I remember having a conversation with a young man in my previous congregation who was upset with some of the changes implemented in the church. He commented, “Everything in the world is in a state of flux, I come to church because I can depend on it always staying the same.” Pentecost is God’s example that the “new” can be an improvement on the “old.” Jesus’ final words before the ascension were, “I am sending upon you what the Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power on high” (Luke 24:49). They knew the where, but not the when.
There were several undeniable signs of the Spirit’s presence on the day of Pentecost. The first sign was an audible sound of a violent wind or a rushing freight train. Wind, both in Greek and Hebrew, can also be translated “spirit”. Wasn’t it Jesus who said to Nicodemus: we might not be able to see the wind, but we can see its effects. The Spirit’s voice is auditory in the new organic community called the church. The sound we now hear is not a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal; rather, it is the voice of the Spirit spoken through his people: you and me.
The second sign is visual. The Holy Spirit’s presence was evident in tongues of fire. This reminds us of John the Baptist’s prophecy: “I baptize you with water, but one more powerful than I is coming, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). From that point forward, Jesus’ ministry would be evident in his followers. I suggest that the most visible evidence of God’s activity is life change. A key word in this text is “filled,” the author’s favorite term to describe someone surrendered to Jesus Christ, not merely having the Spirit, but the Spirit having you. The Gallup research organization surveyed tens of thousands of Christians to determine what it means to be spiritually filled. If we can answer “true” to the following statements, it is a helpful guide to discern our yieldedness to God:
- My faith is involved in every aspect of my life.
- Because of my relationship to Christ, I have meaning and purpose.
- My faith gives me inner peace.
- Because of my faith, I can forgive those who deeply hurt me.
- My faith has called me to pursue my gifts and talents.
- Because of my faith, I speak words of encouragement to those around me.
The third sign is that when someone is filled with the Spirit, that one speaks a new language. When someone follows Jesus, conversations are altered and our words are more transcendent. Our language moves away from ourselves to glorify God. The crowds asked the right question then: “What does this mean?” It means that we are now a member of a radically new community of Spirit-filled people, a community that speaks in multiple dialects but lives by the one language of love.
How many of the above statements did you answer as true?