Just a little over a week ago, we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church at Pentecost. It is the day that the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with power as they sat in the upper room, and the day that Peter preached with conviction to the conversion of three thousand people. It was the day which was promised by Jesus at his ascension when He said,
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Pentecost is a defining moment for the Church, and there is so much we can learn as Christians from the Day of Pentecost.
We can look at the person and the work of the Holy Spirit and all that defines the Third Person of the Trinity. We can also look at the Disciples themselves, where we see the sacred and timid men transform into the leaders and Apostles of the Church, who are filled with great conviction and power. But separate from both of those topics, I would like to take a step back and just observe what God does with the unpredictable movement of His Spirit.
As noted before, in Acts chapter two, Peter preaches to the crowds gathered outside their house and large numbers of people come to faith. Acts 2:14 records, “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.” Then, following his sermon at Pentecost, the Bible records, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (2:41)
That is a big number! But it is even bigger when considering how small their group was. Just twelve, and a handful of others. During Jesus’s earthly ministry, He had large numbers of followers who would gather everywhere He went. In fact, the week before He was crucified, we see large crowds welcoming Him into Jerusalem as King on Palm Sunday. But following His crucifixion, most of those so-called followers had left. Jesus predicted this mass departure when He said, “If they strike the shepherd, the sheep will scatter.” (Mark 14:27) So considering the small band of followers at Pentecost, it makes the large number who were converted even more striking.
But it doesn’t stop there! The book of the Acts of the Apostles tells the story of the birth and growth of the Church. With each passing chapter, more and more people are coming into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus’s statement at His ascension was not only a command but a prophetic blueprint. The Church did in fact start in Jerusalem, then spread to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the ends of the earth.
And all of this unfolded as the unpredictable plan of God! The Disciples wanted Jesus to stay. We would have wanted Jesus to stay. But Jesus said that it was necessary for Him to go, so that He could send His Spirit. (John 16:7)
The birth of the Church is nothing short of a miracle! It defies the odds using the lives of a ragtag group of uneducated fishmen and societal rejects who would ride the tidal wave of the Holy Spirit along the largest and most profound religious explosion ever recorded.
When God creates a wave, all we can do is stand back in Awe! There is nothing we can do create a wave of God. There certainly is something to say about faithfulness, prayer, and good stewardship that stirs the heart of God (see 2 Chronicles 7:14), but there is certainly something more profound and intangible about the reality of God’s great waves. It is beyond us, and it is something to behold.
While it is true that we cannot create a wave, it is equally true that prayer is certainly a precursor to God’s great movements. And it is also something that goes alongside. When God’s people desire a wave, they should pray. And more so, when God’s people perceive a movement, we should get down on our knees and pray. Pray that it continues to swell and pray that no force of man could stand in its way.
We are now in eleven weeks of lockdown in Scotland. Yes, some things have started to ease now that we are in Phase one, however, the feeling of lockdown is still very present. It has been challenging for individuals, families, businesses, and churches. It has been difficult to no longer see our friends in the shops, the streets, or the pews (chairs!). And yet, there appears to be a movement of God brewing. But like any wave, it starts below the surface. Indetectable at first. But it is growing. And in this utterly impractical season of church life, God seems to be adding to the number of His People. The promise from Acts 1:8 – that Jesus’s Church would reach the ends of the earth is happening at the speed of WiFi!
It is safe to say, nobody wanted this lockdown. We knew it was necessary. But we didn’t want it. We knew it would disconnect us from our friends, damage business, and disrupt life. And we knew it would not be good for the church. Nobody would want to watch services online. This is not how church was meant to be run. And yet, God didn’t ask our permission before He allowed the world to turn on its head. God didn’t ask us what our opinion was for the best method to reach all people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. He just did what He was going to do. And now, more people are hearing about Jesus. More people are coming to a saving relationship with the Living God through the online preaching of His world. More people are actively engaged in prayer services and Bible studies. It is a wave that is growing that seems to be coming from the very hand of God.
Encouragements for this Week
- Read the Book of Acts (to the best of your ability. It is 28 chapters!). But read it quickly and just observe the Power and Authority of the Spirit to grow His Church.
- Remember the fact that nobody wanted Jesus to go, but that Jesus said it was best that He did. Jesus knew what was needed. Consider our lives just now. Nobody would have picked this. And yet, God might be up to something.
- Pray for the swelling of God’s Spirit that is bringing new people into the Kingdom of God. Pray for Online Services. Pray for those who might watch, who would have never attended a church before. Pray for the Preachers. And pray for those who are listening.