Good afternoon everyone. Well, what a privilege it is for me to take part in such a service with God's servants - it's very humbling. To bring the closing word this afternoon, and to be a part of this convention in general, has been a joy and delight - and I want to thank you, those of you who did invite me, for sharing and fellowshipping with you this special weekend.
I want you to turn with me in your New Testament to Acts chapter 2. If you have been here on any of the other occasions I have been preaching, I've taken a theme of 'Something Old, Something New'. I want to continue that, and I'm going to trust God to dovetail it together with what has already come before, the contribution of our missionary friends. We look to God to speak to us in the time that is left this afternoon, and really touch our hearts individually and collectively.
I've been sharing with you on Saturday evening and last night, Monday night, that the old must die in order for the new to be born. It was the case in 'Isaiah's Day' that Uzziah the King who occupied such, we would have to say, perhaps an idolatrous place in the hearts of God's people. He had to die, even in the eyes of the prophet he had to decrease and decease, in order that he would see the Lord high and lifted up - Isaiah 6. We saw that that was a crisis in Isaiah's life, the old had to die so that the new could be born - and it paved the way in Isaiah 43 for the prophet to say to the people: 'Remember not the former things, behold I do a new thing'.
Last evening we looked at this principle in 'Messiah's Day', the life of our Lord, where He was a completely new thing - He broke the mould, and he threw the Scribes of Scripture off the scent entirely. They didn't recognise Him as the anointed, promised Messiah. They knew their Bibles inside out, but they didn't recognise their God when He turned up and He was standing before them in human flesh. We saw how it is often those who are biblically literate, or think themselves to be so, who oppose the new thing of God.
Now we are going to look today at how the new thing is always a thing of the Spirit, it is always a thing of the Holy Spirit. We're going to focus on 'The Days Of Pentecost', which in effect are the last days. For you remember in Peter's Pentecostal sermon, that he quoted extensively from Joel chapter 2 how, in the last days, God says: 'My Spirit shall be poured out on all flesh'. We are in - whatever your eschatological view is - we are in the last days today. Many of us believe that, as we approach the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be an intensity of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as there was in the early days of Pentecost. But I want you to understand here this afternoon that Pentecost was an entirely new thing. We looked from Matthew's gospel last night at how Jesus said that the old wineskins of Judaism would not be sufficient to carry the new vigourous, vibrant wine of the new covenant. So there was a requirement for a new temple of the Holy Spirit, that is the church, for Him to pour in His presence, His life.
I want you to look, as we read through chapter 2, to see how you new this was for people in this day of Pentecost. Verse 1: "When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven". Now note this, verse 6: "When this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused", there was utter confusion on the day of Pentecost. Don't think for one moment that all of a sudden this was welcomed by the people round about in the community - they were confused. Why? "Because everyone", verse 6 says, "heard them speak in his own language". Verse 7: "Then they were all amazed", there was amazement on the day of Pentecost, "and they marvelled", the people were marvelling, "saying to one another, 'Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?'". Skip down just to the second part of verse 11: "'We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God'. So they were all amazed and perplexed". This was Pentecost - ditch, for a moment or two, your romantic ideas. There was utter confusion, there was amazement, there was marvelling, there was questioning, the people were perplexed - and look at verse 13, you will see there was ridicule and misunderstanding: "Others mocking said, 'They are full of new wine'" - they're drunk! In verse 16 Peter retorts: "'But this is what'" - or, as the Authorised Version says, I like it - "'This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh'".
Now can I remind you that this was a familiar prophecy to the Jews. They knew their Bible, they knew their Torah, they knew the prophets, and they knew that Joel had prophesied that in the last day the Spirit would be outpoured. But though they were familiar with prophecy, they failed to recognise its fulfilment. It was the case in Messiah's day, and it is the case in the days of Pentecost, and I would have to say to you that - studying historical revival, and every move of God - that it's also the case whenever the Holy Spirit is poured out in any modern sense. People seem to fail to recognise it, particularly the people of God. You remember Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles, he preaches this great martyrdom sermon before they run upon him and stone him, and he accused the Jewish people of always resisting the Holy Spirit as their fathers did. It has been the tendency of God's people right through every epoch, that when God does a new thing, they often miss it and fail to recognise that it is God.
