For the most part, we long to see a day of revival of faith in Jesus Christ in our community and across the nation. ‘Could it happen,’ we ask?
This Sunday is Pentecost, or Whit Sunday in the Christian calendar. Pentecost is the Jewish festival that celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 19:18 we read that violent wind and tongues of fire had enveloped Mt. Sinai at the time God gave Moses the law. However, the law failed to change the world because it failed to change people.
In Acts 2: 1-4 we read that some thirteen hundred years later God came again with fire and wind. This time, it was not to impart God’s law but to impart his Spirit. On this occasion the fire symbolized the purifying, cleansing work of Jesus; and the speech pointed to the good news of Jesus reaching people in every nation.
It is on the element of speech that Acts focuses: Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. … And everyone was bewildered because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. The crowd came from everywhere in the known world (Acts 2:5f).
It was the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Jesus uses witness in the way we do – in reference to someone who speaks of things they have seen and heard. The Apostles were witnesses because they had been with Jesus throughout the whole of his public ministry. Jesus wants us to know the truth about him.
This is important because the Bible reveals that Christianity is not a religion involving rules, regulations, and ritual. Rather it involves a relationship with the one true God through Jesus the Messiah. It is, therefore, important we know the truth about him. Meaningful and lasting relationships can only be built on truth. Family relationships, for example, are only meaningful where there is truth and openness. Without truth, there can be no trust.
We need to think about this. Jesus is not saying that his followers down through the ages will be witnesses in the same way that his first disciples were. We can’t be. We weren’t there. But we are called upon to testify to what it is that we believe about Jesus.
In 1 Peter 3:15 we read, always be prepared to give an answer for the hope (or the faith) that you have in Jesus Christ. In Colossians 4:6 we read, let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt. God calls on us to look for and use opportunities in our conversations to stir others to consider Christianity. Some people I know scour the news and opinion pieces daily, looking for items they can use to talk about Jesus Christ.
But Jesus knows that human witness and human testimony won’t happen without God’s help. He knows that energy is needed to transform lives. So he sent us his Spirit – to motivate, to energize and to give his people throughout the ages, courage to promote God’s gospel.
On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit used Peter’s preaching to bring about the conversion of some three thousand people. As we read in The Acts of the Apostles we find the Spirit equipping God’s people for ministry. And he continues to do so today.
It is the Spirit’s passion, because it is God’s passion, that people everywhere feel the impact of Jesus on their lives. This is the era of God’s mercy. The exciting thing is that he wants to involve us. Indeed, there will come a day when people will thank us for the time, effort, and money, we invested in their eternal well-being.
I’m not saying that the task is easy. It is certainly harder to reach people now than forty years ago. People around us are seduced by secular atheism and religious pluralism. In other places, Christianity is opposed by very hostile forces – especially militant Islam.
This means we need people who are burning with enthusiasm for Christ, to speak up. Where will we find these men and women if it isn’t through the Holy Spirit coming afresh on us and making us different? Isn’t it time to pray? Isn’t it time to speak?
© John G. Mason