Raven Cannon, Children's PastorAugust 19, 2019
Guest Speaker David Brickner illustrates how God's power is at work in our own lives through the Holy Spirit.
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Good morning, Cornerstone, Cornerstone at Riordan campus, and all who may be live streaming. It’s great to be here. I’m so privileged to be a part of the Rise series. I guess Pastor Terry understood that a lot of what we’re talking about in the book of Acts is about my peeps. Think about it. You could name the book, the Acts of the First Jews for Jesus, right? People hear the name today and it says, “Well, what is that?” It sounds like a contradiction in terms. Like vegetarians for meat or something like that. But in the beginning, and where we are now in the book of Acts, was all Jewish. Peter, James, John, even Luke. Luke was a doctor, right? So he had to be Jewish. But actually, there’s a lot of evidence that he was.
The point is that in the beginning, it was a Jewish thing, a Jewish institution, the children of Israel. What we see as we go through the book of Acts is that God is bringing and exploding this community into a worldwide diversified people of every tribe, tongue, and nation. That is so much fun for us to see. In fact, there’s perhaps no more important passage than this one that gets us going in that direction. So if you open up your handout, we’ll see the very first verse gives us a clue about understanding the Jewish-ness as the root that then gets blown up into this big thing that God wants to do all over the world. It says, “On the day of Pentecost, all the believers were meeting together in one place.”
Remember Jesus said, “Go and wait, tarry in Jerusalem.” We know that they were tarrying at this point. How long, because of what Pentecost means. Some people think it’s the denomination of a different kind of church. In reality, Pentecost is the name of one of the three most important Jewish Biblical feasts from the Old Testament. You all know about Passover. Which is the story of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from bondage and slavery in Egypt so long ago. We know that was fulfilled when Jesus, the lamb of God, came and died for our sins. He brought the fulfillment of Passover in His own body so that we could have redemption, deliverance, and forgiveness of sin, as well.
Pentecost is the same way. Pentecost means 50 days. We read, for example, in Leviticus 23 in your handout, “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you bring the bundle of grain to be lifted up as a special offering, count off seven full weeks. Keep counting until the day after the seventh Sabbath, 50 days later. Then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.” Pentecost, literally in Greek means 50 days. The Hebrew name for this festival is Shavuot, which is weeks. Or sevens. Seven times seven plus one equals 50. That’s when we celebrate this most important festival. The very first time it was celebrated was the very same day that Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of stone. God was giving the law, His communication to us. On the second Pentecost that we’re just about to read and understand, the fulfillment, if you will, of the first Pentecost, God is going to write His law on our hearts, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God has it all planned out. It’s so cool to get to see it. I want you to imagine because all the Jewish people weren’t all living in Israel at the time, they had to come from different places. Maybe you’re one of them. Okay, we’re pilgrims. We’re going to come and celebrate Pentecost because that’s what God commanded. We’re fulfilling this command from Deuteronomy 16. Maybe we came from Syria. Jewish family. We’re camped outside of the temple. Or we’re waiting to go up to bring our offering up to the temple.
As an aside, I want to say, I understand that most of our giving happens online. But in one way, I think that we miss something, don’t we? Because in ancient Israel offerings were always an act of worship. Even the passing of a plate sometimes can seem perfunctory. Or certainly hitting a key on our computer to give. But we need to recognize that offering these is important to God because they don’t do so much for Him. He doesn’t need it. We need it. We need to present ourselves. We need to give our offerings. That’s what you do on Pentecost. You bring your offering.
So here we are. We’ve made a long journey and we’re sleeping. The sun starts to come up. The first thing that happens is one of the temple officials will come around to the various camps of pilgrims outside. The one that comes to us says, “Rise and shine, cornerstone. This is PT. It’s time.” Now, if you haven’t heard that, you got to hear it every day. It’s a wonderful part of how Pastor Terry brings us together in ministry. But no, what we hear is that this temple official says, “Let us go up to Zion. To the Lord our God.” You roll up your bed mat and put it under your arm. You have your offering in this hand and you start going up toward the temple. The temple was an amazing wonder of the world. But as you look up, you see all across the parapet of the temple, priests. They are welcoming you, as well, with a very different sound. The sound of the shofar. imagine hundreds of these going off, bouncing on the Rocky Kidron Valley where you’re walking toward.
