Today is Pentecost Ð the third great festival in the church year. Without Pentecost we would not have an understanding of God the Creator or the meaning of Christmas. So we turn to the second chapter in the book of Acts and talk about what happened on that particular day.
The Bible says in Acts 2:1-13, “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. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: ÔAre not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs Ð we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongue?’ Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ÔWhat does this mean?’
“Some, however, made fun of them and said, ÔThey have had too much wine.’
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ÔFellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel . . . ‘”
Peter told the people that this Jesus of Nazareth ministered to them for three years. He moved among them, raised the dead, healed the sick, and did many other miraculous signs. He preached as no other person had preached. But the people became angry to him and turned him over to the Sanhedrin, who gave him to Pilate. And, though he found nothing wrong with Jesus, Pilate gave him over to be crucified for political reasons. Jesus died on the cross of Calvary as a payment for the sins of the world. This was all part of God’s plan so that we could have eternal life with him. Jesus is our advocate. He is the one who has come to deliver us from our sins.
After listening to Peter’s stirring sermon, the people asked, “What can we do?”
Then Peter offered this great invitation in verse 38: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The Bible tells us about three thousand people were added to their numbers that day that the Church was established. Three thousand people who confessed Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and received the Holy Spirit. It was to this group of people that Jesus says to go and make disciples of all nations. Salvation is yours. Forgiveness of sins is yours. However, you cannot get along as my followers without the Holy Spirit.
In today’s text, Paul writes that the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. He is the guiding hand in our lives. We often do not know what is best for ourselves because we do not know the future. Then the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Bible. He keeps us in his hand, guides and directs us. No matter where we go, he is with us. He looks into the inner most parts of our soul and sees that we are lost. He feels our groanings, searches the heart and then intercedes. He leads us all the way to Calvary. He is the greatest counselor who has ever lived.
We seek out counselors; sometimes they help us, and sometimes they don’t. But the Holy Spirit will not only tell us what is right and what is wrong, but also where to go and what to do. He enables us and he empowers us to counsel others who then can accept our advice as they please. If they have no other person to ask, they will probably try what we have said for a little while, then let it go by the wayside. However, the Christian knows the Holy Spirit is living in him, and when the Spirit tells us some particular thing, we know that he will also give us the strength and guide us along life’s way until we become more Christ-like in our living.
Awhile back one of my grandsons sent me a fascinating book called A Passion for Souls: The Life of D.L. Moody. It tells the story one of the greatest evangelists ever known. Following his conversion, D.L. Moody worked tirelessly to tell people what it is to live according to God’s will. He traveled to England and back eventually raising enough money to build a Sunday school in Chicago for people of all ages, which enrolled twelve hundred people. When the Civil War began, Moody saw people dying in battle without Jesus. So he worked as a chaplain, preaching to and teaching the soldiers.
Moody sometimes spent months away from his family, and he carried a lot of guilt for being away from them. But it was not until after the Chicago fire that his heart was turned around. Seeing the extent of the fire, Moody went to New York City to raise money in order to rebuild the city.
As he walked along on Wall Street, he was quite weary and nearing a nervous collapse. Soon the Holy Spirit began to speak to him about his relationship with God. Sensing he had to be alone with God, Moody went to the home of a friend in New York City and asked to stay in a room. In that room Moody thrashed it out with God until he heard the Holy Spirit say to him, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” It was then that he began to understand what some of his friends had been trying to tell him Ð that even though he was mighty enough to do it all himself, he needed to let the Holy Spirit lead the way. Then he could walk along as God’s capable servant. God will give him the power and the strength when it is needed.
From that day on, Moody never started a mission by himself, but instead waited for the Holy Spirit to first lay it upon his heart, then he walked in the Lord’s footsteps as his loyal servant. Moody’s plans and life were much different. He was invited to come to New York and build a much bigger ministry for the Lord Jesus. He found much wealthier men in New York than in Chicago who gave him the financial aid he needed. Moody had learned to first wait for the Lord to speak, then follow.
From that time on, Moody was a great preacher and teacher. He rebuilt his Sunday school and started a publishing house. My grandson attended the Moody Church in Chicago. The Moody Bible Institute has been a blessing to those who want to learn more about the Word of God, some even going to the mission fields.
But the point of this illustration is this: Moody had to first learn that he was a sinner and was weak. Yet Jesus Christ had died for him. Christ did it all, and Moody didn’t have to contribute one single thing. The Holy Spirit then gave him the power to clean up some things in his life that were contrary to the will of God and to ask the Spirit to guide him, direct him, and lead him. Moody then became one of the great evangelists of his day and is remembered even to this day by many.
That same Holy Spirit who worked in the life of Moody, also worked in the life of the Apostle Paul long before Moody. He worked in the life of the reformers, Luther and Calvin, and all the rest. Nothing they accomplished for the good of the Gospel would ever have happened had it not been for the power of the Holy Spirit.
And so it is rather tragic that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, has sometimes been forgotten. God grant that we may understand that, no matter how much talent a person may have, he will not do much for the kingdom of God until the Holy Spirit lives in his heart, leads him, and then that person follows.
I wonder if we, in the planning of some our churches, do not put too much on our own shoulders without leaving it to the Holy Spirit. He speaks to us through the means of grace and the Word, which he has inspired. That Word is the only foundation on which the church can build. God speaks to us both as individuals and as a corporate group. He leads us to a conviction of our sins and sets us on our way.
We look for counselors in many fashions, but the greatest counselor of all counselors is God the Holy Spirit who leads us to the foot of the cross and the empty tomb. That is Pentecost, which we celebrate not only today but every day.