It’s Pentecost Sunday this weekend!
This used to be a yearly highlight in most denominations, let alone Pentecostal ones – a celebration of when the Holy Spirit fell on the first Christians as described in Acts 2. That was when Christians were filled with the Spirit and joyfully worshipped God in ‘new tongues’ – untaught languages or glossolalia (V8-11).
Sadly a few decades ago years it became common for certain Pentecostal churches to drop worshipping and speaking in tongues. It was like ‘We don’t want to put unsaved visitors off by our style of worship.’
Something was lost! Today there are some Christians, even in Pentecostal churches, who think of Pentecost as all about speaking in tongues and declare that such glossolalia is a mystery!
Acts 2:2-4 – power from heaven
Not such mystery to those baptised in – filled with – the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost Sunday! They simply accepted what was going down and joyfully went with the flow – which took them beyond worshipping God in a new tongue and built the church!
These verses describe that supernatural event in human terms of ‘like’ …‘Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force – no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.’
Those first Christians – the early church – embraced the happenings as God’s anointing, his gift and a fulfilment of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit on those he was commissioning to broadcast the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15) after he had returned to heaven. This was ‘power from on high’ (Luke 24:49 Mge).
Understand the background… in the Luke scripture above the disciples had been told by Jesus to wait until the Spirit came.
This ‘waiting’ or ‘tarrying’ as it became known as, has often been pictured as being scared of the religious authorities, hiding with knees knocking in the upper room. Even if that were true they were now instantly changed to fearless commissioned missionaries instantly set on evangelising near and far!
This Acts 2 infilling, followed immediately by worshipping God in ‘tongues’ is regarded by Pentecostals as the initial evidence of having been baptised by the Spirit. But there is so much more!
Even as it was 2000 years ago, it is today! Genuine infilling of the Spirit results in believers being enthused, fired up and supernaturally enabled to serve Jesus. We also discover an awareness of the ability and opportunity to move in the supernatural power of the Spirit.
God’s amazing gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is granted every time someone accepts Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16). He enters into us, lives within, and is our great friend.
Discrete from salvation is Jesus’ filling us full with his Spirit and our becoming enabled with the operational power of the manifestation gifts described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.
When we receive gifts, it’s a delight to say, ‘Thank you!’ in appreciation. How foolish it is to ignore and neglect God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus asked his Father to ensure that this free gift would be given to us. Our role is to accept it, to welcome the Spirit in all his fulness.
Unfortunately due to a lack of church teaching, or denominational beliefs, many Christians have been robbed of this incredible deeper experience of living each day as Jesus did (Acts 10:38) …with the knowledge and assurance of spiritual power within to do God’s will and work
The Acts 2 aspect of speaking and singing in tongues enabled the first church to worship God in a new, distinct way. It proved to be honouring and glorifying God – as was observed by the visitors from 15 nations who overheard what was going on in the now noisy upper room of Acts 2!
It also became an inner strength to those early Christians when they were heavily persecuted for their faith. In From Darkness to Dawn, Dr Dean Farrar, wrote: ‘”Even for the minutest allusions and particulars I have contemporary authority,” refers to the persecuted Christians in Rome singing and speaking in unknown tongues…’
Today there is a lack of Spirit-filled Christians, especially leaders showing examples, exercising their gift of these worshipping tongues. Paul’s encouragement in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 (both verses urging songs from the Spirit) is unheeded.
Further, in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul lists nine spiritual gifts available to every Christian. These have been called the ‘manifestation gifts’ as ‘manifest’ relates to ‘demonstration’ or ‘revelation.’ These are all operational and communication gifts. God communicating his love, power and challenge to us. They can be, and should be, operated wisely by every willing Christian, at the right God prompted moment.
We often refer to the baptism as the gateway into serving God and expanding the kingdom supernaturally as one becomes saturated with spiritual power – the gifts defined by Paul and which the book of Acts and church history itself shows helped to build the church worldwide.
