Pentecost: The First Great Awakening
The Holy Spirit who worked in and through the members of the early Church is the same Holy Spirit who works in and through members of the Church today. Their story is our history, one we can draw on and learn from as we execute the mission we’ve been given as followers of Jesus Christ.
For centuries, Christians around the world have used the four weeks leading up to Christmas to prepare themselves for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. It’s a time when we observe his first coming while we also look forward to his second coming. This 4-day plan will focus on hope, peace, joy, and love.
Day 1 of 5 •
The Power of Pentecost
At first, the book of Acts seems to be about Jesus’ disciples and the early Church, but it is not, at least not primarily. Acts, like every other book in the Bible in one way or another, is the story of Jesus. In this case, it is the story of His continued ministry on earth after His ascension by the power of the Holy Spirit through His disciples and their disciples after them.
Make no mistake. Although the disciples did all the walking and talking and interacting with people that we find recorded in the book of Acts, the real work, the heavy lifting of convicting, drawing, and renewing souls, was done by the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that indwelt Jesus during His earthly ministry and continues to indwell those who put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation today.
This Spirit of Sonship sanctifies, or sets apart, those who have been reborn into God’s Kingdom, equips them for service, causes them to will and to act according to God’s will and purpose, and empowers, teaches, and comforts them as they obey God’s commands.
Tempting as it might be, at times, for us to take credit for what God does through us by the power of the Holy Spirit, we really can’t. The glory is God’s alone!
What do you think? Is God still at work in the world around you? What evidence do you see? Who deserves the glory for it?
Day 2 of 5 •
Empowered to Advance
As Acts opens, the disciples had just come off a time of spiritual renewal and encouragement in the company of Jesus, their friend and leader turned Savior. Their consciences clear, their anxiety eased, and their confidence boosted by the power displayed in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the disciples were fired up and ready to take on the world for the sake of God’s Kingdom as they understood it.
Had Jesus remained in the flesh, the disciples would have followed Him to the ends of the earth, but He did not. According to God’s plan, Jesus issued orders, ascended into Heaven to take His place at His Father’s right hand, and left the disciples to advance the Kingdom armed with nothing but personal knowledge of the Gospel and a promise that help would come soon.
Talk about a let down!
What did the disciples do? They trusted God, and He delivered.
In their wildest dreams—and their dreams were pretty wild considering they had thought Jesus was about to overthrow the government with an army only a few ranks deep just before He ascended—the disciples could never have imagined the miracle they experienced on the day of Pentecost. Besides the coming of the Holy Spirit being an unprecedented spectacle, it changed those involved forever, empowering and equipping them to do things they never could before for the advancement of an eternal, rather than earthly, Kingdom.
If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, then the Holy Spirit already lives in you. What you’re waiting for is probably something more like what happened after the indwelling of Jesus’ disciples by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel was preached, an altar call given, and thousands of people surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.
Whets the appetite, doesn’t it?
So, how did the disciples make it happen? They did not.
How do you make it happen? You don’t. You can’t.
Like the disciples, your only choice is to trust God to empower, draw, and renew souls on His terms, by His power, and in His perfect timing. Anything you might do to try and conjure, manipulate, or force God’s hand would be wasted effort.
What do you want to see God do in the world around you? What role might He expect you to play if He does? Are you up for the challenge?
Day 3 of 5 •
Ready to Advance
These days, when we think about Pentecost, we think about the events we read about yesterday, the disciples, people from different countries hearing the Gospel in their own language, the first great altar call, etc. but Pentecost was already a significant event before any of that happened. Pentecost was one of three feasts for which the Jewish people traveled to Jerusalem each year, each from their own part of the world.
You see, even as the disciples waited patiently, God was working all things together for the purpose of His will, His own glory. He waited until His people were gathered together in one place to send the Holy Spirit and reaped a large first harvest of believers for His Church.
Had the disciples not been ready, physically, spiritually, or corporately, to receive the Holy Spirit Jesus had promised, they may have missed the privilege of participating in the miracle of Pentecost. Thankfully, they were ready.
The disciples were faithful. Although they must have had doubts and questions when things did not go as they had anticipated, the disciples demonstrated sincere faith by sanctifying themselves, or setting themselves apart, for God’s use.
