Democratization of the Spirit
At one point in time, there were people in the United States who thought “the common people” should not have cars. Henry Ford changed all that. He democratized the car. There are some people who think they ought to control the Holy Spirit. A foolish notion. Learn more in The Democratization of the Holy Spirit.
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I was at Barnes & Noble about a month ago with Sarah. She was showing me a etymological dictionary that cost in the neighborhood of $70. As she opened this book she peered down the columns of words and their origins, and she looked at me and said, “Fascinating!” I think I was being tweaked a little bit there. The girl likes words and she likes to use words in different ways. And I have a word for you today. The word is democracy . Do you know what a democracy is? Well, we’re used to using this word in the context of government. We live in a democracy – a democratic government. A government, as Abraham Lincoln said, “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Now, I can remember, when I came to Ambassador College, hearing a minister refer to democracy as demonocracy , because we were in an authoritarian church. In that church, a government run “by the people” was not considered the way God wanted things done. And it was threatening to that organization to think about a government that was “by, for and of people.” So, it’s not a new word to anybody, is it? Democracy? No, it isn’t. But there is another meaning for this word that we don’t use very often. Did you know that?
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines democracy as “the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or priveleges.” Did you ever hear that definition applied to the word democracy ? The Oxford English Dictionary says it like this: “that class of people which has no hereditary or special rank or privelege; the common people, in reference to their political power.” So, if you use this definition for that word, a democrat would be someone who treats others as equals, because there is no hereditary, social class distinctions. And it is on that ideal that our country is founded. It was that everyone is equal and should have a say in how our country is run.
Now, our country is based on the principles of democratic government, but we also have a democratic economy. What does that mean? A democratic economy? Well, I want to read you something from a book titled, They Made America , by Harold Evans. This is not the clearest writing I’ve ever read, but he does get the point across. I may stop and define terms a little bit as we go.
He says, “What is there in common between the automobile and the camera, between banking and a Boeing 747?” He says, “The short answer is that Henry Ford” – the car – “and George Eastman” – the camera – “and Amadeo Giannini” – the banker – “and PanAm’s Juan Tripp all profited from mass markets they created and served.” They did, didn’t they? Henry Ford made a car people could afford. Giannini made banking something the common people could use. George Eastman invented a camera that cost a dollar. And PanAm made international travel affordable for people for the first time. So they created mass markets by producing something that everybody could afford.
He says, “But time and time again, we find these innovators moved to the desire to be remembered as public benefactors.” In other words, he’s saying, “Not only did they want to make a lot of money, they wanted to help people as well.” And they did, didn’t they? Did you need your car? Do you enjoy family photographs? Do you like to travel and visit relatives on planes when they live a long way off? Is a bank a benefit to us? It is.
He says, “And their affect on society was more profound than simply feeding the engines of consumption. They also served the American dedication to democracy – to equal rights and freedom.” How did they do that? Well, Eastman’s Kodak gave everyone equal access to memory. Before everybody could afford a camera, only wealthy people could have family portraits taken. And before that, only kings could have portraits painted. So common people were left with their memory, and that alone. “Giannini opened banking doors, and opportunity long shot against the less affluent. Tripp put the world at the feet of the common man. And there was risk in it. It was by no means sure that when they adventured in this manner that the masses would buy cars, or open bank accounts, or take to intercontinental travel.” So there was risk involved.
Then he says, “Of course, the democratization of consumption is not the same thing as the democratization of political rights. But the two seemed to march in tandem in American history. The U.S. Constitution created expectations of a good life, and these innovators helped to fulfill them.” So he’s saying that when we began governing ourselves, rather than being governed by elitists, an expectation that we could have more in every area of life began to develop in people – in the democracy, in the common people. So there was that Brownie camera, and now people could take pictures just like the rich people. Everybody could use banks now. Not only the affluent could borrow money now, but so could you and I. And that meant that we could buy a home for the first time. So that was an amazing thing.
All this sounds really good, but did you know that back then not everybody was happy about these things? There was a man named George Seldon. He lived around the turn of the last century. He was an attorney. How would we know that? Or would we be surprised? But he patented the automobile in this country. At one time, there was a patent on cars, and only one guy could make them. Of course, he allowed other people to make them, but they had to charge $1,000 for them, and they had to pay him a fat royalty off of that $1,000. And of course, he could market his cars for less. The only problem was, his car didn’t work very well.
