(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
The Miracle of Pentecost
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
Genesis 2:4-7, Ezekiel 37:1-14, John 20:19-22
We see “breath” as “natural,” taking in mundane air. The Holy Spirit is “supernatural,” and often mysterious. But scholar N. T. Wright noted, “The words for ‘wind’, ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ are the same (this is true in both Hebrew and Greek). This wind is the healing breath of God’s spirit, come to undo the long effects of primal rebellion.” When John said Jesus “breathed” on the disciples, he used the same verb the Greek version of the Old Testament used for God’s life-giving work in Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37:9.
The disciples had been with Jesus for three years. It must have been impossible to imagine Jesus’ ministry going on without him present. Yet before he died on the cross, Jesus promised his disciples another Companion, the Holy Spirit. He said that the Spirit would continue and extend his presence with them. Even more, he said that by the Holy Spirit’s power they would accomplish even greater things after he was gone (cf. John 14:12)!
Jesus spoke of an Advocate, or Companion, who would carry on his work after he left earth. The Holy Spirit would help lead Jesus’ people into truth, inspiring them to seek Jesus in the midst of hatred. Jesus reminded his followers that even after he left, they should not lose hope, but take comfort that the Holy Spirit was with them wherever they went. Jesus was direct with the disciples: “I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now” (John 16:12). However, the Holy Spirit would continue his work of teaching them (John 16:13).
Pentecost was a Hebrew harvest festival, which came seven weeks after Passover. On this day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the Passover when Jesus died on the cross, God sent the Holy Spirit, marked by amazing signs. At first, some skeptics in Jerusalem claimed the Spirit-filled Christians had just started drinking early. Peter forcefully told them this wasn’t inebriation. It was God pouring out the Spirit, as promised in Joel 2:28.
The dramatic signs (the sound of a mighty wind, “what seemed to be individual flames of fire” and speaking in various languages) caught the attention of the large crowd of Pentecost worshippers. The Holy Spirit led Peter to boldly preach the saving news of Jesus’ victory over death, which had happened just 50 days earlier in that very city.
Acts said the Holy Spirit’s stirring coming at Pentecost had very specific, tangible, measurable results. It shaped Peter’s preaching, and touched so many hearts that it changed the disciples from a tiny, at-risk group to a movement of thousands. And it was not a one-day event—the Spirit’s power kept right on changing lives for the better (verse 47).
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Holy Spirit, come into us this day and forever more. Refresh our weary souls with your healing power. Stir us to live boldly for you as we claim your promise. Guide us and grant us a teachable spirit so that we might truly learn and grow in our faith. Teach us your values and unveil your mysteries. Breathe into us your breath of life and give us new vitality. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
Do you believe in the supernatural? If so, what makes you believe? Have any seemingly supernatural events ever occurred in your life? Does a person have to believe in the supernatural in order to be a Christian?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
Read Genesis 2:4-7, Ezekiel 37:1-14, John 20:19-22. The Bible said God’s “breath” (or Spirit–Hebrew used the same word for both) was the source of all life. In the same way, Jesus breathed eternal life into his disciples. Do you believe that you are filled with the breath of God? Can you see how that brings you life itself? In the story of the dry bones, God brought hope where there was none. This hope is also a kind of life-bringing breath of fresh air. Has God ever given you hope when you thought there was no hope in the midst of a desperate situation?
Read John 14:16-26. Jesus said that we, as Christians, with the power of his Holy Spirit, would accomplish even greater things than he did. Do you believe that this has been true for Christianity? Does this challenge you to “hold up your end of the bargain”? Can you name one small effort that we might make that could turn out to be a truly great thing? In these verses, Jesus assumes the Trinity–one God in three persons. Do you struggle with the mystery of how this can be? Does it make sense to you that, if God is really God, some aspects of “God reality” would go beyond what our human minds can easily comprehend?
