Fire Rested On Each
TITLE: Fire Rested on EACH of Them SCRIPTURE: Acts 2:1-21
The story of Pentecost tells about the birth of the church. It has much to teach us.
First, Luke says, "When the day of Pentecost had come, (the disciples) were all together in one place." These disciples were all in one place. They weren't fighting with each other. They weren't insisting on getting their way. They were all together and were all singing off the same sheet of music. Anyone who has ever attended a church board meeting knows how amazing that is.
And then "from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting." Now I know that someone will say, "That must have been when the preacher started preaching." We preachers always have to struggle not to sound like a big wind -- and sometimes we don't struggle hard enough. But on the day of Pentecost, the windy sound was not the preacher. The wind was the Holy Spirit -- the Spirit of God.
And then it says, "Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among (the disciples), and a tongue rested on each of them." "On EACH of them" -- that is significant.
The fire was a sign of God's presence. In the Old Testament, God often revealed himself as fire. When God wanted to get Moses' attention, he spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Exodus 3).
So this fire appeared among the disciples. The Jews who were gathered in Jerusalem understood that something special was happening -- and that it had something to do with God.
And a tongue of fire rested on EACH of the disciples. That is instructive. The fire did not descend only on the preacher. The fire rested on EACH of the disciples. The previous chapter (Acts 1:15), tells about a hundred and twenty disciples. Apparently all hundred twenty received a tongue of fire.
The fire, of course, was the Holy Spirit -- the Spirit of God. The tongue of fire that rested on the disciples showed that EACH disciple was empowered by the Holy Spirit -- empowered by God.
That's the way it is today too. In the church today, it isn't only preachers who must be inspired by God -- or elders -- or deacons -- or Sunday school teachers -- or youth leaders. It's all of us. God intends EVERY disciple to do his or her part. God calls EACH of us to a special calling -- calls EACH of us to fill a niche that no one else can fill -- calls EACH of us to do special work that no one else can do. If we sit back and do nothing, our work for Christ will not get done. It we don't do our part, we poke a hole in the fabric of heaven.
Herb Miller is a researcher who studies how churches grow. His research reinforces the idea that EACH of us has something special to contribute -- that it's critically important for all of us to be involved in the work of the church.
-- Miller discovered that churches grow, in large measure, because members invite friends to come to church with them.
-- He found that people are far more likely to visit a church if invited by a friend or neighbor than if invited by the preacher.
-- He found that 70 and 90 percent of the people who join any church come through the influence of a friend or relative.
-- He found that, when people visit a church, the most effective way to get them to come again is to have a layperson make a short visit to their home within 36 hours. The purpose of the visit is simply to acknowledge the visitors, to make them feel welcome, and to answer any questions that they might have.
-- Miller found out that having a layperson make the visit was twice as effective as having the pastor do it. If the pastor made the visit, only forty percent of the people would come to church again. However, if a layperson made the visit, eighty-five percent would return (Herb Miller, How to Build a Magnetic Church, Abingdon Press).
But to have a program like that, it is important to have lots of church members involved. That makes it possible to assign appropriate people to make the visits -- for instance, to assign a woman to visit a woman visitor.
It shouldn't be difficult to get lots of church members involved, because God has called EACH of us to do some sort of special work. If we all respond to the call to which we have been called, the church won't have trouble finding people to visit visitors.
-- It won't have trouble finding people to teach Sunday school.
-- It won't have trouble finding people to sing in the choir.
-- It won't have trouble finding people to lead small groups.
-- It won't have trouble finding people to sponsor youth groups.
If EACH of us responds to the call that God extends to us, the church will be able to do everything that it needs to do. We will have a dynamic, vital church that will change people's lives. It will be a growing church -- an exciting church -- a wonderful place to worship and a wonderful place to serve.
But it is tempting not to do that. It is tempting to come to church only when we feel like it. It is tempting to sit in the pew -- and to sing the hymns -- and to walk out the door -- and to let that be the end of it. It is tempting not to get involved -- not to do any work for Christ -- not to give any service. But, if we do that, the work to which God has called us will remain undone.