Aren’t you glad PT doesn’t blow one of those things in the morning? Well, no. It’s a welcome to pilgrims who come to present themselves to the Lord. That’s what Pentecost is all about. But it’s also going to be a very unique Pentecost. Because it’s not just any, it’s the fulfillment of Pentecost. Let’s read verse two.
“Suddenly there was a sound from heaven, like the roaring of a mighty wind storm. It filled the house where they were sitting. Then what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. Everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages as the Holy Spirit gave this ability.” At that time, there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running. They were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. They were completely amazed. ‘How can this be?’ they exclaimed. ‘These people are all from Galilee. Yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages. Here we are. Parthians Medes. Elamites people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Kapadosha, Pontias, the province of Asia. Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the areas of Libya around Cyrean. Visitors from Rome, both Jews, and converts to Judaism. Cretins and Arabs. We all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done.’ They stood there amazed and perplexed. ‘What can this mean?’ they asked each other. But others in the crowd ridiculed them saying, ‘They’re just drunk. That’s all.'”
What a misunderstanding of what was going on. There is an amazing experience where God is connecting them with the past. The giving of the law with the fulfillment of Pentecost. You can see it with the special effects. Now, don’t get me wrong, special effects are really important. I think in the church, people have argued about what these are. The mighty rushing wind, the flames of fire, and the speaking in tongues. What is this all about?
To me, that argument is kind of like going to see this epic film. You see this film, you walk out, and in the end, it’s like you leave and you’ve forgotten the plot. You’re just arguing about the special effects. Don’t get me wrong. The special effects, the tongues, the flame, the wind are important. But they’re important because of what they tell us about what God is doing. First of all, there’s this mighty rushing wind. I was just up in Mount Davidson a couple of weeks ago. We had one of those winds blowing in from the Pacific. Those large trees were all bending, thankfully not breaking. But the sound of the wind going through those leaves was deafening. I couldn’t even talk with the friend I was walking with because we couldn’t hear each other. It was loud. I’ve heard that when people are experiencing tornadoes, which our country is these days, it sounds like a freight train.
What is this evocative of for the Jewish people? Their experiences, this in Acts chapter two. It’s evocative of what was happening back at Mount Sinai when God gave the law. If you go back and read Exodus 19 and 20, there was an amazing sound that began as the sound of a shofar. It just got louder and louder and louder until Israel couldn’t hear anything. It was like this mighty rushing wind, this freight train, you can almost not hear yourself speak inside of your head. That’s one of the special effects that God used to give the law. Now God is telling the Jewish people in Jerusalem, “Hey, guess what? Something’s happening here that’s just as important as what happened at Mount Sinai.”
The book of Exodus chapters 19 and 20 gives us some indication. For example, about the flames of fire. Exodus 19:8 says, “The Lord descended with fire on the mountain.” That’s all it says. Use your imagination. What is that going to be? The creator of the universe actually comes down in fire. Well, there are other pieces of Jewish literature that either use their imagination or used other accounts of this event at Mount Sinai to tell us. One, for example, says, “The holy one left with meteors and lightning and torches of fire. The fire flew to the right, into the left and burst forth and flew through the air and circled around the camp of Israel.” That’s pretty dramatic. Another one says that it came and rested like diadems on the heads of all the children of Israel. Now, these are extra-biblical sources. I have no reason to doubt that this is exactly what was happening. Because of course, God is doing something in Jerusalem now to remind the people of Israel.
David was aware of this. When he talks about this experience in the Psalms, he says, “The voice of the Lord divides the flame of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness.” This was a powerful experience at Mount Sinai. Now there’s this powerful experience in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, as recorded here in the book of Acts. Think about this. We know from Acts 1:15, that there were 120 people in the upper room in Jerusalem. That was what? It was the followers of Jesus. But all of a sudden, now, they become a new entity. Church. To indicate that, flames of fire. I can’t imagine exactly what it looked like. But we can use our imagination.
