Inquiring Minds Want To Know

But Peter … said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, … heed my words. … this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; …  I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath … and it shall be that whoever calls on the LORD’s Name shall be saved.’   Acts 2:14-21

Dr. Jim, who worked with The Voice of the Martyrs, described in a 2014 article:

Helal Saber … was walking down the street with his fiancée[p; when a group of Muslims stopped him and asked one simple question.  “Are you a Muslim or a Christian?”  With attacks going on throughout the neighborhood, surely Helal must have known what might be in store for anyone with the “wrong” answer.  But he bravely answered, “I am a Christian,” and refused to deny Christ.  The men doused him with gasoline and set him alight.  Helal was burned on over 85 percent of his body, and though I planned to see him during my trip, he went to be with the Lord before I arrived.

[from Glenn Schaeffer, “God’s not-so-secret agents,” Canadian Lutheran, 2017-05-06, p16]


Again the high priest demanded [Jesus], “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Jesus said, “I am.”                                        Mark 14:61-62


“Are you a Muslim or a Christian?”

Helal said, “I am a Christian”


Who are you?  Satan wants to know.  The  world wants to know.  Our sinful flesh wants to know.

Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, is not harsh, but it is hard.  On one hand, there are many things to cause celebration and joy when the Holy Spirit becomes present in the Church and in our lives.  Just as Jesus said, He is the Promise of the Father [Luke 24:49], the Helper Who would be with us and in us [John 14:16-17].  By Him a human is empowered to believe, and the Christian witness is undergirded with the supreme dominance and unshakeable force of God’s eternal promises.

Not just in the New Testament, already in the Old Testament there are many references as to the involvement of God through this Person of His Trinity.  He is there at Creation; there in those gifted to create beautiful things for enjoyment and for worship; there in those gifted to lead God’s People; there to empower Samson and his muscles; there to groom David from end to end of his life in both political and worship leadership; there to fit warriors, leaders, and prophets for their tasks. (1)

This is the Spirit Who will “rest upon” the Messiah, the Christ, the new Branch from the stump of Jesse, “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD”; the Spirit Who will cause the preaching of Good News to the poor, healing to the brokenhearted, sight to the blind, liberty to the captives, releasing those bound in prisons. (2)

Because of His active presence, each “one person at a time” is changed through repentance and the creation of faith; each turns rejects the old life and chooses to follow Jesus – “to put on Christ” as St Paul calls it (3).  In fact, there is a whole different spiritual environment created:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the Glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of Glory to another; for this comes from the Lord Who is the Spirit.  [I Corinthians 3 17-18]

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So in other words, as the Spirit exposes us to all the nuances of the Glory of God, we are changed to reflect these things in the world around us.  By a gentle tug our heart, by a remembered word of the Bible, an old saying from teacher or parent, even the deep inside reminder that we are responsible for what we say and do whether in casual conversation or under peer pressure – in all this the Holy Spirit is tugging at the sleeve of our soul, to save us from our own madness and self-worship, urging us to cry out with the Psalmist, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!” [Psalm 51:10].

Faith memories are now stirred up, we become more sensitive to the Spirit’s guidance, our foundation as part of God’s People is strengthened, we are armored against Satan’s deceptions, we are given reassurances for the complexity of human life, we are prepared for what may happen in days to come, we gain wisdom to share with our fellow struggling believers.

But this brings us to the second aspect of Pentecost.  We love to hear about all these things which bring comfort and reassurance to our lives as Christ’s followers; indeed we are marvelously equipped by God the Holy Spirit’s presence and involvement in our hearts – but to what end?   Was the Lord’s sending of the Spirit more than merely to make us comfortable – was His coming meant to make us uncomfortable?  Toward what were the People of God challenged by the Spirit’s coming?

