Sermon Date: May 24, 2015
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Pray for God's Pentecost Gifts
A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on May 24, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
Pray for God’s Pentecost Gifts!
Have you ever gone through a rough time when you wished that God would give you a sign? The simple answer to wanting a sign is read the Bible. But sometimes our stress level may be so high that as we read the Bible, we don’t feel we’re getting much out of it. For example we flip through the Old Testament, and there we read how God commanded the Children of Israel to kill everyone living in some certain city. Not a whole lot of comfort there. Or, we read God’s promises to never let us be tempted more than we can bear, but it’s feeling like we are. At such times we may wish God would speak to us in some special way, and assure us that He’s still with us. This morning let’s more than wish for that, let’s pray for it! Let’s Pray for God’s Pentecost Gifts. There are three. 1. Signs. 2. Understanding. 3. Boldness.
We read in our text: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them – Acts 2:1-4. God gave three signs on Pentecost – the sound of a rushing wind, the tongues of fire, and the disciples speaking in other languages. Each sign served a special purpose. Let’s look at those purposes, so we can know what we too may expect when it comes to signs from God.
On that first Pentecost, Jerusalem was packed with Jews from all over the world. They had come there to worship, because Pentecost was their Thanksgiving Day. Pentecost actually means 50, because 50 days before this, they would have begun their Spring wheat harvest, and now that the Spring harvest was complete, they were bringing God their first fruits as a thank offering.
Anyway when you have a large crowd and you want to get everyone’s attention for an important announcement, how do you do that? Easy! You turn on the PA system and maybe blow into the microphone, except they didn’t have PA systems. And so, God caused a sound as loud as a freight train to come out of heaven and enter the house or meeting room were the disciples were staying. This got everyone’s attention, and naturally everyone crowded around to see what was going on.
Does God give us signs to get our attention? Well, how ‘bout the rushing sound of wind from a hurricane? Thankfully we haven’t had one for a while, but God uses the storms of life, both literal and figurative to remind us to think about our priorities and to repent of our sins.
The second sign on Pentecost was the tongues of fire that came and sat on each believer’s head. Its purpose was to assure each person that he was a member of God’s Kingdom and that God had special work for him. Actually, in a sense we also have a special sign from God. It’s our baptism. In our baptism God said to us, “Fear not, I have called you by name. You are mine.” – Isaiah 43:2 In our baptism God has poured out His Spirit on us, so that we can believe we are His, and will have all the gifts we need to serve Him. Peter had told the Pentecost crowd, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The disciples didn’t get to keep the fire on top of their heads. In fact that fire was probably gone by the time they began addressing the crowds. So, also the tops of our heads still aren’t wet from our baptism. But our baptism is still a sign from God that we are His, and that He has a reason for us being here.
The third sign on Pentecost was that each nationality heard uneducated Galileans speak in his own native dialect, and so they knew that they were hearing a message from God. We too have that sign from God. It’s the Bible. The Bible was written over a 1600 year period through many different people, yet the Bible has perfect continuity and unity. That’s a miracle! Yet sometimes our reaction to what we’re reading in the Bible might be the same as that of the crowd had on Pentecost.
Our text reads: Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” - Acts 2:7-12
You and I can know what the Bible means, because God’s second Pentecost gift is understanding. The key to understanding the Bible is wanting what He wants. For example, I want to spend time with my wife, which is what God wants me to do too. And so, when He says in the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery”, I have no trouble understanding what that means. On the other hand, if a person doesn’t want what God wants, if what he wants to do is to run around, that’s when he’ll start saying the Sixth Commandment is hard to understand, and doesn’t God want him to be happy?
Or, here’s another possible example of when it seems like God’s Word doesn’t make sense. Maybe there are certain things that we feel we have to have, to can feel good about ourselves, or even just function. Yet God isn’t giving us those things, and so we start wondering where is God’s promise to care for us? The problem may be that we’re disagreeing with God. We think we have to have this or that, but God says to us, “Seek first my kingdom and my righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.” God knows us and sees our needs better than we do. What we need more than anything is to be as holy and loving as He is. If we make that our goal, two things will happen.
One is we will understand the Bible. You see, each verse of the Bible is like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. Seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness enables us to see the big picture and how every verse fits together. For example when we read God’s command in the Old Testament to destroy certain cities, that will make sense to us, when we look at this command in the context of His holiness and love. You see, for centuries those people had given themselves over to idolatry and immorality. By ordering their destruction God was telling people of all times that the wages of sin and that they need a Savior. Also, it was God’s plan to send that Savior from among the Children of Israel. But if the Children of Israel didn’t destroy those cities and instead intermarried with them, they would fall from faith and would no longer be proclaimers of the coming Savior. In fact they wouldn’t even care about the coming Savior.
In the New Testament, Jesus commands us to put the sword away. Instead we have a new sword, the sword of the Word. And actually the first person we need to carve up with the sword of the Word is ourselves. We need to put to death the desires of our sinful nature by reminding ourselves what our sins deserve. However, the sword of the Word also gives life. Through it Jesus touches our hearts. He takes our sins into Himself, and gives us His healing power by telling us that our sins are forgiven. Those who read the Bible seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness will find what they’re looking for. And every time they read it, they’ll understand God’s holiness and love even better.
Another thing that happens when we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness is God makes our concerns over day-to-day things, His concern. What a deal! The Almighty’s job is to give us the right amount of everything that we need everyday. Our job is to repent of our sins and to grow in faith, and then simply share with others the understanding He has given to us. Now, it’s because God has given us this understanding of Himself that we are bold, and boldness is God’s third Pentecost gift for us.
We read, Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” – Acts 2:13 This verse warns us that witnessing for Jesus isn’t always easy. The people in our text heard the sound of the rushing wind and saw uneducated Galileans speaking in languages they had never learned, yet these signs didn’t impress them. In the same way, there are many today who reject God’s sign of baptism or the sign of His Word. However, rather than make fun of them or look down on them, we need to remember that we have the same sinful nature they do, and that God has rescued us, and now God wants to rescue others through us. And so, as we live and share that still small voice of His Word, and as we urgently stay with it no matter what others think about us – that’s boldness! Also, how can we not be bold when we understand the truth about heaven and hell and that Jesus is the only way to heaven?
In the beginning I talked about those times when it seems that God’s Word wasn’t doing anything for us. We still might have some days like that, as Satan attacks our faith. But he’s not going to win. Instead pray for God’s Pentecost gifts! Pray that we may see in His Word and Sacrament the signs of His love for us. Pray that we may better understand how He wants us to be holy and loving, and how He Himself meets those needs for us in Christ. And finally pray that we may be bold in seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness in all that we do no matter what the costs. Because when we want what God wants, we will receive it! And then we will become Pentecost gifts to the people around us, so that through us many more will also call on the name of the Lord and be saved! Amen
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net