So, he stymied the production of the automobile for a decade in this country. Why? Because George Seldon was an elitist. He believed that the common man should not own cars! They should be kept for people like him – rich people. It got so bad that in 1907 Woodrow Wilson said, “Nothing has spread socialist feeling in this country more than the use of the automobile – a picture of the arrogance of wealth.” From The North American Review , “Our millionaires, and especially their idle and degenerate children, have been flaunting their money in the faces of the poor, as if actually wishing to provoke them.” That was about automobiles. And the quotes follows, “In the first six months of 1906, rich people, speeding through the streets in their big cars, killed more Americans than the enemy did throughout the entire Spanish-American War in 1898.” It got so bad that common people started digging trenches across roads in front of their house. Did you know that? That there was this big class warfare going on about the car? “Several counties in Pennsylvania banned automobiles.” They were the counties that had a lot of farmers and regular folks in them.
“But there was one man that resisted Seldon’s efforts – Henry Ford. He said, ‘Even you can afford a Ford.’ He built his car as the people’s car. He said, ‘I will build a car for the multitudes.’ And his first car – the Model T – sold for $590, and after he got production trimmed back and leaned out, he was later selling them for $440.” And his car worked. They finally got around Seldon. And now everybody could have a car. They could travel. They could range farther to work, to visit friends and relatives. So the automobile was democratized in the face of the resistance from all these elitists.
Isn’t that interesting how that worked? There were people that thought you and I should have cars, because we were just common people.
Well, what does all this have to do with Pentecost? Let me ask you this question. Did King David have the Holy Spirit? He did, didn’t he? Did Elijah? Yes. How about Elisha? Oh yeah, he had a double portion of it, didn’t he? How about Samuel? Well, we know he did. It says that Moses is going to be in the Kingdom, so he had it, right? But how about every Israelite? No, they didn’t all have it, did they? Only a few.
Let’s go to Joel 2 and read a prophecy.
Joel 2:28 – And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Your old men shall dream dreams. Your young men shall see visions. See, not just prophets. “ But I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.” …and also on my men servants and on my maid servants I will pour out my spirit in those days.
V-32 – And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem, there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls. Now, the first part of this verse says that “whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be saved,” but then at the bottom, it qualifies that, and it says that that’s going to happen “among the remnant whom the LORD calls.” So it’s not that everybody is going to receive the Spirit, but there’s going to be a democratization of the Spirit among all people. And this prophecy talks about a time when many will have the Holy Spirit, not just a few. God’s call is going to be extended to individuals among all peoples. So, it is a prophecy – if we want to use the term the way we used it earlier – about the democratization of the Spirit.
Job 34, verse 18. Let’s look at that scripture. If you go back to Joel, and you think about where this ultimately goes, it’s God’s intent that eventually His Spirit is going to be poured out on everybody, because He’s going to call everybody. There’s a resurrection for that, isn’t there? And that is when the Holy Spirit is really going to be democratized.
Job 34:18 – Is it fitting to say to a king, “You are worthless,” and to nobles, “You are wicked?” Yet, He is not partial to princes, nor does he regard the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands. God looks at people a lot differently than we look at people. You know, if you have a young boy, and he sees a really pretty, young girl, whew! He thinks she’s the cat’s pajamas! God doesn’t. He looks on the heart. He looks on how we are inside? If you know somebody that’s rich – they don’t have to work – and they can just spend their time doing whatever they want. There are a lot of people that really sit up and take notice of that person. God doesn’t. He thinks just as much about the people that work for that guy as he does about the rich man. He loves everybody the same. And He’s not impressed by the things that impress us. He doesn’t favor wealthy people, or beautiful people, or powerful people any more than anyone else. He’s not an elitist. He’s looking for something else in us, isn’t He, than the way the skin is stretched over the bones on our face.
Acts 10, verse 34. Let’s read this one. This is an interesting one. By the way, this scripture in Job? He had to go through a lot to learn that lesson, didn’t he? He had a lot of boils, and a lot of loss in his life to get to that place where he got that message. He was a rich man till God took it all away from him. It’s interesting, too, that once he learned that lesson, he got it back – or some of it..
Acts 10:34 – Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, “In truth, I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every naiton, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. How did Peter learn that? Well, he had to have a miracle. He had to have a vision to get that message, didn’t he? Until that time Peter thought that salvation was only available to Israel, and that they were sort of the elitist people of God. So a relationship with God is not just now for the King of Israel, or for prophets, or even for all Israel. It’s wide open to Gentiles, too. “The fields are white with harvest.”
