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Day of Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael J. Moffitt, May 28, 2023

The Spirit of Truth Will Be In You

Text: John 14:8–17

Many years ago Teresa and I were sitting on the patio late one night. We were talking quietly just enjoying the end of the day and one another’s company. The kids were in bed, and it was just a peaceful and cool evening to relax. Suddenly I heard a sound on the carport that I assumed was an animal but as I came around the corner two young men, in their late teens or early 20s were attempting to get in the side door. I opened the gate and yelled at them something really pithy and fearsome, I think it was “HEY!!!”

One of them just fell down, his legs giving out from under him and the other one took off like he had been fired from a gun. The first one wasted no time in springing to his feet and following after his partner. I took off after them enraged that they had attempted to break into our home and interrupted our peaceful moment. I didn’t know what they were planning to do but I wasn’t going to put up with this, not me.

I chased them for a couple of blocks but never caught up with them. As I walked back to our home I started to calm down a bit and the more rational part of my brain calmly asked, “So what were you going to do if you caught them?” Was I going to give them a severe beating or just a good stern talking to? Now, I was in my early to mid-30s and was in really good shape but I’m no Chuck Norris. Did I believe that I would prevail against two young men who didn’t seem to have any trouble outrunning me?

I remembered this story as I considered our 50th wedding anniversary this past Friday. I want you to understand the miracle of our relationship and why we are so grateful for God’s restorative work in our lives and marriage.

Many years ago, Teresa and I went through a very difficult time in our relationship, I didn’t think we were going to make it. Reading books on marriage and talking to our pastor wasn’t helping very much. Everything seemed to be working against us and the thought of staying together until “death do we part” seemed an unrealistic fantasy.

Neither of us had come from examples of good marriages to learn from. I was just arrogant enough to believe that I could figure it out and turn things around. We were both professing Christians but our relationship with Christ was far more shallow than we knew. I remember the day when I heard the words that I never suspected, “I want a divorce.” I didn’t but I had no idea how to turn things around and be the man that my wife needed me to be, and at that point I don’t believe she knew what she wanted either. What she did know was that she could not continue the way things were.

Things were a real mess and mostly my fault. For all intents and purposes I was already out of the house and on the road as a truck driver, so what was I going to do? How would I turn things around so that my wife could see me fighting for our relationship and want me back? She made it clear that she was done with me and decided to go back to school to get her college degree, which she did. That year had probably the most difficult days of my life thus far, but I couldn’t quit. I prayed that God would change Teresa and make her willing to continue to fight for our marriage. I remember the day when I was praying that and I knew that God was telling me to pray that he would change me.

I started crying out to God asking him to change me into the man I needed to be, that Teresa needed me to be. Like encountering the two young men trying to break into our home I wasn’t going to prevail in my own strength and things would run the course and our marriage would end, unless God intervened. Well, he did and we just celebrated our 50th year of marriage and as I often say, we have actually enjoyed the last 25. I found it interesting that the weekend of our 50th anniversary was also Pentecost.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, which commemorates one of the most important days in Christian history. It is more important than the American Independence Day 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 because it’s the day when the Holy Spirit arrived in power and stayed.

The disciples could not imagine what they were going to do when Jesus went back to the Father. He continued to assure them that he would send a helper and told them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. I doubt that they knew what to expect but Jesus knew the power that they would need to accomplish all that God intended for the building of his kingdom. On the first Christian Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out and took up residence in 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.

One of the advantages they had was the awareness that what Jesus asked them to do in building the kingdom of God on earth was impossible to accomplish without the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of the name of Jesus.

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.

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 usually the weather made the traveling conditions favorable. It was the time when 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 when 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 now consider our reading from Acts 2:1–4,

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.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. Rod Whitacre in his commentary on John’s Gospel suggests,

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"). 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 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. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 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 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 came 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 told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promised Holy Spirit that he told them about in John 14:17. Jesus didn’t say how long a wait it would be. Since the resurrection of Jesus they were learning that 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 they never suspected. They were waiting 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’s 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's 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.”

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. Luke tells us in verse 11 that, “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

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. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?”

Those on whom the outward sign of the 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.

We read in Genesis 11:9 that, “the Lord confused the language of all the earth” and “dispersed them over the face of the earth.”

At Pentecost unity began to be restored for those around the earth when they gathered to praise the Lord of glory. We saw a wonderful reminder of that at GAFCON when people from 52 nations gathered to praise and worship the Lord together and the Holy Spirit enabled us to gather in love because of our commitment to Jesus Christ.

In our gospel reading from John 14:8–17 the Apostle John recounts the words of Jesus concerning the importance of the Holy Spirit indwelling those who follow him. These promises were not meant only for the disciples who were with him but for all who believe Jesus to be the Lord and the only way to the Father. There would be three things that would characterize the followers of Christ.

1. They would do the same works that Jesus did, and even greater because he went back to the Father (v.12)

2. For those who love Jesus and obey his commandments will be able to ask anything in Jesus’ name he will do it. (v.13–14) How would they know how to pray for those things that God will give? Paul would later write in 1 Corinthians 2:9–10, But, as it is written,

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

3. The Holy Spirit within will reveal all truth to those who love Jesus. There will be a clear distinction between those who follow Jesus as opposed to those who cannot receive the truth because they don’t know him. (v.17) God’s truth is not subjective but found in his word, regardless of how we feel. Jerry Bridges in his book, Trusting In God Even When Life Hurts, pointed out, “We must seek to let the truth of God rule our minds. Our emotions must become subservient to the truth.”

In Acts 2:1–11 the crowd’s reaction shows that when God’s people 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 they spoke of the mighty works of God.

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.

After the day of Pentecost, the Apostles spoke and moved in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter in Acts chapter 2 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 they 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.

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.

©2023 The Rev. Michael J. Moffitt

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