Growing up Anglican, pretty much all Pentecost meant to me was that we were supposed to wear something red to church that Sunday. The other thing I remember was that whoever was assigned to read the Epistle that day was either really impressive or really bad at reading all the places the people were from who were in Jerusalem at that time! If you have been around Anglicanism for a while, can you relate?
Thankfully, there is so much more to Pentecost! Two of the greatest needs all human beings have are to be loved and to have significance. We all want to experience love and for our lives to matter. That being the case, Pentecost is truly wonderful. On Pentecost we celebrate the fact that the Holy Spirit, God himself, comes into every person who believes in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and is saved. Among the innumerable benefits procured unto us who believe are God’s very presence and power. With his presence we experience his perfect love, and with his power we have the means to love and serve him by making a difference in the world.
As you approach Pentecost this year, how are you experiencing these two great gifts from God? If you are in leadership in a local church, how are you planning to help your people more fully experience God’s presence in their lives and his power to fulfill his plans for them?
God’s Presence – Doing life with God.
When Jesus began his public ministry, he started by proclaiming the good news. We read in Mark 1:14-15, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (NIV) The good news he proclaimed was that “The Kingdom of God has come near!”
The reason that is such good news is because in God’s Kingdom what was lost to humanity in the Fall (Genesis 3) is restored. Although I could write many books on all that is restored to us when we live in God’s Kingdom, I will summarize it here in three words: God with us. When a person enters the Kingdom of God by being born again, or as Jesus put it in John 3:5, “they are born of water and the Spirit,” they are no longer living their life cut off from God due to their sin. God’s presence through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is in them. They can now live every aspect of their life “with God” as he designed them to live!
My experience is that many Christians acknowledge intellectually that God is with them, but in reality, this is experienced as “trying to be a good person, just like Jesus, until I get to Heaven (but I’ll call on God if I really get in trouble).” That’s not the good news Jesus proclaimed and provided for us through the cross. Since that first Pentecost, anyone who believes has God’s very presence through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to do all of life with him now and forever. That is really good news.
How are you experiencing God’s presence through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit right now as we approach another Pentecost? Are you truly doing your life with God? Would you use this Pentecost to renew, or help those you lead to renew, their experience of God’s presence with them?
God’s Power – Making a difference in the world.
Some of you may have lived through the charismatic renewal in the last century. Others of you, no doubt, have an opinion about that time of renewal. I, for one, am a beneficiary of it, and I doubt my family and I would be Christians today if not for that outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It’s my observation that much of that outpouring was about renewing a nominal Christian culture that had Christian religion but not the personal relationship with Christ. Much of that charismatic experience within Anglicanism was about receiving gifts and power for our own personal benefit, giving us healing, joy, passion, hunger for the Word, and much more. All that is great, and may we have more! However, when so much of today’s culture has rejected not only Christianity but even the idea of truth, what we need is a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This outpouring would be not so much to renew us for our own sake but to empower us to renew the world around us.
As believers, we want more power, more of God in our lives, but we need it to demonstrate to the disbelieving world around us that it all really is real! If someone who rejected God experiences a miracle by God through us, they might be more open to the truth about him. I’m imagining a church for our times much more like what we read about in the Book of Acts following the Day of Pentecost. We read about supernatural demonstrations of God’s Kingdom coupled with proclamations of the truth. The world was turned upside down. May there be a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit for us to be so empowered to make such a difference in our world today!
How are you experiencing God’s power working through you for the sake of others as we approach another Pentecost? Would you renew and help others renew your commitment “to love and serve [The Father] as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord” (BCP 2019, pg 137), going “forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit” (BCP 2019, pg 138)?