Jerusalem, AD33 and around three thousand people have just responded in faith to the quickening work of the Holy Spirit that has stirred them to put their trust in Christ alone for their salvation. It was a momentous occasion and also something of a unique one too.
What makes it unique?
Amidst all the activity on this phenomenal history-transforming day when the God sent His promised Holy Spirit, was the staggering fulfillment of prophecy as a community encountered God’s planned intervention that would equip, empower and embolden them for the centuries-long mission that lay before them. God on the day of Pentecost drew a people to Himself that were so much different to our evangelistic outreach today.
This group of people (Acts 2:2-12) were God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. It was an astonishing display of God’s wisdom and providence. Whole communities would soon encounter the gospel of Christ as these God-fearing Jews turned their hearts to Christ because of the conviction of the Spirit at work in their hearts. They were astounded to hear people in Jerusalem speaking their native languages from the surrounding countries, and not merely repeating holiday phrases (“Thank you, Where is the train station, 2 coffee’s please!”) but they heard them declaring the wonders of God. It left them stunned and amazed, asking one another – not just the disciples, “what does this mean?” It was a staggering move of God.
But these people already knew about God. They valued the scriptures and they already were strongly committed to prayer. There would be no need for them to be encouraged to start reading something they had never read before, or had no value for. Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey, written around the 8th century BC were in circulation, but the writing that already gripped their heart, was the Old testament writings. They were in Jerusalem to Celebrate Pentecost and their hearts were focused on God.
It was not the same as 3,000 people responding to the gospel in our day. We shouldn’t be discouraged. This is not just a day where our culture is different, but it is a day where we are engulfed in a darkness concerning the things of God that is worse than we imagine. People really do not have any comprehension of what it means to know God, walk with Him, how to honour or obey Him, or what it means to belong to Him, be loved by Him and be in covenant with Him.
So we need to disciple the nations. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We can’t expect a new Christian to know how to pray if they have never prayed; we need to show them. If they have never read the Bible we need to help them with it. Don’t teach them that it is normal to highly value the Word of God which will give them wisdom, direction and vision for their lives, but they only have to read a few verses every day. We have got to stop training to be spiritual wimps, and start coaching people to be the next generation of Edwards, Whitfield, Wesley’s.
We tell folks to just dive in, just get involved – but they have no idea what we mean. I recently heard someone giving an appeal for salvation telling everyone that they may have just realised they need a saviour. I’m not sure some of the Christians understood the full implications of that!
So, don’t trust them to just dive in, hold their hand and jump with them, (taking big breaths) explaining everything again and again, and quite radically, expect a lot of them and of God.
Finally, an old classic to help you remember when you ask people to ‘just dive in’ with activity and involvement – sometimes they know nothing…