A week ago last night the annual Prom Grand March brought out the town and also a lot of sharp dressed young men and women. The girls looked elegant in their gowns and the guys looked handsome in their tuxes and suits.
A lot of money and time were spent, by both sexes, on getting ready for this important event. They were sharp dressed persons last Saturday night.
But on this Pentecost Sunday I ask each of us “What does it mean to be a sharp dressed person regarding our faith?”
Paul writes in Galatians 3:27
“…for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
So what does it mean to be a sharp dressed person of faith? How does this Sunday, the day in which the promised Holy Spirit came to those gathered waiting in obedience to Christ’s command, help us to become not a sharp dressed person but a person well dressed in Christ?
Pentecost Sunday is the 50th day after the Passover celebration. In the Old Testament it was originally called Festival of the Weeks and is now called in the Jewish faith, Shavuot. Its original intent was to celebrate the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt Sinai.
For the Christian faith, Pentecost is often called the “birthday of the church” as it launched the remaining disciples of Christ into sharing the Gospel starting in Jerusalem and then further and further out into the world as Jesus commanded them in Matthew 28.
It was quite the birthday party as we read in Acts 2:1-4
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.
The coming of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus noted before His ascension to heaven in Acts 1:4-5, was a key part of this particular Pentecost celebration:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
The presence, power, and purpose of the Holy Spirit was necessary for the church to start. His coming was critical for the disciples to become witnesses of what they had experienced with Christ and what Christ offered those who would hear about Him.
The Holy Spirit is essential for our work and life as well dressed followers of Jesus Christ. From the awareness of our need to confess and repent of our sins to the empowerment of our thoughts, actions, and words in obeying the Lord, the Holy Spirit is simply essential if we are going to live for the Lord.
Now before I move on, I want to acknowledge that a couple of our teens, in my response several months ago for sermon topics they wanted to hear about, noted three topics that I believe are tied into what this particular Sunday means for us.
One dealt with the issue of self-control, another regarding acting on the Word, and a third on the issue of spiritual mentorship. The Holy Spirit deals with all three of these and, I suggest this morning, uses them to “sharpen” us into maturing followers of Jesus Christ.
And our main text focuses on this sharpening aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. It is Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another (NIV)
Now what point did the writer intend to mean with the use of the word “sharpen.” The ancient Hebrew word used here, chadah, means (and you might be surprised by this) “to rejoice, to make glad, to gladden.”
How might this tie into the work of the Holy Spirit?
I suggest this morning that when the Holy Spirit uses us to help sharpen one another it is for our ultimate good and God’s glory but in a manner which does NOT discourage us but encourages us to keep moving forward. Conviction is part of the Holy Spirit’s work but conviction that is ultimately for our benefit to gladden our hearts and help us be hopeful people.
And what the teens have asked about regarding self-control, acting on the word, and the importance of spiritual mentorship, tie into this sharpening work of the Holy Spirit.
So then how does the Holy Spirit help us achieve self-control?
Well, what are we told these days about how to achieve self-control?
What I hear on how to achieve self-control is exercising greater will power, trying harder, believing in yourself that you can achieve it. But is that enough? We need to make a decision to become self-controlled but it is not enough.
In the list of qualities we call the Fruit of the Spirit, self-control is listed at the end of them. I have often wondered why it was listed last, perhaps because it is the result of the other eight becoming evident in our lives. I don’t know for sure but it is listed as one of the evidences of a Holy Spirit filled and empowered life.
But how does self-control, as evidence of the Spirit in our lives, develop?
One of the things I am not proud of is that when I played high school tennis, I lost my temper during a match and threw my racket, twice. (I was a terrible player.)
I was fined by my coach, I embarrassed my teammates and my family, and I also ended up having my racket break a few days later thus costing my parents some more money.
Now when I went to college I played tennis for fun. I did not throw my racket anymore, but my attitude indicated that I was just as frustrated and angry as I was in my high school days. I lacked some inner and attitudinal self-control. But in my final semester of college I had a college roommate that helped me develop some greater self-control as he worked with me to help me enjoy the game for the exercise and camaraderie we enjoyed in the final weeks of our college days now 35 years ago. It was an iron sharpening iron experience.
