CHURCH IS NOT A BUILDING – CHURCH IS THE PEOPLE OF GOD
WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO CHURCH – WE WILL CONTINUE TO BE CHURCH
2020 VISION – WE NEED TO SEE THINGS CLEARLY – FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW
HOW IS THE CHURCH GOING TO BE DIFFERENT?
PART 1: “WE NEED ANOTHER PENTECOST – SEND THE FIRE TODAY!”
PNEUMA: THE BREATH OF LIFE
My dearest friend died and went to Heaven a little over 3 years ago. He taught me so much.
Before he took up the ministry in the USA he had been a London Firefighter – a veteran of the Kings Cross Tube Disaster and finally the “breathing apparatus instructor” for the London Fire Bigrade Training School.
And he taught me the absolute life-giving necessity of the Holy Spirit. In the church he fitted me up with oxygen cylinder on my back and full face mask for going into a smoke-filled burning building.
As I breathed in this oxygen I had no idea how completely hermetically sealed this mask was. He switched off the oxygen supply. Instantly I was in grave trouble. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t breathe, but I couldn’t draw anything in at all. It was just a few seconds before he thankfully switched the oxygen back on but I learnt an incredible lesson in that moment – without air you die, and you die quickly.
The oxygen, he explained, was the Pneuma – the Spirit of God – the breath of life. Without the Spirit we are spiritually dead – as simple as that. Thank God for Pentecost!
INTRODUCTION: IT’S ALL SO SIMPLE!
In John 3: 16 we are given the reason for everything: God’s plan is for you to be with Him in Paradise forever. Wow! What love!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life
But God does not just love ME – He loves EVERYONE – so much! And He has taken us into work with Him – He has a job for us to do:
“go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Jesus speaking to His disciples in Matthew 28: 19-20)
And He knows that we just can’t do it on our own – remember the despair of the disciples when they looked at the huge crowd that were hungry – they said that with the little they had:
“how far will they go among so many?” (John 6: 9)
So, Jesus has us bring the little that we have to Him (literally at that time it was 5 loaves and 2 small fish) and He made the miracle! And He declared to them and to us that He is going to do the miracles – to meet the people’s needs – through us.
And He promised us the Holy Spirit to be with us, to be our “comforter”, our “counsellor”, so that we would not be alone and would know what to do and how to do it and what to say and how to say it (John 14: 15-27).
And then when He rose again from the dead He came and stood amongst His disciples and we are told that He –
breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John 20: 22)
He did this immediately after He told them that He was “sending them” out into the world – just as He had been sent into the world – so He was sending them for the same reason – to tell out the Good News.
But, for now, He told the disciples to “wait”…
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptised with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptised with[b] the Holy Spirit.’
6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.’
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1: 1-11)
- They are to wait because they need to be prepared and equipped to do the job they were called to do (“be my witnesses” – 1: 8) In the same way WE need to wait now to be His witnesses – beginning right where we live – here in Ashford
- In order to be His witnesses they had to wait for the “power” of the Holy Spirit – He had already breathed the Spirit into them (John 20: 22) – but now they needed the power of the Spirit to equip them for witness. In the same way WE need the power of the Spirit – we can’t do it on our own. But, with His Spirit within us we can turn the world upside down! What a privilege! What an encouragement! I want this anointing!
- And we have to act now while we are yet able. The angels – for I believe that is what the “two men dressed in white” (1: 10) were – told them that they had to stop standing around and get on with the job because – as we are told in Revelation 22: 20 “I am coming soon” – We have the joy of knowing that Jesus IS coming back!
THE MESSAGE OF PENTECOST IS A MESSAGE FOR US
- THE LOCKDOWN AND THE BREAK-OUT
ACTS 2: 1-13
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’
- 10 days after Ascension Day the disciples were in “Lockdown”. The country was in crisis, they feared for their lives, they were all together in one place and they probably only went out to go to TESCO to get food.
Sounds like today doesn’t it? The nation is in chaos and fear and we are together, virtually, in one place.
- What were they doing? Praying (Acts 1: 14 tells us this) and waiting (as per Jesus’ instructions)
And this is, I believe, the call to us – to prayer and to waiting on and for the Lord and His Spirit.
- The “lockdown” for them and the “lockdown” for us is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY. Then: it was the time of preparation for the birth of the church in (literally) explosive power to be Jesus’ witnesses in the whole world. Now: it is an incredibly encouraging time of preparation for our church and churches around Ashford, the country and the whole world for the RE-BIRTH of the church to be Jesus’ witnesses in the whole world. This is the message that God has laid on my heart and on the hearts of church leaders in our town and our nation and the world.