Read John 15:26-16:14. Why would Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit as “the Comforter/Advocate/Companion” (depending on your English translation–the Greek paraclete meant “one who stands alongside of”)? What did he mean when he said that we, too, must testify? Jesus told the disciples that he had “much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” Do you think that many of us now know more about God and his plans than the disciples did? Has the Holy Spirit ever helped you during times when your faith was tested? When have you most sensed Christ’s presence with you?
Read Acts 2:1-21. Jesus promised his disciples they would be filled with the Holy Spirit. The disciples had to wait seven weeks after Jesus died on the cross for this to happen. Have you ever had to wait for God? Were you impatient or patient? Did waiting for God challenge your faith? What did you learn from the experience? Are the problems you face less troubling to you because you trust the Holy Spirit is watching over you, and that God keeps God’s promises?
Read Acts 2:22-36. Jesus’ miracles, wonders and signs helped the disciples believe he was the Christ, the Messiah. Has the Holy Spirit spoken to your heart about who Jesus is? How does the Holy Spirit help you to deal with uncertainties and fears about life and death? How can the Holy Spirit help you to explain to others what Christ’s salvation and your faith have meant in your life? Have you ever shared with someone else, and thought, “Where did those words come from”?
Read Acts 2:37-47. Was Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, a one-day event? Why or why not? The crowd asked Peter, “What should we do?” How would you answer that question today? Scholar William Barclay wrote, “We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and in that power we can win battles we never thought to win and resist things which by ourselves we would have been powerless to resist.” In what ways have you found this to be true? Do you wish others might enjoy those same benefits in their own lives? Think of how you might pray for the Holy Spirit to help you to overcome some obstacle in your own life during this next day, week, month or year.
From last week: Did you carry a notepad and pen everywhere? Did you make notes on every unexpected thing that happened to you and note whether it was pleasant or unpleasant, for good or for bad? Did you, at the end of the week, go over the list and see if you still thought it was for good or for bad? Tell the group about this exercise.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From the Pastors’ sermons, August 3-4, 2013:
From Pastor Jeff Kirby’s sermon, August 4, 2013:
“God created us to be indwelt by His very breath, the Holy Spirit. One way to understand the message of the Christian faith would be, not how to get everyone to heaven, but how to get the Spirit of God back into men and women.
I like the Methodist church symbol –the cross and the little red squiggly thing. That is the tongues of fire. I like it because it brings together two timeless essentials of our faith, the cross and the Spirit. The events of Good Friday and Easter only make sense when they are understood in the light of Pentecost. If we only have the cross, and even the resurrection, without the Spirit we have interesting historical events, but they do not transform our experience of life.
The fire reminds us of the burning, intense and purifying presence of God that comes in ancient revelations of God. Remember the words of that firebrand preacher John the Baptist: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11)….
[This] means God has turned a new page in the story of salvation history. The gospel message is intended for the whole world. Not just one ethnic people, not just one region or people group, but for every nation, tribe and tongue. God’s heart has always been for the whole world. There has never been a day when God did not love the whole world. Every person who has ever lived has been the object of God’s fatherly, compassionate love. The picture of heaven in the final book of the Bible is a gathering of people from every tribe and tongue and people group.
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ original followers. From that day to this we live in the era of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is estimated that 80,000 people every day are becoming Christians! Some of that is by biological growth–Christian families having children. Much is conversion growth. Between 4,000 and 5,000 new churches start every week.
So what does all of this mean for us, you know, normal people like you and me? The letters of Paul translate the historical events of Pentecost into life application of how we now live. In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians he writes: “Do not be drunk on wine which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
One of the questions I am most often asked while leading the Alpha Course here is this: “How can I know God’s will for my life?” That is a very big question and we could approach it in lots of different ways. But here is one clear and simple answer. God’s will for your life is that you be filled with the Holy Spirit. God so loves you and wants to share life with you that He seeks your entire life with His energizing love and power.”
From Group Life Director Chris Folmsbee’s sermon, August 3, 2013:
“Amazed and perplexed the onlookers said, ‘What does this mean?’ And some replied, ‘I will tell you what this means. These people are drunk.’ There–simple answer. ‘They are just babbling, having tasted too much of the sweet wine.’