God's new thing will be a new thing of the Spirit. Every new work, every awakening, every revival in history has rediscovered the dynamic of the Holy Spirit in the Christian's Life and in the operations of the church. I have to tell you today, I have never heard of a revival where the Holy Spirit was ignored - and certainly no revival has ever been when the Holy Spirit was preached against or denied. I know even here today there will be some theological differences concerning the work of the Spirit, but I hope we will all agree today that the dynamic of the Spirit is an essential to utter Christian existence; and indeed an ongoing and deepening experience of the Spirit is vital for personal growth and for kingdom expansion, wherever it is in the world. We cannot do it without the Holy Spirit. Whatever our doctrinal semantics are, it is obvious from a casual reading of the book of Acts, particularly chapter 2: one, that these believing disciples were deficient in power before Pentecost. Jesus told them: 'Don't lift a finger until you are endued with power from on high'. Two, these same disciples were transformed dramatically after Pentecost. Three, they had been equipped at Pentecost with abilities that were essential to fulfil the great commission of Christ.
So we read Mark's summary, I believe, of what is the Acts of the Apostles. Mark 16:20: 'They went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen'. God was with them, and it was marked by the unction - they moved under the anointing of the Holy Spirit in everything that they did. Whatever your doctrinal persuasion is today, and unbiased reading of the New Testament must conclude that the power of Pentecost was that very spreading flame that caused the raging furnace of the Gospel to sweep over the then known world. I want to say to you this afternoon: your Christianity is either supernatural, or it is superficial. You need the power of Pentecost to live your Christian life as an individual, and you need the power of Pentecost to do the work of the Gospel. This truth of the power of the Spirit is at the heart of every move of God - it always has been, it always will be - and God's new thing, it will be right in the centre of it.
I know I might be a bit bold in saying this, but I believe it to be true: the Faith Mission would not exist today - it certainly would not have the illustrious history that it does - if it were not for the foundation of the Spirit's power, if it were not for the adherence to a belief in the Spirit's baptism, or fullness if you want to call it that. Doctrinally and practically it was a necessity, it's your birthright as a movement. I would beg of you this afternoon: don't sell it for a mess of pottage. We need the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost more than ever! It pains me to say this today: revival theology itself is under threat. By revival theology, I mean a belief in an experiential encounter with God personally, and even at a community level. It's threatened, often with an emphasis on doctrine at the expense of experience, or - dare I say - even a denial of experience. On one hand you've got a cold, harsh, new reformed emphasis on the mind at the expense of the heart. Recently I was preaching on the presence of God, and I was challenged that God can only be known in the mind. When I asserted the belief that the presence of God can be actually experienced, I was given a quote by a famous modern preacher who was reported to have said once: 'I have no idea what the presence of God feels like'. On the other hand you've got a form of dispensationalism, which I know very well, that relegates God's power to the past, and says that He will come in great power in the future, and even Satan will do masterful things in days to come before Jesus returns - but where is God's power in the present? Where is the God of Elijah? Does He live today?
In the last days, Joel said, Peter reiterated - the last days are now - God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. I want to ask you today, not only as I have done - how you are recognising what God is doing in the new thing, but how are you recognising God's outpouring now in our day and generation? I know there are counterfeits that we must beware of - but Satan only counterfeits the true. Where is the true? Where is God's new thing? God's new thing is what He did at the birth of the early church. We don't need to get back to 1940s, we don't need to get back to the Reformation, we need to get back to the Acts of the Apostles. We don't need mere human innovation or novelty. This is the route that some churches and organisations are going down. They are contriving new wineskins for old wine. There's nothing new in the Spirit, but there is all new form around it, and it's empty, it's vacuous - and you have to keep changing the show on the bill to keep everyone entertained. But, oh for a fresh wind of the Spirit, oh for the wine of God.
Sadly the word 'revival' can be hijacked by the wildest extremists. New things are claimed regularly, and then they die out within five years or so. But there is the genuine, there is the wind of the Spirit that we need and God has promised, and only the power of Pentecost will do us - but it will bring its challenges. Convention will be challenged, if the old is to die and the new is to be born. I want to highlight, as I close, one aspect in the new church that challenged convention. The first Christians were Jewish, you know, and at the beginning of the church it was assumed that the special characteristics of their ceremonies, their identity would continue. When the Gentiles started getting born again, this idea was challenged, this was an entirely new thing, convention was challenged. It raised the question: should these Gentiles now become Jews? Should they observe Judaism, and how should the Jews relate to the Gentiles in the strict social and dietary laws. You remember what happened: God had to give a fresh revelation. God spoke to Peter on the roof top in Joppa one day, and He gave him a vision: a sheet falling down from heaven covered with unclean animals, and God said three times to Peter, 'Kill and eat. Do not call anything impure that God has made clean'. You remember Peter was given the keys of the kingdom, not only to open the kingdom to the Jews at Pentecost, but to open the kingdom to the Gentiles in Cornelius' house. Peter saw the Holy Spirit come upon them as He did upon the Jews in Acts chapter 2 in Jerusalem at the first, and he says: 'Why should we hinder them being baptised, because the Holy Spirit came on them as He did upon us at the beginning'. He recognised God's work even when it broke his bounds, even when it stretched his confines of conviction. He recognised when God was at work.
