I want to tell you what that first day on Pentecost was like. The day the Spirit showed up.
As John was finishing his talk that morning the air around me suddenly felt heavy. I don’t know how to describe it any other way. It was the eeriest feeling, very similar to the time we were up on the mountain with Jesus, and he was transfigured before our very eyes. That day on the mountain it was as if a light-steaming cloud totally enveloped us, with a voice that came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
But today this light and this voice came from within us. I know now, all these years later, it was the Holy Spirit, because I have traveled so long with him, and I know his voice. But this day was different. It was all so new.
As I felt myself saturated with this light-streaming cloud I became deeply aware of the presence of God. The air felt heavy, as though I was immersed in something like a sea of supernatural strength. A Gentile would have thought it to be a ghost. Words fail me. But as with all the times I would see the Spirit arrive, the one thing that was certain, there was no mistaking the rush of his power and his presence.
I was not afraid, even though it felt like the earth was shifting beneath me. Or, as I would later describe it to new Believers, like the earth was shifting within me.
I could see! Like the man blind from birth to whom Jesus gave sight, all I know to say is, “I was blind, but now I could see.” My friend Stephen, who would soon become our first martyr, described his “suddenly-I-could-see” moment like this:
“One morning, after our gathering at Solomon’s Porch, I spent some time alone, contemplating this Jesus you were preaching about, Peter, and reading the Hebrew scriptures – passages I had read many times before. But this time as I read, the words seemed to get a little brighter. They suddenly made sense to me. They were alive: practically living and breathing, penetrating to my very soul. I had a new sense of clarity, is all I can say.”
We’ve seen this so many times: with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit there always comes a new sense of clarity and sight and understanding. Haven’t you experienced this?
And then suddenly, with the Spirit moving, I was talking. All of us were talking. But we were all talking in different languages. I was, too, I guess, although I couldn’t tell you what language I was speaking. I could hear my voice saying,
“Praise be to Jesus, the master and Lord of the universe!
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
My friend, there are no human words to describe to you what was happening inside me. If I had the words, you don’t have the mind to fully grasp it. The Spirit had arrived, just as Jesus had promised. I would have never imagined his arrival would be like this, but then again, how could I have imagined anything about this Spirit, until he was in me, with his power-packed sense of energy, clarity and creativity?
Paul has a favorite saying which I repeat often, because it captures the sense of the work the Spirit does each time we allow him to:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably, abundantly more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Amen.”
Amen! We simply don’t have the imagination to ask for the incredible blessings our Heavenly Father wants to give us through his Spirit. Jesus so often used images of feasts, banquets and celebrations – massive celebrations. I have come to the conclusion that we don’t expect too much of God, we expect too little.
We simply expect too little, and ask and seek with the pinhole perspective of a simpleton: “Just feed me and take care of me, and please, don’t let me feel any pain.” But the riches of the Spirit and his power are immeasurably, abundantly more than that. I knew this once He arrived within me that fateful day of Pentecost.