COLLINS COLUMN: The Holy Spirit is always working

Published 9:00 am Friday, May 10, 2024

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I live on a few acres of land in East Alabama, surrounded by a couple hundred acres of woods. It is a beautiful spot, and normally, not much is happening other than a few deer and wild turkeys that wander by fairly regularly. I often do my Bible reading and writing on the screened porch that faces the woods. That’s where I am today as I read Acts 2 and the story of Pentecost.

As I read this chapter, I heard a growing sound from a distance, and it got quite loud in the woods around my house. It wasn’t the Holy Spirit – it was the cicadas! But it gave me goosebumps as I heard this loud and ongoing sound! The goosebumps had nothing to do with the cicadas, other than helping me imagine the impact of a mighty unusual sound that seemed to start out of nowhere. Wouldn’t it have been something to be with the 12, the 120, and more that experienced the movement of the Holy Spirit that day?

After the sound of the mighty rushing wind came the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When I heard the cicadas, I didn’t speak in another language. I struggle enough with grammar in the one language I know. But on the day of Pentecost, the impact of people from a couple dozen tribes and nations hearing a bunch of fishermen from Galilee speak their language would have been shocking, no matter what they said.

Just a thought on the familiar narrative of Pentecost: we have the Reader’s Digest version. Three thousand came to Christ at the end of the sermon that we can read. I assume you agree that it wasn’t a 100% acceptance rate that day, so many more than 3,000 heard the sermon or sermons. All of this couldn’t have happened in the upper room, where they were waiting for the Spirit to come upon them. There had to have been some moving around. Which gets to an interesting thing we all know but should pause and remember: once the Holy Spirit came, he never left. As we read the rest of Acts 2 and all of Acts, we clearly see the Holy Spirit was and is always working.

This is a devotional and not an in-depth study of the Holy Spirit, so I am not going to discuss the various interpretations of what the Holy Spirit did that day or how he works today. I appreciate good scholarship and certainly won’t discredit experiences that all of us might have that we believe are evidence of the Holy Spirit. What we know from Scripture is what he did when he came and that he is alive and active today.

Peter and the apostles, as they preached that day and, in the future, quoted Scripture that was familiar to their audience. The Jewish people who came to celebrate the Feast of Weeks were familiar with the prophets and the promises of Joel and other references. Having seen the tongues of fire, having heard what sounded like a mighty rushing wind, having experienced the preaching in various languages, the response of the audience gave great confirmation that God was doing a new thing and the very thing he had promised centuries earlier.

The other powerful thing that we should notice here, and will likely reference in future devotionals, is the unity of the 12, the 120, and the 3,000-plus who were added on day one of the church. Jesus prayed for all of this unity, and on this day, and in the early days of the church, it was clear that God answered that prayer. The church was of one mind and one focus: Jesus.

There are so many things to ponder and learn from in Acts. My prayer for those of you who read along is that we rediscover that God’s spirit is with us, is active, and works both for the unity of the body of Christ and for the purpose of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Father, we pray that your Holy Spirit would guide us to know you and follow you completely. We want to be evidence that the prayer of Jesus and the purpose of Jesus and his kingdom is seen in us. May your will be done on earth, in us, through us, as it is in heaven. In Jesus’s name, amen.