Pentecost: A Day to Seek God

by Jason Matters
Pastor, New Vision Church of the Nazarene, Raymore, Missouri, USA

The following manuscript was used on Pentecost Sunday, 2010, at New Vision Church of the Nazarene in Raymore, Missouri.  On this Sunday, we planned a themed worship service in order for our congregation to “seek the Holy Spirit.”  We rearranged the entire worship order to give several opportunities to pray and seek God.  To this end, the sermon is preached over several segments, breaking for prayer and song between the segments. 

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST:

 

Introduction:  Tell the story of watching the NFL’s NFC Championship game featuring the Minnesota Vikings vs. the New Orleans Saints.  Highlight Adrian Peterson’s fumble late in the game that served as the “game changer,” that changed the feel and course of the entire game.

Transition: “Today we are going to talk about another game changing moment.  We see it in the Bible, and we can experience it ourselves.”

Today we celebrate the day of Pentecost, a great moment for Christ-Followers.  On this day, two thousand years ago, God sent the Holy Spirit to fill the Christ-followers who were gathered in an upper room.  Jesus told his disciples that after he left, (ascended to heaven) he would send the Holy Spirit to take his place.  Who is the Holy Spirit?  He is God.  Just as Jesus is God – and his job was to die on the cross as Savior for our sins, and be raised to new life.  So when Jesus lived on earth, he was God walking, living and teaching us.  When he left, he didn’t want to leave his followers without a God-presence, so he sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

Pentecost is a Jewish religious holiday that celebrates the giving of the Old Testament law to Moses.  Christians continue to celebrate this day, not because of the law, but because the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost.

This day is a big deal because things changed on Pentecost.  Just as things changed when Jesus inaugurated his public ministry, and things definitely changed when he died and was raised back to life, things changed when the Holy Spirit showed up in power on Pentecost.  Pentecost was a game-changer!  Today as we worship, we are going to look at some of the details of the original story – but I don’t want us just to look at a nice story of something that happened two thousand years ago.  This is something that can happen to you – no, in you.  And it all has to do with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told his followers about the Holy Spirit.  He said that the Holy Spirit would do 5 things:

  • Remind them of what Jesus taught
  • Convict them of sin
  • Guide them into truth
  • Tell them what is to come
  • Tell them what he hears from God

For the Christ-followers, the Holy Spirit would serve as Jesus’ replacement on earth.

Anything you know about God or experience from God – it comes by the Holy Spirit.  When you feel bad because of something you said or did – that is the Holy Spirit convicting you.  When these guys wrote down the stories of Jesus – the Holy Spirit was inspiring them.  When you read the Bible and all of a sudden some truth or insight hits you – it is not a light bulb coming on – it is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart.

In Acts 1:4b-5, Jesus said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift which my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  What is he saying?  That there is more to come.  The disciples watched Jesus die on a cross, and later they realized that his death was for their forgiveness and his life was for their future eternal life in heaven.  That is what most of us think following Jesus is all about.

“Jesus died for my sins- so I need to repent and ask for forgiveness – check!  Jesus was raised again- providing my hope for eternal life after I die – check!  I believe it, I have received it- check!  Check!”

Then we go about living daily life – thankful to be forgiven for our past and hopeful for our future in heaven – but what about right now?  What is God doing right now?  Was Jesus just a historical event in the past – and in my past?  What about right now?  Jesus said to his disciples, “wait, there is more . . .” And he says the same to us.  The “more” is the Holy Spirit.

So I want us to think about that this morning.  “There is more.”  God has more for you than just forgiveness for your past and hope for your future.  However, here is the bad news: this is not taught; it is caught.  It is not earned; it is received.  You can’t force God to give it – he gives in his own time.  When you get it, you have to nurture it.  Furthermore, it is not an “it” it is a “Him” – a person with feelings who wants to be talked to, listened to, and obeyed.

How do you get him?  You seek him!  You seek him!  You seek him!  You pray, ask, and seek.

Some of you are bored Christians – you have the forgiveness of your past and sometimes think about your hope for the future – but right now you are bored.  You need the Holy Spirit!  You have become distracted from the things of God – you need the Holy Spirit!  Maybe you have allowed sin to creep into your life and you have resisted the Holy Spirit as he has tried to convict you – you need repentance, forgiveness and the re-filling of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe you are bitter because God hasn’t done what you wanted him to do – you need the Holy Spirit.

