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Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael Moffitt, June 9, 2019

Going Back to the Basics

Text: Acts 2:1–11

I really love the game of golf (it doesn’t seem to love me back). I even enjoy watching a match sometimes on TV. Ever since Tiger Woods came on the scene I have followed his career, including the ups and downs. As many of you know Tiger was the dominant golf pro on the PGA Tour from 1997 to 2008. For all intents and purposes he left the public arena from 2009 to 2015 due to personal difficulties, both moral and physical. Today he is back in full force and once again is considered one of the top players in the PGA.

How did he come back? Matthew Rudy, Golf Digest senior instruction writer, wrote an article not long ago on how Tiger Woods came to dominance once again: because he went back to the basics of golf. He worked with an instructor to get back to the swing and putting that once made him so successful. There were things that he knew very well and could have taught others to do but he needed to focus on those things once again for his own game.

Many years ago, Teresa and I went through a very difficult time in our relationship and I didn’t think we were going to make it. Reading books on marriage and going to a counselor wasn’t helping very much. What saved our marriage was going back to our relationship with Jesus Christ and inviting him to bring healing. For my part, I begin to ask the Lord to change me. As you know, Teresa and I just celebrated 46 years of marriage and it has not only lasted but has been wonderful because we went back to the basics of our faith and submitted ourselves to the Lord and to his word.

Today the United States of America finds itself divided and at war with ourselves from within. Every day we can read about the hate and vitriol being spewed out from those who hate the Judeo-Christian ethic that we were founded upon. Some are suggesting that we won’t make it, but I suspect that they are not students of history. This isn’t the first time that a culture has been torn apart from within. Some have suggested that if we return to the foundation that our founding fathers laid out then we can turn this around. I believe that to be partly true if we do so for the sake of the glory, honor and praise of Jesus Christ—and not merely for nationalistic reasons.

I believe from the very fiber of my being that our only hope is for the people of God (the true Church) to return to the basics of who we were originally meant to be in Christ Jesus.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, which commemorates the most important day in Christian history. It is more important than the American day of independence on July 4th or any other celebration of any culture. It is the birthday of the Christian Church. This day is honored in liturgical churches as well as Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.

Before Pentecost there were followers of Jesus Christ, but they were struggling to live into the calling that Jesus had given to his disciples. Jesus knew their dilemma and told them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them that they might receive the power that they would need to accomplish all that God intended for the building of his divine kingdom. On the first Christian Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came on and into the early followers of Jesus, who believed that he was not only the Son of God, but the Savior (Messiah) that Israel had longed for throughout their history.

This morning we will look at the importance of Pentecost as we seek the path back to the basics of our faith, so that we might go forward in the same transforming power that grew the early church and has kept her moving forward for over 2,000 years.

Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Nigeria and the Gafcon General Secretary recently posted a short video about the mission of the Global Anglican Futures Conference. He invited all who love Jesus Christ to stand for the authority of the Word of God and ask God to make us passionate about sharing the good news of the Gospel with those who don’t know the Lord. In other words, he was asking that God’s people around the world turn back to the basics.

Let’s begin by looking at the significance of the day of Pentecost for those who were there at the beginning of the church. Pentecost was a Jewish feast held 50 days after Passover. In the Jewish festivals of that time, the first sheaf reaped from the barley harvest was presented to God at Passover, but at Pentecost it was the first fruits of the wheat harvest presented to God 50 days after Passover. Jewish tradition also taught that Pentecost marked the day when God gave the law to Israel.

It was the best-attended festival because the traveling conditions were usually more favorable. It was the time when more people from all nations would be in Jerusalem. It was the most appropriate time for the Holy Spirit to come in power. It was closely connected to Passover, the celebration of the time when the angel of death passed over the homes where the blood of the sacrificed lamb had been painted over the doorpost of the people of Israel in Egypt. The Spirit coming on Pentecost would now be associated with the saving event of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The feast celebrated the first produce of the Promised Land, Israel’s inheritance, just as the Holy Spirit is the “first fruits” of the salvation blessings to the believer

In the liturgical year, Pentecost is the turning point on the calendar. It is the transition from the Gospels and the life of Jesus here on earth to the Acts of the Apostles. It symbolizes the time when Jesus’ mission here on earth was finished and the mission of the Body of Christ, the church, begins. Pentecost is the final season of the year and begins what is called “Kingdomtide” or “Ordinary Time.”

