The Spirit of Pentecost Is Active among Us . . .
Holy Spirit, hear us on this sacred day. Come to us with blessing, come with us to stay. Amen.
Eight hundred years before Pentecost, Joel prophesied the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon God’s people which would enable them to proclaim the Gospel message of deliverance unto salvation. This would happen, Joel said, before the great and awesome judgment of the Lord on the Last Day.
On Pentecost, Joel’s prophesy found its initial fulfillment as the Holy Spirit enabled the early disciples to share the Gospel message with many people in their own languages. The Spirit’s activity continues today whenever He leads us to share the Gospel with others.
Text: 1 John 3:24-4:7
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
In Christ Jesus, Who kept His promise and send His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to us, dear fellow redeemed:
Today we celebrate the Festival of Pentecost--the third and last of the major festivals of our Christian church year. It is a festival, however, that is overlooked by most and misunderstood by many. At Christmas we stand in awe as we look into the manger and see God’s Son in the flesh! On Easter we stand with joy at the empty tomb and see its testimony of a risen Savior! Today on Pentecost we...we what? Pentecost is the anniversary of the Holy Spirit’s arrival and the beginning of the New Testament church. Pentecost is an anniversary--an anniversary to which we are tied by faith, and from which we ought receive motivation. Jesus Christ calls upon His followers to be His witnesses throughout the world. He promises to send His Holy Spirit to comfort, instruct, guide, and strengthen us for that calling. On Pentecost, therefore, we stand fully committed to our Christian calling to witness to our faith, assured of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives!
The Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost enabled the early disciples to speak in different languages in order to share the gospel with many people. That same Spirit is at work in our hearts and lives today. This is what John assures us when he writes in the first verse of our text, “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us!” Yes, as we strive to live our lives to God’s glory and in accordance with God’s will, we may rest assured of the Spirit’s ongoing presence and blessing in our lives. The Spirit’s work did not end on Pentecost, but rather continues today and will continue until the end of time. Consequently, let us consider the following thought this morning--THE SPIRIT OF PENTECOST IS ACTIVE AMONG US as we test the spirits, as we confess Jesus Christ, and as we love one another!
John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We can be assured that THE SPIRIT OF PENTECOST IS ACTIVE AMONG US as we, according to John’s command, test the spirit! My dear friends, this is not an easy, nor is it a popular task. It is, however, absolutely essential. We are living in an age when even committed Christians are squeamish about identifying and labeling false doctrine and false teachers as such. Our world denies the possibility of absolute truth and suggests that there is no such thing as false doctrine and consequently no false prophets. Everything that is stated is merely a personal opinion, and seeing that everyone has the right to their own opinions, all opinions are to be viewed as equally valid. Dear friends, while we do enjoy freedom of speech in our country and all are free to hold their own opinions, it is absolute nonsense to believe that all religious opinions are equally valid. Contrary to what the world believes God has revealed to us a ready source of absolute truth--the Holy Scriptures, our Bible. Therein we find absolute truth revealed by the one, true God for the eternal benefit of mankind. The Bible is the resource we are to use to “test the spirits.” If individuals, organizations, or church bodies teach that which is contrary to the Bible, they are “false prophets” not because we say so, but because God says so!
Will there be such “false prophets” in the world? Yes there will--many of them according to our text, and John words have certainly proven themselves true, as have the words of Peter, Paul, and Jesus Himself. In our Religion 11-12 class this year, we have spent the year comparing different religions with the Bible. We began the year considering the key teachings of the Bible and from there we have “tested” the world’s religions. Because Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Bahai, the Unification Church, and all forms of the New Age movement deny the Holy Trinity, they are all false religions and their proponents “false prophets.” Because the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian Scientists, the Quakers, and the Unitarians deny the deity of Christ and His role as our Savior, they are all false religions and their proponents “false prophets.” These are not judgments we presume to make on our own, but rather the Spirit Himself works this conviction in our hearts as we “test the spirits” in accordance with God’s command. In the same way we can and must “test the spirits” of the various Christian denominations, and as we do so we find that more and more the external Christian church is filled with “false prophets” who deny the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, who deny the validity and power of the Lord’s sacraments, who ignore and decry the principles of fellowship, who deny and remove biblical standards for faith and morals.
