Have You Been to Pentecost?

by Ed Robb, Pastor St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Lubbock, Texas
Second Vice Chairman, Good News Board of Directors

Every Christian has been to Calvary … but every Christian has not yet been to Pentecost. Every redeemed person has been to the Cross … and every victorious Christian has been to Pentecost.

Pentecost was a divine breakthrough, greatly needed in the days of the Apostles and desperately needed in our day. The Holy Spirit brought to life a group of believers and made them the Body of Christ the Church. Today it is by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that the Church becomes an organism rather than just an organization. Before Pentecost, Christianity is doctrine and rules … after Pentecost it is life and power.

The first Christians were not likely to transform a world. Most of them were poor and weak. They had denied and forsaken their Lord. Certainly, they had no resources to combat the pagan world with all of its riches. And yet Jesus said to them, “You are the light of the world.” He was saying that they were the hope of mankind. How unlikely!

Jesus also said, “You are the salt of the earth.” He was saying they were the saving influence for righteousness in this corrupt world. And yet they were sinners! He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

They were so weak! But by the power of the Holy Spirit they fulfilled their Lord’s commission and became what He said they would be.

We need a new baptism of the Spirit in our day. The church has the form of godliness but not the power. Too often we are merely the defenders of the status quo. But a nominal religion will not withstand the challenge of paganism in our day. In a changing world, where our faith is being challenged and questioned, the institutional church is bewildered, confused, and uncertain.

We are being challenged by the left and questioned by the right.

The secular “Christianity” of the left says traditional Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. They say we are preoccupied with the “pie in the sky in the sweet by and by” and that we neglect the dirty here and now. Secular Christians mock at saving souls. They say we must redeem the structures of society.

I attended a secular “church” service some time ago. It was a celebration of life rather than the worship of God. No prayer was offered, but a statement was read from “Sister” Angela Davis. In place of the organ there was a hard rock band. The Cross had been replaced by psychadelic lights. There were several suggestive dances rather than a choir. I am told the minister performs homosexual marriages.

Of course, I disagreed with all that. But this “church” did have some good points. There was excitement in the air. The sanctuary was overflowing. And a large percentage of the congregation were youth … and many third-world people were present. I heard a powerful sermon from a man who believed what he was preaching. There was a crusading spirit in that “church” which was challenging the Establishment.

On the contrary, many orthodox churches are lifeless. Often worship services seem more like a funeral than a celebration. Pews are half empty in many of our traditional churches, and most of the congregation is older people.

If the institutional church does not have a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the secularists shall win the battle.

The Church is also being questioned by the theological right.

A great spiritual awakening is taking place in this country. We first heard about it when stories of the “Jesus People” appeared in national magazines.Time put the likeness of Jesus on its cover. And Jesus Christ was nominated for the Man of the Year by Time editors!

Then we began hearing popular Christian songs on the radio. This movement perhaps reached its climax with Explo 72 when 80,000 young people met in the Cotton Bowl at Dallas – not to tear down but to build up, not to demonstrate but to witness and worship!

In 1972 the Hymn Book Revision Committee of the United Church of Canada voted to take “Amazing Grace ” out of their hymnal. They said it no longer spoke to youth. The very next month it became the most popular song among youth in all North America.

How badly we have misjudged the youth of our time! Many clergymen thought 20th century youth would not respond to the evangelical faith. But youth have become the most zealous evangelists of our day.

Many persons in the institutional church are afraid this new\spiritual movement will get out of hand. I pray to God that it will! You cannot domesticate the Holy Spirit!

During the Wesleyan revival there were excesses which perplexed John Wesley. But he did not allow this to drive him away from the central reality of revival. When the Holy Spirit reveals Himself there are always delightful surprises!

If we are to have the power of Pentecost, we must have the message of Pentecost.

The original disciples left Pentecost, first of all, convinced of the redeeming power of the Cross. They were convinced because they had been redeemed.

Sometime ago I was in downtown San Francisco witnessing to some hippies. As I visited with one young man, I told him I had been in San Francisco 26 years ago and had met Jesus Christ there.

He asked, “Did you really meet him?”

I said, “Yes, I really did … and He changed my life.”

The young hippy said, “I guess it would change your life if you really met him.”

These first disciples had really met Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit and they were convinced. We need that certainty today.

Second. The disciples left Pentecost convinced of the reality of the empty tomb. Before Pentecost, Jesus was a memory … after Pentecost he was a Presence. The early Church preached Jesus and the resurrection. In Him they found hope. Stephen was stoned, Paul beheaded, and Peter crucified in the assurance of the faith because they had found reality in the empty tomb. If we are to have the power of Pentecost, we must recapture the message of the empty tomb.

Third. They left Pentecost convinced of Christ’s promised return. This gave them a sense of urgency.

They were confident because they knew their Lord was the sovereign Ruler of history who would finally triumph.

Fourth. The disciples left Pentecost convinced they had been filled with power from on high. The Holy Spirit made them courageous in face of great danger. They were victorious in face of tremendous difficulties.

And finally, after Pentecost they were not only convinced, but they became a convincing people. As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we, too, shall be a convincing people. Yes, the power of Pentecost is available for us today.


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