It was something completely new, it was foreign, it was a new creation. It challenged convention, their theology, their interpretation of Scripture, their social and moral etiquette, their idea of order and decency. But you see, when God acts, He tends to push our boundaries. He squeezes us out of our comfort zones. He confronts our concrete mindsets. He provokes our prejudices. As Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian on revival, said: 'A work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected'. Almighty God is not restricted to my convictions, my tastes, my ideas. I cannot put Him in a box, and He certainly will not be confined to my theology.
The Jews found this out, and Peter struggled with it, as you can imagine - this new thing. In fact, you remember in chapter 10 and verse 14 - if you care to turn to it - chapter 10 of Acts. After he saw this vision of all these unclean beasts that the Jews were forbidden to eat, and the Lord told him to rise, kill, and eat. He says in verse 14: 'Not so, Lord!'. You've heard the famous story, haven't you, of the girl that came feeling God was calling her to be a missionary, and the famous preacher showed her this verse and said: 'You either cross out the word 'Lord', or you cross out 'Not', but you can't have it both ways'. He is either Lord of all, or you have to say 'Not so'. Peter struggled with this in the early Jewish church, struggled with it - you need to try and get into their psyche. Put yourself in their shoes! If you think the Catholic-Protestant thing is something, you ain't seen nothing as far as Jews and Gentiles were concerned! This went against everything that they had ever known to be true and right. I don't think we appreciate this.
You see, the Samaritans were apostates. It was hard enough for these Jews to hear the parable of the good Samaritan; to see the Samaritan leper turn around and thank Jesus when the others left; to see Jesus at a well with a Samaritan woman who had been married five times and was cohabiting with a man, and she gets converted, and her whole town gets converted - that was bad enough. But now, for the Gentile unclean dogs to partake of God's new covenant - it couldn't be right! Anybody who knows their Bible would know that that was wrong! But it was God. They had their prejudiced spectacles on. Can I say to you - and I have learned this the hard way myself, and I'm sure I'll learn it a lot along the way - a knowledge of the Bible without a personal knowledge and experiential knowledge of God will become perverted. Let me repeat that: a knowledge of the Bible without a personal experiential knowledge of God will become perverted.
When we turn to Acts 15 we find that the Judiasers were torturing these new Gentiles, and in verse 19 the NIV reads: 'We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God'. The question begs: how do we make it difficult for people from other societies, from other cultures, even in our own province, how do we make it difficult for people to come to Christ? The only restrictions that were put upon these Gentiles are found in Acts chapter 15 verses 28 and 29, which was abstain from idolatry and immorality. The introduction to that precept was this: 'It seemed good to us, and to the Holy Spirit' - but it's the other way round, they said: 'It seems good to the Holy Spirit, and to us' - the Holy Spirit first. They went on the guidance of God, and they didn't lay upon them any unnecessary burdens.
This was a new thing. The problem came later in the Galatian church. The Galatians embraced the Judiasers - and this is ironic and tragic, because we read in the epistle to the Galatians that Peter, who opened the door of the kingdom, who was the instrument of God's Holy Spirit in the new thing for the Gentiles to receive the Spirit, he actually stumbled at the offence. When there were visitors who came from Jerusalem from the apostle James, Peter, who had been eating with Gentiles, stopped for fear of what they would think. Big Brother was watching - the fear of man brings a snare. Paul the apostle had to rebuke Peter to his face, that he was putting restrictions on the Gentiles that he didn't even take upon himself.
I have spoken about something old that needs to die, and something new that needs to be born - and the new will not be born, although it is coming in pockets around us, we will not enjoy it unless we are prepared for the old to die. Is there something old in your life that needs to die? Is there idolatry there? Is there a fresh wind of the Spirit, a breath of the Spirit? You could have consecrated yourself at conventions like this a hundred times, but unless you know the power of the Spirit - consecration is your part, but the Spirit's empowerment is God's part.