Acts 15:6 – Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them, “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth, the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, who knows the hearts, acknowledged….” That’s what He’s interested in, right? “…acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” “Purifying their hearts by faith.” Righteousness imputed unto them – by faith.
V-10 – Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our father, nor we, were able to bear. Who is he talking to here? Well, it says in the beginning of this chapter, that there were certain of the sects of the Pharisees, who had become a part of the church. And they brought that Pharisaical attitude about God with them. They used the law, and they added their own rules, to keep people away from God. They were religious elitists – just like George Seldon was when it came to cars. He didn’t want people to have cars. Pharisees didn’t want Jesus to preach and teach, because they were afraid He would say something that would get out of conrol, and they couldn’t manage it. They didn’t want people to have the Holy Spirit. They wanted to keep it for themselves. They wanted to maintain the power. And that’s what the Holy Spirit is, isn’t it?
What did Jesus say? Matthew 23:13.
Mt. 23:13 – Woe to scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. For you neither go in yourselves, nor do allow those who are entering to go in.
V-15 – Woe to scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. He didn’t like them too much, did He? He didn’t like what they were doing. He didn’t like this elitist attitude that they had.
Romans 2, verse 10. We’re really covering quite a few scriptures here on exactly what God has in mind for us.
Rom. 2:10 – But glory, honor and peace to everyone who works what is good – to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For there is no paritality with God.
Go with me to Galatians 2. I’m going to stop speeding through scriptures after this one, I promise. This is a very important scripture. And what’s important about it might not be immediately apparent.
Gal. 2:11 – Now when Peter had come to Antioch, Paul says, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed. Why? For before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles, but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself. So, Peter, when there were no Jews around, was happy to eat with Gentile people. But when Jews showed up in the church, Jews weren’t supposed to associate with Gentiles, so he wouldn’t fellowship with the Gentiles any longer. …fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. In the King James, it says, “Carried away with their dissimulation.” I just love that word better.
V-14 – But when I saw that they were not straight forward about the truth of the gospel… – that’s the important thing! Peter, by being an elitist – by being a separatist – by thinking that he had to separate himself from Gentiles – at his core, when it got down to crunch time, that’s what he did – Paul said he was not being straight forward about the truth of the gospel. So I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles, and not as Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” Very good question – not one he could answer.
So, what we can learn from this is that an elitist attitude about the Holy Spirit is not straight forward about the truth of the gospel. God does not favor one person above another – by wealth, by race, by lineage. To hold an elitist view of others is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So what can we learn from all of this? That is the point of coming here, and having church, and having a sermon. We’re supposed to be able to take something home, right, that we can put in the bank. How can what we’re talking about make us any different?
I want to go back, for a moment, to the economic area for one example. Do you know how the concept of banking started? People used to travel around in wagons, and on horses, and camels, and caravans, and what not. It was a 4-mile-per-hour world, right? They had to carry gold with them to buy stuff, because gold was the medium of exchange. And camels didn’t like to carry a lot of gold. It was heavy. It was bulky. It was easy to steal – a lot of highwaymen around, and even people in your own caravan you had to watch. So somebody came up with this idea. A trusted man in a town,took the gold from the people, and he issued them certificates, at first, saying that this certificate means that back here, at such and such a town, there is X number of ounces of gold stored. And the bearer of this certificate can get that gold. So now, they could travel on horses, and camels, and in wagons and cars, and carry paper, which was a lot less heavy and a lot less dangerous to lose than carrying the gold around. The gold was kept safe by burying it in the ground. And usually there was so much there that a mound was raised, and the mound had banks on the side of it. So that’s where the term bank came from. That’s pretty easy to understand, isn’t it – how that works. And we all know about monetary exchange and all.
But what happened after that was, when one of those certificates was used to buy soimething, the person that got the certificate – he was usually selling goods, and so when he accumulated a lot of certificates, people would want to steal that , because they knew they could go get the gold. So they gave the certificates to the priests to keep safe. And the priest, after he accumulated a lot of these certificates, realized that people weren’t going to come for them any time soon, and he began to lend these certificates out to other people and charge interest on it. He became another form of banker. So a monetary system developed. The money that the priest lent out was used to buy other goods – the certificate changed hands again. And what did the seller of those certificates do? Well, he took them to the priests again, and what did he do? Well, he lent them out to other people. And so this same certificate is passing from hand, to hand, to hand in the community. In today’s economy, it’s estimated that the same dollar flows from person, to person, to person, to person seven times – just like it did back then. And during the Great Depression, that went down to four. The money didn’t all just go away. It wasn’t flowing . That was the problem. The money wasn’t moving as much. People were not buying and selling as much. It was all dammed up in banks, and rich people had it, and they weren’t buying anything or selling anything.
