The Spirit filled the first generation Christians. He came with wind, fire, and as they drank His Presence deeply, they were overcome with ecstasy, speaking in tongues, creating a commotion that drew a crowd! Some who saw what was happening, dismissed it all as nothing more than a bunch of people who were drunk! It makes me smile that the God we so often worship with such careful decorum chose to begin the Church with a chaotic celebration.
See the story for yourself. “On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee,” (Acts 2:1-7, NLT) “But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”” (Acts 2:13, NLT) Was it all just a noisy party that was over in day? No, it was the birth of the Church.
Luke’s story in Acts is about ordinary people who were extraordinarily empowered! Without a national office to coordinate their efforts, funds on reserve in the bank, an advertising budget, or a counseling office – those people changed the world. They took a confounding message of a God come to earth, who died and rose again, to a pagan world and, within one century, there were hundreds of thousands of Christ-followers. That first day in Jerusalem the movement seemed laughable. What could a few dozen followers of Jesus do to change a world full of cruelty and desperation? But, they had a promise: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NLT) Full of faith and expectation, they waited, they were filled, and they did the impossible.
Their message? God invites you to know Him, to come into His Kingdom, a place of love, hope, joy, and ultimately – eternal life! Their power did not exempt them from sacrifice. Deprivation, disappointment, and death stalked them, but it was of little consequence to them. They were not perfect and Luke tells us that they had conflicts, made false starts, and sometimes got it wrong. But, they met sin and evil head on with God’s power. They preached and lived a divinely given vision of a new way to live ‘in the Kingdom’ even as they lived here on earth.
Stephen, the martyr, is an example of the way that they lived. At his trial, he preached an amazing sermon that was not filled with pleas for his life. It was a fearless proclamation of the Truth of Christ, that infuriated the council hearing his case. “At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” (Acts 7:54-56, The Message) Stephen’s experience of Spirit empowering was not unique. Luke tells us “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence. ” (Acts 4:31, The Message)
All Christians are given the Spirit when they accept Christ’s invitation to life. But, there is an empowering experience of Him for all of us, too! Don’t get hung up on names for that experience, or trying to make it happen in some unique way or place, or fitting it into a neat timeline. Just receive Him! Peter invites us to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 11:16) When He comes, He will disturb our neat little life. He will lead us to faith that some call folly. He will let us see a hope that others will insist is just a delusion. Jesus said “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive.” (John 7:37-39)
Ah, I am hungry and thirsty for God, aren’t you? Let us pray for a Pentecostal experience and give away our need to control the outcome. Here is a word from the Word that describes their fellowship. My prayer is that we will live in a similar empowered fellowship, for the glory of God.
“A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:43-47, NLT) Do it, Lord!
Father of creation,
Unfold Your sov’reign plan.
Raise up a chosen generation
That will march through the land.
All of creation is longing
For Your unveiling of pow’r.
Would You release Your anointing?
Oh God, let this be the hour.
Ruler of the nations,
The world has yet to see
The full release of Your promise,
The church in victory.
Turn to us, Lord, and touch us;
Make us strong in Your might.
Overcome our weakness,
That we could stand up and fight.
Let Your kingdom come,
Let Your will be done.
Let us see on earth,
The glory of Your Son.
Let Your glory fall
In this room.
Let it go forth from here
To the nations.
Let Your fragrance rest
In this place,
As we gather to seek Your face.
Let Your Glory Fall- Ruis, David © 1993 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Music Services) CCLI License No. 810055