For disciples of Jesus Christ, it is the time where all that we have focused on since Advent, and the journey of the disciples from Easter to Pentecost, is meant to prepare us to live as disciples in the knowledge of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. What we will see from our passage in Acts 2:1–11 is that what happened that day should not be seen as unusual or out of the ordinary for those who have come to Christ by faith, but as the way to stand against the Kingdom of Darkness in the Light of Christ.

Let’s look now at our text from Acts 2:1–4,

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It was now 10 days after the ascension of Jesus back to the Father. Jesus commanded them to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. For many this command raises an important and legitimate question. What had Jesus given the disciples in John 20:21–22 and how is it different from what they are waiting for in Jerusalem? Let me remind you of John 20:21–22,

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

A few months ago, I spoke about this passage and quoted Dr. Rod Whitacre from his commentary on John’s Gospel.

John's account describes a preliminary stage of preparation for ministry. "The mission is inaugurated, but not actually begun…. The actual beginning of the mission lies outside the scope of the Fourth Gospel. There remains, therefore, room for the Pentecostal outpouring, after which the disciples take up the mission in public in the power of the Spirit descending from Father and Son in heaven" (Hoskyns 1940b:653). Such preparation is clearly the point in Jesus' bringing the disciples to faith in himself and in the commissioning…. A clue may be found in one of the strangest aspects of these first encounters: Thomas was not present when the Spirit was given (v. 24), yet he is the one who confesses Jesus as Lord and God, a confession which is the work of the Spirit. This suggests that the breathing of the Spirit was not simply directed at the individuals present, as if one had to be hit by the molecules coming from Jesus' mouth or nose in order to receive the Spirit. Rather, the Spirit is now unleashed into the world in a new way and begins to bring about new life where he finds faith. The disciples enter into a new phase in their life with God, but it is not yet the time of their active witness, as it will be from Pentecost on.

He goes on to point out that the conditions for sending back the Holy Spirit had not yet been fulfilled and wouldn’t be until Jesus went back to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit back as the “Helper” or “counselor” and the “power from on high”.

Clearly they would need more than was given to them by Jesus in their encounter with the resurrected Lord that day. They are to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to come in a way not yet experienced by them. In Acts 1:8 Jesus promised,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The disciples were not strangers to the person and work of the Holy Spirit because they saw it continually at work in the ministry of Jesus. They had also experienced something of the power of the Holy Spirit as they were sent out in Jesus name to heal the sick and take authority over the demonic. However, Jesus had promised them a new, coming work of the Holy Spirit in John 14:15–18,

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

The disciples had stayed with Jesus throughout his ministry on earth and they showed their belief in who he was as the Son of God, the Messiah. That they had come to the knowledge of who Jesus was would not be enough for them to accomplish all that Jesus was sending them to do. In other words, they couldn’t stay like they were and accomplish what they did

In Acts 1:4–5, Jesus instructs them to go and wait for the Holy to “baptize” them with or in the Holy Spirit. Clearly, Jesus is telling them that they were going to experience the Holy Spirit in a way like never before. We get a clue about this from the way that Jesus made the distinction between the Spirit’s dwelling with the disciples and will be in the disciples from John 14:17.

They didn’t know how long a wait it would be and may have even thought that the Holy Spirit would come the same afternoon that Jesus ascended to the Father. I’m thinking that those 10 days just seemed to drag on. It’s often vitally important that we pay attention to the details of how God moves. When he makes a promise, it will come to pass, and it will be worth waiting for, but it may come in a way that you never suspected. This is certainly true of the Holy Spirit. They were waiting all together when

…suddenly, there came from Heaven a sound like a rushing wind and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

What a powerful image of God’s mighty presence. Three signs of God’s presence were witnessed: wind, fire and inspired speech. The wind, in particular, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit’ presence. In Ezekiel 37:9 God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath and command the four winds to breathe life into the dead bones. It was like God’s prophetic word at creation where God spoke and new life was created or in Genesis 2:7, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.”

This wind at Pentecost had that kind of presence and power because it was emanating from the Spirit of God Almighty. The fire is the symbol of the Spirit’s cleansing and judging power as in John the Baptist prophecy in Matthew 3:11–12,

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

The tongues spoken were not ecstatic utterances but clearly the various languages spoken by the Jews who had come from all over the Eastern Mediterranean region from Rome to as far east as Parthia in eastern Iran.

Let’s read Acts 2:6–7,

And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?”

