God's Resurrected People
Pentecost 2005

Acts 1:1-11, Acts 2:1-47
(c) Copyright 2005 Rev. Bill Versteeg


Scripture Reading:  Acts 1:1-11

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Acts 2

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ”‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:

”‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

”‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.



The tribal wisdom of the Lakota People, passed on from generation to generation, says that, "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount."
However, in government, education, and in corporations, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:
1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride horses.
5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse's performance.
10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.
11. Declaring that, as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position!"
By Edd Hust From EDDitorially Speaking www.journalenterprise.com

God’s wisdom would say: "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to raise the horse to new life and continue on the journey."

Pentecost was when God raised the church to new life and continued on Christ’s journey of bringing the good news of his kingdom to this world. This truth comes to us from three different images in this passage. The first picture comes from Acts 1:4,5 were Luke quotes what Jesus said

“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.”

This morning, notice with me that phrase "baptized with the Holy Spirit." Maybe you have heard the phrase used in Pentecostal circles in a way that talks about an experience, an experience of the power of God. Or maybe you are a person who has chosen not to think about it too much. After all, in Reformed circles, we use our heads right? This Spirit stuff hardly comes to our attention. But it is in scripture and it demands our attention. What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?

We have already seen one of the pictures of baptism this morning  but there are others in scripture. One of them is in Romans 6 where Paul tells us that to be baptized is to enter into death and be raised to new life. Paul writes: (vs. 3f)

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

One of the symbol sets of baptism is that we participate in Christ’s death. Christ died for our sin, we die to our sin. Christ paid for every time we fall for temptation, we become people who no longer dive in the hole of temptation. But Christ arose from the dead. The Resurrection was God statement of power over everything that has gone wrong. It was the vindication of Jesus, the Son of God, our Redeemer. And just as a person baptized comes out of the water, so the symbolism of baptism points to our resurrection from the dead, our resurrection to being alive to God, having a heart of flesh that is hungry for God, responsive to God, listening to God, empowered by God, obeying God, passionate about God, overwhelmed by the love of God, transformed by the love of God in our behaviours toward others, our families, even toward our jobs, even toward creation. When Jesus told the church that he would baptize them with the Spirit, he told them that they were going to be raised from death to life. This was the gift of the Spirit they were called to wait for, this was the gift of the Spirit that they desperately needed if they were going to continue the purpose Jesus had called them too.

And so we come to our second image - the image of gift - the "gift of the Holy Spirit." We must take this word gift very seriously. This is a gift that is part of relationship. You might remember the word "dowry" - a word that describes in some cultures the possessions, properties and money that a bride would bring into a relationship with her husband. It can also mean the same thing for a husband to a bride. A dowry is a gift of resources that a spouse brings into a marriage relationship to enhance the relationship. Christ promised in our relationship with him a dowry - the gift of the Spirit of the living God, to empower us, lead us into truth, defend us in difficult times, heal our lives in surprising ways when we experience inevitable brokenness. And remember, the gift is not only to us as individuals, the gift is to us as a community, the gift of the Spirit is to us as families.
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
This gift enables the bride of Christ to be his partner, Christ’s helpmeet in bringing the realities of the good news into this world.

Third notice that the Spirit came in the form of wind, life giving wind, this was the breath of God, what in the Old Testament was called the Ruach JWH, the breath of life.

When God formed Adam, he took the dust and clays of the earth and shaped this bipedal creature, a statue of beauty, but unable to accomplish any task, unable to work the soil, unable to exercise authority, unable to represent God in this world, Adam may have been a picture of God but he certainly was not the image of God because God was a living being.

But then we read in Genesis 2
7 The LORD God formed the man d from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

God took the last essential ingredient - he gave to Adam his breath, the breath of life, his Spirit, and by that Spirit, Adam and then Eve became the image of the living God together. Empowered by the Spirit, they worked the ground, they ruled over creation, they worked for order and community and shalom. It was the wind of God within them that gave them life, resurrected them from clay to living beings doing the work of God in this world.
Ezekiel (37) prophesied Pentecost. The Spirit of the Lord led him to a valley of dead dried out skeletons, Ezekiel called them a valley of bones. And the Lord asked Ezekiel: “What will it take to get this vast army moving again?” Ezekiel said “Jun se pas” - “I don’t know!” except he said it in a more worshipful way he said “O Sovereign Lord you alone know.”
And so the Lord told him
“Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath a enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
And to Ezekiel’s amazement, even as he prophesied, the breath of the Lord had the power to bring these bones to life, a vast army ready to do the will of God because God put his Spirit on them.

Three images point us to the reality that Christ, at Pentecost raised his church to new life. He baptized them by his Spirit and so raised them to life. He gave them the gift, the dowry of his relationship with them - the gift of life. And when the wind blew, he breathed the breath of life upon them, and they became a vast army. I started this message with a joke which was actually an allegory, let me finish it with a story.

You might recognize this young man as I tell you this story. Be gracious if you do.
In his youth, life involved a lot of hard work. Education did not come easy. As he became a teenager, in quieter moments he wondered what the point of life was anyways. But consistently, he had no regard for church, no regard toward God. His life was one of quiet rebellion. Seeking friendship involved compromise with things he did not feel good about. But all over was the nagging question - what is the point? To him, God was something his parents were into. And God meant church, three services a Sunday, one of which was a Dutch service, this was his "pentecostal" experience, a church service in a foreign tongue. He had mastered the art of counting ceiling tiles and day dreaming through long theological diatribes that, because he was dead, meant nothing.

But then, through a series of circumstances, and because of a promise that God, when he deals with parents will also deal with their children, God took this dead young man and brought him to life.

Being baptized by the Spirit gave a life lived in black and white full vibrant technicolor. Being endowed by the Spirit came with resources and gifts that totally changed the direction of his life. He would with passionate hunger eat of the word of God, often until fatigue closed his eyes for him. Being breathed upon turned him from just a church attendee, to a person who was confessing his faith at every opportunity he had. He would go to bars with his friends, in the hope of having an opportunity to tell them of his faith. By the time he did confession of faith, his world had heard far more about his faith than any elders did.

But the story is not about him.  The story is about Jesus, his love, his desire to give the gift of the Spirit to all who will call on his name.
Maybe you can see yourself in this young man, life has a sense of deadness about it, and your life has a sense of unresponsiveness to God.  Faith is something out there... God is somebody else’s construct and not real to you.

There is more. Call on his name. Ask God for the regenerating power of his Spirit to bring you to life, because it is the only way. You see, no matter how many self help books you make a dead horse read, not one of them will raise the horse to new life.

No strategy, nothing but the power of God, being baptized by his Spirit, endowed with power, having the breath of life blowing through us, can create the divine dynamic by which we fulfill what God designed us to be.



 


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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