Thursday, May 01, 2008
The word Expectation has been arising a lot lately. I’ve heard numerous people say they are expectant, waiting in anticipation of what God is about to do. These people are not passively waiting, but passionately praying and listening for God’s voice. There is a sense that something big is around the corner.
Webster’s dictionary defines Expecting in this way: to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of. It says elsewhere that the word expect implies a high degree of certainty and usually involves the idea of preparing or envisioning.
A few months ago, God put this word in my heart too. I was drawn to the book of Acts, remembering how God told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem.
Acts 1:3-5, 8
“After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 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’ …But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."”
Jesus had just died a painful and humiliating death on the cross and then had risen from the dead! Now, here he is with his disciples, and he gives them a command – Wait. He follows up that command with a promise. He promises the disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them. He says they will testify to the things they have seen.
I’m sure the disciples had no idea what this Holy Spirit was, what it would look like or even when it would come. Yet, they wait. They wait because they know Jesus. They have touched him. They have eaten with him. They have witnessed this man’s power over death! They believe in Him.
They wait, with purpose. They wait with expectation – the kind of expectation defined by a high degree of certainty. They continue to pray and wait preparing for what God is about to do.
Likewise, we are here waiting in expectation, preparing for what God is about to do.
So, what is God about to do?
We can catch a glimpse if we examine what God did just days later on the day of Pentecost. God made good on his promise; he poured out his Spirit!
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 disciples’ expectation was well-founded. God poured out his Spirit and as a result 3000 people became followers of Christ in one day? Not only did they confess with their mouths, but they began to make serious changes in their lifestyles, selling possessions, giving to others as they had need. I believe God is reminding us today of what he did in the early church because he desires to pour out his Spirit again.
The prophet Joel writes in chapter 2:
28 "And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
God is getting ready to pour out His Spirit again – on all people. But, he says he will do it afterward – after what? The preceding verses answer that question,
12 "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."
13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God
for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.
He says that he will do this after we have repented. God is calling us as individuals, as a church and as nations to repentance. Repent, because the kingdom of God is near.
If we stop right there, it’s easy to get hung up in the guilt associated with repentance because it involves us dealing with our sin.
But, the whole point of repentance is to get rid of our sin. We give it to Jesus, who already paid for it, and Jesus gives us freedom. “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”
What good news!
In truth, God is calling the church to freedom, so that we might call those in the world to freedom! It’s time.