That happens in churches all too often, and it's tragic. There are so many things that the church could do that remain undone, because there is nobody to do them.
STORY OF STAGE COACH:
First class ticket – always seated
Second class ticket – seated until trouble – no work
Third class ticket – all the work
What happens if there is no third class passengers?
If Christ calls EACH of us to a particular service -- and you can be sure that he does-- it isn't only the church that is diminished if we fail to serve. We are diminished too. We grow as Christians, in part, by rendering service to Christ. If we go through life ignoring Christ's call to service, we doom ourselves to living stunted, shriveled lives. Our service to Christ is a kind of spiritual food that feeds us. It is a kind of spiritual exercise that makes us strong. We need to do the work to which Christ has called us: for Christ's sake -- for the church's sake -- for the sake of those whom we serve -- and for our own sake as well.
On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples -- all one hundred twenty of them -- were all together in one place. None were missing, except Judas. EACH of them received the fire -- the Holy Spirit. EACH of them began to proclaim Christ.
And then, at the appropriate time, they all stood back to let Peter preach. And at the conclusion of Peter's sermon, three thousand people were baptized. Three thousand!
I can't promise that we will baptize three thousand people here today if we all answer the call that Christ gives us. But I can promise that it will revitalize this church if we will all do our part.
I have heard people say that most of us use only about ten percent of our brainpower. They say that, if we could only harness our full potential, the sky would be the limit. I have always wondered how they determined that. I think that I am using more than ten percent of my brainpower. But I know that I could be better organized -- could work more efficiently.
And I also know that there are many people who never come close to their potential:
-- I am thinking of kids growing up in ghettos -- hanging out on street corners -- scoring drugs -- drifting through life.
-- I am thinking of people in Third World countries who have never had a chance to go to school.
-- But I am also thinking of kids in affluent neighborhoods -- and adults too -- who spend several hours a day watching television -- or playing video games -- or surfing the web.
While I am not sure that the ten percent figure is right, I am sure that many people don't come close to their potential. I wonder what the world would look like if we could get the kids off the street corners and into schools -- if we could get people to watch less television and to read more books. I think that the world would be a better place if people who are wasting their lives would come a little closer to their potential.
And so it is, too, with the church. What would the church look like if EACH of us lived up to our spiritual potential -- if EACH ONE of us would perform the service to which Christ has called us. If we would do that, we would transform this church. We would make a big difference to our (neighborhood or town). We would make a difference to our world.
On the first Pentecost, one hundred twenty disciples gathered together in Jerusalem, and God gave EACH of them a tongue of fire -- filled EACH ONE of them with the Holy Spirit. Empowered by the Spirit, those few people lit a fire under the world -- lit a fire for Christ. Those few people changed the world.
We are the keepers of the flame today. Pray for Christ to show how you can help. Then stand up -- get involved -- do your part -- answer your call ---- and expect to see the power of God working through your life.
CHILDREN'S SERMON: Great Things
Object suggested: Dictionary
What is the purpose of a dictionary? A dictionary tells us what a word means. A dictionary shows us how to spell words -- and even how to pronounce them. A dictionary can help us to understand lots of things about words about language.
There is an exciting story in the Bible about language -- and about how God helps us to understand things.
Many people from different parts of the world had come together in Jerusalem. They spoke many different languages. But the Holy Spirit -- God's spirit -- made it possible for Jesus' disciples to speak to each person in that person's own language. That was a real miracle.
God gives the Holy Spirit to every Christian. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God within each one of us. The Holy Spirit helps us to know God -- and to understand what God wants us to do. The Holy Spirit also makes it possible for us to do great things -- things that we couldn't ordinarily do.
At the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the disciples power to speak in languages that they had never learned. I don't know what the Holy Spirit will empower you to do, but I know that it will empower you to do great things for Jesus. They might seem like great things -- like speaking in languages that you have never learned. Or they might seem more ordinary -- like helping someone who needs help.
As you listen to that Spirit within, you will be guided in the ways of God.