Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Empowered for the Mission

My Life Group lesson for March 13, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Can anyone here speak another language?

(I mean a different tongue, not like, “I am Southern, but I also understand people from Boston!”)

Who has been to a different country where it was beneficial to know some local lingo and language?

Why is it important to be able to communicate in the native language?

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** The title of today’s study is “Empowered for the Mission.”

*** Last week we began our study of Acts with the ascension of Jesus and a promise that the Holy Spirit would come to the apostles.

--- The disciples gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem and prayed in anticipation of the Spirit’s arrival.

*** This week we'll see how Jesus' promise was fulfilled at the feast of Pentecost.

*** This was also the time of the birth of the church.

*** Let’s take a look at how the Holy Spirit’s presence then with the apostles and now with us enables believers to fulfill God’s mission.

THE SPIRIT GIVEN (Acts 2:1-4)

1 When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.

*** The Day of Pentecost.

--- Pentecost was one of three annual feasts, along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Booths, during which every Israelite male hoped to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

--- Pentecost comes from a Greek word meaning “fifty” and came fifty days after Passover.

--- Sometimes called the “Festival of Harvest” (Ex. 23:16) or “the day of firstfruits” (Num. 28:26), it marked the beginning of the cutting and binding of the barley sheaves (Deut. 16:9). As a harvest celebration, Pentecost was a time of joy and thanksgiving for the recent crop.

--- By using a time when many were in Jerusalem, a large audience would hear the gospel preached for the first time, and souls would be harvested for the first church.

*** A divine wind.

--- Luke did not describe the group of believers who gathered to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. He referred to them simply with the plural pronoun they. We know that the group included the apostles (Acts 2:14) and probably a larger group of disciples numbering 120 (1:15). The larger group consisted of men and women who had believed in Jesus as Savior.

--- The coming of the Holy Spirit was unmistakable. A “violent” rushing wind blew through the home they were in, something they knew couldn’t have been natural.

--- The association of wind with the Holy Spirit is appropriate, since the Greek word for spirit (pneuma) can also mean “wind.” Wind sometimes accompanied God’s appearances in the Old Testament (1 Kings 19:11; Isa. 66:15), and the Hebrew word for spirit (ruach) can also mean “breath” or “wind.”

--- The description also says that "tongues, like flames of fire," came and "rested on each one of them."

The Greek word for tongue (glossa) can refer to the muscular organ of human anatomy and can also refer to language produced by speech. Fire in the shape of human tongues may have been figurative language referring to how fire moves about like a tongue.

--- The result was the supernatural ability to speak in languages previously unspoken by the believers. This could only come from the Holy Spirit.

*** Question - What is an example of another event in biblical history accompanied by miraculous signs? Why do you think God displayed miraculous signs at Pentecost?

(Had to make it obvious that the Spirit was coming, so that none would doubt.)

THE QUESTIONS ASKED (Acts 2:5-13)

5 There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking the magnificent acts of God in our own languages.” 12 They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What could this be?” 13 But some sneered and said, “They’re full of new wine!”

*** Biblical Rosetta Stone.

--- The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799 by French soldiers in Egypt. The inscription, going back to the second century B.C., was written in Greek, Demotic and hieroglyphics, which finally gave researchers the chance to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit allowed believers to crack the code, so to speak, of reaching Jews and Gentiles around the world.

--- A friend of mine, Jeremy, lives in Kenya where he works for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Their job is the same as started at Pentecost, spreading the Word of God through the languages of every person in the world. Even as connected as our planet is today, their website says that even today, up to 1,800 languages are still waiting for a Bible translation to begin.

** You speakin' my language?

--- Jesus told the disciples to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Here we see that God equipped them to do so.

--- All the visitors to Jerusalem from different nations heard their language being spoken, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

These were Jews who had been scattered throughout the world in the course of history (see Jas. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1). They represented many different languages based on their nations of origin.

Luke did not suggest the reference, but some commentators have proposed that Pentecost was a reversal of the curse of confusion at Babel (Gen. 11:1-7). At Babel, God confused the languages of the people and forced them to disperse. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit overcame the differences in languages to proclaim the gospel. The different languages represented different nations and indicated the gospel was for everyone.

