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Why Aren’t They Burning? May 15, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost

May 15th, 2016

 

Focus:  God gives salvation to all who call upon the name of Jesus.

Function:  That the hearers call upon the name of the Lord.

Structure:  Not this…or this…or this…or this…but this.  (with thanks to Rev. Fisk for the outline via Worldview Everlasting)

 

Why Aren’t They Burning?

 

This morning we face an interesting challenge.  We face the task of figuring out what Pentecost is actually all about.  And it’s indeed a challenge, as so many Christians today focus on it all wrong.

Pentecost was such a great day.  Peter preached and people just rushed to be baptized.  If only we could have more days like this.  If only the church could be better, if only we could just live more lovingly, if only we could just do more good for our neighbors, if only we could just preach like Peter, then we would have more Pentecosts!  People would come to church, they’d believe.

Well, at least that’s what our brothers say who think we earn our own salvation.  They think Pentecost is about us, what great works we can do before the Lord.  How it’s about our preaching, our teaching, our connections, our reason and logic.  Our courage to go out into the midst of the unknown. But in reality, Pentecost isn’t about what the disciples did, not at all really.

Pentecost is a one-time event.  One and done.  God did something completely miraculous and He probably won’t ever work this way again.  And that’s alright.  It was for a purpose.  Here we have God the Father calling out to His children of the old covenant.  He’s calling out to the Jews in miraculous way.

And this brings us to another thing Pentecost isn’t about.  It’s not about that (points to pictures of people with burning flames on their heads).  This isn’t the burning bush.  We don’t have a random Jew saying “Hey, look, those guys are on fire, but they’re not burning up.  Let’s go see why.”  That also was a one-time event when God called Moses.  If the disciple literally were on fire, the Jews would have noticed, they’d have said something.

See, again, it has nothing to do with the disciples.  And while Jesus promised that the disciples would be baptized by the Holy Spirit and with fire, that’s a one-time deal, and it’s not what Pentecost is about.

The Jews don’t come up astounded at the disciples being on fire, because they weren’t.  They’re astounded by what they’re hearing.  And it’s more than the miracle.  It’s more than the fact that all these foreigners are hearing the disciples preach in different tongues. It’s like me going before a group of people from every nation under heaven and preaching this sermon and they can all understand.

That’s another one-time miracle of God.  And yet we have entire denominations built on it.  Who insist that if you can’t speak in tongues, you’re not a Christian.  Hogwash.  That’s just absurd, and it’s completely contrary to Scripture.  The apostle Paul realized that when he told Corinth, “in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue,” (14:19).  Tongues had a purpose, and they were a spiritual gift, but even in Paul’s day, not everyone had them.

But it’s not the preaching style of Peter and the eleven that matters either.  Tongues isn’t what Pentecost is about.

Nor is this day about mass conversion, and something we need to figure out how to do again.  This isn’t a Billy Graham revival.  These aren’t hordes of atheists.  These aren’t your coworkers at the annual meeting.  This isn’t the Muslims coming to POBLO for aid.  This is a special, one-time event.

Pentecost is a one-time event in the history of the church.  If you were here last year for Pentecost, you might even remember me preaching about how this is essentially the day the church is born.  On this day, God works through His disciples to convert the remnant of God’s people, the Jews.  To call them out of the old covenant and its ways, and to call them into the new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He’s done for them.

The whole point of all of this, what Pentecost actually is, is the what of Peter’s preaching.  It’s the words he actually shares with the Jews, as he proclaims to them the cross of Christ and His resurrection along with a baptism by water that puts an end to the covenant that God made with Abraham and with Moses.

And this sermon of Peter is so long that we will spend the next two weeks covering it.  Okay, it’s not really that long, but we do have two weeks to unpack all the Peter said to the Jews that day.  And it comes from a man the crowd thought was drunk.  When we think about it, we can understand why.  These guys are proclaiming that some guy named Jesus died fifty days ago, but three days later rose from the dead and has just recently ascended into the skies.  It sounds like something crazy a drunk might dream up.

But Peter connects to the Jews right away, quoting to them from the Old Testament prophet Joel.  And it’s something we’ll see him unpack in full next week, but for now, let’s look at the text he quotes ourselves.

We’ve spent so much time recently on the apocalyptic writings of John in the book of Revelation.  This piece from Joel is also apocalyptic, it’s considered to be end of the world stuff. But, as many good prophecies are, this “last days” language doesn’t just mean the Last Day, the end of the world.

The last days of Joel’s prophecy are first fulfilled on Good Friday, as the needs of sinners, the need of a hopeless people, is met upon the cross.  Sins forgiven.  Nailed to the cross; no more.  Christ has set you free.  On this first last day, God judges the world through Jesus on the cross.

This is the blood moon reference.  Not that the moon turns into blood, although I suppose on the last day it could, but in apocalyptic Scripture, this is a phrase used to mark a major historical transition.  Here, the blood moon marks a transition from the old covenant to the new.  The old covenant has ended, been put to death.  There’s a seismic shift on the cross.

There’s still more blood and more death to come in this prophecy.  Because on the second last day, the one we normally think of, God will judge the world apart from Christ according to their works.  For those who are in Christ, this is a day full of hope, of salvation, of life, of joy.  But for those who think they’ve earned it, from those who think they are gods themselves to those who simply think they can do enough good to make it heaven, that they can be their own Savior, it will be a day of great sorrow.  A day of death, a day of everlasting damnation.

This is the true meaning of Pentecost, the true importance of that day.  It’s what Peter preached, the death and resurrection of Christ, a baptism by water that saves in Christ.  And it’s ironic, because those congregations who are all about speaking in tongues don’t preach Christ resurrected and a baptism in which God comes to you to forgive your sins.  They’ve missed the whole point.

The covenant made on Mount Sinai has ended.  Jesus has done this.  “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Peter names the name, he proclaims the goods, but for that, you’ll have to come back again next week.

 

 

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