May 3rd, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“The Greatest Gift from the Holy Spirit”
People may have experienced a time of the turning point in their lives. I mean that they may have a big challenging time to transform their lives totally at a point in their lives. We may call it “turning life around.” Generally, “turning life around” may be called for those who had a suffering experience, and then have a successful life later. A successful life might mean becoming wealthy in the view of the world.
However, in Christian’s view, the successful life is to meet the living God. Transforming from the wandering life to the faithful life in God, that is, we may call it “turning life around.” In other words, it names “being born again” in Jesus Christ. In the Scripture, we may find those who had an experience of “being born again,” such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and the Apostle Paul. They had an experience of “turning their lives around” totally after they met the living God.
Abraham met the living God when he lost his father, Tera, in the wilderness. He obeyed God to leave his country, his people, and his father’s house and left for the new land as God told him. So, he became a great nation and a blessing of faith (Genesis 12:1-3). Jacob cheated his brother Esau’s blessing from his father Isaac, and became a fugitive. However, when he met the living God, God blessed him to be the father of twelve tribes of Israelites (Genesis 35:9-13). How about Moses? Moses met the living God in the burning bush, and then he became the great leader of Israelite for the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 3:1-4). And, the Apostle Paul was a persecutor for the followers of Jesus, but he became a great missionary to the gentiles after he met the living Jesus Christ in Damascus (Acts 9:1-22).
It is needless to say more examples because we know much more already. I guess that many of you also have an experience of ‘turning your life around’ because of Jesus Christ. That is “being born again” like Abraham, Jacob, Moses and the Apostle Paul. I did so, as I mentioned several times. For the first disciples of Jesus, they also had an experience of turning their lives around after they met the risen Jesus Christ.
My point is that it is the most important for Christians to meet the living God. However, it is possible to experience the living God only by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is a gift of God by the Holy Spirit. The experience of the living God transforms our views from ourselves-centered to God-centered. Our mission statement is that making disciples of Jesus Christ all generations [nations] to transform the world (Matthew 28:19). However, unless we transform ourselves, we cannot transform the world. Today’s Scripture is an excellent example of it.
The first disciples of Jesus were slow to understand his teaching during Jesus’ lifetime, even facing Jesus’ death. However, after they met the risen Jesus Christ, they transformed their views to devote themselves to his teaching. Making the disciples of Jesus change is the Holy Spirit. They were in the midst of fear after the loss of Jesus, and they gathered together, focusing on the prayers. Finally, the Holy Spirit came to them on the day of Pentecost when they were all together in one place. They overcame all fear by the Holy Spirit, and only then did they become witnesses of the living Jesus Christ.
Today’s Scripture shows us how to transform their lives. It is called “the birth of the first church.” Because did they transform their lives by the Holy Spirit, only then the first church began with them. Amazingly, the first gift from the Holy Spirit is to speak in other languages (Acts 2:1-4). Why did the Holy Spirit give them the ability to speak in other tongues as the first gift? Most of them were illiterate, who were poor and lived in a rural village. The people misunderstood them as the drunken when they spoke and prayed in other languages. But one of the disciples Peter addressed them what was going on the event of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit based on the Scripture. Namely, the disciples embraced the people who misunderstood them. In other words, the first gift of the Holy Spirit was an open mind to embrace others. And then they had three thousand members more into their community (Acts 2:41).
Human’s nature is selfish to name themselves through competition with others based on the self-centered view. A good example was the event of the Tower of Babel. God made their languages confuse one another, so they may not be together to name themselves other than God’s name. However, after the risen Christ, God gave the first disciples of Jesus the ability to speak in other languages to name only God other than their names. Giving them the ability to speak different languages is a means of grace to reach out to others and understand and embrace others in the love of Christ.
The church is a Christian community that loves God and loves neighbors. The first church was from being together, focusing on prayers. Verse 42 says about the early church that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” It is the reality of the church we have to follow. We are the church, the Holy Temple, because the Spirit of God is in us. Therefore, we devote ourselves to the Words of God, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers. We have to be Christ-centered churches other than ourselves-centered.
The greatest gift from the Holy Spirit for us is to open minds, open hearts, and open doors toward others so that we are the church. In the first church, we find how they were open their minds, hearts, and doors to one another: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possession and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (vv. 44-45). So, the church is for sharing with and caring for those who are in need through the fellowship. However, there is no true fellowship without Christ’s Spirit in us and between. Jesus Christ is what we have in common. And that is greater than anything or anyone else. He draws us into “oneness” and loves each of us through each other. Sharing what we have is a natural result of the faithful communion. The newly born believers were together, and they shared their possessions and goods. They had been liberated to live for Christ and each other.
I trust that we are the church to devote ourselves to the Words of God, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers. I also trust that God gave us the greatest gift for open minds, open hearts, and open doors through the Holy Spirit so that we may share and care for one another. Therefore, let us make the disciples of Jesus Christ all generations with open minds, open hearts, and open doors for the transformation of the world.
Thanks be to God, Amen!