- The Spirit came as wind (the breath of God) and fire (the cleansing, refining and explosive “dunamis” of God) changing the disciples forever. “Come Holy Spirit” we cry! We want to be changed.
- The Spirit enabled them to speak in other languages (2: 4): This meant that those “outside” were able to understand what they were saying – “declaring the wonders of God” (2: 11).
Up till now – and for a long time in the past – our society has looked on what we have been saying as if we were speaking in a foreign language. Now, the promise is that they are going to understand what we are going to be telling them about God – the Spirit enabling us to speak in ways that make sense to them.
And why will what we say make sense to them? Remember that those who were listening to the disciples were “God-fearing Jews” (2: 5) – they knew some things about God but did not know the Good News of Jesus. We are living at a time when the media informs us of so many seeking to find out about God. The time is now, the people are becoming “God-fearing”. Now they will listen to what we have to say to them!
- Then: the disciples were in “Lockdown”, but the Spirit enabled them to “break out”.
Now: we may be in “Lockdown”, but the Spirit is preparing our church to “break out”.
- PREPARE TO BE EQUIPPED WITH WHAT YOU NEED
ACTS 2: 14-21
14 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. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
- Peter, so prone to “putting-his-foot-in-it” now, suddenly, had all the right words to say. The Holy Spirit indeed guided him to speak the Truth and to speak it in a way that hit-home hard to his listeners.
As we break-out we shall be given the right words to say, by the Spirit who both lives in us and breaks out from us, to our family, our friends, our neighbours, our work-colleagues and all who are going to be seeking God (see Matthew 10: 19)
- What is so wonderful and so encouraging is just how much further Peter goes: he speaks of the Spirit giving us dreams and visions to enable us to be His witnesses. He speaks of signs and wonders. He speaks of prophecy. We ARE in the Last Days (2: 17) and should be seeking the Spirit enabling us in these ways. How exciting it is going to be!
As we come out of “Lockdown” we have the incredible opportunity for “re-birth”. To “break out” fully equipped by the Spirit. Are you waiting and preparing for these things?
- PREPARE TO BE SILENT NO LONGER
For so longer we have seen a church in this nation that has kept quiet while Biblical principles and practices have been trodden into the dust. I believe that the message of this Pentecost is that as we come out of “Lockdown” we, full of the Holy Spirit, are to be silent no longer!
Let us read of the directness of Peter to the crowd:
36 ‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’
38 Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, 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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ 41 Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
- Peter declared (2: 36) that Jesus is Lord and Messiah – and only Jesus – there is no other
Let us stand strong once we come out of “Lockdown”. We live in a multi-faith society but there is only one Lord and Messiah – and His Name is Jesus. This is going to upset a lot of people…but we must speak the Truth that none might be “lost”.
- People then, in crisis, cried out “what shall we do?” (2: 37)
We must give the same answer that Peter gave as we live in times where people are crying out for direction. There must be no “social gospel” here – the answer does not lie in better medical and scientific funding or in being nice and caring for one another. The cry is for people to find their eternal life through “repenting” (turning from their selfish lives to follow Jesus) and being baptised (making a public declaration that they now belong to Jesus)
- We must be honest with the world and tell them that they are living in a corrupt way – we must warn them and plead with them to get right with God.
- And let us be prepared for the Spirit to do amazing things – 3000 were added to their number that day. Are we ready for an incredible harvest of souls? Bring it on! Yes, some will mock us and our message (2: 13) but so many more will listen. Let us “break out”!
CONCLUSION: BIRTH AND RE-BIRTH
2000 years ago Pentecost was acknowledged to signal the birth of the Church.
Today let us look at this day as the re-birth of our church.
As we come out of our “Lockdown” may we prepare for the excitement of exploding into our community and turning the world upside down.
May 31st 2020 is Pentecost Sunday. It is also the “International Day for the Unreached”
- It is estimated that 2 billion people have not yet heard about Christ – what an opportunity!
- It is estimated that there are 7000 living languages but as yet the Bible is only available in 700 languages – what an opportunity!
- And where do we begin? Right here – in our own community (Acts 1: 8)
- And how do we do it? With the Power of the Holy Spirit.
The call and the challenge for us now is that which we shall begin to look at in our next session:
“let us boldly go where no man has gone before”