is the story of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit in all of his
fullness. The Spirit is present throughout the Bible (Old and New
Testaments). Recently we looked at Ezekiel and the dry bones, as well
as John 20 where Jesus, after the resurrection, breathes on the
disciples, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
And yet, before he ascends into heaven, Jesus tells the disciples,
"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised,
which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with
water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy
Spirit." (Acts 1.4b-5)
The Holy Spirit comes, filling the whole place where they were, and
filling each believer. There was no room left for doubt that the Spirit
had come. They heard the sound of a violent wind. They saw fire coming
down and separating and resting upon each of their heads. And
they began speaking in a language that was not their own, that they had
never spoken before.
Most the time we think of fire, we think of
destruction. Buildings burn, vehicles catch fire after an accident, the
forest fires that are common in the west during drought consume acres
of woodland. Fire has the ability to destroy anything in its path.
We have some firefighters among us and they could comment on the
power of fire more readily than I. They have felt the intensity of the
blaze. They have fought back the flames, trying to save what they can
of a building. And some have witnessed how a small brush fire can
quickly get out of hand.
Most vivid in my mind is the fire that destroyed the Fawn Grove UMC,
a church in our conference. A brick building, the photos I viewed
online revealed only a part of the structure intact – it was totally
gutted. And even in the middle of winter, the pictures showed fireman
with icicles hanging from their clothes and headgear.
Why would the God choose such an ominous image for the coming of Holy Spirit?
Actually, fire is a common image throughout the Bible. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush – the
was on fire, but was not consumed, it did not burn up. When God
freed Israel from Egypt he led them with a cloud by day and by a
pillar of fire by night. When Elijah led the contest between God
and Baal, Baal did not come down and burn up the sacrifice. But when it
was Elijah’s turn, he had the trenches dug around where the altar was
and barrels of water were brought to fill the trenches and cover the
altar and the sacrifice. And God came in fire, licking up every drop of
water and consuming the sacrifice.
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit is represented by fire, coming and
resting upon the people of God. We still use fire each time we
gather to worship. We light the candles on the altar to represent God’s
presence with us. Let’s talk a little more about the coming of the HS
and the image of fire.
Fired up (Fiery zeal)
There is a fiery zeal that comes
over the disciples. They transform from being frightened and
hidden away to a life of preaching Christ crucified and resurrected; a
life of ministry to the sick, the demon possessed and the poor through
healing, delivering, serving. Sounds just like the ministry of Christ,
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I
have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I
am going to the Father." (John 14.12)
And Jesus goes on to speaking of the coming Holy Spirit …
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and
you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1.8).
This zeal is not just an emotion. It is the power of the Holy Spirit
at work in the lives of believers. It is the Holy Spirit speaking
through them, ministering through, using them. This zeal is the
empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
refiner’s fire was used to purify metal and refine it by melting it and
allowing the dross, which floated to the top, to be scooped off.
Hebrews 12.29 (quoting Deuteronomy) says that “God is a consuming fire.”
The fire of God consumes the impurities of our life, the things that
stand between us and God, that block our relationship with God, that
inhibit our relationship, our witness, our worship.
The Spirit is called “Holy”. The scriptures call God a holy God.
Holy is what we are not. Holy what God and God alone is. And yet holy
is what he is making us.
Too many times we gage our holiness by worldly standards. We look
at our lives and say, “I’m not doing too bad.” I go to church. I give
an offering when I’m there. I even give to charities at Christmastime.
Or we say I’m a lot nicer than that person. I give more time to the
church than that person. Or whatever.
God says look at me. Look at my holiness. And we pale in comparison.
When we truly look into the holiness of God, we must like Isaiah cry,
“Woe to me! I am ruined. I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a
people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord
“Refiner Me” (Jennifer Knapp)
Lord, come with your fire,
Burn my desires. Refine me.
Lord, my will has deceived me
Please come and free me
Come rescue this child for a long to be reconciled to you.
we see God’s holiness, we cannot help but see our shortcomings, the
impurities in our lives, where we have failed God, where we were called
to do more, give more, surrender more.
And yet God in his mercy, as with Isaiah, comes with a live coal
(there’s that fire again). A red hot coal. A fiery coal. You know it’s
hot because he seraph picks it up with tongs from the altar and touches
Isaiah’s mouth and he touches your mouth and he touches my mouth and
God says, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
And like Isaiah, we too, respond, “Here am I. Send me!”
Have you received? See Acts 19.1-6.
you want the power of Holy Spirit in your life? Do you want to be
empowered for ministry and see God do more through you than what you
can do in your own strength? Do you want to be on fire for God,
consumed by God?