Pentecost – The Church is Born! – Sermon – 31 May 2020

Welcome from Bob and Heather Adams

Introduction

Welcome to Pentecost Sunday! Today we remember and celebrate God’s gift of the church; His people bound together not by the traditions of their people or even the Law of God given to Moses. The church is empowered by the Holy Spirit, given freely to all who put their trust in Jesus Christ as the true representation of the Father!

To the Jewish people, Pentecost was an annual celebration that took place 50 days after Passover. It was a festival that commemorated the giving of the law at Mount Sinai – the foundation for the old covenant where God was revealed to His people primarily through the observances and regulations contained in the first 4 books of the Bible – the Torah.

And so, the timing of the pouring out of God’s Spirit was not a coincidence. From that point on, it was the Holy Spirit Himself who would be guiding God’s people – leading them in a way that was far more personal than would have ever been imagined.

15  “If you love me, keep my commands.  16  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate  to help you and be with you forever—  17  the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him,  because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be  in you.  18  I will not leave you as orphans;  I will come to you.  19  Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.  20  On that day  you will realize that I am in my Father,  and you are in me, and I am in you.     

John 14:15-20

This New Covenant was a considerable upgrade! The law had limitations in that it was difficult to understand, tricky to apply, and needed to be constantly amended. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is intimate and personal – God literally living inside of you! The problem is that so many times, you and I seem to be content to live by the law, preferring it as it is so much easier to just look up a rule than to change our heart. Often, well intentioned Christ followers who are formed with a religion of ‘rule keeping’ and ethics, end up as good people, but more Jewish than Christian; more civilized and moral than they are transformed by the Spirit.

But while the law is the Word of God and remains useful for helping us to understand Him and His plan for salvation through Jesus – it is the Holy Spirit who is our guide and our connection with our Creator. The law can teach us who God is and why we need Him, but it is through faith in the Son and life in the Spirit that we are His people – His Church! The community of believers from all times and all nations!

Hymn – The Church’s One Foundation (by Daniel Choo)

Confession and Call to Worship – Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
  Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
  where there is injury, pardon;
  where there is doubt; faith;
  where there is despair, hope;
  where there is darkness, light;
  where there is sadness, joy.

  O Divine Master,
  grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
  to be understood and to understand;
  to be loved as to love.
  For it is in the giving that we receive;
  it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
  it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:3-13

3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

1 Corinthians 12:3-13

Message: The Church is Born!

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is teaching this church in the middle of a large Greek metropolis some great truths about their inheritance as followers of Jesus Christ. As Christians, they now had the Holy Spirit living not only in them, but amongst them! Not only did this Holy Spirit that God sent to all believers change their lives, it made them into a community of changed lives – stronger together than any one of them on their own. As Baptists, we sometimes criticize others who do not have our level of reverence and knowledge of the Scriptures; but our sin has often been that we have not lived in the truth and power of the Holy Spirit! The truth is, we need both the scriptures as the written revelation of God’s relationship with humanity AND the Spirit who empowers us and makes it possible for us to change and grow and be transformed into the men and women we have pledged by faith to become!

A closer look at this teaching on the Holy Spirit will help us to begin to close this gap in our spiritual lives, as we reflect on this oft neglected part of our lives.

1.  God is Revealed Through the Holy Spirit

“No One who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be Cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”

1 Corinthians 12:3

This is a truth about the Holy Spirit that remains a great mystery to us. We all know people who have followed Jesus their whole lives, but we also all know people who have consistently rejected Him too. There is no discernable pattern or method to harness this. If there was one, we would have bottled it long ago!

We are called to simply live out our lives with a faith that is as consistent and faithful as possible, sharing that faith when we feel the Spirit’s prompting, ready to speak with others when the circumstances of their lives leave them more open to God’s truth.

Last week we talked about thinking through our testimonies so we would be able to share it when the opportunity arose, but the truth is we ARE all sharing our testimonies every day. If the Holy Spirit is living in us and changing us, then it will most certainly be apparent to those people who know us. On the contrary, when our lives are filled with inconsistencies and our sins leave us indistinguishable from anyone else, THAT ends up being our testimony.

And so, whether it is the Holy Spirit directly, or the Holy Spirit living through and changing us, it is He who points people to a saving faith in Jesus.

Reflect:

How did you come to know Jesus? Was it through someone you admired and saw that their life was different? Take some time to pray for them, and thank God for them.

Pray also for those in your life who don’t yet know Jesus; pray that they would be open to the Holy Spirit, and that you will be open to being used by Him.

2. We Are All Different

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”  (verses 4-6)

Paul here is telling us that we are all different from each other – and that is a good thing! He wrote of Spiritual gifts – special abilities we get only from the Holy Spirit – but expanded it to include how we best serve, and the works that we perform.

Sometimes it seems we are trying to make everyone into the same person! Telling people who don’t enjoy academics that bible study is the only way; expecting someone who is shy to greet at the front door; criticizing someone who is gifted at serving for their lack of attendance at prayer meeting. The truth is, we are all unique.

We are all called to serve God in the way that is consistent with who we are. This may sound like a recipe for anarchy, but the reality is that the church really only works well when all of us with our unique talents and gifts are using them together for God’s purposes. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in!

