Me and Aimee (my wife) are prolific binge-watchers, and we’re always on the hunt for a new series to get stuck into… even when we’re partway through one already(!). Quite recently we were absolutely engrossed in one series – but when we went to watch the series finale we couldn’t find it online anywhere! It turns out that the channel had dropped the show due to allegations against the actor in the lead role.
It was really weird – here we were, something like four episodes in, having multiple theories all bouncing around… and then – nothing! Just left hanging…
I don’t know if you’ve had a similar experience of a story you’ve been into just getting stalled somewhere – and having to leave the loose threads just hanging there unresolved?
Well, this coming Sunday marks the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and for years I’ve always thought of it as the start of the church’s story – but I’ve recently realized it’s not a start at all, but it’s certainly not an ending either! It is the climax of the promises of God, the fulfillment of ancient longing, the realization of a dream as old as Eden…
Gerard Kelly in his book: Seven Stories That Shape Your Life brilliantly describes the coming of the Holy Spirit in this way:
To speak of salvation in Christ without speaking of the present, vital work of the Holy Spirit is to tell half a story. The Passion without Pentecost is a football season without a Cup Final, a table laid for a meal that is never served.
He goes onto to say:
The incarnate Son has made possible our full participation in the life of God, but it is the Holy Spirit who makes it actual…
Since Eden God has longed for nothing as wildly as He longs for intimacy with you, to walk with you in a cool evening garden. The Holy Spirit hasn’t come to tickle your toes; He has come to draw you into the life and love of the Trinity.
The Full Story
The Father sends His Son into our imprisonment, Jesus opens the door to freedom, but it is the Holy Spirit to guides us to and through the door into life!
He is the difference between knowing all the theories about the Christian Life and the power to actually live it. He makes it possible to move from “doing Christian things” to “being a Christian”. From knowing about God to knowing Him personally; from what is possible, to what is actual in our lives.
It’s like Paul writes to the church in Rome:
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
The Father is Pure Love (1 John 4.8) who created us in love, Jesus demonstrates God’s love in laying down His life for us at the cross… (Romans 5.8) but how do we move from merely knowing that God loves us, to experiencing His love; from believing that God loves the world to receiving God’s love for me? The answer is the Holy Spirit – who pours out God’s love into our hearts.
On the Alpha Course, Nicky Gumbel talks about this and says that the word he has come to associate with the Holy Spirit the most is: love, because He is the One who leads us into the personal experience of that pure, saving love of the Father and the Son.
When Jesus was baptised, it was accompanied by the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and the affirmation of the Father’s love:
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”
And that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit wants to do for me and for you! He was poured out on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2.33) so that He could be poured out into our hearts (Titus 3.5-6) in lavish waves of love!
A.W. Tozer, in his book, How to be filled with the Holy Spirit says:
The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people… God took religion from the realm of the external and made it internal.
Our trouble is that we are trying to confirm the truth of Christianity by an appeal to external evidence.
God took religion from the realm of the external and made it internal… so that we could not just know the story but be part of the story until it becomes our story. That’s Pentecost – the God who bursts out of His temple so that our bodies might become temples where God lives by His Spirit (1 Co 6.19)! That’s the full story…
Maybe for some of us faith has sometimes felt a little like we’re watching a series but missing the finale; there’s a gap between the story we read in the Bible and story we see in our lives today. Maybe there are some things we have accepted are true, but never actually experienced ourselves. Can I encourage us all, this Pentecost weekend, to be praying for (and waiting on) more of the Holy Spirit? Take some time to just ask and receive His presence, power and peace at work in our hearts.
One final book recommendation – Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala (pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle). When he first went there as pastor there were twenty people and so he had to take a second job to fund his ministry. Over time the work schedule was just exhausting!
Depleted and discouraged, he describes one Sunday evening:
On one of the Sunday nights early on, I was so depressed by what I saw – and even more by what I felt in my spirit – that I literally could not preach.
Five minutes into my sermon, I began choking on the words. Tears filled my eyes. Gloom engulfed me. All I could say to the people was “I’m sorry… I can’t preach in this atmosphere… Something is terribly wrong… “
In obvious distress he asked his wife, Carol, if she would just come and play something on the piano – and he invited the whole congregation to come to the altar and pray…
“…would the rest of you come to this altar? If we don’t see God help us, I don’t know…” With that I just quit. It was embarrassing, but I couldn’t do anything else.
The people did as I asked. I leaned into the pulpit, my face planted in my hands, and sobbed. Things were quiet at first, but soon the Spirit of God came down upon us. People began to call upon the Lord, their cries motivated by a stirring within.
This renewed passion to pray and seek God’s face revived the prayer meeting, which Jim described as the ‘engine room’ of the church. And as they prayed, in the power of the Holy Spirit, revival came powerfully to that church.
Writing about that night, Jim says:
That evening, when I was at my lowest, confounded by obstacles, bewildered by the darkness that surrounded us, unable even to continue preaching, I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness. He can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need Him. Our weakness, in fact, makes room for His power.
Within that encouraging story of all that God did in their church lies a deep challenge for each of us… how much room is there for God’s power in our lives? Is there that desperation, that hunger, that awareness of our need for Him? When was the last time I prayed in tears for more of Him? When was the last time that we, as a church, were on our faces crying out for fresh wind and fresh fire? “God, if You don’t help us… then, I just don’t know…”
Holy Spirit, I want to see the full picture of all You want to do in me. I want my life to be a story that You are writing. I want every page to have Your name all over it.
Would you take time this weekend to tell You need Him – that You need more of Him… and would you pray with me to see Him move among us in reviving power?
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