I’m sure that seeing this morning’s sermon title takes some of you back to the 1970’s and 80’s when the music group by the same name was lighting up the charts. Lest you get stuck on the lyrics of “Let’s Groove” and “After the Love Has Gone” let’s get to our Scripture text in Acts 2 where we read about how wind and fire came down to earth. J
Acts 2:1-4 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent WIND came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of FIRE that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
An amazing thing took place during the Jewish feast of Pentecost. People from everywhere had traveled to Jerusalem. The disciples were there as well. They weren’t there by accident. They were there because Jesus had told them as was recorded in Acts 1:4 to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Promised Holy Spirit to be poured out. We all know that waiting can be difficult. Times of waiting can leave us wondering. But hear me this morning, sometimes the reason we are waiting for something is because other people are supposed to experience it too.
The appointed time for the Holy Spirit to be poured out was during the Feast of Pentecost when it is estimated that as many as 250,000 people were be in the city! There were 120 of Jesus’ followers who were in the upper room praying for a move of God as they waited for Jesus to send the Holy Spirit and of those who experienced the wind and the fire about 3000 people were converted and became followers of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit had just been poured out on the 120 who were waiting in the Upper Room, if the Holy Spirit had come before the Feast of Pentecost when the streets were so crowded, those 3000 people would have missed being converted and the other tens of thousands would have missed experiencing what they did which they no doubt went home and talked about for months and months to come.
I’ll call this my “pre-point” since I really want to talk about the wind and the fire. Here is my “pre-point”: When God is going to move in and through your life, it will involve more than just you. So if you are waiting for God to do something it might be because not everyone else that He wants to bless has arrived on the scene yet.
Now to the wind and the fire. I want to ask you, are you willing to be moved and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit this morning?
We know the Holy Spirit was present at Creation just as God the Father and Jesus the Son were. It was the “wind” of God, the Spirit of God that hovered over the waters in Genesis 1:2. In a real sense, as God spoke Creation into existence He did so through the breath of God. He would create something and say, “Let there be light.” “Let there be dry ground” or “Let there be” whatever He was creating. It takes breath to speak, right?
In many ways this Pentecost story is about the day God took a huge breath, and breathed it out in order to speak to those who were gathered there. Have you ever been with someone who, when it was their turn to talk, took a big breath and you knew something powerful was coming? It happened for sure on the Day of Pentecost. God wanted to speak. He inhaled. He exhaled, and the Spirit of God was poured out on people so that the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of those who were gathered there who all spoke different languages would hear the Word of God in their native tongue. It was a miracle because those speaking in those languages had never learned the languages. They were given supernatural ability by the wind of God, the breath of God, to speak God’s Word. It was as God breathed His Word on the multitudes that they were given an opportunity to be saved and rescued from the slavery of sin.
Now, as I have often said, in many ways the Old and New Testaments are bookends for each other in that often New Testament stories have a parallel or Old Testament story that is similar that foreshadows the full plan of God as seen in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and also in the coming of the Holy Spirit. We see the Wind of God in the Exodus of the Israelites as they came out of slavery in Egypt.
Please turn to Exodus 14: Exodus 14:21-28 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”
26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen–the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.
The Wind of God and the Pillar of Fire both show up in this Exodus story, this escape story. Verse 21 says a strong “east wind” blew. The east wind is symbolic of the Holy Spirit here! Listen, when God was taking His people out of Egypt, out of slavery, He removed any obstacle including the waters of the Red Sea as He exhaled and breathed upon the waters and parted them so that the Israelites could go through on dry ground.
Do you see what is happening? When the enemy of the Red Sea is in front of them and the enemy of Pharaoh’s army is coming behind them to try to recapture them, God breathed. When they were facing being captured and taken back to their old way of life, God breathed. When they were being delivered from slavery and into freedom and a new way of life, God breathed.
Do you have any rivers you can’t cross? Are there any enemies chasing you? Do you see no way to victory when you look at what lies ahead? You need God to breathe on your circumstances. You need the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to part the waters and make a way where there seems to be no way. If you are in over your head, call upon the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of Pentecost, to blow in your direction and allow you to walk through on dry ground!
The kids and I took a walk this past Tuesday. It was supposed to be an uneventful evening weather-wise, but all of the sudden, a strong wind blew up and the pollen was swirling so vigorously Hannah had trouble seeing, and I had some difficulty getting a breath. It literally seemed to come from nowhere. We had two people pass us in cars that stopped to ask us if we wanted a ride home because the wind was so strong. It got our attention for sure.
