The Birthday of the Church – Pentecost Is Not Boring
Ever see someone fall asleep in church? It can be pretty funny. In one of the first churches that I served – we had a 9:00 AM service and there was a father and 2 sons that sat in the 3rd row that fell asleep every Sunday morning first the father, then the oldest son and the youngest son just like clockwork.
An evangelist tells the story of an old man who fell asleep in church. The man’s mouth was wide open with his head tilted back. All of a sudden a fly flew into the man’s wide-open mouth. Naturally, this was an unexpected surprise which awoke the gentleman immediately. He gagged very loudly right in the middle of the preacher’s sermon and upon spitting out the fly also had the misfortune of spitting out his dentures!
- That’s not the worst part of the story. Certainly this occurrence by itself would disrupt any service, but the situation grew even more bizarre. When the man’s false teeth left his mouth they landed in the center aisle of the church - which was hardwood. No carpet. Upon impact, his ivories shattered into several pieces. He jumped from his pew and began to collect the evidence of his misfortune.
- Forget about the great message this evangelist had prepared. I’m sure you know what affect this had on the rest of the congregation. People started laughing and they then couldn’t contain themselves.
- The man tried his best to pick up the pieces and as far as anyone knows he never fell asleep in church again!
- There’s a church service recorded in scripture where I dare say it would have been hard to fall asleep. It was on the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the church. Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus and ten days after His ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit began indwelling believers just as Jesus promised.
- Let me recap the story of a holy commotion:
- The Disciples were hanging out in the Upper room like Jesus had told them to do.
- In the chapter before Jesus commands His disciples to stay in Jerusalem; he said “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
- Jesus explains to the disciples that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit and they would be able to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the far corners of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
- Jesus ascended into heaven and the disciples hung out in Jerusalem – they did what they were told to do, that might have been a first. They were probably reminiscing and retelling stories of the Messiah. Ten days following Jesus’ ascension Jerusalem got to see and hear what the Holy Spirit could do. A violent rushing wind, tongues of fire resting on each disciples’ shoulders, and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit empowered the disciples and they became powerful witnesses telling all of Jerusalem the story of the resurrected Jesus. The miracle that occurred is that the disciples spoke in foreign languages and people heard the good news in their own language.
- It was an electrifying occasion! I believe that every Sunday morning event that we call Worship ought to be exciting. Where the Holy Spirit is, there will be genuine enthusiasm, dynamic power, and no one ought to fall asleep!
- In seminary I had a German Old Testament Professor – who had been a Nazi Panzer Tank Commander. A student fell asleep in his class – I couldn’t figure out why because Dr. Von Waldo was one of the most interesting Professors I have had – He through chalk eraser at the student explaining it was panzer shell hitting a Sherman tank and destroying the American tank. The startled student dropped the class. Well I don’t have any erasers but we should have a moving time of worship and learning.
Let me give you at least three qualities that made the church on Pentecost a place where you wouldn’t have taken a nap. These same three qualities ought to exemplify church worship today.
- THERE WAS "CONTROLLED COMMOTION". From the rushing mighty wind to the tongues of fire to the multiple foreign languages being spoken, there was a lot of fascinating, attention grabbing and magnificent activity!
- Simon Peter had to tell some of the onlookers that the church members weren’t drunk! (v. 15). They were "under the influence" all right, but it was the influence of the Holy Spirit!
- As the scripture commands us in Ephesians 5:18 - "Be not drunk with wine...but be filled with the Spirit."
- When believers get filled with the Spirit things will get exciting! Out of control? Never! Exciting? Yes, definitely!
- What is necessary for this type of church worship?
- Reliability on the Holy Spirit and His leadership, even if He takes us where we didn’t plan to go.
- The Bible teaches orderliness in the church: 1 Corinthians 14:40 … be sure that everything is done properly and in order.(NLT) 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (NIV)
- 1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV) 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints,
- The Bible also allows for some spontaneity in our worship services. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
- Worship God in truth yes, but don’t neglect to worship Him in spirit. Jesus said we "must" worship God in both categories simultaneously. An imbalance to either extreme causes problems.
- If we worship in "spirit" but leave out the "truth", worship becomes subjective to human whims.
- But if we worship in "truth" and leave out the "spirit", worship becomes lifeless and worthless to God and us!
- It doesn’t do us any good to attend church Sunday after Sunday and not have our hearts stirred as well as having our minds renewed. Worship services that instruct but don’t inspire; or inspire but don’t instruct; are both likewise incomplete and inadequate.
