And that’s just the beginning. After that—
“I will pour out my SpiritJoel 2: 28-29
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters.
Your old men will dream,
your young men will see visions.
I’ll even pour out my Spirit on the servants,
men and women both.”
Often when I read books about Jesus, they go through his life and death and resurrection then almost suggest that there’s nothing to look forward to again until his return.
Let me tell you….this is bunk!
For many Christians that bit in the middle is a bit of a blur! But to miss it dishonours all that the prophets over the centuries wrote about, and why the gospel writers chronicled what they did.
For the prophet, Joel, this was unthinkable. That’s why Peter declared Joel’s words at Pentecost, as the early church burst out into action across the whole of the known world - Spirit Break Out!
And just in case you’re a bit muddled about the significance of this momentous moment in the Universe’s history, from now until the summer we are going to be exploring Luke’s second book - the thrilling, the overwhelming, the roller-coaster ride that is the Book of Acts!
As we read Acts, we understand that Luke would be astonished if anyone talked about Christianity without emphasising God the Holy Spirit.
“John baptised in water; you will be baptised in the Holy Spirit. And soon..when (He) comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”Acts 1: 5,8
In Andrew Wilson’s excellent book, ‘GodStories’, he gives us the 5Ps - Why The Spirit Breaking Out was so important and cannot, must not, be missed!
Power - When the early church was filled with God the Holy Spirit, all heaven broke loose, literally! People were being healed, demons were fleeing out of oppressed people, wonders were being spoken and buildings were shaking! All pointing to God - the age of power had begun. And, Jubilee, it’s still happening today! Over 2 years ago when Baz, one of our asylum seeker friends, encountered God the Holy Spirit on Alpha, his whole life was turned around. The sadness and despair that his face declared so vividly was miraculously transformed into heart smiles. Something so broken was made brand new!
Purity - Like a refining fire, God the Holy Spirit changed unholy and impure people like you and me into pure and Holy people like Jesus. One Christmas time we bought Baz a small gift, some clothes and toiletries. Over the day God spoke to him and he felt a real conviction to give these gifts away to 'the poor'. This man, who had very little, knew his wealth in God!
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.Galatians 5:26
Possession - You see Baz realised that he had a father in heaven. Despite his real father being murdered, his mother and siblings dispersed never to be seen again, he knew he belonged to Christ - and nothing would change that. God the Holy Spirit had stamped him with a seal which marked him out as God’s prized possession.
Presence - Jesus was insistent on this.
“So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend (Advocate, Helper, God the Holy Spirit) won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you.”John 16:7
This didn’t sound like Good News to the people who heard it from the lips of Jesus. But at Pentecost, as God the Holy Spirit broke out, everywhere, on everyone, for all time, this was Gospel, this was Amazing Grace. “Even greater things” would come about through believers in Jesus name (John 14:12)!
This intimacy, this closeness with God, was given to believers for rough times ahead (John 16:1). Baz knows this even now in the second worst country to live as a Christian. Already he has friendship with other believers. Together they know the presence of God with them. And if He is for them...?
Prophecy - When the Spirit comes, people prophesy! Not just the important Christians, not just the special Christians, not just the leaders and elders…..all people! Old, young, Eritrean, Iranian, English, Scottish, men, women, nurses, cleaners, homemakers, CEOs! The Apostle Paul urges even his most loopy-fringe charismatic church, Corinth, to ‘eagerly desire’ to prophesy! Our God is a speaking God and Baz knew it as he spoke God’s encouragement into our Community Groups, Farsi worship, Alpha, church, non-Christians and individuals such as me.
I’m going miss my friend and brother Baz. We all are.
But I also know, as Philip Cartmail reminded us last Sunday and as Baz prayed out to me minutes before his flight back home, “we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:28)
“We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience, in turn, forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary - we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”Romans 5:3 - 5
Read Acts and let the Spirit Break Out in you!
I couldn’t possibly write an Elders’ letter this month without at least making reference to that amazing night in Madrid on June 1st and Liverpool FC’s historic sixth Champions League trophy. Non-football fans…please don’t switch off!