The disciples were humble. Understanding they were limited in and of themselves, they submitted to God’s authority and waited for further instructions, seeking His wisdom and guidance in any decisions that had to be made while they waited.
The disciples were expectant. Believing Jesus’ promise that help would come, they prayed. For what, we do not know, but it is logical to assume they prayed for the same things we would pray for, strength, protection, guidance, peace, etc. Jesus had told them that God would send the Holy Spirit if they asked, so they probably prayed for that, too. Talk about results!
What about you? Should God decide to advance His Kingdom in a spectacular way once again, will you be ready, or will you miss out? What can you do even now to prepare?
Day 4 of 5 •
Focused to Advance
The community that developed following the miracle of Pentecost was the Utopia every Christ-follower dreams of, a gathering of diverse people unified by their faith in Jesus Christ, loving and learning from one another, sharing with and serving each other, praying and worshipping together, and winning souls for the Kingdom on a regular basis.
We can imagine it. We want it. So why is America not experiencing another Great Awakening? That’s a good question.
Maybe our focus is off and the movement we have in mind is different than the movement God has mapped out. If so, we won’t recognize it when it happens.
Maybe we are operating on our own power instead of relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. If so, we are spinning our wheels.
Maybe we are trying to reverse the chain of command, passing orders up to God rather than receiving them. If so, we are insubordinate and cannot expect God to comply.
Maybe it is not time yet.
Maybe it is time, but we are so wrapped up in self and sin that we have compromised the lines of communication between ourselves and God. Maybe we missed the command to charge when it was given.
Maybe we heard the command, but ignored it.
Peter heard the command. Peter obeyed. Focused and fully committed, Peter stepped out in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit and advanced the Kingdom of God. How? By advancing the truth of the Gospel, doing no more and no less than God requires of us today.
Maybe we are not experiencing a Great Awakening because we have failed to do as Peter did. We have failed to advance the truth of the Gospel, the very foundation upon which Jesus said His Church would be built. If so, the failure of the Church to grow and function as it ought to is our fault, both collectively and as individuals.
What about you? Are the lines of communication between you and God open so you can clearly hear the Holy Spirit? Are you advancing the truth of the Gospel or waiting for someone else to lead the charge?
Day 5 of 5 •
Advancing All In
Before His ascension, Jesus had a conversation with Peter that prepared Peter for the days of intense ministry that would follow Pentecost. In this conversation, Jesus asked Peter whether he loved Him three times. This seems repetitive unless you consider the words Jesus chose for love.
The first two times Jesus asked Peter whether Peter loved Him, Jesus used the word agapeo, a self-sacrificial love, and Peter answered with the word phileo, a deep camaraderie or affection born of common experience. In other words, Jesus asked Peter whether Peter loved Him enough to serve and sacrifice, and Peter answered by assuring Jesus his feelings ran deep…not quite what Jesus was looking for.
The third time Jesus asked Peter whether Peter loved Him, He turned the tables to make a point, using Peter’s word phileo back at him. Hurt because Jesus felt the need to confirm what he’d already conveyed twice, Peter assured Jesus one more time that his feelings ran deep after all they had been through. Jesus told Peter, once again, to feed His sheep, making it clear that emotional attachment was only a starting point and the call to follow Him in obedience would involve service and, ultimately, sacrifice.
Peter decided to follow Jesus anyway.
When the opportunity to advance God’s Kingdom presented itself, Peter recognized and took it. Backed by his band of brothers, Peter openly identified himself with Jesus Christ—a big deal for someone who had denied Him three times before—and advanced the truth of the Gospel, knowing full well what it would cost him in the end. Later, he would urge others to do the same.
You see, the call of God on a person’s life is two-fold, and you can’t answer half of it. It involves both the surrender necessary for salvation through Jesus Christ and the obedience that must follow that surrender by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can’t be saved unless you fully intend to obey God, and you can’t obey God consistently without the power of the Holy Spirit inside you.
What about you? Have you answered God’s call by surrendering your life to follow Jesus Christ in obedience? Does the way you live your life prove the presence of the Holy Spirit in your heart? Do you take advantage of opportunities to advance God’s Kingdom even when it costs?