May 17, 2009
Sixth Sunday After Easter (B)
Acts 10:44-48

No offense, but if you’re a died-in-the-crimson-wool football fan of the University of Alabama or a tried-and-true North Carolina-blue basketball fan, there’s an unmistakable spirit about you. I was sensitized to it by sharing a college dorm with some of your fellow enthusiasts. What you call pride, we fans of other colleges call arrogance. What you think is confidence, we consider obnoxiousness. But to be fair, that’s probably how you feel about fans of the Big Orange or the Cameron crazies of Duke University.
When you’re a fan-short for fanatic-of anything, you don’t mind the spirit of that thing overtaking you. You wear it with pride. That spirit is evidence of your devotion. Similarly, the presence of the Holy Spirit is evidence of a believer’s devotion to Christ.
For as long as there had been Jews, there had been a distinction made between those who were and those who weren’t. Non-Jews were considered unclean, dogs. It should come as no surprise then that when Peter preached to the non-Jews gathered in Cornelius’ home, the apostle and, his companions were taken aback when those old dogs received the same Holy Spirit that they knew as believing Jews! In Paul’s words, they were baptized by the same Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and, as we all know, you can’t be baptized by the Spirit without coming up wet.
What constitutes that “wetness”? How do you know whether the Holy Spirit, as invisible as the wind, is present in your life? How did Peter and his companions know?
First, Cornelius and his family spoke in tongues. Charismatic gifts are evidence of the Spirit’s presence. Charismatic gifts are the sovereignly selected and graciously given means by which the Holy Spirit speaks, serves and/or signifies through the believer for the glory of Christ and the growth of His Kingdom. Every phrase in that definition deserves attention.
God decides which gift(s) you receive (1 Corinthians 12:11). Those gifts are expressions of grace, not rewards for services rendered. Gifts aren’t an end in themselves but a means to an end. Via gifts, the Holy Spirit speaks through some, serves through others, and has, on occasion, performed significant feats through yet others. These “others” are always believers. Non-believers may receive talents, expressions of God’s general grace; but believers alone receive His gifts, expressions of God’s special grace. The Lord bestows His gifts so that Jesus gets the credit for any good that is done and so that His Kingdom work might grow either quantitatively or qualitatively or both.
Second, Cornelius and his family developed a liking for Peter and his companions, desiring that they stay awhile. Christian graces are evidence of the Spirit’s presence. These graces are often called the “fruit of the Spirit” and are listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Chief in that list is “love.” Spirit-indwelt believers like being around other Spirit-indwelt believers.
Mark carefully that phrase “fruit of the Spirit.” Even in Greek “fruit” is a singular noun. All of the attributes in Galatians 5 constitute a singular fruit. Whereas the gifts of the Spirit are multiple and diverse and no one believer (not even the pastor) should be expected to possess them all, every Christian grace should grow from your soul and mine.
All of the attributes in Paul’s list come from a single source-the Holy Spirit. Naturally, you may not be a loving, joyful, patient, etc. person. Supernaturally, you can become so because of the ongoing work of the Spirit, conforming you into the image of Christ, Who displayed every fruit in abundance.
One of the neat things about fruit is every piece carries a seed within its heart to reproduce itself. When the Spirit lives in you and some of His fruit falls from your life into the lives of others, that seed of your loving, joyful, etc. fruit starts working its way into the soil of their souls. If
you cultivate that soil long enough, the Lord Himself often brings forth an unbelievable harvest!
One week before last Christmas in Memphis, Tenn., 11-year-old Kentaria sat watching TV inside her grandmother’s home. A stray bullet pierced a window and took Kentaria’s life. A senseless crime! Her grandmother was later quoted, “[Her mother] told me that she got everything she had on her Christmas list, but she’ll never get a chance to open them.” At what cost did that mother buy her precious daughter’s gifts never to be opened? How much more tragic, though, that any of us should die without receiving the blessing of God’s Spirit acquired through unparalleled sacrifice?

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