“TAPPING INTO THE SECRET”

SERIES: “POWER POINTS”

ACTS 2:1-11

MAY 29, 2016

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer

 (Play Audio)

The world is full of secrets. Google the word “secrets” and we will find out about secret resorts and spas, and we will be shown a link to Victoria’s Secret, and we will find “best kept” lists like the best kept secrets of the IRS, and the best kept secrets in mattresses, and even a list of the 101 best kept secrets in Hollywood. A couple of those Hollywood secrets are real disappointments. For example, did you know that Jennifer Beals didn't do a lot of her dancing scenes in "Flashdance," and did you know Mel Gibson and Nicole Kidman weren't born in Australia? I know. I know. Disappointing bordering on devastating!

  Last week I revealed a secret. I revealed the secret of the Book of Acts. Who remembers what it is? That’s right, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit, and today we embark on the second of six messages on this power, this secret. Unfortunately, too many of us are like that man who said, “I have been an elder in my church for years; built a building, raised money, served on committees.  But one thing my church never gave me was a relationship with Jesus Christ that would make my life exciting.”   In other words, this man never experienced the secret of the Book of Acts. His life was about as stimulating as a glass of flat ginger ale.

Last week I revealed the secret. This week we turn our attention to experiencing the secret. Take out your Bible, turn to Acts 2, and follow along as I read.  We should have done this sermon two Sundays ago on Pentecost Sunday, but better late than never. Let’s read about being filled with the Spirit.

 

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.  And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.  Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?” And how is it the we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

 

Luke then proceeds to give us a National Geographic tour of the Mediterranean world.  Luke starts at the Caspian Sea and goes counter-clockwise, naming the nations represented in Jerusalem during the Feast of Pentecost.  I won’t read the nations because a number of them are too difficult to pronounce, but notice how far people travelled for the Feast of Pentecost, one of the three great feasts of Judaism.  Verse 9 … There are people from Parthia and Media, that’s modern Iran.  That’s about 1200 miles from Jerusalem.  Verse 10 … People have come from Cyrene, again about 1200 miles from Jerusalem.  And there are people from Rome, about 1450 miles away from Jerusalem.  People travelled from all over the Mediterranean world to attend this feast.

And as a quick aside did you know it was easier to move around in the first century, if you were a Roman citizen, than it is today?  A Roman citizen could move across borders with far less difficulty than we can today.  They didn’t have to fiddle with passports like we do.  And that may be one of the reasons why God chose Paul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.  Paul, being a Roman citizen, made it easier for him to move about the Roman world. 

Now, as we tap into the secret of the Book of Acts, I want to address two questions. Number one, how does Luke describe what happened to the believers?  Number two, how do we go about experiencing this secret?

First, note how Luke described what happened to the disciples at Pentecost.  Note how Luke’s account of the experience is simple, sparse - in no sense luxurious - yet it is filled with wonder.  Let me show you what I mean.  Go back to verse 1,

 

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.   

 

Note what Luke does not tell us. He doesn’t tell us anything about what they were doing – other than sitting - when the Spirit filled them and we wonder to ourselves, “Were they at worship?  Were they praying?  Were they reciting certain Psalms?”  Luke, however, doesn’t tell us, and that is very fortunate for us that Luke gives us such a spare account of this decisive event because there is a temptation to enshrine great events in the history of the church.  If Luke, for instance, had told us they had been reading Psalm 90 when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, then believe me from then on we would be reciting Psalm 90. It would be #1 on our hit parade and we would get into debates as to whether they were reading Psalm 90 in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic.  I mean, we have to get it right so that we can have an experience like that too. 

Instead, Luke preserves the sovereignty of God. He makes the account so sparse, so lean, that we simply have to provide for God, for what God wants to do, the way God wants to do it.  Luke resists any attempt to enshrine the event by giving any details on the form.

He does give us one detail, however, that is of the utmost importance. He tells us it happened to all of them.

