The Gifts at Pentecost
In the Old Testament, we learn of a Jewish celebration called the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-21). It is referred to as the Feast of Weeks because it occurs seven weeks after Passover. The Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks derived from the 50 days is Pentecost.
In the New Testament, Jesus becomes the Passover sacrifice. Unlike the blood of an animal, His shed blood has the power to atone for all sins. Fifty days after his resurrection (Easter Sunday), the church celebrates Pentecost. On the Day of Pentecost, the early Christians received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, sent by Christ to empower, convict, sanctify, and seal all believers.
On the day of the first Pentecost, after receiving the Holy Spirit, The Apostle Peter preached a powerful message. When the crowd heard the sermon, they were “cut to the heart,” meaning they were convicted of sin and conscience-stricken. The people were so moved by the message that they asked Peter, “What shall we do?” Peter did not hesitate with his answer, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, NLT).
These believers and all believers, after them, receive two free gifts of God. The first gift is the forgiveness of sins (past, present, and future) and then the gift of the Holy Spirit who indwells them and transforms them. Imagine that. The Pentecostal gift was not for the apostles alone but for all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone who receives Jesus Christ receives both gifts.
Today, you do not need to come from the right family or have a perfect record as an upright human being. Instead, Christ died for all sinners, and he forgives all who call on him. This Sunday is Pentecost. If you are a believer, I hope you take some time to thank Jesus for salvation full and free and the amazing reality that His Spirit lives in you. And if you have never decided to follow Jesus, I pray that the truth about Jesus will “cut you to the heart” so that you can turn to Him for forgiveness and peace.
Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God (Luke 24:50–53, NLT).
Today you might notice, particularly among the Anabaptist plain communities, as special worship gathering. These are strange times with business closing due to COVID-19. Still, traditionally, Mennonite businesses would remain closed on this special day in the life of the church.
For centuries, Christians from all denominations celebrated Ascension Day. Forty days after Easter, Jesus ascended or departed the face of the earth by physically taking to the air and disappearing in the sky. Ascension Day reminds Christians that our living Lord is ministering in heaven right now. As a result of His current position, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to empower believers and the church to do his work here on earth. And we retain the promise that He will return to this earth one day to gather those who belong to Him—those who received His redemption.
I want to encourage you to read the full account in Acts 1:6–11 sometime today. I always find it astounding as I relive the ascension scene on Mount Olivet with my imagination. In my mind’s eye, the sight is glorious. One of Ireland’s finest evangelical preachers, Thomas Kelly, apparently shared the same sentiment when he wrote the hymn, “Look, Ye Saints” (The Mennonite Hymnal, 186)
Look, ye saints! the sight is glorious: See the Man of Sorrows now; from the fight returned victorious, ev’ry knee to Him shall bow: Crown Him! crown Him! Crowns become the Victor’s brow.
Crown the Savior! angels, crown Him! rich the trophies Jesus brings; in the seat of pow’r enthrone Him, while the vault of heaven rings: Crown Him! crown Him! Crown the Savior King of kings.
Hark! those bursts of acclamation! Hark! those loud triumphant chords! Jesus takes the highest station—O what joy the sight affords! Crown Him! crown Him! King of kings and Lord of lords!
Yesterday, I got to talk with someone very dear to me. It was quite a while since we last spoke, so there was some catching up to do. During our conversation, he mentioned how God was convicting him to return to Him. God has a way of calling back those who belong to Him, those who will pay attention to His voice.
Isaiah 44:22 reminds us that sins fade away to nothing in the presence of God. By his grace, we find forgiveness for our sins. It is by that grace that God calls us to return to Him no matter how far we stray from Him.
Is God working in the lives of those He loves during this coronavirus pandemic? I think so. I think some of us can see more clearly where we stand on our spiritual journey. For many, if not all of us, God is revealing our propensity to drift away from Him, and now He cries out, “Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Eric grew up in the little town of Gibraltar, PA with his grandparents. He met his wife Cheryl while working at Good’s Greenhouse in Bowmansville, PA. He has three adult children and values watching them grow into the people God wants them to be.