Devotional Word for Friday, June 5, 2020
We humans are prone to think we can engineer things so that anything can be done. We have good reason to think so. Consider the Hoover Dam. Think about airplanes. Consider the microwave oven! Magnificent achievements on the part of humanity. As someone once said, “Beavers build dams and dens, but they are the same dams and dens they’ve been building forever. Humans are building things which have never been built before.” You should know the reason for that. Because only humans are made in the image of God; only humans are given the mandate to rule over the earth, fill it, and subdue it.
We like to order things. We like to understand how things work, from the phases of the moon to the laws that allow us to send rockets to the moon. We’ve been doing such ordering with Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Five foundation stones are identified: 1) the necessity of using the lens of Scripture to understand life; 2) God’s plan of redemption is accomplished through Jesus the Nazarene even by the agency of godless men; 3) Jesus is the Son of God, Messiah, for in His resurrection He killed death; 4) Jesus reigns as King of the universe, there’s nothing not subject to Him; and 5) Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to empower His people to carry out the task of evangelization and discipleship so that – with the goal being – the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Hallelujah, that’s great!
But we humans are prone to take our great abilities too far. We forget about God. We become self-sustaining, able to do all things by ourselves. We fall prey to this sort of thinking even in our laboring to carry out Jesus’ commission to us. Just this morning I read a book that purported to show how we could convert the world to Christ in a matter of few years if we just followed a particular plan. It’s not a bad plan; in fact, it’s a good plan. It just leaves out the work of God, the Holy Spirit. Let’s see how the Bible describes the effects of Peter’s sermon.
When they [the crowds] heard this [Peter’s sermon], they were pierced to the heart. [Acts 2:37] That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. No man can pierce another man’s heart with the power of the Gospel. We can and should lay the matters out as clearly as we can, with as much unction as we can, but only God can pierce a person’s heart. Their hearts were pierced, that is, they were convicted of their sin, so they asked Peter and the rest of the apostles what they should do.
You remember Peter’s answer: Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 2:38] Peter proclaims the gift, the promise, but he cannot give it. The fact that the crowds asked that question is a mark of the work of the Holy Spirit. This is what Peter and the rest of the followers of Jesus were learning about since Easter Sunday! It’s what they were waiting for since Jesus’ Ascension. They were looking for, wondering what it would look like, this promised work of the Holy Spirit. Now they know, and they tell the crowds how to respond to that work of the Holy Spirit.
Remember the vision Jesus gave to His followers before His Ascension. We call it the Great Commission. It is point #5 of Peter’s sermon, the goal is for the earth to be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Therefore, Peter adds these words of encouragement to all who hear him, then and now: For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself. [Acts 2:39] The promise concerns the continued working of the Holy Spirit even in “far off” times and places. That is, even to where you and I sit today!
We need to plan and work and build and do, but we cannot do what only God can do. We remain dependent upon, yet confident in, the working of the Holy Spirit. Let’s be thankful for all the gifts God has given to each of us, all the blessings He has poured upon us, all the comfort and consolation He has afforded us, all the opportunities He has placed before us, and all the untold and unknown ways in which He is using our lives to accomplish His purposes. To Him be the glory forever and ever.
Let us pray: Holy God, You are the joy and hope of humanity. You are the One who planned and carried out the perfect plan of redemption. You are the One who graces us with the Holy Spirit to do Your bidding. We do desire to know Your ways and to walk in Your paths. Continue to work in us – we know we’re not finished products yet! – and continue to work through us. Give us humility; give us boldness. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.