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May22FriThrough Pentecost, we are empowered by the Spirit for the sake of the world. May 22, 2015 by Captain Grant Sandercock-Brown
"We want another Pentecost, send the fire!” William Booth wrote (SASB 203). And I can see why he did so. Pentecost was an extraordinary event, the end of the beginning of the Christian movement. God's great salvation story had been launched and the coming of the Holy Spirit was the final act in the Christ drama. The stage was now set for God's provision to be unleashed. Jesus' earthly mission was complete, as the disciples were about to discover. “Are you going to finish what you've begun?” they asked (see Acts 1:6). Jesus' oblique answer—“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:7-8 NLT)—meant “Yes, but not on my own.” It was time for Christ's followers to do their part.
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But perhaps they didn't think their part was clear. And perhaps they didn't feel confident either. Vast crowds had once followed Jesus, but as they gathered in the upper room, their numbers had thinned to 120. But they were enough. The Holy Spirit, a palpable, living presence, filled their senses and hearts. They were changed and the world was changed. The 120 spilled into the streets and, Spirit-enabled, the mission of God to the nations was launched.
This mission would take a new shape, although in one sense the shape wasn't a surprise. Peter knew that the words of the prophet Joel described what they were experiencing. “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people,” God said through the prophet. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike” (Acts 2:17-18 NLT).
No longer was the anointing of the Spirit reserved for kings, prophets and priests. The Spirit was for everyone. Christ had levelled the ground at the foot of the cross; salvation was available for all. And now the ground was level in taking the message of the cross to the world. Mission and ministry were for all believers because all believers could be filled with the Holy Spirit.
In fact, it is the presence of this same Spirit that is, and has always been, the mark of the people of God. Twenty years after Pentecost, when rebuking the Galatians, Paul asked them, “After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Galatians 3:3 NLT). We cannot fulfil our mission without the Spirit. Every church, every Christian movement, begins with and is sustained by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that equips and enables. It is the Holy Spirit that marks us as God's own.
And embedded in the narrative of Acts is another vital change: the Holy Spirit is our guide. In Acts 1, we see the disciples deciding on Judas' replacement by casting lots. However, from Acts 2 onward, the practice of casting lots disappears and we see the believers guided by the Holy Spirit, time and time again responding to the Holy Spirit's prompting.
We are nearly useless without the Holy Spirit. I say nearly, because God's grace is huge. He can work in and through any circumstance, including us when we are not at our best. But without the Spirit, we are diminished and smaller. Hence Booth's impassioned plea. If our corps, ministry unit or program is Spirit-less, we are less than we should be. And, of course, as another General wrote, “Who is it tells me what to do and helps me to obey?” (SASB 204) That's an excellent question. Who is it?
Pentecost was a one-off event, but the continual renewing and infilling of the Spirit is necessary for all Christians. Paul commanded the church in Ephesus to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NLT). And by that he meant be filled with the Spirit continually. The infilling of the Spirit is not a once-only event. It is at the very heart of what it means to belong to God and to live for God.
Our Army—in fact, any community of God's people—desperately needs the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us assurance of who, and whose, we are. The Spirit enables and empowers our mission. The Spirit guides and directs our lives together. Please, Lord, send the fire.
Captain Grant Sandercock-Brown is married to Sharon and they have three children. He has a degree in music education and was a high-school music teacher for 10 years. He and Sharon are corps officers in Sydney, Australia.