Now, if you look at the paper you have today, it says on it, “In God we trust.” Why does it say that? It said that originally because the founding fathers realized that the paper itself wasn’t worth anything, and that the only thing that made it usable was if people trusted the federal government to keep the gold safe. Now we don’t even have a gold standard anymore. We just have to trust the federal government to whatever…. So, our founding fathers trusted God to provide a strong economy, and they understood that that meant there had to be a strong flow of money from one person to the next, and back to the bank, and out again in lending and borrowing and commerce. When you have a strong flow, you have a strong economy. When the flow goes down, then people suffer.
Let’s carry that over to our experience with the Holy Spirit. We saw the Pharisees were spiritual elitists, who didn’t want the Holy Spirit to flow in and out of other people. They wanted to keep it. They wanted to dam it up. Notice in Acts 7, and verse 51. Stephen here is talking – it says he’s talking to Israel – but he’s really talking to Israel as those who follow the religion of the Pharisees. And what does he say to them?
Acts 7:51 – Stiffnecked, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit! They didn’t want it to flow. They wanted to control it. They knew that if the Holy Spirit got lose in the public, “Katy bar the door.” They couldn’t control people if that happened. They were actually afraid of the Holy Spirit and what it would do! Imagine that! Did you know that there are people today who are every bit as much elitists, and every bit as much afraid of the Holy Spirit, as the Pharisees of old. They want to dam it up and stop the flow of it through everyone else. They want it to flow through them. They’re afraid of it, because they can’t control it. You can’t have the Holy Spirit unless you go through them. You can’t use the Holy Spirit unless you get their approval.
The Holy Spirit, we’re told in the Bible, gives discernment in spiritual things. It makes us wise, so that we can make wise decisions. But there are some people that want to make all the decisions, and they don’t want us to do that. In their elitist way of thinking, they demand that we submit ourselves to them as though they have a corner on spirituality.
Do you know the biblical symbol for the Holy Spirit? It’s water, isn’t it? What does water do? Well, it either sits in a pool dammed up, or it flows, doesn’t it? And when it has its power is when it’s moving. Isn’t that true?
I remember I took my daughters backpacking one summer up in the Sierra Nevada. It was one of the heaviest snowfalls – kind of like this year, actually. Heavy snowfall meant a lot of hot weather. And we came to this little creek that was about this wide the year before. And when we got to it, it was about as wide from here to the first row of chairs, and it was like, maybe, waist deep. And it was just rolling down through there. I thought, “Boy, how are we going to get across this?” Well, I made it, and my oldest daughter made, and my youngest one – who is more slight of build – jumped in. She did what I told her. She had backpack straps loosened so she could get out of it. But she slipped and fell – fell on her back with her feet out in front of her – and probably went from here, maybe, to that thing, and hit a rock with her feet. And the water propelled her right up on her feet and she jumped out. Otherwise, I don’t know what would have happened. She could have been seriously injured, because the water was really moving very fast. And in just a split second, when she popped up out of there, she was beet red from the cold. Hypothermia was a certainty. We cut our trip short after that. We were kind of hemmed into this little triangle because of all the water flowing around us. We couldn’t get through it.
But water, when it moves has incredible power! We know how floods work – find cars up in trees, and all that stuff. That’s the picture.
I heard an inspiring story from Jim O’Brien, the pastor of the Cincinnati Church of God. There was an elder in his congregation. A man named Earl Williams. Isn’t Earl 70? He’s in his seventies – he and his wife. We had dinner with them when we were out there last – really, really nice people. Well, he started a young adults group in their congregation. And do you know what they did? They held hands in a circle, in this group, and prayed at the end every time. They prayed for the sick. They prayed for each other. They prayed for the ministry. They prayed for their friends. They prayed for their congregation. And they got to know each other really well, and they began to get real close, and have a real loving experience with each other that they’d never had before in the church. And do you know what? Of all the audacious things, Earl Williams never asked anybody’s permission to start that group – to pray. He didn’t! He just did it. He just let it flow. How audacious – not to ask permission!