If all of a sudden there was a flame of fire on my head, you’d say, “Wow, that’s weird.” Now there’s 120. That’s like the conflagration, right? The people in Jerusalem were freaking out. “What’s going on here?” They’d go running up and hear a third thing going on. That is that these people who do not know their language are speaking their language. I don’t know if the people speaking the language they’d never learned understood what they were saying. We don’t know that. But the people who heard knew what they were saying. They were giving praise and thanks to God. It was a part of God’s plan to absolutely bring language forward. To redeem language, if you will. To turn around and reverse the curse of the Tower of Babel.
Do you remember that story? The Tower of Babel. It’s found in Genesis chapter 11. If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to go and read it. It’s the Bible’s explanation for how we got to where we are today. At the time, the scriptures tell us that everybody spoke the same language. Way back in the beginning. There was pride just as there is today in every human heart. All these people got together and said, “Hey, God’s up there, build a tower. So we can be up there with Him.” God looked down and said, “You know what? This is not good. This is not going to be a good outcome. I’m going to come down and confuse all the languages.” People were not able to communicate with each other.
Can you imagine if all of a sudden, everybody else was speaking a different language? How that would make you feel? Ultimately it produced a separation of peoples. They went different ways, developed different nations, different cultures, different languages. That confusion exists to this very day, if you think about it, even for those who speak the same language. Try to get on social media and have good communication, right? We have had communication really messed up because of the brokenness of this world. But now you see what God is saying in the book of Acts in the fulfillment of Pentecost, “I gave my law. Now I’m writing it on your heart and I’m starting to restore all things. I’m starting to bring people back together because you’re going to be united in being able to give thanks and praise to God.” This is all about people understanding the context of what it means.
Jesus said to His disciples, “The Holy Spirit is with you, but he will be in you.” Last week, Pastor Lewis shared from Acts one, where the promise of Jesus was, “And you shall receive,” what? Power. That’s what we’re seeing in these amazing accounts. These special effects are a demonstration of the greater power of receiving the Holy Spirit. Of having the spirit dwell in the lives of all those who are the people of God. No longer just the Jewish nation, but this is a great time for a launch. You have all these people from all these different places all around the world. They’re coming and hearing the great things of God in their own language. They’re going to become followers of Jesus, too. Because of the church, starting out on this birthday of the church, Pentecost was 120 in that upper room. They were the ones had the flames of fire on their head. By the end of the story, and you’ll have to wait till next week for this, the church has 3,120. That’s a pretty good growth rate in one day.
Then to realize that many of these people are now going to leave Pentecost. They’re going to go back to their nations, bringing with them this amazing experience and the truth of what’s happening. People are not figuring it out right away. It takes a while. We read then Peter verse 14 in your handout. “Then Peter stepped forward.” Remember people are saying, “Hey, these people are just drunk.” When you don’t know the Lord, it’s really hard to figure out sometimes what God is doing. That’s to be understood. There are people who looked at this amazing experience that was going on and said, “These people are just drunk.” They didn’t get it.
I remember there’s a team of our young staff in Jews for Jesus that every year they go into the Himalayan mountains because a lot of Israeli backpackers go there after they get out of the army. It’s exotic. It’s beautiful. It’s cheap and drugs proliferate. Our people go, of course, and they’re sharing about Jesus. People look at them and say, “Man, are you guys high. But I don’t see you smoking dope. What’s going on?” Someone said, “Oh, we’re just high on life.” Another person said, “No, we’re high on God.” That explains the joy. That explains the glow of God’s presence. That is explained by the indwelling of the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is now Peter explaining exactly what’s going on. “He stepped forward. Listen carefully, all of you fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem. Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that.” I’m glad Peter knew that. “No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet, Joel.” He quotes from verses 17 through 22. This is from Joel. “In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my spirit upon all people, your sons and daughters will prophesize. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams.’ In those days, I will pour out my spirit, even on my servants, men and women alike. They will prophesize.”
