I wish I could have been there. Though a watershed event in the Church, disunity blemishes our reflections of that momentous day. Our heritage has been on the side of “fearing what we don’t understand” when it comes to Pentecost. Acts 2 tells of the birth of the glorious Bride of Christ, the Church, the giving of the promised Holy Spirit. It was the day the Church grew by 3,000 people, evidenced by baptism celebrating new life in the resurrected Jesus.
When the Holy Spirit first arrived, the incredible happened—a sound like a violent wind filled the whole house and each person began speaking in tongues!
Crowds had gathered from all sorts of people groups to show their gratitude to God with offerings of the summer grain harvest. At 9:00 a.m. some found it strange that a group of fellow Jews were babbling out in the open. But they couldn’t possibly be…yes, they were communicating with others in different languages! This odd scene required an explanation.
The Apostle Peter stood up and explained that the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon these “babblers” just as Joel had predicted. This was groundbreaking! This was, well, not the way anyone thought it would happen. It was even better, albeit mysterious. Was this an exceptional event or a repeatable sequence of manifestations when the Holy Spirit decided to act?
Peter pulled no punches that day as he declared that though the Jews had been complicit with Rome in crucifying Jesus just weeks before, it was God’s master plan all along. What was needed now was repentance—a change of direction, a fresh understanding of God and God’s unfolding plan through Jesus.
When the crowd was “cut to the heart” with conviction, they were ripe for the pickin’! Peter declared that they needed to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38a).
Reading this verse lubricates my Anabaptist convictions! Turn from sin toward Jesus. Receive forgiveness. Express this newfound faith by means of the symbolic waters of baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son…” (Matthew 28:19). Wait. There’s more, isn’t there?
Peter had more important theology to articulate in Acts 2:38: “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This was not a superfluous detail! We immerse those we baptize a third time: “In the name…of the Holy Spirit.”
My childhood theological training lacked any clear definition or assistance in identifying the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. In fact, it was sheer neglect more than confusion (barring the occasional ludicrous story I heard that made me wary of the phrase “the Holy Spirit told me…”).
As a senior in high school, I got hooked on John MacArthur and read his classic, Charismatic Chaos. It was then that I was confident that the extreme, anecdotal stories of outlandish behaviors the Holy Spirit has been used to justify should compel me to steer clear of this “Holy Spirit” nonsense. (Holy rollers, anybody?) Let’s allow Scripture to be clear and the Holy Spirit be put back into our theological boxes. Safely out of reach for everyday life.
I took Dr. Roger Peugh’s Principles and Practice of Prayer class in college, which required me to stop talking about the importance of prayer and actually do it for an hour at a time with another person. So a friend and I set off on an awkward weekly journey of prayer. What would we pray about? What would our format be? We quickly found how easy it was to talk to God about things near and dear to us—and to the heart of our Heavenly Father.
I took two very important points from this developing habit. First, God wants me to talk to Him like He really is my “Daddy”—Abba Father. Second, the Holy Spirit has much to communicate. I needed to listen more. The neglected member of the Trinity wasn’t done surprising me. I had much to learn, much to dismantle, and much humble pie to consume.
Within a couple years, I experienced three incidents that rattled me to my core. First, a young woman told me that God was telling her that we were supposed to be together. There was only one problem: God was not telling me the same thing. (I was tempted to tell John MacArthur the story so he could add it to his book if he ever revised it.)
The second incident occurred when I encountered another young woman at a college event. Emotion shot through me like a lightning bolt, though I’m not usually driven by emotion. She was someone I had thought “out of my league” and now she was interested in me. It was obvious — the Holy Spirit had spoken. I was going to marry her.
My friends weren’t impressed. They pointed to the ungodly ways I treated her, how the new bond had no relational foundation as we exited the infatuation phase, and that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t endorse such a dysfunctional relationship. It was apparent to me those dissenters weren’t spiritual. So I didn’t listen.
Then things fell apart and I was left acknowledging that I owned the mess. But the Holy Spirit had told me…
I wondered, “Could someone give me a robust understanding of the Holy Spirit?” I wanted the empowerment of Pentecost. Not the repetition of that unique day in the founding of Jesus’ Church, but something more than the dismissing tone of John MacArthur and his arsenal of anecdotal stories. I didn’t want my story to confirm John’s book. I wanted to negate it.
As embarrassing as youthful immaturity is, I share a third incident because it rounds out my sojourn. With a heart surrendered to God and a commitment to waiting on God’s direction for my life, I unexpectedly heard the voice of God again. By then, I wasn’t interested in listening. I thought I had proven incapable of discerning the Holy Spirit’s voice. However, God wasn’t accepting my resignation.
God’s voice began telling me the name of the person I was to marry.
“Not again,” I mused. Not listening. Not going to hurt anyone else. I know how Jonah’s story ended, but I’m getting on the next boat going the opposite direction.
After three days the voice became so loud that I wondered if I was suffering from a mental disorder. I called a mutual friend. I suggested he tell me I need counseling, but he let me down.
His own story was similar. Doug had looked at a roster of soccer players moving into the dorm one year and blurted out to the guy next to him: “Kaye. That’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
Where did that come from? He didn’t know. But God had spoken. Clearly. Doug and Kaye are happily married and serving God together.
Doug had no sympathy when I told him my heart was surrendered to God and that I was playing Jonah, not Samuel. He ended up being more like Eli, actually more than than Eli. He ended up being a vital part of my story.
I pursued this gal with absurd caution. I woke up early every day that fall and prayed for an hour, begging God to heal my wounded heart and to show me His way. I didn’t begin to believe that healing was possible until about week six. Then it began to happen. God’s voice became clearer. Scripture became more alive. And the Holy Spirit was no longer just an abstract doctrine or the leftovers from Peter’s Pentecost sermon. He was God’s gift to empower me to walk with God daily. You can conclude that I had female issues or that the Holy Spirit is faithful. I believe both are true! That poor confused gal became my wife and has been my amazing partner through thick and thin.
I didn’t deserve the ability to discern the voice of God. The key was to learn the cadence of the Spirit’s voice. I learned it in crisis. I hope your journey is different. As God told His people in exile through Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV).
I had to experience much guilt and shame before I “found God”—that is, the third person of the Trinity, the precious “gift” we receive upon coming to faith in Jesus. I was not present for Pentecost in Acts 2. But the Holy Spirit has been present with me for much of my journey. Maybe I should tell John MacArthur the rest of my story. I’ll settle for telling you, my brothers and sisters in the FGBC. Learn the cadence. It’s the rest of God’s gift for you. — By Jeremy Wike
(Editor’s Note — Jeremy Wike is pastor of Community of Hope Grace Brethren Church, Columbia City, Ind.)
This first appeared in the Fall issue of GraceConnect magazine, the publication for the people of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. A downloadable pdf version of this issue is available by clicking here. It also may be read online at issuu.com. If you would like to receive the magazine delivered to you at no charge via U.S. Mail, click here to subscribe.