************ Sermon on Acts 2:2-4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 24, 2015
"Proof of the Spirit's Coming"
How do you know if you are Spirit-filled? Or, to drive the point home, what proof can you give me that the Spirit of God has made its dwelling place in your heart?
The Spirit is not something physical like the heart or kidney or lung, something you can point at and say, "There it is. Do you see it? That's the Spirit within me!" The Spirit is spirit, not flesh and blood. None of us can see it. None of us can weigh it. None of us can measure it. As we read in the Gospel of John:
(Jn 3:8) The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
(Jn 14:17) The world cannot accept [the Spirit of truth], because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
Today's Scripture reading describes for us the pouring out of the Spirit. It reminds us that nearly 2000 years ago God the Holy Spirit made His temple on earth. But the Spirit is spirit, not flesh and blood. No one back then could see the Spirit either. No one could weigh it. No one could measure it. So how can the book of Acts tell us that the Spirit came down? What proof does it offer? How do we know that the early church was Spirit-filled?
No one can see a spirit. No one can see the Spirit. But we can know its presence. We can know its presence by signs. We know its presence in the early church by wind and fire and speech. We know its presence today in our lives by wind and fire and speech.
These signs seemed like natural phenomena. After all, what can be more natural than wind and fire and speech? Yet, they are supernatural both in origin and character. By that I mean they are signs from God and of God. For instance, the noise they heard was not wind, but sounded like it; the sight they saw was not fire, but resembled it; and the speech was in languages which were not ordinary, but in some way different.
Everyone present saw and heard the wind, the fire, and the speech but they knew it was not normal, not natural, and not physical. So, amazed and perplexed they asked each other, "What does this mean?" (vs 12).
"What does this mean?" We already know, don't we? It means the presence of Christ's Spirit in our hearts and lives. It means Christ's Spirit has made its home within the church. It means that believers are the temple, the dwelling place, of God and His Christ.
I The Wind
A The first sign of the Spirit's presence is the wind. Listen to how our text describes it:
(Acts 2:2) Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
What do you think of when you think of the blowing of the wind? You might have visions of towels and swim suits swaying in wind gusts at the camp site or you might think of the rustle of leaves being softly moved back and forth in the breeze. You might think of a boat, a big merchant sail boat, its acres of sail filled with the wind, being pushed across the ocean.
Forget this soft, gentle stuff. Think of a hurricane or typhoon. It drives the sea before it. Waves reach 30, 40, 50 feet high. Huge breakers sweep up on beaches and wash away anything within 100 yards of the shore. The wind is a howling. Rain falls horizontally rather than vertically. Cars are flipped over. Roofs are plucked off of structures with the same ease we pick pepperoni from our pizzas. Or think of a tornado. Houses are lifted from their foundations and set crashing down a mile away. A stalk of straw is blown against a tree with such force that it is driven 9 or 10 inches into it. Or think of a Winter blizzard. The wind shrieks through every crack and hole. It sucks away every bit of heat. It piles up snow into drifts of 20 or 30 feet. It pounds its fury at anything standing in its way.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is not like a breeze, a gentle Summer wind. Rather, it is like a hurricane, a tornado, a blizzard. The Holy Spirit's presence is not meek and mild, gentle and soft. Rather, it is powerful and effective, awesome and terrifying.
B When I think of the Spirit as wind, I cannot help but think of Elijah on Mount Horeb. You know the story. Elijah flees from Jezebel, who has threatened to kill him because he has killed her prophets of Baal. He traveled for 40 days and nights until he reached Horeb. There he went into a cave and spent the night. The next morning the Lord asked him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:9). Elijah responded that he was the only one who still served the Lord: "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty ... I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too" (1 Kings 19:10). Do you remember how the Lord responded?
(1 Kings 19:11-12) "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD ... Wow! What a wind that must have been – a wind that tore apart mountains and shattered rocks. Join together the worst wind of a hurricane, tornado, and blizzard and they are as nothing next to the wind of the presence of God's Spirit.
C In the Old Testament the word translated as "wind" has special significance. In some places it is translated as "wind," other times "breath," and still other times "spirit." Yet, the same Hebrew word is used each and every time.
Bear with me a moment as we look at the use of this word. We go back to the beginning of time, to the sixth day of creation. Do you remember what God did?
(Gen 2:7) The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Do you see what happened? The great breath of God, the mighty wind of God, the powerful Spirit of God brought life.
Next, we go to Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezek 37). You remember what Ezekiel saw: a great valley littered with thousands upon thousands of bones – an army of men had perished in that valley; their bones were old and dry and white.
Ezekiel was commanded to preach to those old, white, dried out bones. So Ezekiel preaches. The results are amazing. The scattered bones begin to clank and clink and rattle. They move toward each other and are joined together, forming human skeletons. Miraculously, muscles and flesh are fitted to each skeleton, but they are still dead. God then commanded Ezekiel to speak to the wind. Addressing the four corners of the earth, the prophet calls for the "breath of God" to blow over the bodies and give them life. As he speaks, it happens. The bodies stand up, alive, a virtual army where moments before had been only dry, bleached bones.