When we are faithful and say yes to the right things, it is that same Holy Spirit who resides in all of us who brings us together, like the conductor of an orchestra. If you have ever had the privilege to hear a trained musician play their stringed or wind instrument, you know that they are able to make beautiful music on their own. But when a collection of these musicians play together as guided by a skilled conductor, the result can be overwhelming. One program, one ministry, one committee will never fit everyone – we are not meant to be just an oboe section, or a bassoon section – we are an orchestra!

That is God’s desire for His church. All of us with our skills, abilities, personalities and faith serving together in a way consistent with the way God made us. The world needs to see more of this, and whenever it does, God is given the glory!

Reflect:

Do you know for sure what God has uniquely equipped you to be and do in His church? If the answer is yes, are you doing it? If the answer is no, or you don’t really know your calling, then commit this to prayer as you spend time with God this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you.

Have you ever found yourself in the position of needing to be served after years of being the one who serves others? Has that been a difficult transition for you? Are you resisting it? Can you let someone honour God with their gifts by serving you?

3. For the Common Good

In verses 7-11, the Apostle Paul gives us a list of Spiritual gifts in order to help us to understand what He is talking about. We should note however that this list, and no other list in the Bible, is to be seen as exhaustive. It can be helpful to study and write down all of the different Spiritual gifts that are mentioned in Scripture, as long as we are aware that God was not putting a limit on them!

And all of these gifts have a two-fold purpose – they are advantageous to us, and they are advantageous to others: we feel God’s pleasure when we exercise them, and we feel a sense of purpose and joy when they benefit others. It really needs to work both ways.

When using our gifts is only for our own good, we are usually bypassing the call to be a part of the Body of Christ. I enjoy studying the bible and learning about how to live as a Christian, but if I didn’t share this with you and if it didn’t change me, then what was the point of it all? People who pray regularly but only for their own needs – never with a thought to others – are not praying the way that Jesus taught when He gave us the Lord’s prayer (a prayer that uses plural pronouns throughout).

We live in a time and place that is highly individualistic, and so less and less people are inclined to joining a group where demands might be put on them. In the church, we have found that it is a minority of members and attenders who do the majority of work; a truth that is echoed throughout our culture.

Christianity just doesn’t work well that way; any more than an orchestra works well when over half of its members choose not to play their parts – you might be able to make out the tune, but it is missing something!  The more individualistic it becomes, the less it resembles the New Testament church of Acts 2 who met together, ate together, worshipped and prayed together, did life together! A church that is a collection of individuals ceases, by all definitions in scripture, to even be the church at all. It is definitely less complicated to live out our faith on our own, and certainly a lot easier to exclude others from our lives who don’t agree with us on everything or who are just so different from us; but easy and uncomplicated isn’t God’s plan for us. If it were, we wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit and all of His power – we could get by most of the time on our own. In fact, that is often exactly what we try to do.

Reflect:

Do you love the people of God’s church? I have already asked you to pray to know what it is God has called you to, but now spend a few moments asking God to give you the desire to love His church through the unique gift He has made you to be.

Conclusion

Verses 12 and 13 remind us that church isn’t to be a collection of robots who are all the same. In Paul’s day, there was not even the thought of denominations, even though there were great differences already being dealt with in the church. In particular, there was the question of whether you had to become a Jew first before you could be a follower of Jesus. These inevitable differences are not signs of disunity, unless we let them come to define us rather than our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

We are not called to just be tolerant of each other, and not even to simply respect our differences. We are called to much more than that. We are called to be brothers and sisters, family, one body, held together by the One Holy Spirit!

Jesus came to show us the face of God, and to call us to His Kingdom here on earth. The Spirit is the one who gives that Kingdom it’s power, and keeps it together, and gives us life!

Prayer – Pry Me Off Dead Center by Ted Loder

O persistent God,
  deliver me from assuming your mercy is gentle.
  Pressure me that I may grow more human,
    not through the lessening of my struggles,
    but through an expansion of them
    that will undamn me
    and unbury my gifts.
  Deepen my hurt
    until I learn to share it
    and myself
    openly,
    and my needs honestly.
  Sharpen my fears
    until I name them
    and release the power I have locked in them
    and they in me.
  Accentuate my confusion
    until I shed those grandiose expectations
    that divert me from the small, glad gifts
    of the now and the here and the me.
  Expose my shame where it shivers,
    crouched behind the curtains of propriety,
    until I can laugh at last
    through my common frailties and failures,
    laugh my way toward becoming whole.

  Deliver me
    from just going through the motions
    and wasting everything I have
    which is today,
      a chance, a choice,
        my creativity,   your call.
  O persistent God,
  let how much it all matters
  pry me off dead center
  so If I am moved inside
    to tears or sights
      or screams or smiles
        or dreams,
  they will be real
  and I will be in touch with who I am
  and who you are
  and who my sisters and brothers are. 

amen

Song: Build Your Kingdom Here (By Rend Collective)

Benediction

The embrace of the Father
Be the comfort you desire.
The name of the Son
Be the one on whom you rely.
The presence of the Spirit
Be with you every hour.
The Three in One
Be the focus of all you are.

amen

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