Wednesday, March 5, 2014

That Power From On High

Imagine all the church in one room.  Among the group, sit the eleven.  They had been in this room a mere fifty days prior.  In this room, Jesus had said take eat and take drink.  They had replaced Judas the betrayer with Matthias through the casting of lots.  At this table, Jesus had revealed his betrayer.  He had said go and do this quickly.  Judas had rushed from the room.  They left after the seder.  They proceeded to Gethsemane.  They waited in the dark as Jesus prayed and sweat drops of blood.  They were there when Judas stepped to the Lord, and betrayed him with a kiss.  In that dark, they saw Peter cut the ear off of one of the temple guard, and saw as Jesus put it back and healed him.  They were sent into hiding, as Jesus was tried in a hasty fashion.  They were standing in the distance as Jesus was given forty lashes.  They stood by as he was stripped and the guards cast lots for his clothes.  When they placed a purple robe and crown of thrones on him, they were there in the shadows.  The sound of the hammer fall on nail, shook them to their core, as iron is driven through flesh.  Like a sheep before the slaughter, he did not cry out.  As the Roman soldiers raised Jesus upon the cross, they swallowed their tears.  When his side was pierced, they gasped.  When he gave up his ghost and died, their hope died with him.  They sat in this same room as Jesus enter in resurrected glory when the door was shut.

Fifty days had passed.  They must have been consumed with terror.  They had seen their rabbi brutally killed.  Which one of them know who may be next among them?  They have remained in Jerusalem.  It could have only been that great glory of the resurrected Lord that could have given them the strength to remain.  Jesus had told them to wait, wait until the Comforter is come.

And so they sit, all the doors and windows closed up and waiting.  Suddenly a sound like a roaring wind.  Not one hair upon any head is stirred or moved from its place.  But a roaring sound explodes in their ears.  A light explodes and settles on each of their foreheads.  This is that Shekinah glory.  It has appeared as a pillar of fire to guide the Israelites out of Egypt.  It had later dwelt between the Cherub in the most holy place.  Now in an instant that bright glory has appeared upon mere men.  Taking a form like tongues of fire.

Then after the Spirit of God had washed over them, like a wave crashing against some rocky shore, they speak.  Men, from throughout the known world, have come to Jerusalem for Pentecost.  Suddenly, these foreigners, with their foreign tongues, hear and understand in their own tongue what these followers of Jesus are saying..  In shock, they ask aren't these Galileans?  Galileans would have represented the least educated among them.  These Galileans are understood in at least nineteen different languages.  The noise coming from that upper room, draws the attention of others in the city.  When they arrive and witness what is happening they believe these men must be drunk.  Then Peter, that disciple so afraid to face the crowds he denied Christ three times that night he was arrested.  Peter steps forward and announces, make no mistake these men are not drunk.  It is only nine o'clock and it is much too early for that.  He declares that they are witnessing what the prophet Joel spoke about, when he said in the last days God would pour out his spirit on his people.  Finally, declaring to the crowd that this Jesus, who they had crucified, has been raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the father.

This first sermon of Peter moved the people in the deepest parts of themselves.  They cry out to the Apostle, what should we do?  Apostle Peter tells them to repent and be baptized.  Three thousand people turn to Christ that day.

This is such a powerful story.  Sometimes, we focus on the wrong part of the story.  If you focus on the speaking of tongues, then you miss a larger part of the story.  We should not spend too much time concerned about the fact that they spoke in other tongues.  That is a miracle of amazing power, but it is not the most amazing part of the story.  They were given power from on high.  No longer would they preach and teach in their own strength.  They had been filled with the power of God.  This is a promise for the church today.  Sometimes, I have felt like the church is so concerned about what Christians ought not to do, but they have neglected the power given from God to achieve that self-control.  Some would refer to a great teacher like A.W. Tozer as a Christian Mystic.  Is that a bad thing?  Shouldn't we all want to be filled with the spirit of God?  We try to make the conversion so mechanical.  I think at times we neglect to emphasize the amazing thing that has happened.  Conversion is not merely saying answering an altar call and then praying a prayer.  It is the invasion of our very personality from something outside it.  D.L. Moody spoke of preaching before he felt that filling of the Holy Spirit.  He said that he would preach the same sermons after that filling. but they were filled with a greater power than he had prior.  The Moravians waited for that filling, and then brought about a great awakening.  They would reach the Wesley brothers, and bring revival to the Church Of England and then to North America.  If we feel like we are losing the cultural battle, then maybe it is this power that we are lacking.  It could be that we are so concerned with the details of the church, that we have neglected the real mystery of the church.  If we could all sit in silence and wait for that filling, then think of how we could change the world.  It would not be us, but it would be the power of God.  Oh, how amazing it would be to be a part of something so amazing!

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