Do you see what happened? The great breath of God, the mighty wind of God, the powerful Spirit of God brought life to a valley of dead bones.
Finally, we go to Ephesus. There we see a people who were dead in transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1). They spent their time gratifying the cravings of the sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts (Eph 2:3). They were a people headed straight for the eternal fires of hell. But after the ministry of Paul they are no longer dead but alive. They have been raised with Christ (Eph 2:1-10) and are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
Do you know what happened? The great breath of God, the mighty wind of God, the powerful Spirit of God brought life. It made them born again with the life of the resurrected Christ.
How do you know if you are Spirit-filled? What proof can you give me that the Spirit of God has made its dwelling place in your heart? How do we know that the early church was Spirit-filled? All we need do is look for new life – Christ's life – within you. Look at the early church, for instance. On that first Pentecost about 3,000 souls were added to their number. Look in your life. Are you dead in your transgressions and sins or are you alive to God in Jesus Christ? Those who are a new creation, those who are born-again, have the breath of God, the wind of God, the Spirit of God, within them.
II The Fire
A The second sign of the Spirit's presence is the fire. Listen to how our text describes it:
(Acts 2:3) They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.Tongues of fire rested on each of them.
What do you think of when you think of fire? Maybe you think of a crackling camp-fire by which you roast marshmallows, warm your toes, and sing songs. Maybe you think of a little child holding up a candle and singing, "This little light of mine."
Forget this soft, glowing stuff. Instead, go to Gary, Indiana. Enter one of the mills of U.S. Steel. Stand before any of the huge furnaces. The fire burns at 2,900̊F. The hardest metal turns into a hot, boiling, burbling liquid and runs through a spout as smoothly as water.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is not a soft, glowing candle. Rather, it is bright, hot, purifying flame.
B When I think of the Spirit as fire I cannot help but think of Isaiah. In a vision Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphs, flying back and forth, and calling to one another:
(Isaiah 6:3) Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory ...Do you remember Isaiah's response to this awesome scene?
(Isaiah 6:5) "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."Then one of the seraphs flew to Isaiah with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched Isaiah's lips and burned away all of his lip's impurities.
Do you see what happened? The brightly burning fire of God, the consuming fire of God, the blaze of the Spirit of God purified Isaiah.
When I think of the Spirit as fire I also cannot help but think of Moses and the burning bush. You remember this story. Moses sees a bush on fire in the desert, a bush that is on fire but is not burned up. Moses trembled and took off his shoes because God was in the bush that burned and the ground he was standing on was holy ground.
Now, look at Pentecost. The fire that purified Isaiah, the fire that had Moses trembling and without his shoes, that same fire falls on ordinary people and they are not consumed. Rather, they are purified by that sanctifying flame.
C This purifying flame of the Spirit makes an obvious difference in the lives of God's children. Without this flame, man pursues the acts of the sinful nature: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Gal 5:19-21). With this flame, man pursues the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). With this flame, in other words, man becomes like Christ Himself.
I want to tell you, every person in Creation either faces the flames of the Spirit or the eternal flames of hell. Every person either submits to the purifying flames of the Spirit or the punishing flames of hell. It is the one or the other.
How do you know if you are Spirit-filled? What proof can you give me that the Spirit of God has made its dwelling place in your heart? How do we know that the early church was Spirit-filled? Look for a life that is in the process of being purified to be like Christ. Notice, I say "process." Because in this life and on this earth and in this present body, none of us can ever be totally rid of the impurities of sin. Those who are Spirit-filled used to be sinners running after sin, but now that they are saved they are sinners running from sin. That's the difference the purifying Spirit makes in the lives of God's children.
III The Speech
A The third sign of the Spirit's presence is the speech. Listen to how our text describes it:
(Acts 2:4) All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.What were they talking about? Peter's sermon shows us: they were talking about Christ. And, they were talking about Christ to everyone in their own tongue or language. Those who are Spirit-filled don't go around saying, "Look, I have the Spirit." Rather, they say, "Look, I have Christ."
(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.
B How do you know if you are Spirit-filled? What proof can you give me that the Spirit of God has made its dwelling place in your heart? How do we know that the early church was Spirit-filled?
Whenever someone stands before God and His people and proclaims that Jesus is his Savior from sin and the Lord of his life, we see the presence of the Spirit. Whenever the church speaks of Christ, we see the presence of the Spirit. Whenever God's people cannot keep quiet about the wonderful works of God in Christ, we see the presence of the Spirit. Whenever and wherever a thousand tongues sing God's praises in Christ, there we see the presence of the Spirit. You see, anyone who is filled with the Spirit cannot stop talking of Jesus.
No one can see the Spirit. But we can know its presence. We can know its presence by signs. We know its presence in the early church by wind and fire and speech. We know its presence in our lives by wind and fire and speech.
Do you see its presence in your life? Do you see its presence in the life of this church?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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