POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – Christianity 101 SeriesActs 2:1-13
May 20th, 2012
Pastor Sun Hee Kim
2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
FRIED VS. FIRED?
We are now into week six of this Christianity 101 sermon series that Pastor Anne and I have been preaching, and today I will be sharing with you the second of this two part message on the Holy Spirit. Last week, we took a look at the Promise of the Holy Spirit, how in Scripture we have this understanding that the Holy Spirit was not an afterthought or just a New Testament thing, but clearly present from Genesis to Revelation.
Today, we are taking a look at how that promise is fulfilled through the power of the Holy Spirit, and in particular, we will be looking at this very familiar passage and scene of Scripture where the disciples get filled with the Holy Spirit and start to talk in all sorts of different languages. Quite a scene. If you didn’t know what was really going on, you’d think that it was some sort of big Rosetta Stone conference.
This is what we read earlier:
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
What strikes me about this scene is this response of the crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem that day. The Bible says that they were: bewildered, amazed, and astonished. In other words, when the Holy Spirit showed up, it was a big deal! What the people saw and experienced was not your run of the mill, everyday occurrence. They were witnesses of the incredible power of the Holy Spirit that was being manifest that day. Imagine this crowd of people, wide-eyed and just blown away (some literally!) by this supernatural and superspiritual demonstration. I don’t know about you, but it seems like to me an appropriate response to what was happening. The people were bewildered, amazed and astonished!
That was nearly two thousand years ago. Compare that to our typical response to the Holy Spirit in the 21st century: bored, bland, burnt-out. When I look around at Christians living in this day and age, unfortunately, I do not see the excitement and the amazement that was present among the first century believers. And you may agree with me on this, but more often than not, people seem bored in the church. They kind of have this attitude of knowing what to expect. They are rarely surprised. And instead of being wide-eyed, they sometimes seem like they are asleep. Of course, no one is sleeping here today, Amen?! But the truth is that this is the case for many, many Christians and churches. Boredom turns to bland spirituality, and ultimately, it becomes the breeding ground for followers of Jesus Christ simply being burnt-out.
And actually this makes sense – that when Christians are not experiencing the amazing promise, presence and power of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in the church, they get tired. Because it means they are probably doing the work on their own, out of their own strength. And they get burnt-out. Not an uncommon thing among believers.
In fact, let me make an observation: Too many Christians are feeling more fried than fired. Can anyone here amen that? Indeed, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, we should be feeling fired but most of us are just feeling fried. We are burnt out. But that is not the way our Christian lives are meant to be experienced or lived. And certainly, the Bible presents a very different picture of the experience of faith.
WOULD YOU LIKE FRIES WITH THAT?
Speaking of being fried, there is this Jay Leno quote that’s pretty hilarious but also makes me think about the way that we tend to approach the Holy Spirit sometimes. This is what Jay Leno said: “I went to McDonald’s yesterday and said, ‘I would like some fries,’ and the girl at the counter said, ‘would you like some fries with that?’” Funny right? Actually, it’s hilarious to me. We are so used to ordering fries “on the side” that when we actually order fries, the response is “would you like fries with that?”
But what’s not so funny is that this is actually the unfortunate way that I think many of us approach the Holy Spirit. We see it as something optional or something to have “on the side”. But the text that we read today in Acts chapter 2 gives a very different view of the Holy Spirit.
Actually, according to the story of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was not an option or just something you can have on the side. The way that the Holy Spirit is portrayed in Scripture is that it is like the main thing! In fact, as I mentioned last week, when you look at the ministry of Jesus, you see that everything that Jesus did was through the Spirit – whether it be teaching or healing or even laying down his life. He did everything by the Spirit and he did nothing without it. And so is the case with the disciples. Without the Spirit, they are afraid and immobilized – huddled up in hiding in the upper room. But when the Holy Spirit came upon them and filled them, everything changed!
And what we see in this scene and in many scenes of Scripture is that experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit is something that is a standard and the norm rather than the exception to the rule. In other words, what happened on the day of Pentecost would not be some sort of rare occurrence or “once-in-awhile” happening. It would be the precedent for all followers of Jesus thereafter to experience. And this picture and precedent is one of incredible, incredible power.
Let me pause here for a moment and just highlight what we see in Acts 2 – this picture of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. This is what we see: One, we see that the Holy Spirit is described as coming like a “violent wind”. In the Amplified Bible, this description is offered in this way: “the rushing of a violent tempest blast”. Eugene Peterson in The Message translation describes it as: “a strong wind, gale force.” In the New Living Translation, it’s put this way: “the roaring of a mighty windstorm”. And just one more for fun. This one from Young’s Literal Translation. It’s simply translated as “a violent breath”. Any of you married folk wake up in the morning next to your spouse who has “violent breath”?!
