After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”
Waiting is almost always frustrating and often uncomfortable. From the new-born infant desperate for its mothers breast, crying till it is safely there to suck; to the job applicant, post interview, waiting for the email or letter that will relieve the anxiety of wondering if that dream post is going to be theirs.
The wait that the disciples had was brief, just 10 days, from Jesus’ Ascension but it would surely have been one of impatience and wondering just what and how the promise would be fulfilled. When it was over on that Pentecost morning I guess they were taken by surprise as first, the sound from heaven like a mighty rushing wind, followed by what appeared to be tongues of fire resting on each of them and then a sudden and miraculous ability to speak in languages they had never learnt. What a morning! The wait had been worth it as by the end of that day some 3000 were added to the body of baptised believers.
As you reflect on the events that brought that short period of waiting to such a dramatic conclusion are you perhaps tempted to ask the question ‘Why is this not happening today?’
After all the wait is over. The promise has been fulfilled. The Holy Spirit has been given to each believer to guide them into all truth John 16.13 and as the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his (Christ’s) glory. Ephesians 1.14.
In spite of this, rather than seeing thousands being added to the ‘Church’ – the body of believers – we see church membership dropping in the mainstream denominations with predictions that this church or that church will die in the foreseeable future. This trend however is upward in ‘evangelical’ churches so what is the difference?
Clearly there is no single reason but two are immediately apparent.
Firstly when the Bible is at the centre, Jesus Christ is proclaimed and the gospel is explained – Growth happens!
Secondly when it is apparent that God’s Spirit, given after the 10 day wait, is at work in his people – Growth will happen!
As we consider this second reason it is important not to put the cart before the horse. We should, I dare to suggest, not be looking first for ‘signs and wonders’ such as accompanied the gospel spread as recorded in the Book of Acts but rather for the Fruit of the Spirit in the lives of all God’s people.
This should show, and show very obviously, in a broken world as Love, Joy Peace, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control are seen to fill our lives rather than the very unpleasant list of characteristics which Paul describes as the works of the flesh in Galatians 5.19-21 before he lists the beautiful fruit in v.22-23.
When we live like that then the Holy Spirit will convict the world and those who are worn down by brokenness will seek after life as God intended it to be.
In Ephesians 5.18 Paul exhorts his readers to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ .
The wait is over, the Spirit has been given, he is in you if you are a believer but is he visible?
When he is visible in us then the Church will grow and many will be added as on that very special Pentecost day!