Thought for the Week - 28th June

Lloyd Hopkin
Acts 2: 1-6

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come,
they were all with one accord in one place.  
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven,
as of a rushing mighty wind,
and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  
Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire,
and one sat upon each of them. 
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews,
devout men, from every nation under heaven.  
And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together,
and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

Acts 2: 38-41

Then Peter said to them,
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized
in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins;
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is to you and to your children,
and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them,
saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized;
and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

We see here the day of Pentecost.  Christ has died, risen and has gone to heaven.  We see 120 of His followers who have obeyed His word to stay in Jerusalem until His presence comes.

We read that they’re in the upper room praying.  They waited together with one accord, of one heart and one mind.  What came was the Holy Spirit.  We read the tongues of fire fell upon their head.  What came was a power.  In one day they went from 120 people to over 3,000.  From there, the power of God spread until it covered the whole globe.  Every single one of us have an inheritance because of the power of God that came, we directly have found God, have found baptism of the Holy Spirit and the fire of God, through what happened there.

2 Peter 1: 5-9

 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence,
add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 
to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance,
to perseverance godliness,
to godliness brotherly kindness,
and to brotherly kindness love.
For if these things are yours and abound,
you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

How do we as Christians show to others what we have, and how do we bring others into the Kingdom of God?  When we look at the day of Pentecost, on one level there was nothing they could do.  It was the Holy Spirit that came.  It was the Holy Spirit that changed them.  It was the Holy Spirit that converted those 3,000 people and took the Gospel across the world.  If they’d sat down and worked out a strategy, it wouldn’t have worked.  It was God’s plan and they couldn’t plan it out.  They had to rely on God.

What they could do was find the spirit of God and the power of God.  We read in Peter that if we have these things (e.g. diligence, faith etc) we will be fruitful.  If we focus on our relationship with Christ and we will be fruitful.  If we focus on these things, and getting ourselves right, we will be fruitful.

Spurgeon wrote:

We have noticed men of considerable parts and opportunities who have never succeeded in doing real good in the conversion of souls; and after close observation we have concluded that they lacked certain graces which are absolutely essential to fruit bearing. For real usefulness, graces are better than gifts. As the man is, so is his work.

Peter tells us these things are the keys to a fruitful life; the love we have for others and the love we have for souls.  With these things, we will never be barren, we will never be unfruitful, and we will see fruit in our life.  We may go through times where there is lots of fruit, and we may go through times where there is not much fruit.  Fruit could be having conversations with people, people in our work or family, who are changed; people who see the difference in us.  Throughout our lives, different opportunities we have to speak to people about Christ and to bring the presence of Christ, that is fruit.

God finds these opportunities for us!  When we look around us, wherever we are, God will find us opportunities to speak to people.  We’ve got to take those opportunities and jump for them.  He will bring them to us.  We rest on Him but should be ready to take those opportunities when they come.

It comes back to this love.  Peter speaks of faith, on top of that to build virtue, and on top of that to build knowledge (of the bible and of God), and on top of that to build self-control, and then perseverance.  They almost build on top of each other until you reach love.  Love for one another, love for others in the church, and love for others outside the church.  One of the things that God takes us through are difficulties.  He does that to build up our self-control.  He does that to build up our perseverance.  As we do that, we focus more on Him and less on ourselves.  That is painful, but it means that as we focus more on Him, we’re building that self-control, we’re building that perseverance.  That allows us to build love on top; love for Christ and love for others.

It speaks to us about the importance of love.  Peter talks about self-control and perseverance, but at the end of that comes love.  We’re building a foundation of these things and love goes on top of that.

Peter talks of two types of love – a brotherly affection and a chosen love.  We struggle with a chosen love.  We often consider love to be an emotion – how do we choose to feel it?  There is a love that we do choose.  We have to choose to love one another, and we have to choose to love God.  There are times where we have to choose a love, even when we don’t feel it.  There are times in our life where we have to choose to pray, to spend time with God, to read the bible etc.  It’s a constant life of choices.  Often we feel as if we have to “feel” it, or there’s something wrong.  In actual fact, what we’re meant to be doing is constantly choosing to love God, and constantly choosing to love one another.

When people annoy us or irritate us, it’s then that affection becomes love – because we’re choosing it.  When we talk about having the right reactions with each other, we often talk about it as “doing the right thing”.  We don’t think about it as showing that person love.  We don’t think about not saying something because of the effect on the other person.  We can be very self-centred.  We see ourselves, but we don’t see other people in the same way.  But what Christ commands us to do is to love others as we love ourselves.  We teach children “what would it feel like if someone said that to you?” and yet we forget that as adults.  Christ commands us to see someone in the same light as we see ourselves.

While the verses below are often read at weddings, it talks so much more about what love means:

1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge, and though I have all faith,
so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy;
love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

We can do everything right – on the outside we can be a very spiritual person, say the right things and do the right things.  But actually what God is interested in is the heart within us and whether we have that love.  It’s about the love that is within us.  Without it, we are empty.  And without it, everything we do is empty.  We see something that lasts forever.  That is the thing that lasts forever – it is God’s love within us.  If we want to build a work that endures, it has to be built on the love of Christ.

It goes back to what is said in Peter, if we don’t have that love we can’t be fruitful.  And we can’t be fruitful because it’s not built on love, it’s built on pride.  Because our love isn’t perfect, pride takes over – people become self-seeking, ambitious and paranoid.  All the good intention disappears!  That is the pride that is within us.

We read that God is love and in Corinthians we read about what love is.  We can almost turn it on its head for pride: Pride doesn’t suffer long, it’s jealous, it parades itself, it’s puffed up, and it cannot last forever.  It’s these two things that are within us that conflict.  This is why God asks us to go through self-control and perseverance, because he’s bringing us to a place where he’s taking our pride and is breaking it.  Samuel Rutherford said that we need the winter to rot the pride within us.  We need to go through difficult times to take away our pride, and to turn our eyes to God and not on to ourselves.

We look at each other and don’t see ourselves, we see other people.  It’s for us to choose to love one another.  It’s for us to look at somebody else and to see things from their perspective.  When we think about ourselves all the time, when we surround ourselves with ourselves only see our own problems, our world becomes about us alone – we don’t see the hurts and difficulties of others.  It’s only by doing that, that our love grows.  We can’t do that on our own.  Our love is imperfect!  We need the love of Christ.  By choosing to love Christ and God, He will put that love within us for others.

The practicalities are that we choose to love God.  That we don’t only choose to do things for Him, but we choose to spend time with Him and pour out our love for Him.  When we do that, we’re no longer focussing on ourselves, we’re focussing on God.  And that is what love is!  It’s when we look away from ourselves and look towards God.  This is what God is asking of us – towards Him and others – that we take our eyes off ourselves.  That we bring those difficulties and hurts to Him.

Luke writes in Acts above that when the disciples were gathered in the upper chamber, they were with one accord and they were waiting.  Both of these things go back to the verse in Peter – perseverance and without differences.  They had been told to wait and so they listened to God and waited.  They were there with one accord, without differences and arguments.  Then the fire fell!  It’s so important for the growth within our lives that we practice these things!  We need to practice love towards each other and towards God.

It’s that love, unity and perseverance that allowed the Spirit of God to descend.  If we want the fire of God to descend in our lives and the lives of others, we must soften our hearts.  We must take our eyes off ourselves, put our eyes onto God and also on each other.  We look to Christ who is our example.  He spent no time looking at Himself, thought nothing of His needs, and spent every moment of His time pouring out to God and those who needed Him.  That is our example and our standard.


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