The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning , and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”
Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Content and Context
In the past we have talked about how effective the principles of change can be and just how vital a role they must play in the growth of our personal lives and in the ministry of the community at Reunion. This type change points us directly to the promise and power of the Holy Spirit that came to all believers at Pentecost. One of the things I am very proud of is my spiritual origins and heritage in Pentecostalism. So, I want to be very clear the true purpose and plan for the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and in the life of our church. I fully believe in the gifts of the Spirit as an essential service and building up of the body of Christ (as Paul described in 1 Corinthians 12), and I believe even deeper still in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that shapes and forms our character to validate the gifts that we serve with (more on that later).
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Brothers and sisters, I don't want there to be any misunderstanding concerning spiritual gifts. You know that when you were unbelievers, every time you were led to worship false gods you were worshiping gods who couldn't even speak. So I want you to know that no one speaking by God's Spirit says, "Jesus is cursed." No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, and yet the same Lord is served. There are different types of work to do, but the same God produces every gift in every person. The evidence of the Spirit's presence is given to each person for the common good of everyone. The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak with wisdom. The same Spirit gives another person the ability to speak with knowledge. To another person the same Spirit gives courageous faith. To another person the same Spirit gives the ability to heal. Another can work miracles. Another can speak what God has revealed. Another can tell the difference between spirits. Another can speak in different kinds of languages. Another can interpret languages. There is only one Spirit who does all these things by giving what God wants to give to each person.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
It is important to understand that without the promise and power of the unique work of the Holy Spirit in us we cannot truly be the body of Christ. Without the Holy Spirit we are just another religious organization in “church-world” doing religious business. We do not want to just do religious business… we want to love, as Christ has loved us. That is why we must demand of ourselves and of one another to genuinely seek God for the real Pentecost and not settle for something man-made and divisive, void of any real serviceable power for His Kingdom. Reunion is called to be a part of the body of Christ, and as a part of His body we must understand our role and do our part In His Kingdom. But to do this we need the “real” power of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) to get it done.
The real power of the Holy Spirit is meant to effectively bring about change in the lives of all who will follow Jesus. That change began when Jesus came to here to earth. At that moment the work of the Holy Spirit began. I know it sounds silly, but it is important to realize that Jesus (God the Son) did not come to earth, and then the Holy Spirit (God the Spirit) showed up thirty-three years later – they are One. When Christ is present, Holy (His) Spirit is present. To help us understand we probably need to go back to something that took place between Jesus and His disciples post–Resurrection and pre-Pentecost. According to Luke’s Gospel biography, Jesus (not long after His resurrection) said to his followers, “Now I will send you the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” But, John’s gospel biography recalls that on Sunday night of the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples who were hiding in fear from the Jewish leaders in a remote location. While with them (John was there) Jesus said directly to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me so I am sending you. Then He breathed on them and said, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you forgive any one’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them they are not forgiven.” We also know from the passage in Acts chapter 1, that when Jesus visibly left this earth He promised to send the Holy Spirit so that all believers (at all times and all places) could finish the mission that He started. Jesus knew they could not do that without Him. The initial promise of His Spirit was made to first century followers so that they would have the wisdom, courage and power to deliver and confirm His message to the entire world, as they knew it. Pentecost (Jerusalem - upper room) was the place where that promised was fulfilled. For those who gathered in the upper room, the power of the Holy Spirit that came that day would help them to finally close the gap between knowing Jesus and becoming the people He had asked them to be. For those who gathered as witnesses on the street below the power of God's Spirit that day revealed to them the everlasting eternal truth of the gospel, and the love of the resurrected Savior Jesus Christ! They would return to their homes around the vast regions of the Mediterranean and beyond to share this revelation of love and hope. No one who experienced or witnessed what took place in the upper room that day could have gone from there and do what was done on their own power. They all needed God's Holy Spirit to change, direct, teach, and empower them so they could become witnesses to the world of what they had personally seen with their eyes and heard with their own ears of Jesus Christ Himself. They would need the comfort and power of the Holy Spirit to endure the physical and social persecution of hate-radicals who would pro-actively do anything to stop them from preaching the gospel of the resurrected Jesus. But the promise of the Holy Spirit to them was not confined to the event or single experience (no matter how glorious) they would have on the Day of Pentecost. It was just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Just as there is no cheap grace, there is no cheap Pentecost… so it is important to know that they did not go to the upper room looking for just a miraculous experience (they had already been witness to many miraculous experiences) - they went looking for, and waiting on, the specific promise and instruction that Christ had spoken to them. They did not leave the upper room texting, tweeting, snapchatting, instagraming and photobombing one another’s cloven tongue of fire. They did not idly talk about how special they were to speak in a foreign language they had previously not known. No matter how spectacular, those events were merely just more validating signs to the unbelieving Jews. Think about it… the disciples had recently watched Jesus die, and then had seen Him resurrected to life. They did not need additional spectacular signs and wonders to get them further on board. Reality Pentecost for the disciples was about the manifestation of the promise and purpose of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit that came with His presence. Each one would leave the upper room knowing without a doubt that the promise Jesus made to them concerning the Holy Spirit (His presence) had been fulfilled in them – “I will not leave you, I will send a comforter.” They knew they had received the very real power Jesus promised, with the assurance that regardless of their varied and eventual circumstances, they would go and do what Christ had asked them to do – and they would not do it alone. And what was the promise and purpose that required such power and presence?
