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Open For Power
May 26, 1996

ACTS 2:1-21

At the beginning of the day, they were a small group of bewildered, ineffectual, confused people. By the end of the day, they were people of power, and had converted and baptized 3,000 persons! 3,000! What happened?

Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

When the day of Pentecost had come. Pentecost is a Greek word meaning 50. Jews had gathered in Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire to celebrate Pentecost, a winter harvest festival held 50 days after Passover. For Christians, Pentecost now means fifty days after Easter.

They were all together. Who were they? The twelve apostles. The 120 believers in Jerusalem had elected Matthias to take Judasí place, so the circle of 12 was again complete. There was also a group of women, and Jesusí family: his mother and brothers.

They were all together in one place. They were united. They were unified in Christ. They shared a common bond in Jesus. They shared a common history. They had walked, talked, ministered with, and followed Jesus. They shared a common goal. The resurrected Christ had appeared to them and told them, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses. (Acts 1:8) They shared a common task. While waiting for the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit, they prayed. Acts 1:14, All of these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer. Prayer for what? To be used by God. Prayer for power. Jesus promised them power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. They prayed. They opened themselves to God. They were open for power!

And suddenly.. Suddenly, unexpectedly, without announcement, in Godís timing, the Holy Spirit came. God acted. Power is Godís gift. Suddenly. Unexpected, yet they were ready. They really didnít understand what they were ready for, but they were ready. I wonder what they were doing that morning. We know it was morning because Peter joked about the accusation of being drunk. There is humor in the Bible. When they went outside and began speaking in tongues, filled with joy, enthusiasm, and power, the crowds accused them of being drunk. But Peter laughed, "We canít be drunk. Itís only 9:00 in the morning!"

So, what were they doing? Preparing for breakfast? Eating breakfast? Just finished breakfast? Praying? We donít know, but what we do know is that they were all together. They were united. Oh, what can be accomplished when Godís people are united! When there is jealousy, griping, mistrust, squabbling, fighting, dissension in a church, the church is weak and ineffectual. When Godís people are divided, the church is weak and ineffectual. When a few people seek power and try to keep power for themselves, because of their color, or their age, or their experience, or their status, the church is weak and ineffectual.

The disciples and company were all together, united in a common bond, a common history, a common goal, a common task, and united in prayer. Oh, what can be accomplished when Godís people are constantly devoting themselves to prayer! Prayer breaks through the barriers between people. Prayer breaks through power blocks. Prayer breaks through divisions. Prayer heals hurt feelings. Can you stay angry at someone very long when you pray for him/her? When Godís people are united, united in prayer, opening themselves to God and one another, then God can take over, and suddenly, the Holy Spirit comes.

Do you know what the Holy Spirit looks like? Do you know what God looks like? We know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but do you know what God looks like? God is not a man, or a woman, or a person. Luke gives us a picture. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Can you see the wind? No, but you can experience it. God is spirit, said Jesus. The Hebrew word for Spirit is wind. God is wind. If you want to know what wind is, see the movie Twister. Make sure you see it in the theater at the Mall which has digital sound. The sound of the tornados is all around you and powerful. According to a documentary on TV, the sound of the tornados was made by recording the moan of a camel, and then slowing it way down!

I recall seeing a tornado when I was a child in Minnesota. We were haying on a hot, summer afternoon. The air was still. Not a leaf was moving. The air was hot and humid, stifling, actually; it was difficult to breathe. Then we saw the dark funnel cloud about two miles away. It worked its way hauntingly, eerily, across the horizon. And then the rain came, a heavy, drenching downpour. We jumped in the car and drove to view the havoc caused by the tornado. It had lifted a barn and dropped it. I recall another tornado which tore through our county seat. We drove again to view the wreckage. The smell of phosphorous is still in my nostrils, from the plaster of wrecked houses. Now, thatís a wind!

Such a wind hit the upper room that Pentecost morning. They heard it. The sound was like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house. Notice, the violent wind didnít blow on just a few of them. The violent wind did not pick out a few selected individuals and blow just on them. The violent wind filled the entire house! Notice, also, we are not talking about some wimpy breeze here! When the Holy Spirit comes, we are not talking about some wimpy, gentle God. Weíre talking violent! Weíre talking tornado. And, it takes a tornado to revive churches. It takes a tornado, a violent wind, to shake up Godís people. It takes a violent wind to rock a church, and open it to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

And, then, divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. I looked up divided tongues. Iíve heard of forked tongues, but not divided tongues. What it means is that fire came upon them (Do you want to know what God looks like? God looks like fire!). When the fire came upon them, it separated, it divided and, looking like tongues, came and rested on each person there. They were surrounded by wind and fire, powered by the Holy Spirit. Notice, again, the tongues of fire rested on each of them. Not isolated individuals, not selected people, not just church leaders, but the entire group was fired up! The Holy Spirit blew upon, lit up, and powered the entire group.

Is it just coincidental that today is Pentecost, and we read about fire, when we have fire on our minds? A fire is devastating. It is distressing when Godís house burns, when sacred objects with many memories, memories of baptisms, weddings, funerals, Communion services, Sunday services, Sunday School programs, go up in flames. It is heart-rending, but not the end. God is in the fire.

Moses saw a burning bush, and God spoke to Moses out of the fire. From the flames, God told Moses to go back to Egypt and save his people. Godís word was heard in the fire. God was in the fire.

When the slaves escaped from Egypt, and found themselves in the desolate, sandy wilderness, they didnít know where to go, so the Lord led them by the light of a column of fire. God came to his people in a fire and led them. God was in the fire.

When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal in a battle for the very soul of Israel, God heard his prayer and came to his people in a raging fire. The sacrifice was consumed, and the god, Baal, was defeated. God was in the fire.

A disturbed youth set fire to Mt. Pisgah Church, Godís house, but God is in the fire. God didnít start the fire, but God is in the fire. God didnít start the fire in the fiery furnace, but when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace, God was in the fire, and God protected them.

When the disciples prayed for power so that they might be witnesses for Jesus, God heard their prayer and came to them in a violent wind and tongues of fire. God was in the fire. The fire burned in their hearts, and they became people of power. They left the upper room. They left their comfortable prayer room. They left their warm, cozy nest, and burst upon the citizens and tourists of Jerusalem with mighty power. Peter preached. They all witnessed. They spoke in other languages and told the city about Jesus. 3,000 people heard the gospel. 3,000 people gave their lives to Christ. 3,000 people joined the new movement. 3,000 people were baptized.

Who knows what might happen when we are open for power, open to the Holy Spirit, open to wind and fire, trusting God to be in the wind, trusting God to be in the fire, praying for the Holy Spirit, praying to be used by God. Are you open for power? Will you pray with me: Come, Holy Spirit?

ã 1996 Douglas I. Norris