On the Day of Pentecost it was all of the sudden, as if out of nowhere, as the mighty, rushing, violent wind came into that Upper Room, and God got the attention of those He was about to fill with His Spirit. I guarantee you they stopped what they were doing and began to be filled with either fear or expectation until they could process what was happening. Those of you who have been involved in a tornado know what I am talking about. You are completely focused on that sudden, violent wind. Some of you want to “take cover” while others of you want to try to capture video on your cell phone like those crazy Storm Chasers. Either way, you don’t ignore it. You don’t continue life as usual. It creates a decision for you. On the Day of Pentecost it was as if God was announcing, “This is it! Here I come! Get ready!” And you have a decision to make about how you will respond to the Spirit.
Oh, when God wants to do a new thing, the wind of the Spirit begins to blow. The Hebrew word behind spirit is “ruach” which means “air in motion.” It is the same word for “breath.” It also means “life.” When the Holy Spirit is at work the stage is set for God to speak and there will be new life! Does God have your attention this morning? Have you felt the Wind of God blowing in your life? You know when the wind blows you can let it move you or you can try to grab onto a pole and hold on tight. You can try to resist it. You can also try to move inside and out of the wind. It is a good thing to try to take cover when the physical winds blow hard outside. It is a bad thing to try to escape the Wind of the Spirit of God because if you do, you will miss moving on in Christ. You will miss the enabling empowering of the Spirit. You will miss responding to the Word of God which will transform your life. You will stay bound by those things that seek to enslave you. But if you will travel with the wind, you will be moved to freedom.
Think for a minute about that east wind again at the crossing of the Red Sea. Who felt and experienced the wind? Both the Egyptians and the Israelites were part of that wind experience, but for one group of people it became a Wind that moved them into freedom and new life. For the other group of people, it became an experience of destruction as they lost their lives. Allow the Wind of God to move you forward in Christ today. Make the decision to be receptive to the Holy Spirit and His work in your life no matter where that may take you.
And now the fire! The people, as individuals, had tongues of fire resting on them and the Spirit of God, symbolized by the tongues of fire, moved from the outside of them to the inside of them (verse 4) and they were given ability from the inside out to speak languages they had never learned.
Let’s jump back to our OT Exodus story for a minute in Exodus 14. In order to understand the full role the Pillar of Fire played in the Exodus story we need to back up a few verses. Exodus 14:19-20 19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.
Picture this with me. There is a pillar of fire now during the night time, representing the presence of God, which is the Holy Spirit. It was leading the Israelites. It had been in front of them. But at this point, the light withdrew and got in between Israel and the Egyptian army. Can I just tell you this morning, “God’s got your back?” Woohoo! Tell your neighbor, “God has got your back!” And as the nation of Israel looks at the pillar in the sky, from their vantage point, it is lighting their way, making their way clear. As their way is lit for them, how empowered would they feel? What hope would they have? They had seen their enemy pursuing them, but now as they look back what can they see? The light of the glory of God! The Holy Spirit having their back!
But God used that same pillar of fire to literally neutralize the enemy! Can you see where I am going this morning? As the Egyptian army looked at the same pillar in the sky, there was no light that they could see, but only darkness. Imagine trying to travel with horses and chariots in total pitch darkness. Imagine the confusion. Imagine the difficulty. Why didn’t the Egyptians give up and go home? What could have been their ending had they recognized and submitted to the power of God that day?
Oh, church, we have a tenacious enemy, one who won’t give up; one that keeps pursuing; keeps nipping at our heels, but the fire of God, the Holy Spirit of God, He who indwells believers is living in us and is lighting our way. He is routing our enemy. He is causing us to triumph. We are walking in newness of life. Nothing the devil can say and nothing he can do can remove us from God’s hands or thwart God’s plans. Our path is being made straight. Our feet are falling on level places. We are going to new places in our relationship with God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. We have escaped sin’s grasp. We will not bow to that old master anymore, but we are free to worship and serve and love God and to follow God’s plan for our lives as He lights our way!
And from the inside out we now have the fire of God, this purifying agent that transforms our lives. We move from people who are self-focused to people who are God-focused. We move from talking about who we are and what we want to who God is and what He wants. God is raising up a new generation of Spirit-filled believers that have been breathed on by the Holy Spirit and have been filled with the fire of God to speak His Word boldly.
