Friday 6 June 2014


Jesus had been crucified and had risen, and then appeared to His Apostles in the Upper Room where He greeted them with the words, ‘peace be with you, receive the Holy Spirit’. Whilst Jesus had breathed on them imparting the Holy Spirit, they were not then able to use it.

Jesus continued to spend six weeks teaching them and giving guidance for them to continue His work after He had left them. We then came to the stage when He ascended to His Father in heaven and gave the Apostles His final instructions.

The Apostles were told to stay in Jerusalem and wait. Jesus pointed out they would have to wait for God to give them the gift that had always been promised when they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit. All they could do was pray, which we later read they did.

Imagine how the apostles felt as they waited. For three years they had been following the most unique person in all history. They had witnessed miracles and heard wonderful teaching from the greatest of teachers. They had suffered the sorrow of seeing Him die but had rejoiced by His resurrection.
He had told them to go to Jerusalem and to wait. But would they be able to cope without Him by their side.
Eventually after ten days the day dawned at Pentecost. On that day God came down in power and changed the lives of them and so many others. The Church was born and carried on the life of Christ and we see it was empowered to do so by the work of the Holy Spirit.

How would the Church of today we react if they had been there. Waiting is against our culture. We all have credit cards so that we can obtain things instantly for we view waiting as a nuisance. Those of us in the older generation know the rewards of waiting, the saving up to get married, and looking forward to being able to buy what we wanted, which gave us a sense of achievement and joy. Waiting however can be hard at times; waiting for the result of an examination; for the result of an operation; for news of a loved one.

We have now no need however to wait for the Holy Spirit, it is freely available to all who choose to follow Jesus and make Him Lord of our lives. We receive the Holy Spirit when our faith comes alive, but there may be a period before we have the power of the Spirit. If God makes us wait there must be a reason, so giving us time to meditate and seek His will for us. Just as the Apostles had to realise their dependence on Jesus, so we Christians need to realise we too need His power.

In the Bible we find a confession of faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit happen together. Nowhere in the Bible is there a separation. I believe this means that within Churches we need to have a deeper understanding of baptism and confirmation. Whilst I have often preached on baptism, I have never been at a service when this has been preached upon by others. In fact I have never been in a congregation where the preacher gives an explanation of what baptism should mean. We allow false promises to be made with impunity.

Looking at the events recorded in Acts, the normal pattern to becoming a Christian is that someone ‘repents, believes, is baptized, and then receives the Holy Spirit’. This, however, is not a chronological order. These are the essential components to becoming a Christian, but God can change the order in which they happen as was the case with Cornelius and the Ephesian believers.

It is because Acts and the New Testament do not give a chronology that has lead the overwhelming majority of Christians over the Church’s history to feel that it is right to baptize the children of Christian parents. However, it is the fact that, in Acts, it is the normal order that has also led some equally sincere and committed Christians to refuse to baptize anyone not old enough to decide for themselves.

Most of us, I think, can agree on the first three components of the Acts formula, but how many of us feel comfortable in saying that we, personally, have received the Spirit? Received, that is, in a way that we know it to be true.

God comes to us in different ways as we seek to serve Jesus. There is the infilling of the Spirit, which is for all believers. There is the anointing of the Spirit, which is given to those who will fulfil a certain task, such as is given by the Bishop to a priest, and then the power of the Holy Spirit, which is for us to minister for the Lord.

For some people there is indeed a dramatic experience such as Paul had on the Damascus Road, whilst for others there is a growing in grace.

Charles and John Wesley, who are in our minds at this time, experienced the Holy Spirit in special ways, too. Both were ordained into the Church and ministered as such for some years, yet both had deep spiritual experiences which changed their lives in May 1738, and went on to do greater things as a result. Charles wrote his most loved and famous hymns afterwards. Charles experienced a "strange palpitation of heart," and just a few days later John felt his heart "strangely warmed." From that time on, the Wesleys were used powerfully by God to spread the news of salvation.
We may take as an analogy two situations from life. A man and woman may meet at a social occasion and such is the chemistry between them they fall in immediate love and marry soon after, which may or may not last. Another couple may meet, find they enjoy being with each other, and gradually become totally dependent upon each other and spend the rest of their life together. (They may even have a diamond wedding)

Thousands attended the great Billy Graham Crusades in the 1960s/80s and were immediately affected by the atmosphere of massed choirs leading joyous praise with so many people, and hearing the preaching of the most successful preacher in all Church history. They rushed forward to the altar call, committing their lives to the Lord, but on returning to their local parish Church found 1662 Matins with chants of canticles and indifferent preaching were disillusioned. Others just grow in grace to love the Lord. We each come as the Lord calls us, but should know when there was that moment we understood what the gospel was all about. For me, it was being at a Pentecostal meeting in Mombasa in Kenya when also I first heard one of the lovely hymns you are about to sing.

Jesus told the Apostles they were to be His witnesses and that duty has now been passed down to His Church and all its members. The Church can be His witness by faithful preaching of Scripture, as all its Ministers vow to do at their ordination, and offer people a credible and united teaching. Individual members can do so by their manner of living, reflecting the image of Christ rather than the ungracious kind we too often see.

When Pentecost came it was a transforming happening when God took over and filled all gathered with His power. God came down in power and the lives of all present were for ever changed. Our lives will be changed when we have that same power.

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