Pentecost emphasizes that each believer is, as it were, the Holy Spirit with two legs.  We are islands of the Spirit’s presence in this world.  Truly, nobody has ever come to the Holy Spirit on his own, never on his own has he been motivated to connect to our Savior God, because human nature fears and runs from God.  Therefore, now in a new and special way, our task is to bring the Holy Spirit to them.  We go out and walk among those who do not believe, whether in the jungles of the world, or on the distant islands, in the heart of an inner city, or the plains of a continent.  We are the ones who are the bearers of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus, demonstrating the likeness of God to a world which cannot imagine such a Glory as being part of their lives.

We are meant to be a People out of character with the world, to be those who have the Someone the world is hungering for, who have the fountain of Living Water which humanity is thirsting after.  We move among people who will go to extremes, even cripple their lives in their fear of death, who have no understanding of the God Who would hold them in His hands of eternal love – and now we have the Holy Spirit to touch them with grace and mercy, steadfastness love and faithfulness, forgiveness and Covenant connection in His goodness.  To live as a Christian in this world, witness is unavoidable because we hold in our hearts something excellent and eternal.

And another important reason for us to be partner in this is because the Holy Spirit also refuses to work without the foundation of Holy Scripture.  In a coming time when Satan will let loose all sorts of deceptions and false information, the Holy Spirit will not do anything which cannot be checked according to promises and actions which span two thousand years.  There is to be a solid concreteness to the message which the Holy Spirit brings to people through us.  He will declare a consistency of attitude and heart which can be traced through every page and every action written for our benefit in the Bible.

This culminates in a third aspect about Pentecost: it is also a declaration of war; God will be on the offensive through His People like never before.  As Christians, we are in confrontation against Satan, the world, and even our sinful flesh.  The history of the Church is described by conflict with Satan and by martyrdom.  When Jesus began His ministry, the first thing he did was to do battle with Satan.  In Pentecost, the disciples put their lives on the line – only one Apostle at Peter’s first sermon would eventually die a natural death, but even then not without encountering extreme torture.  In II Corinthians 11[:23-27], Paul recounts a catalog of the resistance against the Good News he carried within him.

Pentecost seriously challenges us as to whether Jesus really matters all that much.  The world doesn’t allow us to quietly announce our non-participation against what it wants, what it idolizes, and what it occupies itself with.  Although we may not have yet experienced the extreme reaction as happened against Helal’s Christianity, a lot of pressure is brought to bear against each one of us in so many ways.  Even that first Pentecost was greeted not with humbled awe, but rather with the sneers of some [Acts 2:13]; and as Jesus declared earlier about unbelief, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’” [Luke 16:31].

We must answer for ourselves just what have we to lose if we stand up for Jesus?  Anything which threatens our faith is of such short term duration compared to the eternity of blessing in the presence of Jesus, the One Who so dearly loved us, Who let nothing distract Him from sharing His Glory with us forever, and Who will confess us before His Father in heaven [Matthew 10:32].

Pentecost did not happen merely to a bunch of individuals, but rather to the whole Church, because it is here were there is encouragement to be found, especially as Jesus shares Himself and His Spirit in Word and Sacrament in and among each of us.  Here is the equipping of the Saints, the supply of the Glory which contains grace, mercy, steadfastness, faithfulness, forgiveness and all the rest to be found dynamically flowing among those who live within the Holy Spirit Who has now come.  And most wonderful of all, this gift of the Holy Spirit will always be with us forever – we will rejoice in His presence and He will delight to walk with us forever!

(1. [Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 48:16];  [Exodus 35:30-35]; [Numbers 11:17-29; Judges 3:10; 6:34];  [Judges 14:19; 15:14];  [I Samuel 16-13; II Samuel  23:1-5])

(2. [Isaiah 11:2]; [Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18])

(3. [Acts 2:37-39]; [Ephesians 4:25-31; 5:3-7]; [Galatians 3:27; Romans 3:9-10;  Colossians 3:9-10; Ephesians 4:22-24])

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