************ Sermon on Acts 1:1-8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 19, 2013
"Wait for the Promised Spirit"
Did you know that the Jews also observed Pentecost? We find the Jewish Pentecost in Leviticus 23 – which lists a calendar of feasts to be observed by the Jewish people. As Christians we see this calendar as an outline of the work of Jesus Christ. Passover, for instance, pictures Jesus' death as the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7). The Feast of Firstfruits pictures His resurrection from the dead (1 Cor 15:20–23). Fifty days after Firstfruits is the Feast of Pentecost; at this feast the Jews celebrate the giving of the Law but Christians celebrate Christ's giving of the Holy Spirit to the church.
I The Promise of the Spirit
A On this Pentecost Sunday we see that the Spirit is promised by the Father. In our Bible reading Jesus instructs the disciples to "wait for the gift my Father promised" (Acts 1:4). At the end of Luke's gospel Jesus says, "I am going to send you what my Father has promised" (Lk 24:48).
The Holy Spirit has been promised by the Father. Remember our call to worship and opening song this morning? They were based on Joel 2-3 – a prophecy about the coming of the Spirit.
(Joel 2:28-29) And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (29) Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.Peter quotes this prophecy in his Pentecost Day sermon.
B The Holy Spirit has also been promised by Jesus. "Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about" (Acts 1:4). "I am going to send you what my Father has promised" (Lk 24:49). But these are not the only times that Jesus spoke about the coming of the Spirit:
(Jn 14:16-17) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- (17) the Spirit of truth.
(Jn 14:26) But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
(Jn 15:26) When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.
(Cf Jn 16:5-15)
C The coming of the Spirit has also been promised by John the Baptist:
(Lk 3:16) "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."The coming of the Holy Spirit in all its fulness, I want you to realize, is a long-standing promise of God.
II The Wait for the Spirit
A The Spirit is coming. That is the promise of God, of Jesus, and of John the Baptist.
So, what are the disciples told to do? They are told to wait for the coming of the Spirit. It is a wonderful promise and a wonderful gift. But they are told to wait.
As a boy, one of our sons could not wait for Christmas. He was not able to wait patiently to find out what he was getting for Christmas. He would shake and rattle his presents under the Christmas tree. He would tear back a corner of the wrapping paper. One year we hid the gifts. Another year we put a box inside of a box.
To be honest, the apple does not fall far from the tree. I, too, do not like to wait. I order stamps online rather than wait in line at the Post Office. I don't like waiting at the doctor's office. I shudder about long lines and long waits at the hospital Emergency room. A DMV appointment used to fill me with dread until they instituted online appointments.
In our Scripture reading Jesus told the apostles to "wait" in Jerusalem. Yes, someday they would be leaving Jerusalem for Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth; but for now they were told to wait.
So what did the apostles do after the ascension? They returned to Jerusalem to wait. But they were not the only ones waiting. With them were the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and the brothers of Jesus (Acts 1:13-14).
B Did the disciples hate this time of waiting? Were they impatiently counting the days and the hours? Anything but. Luke's gospel indicates they were filled with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God (Lk 24:52). And they all joined together constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14).
What an example they are for waiting people! How many opportunities for worship and prayer do we miss out on because we think something else is more important or more urgent? How often do we just wait and fuss impatiently while we could be in prayer and worship?
C The Greek word for "wait" includes the idea of expectation. This means the disciples waited in expectation. A family expecting the birth of a baby wait that way. They wait in expectation. They wait in anticipation. They wait with longing and excitement. The disciples were told to wait this way, to wait in expectation.
We are called to wait this way for the second coming of the Lord – with anticipation, with longing, with excitement, with joy, with patience. But this does not mean we sit or stand around twiddling our thumbs doing nothing. Like the apostles and the others we keep on with our worship and prayer.
D To wait in expectation means to wait upon the Lord. To wait this way means matters are left in the Father's hands. To wait this way means we trust the Father's timing and the Father's plans.
The psalmist tells us, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord" (Ps 27:14). We don't always understand God's ways. We sometimes become impatient. We wonder why something doesn't happen. But God has a plan. God has a schedule. So, wait as the disciples waited.
III The Giving of the Spirit
A You know what happened next. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. What happened? What does this mean? Scripture tell us: "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4).
The Spirit that was promised. The Spirit they were waiting for. That Spirit came on Pentecost after ten days of waiting in Jerusalem.
Like wrappings at Christmas, the upper room exploded with activity as the promised gift was finally unwrapped.
B It is Peter who explains to the onlookers what happened. He mentions they put Jesus to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God has raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death. Then, exalted to the right hand of God, He received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what they see and hear (Acts 2:32-33).
