For the last two weeks, we have explored the topic of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Two weeks ago, we talked about how God is at work in the moments of our lives when He asks us to wait on Him. Last week we talked about the “Pentecost prayers” that were being prayed in the book of Acts, prayers that enabled the apostles to do divine miracles, prayers that made them bold witnesses, prayers that got them out of jail, prayers that brought thousands of people into the Kingdom of God through salvation.
I want you to know today that the same Holy Spirit that rushed into their lives, that gave them special assistance, that brought about transformation in their lives and in their community, is available to you today. Those 120 who had gathered in the Upper Room to wait and pray were personally impacted by the Spirit’s coming. In Acts 8:14-17 we read about how the Samaritans, those who had historically been enemies of the Jewish people, we read about how they accepted the Word of God. They accepted Christ as Savior. When the apostles got to them, they prayed for those new believers to receive the Holy Spirit because, verse 16 of chapter 8 says, “The Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
What we see here is a teaching about a second work of grace in a person’s life. Salvation comes when we accept the Word of God about Jesus and we ask for forgiveness of sin in and through Jesus’ blood, but sanctification or being filled with the Spirit, in this scenario at least (and in my personal life) was a second experience. Justification (salvation) is an experience with the Son of God. Sanctification is an experience with the Spirit of God. So, Peter and John placed their hands on the new believers in Samaria and they received the Holy Spirit. I’m sure prayer was part of that process. We don’t have all the details regarding what exactly took place or how the Samaritans participated in this Holy Spirit infilling moment, but it had to have taken place with a demonstration of the power of God.
How do I know that? A guy known as Simon the Sorcerer saw what happened, and whatever happened when they received the Spirit was so convincing and compelling, he wanted to have the same ability to lay hands on people and see them be filled with the Holy Spirit. Because of the witchcraft he had been performing, he was followed by many and was called the “great power of god,” but now that the apostles were in town and were demonstrating power he didn’t possess and people who had once followed him were turning to follow Jesus, Simon thought he better add what they had to his repertoire of abilities. The apostles rebuked Simon for attempting to use the Holy Spirit for personal gain.
So, the Jews in the Upper Room had received the Holy Spirit. The Samaritans had received the Holy Spirit, and we read in chapter ten that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit. Look at Acts 10:44-46: 44 Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. 45 The Jewish believers[e] who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. 46 For they heard them speaking in other tongues[f] and praising God.
Scholars actually call this the “Gentile Pentecost.” It’s interesting that the gift of tongues, the ability to speak in languages they had not learned, was given to both Jews and Gentiles, revealing that God is no respector of persons. The Holy Spirit was for everyone.
We get to Acts 19, and we read, 19 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
Paul went on to place his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came on them as well. When I considered the various instances in the book of Acts where people received the Holy Spirit, I came away with the reminder that a full Gospel message is not only about Jesus Christ crucified, buried, risen, ascended, and coming again, but a full Gospel message includes the message of a personal experience with the Holy Spirit.
Paul thought it was critical that these new believers knew that there was a Holy Spirit to receive. Why? Because it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us and enables us to change. Paul had experienced that transformation firsthand. He knew who He was before Christ and before the Holy Spirit’s coming into His life, and his life had been completely changed by both an encounter with Jesus and with the Holy Spirit. Paul knew he wasn’t responsible for the transformation that had taken place.
When Jesus revealed Himself to the Apostle Paul, whose name was also Saul, when he appeared to him, Paul was a murderer. He was killing Christians. If anyone was committed to their position and their life’s purpose of stamping out those who were preaching and teaching Jesus, it was Paul. Paul was bad to the bone. But Jesus met him on the road to Damascus with a bright light from heaven that flashed around him. It was so powerful, so dramatic, so demonstrative that Paul fell to the ground.
