking the people reply, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter tells them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and receive remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Many did repent that day, and 3000 were added to the church on that day. Now it is true that we cannot duplicate that day. That was a one time, special event in the life of the Church. However, we can duplicate a few of the things that happened on that day, things that we must duplicate if we are to be the Church today, if we are to reach people for Jesus Christ today.
The first thing we must have if we are to be God’s people, is a Passion for the gospel, a desire that others would share with us the love of God. The early disciples fully expected something to happen, they were eager to reach the world for Christ, and so it did happen.
Tony Campolo, professor of sociology at Eastern College, tells of going to Honolulu to a Christian Conference a number years ago. On his first night there, he woke up around 3 AM, jet lag and the 6 hour time difference had gotten his internal clock messed up. He left his hotel and went in search of a place to get something to eat. He finally found a small coffee shop and so he went in and sat down. There was a heavy set man in a greasy apron and he came over and asked, “What do you want?” He asked for a cup of coffee and a donut. While he was drinking his coffee and eating the donut a number of women walked in. He soon realized that these were ladies of the evening, due to their boisterous and provocative speech.
One of the women announced that she had a birthday the next day and was going to be 39. One of the other women put her down quite severely. She said in reply, “why do you have to be so mean? I’m just telling you that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”
Campolo said, “When I heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the woman left and then I called over to the heavyset guy and asked him”, ‘Do they come in here every night?’ ‘Yeah,’ he answered. “The one who was right next to me, does she come in here every night?” “yeah,” he said, “that’s Agnes. Yeah, she comes in here every night. Why do you want to know?”
“Because,” I replied, “I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday. What do you say we do something special for her? What do you think about throwing a birthday party for her, right here in the diner?”
He thought it was a great idea, and he volunteered to make the cake himself. That next night at 2:30 AM Campolo came back and decorated the place, including a big sign that read; “Happy Birthday Agnes!” He said the word must have gotten out because that morning by 3:15 every prostitute in Honolulu was in that place. There was, Campolo said, wall to wall prostitutes – and me. When Agnes arrived they all jumped up and yelled happy birthday, and they even sang happy birthday to Agnes. She was so overcome with emotion her friend had to hold her up as her knees buckled under her. Then the cook brought out the cake with all the candles on it. He gruffly told he to blow out the candles and handed her a knife. “Cut the cake Agnes” he said. Campolo said that it was such a wonderful scene that he decided he had to have a prayer.
He suggested that they pray and then proceeded to lead them in a prayer and he prayed for Agnes and her salvation. He prayed for each of the women as well. When he was done Harry the heavy set guy said to him with a trace of hostility in his voice, “Hey, you never told me you were a preacher. What kind of preacher are you anyway? What church do you belong to?” Campolo says, “In one of those moments when God gives the right words, I answered him quietly, I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning.”
What is it that would compel a man at 3 AM to do something like this? It is the same thing that made the disciples tell of the grace of God. It is the hope and the desire that others might repent of their sin and be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Speaking about power, that is the next thing we need. Yes the church needs people with passion, but we also need those with power, in order to reach people for Christ. When the disciples were given the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, they received power. It is hard to grasp sometimes the reality of spiritual power. Too many of us think that when the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they became somehow, supermen and women of faith. The truth is there is no such thing as instant super spiritual warrior. What they had was a compulsion. It was this compulsion that pushed these folks out into the world, they had a message to share of redemption, and they had a compulsion to share that message. They had a vision of bringing others into the kingdom, into the family of God.
How do we experience the Holy Spirit? How do we experience this power? The pastor of a large city congregation once polled his people and discovered that 92% said they believed in the reality of Christ, but only 50% said that they had experienced that reality in their lives. How about yourselves, have you ever experienced the reality of Christ?
D. L Moody once called on a man in Chicago to persuade him to accept Christ. They were seated in the man’s living room. It was winter and coal was burning in the fireplace. The man stated that he did not need the church, that he could be just as good a Christian outside the church as in it. Moody said nothing, but stepped to the fireplace, took the tongs, picked a blazing coal from the fire and set it off by itself. In silence the two watched it smolder and eventually go out. Then looked a Moody and said, “I see.”
One sure way NOT to experience the power of the Holy Spirit is to isolate ourselves. Hundreds of years ago, a church leader said, “There is no salvation outside the church.”
What he was saying was that there is no Christianity without communion. There is no love without family and there is no power without Pentecost.
Finally we must have purpose. If we are to reach people for Christ, we need people with passion and power. We also need people with a purpose. It is interesting when we look back at history we find that in the late 1800’s no business matched the financial and political dominance of the railroad. Trains were THE method of transportation. Moving both people and goods all around the country. Then along came the car.
Isn’t it amazing that the leaders of the railroad industry didn’t take advantage of their position in the society of their day, they could have continued to corner the market on transportation. In the video “The Search for Excellence,” Tom Peters points out the reason: They did not understand what business they were in. They thought they were in the train business, in fact they were in the transportation business. Had they understood their purpose, then we would be driving a different vehicle, perhaps a Gould, instead of a Ford.
The same can be said of the Swiss, they had the market in time pieces, they controlled 90% of all revenues in the time keeping industry. One of their own came along and invented a better timepiece, he invented the quartz movement and the LCD readout. They did not see the wheels and the gears and the springs, and they ignored this new timepiece. They forgot what business they were in, they weren’t in the wheel and spring business they were in the time keeping business. Today they control only 20% of the market. Seiko is the big winner in that industry.

If we in the Church forget that our purpose is making disciples for Jesus Christ, we too will become obsolete. If we lose our focus and get distracted by our tradition, our habits, our rituals and our routine, we will go the way of the trains, and the watchmakers. We must remember who we are and what our purpose is. Whenever, however, wherever, we must fulfill our purpose. As Paul said, “I have become all things to all people that I might save some.”
I want to be part of a church that is empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, a Church whose purpose is clear, to make disciples of Jesus Christ. A people of God who are going out into the streets with spiritual power granted them by their own Pentecost experience and then reinforced by their brethren in Christ. I want to be part of a Church that has a compulsion to share the gospel, and is filled to overflowing with the power of the Holy Spirit. I want to be part of the Church that Campolo said he was a part of, the one that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning.

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