According to Peter, the Spirit comes from the Father through the Son. As the resurrected and exalted Lord, Jesus received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit. And, it is Jesus Who pours out that Spirit upon the church.
The Spirit is promised by the Father and given by the Son. Or, as Jesus puts it at the end of Luke's Gospel, "I am going to send you what my Father has promised" (Lk 24:49).
Practically speaking, this means the Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. He is in our hearts to do the bidding of the Father and the Son. He is at work in the church to bring glory to the Father and the Son. He points away from Himself and to the Father and the Son.
IV The Power of the Spirit
A Jesus tells the disciples to stay in Jerusalem "until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Lk 24:49). Jesus says, "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you" (Acts 1:8).
What is this "power" that Jesus talks about?
B Luke tells us the Spirit came from heaven with the sound of a violent wind, filling the house. The Holy Spirit also came with what seemed to be tongues of fire.
Wind and fire. Fire and wind. Both are terrible powers of destruction. Consider the wild-fires down south as we have only 17% of the normal snow-pack; fire-fighters are preparing themselves for a busy fire season. Already, entire neighborhoods have been threatened with the need for evacuation. Consider the wind of Hurricane Sandy – billed as the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and the second most costly hurricane in U.S. history. Storm damage is estimated at $75 billion. And, at least 285 people were killed along the path of the storm.
The Holy Spirit came as wind and as fire. The Holy Spirit came with power.
C Those with power – do they just sit back and admire what they have? More than one person has observed that power is wasted unless it is used. So, what do we see when we look through the book of Acts? We see that ordinary people are able to do extraordinary things because the power of the Spirit was at work in their lives.
Let's start with the most elemental use of the Spirit's power. By the power of His Spirit God makes us born-again. And, it is only by the power of the Spirit that we believe and have faith. And, it is only through the Spirit that you believe that the Bible is the Word of God revealing Christ and His redemption.
Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe the Word? That means the Spirit of God is at work in you.
It is this power that explains the difference between Jesus and John the Baptist. John baptized with water but Jesus baptized with the Spirit. John the Baptist called on men to repent but, in the Spirit, Jesus gave men the power to repent and believe.
D I read from Galatians 5 this morning – the passage that talks about the acts of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit. Where do we get the power to do good? How do we make the goal of our lives not earthly things but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God's right hand? When do we use our gifts to serve God and one another? Who gives us the power to become dead to sin and alive to righteousness? It is only by the power of the Spirit that any of this is possible.
Do you hate sin and take pleasure in whatever is right? Is it your desire to live according to all, not only some, of God's commandments? Are you genuinely sorry for sin, do you hate it more and more, and run away from it? Do you delight to do every kind of good as God wants you to do? Do you share faithfully in the life of the church? Do you honor and submit to the leaders of the church? Your answer is YES only by the power of the Spirit.
E We see the power of the Spirit in many more places and many other ways. But let me end with what Jesus says in Acts 1:8:
(Acts 1:8) 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.
Do you see and hear what happens to those filled with the Spirit? They have the power to witness. The word "witness" is a key word in the book of Acts; it is used 29 times either as a verb or noun. A witness is somebody who tells what he has seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20). When you are on the witness stand in court, the judge and jury are not interested in your ideas or opinions; they only want to hear what you have seen and heard.
Those who are of the Pentecostal persuasion love to talk about the Spirit. But those who have the Spirit don't say "I have the Spirit." Rather, they say, "I have met the Lord." Those that are filled with the power of the Spirit cannot help but talk about Jesus.
The rest of the book of Acts describes how this happens. Those filled with the power of the Spirit are, first of all, witnesses to Jesus in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7). Then they are witnesses in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8-9). And then they witness to Gentiles and to the ends of the earth (Acts 10-28).
Do you remember the story of the crippled man healed by Peter and John in the name of Jesus? John and Peter were brought before the Sanhedrin. Peter and John use the occasion to preach! As promised, the power of the Holy Spirit is theirs as they face their hostile interrogators. They share that Jesus is the only way of salvation, and they do so with courage. These unschooled, ordinary men do wonderful, extraordinary things. They do so in the power of the Holy Spirit.
What was true for Peter and John is true for everyone of us. No matter who we are, no matter where we live, no matter our education or occupation, if we have the Spirit we have the power to witness to Christ. And, as with the apostles, our witness should begin at home with our family and friends. And, from there, we should extend our witness into all the world.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was given to the church. It is the Spirit Who renews our hearts, moves us to faith, leads us in the truth, and makes our obedience fresh and vibrant. It is the Spirit that thrusts God's people into worldwide mission. He impels young and old, men and women, to go next door and far away with the good news of God's grace.
So, on this Pentecost Sunday, we thank and praise God for sending – through Christ – the promised Spirit!
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