Monday Pastor – What I Did Not Say
The day after Sunday can be just as daunting as Sunday itself. On Monday I, along with Ryan Smith, have the privilege of fielding questions about the sermon in our Q&A Podcast. I also listen to myself babble on and destroy English words and the English language. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who guides us in all truth, because a part from Him I would be in real trouble.
For example, yesterday I fumbled a couple of words and sentences and all I can do now is laugh at myself. Here’s the story. In Acts 2:9-11, Luke is listing the nations that were represented by Jews and proselytes (Gentile converts to Judaism) at the event of Pentecost. Unfortunately I kept calling the proselytes, “proselitites”. And I didn’t do it just one or twice, but thrice. Three times I mispronounced proselytes. But it gets better. There are two reasons that this is embarrassing. First, I distinctly told myself during my multiple readings of this text, “Don’t say proselitite.” What do I do? I say proselitite. The second reason this is embarrassing is because I was talking about the reputation of Galileans in the ancient Palestine as being people who were unrefined in their use of language. I likened the Galileans to someone from Arkansas or someone who is Cajun and is known for their distinct accent and broken English. Well not only do I abuse the word proselyte, but right in the middle of talking about the Galileans and their poor language skills I utter this sentence about the Galileans, “They don’t talk real good English.” Is this divine retribution, or do I have a lot of work to do? Probably both.
Words I Left Out
Something that commonly happens while preaching is that I am constantly editing material by deletion as I go. Here are some of the things I cut yesterday for the sake of time.
John Stott on the uniqueness of Pentecost as an event in salvation history. Stott writes:
Yes, it is right to affirm that the word of God is always relevant. But this does not mean that we may simply ‘read off’ the text as if it was originally addressed to us in our context. We have to recognize the historical particularities of Scripture, especially of the ‘salvation history’ which it records. In one sense for example, the Day of Pentecost was unique and is unrepeatable, because of the outpouring of the Spirit on that day was the final act of Jesus following those equally unique and unrepeatable events, his death, resurrection and ascension. Similarly unique in some respects was the ministry of the apostles, whom Jesus appointed to be the pioneer teachers and the foundation of the church. We have no liberty to copy everything they did. It is in this connection that I need to say something about the difference between didactic and narrative parts of scripture, and about the importance of allowing the didactic to control our interpretation of the narrative.
I additionally question whether the specific ‘one step form’ of speaking in tongues is repeatable. I see no clear evidence from the rest of the Bible that this is normative by description or prescription in the New Testament Church. It may be that this was such a unique situation for the early church that God saw it fit to begin the mission of witness with a one time event of Spirit-enabled power for the speaking in intelligible nation languages for the sake of witness to Jews and Proselytes from all over the known world. Of course I consent that there is the tongues of 1 Corinthians, especially 1 Corinthians 14, but that is a gift of the Spirit by which a believer talks in tongues and a believer is gifted to interpret the utterance in a local gathering or assembly. The latter seems to me to be the normative use of tongues in the NT. In other words, the sudden ability to speak real nation languages was a Spirit-empowered miracle for a very unique time in the life of the fledgling New Testament Church.
CS Lewis and his Pentecost-like experience before conversion. Lewis recounts his having a long walk and talk with JRR Tolkien about the “true myth” prior to his conversion. Tolkien called the story of Jesus the myth that really happened. Lewis recounts:
“As we continued walking, we were interrupted by a rush of wind, which came so suddenly on the still warm evening, and sent so many leaves pattering down that we thought it was raining. We all held our breath. Appreciating the ecstasy of the moment.”
Where is the power? My main argument or point yesterday was that though Pentecost is a unique event in salvation history, the application for us today is that when God saves us and empowers us with the promise of the Holy Spirit, we change and so does our life. I went on to say that the Holy Spirit and a “status quo” life are not compatible. Another way I said what I was trying to communicate is, “Jesus and I don’t care don’t get along.” So if the Spirit of God lives within us, meaning we are truly saved in Christ, why don’t we see the power of God changing us and others? I touched on a few yesterday, but here are the complete five that were cut:
- We don’t recognize the work of the Spirit in our lives and the lives of others. We don’t recognize and give thanks for the Spirit changing and sustaining marriages. We don’t acknowledge God using us as witnesses or healing others when we pray. I recommend we start to look for evidence of the Spirit changing people and begin to write it down. It will make us more aware and thankful.
- We are not ready for what the Holy Spirit wants to do. We have not prepared ourselves and partnered with the Holy Spirit by having a consistent individual and corporate prayer life. We have not given careful attention to the Scripture the Spirit inspired. We have not made room for the Spirit to operate. See Acts 1:12-26.
- We have our own mission. Clearly the empowerment of the Spirit in the lives of the believers should result in gladly being all in for the mission of God. What is the main mission of God? It is witness for king Jesus to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8). I’m afraid we often get our own ideas about why God saved us and then we ask God to bless our mess. God changes us for His purpose, He does not conform to ours.
- Some are not saved. Simply put, many in our churches are lifeless because they have not been made alive by the Spirit. Romans 8 and Ephesians 1:13 are crystal clear; no Spirit equals no salvation. And if there is no salvation then will be no evidence of the Spirit. If there is no evidence of the Spirit then there almost certainly is no certainty of salvation.
- We’ve settled for status quo and spiritual misery. It’s hard for me to imagine this scenario but it may well be that there are people who are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, and they just don’t care. If true, my guess is they are miserable and walling off the conviction of the Spirit by seeking satisfaction in things that won’t last.
The Holy Spirit, when He acts, demands a response. Acts 2:12-13 is very clear about this. When God acts it leaves people to wonder and inquire or it leads them to react with cavalier dismissal. Like the people that day at Pentecost we can ask sincerely, “What does this mean?” Or we can explain it away and blame sweet wine that is out of season. Either way, what Jesus has done in sending His Spirit to empower us, demands a response. There is no middle ground.