Making Holes in the Darkness
Dr. Jim Denison
Robert Louis Stevenson, then a child of six or seven years, was standing at his window one night watching the lamplighter at work. One by one, the lighter would light the streetlamps as he walked down the road. Young Stevenson watched with fascination. His nurse asked what he was doing. The little boy answered, “I am watching a man making holes in the darkness.” We need holes in the darkness today, don’t we?
Military action against al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden is imminent, and the Taliban as well. This action may already be underway as we speak. Our troops may be in Afghanistan, a country which has never been successfully invaded before.
Such action causes many to worry about a military draft and the future for their children of such age.
The stock market has seen its most chaotic days since the Great Depression. Layoffs threaten the jobs of multiplied thousands of people in Dallas. Many of you wonder about your financial future and that of your family.
And the typical problems of life in these stressful days continue unabated. Marital tensions, family problems, health issues, school struggles. We need holes in the darkness.
The light we need is available to us. In fact, if you’re a believer, you already have all the power and help you need. What God’s Spirit did for the first Christians, he’s waiting to do for us. Come with me to the Upper Room, then we’ll make this place of worship our Upper Room today.
Receive God’s Spirit
Here’s the situation. Jesus’ followers number around 120, in a hostile world of 25 million. The very people who executed Jesus are now the enemies of his followers. What they did to him, they stand ready to do to them. Yet Jesus has charged them with reaching that hostile world in its entirety—all 25 million.
One third of the world today claims to follow Christ. .0006% of their world did.
If we were in their shoes, we’d be doing something. We’d be organizing strategies, starting ministries, doing all we can. They knew better.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place” (v. 1). Pentecost was the 50th day after the Passover Sabbath. Jews from around the world were crowded into Jerusalem for the religious holiday.
Meanwhile, Jesus’ church was crowded into a single room. Where and why? Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem for the “gift” of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). So, at the risk of their very lives, they met in an Upper Room of a Jerusalem house, where they prayed constantly for God’s protection and his Spirit’s power.
And God kept his promise (vs. 2-4). A violent wind filled the room, so they could hear the Spirit’s approach. Tongues of fire rested on them, so they could see his approach. And they were each “filled” with the Spirit of God—this means that their lives were surrendered completely to the Spirit’s purpose and power for them. The Holy Spirit took up residence in their souls and lives, and he never left.
This is how you and I received the Spirit—when we asked Christ into our lives, his Spirit moved into our souls. The Holy Spirit is God alive and at home in us, the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. As a result, these first believers began to “speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (v. 4).
This was the Spirit-empowered ability to speak in known languages they had not learned. This was not the ecstatic prayer and worship language known as “unknown tongues” in Corinthians and other places. These believers were simply given the ability to share their faith in the languages of the people who had come to Jerusalem from all across the world.
The text makes this clear: “Each one heard them speaking in his own language” (v. 6); “How is it that each of us hears them speaking in his own native language?” (v. 8); “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (v. 11).
By this gift, never repeated again in the New Testament, these believers were able to share their faith with the multitudes crowded into their city. If I were in Cuba and could suddenly preach in Spanish, this would be the same gift. The point is that God gave them the power they needed to fulfill their purpose.
Now Peter stands up to preach. The same Peter who had denied he knew Christ, who had fled from his cross in fear. Now the bold power and authority of the Spirit is his. So he preaches the gospel to the very crowds who had shouted for Jesus’ crucifixion and the very officials who had carried it out.
The result of the Spirit’s work through this first Christian sermon was dramatic: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” (v. 37). Peter called them to faith in Christ, 3,000 responded in faith, they were baptized, and the church was born.
All by the power of God’s Spirit at work in the lives of God’s people.
Have you done what Peter and these first Christians did? Have you asked Jesus Christ to take up residence in your life? Have you yielded yourself to his Spirit? If you have, you have the Spirit, the person, and the power of Almighty God himself alive in your life. You are God’s temple, and God’s Spirit lives in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Today.
Be assured of God’s love
Now, how does this fact relate to our lives, our problems, our fears and needs in these troubling days? First, it assures us of God’s love. The fact that God’s Spirit lives in us is his assurance of his love and grace. And we need that assurance.
Many are suggesting that the tragedy of September 11 is God’s punishment of America and even of the American church. My friends, when 7,000 people died on that day of infamy, God wept. The Creator of all the people who died grieved their death. God judges and punishes sin, but he doesn’t kill innocent people by the thousands to do it. We need to know in these days that God loves us, absolutely and unconditionally.