I preached at Duncan Memorial UMC in Charlotte on Sunday. Here is my sermon, with some notes inserted in italics that did not get preached, but I feel the Lord is really trying to say to me, and maybe to us.
It’s that time of the Christian year again. Time to read Acts 2. In all of the Christian church, there are few subjects more divisive than that of the manifest gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some say that the gifts only happened once or twice during the “Bible days,” but that we can’t expect that they are for us here and now. Others say that one can’t even call oneself a Christian at all, unless he or she manifests the gifts of the spirit on a daily basis. I would imagine that if we went around the room today, everyone would have an opinion on the subject, but I get to be the preacher today, so I’ll tell you what I think the Lord would have us understand...
Tongues and prophecy are an evangelistic tool in this story.
- Tools are good. They help us do things that we could not do without them. The disciples were heard by a multitude of foreign people - people who had come to observe a Jewish holiday - Jews from all over the known world. And they heard the disciples speaking of the wonders of God in their own languages. This is miraculous. 3000 people came to know the truth about Jesus that day! And all because the Spirit of God spoke directly to them through the disciples.
- Tools are desirable. In the Numbers passage, Moses himself said he wished that all would prophesy, because to a people lost in the wilderness, the Word of God coming out of the mouths of the people is a direct breath of heaven.
- Tools are also specific. They have specific purposes, and they can be misused. A wise man once said that when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Tongues and prophecy don't solve every problem we face, but they might just solve some of them, so all the better to have them in the toolbox.
- I didn't preach this yesterday, but I will if I ever get another opportunity...For all you cessationalists out there, if you can see tongues as tool for a specific problem, I ask you, has the problem of being able to communicate completely gone away? If not, why would God take the tool out of our toolbox?
When the Spirit comes upon us, there will always be some who will make fun of us.
In the book which we attribute to him, Jude warns that, “these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them. (Jude 1:10) I want to add a note here that I also did not preach. If you are at all struggling with issues of Charismatic/Pentecostalism that you don't understand, please read the book of Jude, being careful to also follow the footnotes to to the OT so that you fully understand the letter. My eyes were really opened this week after studying that book and venturing off to the stories of Cain, Balaam, and Korah. I have a renewed sense that I should not simply rebuke things I do not understand, or that I do not hear the Lord rebuking. Sure, there is excess out there, but it's not my job to judge it, and certainly not my place to eradicate it from God's church.-eli
When the Spirit comes upon us, and we prophesy, some will want to join us!
When I was in college, my brother and I had a band. We played at youth rallies and coffeehouses and the like mostly, but twice in the early 90s, we had the opportunity to travel to Russia, which at the time had just opened its doors for missionaries to come in. While in Russia, our band, and the good people with us, got to do some crazy things, like set our instruments up in the middle of the public square, under statues of Lenin and Stalin and start playing to draw in a crowd, after which, others with us would preach and tell the crowd about Jesus. One such day, while we were singing and praising the Lord, and older man, who had actually been drinking - he smelled of Vodka - came up and started to dance around with us. He was really enjoying himself! He came up to my dad and asked him, “What are you drinking? Can I have some?” Always ready with the word, my father, a minister himself for 20+ years at the time, quoted Peter to this man and told him about Jesus, pointing him to the Lord right there on the spot!
To sum up, I think that the Word the Lord wants us to hear today is that He didn’t set us on our Christian mission with no help. He has given, and will continue to give us the tools we need to reach the world for Him. We should all be in a continual state of prayer that when divine appointments come, and we are face to face with one of God’s lost lambs, that the power of the Holy Spirit will be able to speak through us, in order that souls might be saved. We ought not take the attitude of making fun of things we do not fully understand. We will never fully understand God. We should rest in the knowledge that when the time comes, we will only say what the Father is saying, and do what the Father is doing.