WITHOUT GETTING hung up on whether it’s a separate experience from conversion, I believe that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is every Christian’s new-birthright. And, essential if we are to hope to truly reflect the risen Jesus to the world around us. After all, He told His first disciples to wait “until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) before attempting to live as His witnesses.
However, it seems to me that many who celebrate this new dimension of spiritual life that they believe came on the Day of Pentecost—which we mark next week—might do well to read what late radio legend Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story.”
Having been around different parts of the charismatic and Pentecostal church as both a church Joe and journalist for many years, I can’t help but feeling that some of us have got it wrong. We have turned what was intended to be a movement for others into a moment for us.
Too often, we can get caught up in our own experience of the Holy Spirit, rather than what He wants us to do with it. It’s like we are sitting at the bottom of waterfall that we have dammed up so we can splash around and have a great time, rather than channeling the water’s flow to others.
The first part of Acts 2 recounts the wonderful encounter the early disciples had. A violent wind filled their meeting place, and tongues of fire appeared over their heads. They began speaking in other tongues. How cool is that?
But that was only the start. This unusual event attracted the curiosity of visitors to Jerusalem, and Peter stood up and proclaimed boldly what was going on. He didn’t mince any words, calling them to repentance and new life—this from the guy who not long before had even denied knowing Jesus on the night of His betrayal.
And look at what happened. More than 3,000 people were added to the fledgling church on a single day. Given that there were about only 120 believers at the time, that’s an increase of some 2,400 percent. Talk about church growth!
This was the point and purpose of Pentecost. Not so Christians could get goosebumps and feel super-spiritual because God had touched them. But so others might be pointed to the power of the cross.
It was no accident that all this happened on the Day of Pentecost; the ancient Jewish festival celebrated the harvest. Maybe we should celebrate Pentecost Sunday not for the Holy Spirit’s falling so much as, because of that, others may fall at Jesus’s feet. So, call me a Pentecrosstal.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for pursuing God’s supernatural empowering. As I have observed before, the message of the early church was more about a heart experience than head knowledge. It’s called the Acts of the Apostles, not the Facts of the Apostles, after all.
But just as the Abrahamic blessing was not just for his descendants, but so that “you will be a blessing” (to others, Gen. 12:2), the Holy Spirit was given with others also in mind.
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