Shame into Glory
(Read Acts 2)
Barely a week into 2021 and things have already gotten crazy in this country. What happened this week in Washington, DC may not have been the darkest day in our history, but it was an appalling display of selfish, violent behavior, bent on fanning the flames. As a follower of Christ and an incurable optimist, I believe that our nation will get past this and things will eventually get better. My parents told me stories recovering from World War II. I remember the attacks of 9/11 like it was yesterday and we rose from the ashes of that tragic day. However, younger people don’t have the experience of that kind of perspective. I read a comment from someone that a lot of people under the age of 40 aren’t sure things will ever be right. That was a sobering statement that never occurred to me.
With fragile emotions and hyper-sensitivity to the election, our President, racism, Covid-19, and a multitude of other issues, the rioting at our Capital building became yet another tipping point. Acts 2 reminded me of a similar display of shameful behavior but with an offer of hope for unity and (eternal) love.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Pentecost was literally the 50th day after the Sabbath of the Passover week. It was the first fruits of the wheat harvest and a big deal. One hundred twenty believers and disciples were gathered together, probably in a temple when this giant gale force wind stormed in. The wind is frequently related to the presence of the Holy Spirit. A rushing mighty wind inside a house or building is highly unusual but the connection in Acts, could be a linguistic one. In both Greek and Hebrew, the word for spirit is the same word for breath or wind. So the sound of the wind rushing in was the sound of the Holy Spirit pouring out on the disciples.
The disciples gathered from many different nations were speaking and listening in languages they were never taught. Much like then, in our world, we all speak different languages, and hear and respond to different voices. Accused of being intoxicated because their behavior wasn’t easily understood, the disciples were ridiculed.
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!'”
Peter, as the leader of the Apostles, set their accusers straight. They needed to understand who Jesus of Nazareth really was, what his significance meant, and how that opened the door for the Holy Spirit. More to the point, Peter reminded them of their role in his death. Many of this crowd had seen Jesus. Once again, being the accusers, many of this crowd were probably instrumental in his crucifixion as well. Even though Jesus’ crucifixion was planned and ordained by God, the people intimately responsible still deserved bearing guilt for the action. Peter, known for being direct and not overly subtle, charged them with their responsibility. Peter reminded them that Jesus was God. Jesus was even of greater importance than David (their kingly idol). Even David looked up to Jesus.
“The Lord said to my Lord:
‘Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
This verse blows me away. When faced with our sins, our normal behavior is to deny or attack. We look at anything and everything that is not in the mirror. Yet, the crowd listening to Peter took a more accountable response. “Brothers, what shall we do?” Nowadays, when conversations turn serious, they often turn toxic. We value our own opinions more than our relationships. We don’t listen to each other. We forget the divine spirit that lives inside of us.
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
The church at that time went from about 120 souls to 3,120. Rather than a wheat harvest, it was a harvesting of souls. Peter showed his audience that the promise of the gospel is for everyone. He pointed out that the gift of the Holy Spirit is not only freely available, but that it is essential for producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”
Francis Chan said, “God put His Spirit in us so we could be known for our power.” Look at the unifying power that the Holy Spirit brought to these accusers. From self-absorbed to generous hearts. A willing heart makes room for a changed heart.
What Shall we Do?
Bruce Hurt of preceptaustin.org wrote a fantastic piece that illustrates how the Holy Spirit works like an Artesian well. If you’re not familiar, an Artesian well is a fountain of sorts where water flows freely due to positive pressure from water at higher levels. Positive pressure is pressure within a system that is greater than the environment that surrounds it.
Pastor and author Paul David Tripp captured our need for the Holy Spirit perfectly, “I need the presence and power of the Holy Spirit living inside me because sin kidnaps the desires of my heart, blinds my eyes, and weakens my knees.”
The Holy Spirit will flow through us because the pressure comes from above. We just need to allow it in.
You turn mourning to dancing
You give beauty for ashes
You turn shame into glory
You’re the only one who can (Come on)
You turn mourning to dancing
You give beauty for ashes
You turn shame into glory (Tell ’em now)
You’re the only one who can (Let’s turn the graves)
You turn graves into gardens
You turn bones into armies
You turn seas into highways
You’re the only one who can (He’s the only Lord)
You’re the only one who can
Graves into Gardens
- When someone says or writes something you don’t agree with, let it sink in. If it’s not threatening, consider their experience. Do they have the benefits of your perspective. Is your perspective the right perspective? Take a breath. Step back. Allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to illuminate your behavior.
- Show you’re a follower of Christ by who you are — by how you act and react to things.
- Allow the Holy Spirit into your life. Jesus Christ was mercilessly punished and executed for us because of our sins. He took it on himself. He only asks that we act like him. He died for the Holy Spirit to give us power. Pray for this Spirit to unify us in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Where else in your life can you live out the teachings of Christ? Look for next week’s Devotion.