Pentecost and the promise of the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit
Salt&Light: Word in Season is a monthly series of original Bible devotions and reflections from leaders in God's Kingdom.
Josephine Lew // May 8, 2023, 11:33 pm
Pentecost is a reminder of the gift of the Holy Spirit that is available for all who believe. Here's how to live a Spirit-filled life. Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash.
Dinner time is one of the precious times that I look forward to. It is the time when my hubby and I connect with our adult daughter and teenage son daily, a safe space for them to ask any kind of questions.
One interesting question popped up this evening: “What is this Pentecost in the church calendar? What has it got to do with us today?”
What is Pentecost in the church calendar?
The term “Pentecost” literally means “fifty” in Greek. In church history, Pentecost was celebrated 50 days after the Jewish Passover.
Today, churches all over the world still celebrate Pentecost in the month of May.
This event marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ, as seen in Acts 2.
It records for us the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and followers of Christ, the proclamation of the Gospel and, thereafter, the birth of the church with 3,000 added to them on the day of Pentecost.
That very first Pentecost
Even if you don’t celebrate Pentecost, the truths of Pentecost have significant implications in the way you live your Christian faith.
These unschooled and ordinary disciples went forth and turned the world downside up.
In Acts 1, Jesus instructed the disciples specifically not to leave Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised by God, the Father (Acts 1:4).
But what was this gift of the Holy Spirit for?
The Holy Spirit’s empowerment was to enable the disciples to be vibrant witnesses of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Think about it. The disciples had spent three years being, watching and doing ministry with Jesus but that still did not prepare them fully for the task of fulfilling the Great Commission.
It was only when the Holy Spirit came upon them that these unschooled and ordinary disciples went forth and turned the world downside up. The Holy Spirit was the enabling Presence behind all that they did, making visible the kingdom of God.
He empowered them to preach boldly, give of their lives sacrificially, suffer with joy, love one another deeply, and live missionally. Such was the vibrancy of the early Christians who allowed the Holy Spirit to work in them.
What has Pentecost got to do with me?
Pentecost awakens us to the following two critical mandates to live the missional life like the early church:
1. Live in the Presence of the Holy Spirit
We cannot deny the challenges we face daily in living the Christian life today.
“Pentecost is not a spiritual luxury. It is an utter necessity for human living.”
One of my protégés once lamented to me: “It is difficult to live the Christian life.”
I replied: “It is not difficult … it is impossible!”
It is impossible if we are relying solely on our human capacities.
Truly, we cannot keep loving our family members or our difficult colleagues unless the Holy Spirit empowers us. There is no way we can remain a witness for Christ by our good conduct or words unless the Holy Spirit enables us.
The American Methodist Missionary, E Stanley Jones (1930), put it aptly: “Pentecost is not a spiritual luxury. It is an utter necessity for human living. The human spirit fails unless the Holy Spirit fills. It is Pentecost or failure.”
“The human spirit fails unless the Holy Spirit fills. It is Pentecost or failure.”
So Paul exhorts us to be very careful how we live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil and not to be foolish but to understand what the Lord’s will is.
He ends the instruction with this: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)”.
“Be filled.” The imperative voice of Ephesians 5:18 tells us that to be filled with the Spirit is not just an invitation. It is a mandate, but not a gruelling one.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be fully yielded and directed by God.
We read Apostle Paul poorly if we do not see that the presence of the Spirit is to be an experienced and living reality for Christians today.
2. Live in the power of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the earthly presence of our risen Lord and He plays an indispensable role in our lives.
When we live the Spirit-filled life moment by moment, our life will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
As the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit dwells within us (1 Corinthians 3:16), guides us (John 16:13), comforts us (John 14:16), strengthens us (Ephesians 3:16), intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27) and, most of all, transforms us (2 Corinthians 3:18).
When we live the Spirit-filled life moment by moment, our life will bear the fruit of the Spirit (John 15:5, Galatians 5:22-23). We will experience His power to love others, His peace amid our current stressful situations and the list goes on.
Harold Hoehner (2008) reinforces this truth: “Being filled with wisdom is an imperishable concept, whereas being filled with the Spirit adds God’s personal presence, influence and enablement to walk wisely, thus pleasing the Lord.”
Living the Spirit-filled life
So you may ask: “How am I to be filled with the Holy Spirit?”
It begins with a desire. AW Tozer (1950) reminds us: “Before we can be filled with the Spirit, the desire to be filled must be all consuming.”
Have you ever seen two persons in the driver’s seat?
Do not inhibit God’s healing grace from touching your heart by holding on to your wounds.
In the same way, to have Christ reign as Lord in your life means you have to first surrender the control of your life to Him, especially your hurts and disappointments.
Do not inhibit God’s healing grace from touching your heart by holding on to your wounds. Give them all to Jesus.
3. Breathe spiritually
The Holy Spirit cannot fill a dirty vessel.
Confess your sins (Exhale) and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit by faith (Inhale), according to His command (Ephesians 5:18) and His promise (1 John 5:14-15).
Grow with your church community
No disciple was present at the birth of Christ. No disciple was present at the time of Christ’s resurrection.
But the disciples were found being together and praying on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1).
If you have been isolated from your church community, return or take the initiative to join one today.
The pandemic has driven some of us to isolation with the convenience of logging on to online services.
Beware that prolonged isolation can lead to withdrawal from people and ultimately spiritual insulation. When we build a wall around ourselves and shut out others, it could lead to dullness towards hearing God.
My dear brothers and sisters, if you have been isolated from your church community, return or take the initiative to join one today for your continual growth. The mandate to be Christ’s witness is not a solo work.
Just as the first century church models for us, join with others to devote to hearing God’s truth, fellowship, breaking of bread and to prayer communally (Acts 4:42).
I am often asked: “What gives you so much energy daily?”
I don’t drink coffee or Red Bull. But one thing I do: I wake up each day surrendering my life to God and breathing spiritually before I get out of my bed.
Join me to start this new habit and experience the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to live the vibrant Christian life daily.
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