The Reality of Pentecost — Part 5

5791933428_c2a60a1c95_mThe first sermon I ever preached on the Holy Spirit I preached as a student pastor during seminary days. My main point was that The Holy Spirit is a Person — the personal presence of God, the third person of the Trinity.

As I greeted the departing worshipers one-by-one at the church door on that Sunday morning, one woman lingered to tell me with surprise and shock that until that sermon, she had believed the Holy Spirit was nothing more than a feeling or a vague influence. Thus, she had not taken His presence or His work seriously.

Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian era (Acts 6,7), knew better. He was chosen to be a deacon because “he was known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). He stood up to the powerful ruling council of Jerusalem and was stoned to death by them.

Would he ever have given up his life for a mere feeling or impulse? And would he have died so radiantly (Acts 7:59,60).

James Denny, New Testament scholar and writer, supported this conviction that the Holy Spirit is personal with the following statement, “To the men who wrote the New Testament, and to those for whom they wrote, the Spirit was not a doctrine but an experience. Their watchword was not believe in the Holy Ghost, but receive ye the Holy Ghost.”

But does the Holy Spirit really make his presence known in a personal way — as God, the Spirit? Can he actually direct the ministry of his workers’ lives so directly?

Once, the Apostle Paul and and his companions crossed Asia Minor and arrived at the seaport city of Troas on the Aegean Sea. It appears they initially contemplated going southward into Asia but, “they were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia” (Acts 16:6). Or they thought of turning northward into Bithynia. But when they tried to enter that region “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to” (Acts 16:7).

I was made aware of of the universality of the Holy Spirit when I visited our churches in the Philippines a few years ago. The believers I was with there worshiped the Lord with a deep awareness of his presence. It was as though they were experiencing the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise when  he told his followers in his closing words: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).]

There I was, on the opposite side of the globe, but sensing among the believers there the guiding presence of the living Spirit of Christ as much as I do when I worship with God’s people in Ontario or Florida.

Worshipers in all parts of the world can report that same reality. All through church history, the authentic church has experienced the reality of Christ’s promise, wherever and whenever they gather to worship God. The Holy Spirit as a personal presence is there, not as a mere feeling or doctrine, but as a presence.

It was that historic day of the first Christian Pentecost that revealed this reality to the church, for all time until our Lord returns in his glory.
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart:

Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move.

Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,

And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

 

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Image credit: Waiting for the Word (via flickr.com)

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2 thoughts on “The Reality of Pentecost — Part 5

  1. Dear Pastor ,I’ve been eagerly awaiting your new blog,hoping it would be Pentecost 5,continuing on Pentecost,just 6 days away now.

    I Dear Pastor,I’ve been looking forward to this week’s blog,hoping it would continue on Pentecost,as Pentecost 5.As Pentecost Sunday gets nearer ,just 6 days now,I’ve been thinking alot about the Holy Spirit.

    During my thought I remembered reading in the Bible a verse saying how important it is never to be anything but reverend to the Holy Spirit.I can’t recall the exact words.I found Ephesians 4 : 30 ”Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”.Maybe that’s the verse I was remembering.

    Whatever it was,I remember being filled with awe and maybe fear.Certainly I understood the Holy Spirit was to be taken very seriously indeed.Wheras before that I maybe tlought of the Spirit as a ghostly trace of Jesus as He was on earth.

    Then I received the Holy Spirit at Baptism.And started to glimpse and feel that full powerful presence of the Spirit.

    As I read Acts,now reading Pentecost 5,now I’m thinking maybe the leading person in the book is the 3rd Person of God,the Holy Spirit. It couild almost be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit, acting through the Aposles.

    I love that stanza you end with ,Pastor, but couldn’t place it.I find it’s a hymn of the 1800s,written in London by Dublin born Revd George Croly,to which Frederick Atkinson set a tune he’d originally written for ‘Abide With Me’,but which never caught on for ‘Abide With Me’.

    I just looked up all the words & what a wonderfully written,inspiring hymn it is.Just right for Pentecost.It’s compact 5 stanzas seem a good length for singing in church . I’ll try find more George Croly hymn words.it ends

    ”Teach me to love you as your angels love,
    one holy passion filling all my frame:
    the fullness of the heaven-descended Dove;
    my heart an altar, and your love the flame.”

    I just got a copy of the 1910 Free Methodist Hymnal,originally published in Michigan,I think.Soon as I get home from the library,I’ll look it up hoping to find the words and music.

    This series of 5 blogs for approaching Pentecost have been enlightening.Thankyou Pastor Donald .

    I recently got a reprint of the 1910 Free Methodist Hymnal ,which I have an idea was published in Michigan.I’ll look to see if this hymn is in it ,when I get home from the library.

    It’s 5 compact stanzas are just right for singing in church ,I think.

  2. Sorry for the repeated paragraphs in my first reply.

    I’ve been thinking about the shocking events of Acts 5 when Ananias falls dead.It reminds me of 2 Samuel when the Arc is first brought to Jerusalem on a cart.It wobbles and an esort puts his hand against it to steady it.And falls dead.

    I think Ananias had affronted the Holiness of the Holy Spirit.His dishonesty grieved the Holy Spirit.

    Ananias could have said he wanted to hold back some of the funds he’d gained by sale, and lived, Or taken the golden oppurtunity of giving everything and gaining something far more precious..

    When Jesus replied to someone how they could follow Him,He said sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor and drop everything and follow me now,if I remember correctly..The man demurred.He lost a golden oppurtunity but lived.

    I think Ananias just wanted to gain holiness on the cheap.Jesus’s first commandment is ‘ Love God with all your heart and strength.90% won’t work.

    I feel sorry for Ananias and his wife,but he’d have been better off not giving anything rather than trying to trick Peter and the Holy Spirit.He was like those rich folk who gave to charity ostentatiously & made a big show of praying, like the Pharisees in Matthew 23.Rather than giving secretly and praying quietly

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