Thursday, June 6, 2019
I’ve mentioned Dr. James I. McCord before.
President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and Princeton Theological Seminary, I’ll never forget when he said to several of us during a denominational meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on the 5th floor of the Hilton Hotel back in the mid 70s through draws and exhales of one of the biggest over-the-top-ring-sized Cubans that I’ve ever seen, “For Christ’s sake, boys, do something! Do something for Christ’s sake! I don’t care if you succeed or fail but do something for Christ’s sake.”
Also, I recall how he often chastised churches for overlooking Pentecost as one of the most important festivals of the annual Christian calendar.
He referred to Pentecost as the Church’s birthday.
Christmas celebrates the incarnation/enfleshment of God in Jesus as the Babe of Bethlehem, Easter celebrates His resurrection that assures ours by grace through faith in Jesus, and Pentecost celebrates the empowerment of the Church by the promised arrival and continuing presence of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
As recorded in Matthew 28 and John 14, Jesus promised Father God and Saving Son would never leave us and always be with us as Holy Spirit to enlighten, encourage, and enable us to honor God.
God’s remaining, regenerating, and revealing presence arrived on Pentecost: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven…and…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Just before ascending to heaven, Jesus promised the enlightening, encouraging, and enabling power of the Holy Spirit would “fill” believers: “You will receive power.”
The word is dunamis and it means explosive, expansive, expressive, and effective energy.
Power to the people of God!
That power was to fuel the Church to make Father God, Saving Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit known as Source, Sovereign, Savior, and Sustainer and provoke love for Him known by loving like Him with grace, mercy, and forgiveness wrapped together in agape.
That power for the Church’s life and ministry arrived 50 days after Passover or just after that first Maundy Thursday in the Upper Room and has been empowering people who really invite Jesus into the heart as Lord and Savior for life and ministry ever since: “To each…[believer]…is given a manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the common good.”
For a quick review of that original Pentecost, read Acts 2; and for another quick review of what God does for believers through the Holy Spirit, read Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.
Summarily, God’s power for life and ministry through His remaining presence as Holy Spirit is given to anyone who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior by the book.
The Holy Spirit is that existentially enlightening, encouraging, energizing, and enabling power to know God and make Him known.
That’s why Dr. McCord emphasized celebrating Pentecost.
It got the Church going - as Jesus said would be the purpose of the Holy Spirit - to the ends of the earth with worship, service, and evangelism.
The Holy Spirit is the power for honoring God in grateful praise, Matthew 25 ministries, loving Jesus by loving like Jesus, and sharing the best news ever that confident living in the assurance of eternal life is available to anyone who invites Jesus into the heart as Lord and Savior.
So if you look around today at churches and think they don’t seem to have enough power to blow their noses and could star in next season’s The Walking Dead juxtaposed the Church in Sardis of Revelation 3, it’s because they don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit in them because they haven’t really invited Jesus into their lives and churches as Lord and Savior.
That accounts for Dr. McCord’s insistence on highlighting Pentecost along with Christmas and Easter as an important annual celebration and evangelist Gypsy Smith’s answer when asked to identify the greatest need in today’s churches:
When asked the second greatest need in today’s churches, Smith replied,
When asked the third greatest need in today’s churches, he answered,
I’ll never forget what legendary Korean missionary Samuel Moffett said at the Congress on Renewal in Dallas, Texas back in January 1985: “I’ve had decency and order up to here! But where’s the power? Where’s the power to propel us out across the world?”
Here’s Gypsy Smith’s answer: “Another Pentecost!”
We need a Pentecostal experience of God’s power to know God and make Him known.
Et according to Jesus by the book, that happens whenever Jesus is really invited into the heart as Lord and Savior.
Moffett said, “There is no renewal unless we know who Jesus is.”
It’s like James Jones wrote in Filled with New Wine, “This is the most important thing we can know about God…that He loves us and wants to draw us into deeper union with Him…The question is not whether the church will be renewed…Of course it will be. The Spirit is at work. The only question is whether you and I will prove a hindrance or a channel to God’s activity.”
Back to Moffett as he talked about the experience of that first Pentecost that Smith says needs to be experienced afresh: “They prayed and the power came…The Holy Spirit came and life flamed within them…But I must confess that the record of that first Pentecost, all wind and fire and many tongues, is a disconcerting passage to read to Presbyterians like you. It smacks too much of hot Gospelers and holy rollers and Quakers and Shakers and enthusiasts. It doesn’t really describe all that is best and most beautiful in worship…And yet the more I read of the history of the Church, the more I am impressed with the fact that some of the most creative and effective periods in the Church were those periods when the Gospel was hot not respectable.”
What do we need?
Dr. McCord was right.
Pentecost is the Church’s birthday.
That first Pentecost was when believers were empowered to know Jesus and make Him known.
I like how Oswald Chambers put it: “Pentecost did not teach the disciples anything. It made them the incarnation of what they preached.”
The Church became alive and active on Pentecost.
Et it still happens whenever Jesus is really in our heads, hearts, and guts.
That’s when we’re full of Jesus; and when we’re full of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is filling us.
Acts 29 comes to mind.
Look it up.
You won’t find it in your Bible.
That’s because we’re writing that chapter of the Church’s history right now.
Et we’ll keep writing it as long as Jesus is our personal Lord and Savior so His remaining in us as Holy Spirit keeps us going and glowing and growing with/in/through/for Him.
When we really believe in Jesus, we’re really empowered by His Holy Spirit.
That’s when, as Dr. McCord urged, we can really do something for Christ’s sake.
Blessings and Love!