************ Sermon on Acts 2:17-21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 19, 2002
"The Holy Spirit and the Last Days"
I We Are in the Last Days
A Recently, in Chicago, there was a convention of futurologists. The 1000+ men and women attending spent some four days talking about and predicting the future. They discussed glamorous things like space travel, colonization of the planets, phasers, new energy forms, and cars that fly; they also discussed the food, homes, furniture, and clothing of the future. If the past is any guide, their vision of the future is probably wrong:
Title: They Believed It
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." Lord Kelvin, British mathematician, physicist, and president of the British Royal Society, c. 1895.
"With over fifty foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market for itself." Business Week, 2 August 1968.
"A severe depression like that of 1920-1921 is outside the range of probability." The Harvard Economic Society, 16 November 1929.
"I think there is a world market for about five computers." Thomas J. Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
"There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home." Ken Olson, President, Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
"We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out." Decca Recording Co. executive, turning down the Beatles in 1962.
"The phonograph -- is not of any commercial value." Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the phonograph, c. 1880.
"No matter what happens, the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught napping." Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, 4 December 1941, just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...." General John B. Sedgwick, last words, Battle of Spotsylvania, 1864.
People are interested in the future. That's why a convention of futurologists can have over a 1000 people in attendance. That's why science fiction writers have their works devoured by millions of readers around the world. That's why people flock to preachers who claim to reveal the future as laid out in the Bible. That's why almost every newspaper contains an astrology section. That's why something like a psychic hotline is big business today.
B In his Pentecost Day speech Peter gives us a unique theological perspective on the future. He tells us the future is now. He tells us we are in the last days now.
In the Bible the "last days" stands for the whole time between the two comings of Jesus Christ. It is the time of the Kingdom of God. It is the Messianic Age. It is the Day of Salvation.
To prove his point Peter quotes what the prophet Joel says:
(Acts 2:17) "'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.According to Joel, in the last days God pours out His Spirit upon all flesh. Up to the time of Pentecost the pouring out of the Spirit was only temporary and it was poured out only upon chosen men and women like judges, prophets, priests, and kings to equip them for a certain task. For instance, Scripture tell us of how King Saul was temporarily blessed with the Spirit so he could carry out his duties as king (1 Sam 11:6). But in the last days the Spirit will be poured out on all people, not just chosen leaders.
C Today is Pentecost Sunday, my brothers and sisters. We remember and we celebrate that the Spirit has been poured out on all people. We remember and we celebrate that we are now in the last days.
I want to explore with you this morning the difference this should make in your life and my life – that the Spirit has come and we are now in the last days. For this should make a difference – a big difference – in the way that we live. But does it?
Does the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost make a big difference in our lives? Are we conscious of its power and gifts? Do we live and walk in the awareness of its presence? At a recent conference an Assembly of God preacher told me how much of the emphasis in his church falls upon the Holy Spirit. However, he acknowledges things must be slipping because he received a note from headquarters reminding him that today is Pentecost. In response a pastor trained in the Reformed faith thought that the Holy Spirit made little or no difference in the lives of Reformed believers. "We never think or talk about it," he said. "People have no awareness of the role the Spirit does play or should play in their Christian life." Is this really true? I sincerely hope not!
Before Jesus left His disciples and returned to heaven, He promised that he would send them a helper, the Holy Spirit. The word helper means, "one called alongside." He stands beside us to help us. Because of the Spirit we who are believers in Christ fight no battles and face no issues alone. A story in Leadership magazine illustrates the point:
Topic: Holy Spirit
Title: One Called Alongside
Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball's color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.
Whether we are Reformed or Pentecostal the pouring out of the Holy Spirit should and does make a difference in our lives in these last days. And it makes a difference in at least two areas. First, it means we are prophets. And second, it means we have power.
A Quoting from Joel, Peter tells us that in these last days the Spirit makes all believers into prophets:
(Acts 2:17-18) "'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.
There were times in Israel's history when the voice of prophecy was almost nonexistent. At the time of Samuel, for instance, we are told,
(1 Sam 3:1) In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.By the time of the New Testament things were even worse. There was 400 long years between Malachi and John the Baptist, 400 years without a prophet. But at Pentecost all this is reversed. Quoting Joel, Peter tells us that everyone of God's believing children receives the Spirit and becomes a prophet.
There was a time when Moses wished he could see this happen – every believer filled with the Spirit and turned into a prophet. In Numbers 11 we read how the Spirit of the Lord rested on two Israelites, Eldad and Medad, who began to prophesy. Joshua was jealous for Moses' sake and said, "Moses, my lord, stop them!" (Num 11:28).
(Num 11:29) But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" What Moses was only able to dream about Peter was privileged to see become a reality – a reality that still exists today: God's people filled with the Spirit and turned into prophets.
B Before we go any further we had better make sure we know what a prophet and prophecy is. Most people mistakenly think that prophecy has to do with the future; thinking that, they define a prophet as someone who predicts the future.
Once in a while a prophet does speak about the future. Mostly, however, a prophet speaks about the present. He or she looks at the world around them and says, "This is what the LORD says ..." A prophet, in other words, declares God's Word for our lives today.
Seen this way, a preacher is a prophet. My calling is to apply the Word of God to your life and my life today.
C But I am not the only prophet in this congregation. I may be the only one called and ordained as a preacher, but each and every believer filled with the Spirit is also called to be a prophet. This means that each and every believer has a calling to look at life and society and family and say, "This is what the LORD says ..."
