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The Contagious and Unpredictable Spirit

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome  (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  (Acts 2:1-13, NIV)  

When my children were small, my wife Sharon and daughter Katrina began to plant things that could grow in our four boxes of dirt. Katrina was determined to grow something from the ground. She cultivated, watched, and watered it almost every day. The day the buds began to blossom and vegetation sprouted up from below she grabbed us and displayed the harvest that was of her own husbandry. She expected something to happen. 

The Spirit filled church can only be built on God’s terms, not ours.

On the day of Pentecost, something was supposed to happen. The day of Pentecost was the day of harvest. According to the Old Testament, the Pentecost was one of the three major festivals where Jews expected something new to happen. Pentecost represented the first fruits of the harvest of God’s salvation. Pentecost marked the start that things were about to change. Pentecost was the beginning of the church – the growth of the kingdom of God through the contagious outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The birth of the church began with the Spirit changing the old from the new. The Spirit filled church can only be built on God’s terms, not ours.

In the book of Genesis, the story of unity looked like a good thing. In chapter eleven, the world was united with one language and everyone was together in speech and understanding. That’s a great thing, right? They decided that it was a good idea to build a tower to the heavens. They were experts in masonry, engineering, and many skilled people to help. They had enough smarts on how to make really strong towers that could reach the gates of heaven. But they had another reason for the tower – to make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the earth. The two reasons were to exalt their ability to reach the place of God and build a utopian community for security. I find it funny that God decided to come and check out their work. 

We moved from Babel – to the manifestation of God’s idea of a worldwide community of Jesus followers.

God made some observations about their motivations. God observed that having one language for these people was not about worshiping Him (someone bigger than themselves), praying to Him (seeking his guidance and direction), nor living under His grace (all of life is a gift, not a right). God agreed that nothing they planned to do will be impossible for them. They tried to tame God by not seeking him. Essentially, they wanted life with God’s help or involvement. Diversity became a negative as God turned their community into many communities. 

At Pentecost, God reversed the curse of Babel. Instead of trying to tame God, Luke told us that the Spirit invaded the one place the apostles were together. They were ready to receive than control. Their hearts were ready to feel the Spirit as He filled the place. They were ready to receive the Spirit as He rested on each of their heads. They were ready to prophesy in other languages because the Spirit filled their minds without the help of Rosetta Stone language teaching. Receiving the primary posture of being filled by the Spirit of God. We moved from Babel – making a name for ourselves to the manifestation of God’s idea of a worldwide community of Jesus followers. God’s community building will always be on His terms.

But diversity stretches people beyond their comfort. It doesn't take any work to stay in one’s own ghetto and breathe the same tank of cultural air. Check out the diversity that Luke knew was there. The Parthians, Elamites, and Mesopotamians were from Iraq. The Judeans, Cappadocians, Pontus, Asia, Phyygia, Pamphylia were from Turkey. There were Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, and Arabs.  

They boasted about the God who told them He would make something out of them.

Diversity on God’s terms is an act of the Holy Spirit alone that doesn’t allow us to choose who’s at the Holy Ghost’s party. What was the amazing thing happening among this wide diverse group of Spirit filled people? Luke told us that “they were declaring the wonders of God in their own tongues”. They were declaring their own cultural pride or their personal achievements. They were boasting about the God who made the heavens and the earth. They boasted about the God who told them He would make something out of them. They declared that God’s best work was in the God-man who came down and made his home in them. They talked about a man who walked this world and broke down the walls of sin and hostility and made a people for himself. The contagious Spirit blew up and blew on a diverse called out people to reach the world and neighborhoods in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The Holy Spirit continues to do things that can’t be explained or figured out. Yes, we have minds and intellect that we must use to His glory, but the mystery of God’s divine action in the world isn’t about what we can wrap around our minds. The church is more than buildings, budgets and bills. The church is a holy organic entity of God’s Spirit at work even when we can’t understand it or comprehend it. He’s always up to something new in order to help us notice the outbreak of the ever moving and expanding Kingdom of God. The church springs forth from the gospel of Jesus Christ. How will you react to the movement of God’s Spirit among you today?  Your reaction reveals your fear or your willingness to be surprised by God.   

The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

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