5/31/98, Pentecost

“Tongues of Fire”
Acts 2:1-4; Romans 8: 14-17

ne of the greatest demonstrations of power our family saw during our camping trips through the great 48 was the lights of Las Vegas. We had driven hundreds of miles through the high desert up out of Death Valley, and then off in the distance we began to see a city. As we drew nearer we knew it was the great oasis. How could such a city exist in the middle of the desert? Later that night when neon lights lit the sky we really wondered how could such a power source exist in this wasteland? As we headed east our questions were answered when we caught a glimpse of Hoover Dam. Millions of kilowatts of electricity are generated every minute of every day from the harnessed waters of the mighty Colorado River.

Sometimes we Christian Pilgrims feel as if we are drying up in a massive desert place. In those times we need to think of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit as our Hoover Dam. God makes a way through the wasteland. He continually imputes spiritual power ever minute of every day. But sometimes we leave the power switch turned off.

This Sunday our theme moves from power to power--- Last week it was Aldersgate, as we celebrated the new fire power in John Wesley’s heart; and this Sunday it’s the flames of Pentecost. One fire started our Methodist movement, and the Pentecostal flames ignited the Christian Church. Without Aldersgate the world would have been denied the Wesleyan Revival: Without Pentecost the world would have not likely survived.

Our story from the book of Acts finds the disciples waiting on the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had instructed them to wait. Then, in God’s own time, the Power was turned on. That same Power is available to every believer today. But sometimes we act as if we do not know it. We continue to light our houses with candles, draw our water from a well and chop wood for our cook stove--- when all the while we are wired for power. All we have to do is call the electric company and wait just a little while for them to come a turn the power on.

We sometimes seem to delight in suffering without the Power. My Daddy use to tell the true story of a wealthy miser in Asheville who had a car but was too cheap to buy gasoline, so he would revert to hitching up his mule to the automobile.

Sometimes we seem afraid of the Power. My Me Maw Sides use to tell how her neighbors first thought that electricity would burn down their houses, so they continued to stumble in the darkness. This Power form on high is a gift of God--- it is the free gift of His inner friendship, His guidance, and His Power, His cleansing; it’s to be sought not feared.

I had lunch with Sam Coker this week. He is preaching her in July, so I was catching him up on his home church. In the conversation I reminded him of how impressed I was when, a few years back, he stood straight and tall and stated on the floor of the North Georgia Annual Conference that the core of Christianity is new life in Jesus Christ. Not just believing it once and then putting it aside, Not just a ritualistic act, But new life and new living. He saves us and he reclaims and remolds us into his likeness. He is going to conference this summer, so maybe he will say it again. We should never tire
of hearing it. Our message is more than a sweet little kind of lovey feeling, it’s the power to change human lives and, through them the world. And where the world has experienced any level of righteousness at all, it has been as a byproduct of the righteous people in it. How do we have a better social order? By having better people! And how else can that happen than through the power of salvation and new life in Christ?

Some folks have found out that it is possible to get along without power. The Unibomber existed for years in a one room cabin without any electricity. The hippies of the 1960’s tried to reject modern conveniences, like baths, and electricity; but, nowadays many of them are stockbrokers and live in mansions. Is there any possible reason why we would want to try to go through life without the spiritual power that God has for us? Yet, some seemingly only want a nickels worth of religion. A nickel will not take you far, will it?

God knew that in order for his plan of reaching every human heart with the story of salvation to work, his disciples would need a massive dose of his power, and an inner assurance of salvation. In a sense, their seeing the resurrected Jesus gave them a sense of certainty and power. But God wanted them to have even more than that: He wanted them to become the highest and the best that they could possibly be. He wanted them to have power to carry the good news to every corner of the globe. And God wants us to have that same spiritual power and assurance.

Finally, How do we begin this journey toward spiritual discovery and development? Well, all things spiritual begin and end in prayer. But you say how do we begin to pray like the waiting saints at that first Pentecost? Simple, you wait on God to move, and you pray.

Prayer is the basic spiritual act. It is our crying out to God with words that mostly are silent groanings. But the God who flung the stars into space interprets our crying and our groaning. He knows our plight in the wasteland and he will send help.

My personal devotional experience begins, not with prayer for I sometimes am not in the mood to pray at first--- I begin by reading the Bible, then suddenly I am in spiritual communion with my Heavenly Father. I do as John Wesley did, I’ll randomly open the book, and put my finger down and start reading. After many years, I am at home in the Word and am never lost. However, I am always surprised by Grace and revelation as the Spirit bears witness with my spirit in reading and brings out new light. Then in prayer the conversation becomes more intimate. My Father knows my prayers before I say them, as his word says. However, in the groaning times, in the painful times, amid the hard places and the rocks, there comes the greatest spiritual experience of life--- wonderful communion with my Lord.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

5/31/98, Pentecost