Now that’s exactly, Peter is saying, what’s happening. The Holy Spirit is coming. He’s falling on men and women alike. It’s amazing. It’s the last day. Yes, it’s the beginning, you see, of the last days. Because Joel goes on to say, what’s yet to come. There’s a now that’s happened in Acts chapter two and there’s a not yet that’s going to happen when Jesus returns. That’s what this is. “I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below. Blood and fire and clouds of smoke. The sun will become dark. The moon will turn blood red before the great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This is the beginning of that salvation that is promised by Joel, but it’s not the end. Do you see that? Salvation is now available. Jesus died and rose again. In fact, that’s what he goes on to say. “People of Israel, listen. God publicly endorsed Jesus. The Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through Him as you well know. But God knew what would happen. His prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed.” Think about that. This is God’s plan for Jesus to be betrayed.
God works in different ways. We don’t necessarily understand, but He’s always in charge. He knows what He’s doing. This was the most important one. “With the help of lawless Gentiles,” Peter says, “You nailed Jesus to a cross and killed Him. But God released Him from the horrors of death and raised Him back to life for death could not keep Him in its grip.” That’s the fulfillment of Passover. He’s going to go on to explain further how this is the fulfillment of Pentecost, as well. An amazing thing happened when Jesus came. He lived as a human being, but with a life of miracles and wonders. Then He was betrayed because that’s what we do. We human beings. We betray. We are in states of brokenness but Jesus knew that. That’s why it was part of God’s plan that He died. But He didn’t stay dead. Because of who Jesus is. He’s the holy one of God, the Messiah, the savior of Jews and all nations.
Death could not hold Him. The grave could not keep Him. He rose again from the dead. Now, that same resurrection power is available to all those who trust in Him. How does this come to us? Through the filling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “I will send you a comforter. You will receive power.” This is a hinge of history folks, right now. This is the moment when God gives birth to the church. This great, diverse, vast, far-reaching community that He established through the death of Jesus and His resurrection. Through the power of the Holy Spirit that now indwells each and every one of us who know the Lord. What an incredible experience. What a wonderful community, the birthday of the church.
Acts chapter two. Then this restoration, this reversal of the curse is a demonstration that God ultimately, intends to restore all things. He’s going to do it. He’s going to do it through His church. He’s going to do it through the message that Peter is preaching that will change the lives of everyone who believe and welcome the Holy Spirit to make all the difference in the world. What are we going to do about it? How are we going to apply this to our lives? We’re not in Jerusalem in the first century. We’re in San Francisco or wherever we are in the world live streaming. The message is just as relevant to us today as it was to those 120 who made up the first part of the church there. Let me just suggest a few things that we consider coming out of this narrative. The first is ‘embrace the power of God’s narrative.’
Think about how God has connected history all the way through. From Egypt to Jerusalem to San Francisco. God delivers us through the Passover lamb. From Pentecost at Mount Sinai to Pentecost in Jerusalem to the ability to experience Pentecost right here and now. That’s a narrative that is so powerful. We get to be a part of it. Think of yourself as being connected to the people of God who were enslaved in Egypt and realize that there’s an enslavement today that God wants to deliver us from. Think about yourself standing along with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai and receiving the word from God. Know that He’s given it for you, but now He’s laid it on your hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Think about God’s narrative. We talk a lot about narrative in our postmodern world. Everybody’s got one. Your narrative is as good as mine. Maybe if God didn’t have a narrative, that could be true. But the fact is that this way of understanding the world, people call it a worldview. This way of seeing how I fit in and how I have a purpose in my life. How I can make a difference in the world, why not take the worldview of the one who made the world? That’s the one that really does count. When we embrace that narrative as our own, we get to stand at Mount Sinai. We get to understand deliverance from Egypt. We get to be a part of the people of God’s stretching from a time passed all the way into the future. So embrace God’s narrative.
Second, embrace God’s community. We have brothers and sisters that we haven’t met yet because of what God did in creating that community. It went from being a Jewish institution to being a universal institution. The most diverse and powerful tool for God to affect change in the world now, and to bring the restoration of all things. That’s what He’s doing. Know the church has gotten a bad rap and sometimes well-deserved. The fact of the matter is it’s the bride of Messiah. It’s God’s people. It’s a community that is flawed and fractured. Ultimately redeemed and given a message to share with the world. That’s part of the story of Acts chapter two. What were they doing? They were declaring the praises of God in languages they didn’t even know. We have enough of a hard time declaring the praises of God in our own language we do know. But that’s a good way to think about sharing your faith.
