This season at Gateway we’ve been in a series through the book of Acts entitled Pentecost. Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the twelve apostles and other followers of Jesus described in the Acts 2.
Pentecost is the birthday of the Church and the book of Acts is the story of the transfer of the Holy Spirit from Jesus to the disciples.
When Jesus was preparing to ascend to heaven he doesn’t give his followers a bulleted list of instructions. Instead, he tells them that he will be with them and through the power of his Spirit they will continue to do and teach the things that He began to do and teach.
Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to continue his movement of reconciliation, healing and restoration on earth. What Jesus began, his successors will now continue.
Which we know, as a matter of historical record, is exactly what happened. This group of disparate individuals, from a variety of economic and social and racial backgrounds came together (Acts 2v44) and - despite having virtually no political, cultural or economic power - turned the Roman empire upside down.
Jesus says, you need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit in order to receive the power necessary to be my witnesses (Acts 1v8). So is the Spirit’s job to give us power? No. At least not primarily.
We know from John 16 that the primary role of the Holy Spirit is to illuminate the work of Jesus Christ. And Paul says in Romans 1v17 ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation.’
In other words, the truth of Jesus Christ does not bring power. It does not result in power. It does not lead to power. It is the power.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is when you experience the truth of the gospel to such a degree that you’re whole heart and mind and body are filled with it.
You don’t just know the gospel, you experience it. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus real, not just an abstraction. His words are real to you. His love envelops you. His truth - who he says you are, what he says matters - is so much more important to you than anything else anyone has told you.
God’s grace and love and power are so real that you begin to act on the basis of them. And when the Holy Spirit does that for a whole group of people it changes everything.
Tim Keller tells a story about a major revival that occurred in Northern Ireland back in 1859. One of the things that happened was that the majority of the prostitutes got converted. A Newspaper reporter found out about this and began to investigate. He sat down with one of the prostitutes and said, “Why are all of you coming to church?”
She said, for one thing business completely dropped off during the revival. But secondly, for the first time in our lives people on the street are treating us with kindness and with respect.
Do you realize what is going on there?
These prostitutes were being exploited. The irreligious people were giving those girls business, so they were exploiting them. But the religious people were treating them with contempt and spitting on them - just to make themselves feel superior - so they were exploiting them too!
There are a lot of people in our country that are saying what our society needs to today is a return to traditional values. But do you think if you had just made the religious people stronger, more religious, more conservative that would have gotten those girls out of their bondage?
NO! Truth without power means more spitting.
What changed those girls lives was not that people got more religious, but that they received the power of the gospel. The Holy Spirit made Jesus real to them.
The irreligious people didn’t have God’s truth (law) that is why they went to them. But the religious people didn’t have God’s love, that is why they felt superior to them. But when they all became sinners, saved by grace - when they experienced the truth and the power of the gospel - it changed the world.