Summary: A sermon based on the Pentecost story. God grabs our attention, gives us tools to get something done, then expects us to do it.
The Tools of Pentecost
The popular Christian author, J.S. Baxter, once said “What God chooses, He cleanses. What God cleanses, He molds. What God molds, He fills. What God fills, He uses.” (J.S. Baxter, http://elbourne.org/sermons/index.mv?illustration+2793)
Today’s lesson is really about God’s use and molding of people. He uses men (and women) for the purposes He has in mind. He sets people apart. He molds them and provides them the tools they need. He fills them with His Holy Spirit and uses them to achieve His own objectives. Pentecost was an event that did exactly this.
Through the use of the Apostles, this single event was the birthplace of the church. It was both the time and the place where the Apostles started much of their mission of evangelism. It was a moment of spectacular beginnings by the blessings of the Holy Spirit. This was not an ordinary day, but one of great significance. Through this event, the group of 120 believers multiplied dramatically as they grew to over 3,000. To put this into perspective, last week, our congregation of 17 talked about growing to 100. To match the Apostles growth rate, we would need a much larger chapel as we would have to grow to well over 500.
It started with a command that Jesus gave to the Apostles before his ascension. Jesus had told them to stay in the city and wait. He promised that they would receive the power from on high. Pentecost was the realization of this prophecy. It was the fulfillment of God’s word through the blessings of the Holy Spirit.
People from many surrounding cities, and even countries, were gathered in the city of Jerusalem to celebrate the religious harvest festival, Pentecost.
50 days after the Passover, this Jewish Thanksgiving was celebrated by the entire community. Where ever you looked, people were crowding the roads and marketplace. Picture the scene, hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people crowded the streets, vendors calling out the prices of their wares looking for another sale, children ran through the crowds filled with the excitement of the day looking for the exciting thrill. With throngs of people all around, the area was ripe for a speaking opportunity.
In the story of Pentecost, we can see that God grabbed the attention of His people through a spectacular series of events. He gave them gifts to use, and expected them to use those gifts. By doing so, He blessed many people, and not just the Apostles.
God grabs people’s attention
First, God chose to grab their attention. When you take a public speaking class, you’re often told that an attention getting step is one of the best ways to keep your audience focused on what you want them to hear. People tend to notice when you say something that seems out of place or show something people can look at. I once used a Snicker’s Bar to illustrate the idea that processed food is safer than fruits and vegetables because of the rigorous quality assurance standards and lack of pesticides in the production line. This wasn’t exactly what the audience was expecting, so it grabbed their attention as they wanted to hear the rest of the argument. Using a visual example in addition to speaking helps solidify what you’re saying by attacking more than one of your senses at the same time: sight as well a hearing. Using examples that are unexpected, such as junk food is better than fresh fruit, often will grab the attention of those around you because they are not the norm. The Holy Spirit used His own attention getting step.
The Apostles were gathered in prayer to find a replacement for Judas and bring their numbers back to 12. Two men were considered for the post. They prayed, and eventually, they decided to allow God the decision by casting lots to determine the replacement. The lot fell to Matthias and he was chosen to join the eleven.
Suddenly and without warning, the roar of a mighty wind erupted in the upper room where they were gathered, filling the whole house. Tongues of fire seemed to descend on each of the people as each was marked and set aside for His purposes. Both of these were signs of God’s power: audible through the roaring wind and visual with the tongues of fire.
This is an extreme example of how God can grab the attention of people. He still does this today, but not in the same way. Through my travels, I have encountered numerous Christian people from various cultures and various languages. Many of them have spoken about having a feeling that they should do something. About 10 years ago, I had such an experience. My wife, Lina, and I had been trying to have a child for over 6 years. Along the way, we experienced the loss of 4 miscarriages and a still birth. Since the age of 13, God had placed on my heart that I should join the ministry. But, I always pushed that idea aside. However, this one evening, it appeared that Lina might be pregnant. With hope again raising its’ head, I prayed that if God showed me that she was pregnant within 48 hours that I would become a pastor. The news came faster than we expected and we had confirmation from a hospital in 12 hours. God grabs your attention like that sometimes. He reaches out to you when you least expect it and taps on your heart. He calls you to do something because he has a purpose. He wants you to listen to His voice.