A Drink At Joel's Place

As i write this i am in South Florida. Yesterday we experienced a brief tropical front of rushing wind and pouring rain. As i listened to the sound of the wind, i was reminded of that day recorded in Scripture when “suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind” (Acts 2:1 ESV). That led me in my thoughts to the message that Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost.  It is the prophecy of the last days as recorded by the prophet Joel. Joel was writing that the day of the Lord’s return would be heralded by the pouring out of the Spirit of God. This should not seem strange or contrary. Those gathered on the Day of Pentecost listening to Peter were witnessing the fulfillment of the beginnings of that prophecy. The day was coming when all of the prophecy would be fulfilled, but on that day they were seeing a glimpse of it. As the people looked and stared at a group of Galileans they would have been incredulous. The announcement that the Holy Spirit was being poured out upon a group of Galileans would have seemed incredible to the Jews, because they thought God’s Spirit was only given to a few select people (Numbers 11:28-29). But here were one hundred twenty of the followers of Jesus – men and women – enjoying the blessing of the same Holy Spirit that had empowered Moses, David and the prophets. The last days had dawned with the arrival of Jesus – and they would come to a climax with His return. The arrival of the Holy Spirit affirmed that they had entered into the first of those last days as foretold by the prophets.

Joel wrote that one feature of the last days will be the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on people of every kind – men and women, young and old, high and low. God's people will be clothed with power; they will receive power. And the main effect of this power seems to be bold, prophetic speech. Believers of all kinds are going to be so gripped by the Spirit of God that they see the greatness of Jesus and the purpose of Jesus with extraordinary clarity and speak it with extraordinary boldness. The people were seeing that take place before their eyes – from Galileans no less.

But though Joel’s prophecy pointed to a period of time that began on that day of Pentecost, it is a prophecy that points to the return of Christ. That means that we are in the midst of those days – until He returns. There is a promise that in the last days the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. The true church of Jesus Christ will be awakened and revived and sent with extraordinary passion and zeal and prophetic power, and – right in the midst of terrorism and war and persecution and natural disasters – the flaming end-time church of Christ will be used by God to complete His Great Commission, and welcome the King. God's promise through the giving of His Spirit is to empower His people again and again through the extraordinary filling of His Spirit until the witness to His name has reached all the peoples – to the ends of the earth.

i borrowed the title of this post from a book written by my childhood pastor, Dr. Jess C. Moody. The book is a collection of essays that struggle with the question as to why the world in which we live no longer sees the power of God’s Holy Spirit working through His church in the way that the crowds were drawn on the Day of Pentecost. On that day, the Holy Spirit came to call out a body of believers to form the church – those through whom God has chosen to work to fulfill His purpose. The day before Pentecost there was no church. The day after Pentecost there was a church. This was “Day Zero” of the church. Moody writes, “We are the church. The name church implies God. God means miracle. If we say we are the church and we cannot come up with a miracle, the world thinks we are phony. Maybe they are correct. If the only success they see in our lives or our churches is that which can be explained in terms of organization and management – that is, something the world could do with the same expenditure of effort and technique, they will one day repudiate us.” Dr. Moody wrote that statement over fifty years ago. The day that the world “will one day repudiate us” is no longer in the future; the day has long since passed.

Dr. John Piper more recently wrote that, as the last days grow closer to their end, “the love of many will grow cold. Yes, there will be apostasy on a large scale. Yes, people will simply forsake the faith when the world turns up the heat. But in the midst of all that unbelief and coldness and treachery, Jesus says that the gospel will be preached through the whole world as a testimony to all the nations. In the face of all that persecution and in the midst of all that deadness, the true church of God is going to have extraordinary power, extraordinary zeal, extraordinary passion and love for Jesus.

Piper concludes that thought by asking the question, “What is it like to live as Christians in a time when the power of the Kingdom has already arrived but not in its fullness, and a time when the end of this age is almost over, but not yet fully over? Regrettably, i think we all know what it is like. Because we are that generation. The Holy Spirit of God dwells within us, but we see little of His power. The apostle Paul wrote a very clear self-diagnostic for us to apply: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). Then he went on to say, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The world does not see the latter, because we have chosen to walk in the former. Gratefully, Paul went on to write the prescription that will make the difference: “{nail} the passions and desires of {our} sinful nature to His cross and{crucify} them there.Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:24-25).

Those are worthy words for us to heed today as we continue our respective journeys in the wilderness experiences of our lives. He has placed our feet on this path for this time and this season for His purpose – a purpose that will only be accomplished through the fullness of the power of His Holy Spirit at work in and through our lives. Let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives and take a fresh “drink at Joel’s place”. When we do, we will see the greatness of Jesus and the purpose of Jesus with extraordinary clarity and truly join Him in His mission with extraordinary boldness.

Excerpt from Until He Returns