Those on whom the outward sign of Holy Spirit rests experience an inner filling with the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit moves and inspires their speech, the believers are speaking in the languages of those from other places. It’s a sign that something extraordinary and unexpected had happened as the promise of Acts 1:8 is fulfilled all at once. They have become witnesses in Jerusalem to those in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. John Stott commented on the unity of the believers through the witness of the Holy Spirit,

Ever since the early church fathers, commentators have seen the blessing of Pentecost as a deliberate and dramatic reversal of the curse of Babel.

The crowd was astonished that the Galileans were speaking their languages and they could clearly understand. F. F. Bruce in his commentary on Acts, writes this,

Clearly Luke wants us to sense what a strong impact the Pentecost event had on the onlookers. They marvel that by a miracle of speaking or hearing, or both, they can understand Galileans, who were disdained for their indistinct pronunciation with its confused or lost laryngeals and aspirates.

It has been said that they had difficulties pronouncing gutturals and had the habit of swallowing syllables when speaking. They were looked down on by many in Jerusalem as being a lower rung from the elite. In other words, they talked funny.

The crowd’s reaction shows that when we are willing to wait upon the Lord to move in power, he will do it in ways that are not predictable and are far different from what we would have planned. In this one event that happened at the birth of the Christian Church, we can see God’s plan to reach the nations in the power of the Holy Spirit moving in and through those who were the disciples of Jesus Christ. They would never be able to do this in their own power or abilities. They had already proven that they were well-meaning but unreliable when faced with grave danger. In this one moment where the Holy Spirit is poured out on the disciples and approximately 120 people who were there, everything from that point on changed.

There was truly a birth that took place and a new life with God. It forever changed what it meant to be a Christ follower. Those who were filled with the Holy Spirit not only spoke languages that they did not know themselves, but only through the power and indwelling presence of the Spirit the spoke of the mighty works of God.

Now, where does it say that everyone there was speaking in a known tongue? It’s unlikely that they were. Remember there were approximately 120 people who were speaking in an unknown tongue to them but there were only 15 different languages being spoken. Some believed that they were drunk possibly because some were speaking gibberish as far as they were concerned. Later on, in chapter Peter would stand up and remind everyone that no one was drunk as it was only 9:00 a.m.

There is much controversy about the gift of speaking in tongues and we can’t fully address all the teaching of the Scriptures about this amazing gift. I plan to preach a series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the church. For today, however, I want to make three observations.

In John 16:7 Jesus told the disciples,

“nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

The coming and filling of the Holy Spirit was so good, so essential for the work of the community of early Christians, that Jesus actually said that it was better for him to leave the earth bodily so he could send the Holy Spirit. It was God who decided how the Holy Spirit would be manifested to the city of Jerusalem and it isn’t likely that this was to be a one-time event.

The way the gift of tongues was used that day may have been the exception to the rule as there is no other place in scripture where it was used to declare God’s glory by one nationality speaking the language to another nationality. In our passage in 1 Corinthians 12:4–13 the Apostle Paul gives a list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and one of them is “various kinds of tongues.” I personally know of several ways that God has used the gift of tongues to reveal his power and presence. I’ll share these with you at a later date.

After the day of Pentecost, the Apostles spoke and moved in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter in chapter stood up and spoke with a new power and clarity. He spoke to all those around that had seen the miraculous event of the outpouring of the Spirit. He had not been expecting to experience what happened and yet he was able to stand up with an answer from the scripture in Joel 2:28–32, that what the were seeing had been foretold in detail—that in the last days God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh. How did he know that? He then preached a sermon even implicating those around him that had put Jesus to death on the cross. The power and authority of his words caused 3,000 people to turn by faith to Jesus Christ that day. What an altar call! Where did this power come from?The Holy Spirit.

The Book of Acts and the Epistles give examples over and over of God moving in the Power of the Holy Spirit through his people where there was a focus on walking in the gifts of the Spirit, to accomplish the tasks of revealing the Glory of God. In the times down through the ages when the church lost its focus on the Holy Spirit and solely focused on the doctrines of the church, they found themselves fighting heresy and corruption with very little power. If you read about the different times of revival and reformation within the church and the coming to faith of thousands it was the Holy Spirit who was moving through his people. Any other way is to be seen as out of balance. Men and women have found that they are not able to sustain a powerful walk with the Lord apart from his word and Spirit. This is how we change the world.

Let’s pray.

©2019 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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