And then PETER stands with or on behalf of the other eleven and begins to preach, explaining the whole event. PETER of all people! Less than two months prior he was the one denying Christ. And in that span of less than two months he’s been restored (John 21) and now is just who Jesus said he’d be–Peter, the rock, who the church would be built upon. Peter gives an amazing sermon. These people are not drunk–it is only nine in the morning! In his defense Peter uses a passage from Joel to explain the events. Then he proclaims the Messiah, the one the people standing there murdered, and then calls the crowd to repentance.
Acts 2:37 said they were “cut to heart,” and asked, “What should we do?” Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized so your sins can be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Have you ever been cut to the heart?…Repentance isn’t a once a while or a one-time deal. Repentance is a lifestyle, a way of life. These people in Acts 2 were cut to the heart. They were convicted. They were led to believe, out of their experience, out of Peter’s preaching, out of the Holy Spirit’s power, presence and provision. The sound of wind, the fire, the languages–it all suddenly made sense. They were transformed.
This is what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit cuts to the heart.
You say, “I’m a believer, and these people weren’t. This doesn’t apply to me; I’ve already repented.” The Holy Spirit’s work is the Holy Spirit’s work. It doesn’t change, believer or unbeliever, religious or non-religious. The Holy Spirit works in this world by convicting, teaching, guiding, comforting, advocating for all. The Holy Spirit works in each of us, for the sake of the world.”
What others have said about the Holy Spirit
God will never direct us to be prideful, arrogant and unforgiving, immoral or slothful or full of fear. We step into these things because we are insensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit within us. – Charles Stanley
Every true prayer is a prayer of the Church; by means of that prayer the Church prays, since it is the Holy Spirit living in the Church, Who in every single soul ‘prays in us with unspeakable groaning’s. – Edith Stein
Earthly wisdom is doing what comes naturally. Godly wisdom is doing what the Holy Spirit compels us to do. – Charles Stanley
O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams. – Saint Augustine
Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in us whereby our inner being is progressively changed, freeing us more and more from sinful traits and developing within us over time the virtues of Christ like character. – Jerry Bridges
What is my task? First of all, my task is to be pleasing to Christ. To be empty of self and be filled with Himself. To be filled with the Holy Spirit; to be led by the Holy Spirit. – Aimee Semple McPherson
Only the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the lord, can transform us. – Joseph Prince
The presence of the Holy Spirit is the keystone of all our hopes. – John Nelson Darby
We take what we think are the tools of spiritual transformation into our own hands and try to sculpt ourselves into robust Christ like specimens. But spiritual transformation is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the Master Sculptor. – Jerry Bridges
It certainly must help us if we recognize that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit which creates a unity which we can never create.
– Roland Allen
Pray God in the bowels of his mercy to send you his Holy Spirit; for he hath given you his great gift of utterance, if it pleased him also to open the eyes of your heart. – Jane Grey
As temples of the Holy Spirit, we should have communion with the Holy Spirit. The work of any believer is not only the work of a human individual, but is actually the work of the Holy Spirit. – Pope Shenouda III
In my experience, take the Holy Spirit out of the equation of your life and it spells boring. Add it into the equation of your life and you never know where you are going to go, what you are going to do, or who you are going to meet. – Mark Batterson
The story of Christian reformation, revival, and renaissance underscores that the darkest hour is often just before the dawn, so we should always be people of hope and prayer, not gloom and defeatism. God the Holy Spirit can turn the situation around in five minutes. – Os Guinness
We are 100 percent responsible for the pursuit of holiness, but at the same time we are 100 percent dependent upon the Holy Spirit to enable us in that pursuit. The pursuit of holiness is not a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps approach to the Christian life. – Jerry Bridges
This week, pray every day for the Holy Spirit to gird you with the power and the nature of Christ himself. During the week, note the times you feel the Spirit affecting your decisions and your life. Next week, share with the group whatever you discovered about the Holy Spirit.