2010-05-23 (am) Pentecost @ Maranatha CRC Acts 2:1-13 “Babel Wrapped”
Introduction: A modernised retelling of the story of Babel.
Page One: The disciples needed the Holy Spirit.
Page Two: Many people try to live without the Holy Spirit.
Page Three: God poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Page Four: God pours the Holy Spirit into us.
Conclusion: The Holy Spirit gives us power to build the kingdom of God.
A long, long time ago, some developers decided to take on a project of extreme engineering. It was brand new, groundbreaking. No one had ever attempted something so spectacular. Using the latest technology, the latest building materials, the latest methods of development, they started their project. Everyone was on board. Applications soared through because politicians and religious leaders alike wanted it to happen.
Everything was going very well. Construction was ahead of schedule. The contractors, expecting big bonuses for finishing early, ensured nothing went wrong. But something did go wrong, something completely unforeseen. To give you an idea, let me take you to one of the conversations between two construction workers, just before construction ground to a halt:
Bob: Hey Bill, hand me another flick.
Bill: What? You mean another brick?
Bob: No, the flick! Did someone drop a flick on your flead?
Bill: Don’t make me flump ya with this brick, ya maroon!
Bob: Greed floose, you simwhit!
These two started fighting, and then other workers stopped working—eventually all the people scattered! There was no one left to finish the tower of Babel because God confused the languages of the people on earth.
After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples were confused. They knew what they had to do; they just didn’t know how to do it. Jesus told them to witness in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. He told them to wait in Jerusalem. Maybe some of them tried to witness while they waited. Maybe they told people about Jesus’ resurrection. But maybe it didn’t go very well; maybe they were afraid and stumbled over their words. Tongue-tied disciples! Three years studying under Jesus, where to begin? Alone. Powerless. They missed Jesus.
The disciples talked about Jesus’ last words to them. “I wonder what it’ll be like when the Spirit comes? Do you think we’ll know when it happens?”
Think about it for a moment. A few days went by! People coming up to Peter and asking, “Has, the Spirit come yet?”
Peter had questions of his own!
“Did I miss it? Is Jesus punishing me for denying him? Why can’t I do what Jesus has called me to do? Am I supposed to lead now? Will they follow me? What did Jesus mean when he said, “On this rock, I will build my Church. Was Jesus playing on words, or was he telling me something? What’s a church? What does it look like? Certainly, they had doubts.
Certainly, we have doubts. Many of us go through life with all kinds of questions. “Who should I marry, where should I work, where will my grocery money come from? How will I afford to fix my car? How can I know that Christianity is true? There’re so many other religions out there, how can I be sure that this is the right one?
People question God’s existence. Some refuse to believe anything. Others make up whatever they want. Some people serve gods other than the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sometimes, these people seem far more dedicated and far more spiritual than we do.
God created every person on this planet with the ability to have a relationship with Him. Some people try to ignore Him. They pretend He isn’t there. They work very hard at creating a beautiful exterior, a beautiful façade in life. And on the outside, they look like they have it all together. In a way, all of us build our own towers of Babel. We pretend we know what we’re doing. We drive nice cars, pay our bills on time, live in nice houses, we don’t yell at each other, all you see is mutual love and respect, at least in public so, by all accounts look completely put together.
But what is it like at home? What is it like really? What does God, who can see right into our hearts, see? He sees that our structure is weak, and our building is imperfect. All our efforts, all the work we do on our own is useless. It is useless because of sin.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Everyone disobeys God. Disobedience sin, separated us from God. Theologians have reduced it to a simple term, original sin. Adam and Eve's sin contaminated everyone. No matter how hard we try, by our own strength, we can’t help sinning. All we build is flimsy.
But Jesus Christ is the master builder. Christ deals with original sin. By inviting Christ into our hearts, we experience an Extreme Makeover, Home Edition! Peter preaches this, “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.”
The disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, Jesus, the master builder, poured out His Holy Spirit. Through His Holy Spirit, Jesus rebuilt, re-created them into His own image.
It was early in the morning; Jerusalem was full of people celebrating the Feast of Weeks. Jews and Jewish converts from nearly every known nation around Israel came to Jerusalem. They sought to worship the true God—yet something was missing. God had not yet built them into the people he wanted them to be.
They needed the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, a noise like a violent wind came from heaven and filled the place where the disciples were.
The sound was like wind. The Holy Spirit used a sound like wind and tongues of flame like fire to announce his arrival and presence. The Holy Spirit really came down from heaven. The sound and the flames confirmed it. The disciples, and others who were there, knew it! This was not the first time God appeared to his people through fire. God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. The pillar of fire led the Israelites in the wilderness. Fire consumed Elijah’s sacrifice in front of the false prophets on Mt. Carmel. God took Elijah to heaven in a chariot of fire!
The power of the Holy Spirit was awesome! Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples immediately miraculously spoke in other languages. Everyone, receptive to the Holy Spirit’s power, heard the disciples telling of God’s mighty deeds—in his or her native tongue! Luke lists all kinds of different people who were there. Each people group represents a different language or dialect! What a miracle! The Holy Spirit ended the curse of Babel!
Right there, exactly where Jesus told them to be, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the disciples fulfilled Jesus’ command to preach the good news. They didn’t even have to leave Jerusalem! God brought people from Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth to Jerusalem. Everyone heard the good news in one miraculous moment! That was Jesus’ commandment to his disciples.
Jesus commands us, his disciples, to do the same work. The same Holy Spirit that worked in Peter, James, John and the others, works in us to spread the Gospel. Raise your hand if you’ve been baptised into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Everyone? Do you realise that all of us are baptised into the very same powerful Holy Spirit as the disciples? All of us have received the same power to witness Christ and build up His body.
But not everyone welcomed the Holy Spirit. Some of the witnesses didn’t believe it. They sneered at the disciples and said, “These men are drunk on sweet wine.” They didn’t believe the Holy Spirit’s power.
Are we so different? Don’t we doubt? Don’t we question the Holy Spirit’s power in people? We need to exercise our minds and our hearts so that our doubts don’t turn into unbelief. The Holy Spirit helps us. No other faith has anything like the Holy Spirit.
Maybe you’ve been a Christian your whole life. Maybe you don’t feel like you’ve experienced the Holy Spirit working in you. You’ve never been addicted to drugs, alcohol, or sex. You’ve never really rebelled against your parents. You’ve gone to church your whole life.
Don’t you see? That is proof the Holy Spirit is in you! He lives deep within you, working all the time so you don’t even really notice Him working at all! The Holy Spirit is a natural part of you! It’s only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we resist the temptation to sin.
But maybe you know the Holy Spirit is in you, but you still don’t feel ready to share the Gospel. Perhaps you don’t think you can do this evangelism stuff. You’ll never know unless you try. The Holy Spirit works in us.
The Holy Spirit works in us to build the church. And He still uses miracles to do it! A few years ago, a Vietnamese Church in Vancouver, British Columbia asked an English-speaking minister to preach at their church. But the translator fell sick. There was no one to translate for him. But the elders asked him to preach anyway.
After the service, one of the elders came up to him and said, “I thought you didn’t speak Vietnamese!” The pastor replied, “I don’t! I said everything in English.” The elder replied, “Everyone heard you in Vietnamese!”
The Holy Spirit works in us just like He did with that pastor. The Holy Spirit works in us when we speak and live the gospel. He gives us the words to speak.
Is God speaking to you? Is he calling you to share the good news of Jesus Christ to your neighbour, a soccer mom or dad, a co-worker, a friend in school? It’s exciting! We get to participate in the grandest building project ever! It's not the proud, useless manmade tower of Babel; it’s the living body of Christ! Amen.