May 15, 2005: Pentecost Brings The Essence Of Christianity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, send forth the Spirit upon us today!  Renew our faith and our commitment to You and Your Word of truth!  Fire our hearts with Your love.  Enable us to fearlessly confess You to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life!  And comfort us with the peace that You earned and that the Spirit conveys to humble hearts.  Amen


TEXT:  Acts 2: 1-21

Fellow Redeemed By the Spirit’s Power:

Pentecost is known by many as the Christian festival of light.  There are a few reasons for that, too.  First, because the outpouring of the Spirit on that first Pentecost was accompanied by tongues of heavenly fire which came and rested on the disciples’ heads. Second, because that fire showed the inner glow that illumined their hearts.  And third, because now armed with such inner light, Christ’s followers were able to bring His light to a sin-darkened world.

Pentecost has been known for generations as “the birthday of the Christian Church.”  Actually, it would be more proper to call it the birthday of the New Testament Church.  For God’s people, His Church, actually began with Adam and Eve trusting in His promise of a future Savior.  That being said, Pentecost is wonderful!  It is about the Spirit of eternal life breathing life and light into our hearts today.  And as we look at this familiar lesson, we can also say that:



What exactly is the work of the Spirit?  We know that the Father’s work is to create and sustain us.  We know that Christ’s work was to save our souls with His precious blood, winning eternal forgiveness for us on the cross.  The Holy Spirit’s work is to apply that forgiveness personally to each of us and foster faith in our hearts.  It is the work of sanctification, or making us holy in God’s sight.  And in this lesson from Acts we see how that all began.

The disciples’ were all together in the Upper Room.  They were obeying Christ and waiting for the gift He had promised.  Suddenly, on the morning of the 50th day after Easter, something amazing occurred!  The sound of a violent wind came into that room, swirled around them and just as suddenly tongues of fire that didn’t burn their scalps appeared over their heads.  “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

Pilgrims from around the Roman empire were in Jerusalem for a great festival.  They all spoke diverse languages.  God had confused human language at the tower of Babel.  But now God unconfused their ability to hear about the Savior.  We’re told the disciples could speak fluently in various languages all to tell them about Jesus and the great salvation He had won on the cross.  Of these pilgrims we’re told: “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’”

I spent 6 years in college and seminary studying Greek.  And I never could speak it, only read it.  I spent 5 years studying Hebrew.  Again, I cannot speak it, only read it.  But here the disciples were given the gift of fluency literally in an instant!  Yes,  God wanted all to know about the miraculous deliverance from sin and death that Christ had won the cross.  And so He sent the Spirit, the Author of saving faith to help change their hearts by informing them in their native tongues exactly how much God loves each of them in Christ.


The mockers of miracles, and they are always around, try to downplay this event.  They blame the disciples for being drunk.  “They have had too much wine.”  But, Peter goes on to inform them otherwise.  Why do many mock Christ?  Why do so many reject the Spirit when He shows forth His power?  I’ll tell you why.  Because they want to save themselves.  They want to take credit by their outwardly good life or by their pious deeds, for making themselves acceptable to God.  But right here we see that they cannot!  For the essence of Christianity does not consist in mere outward change.  No, it consists in an internal change,  a change of heart.  It is not about us doing the work.  It is about God doing this work.  And the Spirit is in charge of that soul-saving effort.

More than once in the bible we see people who appear outwardly very holy, but inwardly they were self-idolaters.  That is, their pride caused them to try to save themselves on their own.  Judas is a prime example of that.  Outwardly he appeared rather normal to the other disciples.  But we know his heart was not humble and attuned to God.  Simon Magus the sorcerer had let himself be baptized, and at first he acted just like all the other believers.  But, inwardly he was not changed and later on it became apparent.  Ananias and Sapphira were considered pillars of the Jerusalem church by many.  But their greedy hearts betrayed them later in life.  All these people rejected the Holy Spirit.  All of them thought that merely by going through the motions of faith they were saving themselves.  And in doing that, all of them mocked the Spirit just as those unbelieving Pharisees did on that first Pentecost day.

What is the essence of Christianity?  It is an inward change of heart.  It is accepting that you are a sinner, totally dead before God when it comes to winning His favor.  And it is also the acceptance that only God, the Holy Spirit, can change you from a sinner to a saint.  That only God the Spirit can give you His gift of faith.  That only God the Spirit can apply Christ’s holiness to you and make it your possession.  Yes, as the Bible says: “It is God, the Spirit, Who works in you to will and to do His good pleasure.”  And why is that so important?    Because it gives God all the glory.  If we could come to faith apart from Him, we would be taking some of His glory for ourselves.  But in embracing His gift of faith we honor Him totally.

The Spirit’s work is outlined by Christ in today’s Gospel when He says: “When the Spirit comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.”  Yes, a part of His work is to break down our hard, prideful hearts.  It is to show us inside that “apart from Christ we can do nothing” to make God accept us.  That we cannot steal, even a little, any of His honor and glory.  The other part of the Spirit’s work is to foster a humble faith and trust inside of us.  It is to bestow the gift of faith which clings to Jesus, alone.  For how can God reject anyone who possesses Christ’s holiness on judgment day?

Pentecost is the essence of Christianity because it has God doing all the giving and us doing all the receiving.  That’s what occurred for those in the Old Testament who held on to the promise of a future Messiah.  That’s what occurred in the New Testament when Christ gave His life for us on the cross.  And that’s what now occurs at Pentecost.

Pentecost is a humbling day to our pride.  But it is an uplifting day for our souls!  So, if you are a sinner in need to God’s help, Come! And receive the Spirit’s power!  Come!  And receive His light and life!  Come and receive the comfort of knowing that your life is in His almighty hand—a hand filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!  Amen