We need a new thing entirely. There is a new thing happening all over the world - praise God for what we have heard. We need a new thing here. I'm told that a lobster grows by shedding its own skin, and before they shed the old skin, they grow a new thin layer of skin beneath the old. They moult approximately 25 times in the first 5-7 years of life, but you might say that the skin changes - it's DNA remains, its nature is always the same, but the skin changes. So must the skin of the church change, and if she doesn't shed her old skin she will die - and I believe the old skin is dying. It's not completely gone yet, and some of us are trying to hang onto it, we're trying to breathe life into a corpse. We have a name that we live, but we are dead - and the sooner the old dies, the faster we can have a resurrection!
Do you know what the popular definition of insanity is? I think Albert Einstein said it: 'Insanity is doing the same thing you have always done, the same way you have always done it, and yet expecting a different result' - madness! But there is a new thin layer growing, it is growing, but the old needs to die. It's not strong enough to break forth yet, but it is growing - the question is: will you and I be a part of God's new thing?
Let us pray. In just a moment I'm going to hand back to the chairman, but listen: please let us be still in God's presence. Some of you are here just for a convention, but some are here to meet God, and some of you have met God. I want to address first of all in this missionary meeting those for whom God is doing a new thing, or maybe reviving something He spoke to you in the past but He has come in a fresh way to you this afternoon. It's like the Acts of the Apostles, it's the Damascus call, and you have heard 'Come over and help us' from these dear brothers and sisters sharing with us today. God has come, like He came to Isaiah, and after He has torn down your idols, He has said: 'Who will go for Us?'. The Triune Godhead wants to commission you today. Is there anyone in this building, and the new thing of God in your life is a call to the field? Would you be man or woman enough just now to stand to your feet, and respond to God, and say: 'I will go, I will go'? Just where you are, would you be willing to stand to your feet and say 'I will go', just now where you are? No token gestures, we're not interested in numbers just now, we're interested in reality. God bless you, God bless you, is there anyone else? The only pressure we want you to be under is the influence of the Holy Spirit. Is there anyone else who will say 'I will go. If You send me, I will go'? May God make you a Mary Slessor, an Amy Carmichael.
Is there anyone who is involved even in the work of God, and you're not baptised with power from on high. C.T. Studd once sent a message: 'Send me no more missionaries that are not baptised in the Holy Spirit'. Are there any who need that filling, that enduement? I'm not talking about consecration, I'm talking about God's empowerment. Who would stand to their feet? It's not for missionaries, it's not for evangelists and pastors, it's for Christians - you cannot live the Christian life without the power and the dynamic of the Holy Spirit. Put whatever tag you like on it, you can't live without the Holy Spirit. Would you stand to your feet, and by faith engage with God and claim by faith what He has promised in the Gospel? Who will stand to their feet and claim that baptism of power, that fullness of the Holy Spirit for life and for works? Just stand now. God bless you. Take it by faith, just the way you get saved, you take it by faith.
I spoke to the young people the other evening, it's Luke 11:13: 'If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!'. Just ask Him, and believe that you have the things that you have asked of Him, because you ask according to His will. Don't look for feelings, don't look for phenomena. God will witness to you in your heart as He sees fit, but you take it by faith and believe God. I hope all of us here today - I'm not going to do any more appeals - but I hope all of us here today, in our hearts, are standing, positioning ourselves for God's new thing wherever it is, but especially here in Ireland.
Father, I pray that those whose ears are open to hear what the Spirit says to the church, that You will cause the seed of the Word to be pushed deep down into their hearts. Lord, that from this fertile soil this afternoon, that a mighty move of God will spread not just across our land, but across Your world. O Lord, lift our eyes to the hills, from whence comes our help - but lift our eyes to the fields which are white unto harvest. May Your enablement and the great need, meet today in each of our hearts - and may we go knowing that 'All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth', our Lord Jesus says, 'Go therefore'. May we go from this place today, missionary or not, the Lord working with us, signs following. Lord, behold their threatenings, stretch forth Your hand to heal, that signs and wonders might be performed in the name of Your Holy Servant, Jesus - for His glory we pray, Amen.
Don't miss the follow-up message Welcomers Of The Next Move Of God...
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This sermon was delivered at the Faith Mission Easter Convention in Bangor, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'Something Old, Something New' series, entitled "The Days Of Pentecost" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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