Well, He had asked them go make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He also told them to teach these new disciples to obey all the commands He had given them, and if you remember correctly… the most important and the newest command of Jesus, was to love God, and then to love each other just as He had loved them. He added to that… “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” And, that my friends, is the real power of the Holy Spirit, and the reality Pentecost.
In the final analysis, what took place at Pentecost was about the power of God's to make the disciples capable of loving beyond love in circumstances and events that could not be sustained or navigated without God otherwise. A power to finally become what Jesus had expected of them in the days and years to follow. Pentecost was one more of many promises from Jesus that had been fulfilled in them. And now the genuine and active power of His Spirit forever changed their lives in a way that they could finally serve and support one another and become the witnesses of the love of Jesus to the known world. For the first time they could love beyond themselves. Love to a lost world - proclaiming the message of hope to people who were hopeless without it. Love and pray for their critics, enemies and predators! Love is the reality of Pentecost. How ironic, that when all is said and done, love is always at the core of every real move of God’s Spirit. “For God so loved the world…“ That is because the love of God never fails to go the full distance that each circumstance and moment of life requires. The reality power of Pentecost shows up when we need God the most.
What was important at Pentecost is vitally important for us today - the promise and the power of the Spirit to proclaim the gospel and love of Jesus! For us at Reunion we can see within our own lives the weaknesses and barriers that we have allowed to distract us from our real mission. The things that keep us from reaching our potential and completing the many things we have started and left unfinished. We can see where we (like the disciples of Jesus) have too often used His love for us in such selfish and disgraceful ways. The brokenness of our families and the issues and circumstances of our world always seem to undo our best intentions. We get started… but we never quite have what it takes to finish. That is something that has to change in us. We need to embrace the promise and live in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. We know that God is faithful and because He is faithful He always finishes what He starts. When the disciples received the real power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost things needed to change in them. And as evidenced in their lives after Pentecost – on that day they changed. But the change was not just for the apostles and the people of historical Pentecost, but for those who were a witness to as well. The same promise of the Holy Spirit is for us. The promise Jesus made was for believers (all-times and all places) to become a living witness of His message of love and grace. Around us we have friends, neighbors, and co-workers who seem even to be in worse need than we are. We see their struggles as we look beyond ourselves to the hopeless chaos they exist in; they need someone to love them beyond how they have ever been loved before. Just like those who gathered on the Day of Pentecost we too are unsure of ourselves at times because we (better than anyone else) know our own limitations, and that we do not have always what it takes to love and minister like we need to. But those circumstances are a perfect environment for God’s promise of the Holy Spirit to make a difference. Because He knows what we need better than we know ourselves. And with the promise of His Spirit comes the real power needed to grow in His grace and to heal our own wounds. With that we can begin to learn to love in ways far beyond what we think is humanly possible.
You see, God knows that if we will allow His Holy Spirit to fill us in the ways and the places of our life that need it most we will surely change. And then the people who live differently than us or simply live in lifestyles or places that are beyond Reunion Church, can now be loved and they too can change to become what Christ wants them to become. Again this is not merely another church formula or experience; but it is the opportunity to start the journey to becoming what we all know we should become. Real power to become the sons and daughters of God! It is part of the actual destiny and cause that God has for us - to be His witnesses and to finally finish and complete in us all that we have dreamed and hoped for. What we are describing isn’t bound to the finite limits of man, it is about us saying yes to the promise of His Spirit, and yes to the power of His Spirit in us. We have to step forward and begin the journey into the reality of Pentecost.