Some time later – in fact, it was just a couple weeks ago, wasn’t it? – maybe a month – he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had a PSA of 11. Both his father and brother had suffered this same problem. So it was in the family. The congregation got together, including all of those young people that knew him so well – whom he had taught to pray together – laid hands on him with Mr. O’Brien at church. And everybody, who could get close enough to him to put their hands on him, did and they all prayed. A few days later, both an ultrasound and a biopsy detected no sign of any cancer whatsoever. They told him that he was going to experience bleeding and pain from the biopsy. He didn’t bleed a drop and he never felt a thing. Even the doctor said, “It was a miracle!” That’s how the Holy Spirit is supposed to work in the church and in the congregation. From Earl to them, back to him again – and around and around. It’s supposed to flow freely in and out of us to others, and then it comes back to us again.
I was talking to Guy Swenson last week, and he was telling me that every time he goes to that congregation, people invite him to attend another small group that some of them have started. Mr. O’Brien didn’t start it – the pastor didn’t start it. They’re using this book by John Eldrich, called Waking the Dead , I think. That’s the basis for their study. No minister runs the group.In fact, Mr. O’Brien said that he started to go in there one time, and realized it would change the tone of the meeting, so he just left. The people there, in that group, are finding so much value in it, Guy said they keep trying to invite him to attend that meeting with them after church services. He told me, “It might not be long before they will be inviting their friends from the community,” because they find value in it, and would find it helpful to other people. So it’s probably going to turn into some sort of natural evangelistic effort for their congregation. It’s going to flow out from them. And they’re helping each other. And they’re trying to invite other people to come in and experience what they’re experiencing. They want to share it. The Holy Spirit motivates that. Who knows where that’s going to go? But you know, the key to it was the pastor, who was willing to let it flow. He wasn’t damming it up: “You’ve got to get my permission first!” Blaaah…. (laughter) That’s not how it works! So, they do what the Spirit moves them to do, and then good things start to happen.
This weekend is an example of that very same thing. It wasn’t my idea to invite the Donnegans up here. I just found out about it. And look what good things have happened from that. Somebody got a good idea – motivated by God’s Spirit. You know, when brethren get together, and are in unity, that’s a fruit of the Spirit, isn’t it? I didn’t happen to think to do that. But somebody was prompted. So they did it. They took the initiative and that’s great!
Now, I’m very sorry for Kelly and Sarah, because I’m going to have to talk about them right now. I love to make people feel self-conscious. This past Passover, down in Albuquerque in our group, I was going to be the only baptized male. So that presented a problem. Should you wash your own feet? Well, I began to think about this whole issue of Passover. It’s our first Passover since we became an independent group. We all believe that the bread and wine is for those people who have been baptized, but we wanted to include the younger people more. And we think that it’s good for them to understand what lies ahead, and to de-mystify all of that for them, and to particiapte with us. There’s no corner on humility, so why not wash feet? And that would give me somebody’s feet to wash. We invited everybody who wanted to come. So we had three guys.
We’re a small group, so instead of sitting in rows like we used to do, we sat around a table together. We had the bread and the wine – all of that. I got the idea to take the scriptures and put them all on separate sheets of paper, and I passed them out to everybody that wanted to participate in the Passover service by reading scriptures. So everybody got to participate. Because I knew that Kelly and Sarah were coming, I made a special effort to explain the meaning of the Passover in a way that I thought would be meaningful to them. So there we were, in sort of a family setting – a very small, intimate group – young and old together – we’re all reading, in turn, the scriptures. Well, we did that later, actually.
Have you ever had to give a speech in public? While you’re doing it, you might see people’s faces, but your mind is on what you’re talking about, and you miss a lot of stuff. Have you had that experience – especially if you’re a guy, because we only have one big brain cell, and we can only think about one thing at a time. Did you know that a male brain is a lot bigger than a female brain? But in a female, the channel of nerves that run from one side to the other is a lot bigger than a male’s. Even though their brain is smaller, they do a lot more cross-talking than guys do. That’s why they’re so frustrated with us, because we can’t multi-task like they can. That was me, being a guy, during the Passover service.
I was very intent on explaining the meaning of Passover. While I was reading, I happened to look up, and I caught Sarah’s eye. After I caught her eye, I looked at Kelly, and he was looking at me, too – just as intently as she was. I don’t know if you guys remember this – probably don’t – but I do. And I could see that they were very intently focused on what I was saying – very intently focused.