Anyway, the point is that when the Holy Spirit appeared, it was noticeable. Things got stirred up. People’s hair got a little messy and the sound was pretty enormous. In other words, the picture of the Holy Spirit is one of power. Incredible power.
But the second thing that we see in this picture of the Holy Spirit is that it filled the disciples. And the sense here is that it filled them completely. They weren’t just touched by the Holy Spirit. This incredible thing described as a rushing wind didn’t just come and brush up against them and leave as quickly as it came. No, the disciples were filled. From head to toe. In mind, body and heart, the Holy Spirit just poured itself into their very beings. And they were instantly transformed. What just a few minutes earlier were a group of trembling and timid men, became a group of powerful leaders speaking with incredible authority.
Which brings me to the third thing that we see in this picture of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gave abilities for ministry. The Holy Spirit is seen in the passage as actually enabling the disciples for ministry. This is what we read in Acts 2:4:
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Did you hear that? The Spirit gave them ability. This is the promise of Jesus fulfilled in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The disciples would be clothed with “power” from on high as we read last week in Acts 1:8. And power, indeed, were they clothed with on this day of Pentecost! Incredible power. And I want to make sure that you don’t overlook or take this picture for granted.
So let me give you a real quick Mini Greek Lesson. This is stuff I learned in seminary, so I want to use it in moments like this to make me feel good about all the tuition I paid. You all get this for free, by the way. In the original Greek, the word which we translate in the English translation of Scripture as “power” is the word “dunamis”. Dunamis. Does that sound like any word to you in the English language? That’s right, dynamite. We get the word dynamite from this Greek word “dunamis” which is the word used to describe the power of the Holy Spirit! And understand this. It’s not that dynamite is used as a comparison to describe the Holy Spirit. It’s the other way around. It’s the Holy Spirit that is used as a comparison to describe dynamite! I’m not sure if you catch what I’m saying here. When people are in the presence of something powerful, they are thinking…hmmm, what is this powerful thing like? Oh yah, it’s powerful like the Holy Spirit! Dunamis power. And friends, that power is available to each and every one of us.
So let me give you a real quick Mini Faith Lesson now. This one I did not learn in seminary, but just from trying to live life and faith. And what this mini faith lesson is about is connecting promise to power. How do we take the promise of the Holy Spirit given by Jesus and make it a reality of power in our lives? By praying and waiting. Like so many promises of Scripture, the caveat here is to really want it and to really seek it. And that comes in the form of prayer. We need to pray to God and ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to be manifest in our lives and in the way that we live out our faith. And we need to pray together and be together – as a community of faith. Unity in this type of prayer is always more effective. And after fervently and intentionally praying for it, we wait. We wait in expectation and we wait with hope. And we wait with others who have prayed for the same.
And this may sound a bit simple, but it is the foundation of our faith. And it is certainly the precursor to experiencing the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit that has been promised to us in Scripture. This dunamis power, this Holy Spirit power, when it is manifest in our lives, everything changes. We move from being bored, bland and burnt-out to being bewildered, amazed and astonished. And then, we really live our lives in ways consistent to those that are filled by the Holy Spirit.
SUPERSIZING OUR FAITH
So how do we apply this message to our lives? I know it may seem like I’m referencing fast food too much in this sermon today, but I’m going to make one more reference. I don’t know if you remember, but there used to be a time when you go to McDonald’s you could order one of those McDeal Meals and actually supersize it. So basically, you are taking something that’s already pretty hefty in calories and you are asking for a bigger portion of it – a supersized portion. Now, I’m not recommending anyone to supersize anything at McDonald’s per se. I’m not even recommending anyone eat at McDonald’s, period. But if there’s anything we should be supersizing, it should be our faith.
We need to stop living these quiet, timid, and unimpressive versions of our faith, because when you think about it – real faith, real Christianity is nothing less than supersized. We need to practice the power of the Holy Spirit that involves:
One, Living large. We need to be living boldly and claiming the dunamis power in everything that we do and are about.
Two, Not squinting. Ultimately, I believe that real faith lived in real power is nothing that we need to squint our eyes at to see. Remember that when the Holy Spirit showed up, it was noticeable. Live out faith in noticeable ways. Let people see your faith and let them be bewildered, amazed, astonished.
Three, Loudly proclaiming. When the Holy Spirit is present and manifest in our lives, we are called to witness and testify to that power. Or in other words, to speak about it and to speak about it loudly. This is what the disciples did on the day of Pentecost. They started proclaiming loudly so that other people could hear the message and respond. Next week, you are going to hear some amazing stories from our very own members of how the Holy Spirit has been working in their lives and in their blessing of being together in community. And they are going to be proclaiming loudly. And you are going to be bewildered, amazed, and astonished. It’s going to be awesome.
In the meanwhile, I invite you to supersize your faith this week. Seek and pray for the power of the Holy Spirit, and wait for your heart to be stirred. It’s coming and when it comes, everything will change. Amen?