This week was Pentecost Sunday. Since 2007, we have been privileged to submit weekly articles to this newspaper; following is one adapted from June 13, 2018.

We wrote a few years ago about appearing at the judgment seat of Christ, and about the fear of the Lord. But for those who know Christ, neither of these events is something to dread. Let’s look at examples of people in the Old Testament, as well as eleven men after Jesus came, who all staked their lives not on merit, but on faith alone. 

David was king of Israel, married to several wives, with quite a few children born close to the same time. But then he committed adultery with Bathsheba. One of our sons commented that David’s sins bothered him more than any other: his infidelity with a married woman, trying to get her soldier husband home so it would appear the pregnancy was by him; and finally, David’s betrayal by placing Uriah in the front lines of battle to ensure he’d be killed.

Nathan the prophet came to confront David, but first he started with a story of a man who owned one little lamb. Once David realized he was the subject of the story, he repented, and wrote a great psalm of remorse. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:10-12).

Another Old Testament story is of Elijah – the one who raised the widow’s son (1 Kings 17), defeated the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) and parted the waters of the Jordan River (2 Kings 2). Elisha, servant of Elijah requested from him, “‘Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me’” (2 Kings 2:9).

The prophet Joel said, “‘It will come about after that I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days’” (Joel 2:28).

Notice how many times the word “spirit” is used in these accounts, long before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The reason Christ came, ultimately, was to bring us the Spirit. His followers had been disheartened when Jesus died on Calvary, but afterward they saw Him alive, believed the resurrection, and encountered him several times. Forty days later, Jesus called them to meet Him at the Mount of Olives. No doubt the disciples figured this was finally going to be the fulfillment of God’s great promise to deliver their people.

Acts chapter 1 tells the story. “Gathering them together, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised…” (Acts 1:4). Let’s stop for a moment. A follower of Christ tarrying in Jerusalem would be for them like wearing a target on their chest. Besides, try to imagine impetuous Peter, or doubting Thomas, sitting around and “waiting” without any more specific instructions.

The scripture continues, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:5). But as the disciples often did, their hearing seemed to stop working after the first few words. Their anticipation of the coming gift was building, but all they could ask was, “When?” Then, in the twinkling of an eye, Jesus was taken into the clouds, and they were left standing gazing up.

The Spirit is characterized in several ways – water, oil, a dove, and in this case (Acts 2:2-4), wind and fire. Though there are some who try to put qualifiers on whether believers have received the Holy Spirit, Paul said, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). Jesus tells us, “‘The Holy Spirit…will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you’” (John 14:26). We will know if we have received the Holy Spirit by His presence in our lives.

When we reach the day of judgment, the only question we’ll need to answer is, “Do you know Him?” Jesus prepared the disciples for His death, and theirs as well. “‘This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’” (John 17:3). The greatest promise, the Good News, is that you can know God, and the Holy Spirit is God's presence with us.

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