In addition to the light, there was a voice from Heaven, a voice which was the Lord Himself, asking why Paul was persecuting Him. It was a lot to take in. Paul asked who was speaking, and the voice said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Jesus went on to say, “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
There were witnesses to this happening. The people who were with Paul stood there speechless. They heard the voice but couldn’t see anyone either. He got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he was blind. The people with him had to lead him by the hand into Damascus. He had to be taken, like a child, by the hand and into the city.
In Damascus, there was a disciple, a guy named Ananias, who heard Jesus speak to him in a vision. (This is a true story. This is a real happening.) The Lord told Ananias to head to Straight Street and to ask for Paul. Jesus told Ananias he had prepared Paul in a vision for what was about to happen. In Paul’s vision, he saw a man named Ananias coming to lay hands on him to restore his sight.
But Paul’s reputation had preceded him. Ananias wasn’t keen on going to meet up with this murderer, but Jesus said, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
A murderer was God’s chosen instrument, y’all. How many of you would choose someone to represent you, to run your company, to sell your product, to promote your business, who had once trashed your whole enterprise? Wouldn’t you be concerned he would turn on you in a moment’s notice? Wouldn’t you fear he would run the whole thing into the ground? Wouldn’t you assume he would try to corrupt the organization from the inside out? I think I would be looking for someone whose resume didn’t include “persecutor and murderer of Christians” to be my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles!
Paul was about to have a personal Pentecost, and it would change everything. So, Ananias went to the place Jesus told him to go. We pick up the text in verse 17, Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.
Look at verse 19, Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
Church, this is a 180, and it happened so fast. This is a dramatic departure from his modus operandi. This is a brand-new Paul with a brand-new heart and with brand-new authority and with a brand-new mission. A man who hated Christians and got up each morning living for the opportunity to make life as awful as possible for them became one of them and gave every ounce of his energy and passion to helping others become one as well. That’s incredible!
21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
Listen, when you have a personal Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will do something in you that will baffle everyone who thought they knew you. Everyone who had you pegged to be a certain way, everyone who had labeled you or put you in a box will become astonished at who you become when the Holy Spirit gets a hold of you. Paul was a changed man. No wonder that when Paul got to Ephesus, he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit. Paul knew it is both, an encounter with Jesus and an encounter with the Holy Spirit that provide the power needed to change and to live for Jesus. And you’ll want others to know about and experience the same transformation.
Paul said this in II Corinthians 3:18, 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Have you had a personal Pentecost? Are you being changed? Paul said we are being transformed. There is an ongoing, progressive work of the Spirit in our lives. Do you know that there is a difference between acting religious and being transformed?
I think the word for today is Don’t settle for a religious affiliation when you can experience a complete transformation. Surrender to the work of the Spirit in your life and see how God will work beyond anything you could ask or think in your life. If you grow your relationship with the Holy Spirit, you will be transformed. The closer you get to the Holy Spirit, the closer you get to God the Father and God the Son. The closer you get to the Holy Spirit, the more like Jesus you will become.
Your relationship with the Holy Spirit begins at salvation. Titus 3:4-6 says, 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.
I like that phrase, “renewal by the Holy Spirit.” I like how the Message translation puts this. I’m going to start a verse earlier in Titus 3:3: It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, easy marks for sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously.
That anger that grips you and puts a strain on the way you relate to people is like filth on the inside. It needs to be washed away. That lust that keeps you driven to obey fleshly impulses, what the Message translation called being ordered every which way by our glands, that is like filth on the inside. It needs to be washed away. That propensity to lie, even about stupid stuff, just to save face or to make someone else look back, that is like filth on the inside. It needs to be washed away. The pride that keeps you in the judgment seat of others, that hatred in your heart that causes you to think less of someone because of the color of their skin or the occupation they choose or the amount of money they don’t appear to have, it is filth on the inside. It needs to be washed away. The Spirit does the washing, y’all. Step one of a personal Pentecost is a good washing on the inside.
