The Power From On High Can Be Yours!

Our three most holy days are Easter, Christmas and the Day of Pentecost which was last Sunday. It was on the Feast of Pentecost in A.D. 33 that the Christian church was born. God ushered in His presence and His glory fell on his disciples with a mighty rushing wind. Now some of us have been taught that the Spirit of God fell upon only that exclusive and select group of Jesus’ twelve disciples. We believe that because that’s church tradition and because most of the religious art from the medieval period shows the flames descending on twelve men. But that’s not what the Word of God says in our Bible. 

Don’t we just hate it when that darn Bible of ours contradicts the dogma and doctrine of our church? Early Catholic teaching was the Holy Spirit fell only on the twelve disciples – the first “Catholic priests” – because priests were the only ones anointed by God. That belief is reflected in the medieval religious art we see. Catholic doctrine today teaches that the Holy Spirit fell on Mary, the disciples and their followers, but some priests are uncomfortable with that doctrine and prefer the exclusiveness of the Spirit being given only to the twelve.

Most Protestant churches are uncertain and cautious about Pentecost because the result of the Holy Spirit falling on the disciples resulted in them speaking in tongues, and those churches want little or nothing to do with the Holy Spirit and especially the “infilling” of the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion. They teach that every believer is “filled with the Holy Spirit” at the moment they accept Jesus but according to the New Testament, that’s obviously not the case.

Baptist, Reformed, Presbyterian and Anglican traditions teach the “doctrine of cessation” – that all spiritual gifts referred to in the New Testament, along with all miracles, ceased once the scriptures had been written at the end of the apostolic age. Other mainline liberal churches have increasingly changed their historic doctrine to eliminate even Biblical miracles that contradict modern rational thought and going so far as to downplay or eliminate the resurrection and ascension as biblical fact. Mainline churches (except some Methodist) teach their congregants that they will not receive spiritual gifts and on Pentecost Sunday, typically avoid the theologically messy business of the Holy Spirit falling on anyone but the original twelve disciples.

So let’s see what that pesky Word of God says. Jesus promises His disciples that God will send to them the Holy Spirit who will live with them and within them forever. John 14:15-17 Then in the first Chapter of Acts, we find that after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the disciples came down from Mt Olivet and returned to the upper room in Jerusalem where they stayed united in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the other women and the brothers of Jesus. There is no description of the house with the upper room, but we must assume that it was very large because we are told that about 120 people were staying there. Acts 1:12-15 They were awaiting the Jewish holy day, the Feast of Pentecost that was to come ten days after Jesus ascended into Heaven. 

So picture in your mind the twelve disciples and Mary and about 107 more women and men who had been Jesus’ followers that today we would call “Christians.” And now, Luke tells us that all were gathered together on this Day of Pentecost. That’s when there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm that filled the house where they were sitting. And the tongues of fire settled on each of them. On each man. On each woman. On Mary the Mother of Jesus. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages (tongues), as the Spirit gave them this ability. Acts 2:1-4 

We may have been taught in church that Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples, John 14:16 was made to only the twelve gathered around Him. But then it’s clear in Acts that the Holy Spirit is not meant solely for those twelve – the Spirit of God is available to all followers of Jesus Christ. We need to jettison from our mind the picture of the Holy Spirit falling solely on that exclusive group of the twelve disciples and replace it with the Biblical description of this monumental world-changing event.

And then all throughout the book of Acts, as it records the experiences of the early church, we read that Christian believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. But why then do so many Christian believers today become so uncomfortable with the reality of the Holy Spirit? I received an email from a pastor’s sermon resource website that acknowledged Pentecost Sunday and asked, “Was the Holy Spirit ever meant to be an easy subject to address? How do you preach such a controversial and volatile topic?” We’re good with God the Father, we’re absolutely okay with God the Son.. But then really? God the Holy Spirit is controversial and volatile? 

A Southern Baptist theologian wrote that in most churches, “The Holy Spirit is talked about, if at all, in hushed tones and with some anxiety.” A Lutheran pastor once told me that he loved dressing in the red vestments on Pentecost Sunday but never knew what to say about the Holy Spirit so he always just emphasized the festive “church birthday” aspect of Pentecost in his sermons. I tried to reassure him by telling him that just teaching about the Holy Spirit doesn’t necessarily mean that tongues would suddenly burst forth from his congregation!

I honestly think that we’re afraid of the power of the Holy Spirit! The New King James refers to the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as a “rushing mighty wind” but another translation calls it a “violent wind.” And we’re afraid of that violent wind blowing through our lives because we are fearful that God really will change us into the man or woman He wants us to be. We’re afraid of being truly committed to Jesus. We’re afraid of becoming passionate about God. We’re afraid we may become that zealous believer we’ve always made fun of. We’re afraid of the Holy Spirit because we have become far too comfortable with our complacent spiritual indifference. 

If we are at the point in our apathetic Christian walk where the most disturbing thing at church was when Edna forgot the potato salad for the potluck barbeque, then we most certainly would not tolerate any life-changing violent winds blowing through our congregation! (Heaven forbid that the Spirit of God would have actually fallen upon my pastor friend’s Lutheran congregation!) We’ll have nothing to disturb our Christian complacency, thank you very much! There is something safe, reassuring and peaceful about the grace of God and the love of our Lord Jesus, but that meddlesome Holy Spirit just cannot be trusted to leave us well enough alone!

But who is this Person that we’re afraid of? The Holy Spirit is God. He is a Person. He is not an impersonal force or power. We refer to the Holy Spirit as an impersonal “it” but Jesus says, “You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17 The New Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit speaks, comforts, convicts and can be grieved. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity 1 John 5:7 who was sent to us from God and through the Son but the Holy Spirit has existed from all time. John 14:26

The Spirit of God that fell upon Mary, and the twelve disciples and on all the men and women that were there on that Pentecost day is available to you as well. Peter tells us that when we repent and are baptized, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit Acts 2:38-39 and that is called the “Indwelling of the Spirit.” That’s our new birth that we call “born again.” But the “Infilling of the Holy Spirit” is subsequent to our conversion and is the “power from on high” that Jesus promised His disciples Luke 24:49 and that “infilling” was what was manifested in their lives on Pentecost. Note that Jesus had told His disciples that the Holy Spirit dwells with them and in them (Indwelling) John 14:17 but it was not until much later that they experienced the Infilling of the Spirit in that upper room.

My friends, if you feel like you are floundering in life instead of flourishing, you need the power of God. If you’re feeling spiritually empty, you need to be as Paul said, “filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 Jesus promises us an abundant life John 10:10 and Paul tells us that God is able to give us that abundance according to the amount of Holy Spirit power that we have in our life. Ephesians 3:20 NIV But if we are afraid of the Holy Spirit and reject or limit His power, we’ve limited the abundance from God that He wants for us to have.

I’ve known too many good, church-going believers who felt that their Christian religion had become dull and their faith could no longer be described as life-changing. They had too many doubts and realized that church had become a nice place to go to meet friends but it was no longer spiritually fulfilling. What they needed was the Holy Spirit power of Pentecost, and while the Word of God had promised that they could have that, their church tradition had lead them to believe that they could not.

Don’t be satisfied with a comfortable non-threatening two-thirds of the Trinity in your life! We were created to live in the fullness of God and with a joyful abundance of life. For some of us, the first step towards a more spiritually abundant life is simply the desire to have the Holy Spirit fully operate in our lives. Raise your hands and your voice to Heaven and ask God to give you the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Allow His refreshing wind to blow through your spirit and be filled with Him. All you need to do is ask!

“You fathers – if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Luke 11:11-13 NLT

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