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Holy Spirit/Pentecost: Pentecostal Waiting (Acts 2:1-21)

By Craig M. Watts
"Wait? Surely you don't want us to lose our momentum, Lord."

"You heard me," said Jesus. "Go and wait."

Why? Not for nothing, that's for sure. Jesus said, "So you can receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth."

Waiting for power -- unseen, intangible divine power. Did they really need to do that -- and do we? Couldn't they carry on with their native strength and can't we? Why did they have to wait for the Pentecostal power of God? Isn't a good plan and a little determination enough? Evidently Jesus didn't think so. "Go and wait," he said.

The problem was, even though they heard Jesus' words, they still didn't know what to expect. It was not as though they were waiting for a date on a calendar or the arrival of a package of a certain description. They were waiting for power when the Holy Spirit would come. That wasn't something they could look out the window and see coming down the road. It was an unknown, a mystery.

So they obediently waited, prayerfully, trustingly. I don't know how patiently, but they waited for the promised Spirit. Finally, something happened. It was like a wind blowing through the room. Then something like flickering tongues of fire appeared and alighted on each of the disciples. They opened their mouths and began to speak, not as they normally did but as God enabled them to speak, in a language people of all nations could hear and understand. And after they finished talking, 3,000 people were baptized that day and the church was born. All that because the disciples waited; they waited for the Holy Spirit.

Could it be that we would be better off if we waited and didn't just dive into the work? Is it possible that we need to faithfully and fervently pray even more than we need to plan? We have no serious shortage of intelligence, talent or good will, but what about the power of the Holy Spirit, the power to be Christ's witnesses?

Pentecost is about evangelism. When all is said and done, the saying and doing of the church is intended to spread the good news of God and bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to do that job for several reasons.

First, only the Holy Spirit can enable us to overcome what Fred Craddock once called "a sense of self-disqualification." Our awareness of our moral flaws and spiritual shortcomings can lead us to "bow out" when it comes to being witnesses for the good news of Jesus Christ. "How can I encourage other people to become Christian when I'm such a shabby specimen myself? How can I talk to people about faith in Christ when I have so many problems of my own?" And so, with comments like these, we decline to be witnesses because we're not worthy. Maybe some day when we finally "get our act together" we will share the good news but, for the time being, someone else will have to do it.

Imagine what would have happened if the earliest followers of Jesus thought this way. Peter could have said, "How can I urge people to give their lives to Christ? I've denied Him and claimed I never even knew Him." And think of Paul: "How can I tell the good news of Christ when they all know I helped brutalize Christians?" We could go down the list and find serious imperfections in every apostle. The same can be said of the churches. They were tainted by racism, selfishness, heresy, pride, half-heartedness, and yet by the power of the Spirit they overcame their sense of self-disqualification in order to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. We need the Spirit for the same reason.

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