- Also, to have a worship service of "controlled commotion"... The preaching of the Word of God must be central. Peter quoted Old Testament scriptures profusely in his sermon. It so impacted the hearers that they were asking "what shall we do?" (verse 37)
- Peter’s sermon was so powerful and the atmosphere so Spirit-filled that the apostles didn’t have to give an invitation at the end of the service for folks to make a faith commitment to Jesus.
- In order for this dynamic to occur there has to be a willingness on behalf of the church to let the word be proclaimed in its purity and power.
- Sure we need to adapt our message to the needs of the 21st century. But the message will not be palatable to everyone. Do you think it went down well with some of the Jews when Peter told his Jewish listeners they had taken Jesus, "and with the HELP OF WICKED MEN PUT HIM TO DEATH BY NALING HIM TO THE CROSS (2:23)
- Chuck Colson who became a Christian in prison while serving time after being convicted for his part in Watergate. He said when he first got out of prison for his Watergate cover-up crimes and professed to be born again that a lot of folks were mad at him. One state senator from Maryland came up to him and called him everything in the book after Colson spoke at a prayer breakfast. He told Colson he was a fake, claiming to be a Christian solely for the sympathy it would evoke. He told Colson he was sure he wouldn’t last.
Four years later that same man came back to a prayer breakfast sponsored by the same organization and apologized to Colson. He said that what had really angered him was that some of the things Colson said in his sermon stepped on his toes. He had since turned his life around by recommitting himself to Christ.
- We cannot dilute the Word of God because it may offend someone. They will not be convicted and changed by lies. The truth is the thing that sets us free - whether that truth is easy to swallow or not. This doesn’t mean we have to be purposely offensive and harsh. It’s just that sometimes love must be tough.
- The second quality of a wide-awake church is PEOPLE OF DIVERGENT BACKGROUNDS COMING TOGETHER AS ONE.
- When the story begins you have the disciples of Jesus in "one accord" and in "one place". But that was the easy part. It’s fairly easy to get together and worship with folks like yourself.
- Ever tried worshipping with folks who are different in some way? Now that takes the Spirit of God.
- One of the neat things about being at Annual Conference is that you have a diverse group of people worshipping together. With different styles of worship and preaching.
- Can you imagine what it was like at Pentecost when folks from at least 16 different locations came together for a cultural and linguistic encounter?
- We serve in an Amish area and it was interesting when you were in a store and you were hearing them speak PA Dutch – it wasn’t true German except when worshipped and worshipped in high German.
- Think about this when Peter got up to speak they heard 16 different dialectic or languages.
- But on the day of Pentecost the disciples were miraculously gifted to speak languages they hadn’t even studied in high school. That says to me that God will make a way for us to build a church with folks from different backgrounds if we will let the Holy Spirit fill us and lead us!
- Rich folks worshipping with the poor. Black folks worshipping with the white. Educated folks worshipping with the uneducated. Northerners worshipping with southerners. Easterners worshipping with westerners. Hispanics worshipping with Asians. Older folks worshipping with younger folks.
- Martin Luther King Jr. said it was a shame that the most segregated hour in America was Sunday morning at 11 AM. He was right. But we’re not just segregated by color.
- If someone comes into a lot of churches today and looks different or dresses differently church members keep their distance. Anybody outside their little circle of friends threatens them. That doesn’t happen when the Spirit of God fills us!
- But let me hasten to the last but not least QUALITY OF A CHURCH THAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE:
THE GOOD NEWS IS CLEARLY, CONSISTENTLY, AND OPENLY SHARED!
- What was the purpose for the gift of tongues? So folks from around the world could hear the gospel in their own language.
- Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:8 (NIV) 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."
- What is our purpose as a church? To proclaim the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day. And all who place their trust in Him for salvation have eternal life!
- Peter proclaimed "...And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
- Those who were saved on the Day of Pentecost were baptized and joined with the other disciples in spreading the good news even further!
- Sadly, surveys today indicate that only one in four Christians even believe that they have a responsibility to witness to others. If we are not careful we can neglect the most important part of Spirit-filled worship - the part where we expand the church by sharing the gospel!
There’s an oft-quoted story that illustrates what I’m talking about.
Several years ago there was a celebration at a municipal pool in New Orleans. They threw a party at pool-side to celebrate the first summer in memory without any drownings in any of the New Orleans pools. Two hundred people gathered in honor of the momentous occasion, including about 100 certified lifeguards. But as the party was breaking up and the four lifeguards on duty began to clear the pool, they found a fully dressed body in the deep end. They tried to revive Jerome Moody, 31, but it was too late. He had drowned surrounded by lifeguards celebrating their successful season.
The Spirit-filled church never neglects to share the gospel. And where there’s an atmosphere conducive to the new birth - there is excitement. Everybody stays awake!
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.