One of the most important tasks of Christian discipleship is to help one another be self-controlled by walking alongside others in the power, wisdom, and strength of the Holy Spirit as He shapes us both directly and through the community of faith as well. Colossians 3:16 reminds us of this important task
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
The Holy Spirit also helps us with acting on the Word. But also, I add, living out the Word.
Again, Colossians 3:16 points this out.
I don’t know how many times that a passage of scripture has become clearer to me where I had have heard an insight from another person in conversation or Bible study. Discussing and studying the Bible in a group or with one other person is another way the Holy Spirit works to sharpen us and help us become a stronger and maturing believer.
And interestingly enough, one of the most difficult classes I had in seminary was a class on Bible study. My professor had written the text book and taught a method of study that required a close and careful reading of the text within its context.
We used the book of Mark to learn the method and I remember wrestling with various passages as we studied. It was hard work. But I also recall the power of scripture working itself into our lives as we studied the Bible together. Turns out, I have used that content of that class more than any other because it taught me the power of acting on and living in the word. It was an iron sharpening experience.
Finally the Holy Spirit sharpens us as we mentor one another.
In a recent Twitter post, someone quoted GK Chesterton, a Christian writer of another generation, as saying, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” That reminded me of the disciples in the boat as they faced strong seas together and found the power of Jesus sufficient for calming both the sea and their fearful hearts.
Imaging with me for a moment the mentoring they had while in the presence of Jesus Himself! Yes they argued and fought with one another but the bond that developed between them because of whom they were with and what He did to them and for them was strengthened to a deeply powerful depth on Pentecost Sunday when the Holy Spirit came and began dwelling within them.
But as we read start reading through the book of Acts, the remaining eleven (Judas tragically dying), began to disappear from the story of the early days of the Christian faith and church. The work and ministry of Paul began to take center stage but the remaining disciples continued to do what Jesus had commanded them to do, “go into all the world and make disciples.”
As I considered this week, the journeys of the eleven, I asked “Did they stay in touch? Did they ever come back together and share of their experiences?”
We don’t know.
But what is important is that they carried, far from the geographic center of the faith, the story of Christ’s salvation and grace for every human being they met. And those people carried the message and mentored others in the faith down through the centuries.
But how Pastor Jim, how did they do that?
They shared what they knew and had experienced.
They prayed together.
They taught individuals and groups.
The lived out their faith in daily life.
Mentoring in the faith is more than content. It is sharing the journey, the ups and downs, the victories and the failures, of faith with other people and learning from them.
The Holy Spirit uses people – you and me – to accomplish God the Father’s work and mission. He uses us in the important role of mentors to help one another grow in the Christ, be strengthened by Christ, and to sustain belief and hope in Christ.
So on this Pentecost Sunday, I remind us that when the Holy Spirit came it was not a “one shot deal” and He was gone. No, the Holy Spirit came and He has stayed to do what Jesus said He would do.
When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (NIV)
We are partners with the Holy Spirit as He works, guides, and leads
To help us develop and practice self-control…
To act on and live out the Word of God…
And to mentor and be mentored in the faith.
The Holy Spirit helps us become sharp dressed people of faith.
But the Holy Spirit, as we note in the Fruit of the Spirit passage, is present to help us become people characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. This character development comes as we let go of our self-centered agenda and desires and allow the Holy Spirit to enter into us, not to make us weird but to make us more and more like Jesus as the years go by.
Which leads me to ask some questions this Pentecost Sunday morning,
How much of you does God have? How surrendered are you to the Lord today? Is your life characterized by these fruits?
Are you struggling with a particular sin? Unrighteous anger, lust, fear, impatience, jealousy, or something else?
Are you feeling defeated in your faith? Are ready to give up?
By whose strength and power are you living out your faith? Yours or God’s?
I encourage you this morning, even where you are sitting, to invite the Holy Spirit into your life today. Ask Him to forgive you where that needs to take place, then surrender all of you to Him. Hold nothing back.
Let us be people filled with the Holy Spirit so deeply that Jesus is truly seen in us.