And it is a journey of transformation. God traveled with the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land, and it took a long time. 40 years! They took an eleven-day trip in 40 years! You might think their GPS was broken, but no! God was taking them on a purifying and purging journey. After having lived so many years in Egypt and been influenced by the pagan ways of the Egyptian culture, God had to take them through the fire of the wilderness to purge and purify them and make them His own. They had been brainwashed and needed to start thinking differently as the called out people of God.
Hebrews 12:29 tells us that God is a consuming fire. He wants to consume us from the inside out and light our way from the inside out by purifying our hearts and teaching us how to please Him. When we let the fire of the Holy Spirit do His work inside us we begin to want the things that God wants, and the things that are sinful and offensive to God begin to be purged out of our lives by the fire of the Spirit.
We are told in Luke 3:16 that John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptized His followers with the Holy Spirit and fire. John the Baptist was getting his hearers ready for the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on God’s people. Fire isn’t just purifying, baptism talk, but it is also the language of sacrifice. Where would the OT sacrifices be placed? On the altar where the fire was burning hot.
Here’s the spiritual principle: We are filled with the Holy Spirit and fire, consumed by the fire of God, so that we can be ongoing spiritual sacrifices for God that never burn out! Remember, an OT sacrifice was said to create a sweet fragrance to God. It was that which showed one’s desire to be pure before God. It was that which symbolized someone who was in a relationship with God and who wanted to please Him. It represented obedience to God since He had commanded the sacrifices.
Since Jesus was the once and for all-time sacrifice for sin, we no longer build an altar, light wood on fire and sacrifice animals to be forgiven of sin. His blood takes care of our sin, but that doesn’t mean God has done away with the concept of sacrifice. God has sent me here to tell you this morning that He has sent His Holy Spirit to us in order to enable us to live as Living Sacrifices for Him every day!
Romans 12:1-2 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Those words about being living sacrifices sound a whole lot like words Peter spoke on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:40 after the fire fell! 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Save yourself from this corrupt generation! How is that done? It is done by being filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit which will enable us to live as a Living Sacrifice rather than as cookie cutters of this world. I firmly believe you can’t live to please God without the power of the Holy Spirit. And if you want to know what God’s will is you need to be praying, “Holy Spirit, renew my mind. Holy Spirit, show me God’s pattern. Holy Spirit, reveal God’s will, and give me the power I need to live as a living sacrifice.”
There is no reason to not want to be consumed by the Holy Spirit if you are a Christ-follower. It is the Holy Spirit that produces awesome works in us like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5) The fire of the Spirit drives out hate and racism in our lives so we can love others.
The fire of the Holy Spirit drives out discouragement, depression, defeat, and a general sense of doom and gloom and gives us joy in spite of our circumstances.
The fire of the Spirit will remove anxiety, nervousness, and fear and replace those negative things with enduring peace, wellness and a soundness of mind and temperament.
The fire of the Spirit will subdue our impulsive, fleshly nature and help us be patient and to wait on God’s will, God’s way, in God’s time.
The fire of the Spirit will remove our selfish nature and our greedy nature and cause us to be kind and good to others. We will become those people who have a desire to do the right thing and to bless other people.
The fire of the Spirit will take our wishy washy, half-hearted, uncommitted natures and transform us into people who are faithful and who will persevere until the end. Our “yes” will be “yes” and our “no” will be “no.” We will be people God can count on to do His work.
The fire of the Spirit will remove anger and bitterness from us and give us a spirit of gentleness so that we can get along with others, serve with others, and not get stirred up and easily offended by others.
The fire of the Spirit will give us power in temptation to say “no” to things that will hurt us and compromise our walk with God and witness in His name as He develops the fruit of self-control in our lives.
Maybe you don’t see anything in that list of Holy Spirit fruit you stand in need of, but I need and want each piece of fruit the Holy Spirit can plant inside of me, so I say, “God, light me on fire and let me burn for You!”
So we revisit the question I asked at the beginning, “Are you willing to be moved and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit this morning?”
The wind of the Spirit wants to move you forward, away from your enemies, toward your personal Promised Land with God. The fire of the Spirit wants to change and empower you to be a Living Sacrifice every day for the glory of God. Today, would you allow wind and fire to come to the earthen vessel of your body, mind, and spirit?