--- The homelands of the Jews who returned to Jerusalem described in verses 9-11 covered large areas. Parthians, Medes, and Elamites refer to people living in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iran and Iraq). Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia refer to areas in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Egypt, Libya, and Cyrene represented northern Africa. Rome represented the continent of Europe.

The mention of proselytes from Rome is significant. These were Gentile converts to Judaism and would have been present for the Pentecost celebration. Some believe they first took the gospel back to Rome and became the founders of the first Roman church. Cretans were residents of the island of Crete and Arabs were from the area that is modern-day Arabia.

*** Negative nellies.

--- Not everyone believed what was happening was true. Many who heard scoffed that the disciples were hitting the bottle early and often. (Because people often speak other languages fluidly when they're plastered?)

--- It's a good reminder that not everyone will respond positively to our witness. Many will resist because they don't want to give up their sin. Others will mock Christians to justify their unbelief.

--- Pride is a major obstacle to believing in Jesus. Only those who humbly admit their sin and need for a Savior are saved.

--- What are we to do? To use the Holy Spirit to boldly speak of God's greatness.

--- Who knows? Some of those who first mocked the witness of the disciples may have believed at a later time. Our job is to sow the seeds of the gospel and allow God to bring the growth (1 Cor. 3:6 - "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.").

*** Question - What types of things does God use today to lead unbelievers to seek Him and His offer of salvation?

THE OPPORTUNITY SEIZED (Acts 2:14-15)

14 But Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Men of Judah and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning.

*** Peter takes the lead.

--- During Jesus’ ministry Peter was frequently told that he would lead the ragtag bunch of disciples and believers when Jesus was gone.

Approximately three and a half years before his sermon at Pentecost, Peter was a fisherman. Jesus came along and called him to be a fisher of men (Matt. 4:19). Peter first correctly identified Jesus as the Christ of God, and Jesus said that he would be an important part of the founding of the church (Matt. 16:16-20).

Peter’s great failure occurred just 50 days before his triumph at Pentecost. He had proclaimed his loyalty and willingness to die with Christ (Matt. 26:33). Jesus then predicted that before the rooster crowed three times, Peter would deny him three times (Matt. 26:34). After a brief show of bravery in the garden when Jesus was arrested, Peter fled in fear with the other disciples into the night. Near the place where Jesus was being tried, Peter fulfilled that prophecy by denying Jesus three times (Luke 22:60-61). Peter fled and wept bitterly over his cowardice and denials of Jesus (Luke 22:62). John recorded the resurrection appearance of Jesus to His disciples at the Sea of Galilee (see John 21). There Jesus specifically restored Peter by asking three times if Peter loved Him.

--- During the morning of Pentecost, Peter took the leadership mantle and delivered his first sermon, telling the people of Jerusalem how significant this event really was.

--- He denied the allegation that they were drunk, noting the early morning hour (9 a.m.) as an unlikely time for people to be intoxicated.

--- Recognizing God was working in the moment, Peter used the opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations gathered in Jerusalem.

--- The boldness of Peter and the other disciples came from the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Our boldness in witness also comes from the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

*** Question – What does it mean as a church to be focused on Jesus?

What excuses do we sometimes voice about sharing our faith in Jesus? Why do you think we sometimes fail to seize opportunities to witness?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

With the heavy rain all week, think about how often our power goes out from storms, rain, or if zombies take over and no one is alive to keep the power on.

Think about how much we rely on power every day: Electricity for our homes, gas for our cars, propane for grilling, etc.

If you have to choose to live without one power source you currently rely on, which one would you not want to give up?

Spiritually, just as the early church needed help, as believers we depend on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

*** 1) God filled the apostles with His power as promised. With the Spirit, the church was prepared for their mission.

*** 2) All believers are enabled by the Holy Spirit to fulfill their God-given mission.

*** 3) It is crucial that we seize every opportunity to share Jesus with others. When you recognize that God is working, take advantage of the opportunity and join Him!

The leader guide suggested that I ask during the lesson, “How does your attitude affect your activity as a witness? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any attitudes that need to change and to fill you with power to share the love of Jesus this week.”

But that was for me. My witness was horrible, especially Wednesday and Thursday at work. I don’t know if it was working 19 hours Tuesday and didn’t get enough sleep, but I was bitter and critical of everything.

My mission is to be a witness for Christ, and that wasn’t happening.

So be aware of how you look to non-believers, and don’t trip up fellow believers.

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