Did You Know that Pentecost is this Sunday?

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The Christian calendar practiced by most evangelicals today is extremely illuminating.  What it shows is our generally weak appreciation for the fullness of Christ's saving work.  Two big holidays occupy our minds completely: Christmas and Easter.  So we focus on the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord.  So far as it goes, that is perfectly wholesome.  But what a huge event Pentecost is in the life of the Christian church (not to mention the Ascension)!  There can be little doubt that while most of our churches faithfully observe Mother's Day thsi coming Lord's Day, most will completely ignore our Lord's great redemptive-historical gift of the outpoured Holy Spirit.

My concern, therefore, is not so much how our churches recognize/observe Pentecost, but that we do so.  Personally, I do not prefer to preach lectionary sermons linked to the church calendar, being committed to sequential expository preaching of Books of the Bible.  What I plan to do is to give a call to worship that references Pentecost, sing hymns tied to this theme, and I also have done my pastor's letter this week on the importance that we recognize ourselves as a Pentecostal church in the true and biblical sense.  My pastor's letter is provided below:

 

Our Pentecostal Church

 

Second Presbyterian Church is a Pentecostal church.  In fact, there are no other kinds of Christian churches than Pentecostal churches.  By this, I mean that the present age of God's people is defined and energized by Christ's outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Since today is Pentecost Sunday, I think it would be good for us to recall the enormous blessings that come to us through this mighty gift from our Savior.

To call yourself a Pentecostal today is to believe in and emphasize the use of apostolic gifts: gifts such as speaking in tongues and healing.  We certainly believe in miracles today, including miraculous healings, but we do not believe that any individual possesses the kind of miracle-working gift as did apostles of Christ.  Hebrews 2:3-4 tells us that the ability to work signs and wonders was specially given to the apostles to validate their teaching of the gospel.  Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22, Paul teaches that the gift of speaking in tongues was a sign belonging to his own age, a sign to the Jewish people of their rejection of the Messiah, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 2811-12: "By a people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people."  So to be a Pentecostal Christian in the biblical sense is not to emphasize speaking in tongues or the gift of miracle-working. 

So what does it really mean to be Pentecostal?  The answer is found in the Book of Acts, which tells of Jesus sending the Holy Spirit upon His church: "Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:2-4).  What do this and other passages tell us about Christ's gift to the church at Pentecost?

 

  • As a result of Jesus' atoning sacrifice, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity.  John the Baptist had said that Jesus would "baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Lk. 3:16).  To be baptized is to be permanently joined with an object.  Since Jesus took all our punishment, the fire that Christians are baptized not with the fire of judgment but with the fire of the Spirit's power from God.
  • Through the Spirit's power, Christians are now all equipped to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world.  Jesus foretold: "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" (Acts 1:8).  It is because of the Spirit who indwells us that each Christian has the ability to declare Jesus to the world.
  • The church now is capable of a spiritual unity that was not previously possible.  In this respect, Pentecost is the Bible's answer to God's curse at the Tower of Babel.  When man rebelled in trying to build a tower to heaven, God cursed our race with a division of speech and the resulting confusion.  But at Pentecost, believers from a wide variety of race, nationality, and speech were united as one.  As everyone present spoke in tongues, they all heard each other in their own native language (Acts 2:5-11).  There is a new race in Jesus Christ, in which we may all enjoy loving fellowship through our Spirit-given bond in Christ.
  • By the Spirit's illuminating work in our minds and hearts, every believer can now receive and understand God's Word.  When Peter was asked to explain what was happening on Pentecost, he replied with the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32: "And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams;... in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17-18).  His point was not that all Christians will receive bizarre revelations, but rather that we will all enjoy the access to God that previously was enjoyed only by the prophets.  Whereas in the old covenant only the prophets received the Word of God, now every Christian can know the will of God and the truth of His gospel and can share it with others.
  • Pentecost was the summer harvest feast of the Jews, with the particular distinction that its great day was on the eighth day, which was a special Sabbath.  The eighth day, of course, is the day of the resurrection, which we call Sunday.  As such, the gift of the Holy Spirit is directly linked with the resurrection of Jesus.  As the Pentecostal church, we enjoy resurrection life through the power of the Spirit.  Paul tells us of the fruit of the Spirit, which is the character renovation the Spirit intends to do in each of our lives, granting us the blessings of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).  Whereas Israel broke God's covenant through unfaithfulness, we are sealed with the Spirit to receive all the blessings covenanted to us in Christ (cf. Eph. 1:13-14; Heb. 8:9-10).

 

Christians have so many things to celebrate as we look back on Christ's Pentecost gift of the Spirit.  We now have direct access to God through Christ, in a way that previously was known only to Israel's prophets, priests and kings.  We have divine power within us, not for spectacular works but for the simple life of godly faith.  We are empowered by Jesus to witness his gospel to the world.  United in the Spirit, we are called to enjoy a spiritual unity with one another in love.  And we have power to triumph over sin and evil, living holy lives in the resurrection power of our Lord.

 

Reflecting on all these blessings, I think we should remember Pentecost by raising our expectations.  We should expect that God can do more than all we ask or imagine in our lives (Eph. 3:20).  We should aspire to a higher degree of holiness and spiritual joy, since God's own Spirit lives in us through faith in Christ.  And we should devote ourselves more fully to Christ and his glorious kingdom, knowing that we have His power for the work of the gospel in our generation.  For all of this we give thanks today to our Lord Jesus, who "redeemed us from the curse of the law... so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:13-14).

 

In Christ's Love,

 

 

 

Pastor Rick Phillips

Posted May 6, 2008 @ 1:59 PM by Rick Phillips
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