Francis Chan is a pastor in California.  Some of you have read his book Crazy Love.  He is an amazing writer and speaker.  When Francis Chan talks, people listen.  A few years ago, he told about the time he realized that his own daughter really wasn’t in love with Jesus. Sure, she was going to church and doing the right religious stuff – but she didn’t have the Holy Spirit.  Then Francis realized there was nothing he could do about it – no sermons, arguments, or books would fix her condition.  God had to get a hold of her.  He told of how he agonized and pleaded with God to get a hold of her.  Then one day she walked into the room where Francis was sitting and said, “You are right, dad.  I didn’t have the Holy Spirit.  God has done something in me – I’m a new person.”  He said he was skeptical at first – he wanted to see some fruit.  18 months later he saw the fruit and knew that she was indeed a new person.  God did it! He can do the same for you.  Will you seek him?

Transition:  Today, we are going to seek God – the Holy Spirit. We are going to pray a lot, sing some, and read a lot of Scripture.  Most of all, I want us to seek God the Holy Spirit.

Introduce prayer places, letters to God, Bibles marked, you make the most of this time . . .

Here’s how it happened for the first Christians – this is Pentecost:

Video – The Day of Pentecost

Can you imagine that?

Read Acts 2:1-4 with emphasis, noting the unusual nature of the event.

Wow! The sound of a loud wind that shakes the place, then “tongues” of fire that separate and hover above each person’s head. What?  Then they start speaking in other languages.  However, that is not the most important part – here it is – “they were filled with the Holy Spirit.”  In other words, they were filled with God!

Now, it is time to pray.

When you pray, what do you ask for?

  • “God, bless me!”  
  • “Lord, give me direction…”  
  • “Lord, give me success as I enter this endeavor.”  
  • “God, grant me rest, as I am so worn out.”  
  • Or, do you ask to be filled with God?  
  • “Lord, fill me with your Spirit?”  
  • “Lord, just like you did on the day of Pentecost, fill me with your presence that is strong, overwhelming and undeniable!”

What if, instead of asking for stuff we think we want, we asked God to so fill us with himself it would be beyond imagination?

Sing & pray here

Now what is this whole “tongues” thing?  (Acts 2:5-12)  They start speaking in other languages – languages they have never learned!  How?  By the power of the Holy Spirit.  But why?  Let’s look back at what Jesus said before he left for heaven: “But 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) And now, on the first day of the Holy Spirit’s coming, it happens – the word gets out, even to those who were considered to live at “the ends of the earth.”

In Jerusalem for the festival were Jews from all over the Mediterranean. As the Jesus -followers spilled out of the upper room and into the streets, speaking in other languages, we read that, “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.” (Acts 2:5-6)  Jesus’ global prophecy began to find fulfillment within the first few minutes of the Spirit’s coming!

At this point we must consider something: being filled with the Holy Spirit is not directly for your benefit.  This is a God thing!  It is for God’s glory and God’s honor.  One of the things God wants to do in our lives is to get us thinking a whole lot more about His glory and His honor than advancing our glory, comfort and reputation.  So be careful if you pray for the Holy Spirit!  If you really seek God, he will do some amazing things in your life, but the purpose will be for His benefit, not yours.  Your blessing will come later, but God is interested in His glory and His reputation.

If you have ever grown tired of living for yourself, being filled with God’s Spirit will radically change that!

Sing & pray here

Now, let’s look at how some people responded.  They saw Jesus-followers speaking languages they had never studied, and could only conclude that the disciples were drunk!  “Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” (Acts 2:13)  Who speaks up to explain?  Peter. The one who usually speaks up; the one who, when he speaks up, people say to themselves, “uh oh…” This is the guy who claimed he would back Jesus, but then ran away when Jesus was arrested, and denied three times that he ever knew Jesus while watching his trial.  Remember him?  FAILURE!

Do you remember that we said Pentecost was a game-changer?  Look at verses 14-16, “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…”  Then Peter starts preaching.  Since he is speaking to a Jewish audience, he preaches from their Scriptures, showing how they describe Jesus.  He tells them that the prophet Joel prophesied this coming of the Holy Spirit.

At the end of that little sermon, we read that, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)  God spoke so powerfully through Peter that three thousand people confessed their sins and turned to Jesus!  How was Peter changed from coward to preacher? The Holy Spirit!  Remember how Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you?”  On Pentecost, Peter got some power to serve God!  Again, he did not receive power to make his own life easier and comfortable; he received power to be bold!

