29 May 2023

I will pour out my Spirit: How are you being prompted?

Captain Andrew Hammond

Captain Andrew Hammond asks what God’s promise might mean for us and our circles of influence.

Key text

This month, crowds gathered in London for the coronation celebrations, neighbourhoods shared in the Big Lunch 2023 and communities served each other through the Big Help Out. King Charles encouraged a spirit of celebration, sharing and serving.

Pause and reflect

  • Just imagine if we, as royal subjects of the King of kings, completely surrendered to the Spirit’s outpouring in his celebration. How might that affect our sharing of the good news about Jesus and serving other people in his name?

This Sunday, just seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection and ten days after his ascension into Heaven, we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost. Fifty days after Passover, ‘God-fearing Jews from every nation under Heaven’ (v5) gathered in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. There would have been vast crowds.

When the Holy Spirit came, he filled every disciple, empowering them to ‘speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them’ (v4). Hearing the disciples ‘declaring the wonders of God’ (v11), the crowd was bewildered, amazed and perplexed because they heard what was spoken in their native languages. Some asked: ‘What does this mean?’ (v12) and, in response, Peter leads an evangelistic encounter.

The Holy Spirit enables Peter not only to explain what they are experiencing but also outline God’s plan for salvation. Peter shares his testimony and responds to questions. In doing so, he appeals to Scripture by referencing Joel’s prophecy (see Acts 2:17–21 and Joel 2:28–32).

Through Joel, God promised: ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people’ (Joel 2:28). Peter explains that this is what they are witnessing, as the Holy Spirit empowers the believers to praise God in various languages.

Photo shows the sun silhouetting trees.

Acts 2:17

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

Read Acts 2

By comparing Joel’s prophetic writing to the people of Judah and Peter’s evangelistic encounter at Pentecost, we can identify key parallel themes and insights into God’s love and power through the outpouring of his Spirit for all people.

First, when we lose sight of our need for God, the Holy Spirit confronts and warns us. Joel’s prophecy to Judah was during a distressful time. He warned them that their sinful lifestyle, if unrepented, would inevitably bring God’s judgement. Similarly, Peter confronts the Jerusalem crowd: ‘You, with the help of wicked men, put [Jesus] to death by nailing him to the cross’ (v23) and, later, Peter warns and pleads with his listeners to: ‘save yourselves from this corrupt generation’ (v40).

In his book Questions of Life, Nicky Gumbel highlights that the Spirit will ‘convict us of our sin and our need for Jesus’. If we are receptive to the Spirit’s outpouring in our lives and corps, he will illuminate God’s word for our application. However, often when we are stubborn, God uses circumstances to confront and warn us. CS Lewis comments: ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures … but shouts to us in our pains.’

Second, God’s outpouring of his Spirit changes minds – repentance – and transforms behaviour. Joel was confrontational but he called people to change their minds. God promised that ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Joel 2:32). In our study passage, Peter repeats this conviction (see v21).

Pause and reflect

  • In what areas of our lives is the Spirit confronting and warning us because of an ungodly thought pattern, behaviour or relationship?

Through Joel, God promised restoration and blessings if people turned back to him. Similarly, Peter calls for repentance and presents God’s hope and renewal. ‘What shall we do?’ the crowd enquires (v37). Peter answers: ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ’ (v38). Peter leads his hearers to examine their lives, turn from their sins, entrust their lives to God and receive his Holy Spirit. In the same way today, regeneration and transformation by the Spirit are available to all people.

In his book Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit, Charles Stanley reminds us that the Spirit enables people to believe, he indwells and puts his power and nature in us – cleansing, conforming and teaching us.

Pause and reflect

  • In what areas of your life do you trust in your own strength, rather than the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and power?

Third, God’s outpouring of the Holy Spirit enables us to show and share the good news with boldness. Centuries after Joel’s prophecy, the fulfilment comes at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit empowers the disciples. Peter’s preaching that day resulted in some 3,000 people turning to God in repentance and faith.

Today, God continues to pour out his Spirit, indwelling, empowering, motivating and mobilising Christians in the process. The Spirit may not have enabled everyone to speak in an unknown language, but he enables each of us to share the good news in ways that fit the way God has created and gifted us.

The coronation message encouraged neighbourly kindness, such as sharing meals and serving each other. Similarly, evangelistic encounters enabled by the Spirit are frequently within the contexts of hospitality and serving.

In his book Evangelism in a Skeptical World, Sam Chan stresses that the Bible records many fruitful evangelistic encounters that occurred within such circumstances and still do today.

Pause and reflect

  • To whom is the Spirit prompting us to share the good news through neighbourly hospitality and service?

As we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, let us pray the words of General John Gowans:

Holy Spirit! Promised presence fall on me.

Holy Spirit! Make me all I long to be.

Holy Spirit! Holy Spirit!

Give your power to me O Holy Spirit.

(SASB 316)

Bible study by

Andrew Hammond

Captain Andrew Hammond

Corps Officer, Raynes Park

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