Look at verse 4.

 

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit ...

 

Note, it doesn’t say “some” of them or “most” of them, but it says “all” of them and the significance is this: The New Testament Day of Pentecost ushers in a new age.  Starting at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will indwell every believer.  Prior to Pentecost the Holy Spirit only came upon special people for special ministries.  The Spirit came upon Saul and David and Elijah and Jesus.  Just a precious few, but now all believers are included. So then, if we are in Christ, the pilot light is on. The flame has been lit. 

But then we are left to ask our second question. What do we need to do to experience the secret, the power of the Holy Spirit. And why, the disconnect? By that I mean, if the Holy Spirit indwells every believer, why is it so few of us are experiencing the secret of the Book of Acts?  Why are so few of us experiencing the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit?   

Well, to be filled with the Spirit we need to remove two barriers.

The first barrier is fear.  We fear what will happen to us if we are filled with the Spirit.  Will we begin speaking a foreign language like the disciples?  That might be cool to be able suddenly to speak Chinese or Italian. Or will it be something else? Will we fall down and start rolling around like our Pentecostal brothers and sisters?  Will we become religious fanatics?  Will we become obnoxious?  Will we lose control of our emotions?  What will happen to us when we are filled with the Holy Spirit?   Will it be something good or will it be something terrible? 

Well, would we like to experience power?  Would we like to experience peace?  Would we like to experience joy?   Would we like to become more enthusiastic in our worship and in our relationship with God?   Would we like to become more courageous?

I appreciate the way Thomas Goodwin, one of the Puritans of three hundred years ago, described the sensation of being filled with the Spirit. In describing what it’s like, Goodwin pictured a man walking along a road hand in hand with his little boy.  The little boy knows that this man is his father, and that his father loves him.  But suddenly the father stops, picks up the boy, lifts him into his arms, embraces him, kisses him, and hugs him.  Then he puts him down again and they continue walking.  It is a wonderful thing to be walking along holding your father’s hand; but it is incredibly better to have his arms enfolded around you.

That’s what it’s like to be filled with the Spirit.  It’s an overwhelming experience of the love of God.  It’s being embraced by God.  It’s being hugged by God.  When we are filled with the Spirit we will feel loved as we have never felt loved before – and like we said last Sunday, we will want to share that love with others.                                                                             

A second barrier we need to remove is doubt.  People have many doubts when it comes to being filled with the Spirit with the principal doubt being, “If I ask will I receive?” 

In response to that, do you remember the time Jesus was speaking to the disciples on the subject of prayer and the Holy Spirit?  Luke records it in the eleventh chapter of his Gospel.  Anyway, Jesus says to them, “Ask and it will be given to you.”

But Jesus must have seen that they were a little skeptical because he repeats it in a different way.  He says, “Seek and you will find.”

And they must have raised their eyebrows so he says it a third time: “Knock and the door will be opened to you.”

And he knows human nature, so he goes on a fourth time: “For everyone who asks receives.”

Still they are not convinced, so he says it a fifth time: “Everyone who seeks finds,” and again a sixth time: “For everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Why does Jesus say it six times?  Because he knows what we are like.  We find it very difficult to believe that God would give us anything – let alone something as wonderful as the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit.

And Jesus concluded his teaching in Luke 11 with these words, “ If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  Note what he did not say.  He did not say, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to very advanced Christians.”  No, Jesus said, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”  The condition is one: ask, ask.

Who here has children? If it were in your power to give, what would you like to give them? Happiness? Fulfillment? Peace? Contentment? Success? Good Health?

Well, our Heavenly Father wants to give us his Spirit and all that entails and he has the power to do so. Ask. Seek. Knock. And we will receive and we will find and the door to the power of the Holy Spirit will be opened to us. That’s what Jesus promised. Do I need to repeat that five more times? You got it? Good! If it were me, I would start asking on the drive home from church. Amen.