At this point, I am cut to the heart, for I often do not have much boldness to be bold for God.  This is where I must go to God and pray, “Fill me with your Spirit. I need boldness to proclaim every word you want spoken.”  Do you need the courage the do whatever God wants you to do?  Seek him – seek the Holy Spirit.  Do you need boldness to share God’s truth with your family, neighbors, and even your coworkers?  Seek the Holy Spirit.

Sing & pray here

Someone once told me that they enjoy going to church because, “it is a great place to pray.”  Make the most of this time with God!

Maybe you are here today for your first or second time, and you don’t know much about Jesus and this is all pretty confusing to you.  If that is you, let me talk with you for a couple of minutes.  First of all, you have come to the right place to seek help for your problems and strength for your life.  God wants to help.  The first thing God does is deal with your sins and how Jesus can forgive you and bring you peace and hope.  This part is for you especially.  Look at how Peter specifically addressed the crowd when they asked what they should do?

At the end of his message, Peter confronted the crowd and said, basically, basically, “look, you guys killed Jesus – even though he was dying to save you.  You have some sin issues.”  The people, “were cut to the heart” and wanted to know what they should do.  Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

Maybe that is your word from God today: repent.  Repent is a word that means, “turn.”  Turn from the way you are going, the way of disobedience, and go God’s way.

Sing & pray here

Peter continued to preach daily – and people continued to listen.  The Jewish religious leaders didn’t know what to do with them.  Look at Acts 4:13 – “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  Do you think you are not educated enough to be used by God?  Wrong.  Peter and John didn’t have the proper education either, but they had the power of the Spirit of God in their lives!  The key is not education or a degree – the key is the Holy Spirit.  Don’t let the lack of education or experience hold you back and keep you from doing what God has called you to do, for when the Spirit moves in your life, He empowers you to do whatever He has called you to do!

While Peter and John were at the temple preaching and telling people about Jesus, we read that they were arrested by the Jewish religious leaders.  They spent the night in jail and upon their release the next day, instead of whining about how their civil rights had been violated or their first amendment rights had been stepped on – they prayed.  Instead of complaining to God and asking him to stop the persecution or to comfort them, they prayed for more boldness!  Check out their prayer in Acts 4:29, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”  They were so God-focused and God-driven.  Why?  They’ve got the Holy Spirit!

Sing & pray here
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31) Wait a second!  I thought they were already filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  Did it leak out or evaporate?
I don’t know how to explain this, but it seems that after a difficult time, when they prayed for courage instead of comfort, they were re-filled with the Holy Spirit.
Maybe you have been following Christ for years, knowing what it means to be filled with the Spirit, and you have been living in the flow of the Spirit. Do you know that this Holy Spirit filling thing is not a once and for all event?  It is a regular occurrence.  Maybe you have been “filled” in the past.  Could God be ready to refill you?  It probably won’t be a re-filling just to bring you comfort or success – it may be as a blessing to your desire to serve God even more – to get uncomfortable.

Sing & pray here

Finally, we see the practical outworking of the Holy Spirit in the believers.  “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (Acts 4:32)  This is that ultimate sense of community we have searched for our entire lives. Sharing, unity, and genuine relationships – the truest sense of community.  The early Christ-followers didn’t produce this sense of community on their own.  It was the result of having the Holy Spirit and allowing the Holy Spirit to have them.

Look at this list of Holy Spirit results: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23a)  We often pray for these and ask God to grow these virtues in us – but look at what it says.  These things are the fruit.  There is no fruit-stand or supermarket – you only get this fruit from the tree.  God wants to grow these in you and not give them to you, because he wants to do something in you and not just do something to you.  How?  This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit – the result of having the Holy Spirit fill you up and grow something good in you.  You want the fruit? You have to seek the Spirit.

Sing & pray here (As this is the final segment of prayer in the service, give extra time and communicate that in response to however God has been speaking, this is the time to seek him.)

The Holy Spirit is God’s presence on earth.  The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in you.  He can be your source of strength, peace, purity, and power!  Don’t neglect the moving of the Holy Spirit in your life!

Dismissal:  Let’s go this week, taking this truth with us, and continue to seek, continue to pray, and continue to watch for the fruit of the Spirit as God moves in our lives.  Have a great week seeking and serving God!

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