Praying til Pentecost Day 47
"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place, and suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance. " Acts 2:1-2
Perspective is everything. It is possible to be so close to the truth that it is impossible to see it. There is a great deal of wisdom in the old saying, "Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees." Taking a step back can sometimes help a person take a step forward in gaining a fresh perspective on a truth that has been in front of them for a very long time.
Every thought and every insight I have about God has been given to me by the Person of the Holy Spirit. I have never seen the physical Person of Christ. I have been dealing with the Spirit of the Risen Christ from the first moment I met Jesus. The Holy Spirit created a hunger in my heart for a love relationship with Jesus. All I know about the Son of God has been provided to me by Spirit-inspired Scriptures, and explained to me by the Holy Spirit. In spite of this 54 year relationship, I always enjoy going back to the Day of Pentecost for a review of that moment in time when the consistent, constant, comforting companionship of the Holy Spirit was offered to believers.
The Day of Pentecost was not the birthday of the Holy Spirit, but it was the birthday of the church. The local church remains the hope of the world as long as the people who gather within its walls are filled with the Holy Spirit to the degree that the message of the Risen Christ overflows their lives and splashes onto the lives of those outside the walls of the church.
"The day of Pentecost..." - This was a very popular Jewish feast. The Jewish calendar scheduled it to take place 50 days after Passover. Devout Jews from all over the world would return to the city of Jerusalem for the celebration. After the Holy Spirit had done His work, thousands of transformed people would go back to their homes with a Spirit filled message about the resurrection and repentance. Leave it to God to be right on time with the right message.
"They were all together in one place..." - The 120 disciples gathered in the upper room had been praying and waiting for 50 days. For 40 days the Risen Lord appeared to over 500 disciples and taught them about the Kingdom of Heaven. As always, a remnant gathered to pray about what they had heard. They had done all they could do, and now they were waiting for something that only God could do.
"Suddenly..." - This is one of my favorite words in the Bible. It is only mentioned three times in the New Testament. It is used here to describe the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the upper room. Secondly, it describes the appearance of the Risen Lord to Saul on the Road to Damascus. Finally, it describes the sudden death expected to happen to Paul when he was bitten by a viper on Malta. This was meant to provide a picture of fast and immediate action that caught people completely unaware. The Holy Spirit manifested His Presence and power unexpectedly and without warning. This was a total and complete surprise. His movement was marked by unprecedented speed and unnerving sound.
"There came from heaven..." The Holy Spirit's Presence and power was not a result of the work of man. He was sent down from Heaven by God. Any time prayers are lifted up to God for a movement of the Holy Spirit, they should not be thought to contain the power of persuasion to trigger an explosion of the Spirit. Praying people benefit from the grace of God. God's delayed response to the prayers of His people does not mean He has deserted their cause. His swift response does not mean that they have finally hit on the magic words that God has been waiting to hear. Prayer is simply how we set our sails to catch the wind of heaven. Without prayer we are dead in the water. Praying people are not proud of themselves when God begins to move. They know that a movement of God is more about Him than it is about them. When they rush to take credit for what God is doing, the next rushing sound they hear is the Spirit leaving the scene.
"...like a violent and rushing wind..." - Life in Tornado Alley of Oklahoma gives people a perspective on violent rushing wind like few other places on earth. It is not unusual to hear about people who prepare for the worst by putting on helmets and wrapping themselves in pillows in a safe room when they hear the sound of the sirens. The experience of the early disciples reminds us that the upper room is not the safe room. They were not prepared for the speed, the sound, or the scale of a movement of the Holy Spirit. No matter how long or how much they had been praying, they were still caught unaware by something only God could do. People are never able to prepare themselves totally for what God is capable of doing in their lives. The upper room is never a place to run from the storm. In truth, the upper room may be the eye of the storm. It is still the safest place to be in spite of the all the fire and the fury swirling around a movement of God.
"It filled the whole house where they were sitting..." - Whether the disciples were standing on the promises are just sitting on the premises, the Spirit of God descended on them. His movement was a total saturation of the praying community. The picture of people sitting portrays them as waiting people. The position of their bodies may be a key to understanding the condition of their hearts. They had been been told to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Promise of the Father. The longer they prayed about the commission they had been given, the weaker they must have felt to carry out the task. By coming to the end of themselves, they came to the beginning of God.
"And there appeared to them tongues of fire..." - The wind and the fire that represented the movement of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are often used as images to promote a contemporary spiritual awakening. My father, Don Miller, has often warned me about expecting power and warmth from "painted fire." This is what he calls man-made efforts to generate a God-sent renewal of His church. The logos, and web sites of many churches are marked by computer generated graphics that stir the imagination, but they seldom produce the heat that can thaw out a heart that has grown cold in the winter season of unrepented sin.
"Distributing themselves and they rested on each one of them..." - The tongues of fire were moved by an unseen hand and landed on everyone in the room. There are no exemptions, deferments, or exceptions to a movement of the Spirit of God. Praying people should expect to be heard, and then expect to be touched by a movement of God. When God's Spirit moves into a community, there is no place to hide. A movement of God often results in some very unexpected leaders raised up to carry out assignments, and achieve victories that only God can get credit for.
"And they were filled with the Holy Spirit..." - This is the result of a movement of the Holy Spirit. He fills people with His Presence. He is not a liquid additive. He is not a mere fluid, and He is more than a majestic force. The Holy Spirit is God. He is Jesus. He is not a junior partner in the Trinity, or a replacement for the Risen Christ. He has not moved Jesus off the scene, but has come to lift up the name of Jesus. People who are filled with the Holy Spirit are under the control of the character of Christ. They speak more about Jesus than they do about themselves. They live more for Jesus than they do for themselves. They are filled with the Spirit, but they lift up the name of Jesus.
"And began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance..." - The book of Acts tell us that these "other tongues" were not ecstatic utterances or guttural, child-like gibberish. These were intelligible languages that were understood by the people of existing nations who were in the city to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. God used this remarkable expression of His love to widen the circle of His love to include people who had never heard the truth of the Gospel. They would take this truth home with them, and it would become the seed from which future fruit would grow. God has always had a world on His heart, and people who are filled with His Spirit will have a concern for those who have never heard the Gospel.