Based on: Acts 2:1-21
It was sometime between Noah and Abraham. Many people had turned away from God. They were more concerned about themselves than about God and so they planned to bring fame and glory to themselves instead of to God. They started to build a city and a tall tower that would be the center of their great civilization. The tower would be a monument to their own power and ingenuity – a monument to their own ability to accomplish whatever they set out to accomplish.
God saw their arrogance and he went down to thwart their plans. He made them speak different languages and when they could no longer communicate they could no longer work together. The tower then became known as the tower of Babel. It is a monument to the foolishness of thinking that you can control your own destiny.
The confusion of languages made it difficult for people to work together to do evil, but when it came time for the New Testament church to spread the Good News of God’s forgiveness for all people through Jesus Christ, the different languages presented a challenge. At Pentecost the apostles overcame that challenge because God miraculously gave them the ability to speak in other languages. In a certain sense you could say that God undid the miracle of Babel with the miracle of Pentecost.
For us to be able to converse fluently in another language would take quite a bit of study. We have not been given that gift in the same way the apostles were, but we do have something in common with the early New Testament church – something far greater than the ability to speak in tongues. In fact, we are part of the New Testament Church: filled with the Holy Spirit, to declare the wonders of God.
It was the fiftieth day after the first-fruits offering – fifty days after Easter. (When the Hebrews counted days, they counted the day you were on, so Easter was day one and the Sunday seven weeks later was day 50.) The disciples were together celebrating Pentecost when the sound of a violent wind was heard throughout the building and tongues of fire were visible on each of the disciples. Don’ t you think that got peoples’ attention? If you want to deliver a message, isn’t it best to have their attention?
Then when you deliver the message you want it to be understood. What better way than in the native language of the one listening? God miraculously provided the disciples with the ability to do that.
It is easy to point at the obvious miracles – the wind, the fire, the speaking in tongues – and say “Look at the Holy Spirit at work!” But do not overlook the greatest work the Holy Spirit did on that day as the people said, “We hear them declaring the wonders of God.” The Holy Spirit was at work then just as he is now, through the preaching of the Word of God.
All those miracles were simply side-shows for the main attraction – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Take a look at Acts chapter 2. Luke takes about 12 verses to describe the miracles, and about 30 to describe Peter’s sermon. After Peter told them about Jesus Christ we are told that 3,000 believed his message. They didn’t put their trust in the wind or the fire – they believed the message about Jesus Christ. That was the Holy Spirit at work.
In fact, do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit? It’s simple – read and hear God’s Word. Do you want the Holy Spirit to work through you? Read and hear God’s Word, then tell others, and you will see miracles!
I know that doesn’t always seem that exciting. Satan tries to convince us that it’s not. We have a constant pressure from the world around us to pursue things that seem more interesting, more entertaining, more exciting, and more relevant to our immediate life.
But God is clear, if you want to know God, this is how he comes to us. Do you remember Elijah on Mount Horeb when God said he was about to pass by? A violent wind came but God was not in the wind. An earthquake and fire also came, but God was not in those. God came to Elijah in a whisper. He does the same today. In his Word he reveals mysteries too profound for the world to figure out, and he chooses to reveal them to us.
We have much in common with the church at that first Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is poured out on us too as we study God’s Word. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. And we can tell others about the wonders of God.
Notice that everything on that day happened for one purpose – to share the Gospel. The sound of the wind came, and everyone immediately knew something strange was happening. The flames rested on the disciples, and everyone could tell to whom they should give their attention. The languages made it possible to share the message without misunderstanding. It was like so many signs and arrows all pointing to the one message, “Jesus is your Savior.”
Can you imagine what it was like to be in that building, hear the wind, see the fire, and recognize your own native tongue? Those disciples certainly stuck out in that crowd like the proverbial “sore thumb.” You certainly would have paid attention to them!
But you don’t need miracles to draw attention to yourself. To create opportunities to talk about your faith all you have to do is live your Christian life: be thankful when others are grumbling and complaining, keep you language clean when others use foul language, be helpful and encourage when others are only looking out for themselves. Do these things and you will stick out and be noticed. Your confession of faith will have an audience.
If you are concerned about being ridiculed for the way you get attention, well, you probably will be ridiculed. The disciples were ridiculed even though they were surrounded by miracles! Then why do it? The same reason the disciples did. They knew Jesus was alive. He still is. When you know that the one in whom you believe died 2,000 years ago and came back to life for you, then you know the power he has over this world. You know that he uses his power on your behalf to protect you from this world and to speak to the Almighty God in your defense.
It isn’t easy is it? Living as God wants us to live means being perfect. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. But that is what the message of Pentecost is all about. Jesus lived are perfect life because we so often fail. He suffered hell because that is what we deserved. All the more reason to talk about him!
Stand up and speak to those around you about the wonders of God. You are filled with the Holy Spirit by his Word, so that you can confess your Savior.