Once the filth is cleansed, a new intimacy with God begins to happen. We can see Him working in our lives in ways we couldn’t before. We can hear Him speaking more clearly as we pray. We begin to understand Scripture with greater clarity. There is a deepening of our connection with God. Strength, wisdom, peace, and joy flow from Him to us, almost as if the Holy Spirit provides an IV of all of that from God to us.
We cannot experience God in ways that are close apart from the Holy Spirit. Look at Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:16-19, 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
There is a knowing of God that only the Holy Spirit enables. When you begin to grasp the dimensions of the love of God and when the Holy Spirit begins to fill you up, it is the greatest physical, emotional, and spiritual experience a person could ever have. It is multi-dimensional. You can know God in your inner being. You don’t have to settle for just knowing about God. You can know Him, intimately and experientially.
In addition to having the filth cleansed and knowing God intimately, as you are changed by the Spirit, your desires and motivations will change. You will start to want to say, “No,” to sin and you will be given supernatural help to do so. When that filth in your life is cleansed, it will be replaced with a hunger and thirst for righteousness. You will want what God wants for your life. You will want what God wants from your life. You won’t even want to resist it. You will passionately pursue it.
When a person is unsaved, they may not think twice about sinning because there won’t be the same level of Holy Spirit conviction about sin that a person who possesses the Spirit of God would have. You see, when we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive someone who won’t allow our lives to go unchecked and unchallenged. We will have someone who will steer us away from sin by helping us to know what is sinful and to avoid it. If a believer said to me they didn’t want to say, “No” to sin, I would have to question how much they had surrendered to the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit will convict us about sin, not just convict us after we sin, but will convict us about avoiding it altogether, John 16:8.
The Holy Spirit gives us power to be self-controlled, to be Spirit-controlled, II Timothy 2:7 and 2:14. The Holy Spirit will warn us of activities and actions that offend the holiness of Christ, and because we will have experienced the fullness of Christ’s love for us in an intimate way, we won’t want to treat that love with disrespect or disregard. We will want to fully love Jesus back because of His perfect love for us.
In addition to all of these wonderful things, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the truth.
Do you want to know why so many people are living in chaos and confusion? It is because they don’t possess the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit won’t allow a person to twist the Word of God to suit a sinful desire. The Holy Spirit won’t convince a person of a lie. The Holy Spirit won’t support a dead-end way of living. The reason the world is in chaos is because so many people aren’t governed by the Spirit. People without the Spirit are left to navigate and interpret life on their own. The self isn’t capable of leading people to truth. It doesn’t matter what your IQ is or how high you scored on your ACT Test or how many Jeopardy questions you can answer, if you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you don’t have a handle on truth. John 16:13 tells us that the role of the Holy Spirit is to be our guide for Truth.
If you have had a personal Pentecost and have been awakened to the Truth of God’s Word and ways, the world is going to appear to be nothing but bonkers to you. The Truth, though obvious to you, will be unattainable for a person without the Spirit. It is the Spirit who enables you to see things beyond what the senses can tell you. It is the Holy Spirit that enables you to see into a spiritual dimension.
Did you know there was a Holy Spirit to receive? Have you received Him? Have you had a personal Pentecost? Are you being transformed from the inside out? Have you been washed of any filth that hinders you from having a close, intimate relationship with God? Have you witnessed a change in your desires and motives? Do you find yourself wanting more and more of God and to be used more and more by Him? Do you live with an awareness that the Holy Spirit is guarding the holiness of Jesus in you by the way He warns you of sin or convicts you of sin when you do compromise? Are you walking in the Truth of God’s Word and ways, or do you live with ongoing confusion and doubt?
Every person in this room could be filled first the first time or filled again with the Holy Spirit. Every person who wants to be washed by the Spirit can be. Every person who wants to be renewed by the Spirit can be. Every person who wants to be changed by the Spirit can be. Every person who wants a Personal Pentecost can have one.