Now, I’ve known Sarah since she was seven, and I’ve known Kelly since he was eleven – maybe ten. I guess they were just turning seven and eleven when I moved three – because it was Pentecost, ten years ago, when I met them. Because I always got transferred from church, to church, to church, and never was able to stay any place ten years, I’ve done more with them than I have with any of the other hundreds of young people. I know them better. I know their mother better. They’re both very deeply special to me. Part of that, too, is their mother is a very converted person, who…. You didn’t think you were going to get in on this, did you? Not because I’m anything great, but because she believes in God, and that God provides help through the ministry, she has asked my opinion about issues of their upbringing. And I’ve had – not a lot all at one time – a significant amount of input into their upbringing. So they’re like, in a way, my children in the Lord. And I look forward to having a lot more time with them, too. But I do have a lot of love and respect for them.
As I caught their eye, and I saw them listening, and they were there with us at the Passover service, I just had this incredible insight about what was really happening. I’ve always said that faith is transmitted from one heart to another, but I now know, more than ever, that it also has to do with the flow of the Holy Spirit from one heart to another. I mean, is there a point to this story? Here it comes. That Passover was the first Passover in which I was ever able to let the Spirit lead me to do a Passover service, with perhaps, one exception – when Elaine and I were persona non grata a few years ago. Before that Passover – this last one – I always had to follow a plan prepared by somebody else, who believed they knew more about what my congregation needed for Passover than I did. They wanted to dam it up, to stop the flow, to keep it in its bank, to have everything neat and tidy, and everybody marching in straight lines. They were afraid of the Holy Spirit of God. I mean, you can’t just let people do whatever they want! I learned a big lesson this Passover about how the Holy Spirit works. Those people are zealous. They’re zealous for their agenda and their ideas about what’s important. But they’re not zealous for the Holy Spirit.
You know, there’s a story in the 8 th chapter of Acts about persecution and a scattering of the brethren. Paul – the one who was Saul – was at the core of that. It says that people were scattered everywhere. And these brethren – and I think, some elders, too, probably – went to Antioch and they preached to Gentiles. They talked to anybody that would listen to them while they were on the run. Nobody had ever done that before. They hadn’t gotten permission, because they were out of contact. So, what did the apostles do? Did they send a hammer down there to shut down the operation? No, they sent Barnabas, whose name means encouragment , to see what was happening – to see if God was in it – not to shut it down, not to control it, but to see if God was at work there. And if He was, then they were going to support it, because they didn’t think that they had a corner on the Holy Spirit, but that God sent the Spirit wherever He wanted it to go, to do whatever He wanted it to do.
Now, I’m not advocating anarchy, or even independence. I think that the fact that Barnabas went down there indicates that those people all wanted to be interdependent with one another. A lot of times, I’ve learned over the years that just because I get an idea, doesn’t mean it’s a good one, and that my ideas have to be tested. They have to be run by other people. We have to try things and see if fruit comes from it. Then, if we have good fruit from it, we get the clue that the Holy Spirit is involved. But we can’t be chandelier swingers, and yahoos, and lone rangers out there, and buckaroos just doing whatever we want. We have to function together as a body, and we have to submit ourselves to one another, and we have to allow people to try things and to use the Spirit as it flows. We have to support each other and love each other.
The question is, do you want your congregation to grow? Do you want your congregation to produce fruit? Well, as a group, what we need to do is think about what we might do to help others in our congregation. That’s what Earl Williams was thinking about, wasn’t it? How could he help the young adults in his church to be more connected to God, and to each other and to the ministry? So, as a group, we think about what we might do to help others, and we think about our young people, and we think about our elderly. We think about what gifts we have to serve our community and our congregation. Then we pray about it together. And we keep doing that. And then we watch it start to flow. If we pray together about things, if we think together about what we can do to help each other and others outside of our group, it will flow. It will happen.
On this day, Pentecost, a long time ago, the Holy Spirit was first democratized. It was made available to common people – not just prophets and kings. And it came to the entire church, rather than just the ministry – or a chosen few. Every member spoke in tongues – could participate in spreading the good news about Jesus Christ. That’s why we’re here today – to celebrate that – so that we never forget that.
Somewhat before that day, Jesus gave a sermon prophesying the event, and He made a promise to all of us. It’s in John 7, verse 37. It’s a promise not only of what God will give, but also a picture of how that gift is to be used.
Jn. 7:37 – On the last day, that great day of the Feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts” – if anyone thirsts – “let him come to me and drink. And he who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
The power of the church is not dependent on the size of the organization. It’s not dependent on annual income. It’s not dependent on how many rich people attend, or how many educated people attend, or how many good-looking people attend, or how many politically connected people attend, or any other physical attribute. The power of a congregation is determined by the flow of the Holy Spirit in and out of our hearts to each other and to everyone.