Pentecost Sunday: Facing Todays Troubling Times
The Church was entering a time that would prove to be the most difficult to be a Christian. Believers would die or be persecuted for following Jesus.
The persecution started in the first century and continued for three centuries under the orders of Roman emperors Nero to Diocletian who ordered some of the most horrific things done to Christians. Jesus knew this difficult time laid ahead for His followers so He wanted to make sure they were prepared.
One of the most well know movies that has been put out is the Gladiator. One of the deleted scenes on the DVD depicts Russel Crowe, a once-powerful Roman general who had been forced to becoming a common gladiator, in the bowels of the Colosseum viewing the Christians being fed to the lions. It was accurately portrayed that he would view the Christians' persecution before the gladiators would go into the fight. Why? To fill the stomachs of the lions so they would be more playful with the gladiators during the games.
Why did the Romans kill the early Christians? Not for worshiping Jesus but for not worshiping and acknowledging all the other gods in the Roman empire, because they clung to Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. The first-century government hated the Christians not because they were Christians, but because they didn't say all the other religions were legit. We call that pluralism-all meaning, all religions are equal.
So at the beginning of Acts, with the creation of the early church, Jesus was equipping them with something for the worst times Christianity would face. He was also equipping them with something for the worst times Christianity would face. He was also equipping us. How does God get his people ready for this type of environment? He give a gift-the gift of the Holy Ghost, as we read in today's Epistle reading.
And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place:
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them divided tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.
This was not a Pentecostal thing. This was not a Charismatic renewal thing. This was a Jesus and His Church thing.
My brother and I had been fortunate that we were raised by Godly Parents. From a young age both of us were in church, both of of us grew up believing in Jesus being a Saviour and a sacrifice for our sins. Both of us had been baptized, and both of us came to a point in our lives where we personally made a decision to make Jesus the Lord of our lives. My brother made that decision at a very young age. I on the other hand struggled with that decision until the age of 16. Now understand, I dabbled in just about every sin imaginable. Even after my decision for Christ, it took time for the Lord to work in the areas of my heart that was not totally surrendered. Because of that, I experienced, Gods chastisement in my life.
Now if you would stand me up against my brother. We were totally different. His testimony was one of staying clean for the Lord. He never used tobacco, he never touched a drop of alcohol or dabbled with drugs, and he remained pure all the way up to his wedding day when he kissed his wife for the first time!
We both worked in what is called the bus ministry over the years. If you don't know what a bus ministry is, it is an evangelistic tool whereby you picked up children, many times from the streets of ghettos and projects, and took them to church, hoping to eventually win the parents over as well.
There were some who would have thought that I could do a better job on those streets then my brother because I have experienced that world and my brother hadn't. I had a life of sin that my brother hadn't had and so, it was thought by some, that I could speak to the people on the street better than he could. That did not seem right to me-the best way to be effective in ministering to the world is to experience the world? I don't think so.
This is the reason for Acts 2. The best way to face the world is not experiencing it and seeing that sin not fulfilling. God doesn't say taste and see that the world is not good; God goes the other way; taste and see that the Lord is good. Jesus didn't tell Peter to get high, Martha to experience sex outside of marriage, James to get drunk, John to go to prison and kill someone so they could all really minister to people. He said an experience with God is what we need to tell people about God's kingdom and living a Holy Ghost filled life. Jesus knew that our power as Christians was in experiencing God, not in experiencing sin. Sin takes away, God fills and gives.
So when you are filled with the Holy Ghost, He wants to give you a power to face what is ahead of you and to share the Good News of Jesus unafraid.
If Jesus said that the best thing for us was for Him to leave so He could send the Holy Ghost, then it is the best. And He will help us through the hardest times.