My dear friends, God has warned us about “false prophets.” He instructs us to “test” them using His Word as the standard. He commands us avoid such false teachers (cf. Romans 16:17). Why does He do this? He does this to protect and preserve our faith! He does this, because contrary to the belief and attitudes of people today, false doctrine is deadly! Satan will use it when-ever and wherever he can to undermine and destroy faith. Let us realize, however, that Satan is devious. He will not generally hit a believer in the face with a pail full of false doctrine. No, he rather dishes it out a teaspoon at a time. Let us, therefore, be careful. Let us heed our Savior, forTHE SPIRIT OF PENTECOST IS ACTIVE AMONG US as we test the spirits,...
and as we confess Jesus Christ! John goes on in our text, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” Jesus calls upon us, dear friends, to be His witnesses throughout this entire world (cf. Acts 1:8). We are to “make disciples of all nations” (cf. Mt. 28:18). We are to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). There is nothing more important for us to do in this world during our lifetimes than to confess Jesus Christ!
Why is this the case? It is the case because God has chosen to work through our testimony to effect faith in the hearts of people and so bring them eternal salvation. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” the Scriptures assure us. What you and I say to people can and does affect their eternal welfare. Isn’t that amazing and quite awesome. Not that we effect faith in people’s hearts ourselves. That is the province of the Holy Spirit, for as the Scriptures confirm, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). We are, however, God’s agents, chosen to bring the gospel to the hearts of lost human beings. What a privilege! What a responsibility!
What does it mean, however, to confess Jesus Christ? John says that “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” There are some who use this passage to suggest that all one really has to believe and confess about Jesus in order to be faithful to Him is that He is God’s Son and our Savior. This is not a proper deduction from our text. John was confronted in His day by a false prophet named Cerinthus. Cerinthus denied the deity of Christ and so denied the entire gospel message, which is dependent upon the fact that Jesus is both true God and true Man. John, therefore, focused on this aspect of Jesus and His teaching. The Scriptures are abundantly clear that faithfulness to Jesus Christ means the faithful confession of His entire Word. Jesus tells us, “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31). How much of His Word? Jesus commands us to “teach all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:20). You cannot divide Jesus’ teachings up, clinging to some and casting away others, and remain faithful to Him. Consequently, it is imperative that we continue to study, to grow, and to apply God’s Word in our conversations and lives.
This is not an easy thing to do. The world will ridicule the Christian for believing in an "outdated book." The world will accuse the Christian of being intolerant, when refusing to accept the immorality of such things as homosexuality, which the world claims to be an acceptable, alternate life-style. John warns us in our text that many in our world will not listen to our confession, but he then goes on to say that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Who is in us? It is the very Holy Spirit of God promised to us! That same Spirit, Who gave boldness to the early apostles, can and will give boldness to those who ask Him today! Who is in the world? Satan and his evil hosts--all who are antichrist are in the world! We need not fear, however, for as Martin Luther wrote in his great Reformation hymn, “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us, we tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us. This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none, he’s judged; the deed is done; one little word can fell him.” (TLH 262:3). Indeed, THE SPIRIT OF PENTECOST IS ACTIVE AMONG US as we confess Jesus Christ,...
and as we love one another! John concludes our text, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Dear friends, Jesus once told His disciples, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We confess Jesus with our lips, but we also confess Jesus with our lives! If you have been blessed with an exceptional knowledge of God’s Word and an ability to express your faith, but are unable to love your family members, your fellow believers, and all others, then your testimony will often be rejected and your faith itself will be viewed with suspicion. You see, hypocrites, speak many good things, but the fruit of their lives reveals something other! In a world sorely lacking in genuine love (not the lust of the flesh we see splashed all over the magazines and movie screens) an example of humble, self-sacrifice on the part of a Christian husband and father, or humble self- submission and service on the part of a Christian wife and mother, or godliness and commitment on the part of a Christian young person will be noticed.
The Bible speaks of love as being the greatest virtue, even to be valued above faith and hope (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). The reason for this is because while faith and hope will vanish as unnecessary when we view our Savior Jesus Christ at the end of time, love will continue on throughout eternity. Do you value love? We all should, for it is the love of God alone that forgives, embraces, and endows us with life everlasting. If you value love, demonstrate it in your life. “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). “Be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32). “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18), and rather be “enraptured” with (your husband’s or your wife’s) love (cf: Prov. 5:20). Deny yourself and “seek...the well-being...(of) others” (1 Cor. 10:24). Dear friends, exercising Christian love in our lives is not like a thunder shower which comes quickly and soon is over. Not at all! Rather it is like a long, slow, soaking rain that soaks deep into our souls and bears abundant fruit in our lives.
Today is Pentecost--an anniversary...our anniversary! The celebration need not and should not be over. The Spirit led over 3,000 people to faith that first Pentecost. He filled hearts and affected lives! That same Spirit is here today and lives in the hearts of every believer. Let us recognize and rejoice in the fact that THE SPIRIT OF PENTECOST IS ACTIVE AMONG US! Amen!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting