May 20, 2018
Light the Flame Again
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: "Are 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--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine."
Pentecost has become a Sacred Holy-day on the church calendar. Of course, Pentecost has always been a holiday. A celebration of the harvest. For Israel, it was a harvest of grain. For the Church, Pentecost is a great harvest of the Spirit. Is there any reason Pentecost should be any less of an outpouring than it was in the time of Peter and John? Pentecost should not merely be a remembrance of something long ago like celebrating Independence Day 229 years after it occurred.
Pentecost ought instead to be a rekindling. A refilling. A day of seeking God to empower the church again. To empower the individual person again with the power of the Holy Spirit. Power to be a witness. Learn to live in the presence of God. Because of Pentecost, His power is abundantly available to us that believe. We are not a Pentecostal Church, but neither do we believe it was the intent that only Pentecostal churches be the beneficiaries of the Holy Spirit.This means that like the disciples of Jesus, we identify and seek the fullness of the Spirit, just as they did in the days following Christ’s ascension into heaven. I believe that we need a surge of the Spirit of God in our lives once again. As The church we cannot afford to remain the same, we need to be transformed. As His Children We cannot afford to ignore His immediate presence. As a church we need that Pentecostal power once again.
This morning will be a different kind of sermon. I want to give you ample opportunity to enter the presence of God. We are here to worship. We are not here to learn something, although we do. We are not here to fellowship, although we do. We are not here to fulfill an obligation of religion. We are here to enter into the presence of the Holy God. Just because you are here this morning does not mean you are worshiping. Just because you pray or sing or listen does not mean you are worshiping. We come with a lot of stuff on our minds that are preoccupying us and keeping us from and encounter with God.Worship is when you come with an expectancy that God will receive you into his presence. Just because I preach and lead worship does not mean that I have entered into the presence of God with that expectancy. This morning, we are going to spend time in prayer because I want you to have opportunity to worship the Lord and listen to his voice.
Pentecost: A waiting place.
When Jesus met with his disciples along the shore of the lake, he told them to “Feed his lambs.” Shortly after that, they went up on a hill and he ascended into heaven to be with his heavenly father. As they stood there watching and looking up into heaven, two men dressed in white – Angels --, asked them, “ Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken into heaven, will come back in the same way you seen him go into heaven.” In Acts chapter 1:12, it says that the disciples then went into Jerusalem and went into an upper room and joined in constant prayer. As you pause to pray right now, I want you to ask yourself if you are standing looking in the sky waiting for Jesus to come or are you in constant prayer asking how God can use you?
Pentecost: The Outpouring of the Spirit.
Finally in God’s good time, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the people. The following statement from the pen of Dr. Jerry Vines (FBC Jacksonville, former Pres. SBC) “The Average Christian and The average church are somewhere bogged down between Calvary and Pentecost. They have been to Calvary for pardon, but they have not been to Pentecost for Power. (Slide 6)Bethlehem is about “God being with us”. Calvary is about “God being for us.” But Pentecost is “God in us.”
Those statements transformed my understanding of the person and the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the average Christian is much like the believers at Ephesus when the Apostle Paul came to them in Acts 19:2 and said to them - Did You Receive The Holy Spirit When You Believed? They replied that they didn’t even know that there was a Holy Spirit. Many Christians do not understand the role of the Holy Spirit and they have not appropriated the power of the Holy Spirit in their own personal lives.
J. B. Phillips, who gave us the familiar paraphrase of the New Testament, wrote something like this a few years ago. He said that “churches today are fat and out of breath through prosperity. They are muscle-bound through over-organization. What we need today is again the wind and the flame of Pentecost.” He said that in 1955. Imagine what it is today? I think all of us would agree that this is true. We need to recapture the power, which was experienced in such a mighty way when the church met together in the upper room, and the day of Pentecost occurred.
But we read in the last section of today’s scripture these words: “In the last days, God says, “I will pour out my spirit on all people.” Two things stand out in the short phrase. First of all GOD will be the one who will pour it out. It is not a tap that we can turn on and off and control. God is the one who dispenses the Spirit. Secondly, it is done in God’s timing. The disciples waited and prayed. God’s spirit came upon them. I still believe to this day that God will empower Second Baptist Church when the Lord sees that we are ready. Now don’t get me wrong. I think we are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet.
I think when we are ready, there will be an outpouring that is like nothing we have seen. I anticipate that and look forward to the ways God will use us. However, it means that we need to submit and move aside so that God can do the work of preparation. Like the disciples in Jerusalem, we are to wait upon the Lord, praying continuously and God will pour out his spirit on us. We are not without Power. God has given us the power of the Holy Spirit. But the empowerment we await is that which has vision and focus on being servants of God for specific tasks. We have been praying, “Lord, how do you want to use us? What do you want us to do?” I believe God will reveal that as we are ready. God knows when we are ready for the task. Let’s pray now that God will reveal his vision and purpose to our congregation. Furthermore, during your prayer, I want to ask you to pray for me that God will reveal how Second Baptist can be used in new and productive ways in God’s kingdom.
The Mission Field
Before Jesus left this earth, he gave several sets of instructions for the church by way of the disciples. His final instructions are found in Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Make disciples. That is what we are called to do. It is a combination of leading people to repentance followed by leading them in the practice of spiritual disciplines so that they can make more disciples. The early church ignited because it set out to make disciples. The church in China today is ignited because they are making disciples. The church in America is dying because we have forgotten how to make disciples.
Part of the reasons disciples are not being created in the American church is because we left out the next part of the great commission. “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We don’t want to be obedient to Christ. We want to be happy. We want to have a religious experience. We want to feel good about ourselves. We want to be prosperous. But we don’t want to obey. I want to take the next few minutes to spend in CONFESSION. Ask God to forgive us for doing our own thing rather than what God has called us to do.
Pentecost is not over. The Holy Spirit is still at work saving people and revitalizing churches. God has not give up on his church. He wants a church that is energized and obedient. He wants a church that is willing to shed their agenda to take on the plan that God has for his people. Amen.