Go out on one of those days when the sun is shining in San Francisco and you can say, “Wow, isn’t this a beautiful day? Isn’t God great?” Then you’re doing it. God can use that to direct someone’s mind who forgets because of their secular mindset. One that doesn’t remember that we live in a world that’s been created by a God who loves us. Just that simple phrase can bring us into that experience that those first believers had here in Jerusalem. Declare the praises of God. Use your words to give thanks to Him and do so in the hearing of someone who needs to know about His narrative.
Third, rise up, Cornerstone, and experienced the power of God’s restoration. Remember when we talked about the reversal of the curse of the tower of Babel? The division of languages and how communication is so important. You read every business book in the world, and they’re going to say the biggest challenge you’re going to have is having good communication, right? It’s the human predicament. God wants to help us to communicate effectively. He wants to restore our ability to do that. Of course, the first way that happens is by receiving Jesus. By saying, “Yes, since He died and rose again, I, too, can experience that resurrection power.” It’s something to consider if, on your journey, you haven’t quite gotten there yet. Invite Him to be the savior that He truly is for each and every one of us, no matter where we’re from. No matter what’s going on in our lives.
Also, as followers of Jesus, as part of this new community, the church, let’s experience His restoration in our lives. I believe that when you put your faith and trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell. The word that’s used here in Acts chapter two is fill. Filled with the Holy Spirit. I remember when that happened to me. I assure you, there was no tongue of fire on my head. I didn’t hear the sound of rushing wind. Actually, somebody had prayed for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit and I felt nothing. My friends said, “Why don’t you just go down and spend some time in the basement with the Lord?” I went down there and the only thing in this basement was a ping pong table. So I said, “Okay, I might as well just praise the Lord.” I started walking around this ping pong table slowly saying. “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus. Praise you, God. I believe in you. I believe that I’m to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I can’t make it happen, Lord. You need to do it.”
As I was doing this, I only realized that afterward, I was walking faster and faster and faster around this ping pong table. The only thing I can explain to you is that I just suddenly knew that I had been filled. It was like liquid love or joy, really. Joy. That just kind of came. I knew something had happened. I just started weeping. I went back upstairs and my friend was there and he said, “It happened.” He said, “You’re so full of joy.” I guess it was very visible on my face. I don’t know if it has happened to you or how it would because God works with different people in different ways. He calls on all of us who love Jesus to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we walk in the spirit, actually, Paul tells us we fulfill the law by walking in the spirit.
All that came to Israel at Sinai now can come to us through that fulfillment of Pentecost as we have the spirit writing his word on our hearts and helping us to live lives of goodness and holiness. It doesn’t mean that we don’t experience brokenness. Lord knows I have and I continue to struggle. I have to be filled and refilled. The Holy Spirit is an endless supply of God’s grace to those who receive Him in this broken world. In our weakness, God is strong through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. In our moments of despair, He becomes hope. Hope springs eternal through the power of the Holy Spirit. When there’s confusion, He’s reversing this curse and clarity comes as the Holy Spirit bears witness in our lives that we are children of God.
We have a great blessing, Cornerstone. We can rise up in power. The power of the Holy Spirit. As we welcome Him in, as we experience this great family that He’s given us. The experience of understanding our lives in the story that belongs to Him. Seeing through the power of His restoring of all things, the restoration in our own lives as well. What more could we want? The band is going to come and play. We’re going to have our time of giving. But let me just pray the power of the Holy Spirit on all of us. Let’s pray.
Lord, your Holy Spirit, the representation on earth of you, all-mighty God, you have shed abroad in our hearts. What our richness, what a loving grace-filled experience it is. I confess, and I’m sure I’m not alone, that I live a lot of my life not experiencing all of that that you intend. I pray for myself, my family, my brothers, and sisters in this community, that you would come and fill us, Lord, afresh and anew by the power of your Holy Spirit. That we would sense the restoration of all things as we enjoy the community that you have given to us to be a part of. In this world that has a beginning and an end that you have declared. Because you’re God. You’re the creator. You’re the Redeemer. You’re the savior. So come now, Holy Spirit. You’re welcome here. We love you. We praise you in Jesus’ name. Amen.