Empowering at Pentecost

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Devotional Word for Monday, June 1, 2020

Hallelujah! Pentecost has happened! This was the transformative experience of the disciples and followers of Jesus. What is so important about it? Pentecost is the empowering of the Church, of the followers of Jesus. Our human powers and abilities are tremendous, I agree, but they are not at all up to the task assigned us by God: making disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded. To do this, we need to know, among other things, that God is the Boss, He’s the One in charge, nothing happens apart from Him.

What’s the difficulty with that? Tragedies. Triumph of wickedness. Defeat of the righteous. Those realities of life are like haymakers thrown by devil. How can you believe in God and His goodness in the face of these things! Peter’s sermon – though it really isn’t a sermon, that is, it wasn’t a prepared oration; it was a series of remarks inspired by the Holy Spirit and spoken in the face of events Peter had no clue about before they happened – Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost is a model of a Christian worldview in dealing with a tragic triumph of  wickedness over righteousness. Today, let’s focus on Acts 2:22-24. Here’s what Peter said:

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross, by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again.

Inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, that is the Christian assessment of what happened to Jesus. It was tragic. It was a triumph of wickedness. It was the defeat and death of a righteous Man. Peter looks at the men he is addressing and explicitly states, “you nailed to a cross . . . and put Him to death.” Wickedness does not triumph without human involvement. There must be accountability. Peter lays it at the feet of those he is addressing. That’s bold.

That much must be recognized and confronted. But that’s not all. As horrific as the actions of those men were, those actions were exactly according to the plan and purpose of God. That does not absolve them of the guilt of their actions, it simply tells them Someone larger than they is still accomplishing His plan and purposes. Peter is telling them that wickedness cannot and shall not win! 

We need to be able to speak that way to the circumstances of our life and world. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit that inspires and empowers us to do so. When faced with the death of child, or the reality of a disease-ridden body, or the convulsive waves of national rioting, or the grip of an international pandemic, we need to know God’s plans and purposes are being carried out perfectly, even by the hands of godless men and non-thinking viruses. No one is absolved of responsibility. No one is off the hook. But we know the truth and we believe it and speak it. Sometimes through tears, sometimes through fears. But we speak it nonetheless. That we are able to do so is the powerful, effective work of the Holy Spirit. It’s the spirit of Pentecost.

There’s a song that is helpful for us in such situations. You know it: This Is My Father’s World. The first two verses laud and celebrate God’s presence in the natural world. The last verse, though, gets down to tragedies, the triumph of the wicked, and the defeat of the righteous. Here’s what it says: This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father’s world, the battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heav’n be one.

The day of Pentecost came at a time when the natural eye could not see much hope for the followers of Jesus. The entire society around them had pretty much dismissed them. Peter and the disciples knew otherwise. They had something to say. They had a light to shine. They let it shine. The world has never been the same since. May that same light shine into and through us. The world needs it.

Let us pray: O Lord, the Almighty, Ruler of heaven and earth, we give thanks to You. Sin and despair and destruction and dissolution never have the last word. You do. We ask You to send the Holy Spirit to inspire and empower us in these days in which we live. Help us be faithful witnesses in our spheres  of influence. Use us as conduits for Your light and truth to shine forth. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.