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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pentecost - enabling to witness

14-21That's when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: "Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren't drunk as some of you suspect. They haven't had time to get drunk—it's only nine o'clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

   "In the Last Days," God says, "I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.   When the time comes, I'll pour out my Spirit on those who serve me, men and women both, and they'll prophesy. I'll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red, before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous; and whoever calls out for help to me, God, will be saved."
(Acts 2:14-21)

Shortly after the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit in the upper room in Jerusalem, the crowds gathered outside the windows of the building and those passing by in the streets could hear the evidence of what we refer to as "tongues" - men and women speaking in other languages, giving praise to God.  As is often the response of those that do not understand what it is they are seeing or hearing, the onlookers begin to criticize the disciples, accusing them of being drunk and carried away in a "partying" celebration.  Peter is quick to rise - he moves forward to address their accusations with the facts.

First of all, he points out that is nine o'clock in the morning - hardly the time for a large group of people to be gathered in raucous celebration involving imbibing in wine.  Peter is demonstrating one of the responses of the newly indwelling Holy Spirit - the spontaneous manifestation of the gift of prophecy.  Peter stands, comes forward, and then begins to address the mockers who are taunting and jeering.  

The "last days" are included in this prophetic message - indicating that Peter is making the connection between what the Prophet Joel spoke of many years before with the events of the present day.  He is linking this outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the beginning of the "last days".  As he shares this passage from the Prophet Joel (Joel 2), he is showing that the purpose of what they are hearing is really to bring the conviction of sins - a work of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, Peter is pointing to the fact that salvation is now available to all mankind.

Peter then launches into a discourse describing Jesus as approved of God - not just here as a "good man" or a "good teacher" - but "accredited" to them by God himself.  Miracles, signs and wonders revealed God's "accreditation" of Jesus - none before him had been so honored to display God's power in the ways he did.  The events of that morning pointed to yet another display of the signs and wonders of God - accrediting his disciples as he had accredited Jesus.

Then, as if Peter has lost all his timidity and fear of man, he launches into a discourse describing how the Jewish leaders and the Jewish people killed a sinless man in the most humiliating manner they could - crucifixion.  He points the finger at the Jewish leaders and accuses them of sending an innocent man to his death.  As if to rub salt in their wounds, he reminds them that Jesus was indeed "uniquely accredited" by God as is evidenced in the fact that the tomb is empty - even David could not claim that honor.

What Peter is doing is showing them that this is not a gathering of drunken party-hearty men and women.  It is a display of the power and authority of God - sent by the one they crucified.  Pentecost is a direct result of Christ's ascension into heaven - of him being seated in his seat of authority at the right hand of the Father.  It was the evidence that he was no longer "earth-bound", but was exalted and his work of atoning for our sins had been perfectly accepted by the Father.

The main thing we see here is that the evidence of being filled with the Spirit is that we are witnesses to a lost and dying world.  There is a transition that occurs that moves the disciple from being a follower, just one along for the ride, to being actively engaged in the preaching of the message of salvation.  The "preaching" of the message is more than filling a pulpit or standing on the street corners with a placard and yelling at the world to "repent".  It is in the sharing of the hope within you, the exchange of heart that has occurred, and the living out of that change in our daily walk.

There is a power that awaits.  There is an anointing that moves us out of complacency into a place of dynamic discipleship.  It is in the the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  Are you ready to be a disciple?