We can readily say that this speaking in tongues is but the beginning of an exciting new life of following and meaningfully serving Jesus
Yet some people try to get out of accepting the worship gift of tongues (and therefore don’t enter through the gateway to minister in power gifts to those with needs) by foolishly saying, ‘Oh, I’ll worship God when he causes me to speak in tongues.’
No, he won’t! God won’t force or make us do anything we don’t want to! But he does want us to hunger and thirst for all that this infilling means, just like the early church did.
Likewise an excuse for not moving in Holy Spirit ways is: ‘Why would God operate this way?’ Hey…God is God, he’s the boss, he has his ‘strange ways’ as Moses, Noah and many others discovered! Can you imagine Moses querying, ‘Why did you turn my rod into a snake, Lord, and my hand to leprosy?’ or Noah querying God with a mocking laugh as he choked and spluttered on, ‘An ark, God? Floodwaters? What’s an ark? What’s a flood?’ They would have missed out in discovering God is the God of the impossible!
Actually it’s incredible that God is willing to use any of us with all our wrong attitudes, personal agendas and faults, even if it’s to worship in a way where our normally uncontrollable tongue is under his control! And to move in the supernatural for him.
‘Why?’ is not the question! Rather it should be ‘Can I receive right now, Lord?’ Or ‘Can I be used right now, Lord?’ Or ‘You want me to speak in tongues, or minister supernaturally, Lord? Okay!’
St Augustine wrote in the fourth century, ‘We still do what the apostles did when they laid hands on the Samaritans and called down the Holy Spirit on them in the laying on of hands. It is expected that converts should speak with new tongues.’
Worshipping in tongues should happen automatically – we should want to worship God in a deeper more personal way! Moving in any of the operational gifts of the Spirit happens similarly. We sense an opportunity and we take it, boldly believing that because we have the Spirit within, we have
something to share that will bless someone.
It’s been said of Dr David DuPlessis – fondly known as Mr Pentecost – who was instrumental in boasting the charismatic movement and even reached leaders in the Roman Catholic Church was once asked by a certain Catholic dignitary, ‘ But does this mean I have to speak in tongues?’ The casual reply? ‘No…you don’t have to – but you’ll want to!‘
Our prayer is that Pentecost Sunday will be regarded as a special day worldwide when churches of different denominations celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in their own denominational way.
One such Sunday we happened to be ministering at a growing Baptist church where the people really love the Lord and are moving ahead in touching their community.
When we finish preaching in churches we delight to pray with people, moving supernaturally. That day I (Robert), led by the Spirit, sensed that he wanted to bless someone by healing that person of hip pain.
Believing that I had clearly heard from him and had something to offer (ie that my prayer as I laid hands on the afflicted person would bring a healing response from heaven), I boldly pointed to the person God wanted to reveal himself to.
As often happens, such blessings of God’s supernatural can overflow! Several people also responded and Maureen and I simply did what Jesus would – we ministered caringly and in love. People were blessed as release came, as did tears and God was worshipped.
The real heart of Pentecost
But Pentecost is about more than tongues and operating in the Spirit – it’s about being changed, charged and commissioned: God’s 3C plan!
This 3C Plan goes beyond worshipping God in tongues and even moving in the Spirit’s supernatural of prophecy, healings and miracles! These aspects assist followers of Jesus embrace the Matthew 28:18-20 great commission. These gifts are instruments enabling Christians to successfully reach the unsaved at home and overseas with the gospel.
After the bursting forth in tongues on the first day of Pentecost the disciples immediately spilled out of that upper room to evangelise with the challenge to genuinely repent of sins and be baptised. Some 3000 new Christians were added to the church and kingdom growth was on its way!
What might hold us back this Pentecost Sunday?
This month’s links: Focus – Wonsuk Ma’s The Spirit and Mission / Inspirational – Geraldine Brandt’s God’s Strength and Human Weaknesses / Biblical Perspectives – Jim McClure’s / Impact – Mark Ellis’ Miraculously Christian Boxer Overcame Many Trials