We function as prophets when we speak against abortion and euthanasia. We function as prophets when we object to the violence and sex on TV. We function as prophets when we object to homosexual practice and its increasing acceptance as an alternative lifestyle. We function as prophets when we speak against pornography and abuse and alcoholism and drug abuse.
We function as prophets when we raise our children in God's ways; when we teach them the difference between right and wrong; when we give them moral and spiritual guidance.
We function as prophets when we lead Bible Studies.
Especially, though, we function as prophets when we witness, evangelize, engage in missions. I think of the apostles before Pentecost. Author Max Lucado describes the scene:
Topic: PowerYet on Pentecost the Lord blessed them with 3,000 converts. Why? What happened? The difference is the Spirit of the risen Lord. Because the disciples were filled with the Spirit they began to witness and preach. This reminds us that a Spirit-filled people are a witnessing people. A spirit-filled people are prophets who proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to a lost-in-sin world.
The 11 terrified disciples sat in a locked room. If you looked around the room, you wouldn't take them for a bunch who were about to put the kettle of history on high boil. Uneducated. Confused. Calloused hands. Heavy accents. Few social graces. Limited knowledge of the world. No money. Undefined leadership. And on and on.
No, as you looked at this motley crew, you wouldn't wager too many paychecks on their future.
I want to remind the congregation of Faith Promise. By supporting our missionaries through Faith Promise and through denominational ministry shares we are being prophets. By witnessing to those the Lord sends into our life we are being prophets.
A In these last days when we receive the Spirit we also have power. When we think of power we think of President Bush – the leader of the world's only superpower. Or, we may think of Bill Gates, the founder/owner of Microsoft; he has more control over the development of the computer industry than any other person alive.
In these last days Christians also have power. They have power because they have the Spirit. On TV there used to be a Master Card advertisement in which a person says, "Wherever I go in the world I carry clout. I carry Master Card." Our clout, however, doesn't come from Master Card or Visa or a good credit rating or political marches. We have clout, we have power, because we have the Spirit.
We find ample proof for this in Scripture – that the presence of the Spirit means power. Just before He ascended into heaven Jesus said to His disciples
(Acts 1:8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes ...And, in another reference to the Spirit, He said,
(Lk 24:49) I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.Zechariah was told that John the Baptist,
(Lk 1:15) will be great in the sight of the Lord ... he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. And, Mary the mother of Jesus was told,
(Lk 1:35) The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
B The power that is ours from the Spirit – what good does it do us, what can we use it for? That power, as I showed the children, helps us to lead a victorious Christian life. That power enables us to pursue a life of Christian character. That power fills us so we can fight sin and evil and live like new people in Christ. I read earlier from Galatians 5. On the one hand are the acts of the sinful nature: sexual immorality, impurity, hatred, discord, jealousy, envy, fits of rage, and drunkenness; on the other hand are the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
How do we go from the one to the other? During Medieval times some tried to go from the life of sin to the life of righteousness by entering a monastery or by leading a life of severe self-denial. More recently there have been those who tried to go from the one to the other by doing good and leading a life of service. And today there are those who engage in a whirlwind of religious activity: worship services, retreats, conventions, meetings, Bible studies, and so on. Certainly there is nothing wrong with any of this in and of itself. However, none of this can succeed in changing sinners into saints.
It is only by the power of the Spirit that we are able to put aside the acts of the sinful nature; it is only by the power of the Spirit that the fruit can be found in your life or my life.
Topic: Holy SpiritAs I showed the boys and girls with the water glass, we can get rid of sinful habits only when we are filled with the power of the Spirit.
Subtopic: Dwells in Believers
Title: Vacuum or Victory
A man who drank heavily was converted to Christ and lived victoriously for several weeks. One day as he passed the open door of a tavern, the pungent odor drifting out aroused his old appetite for liquor. Just then he saw this sign in the window of a nearby cafe: "All the buttermilk you can drink -- 25 cents!" Dashing inside, he ordered one glass, then another, and still another. After finishing the third he walked past the saloon and was no longer tempted. He was so full of buttermilk that he had no room for that which would be injurious to him. The lesson is clear: to be victorious over our evil desires, we must be filled with the power and presence of the Spirit.
The Spirit has been poured out. We are in the last days. We are called to be prophets. We are filled with power.
Yet, many times we act like the disciples in the Upper Room -- scared, powerless, ineffective, confused. Why is this so? Paul tells us the answer when he says, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire" (1 Thess 5:19). And, if we admit it, we often are guilty of putting out the Spirit's fire.
Topic: Holy Spirit
Title: Don't Squench the Spirit
Someone I read this past week coined a word by combining the words squelch and quench. He wrote, "Don't 'squench' the Spirit." We 'squench' the Spirit in more ways than we suspect. We do so when we stifle the desire to speak or act for the Lord. When we criticize or discourage others by an unspiritual attitude, we 'throw cold water' on their inner fire. We have the Holy Spirit as an honored Guest at every Christian gathering, and He can be grieved very easily. A frivolous attitude, a rebellious frame of mind, or a fed-up complacency will do it.
In these last days we must not squench the Spirit. In these last days we must act as Spirit-filled Christians. In these last days we must let the Spirit work in us to be prophets. In these last days we must let the Spirit's power show we are new people in Christ.
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