To fully understand the importance of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost we must go back to the beginning of creation. In the Book of Genesis we see in God’s interaction with Adam and Eve the intimacy God intended to have with each of us. We lost that intimacy because of their sin but we also see God immediately put into motion a plan to restore intimacy with us and to restore our glory. That plan was simple and it involved the incarnation, the resurrection and Pentecost.
Now we know from the scriptures there were a lot of things going on between God and the descendants of Adam before the first step in restoration – Jesus – came to earth. Each event in the Old Testament and each prophet laid the foundation for us to understand the importance of the incarnation, the, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is in the Old Testament that God reveals his plan to provide for us a way to do what Adam and Eve could not do – follow God’s plan for our lives instead of us trying and failing to do God’s will. That plan was to change our hearts so that we would no longer rely on our own efforts to achieve righteousness.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says he will “write his law on our hearts and put it within us” (Jer. 31:33). Why is this important to us and how will that make a difference in our being able to follow God’s law? It is important because we cannot seem to avoid sinning against God and each other. It is important because sin creates a barrier between us and God making intimacy impossible. His law written on our hearts means we do not have to be strong to overcome sin but it does mean that we must seek and open ourselves up to allow him to change our hearts.
God through Jeremiah said something remarkable in addition to the fact that God’s law will be written on our hearts. After telling us he will write his law on our hearts making it easy for us to follow his will God said “(your) sin I will forgive and (your) guilt I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34). That my brothers and sisters is mercy unleashed. It is not mercy earned by our own attempts to be righteous but it is mercy given to all who allow God to write his law on their hearts. Through the prophet Ezekiel God tells us exactly how he will write his law on our hearts.
Listen to his words, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). The final piece in God restoring us was his promise to send us the Holy Spirit to change us, to guide us, to strengthen us and to gift us with all we need to be disciples. God’s plan was to pour his spirit on all of us (Joel 3).
What must we do to have God write his law on our hearts? We must do nothing more than what the disciples did and that is to allow that power from on high to clothe us. That is what Pentecost is all about. Pentecost was not meant to be a one time event but a perpetual on going fulfillment of the promise God made to us. The movement of the Spirit within us is intended to empower us to live as holy men and women each and every day. He promised to send us the Spirit “to change our hearts. The Holy Spirit will do more than change our hearts; it will transform us into the very image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).
My brothers and sisters, the disciples on this day were in that upper room in prayer waiting for the promise of God. It came and changed them from uncertain, fearful, confused men and women not knowing what the resurrection and ascension meant for them to bold witnesses of God’s mercy. The Spirit poured God’s love into their hearts opening their eyes and minds to understand God’s plan. The result of the outpouring of the Spirit on them changed them internally and moved them to proclaim the kingdom of God without fear.
That is Pentecost and that is what God desires us to know and feel. God offers us through the power of the Spirit a transformation into discipleship and intimacy with him in the kingdom Jesus established on earth. God offers us the freedom of knowing the truth about sin – it is forgiven and forgotten by God. That knowledge changes everything for us because instead of trying to earn God’s grace we begin to live God’s grace.
We must like the disciples have a desire to invite this promise of God into our lives to change us. Then as we open ourselves to the Spirit we need to grow in our ability to listen to and follow the Spirit as it speaks to our hearts. We need to understand it is only by the working of the Spirit within us that we can live as holy men and women. It is only by the Spirit that we can love God with heart, mind, strength and soul.
For a minute look at the impact the Spirit had on Paul. Paul was brutally attacking and arresting those who professed a belief in Jesus Christ. Ananias prayed for the Spirit to fill him and immediately Paul started proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 9:17, 20). Paul experienced both the forgiveness and the change of heart when the Spirit came upon him. Paul also knew that God’s love enfolded him like the prodigal son’s father’s arms. This experience of feeling the father’s arms enfolding sinners is part of the experience of the in-filling of the Holy Spirit.
We can try to earn righteousness on our own but we will fail because self-effort will only make us religious. In order to receive all that God intended by his promise to change our hearts we need to invite the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts. John’s vision in the book of Revelation tells us that this gift of God is ours if we thirst for it. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Rev. 22:17).
Take a moment and pray with me:
Come Holy Spirit; come with the love of God.
Come Holy Spirit set my heart on fire, burning with a desire to make the name of Jesus known.
Come Holy Spirit let it be done to me according to the will of God.