Pentecost: Life Ablaze

New World UMCPastor's Blog

Today, we commemorate Pentecost, a pivotal moment in the story of our Christian faith. The origin of Pentecost is found in a Jewish holiday known as the Feast of Weeks, which celebrates the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. As such, it is observed 50 days (seven weeks) after Passover. However, as Christians, we celebrate Pentecost 50 days after Easter, marking the descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Christian Church. Let’s briefly recall how we arrived at this day.

In the weeks following Easter, there was a period of profound transformation. We started at the empty tomb, where we found not death but the astonishing promise of resurrection. Then we saw the risen Christ appearing before his disciples numerous times, showing his wounds, reminding them of his love, giving them hope, and finally delivering the Great Commission to them,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

With this, Jesus also instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit,

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promise of the Father.” Acts 1:3-4

After receiving these instructions, the disciples waited and prayed, anticipating the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, which was the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today, at Pentecost, we are reminded of when this promise was fulfilled: making all things new, turning the world upside down, and giving new meaning to our lives.

Here is the story of how it happened. This is Acts 2:1-8,

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every people under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”

After this, Peter explained the life of Jesus and the meaning of his death and resurrection. Then, in Acts 2:37-42, this happened,

“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Acts 1 and 2 are the story of when the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled and changed everything. Before this happened, the apostles and disciples were hiding from the public for fear that what had happened to Jesus might also happen to them. But everything changed on Pentecost Day when the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled, and all of them were filled with God’s presence and power to proclaim the Kingdom of God in different languages. The hesitation that overwhelmed them was gone, and they were boldly living their lives to the fullest—no longer waiting on the sidelines.

An example of this transformation is the apostle Peter. Here, we see him not as a cowered disciple overwhelmed by guilt for denying Jesus and having no confidence in his capacity and skills but as a powerful and eloquent witness of Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood before a crowd that included some of the same people he once feared, yet he boldly declared the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter’s life was set ablaze when the Spirit of God came to him.

But what does it mean to us now? What does having the Holy Spirit look like to us today? I remember when I was young and getting serious in my faith journey, some of my friends and relatives noticed I was changing. I guess the way I talked and behaved gave me away. So, they would ask me about it, and I would simply say that God was changing me. I was becoming more kind, more compassionate, and more confident about who I was. To me, having the Holy Spirit meant being transformed and having a new beginning in my life, loving and following Jesus.

I share this because maybe you have heard that you don’t have the Holy Spirit unless you speak in angelic tongues, have a supernatural power to heal, or walk around with a halo over your head. You may have those things, but those are not the definitive proofs that the Spirit of God is with us.

If you have ever wondered what it means to have the Holy Spirit, think of the softening of a hardened heart, the forgiveness offered where there was once bitterness, and the newfound strength to break free from habits that were once shackles. Having the Spirit is living as God intended us to live one day at a time, pursuing the likeness of Jesus. If there is a sign of us having the Spirit of God in our lives that we can trust, it is the one Jesus spoke of when he said,

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

So, love is the distinguishing character trait that Jesus’ disciples bear, but it is also the seed of every other sanctifying virtue in our lives. Consider the fruit of the Spirit outlined in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives and love is the foundation of them all.

Therefore, from this seed of faith and love, the Holy Spirit works within us as our lives begin to align more closely with Jesus’ teachings. We grow in our ability to love unconditionally, to forgive repeatedly, and to serve joyfully. We become more aware of others’ needs and more willing to act selflessly. And there is passionate joy in living like this as if our lives were ablaze with love for God and our neighbor—which they are!

Just as it happened to Peter, you, me, and so many Christians throughout time, this transformation of our character and behavior is a profound testimony to the world around us—a witness that something supernatural and special is happening within us.

This is what the people who listened to Peter preach experienced, “What should we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” After this, they were baptized, and as Acts 2:46-47 states, “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

This is a beautiful picture that tells many stories. Just imagine, as they believed, repented, baptized, and joined others, their lives became ablaze with new life. The spark of faith, as they heard Peter preach, started a profound internal change, like lighting a small flame that gradually grew into a fire, spreading warmth and light, igniting a fire of love, hope, and passion for life. Moreover, having the Holy Spirit was and is not just for our personal comfort or for spiritual gifts but for a purpose as the disciples also carried out the Great Commission of teaching Jesus’ teachings, “And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

This is Pentecost: God’s presence compelling us to pursue what is good and right as we believe, confess, and commit to sharing the love and message of Jesus in our everyday environments—our homes, workplaces, and communities. It redefines our priorities and values. Like fire, it consumes old wastes—habits, prejudices, and wrongs—and, in their place, grows a desire to embody the virtues of Christ: love, patience, kindness, and humility, inspiring us to bless those around us.

In conclusion, Pentecost is not just a historical event but a personal experience; it is a vibrant, ongoing reality in our lives today. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to pour out his Spirit on all flesh, empowering us to live lives marked by love, transformed by grace, and committed to the mission of the Gospel. It calls us to move beyond our former selves, to shed the limitations of our past, and to step into a new identity as God’s empowered witnesses.

Here is the invitation: Let the love of Christ compel us, the joy of the Spirit uplift us, and the peace of God guide us. Let us carry the flame of Pentecost into every part of our lives, demonstrating God’s love and grace in all that we do by becoming better spouses, parents, friends, neighbors, and human beings. Let us live so that our lives bear witness to the truth that we are indeed the disciples of Christ, known by our love for one another and our joy in the Holy Spirit.

May our lives become ablaze and glowing, with passion for life and fulfillment of our purpose.

Let’s join together in this prayer:

God, on this day of Pentecost, renew in us the gift of your Holy Spirit. Let your love burn brightly within us, driving out all fear and filling us with your overwhelming joy. Empower us to be your witnesses, to share the good news of your love and salvation with all we meet. As we go from this place, let us be bearers of your light, spreading hope and peace wherever we go. In the powerful name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.

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