The Spirit and the Promise

Corey Widmer on Acts 2: 1-13

second Sermon in the Series "The Story Continues"

The Story Continues, Week 2

Last week we looked at the way Jesus first called ordinary, unworthy people into his story, and then began to transform them in order to send them out into his world.  But how could they accomplish that, especially without Jesus right there with them as they had expected?  

After Jesus called them to continue his mission, he ascended into heaven and gave his disciples a gift--a gift that would leave them changed forever. The gift was the Holy Spirit, and it was the two-fold fulfillment of promises God made to his people centuries before: to restore His presence to the people he made and loved, and to restore and unite the nations of the earth.

The first promise reversed the state of separation between God and humanity that had begun with Adam and Eve's rebellion in the Garden of Eden, and that had continued through the history of God's chosen people, Israel.  The second promise reversed the dispersal and confusion of the nations at Babel, when humankind once again chose to make a name for itself rather than be in relationship with their Creator God.  Both promises of restoration came true and began to work transformation of the world when as the symbol of God's presence (fire) came to rest upon the disciples in Jerusalem, and they spoke to the all the peoples of the world in their own tongues.  

Yet, the critical thing to remember is that the Spirit of God that came to rest upon this unlikely bunch of followers and enabled them to change the world is the very same gift Jesus gives today to all who name him Lord and savior.  

But what exactly does this mean? What’s this all about? At least in this text, the gift of the Holy Spirit provides two new things to God’s people, both corporately and as individuals:

1.     A New Experience of God’s presence

2.     A New Power for God’s mission

One  question we should be asking ourselves and each other is, "Do we actually need the Spirit to do what we're doing in God's name, or can we do it by relying on our own strengths and talents?" If we can proceed with even wonderful works of mercy on our own, we may need to ask if these are the things God wants us to be doing, and if we might need to re-connect with the Spirit for both guidance and power in ministry. As we prepare to come before the Lord together this week and meditate on this important part of the Gospel story, consider how you are sensing God's presence in your own life, and how God is empowering you to do the work Jesus entrusted to his church.  

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”

--A. W. Tozer

Acts 2: 1-13 -

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began  to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9Parthians and *Medes and *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, 11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Why Study Acts Now?

Today, Third Church is entering into a completely new and exciting chapter of our long story, even as we are in continuity with all that has come before. We are in a new denomination, one that is eager to empower congregations for creative works of mission. We are in a metropolitan city that is growing and changing in dynamic ways, and one in which God is clearly at work to advance his Kingdom and to bring healing and reconciliation. We are in a cultural moment in which growing secularity is requiring the North American church to restore its original identity as a missionary community. Who knows what the next chapter will hold?

There is One who does. As we dream and envision what lies ahead together, we take our cues from the One who reigns and writes the story of history. We want to follow Him and His ways, not our own creative ideas.

For that reason we’ll be spending the first five weeks of the year studying some key passages together in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is not just an interesting narrative on the ancient church – it is our story, the story that we are a part of and that the Spirit of God continues to write for us today, both as a community and as individuals.  We listen deeply to the story of the church so we know how to live as faithful followers of Jesus in this new time and place. 

Details of this week's Worship Services can be viewed by clicking the service names, below:

9:00 AM Convergent Service in the Sanctuary

11:15 AM Traditional Service in the Sanctuary

11:15 Contemporary Service in the Fellowship Hall