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Ben Fleming: New Endings for Old Stories, Acts 2

May 1, 2023

Audio Recording

The miraculous manifestations of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost call back to Old Testament moments that represented failure. The pillar of fire that led the people into the wilderness is now the flame that leads each believer in the world. The scattering at Babel is remedied with the Gospel spoken in every language on the streets of Jerusalem. The 3,000 lost in the wilderness rebellion are juxtaposed to the 3,000 saved when the Holy Spirit is poured out. If God can rewrite those endings, what might he do for us today?

New Endings for Old Stories Sermon Series at Westside Church
New Endings for Old Stories
Ben Fleming: New Endings for Old Stories, Acts 2
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. Those of you who are here and you are in central Oregon, you will know, that we just passed through the empty two days between winter and summer where everyone says it's so dark and the winter's never gonna end. And we immediately go to, we think the sun is unsafe. it's too hot, let get dehydrated. I do, I love this season. Not a big fan of the heat, which I've said before, but but as I've also said a lot, I really love baseball. I spend a lot of time, on baseball fields, coaching little league. My daughter's a six year old softball team and my son's eight year old little league team. And I've been learning a lot about myself this year, especially, in all different areas of my life.

00:51 But so much seems to come out that I can learn when I'm coaching these little kids. testing of patience and pride. And for instance, we had a a game, my eight year old son had a team a game the other day and at eight year olds in little league, you're, you're still not keeping score. It's a non-competitive environment. You're giving kids, all the opportunity to play the different positions. And I found myself over by the other teams dug out and I heard the team parent, say something to someone and go, what score do you have? I have eight to four. And I was like, are we competing? Because I would like to know I am ready. A coach that I had when I was playing summer baseball when I was 12, we called him coach Boom. cuz he would always say boom at the end of stuff you see?

01:37 And then they're gonna hit the ball, the right field when they do our right fielder's gonna pick it up. The cutoff man's gonna find himself right here. And boom, we're gonna get the ball back into the infield . We're gonna do a very John Madden kind of stuff, you know, and, I'm teaching this time my daughter's team and I'm walking through a swing. You got the ball in the T so when you get the ball in the T, you're gonna set up. Can I see your bat? Yeah. Let me see your bat. Good, good. Thank you. All right. And then you're gonna boom, you're gonna work your way into because you know the power source ladies, all right? Everybody thinks you hit with your arms, but you don't hit with your arms, you hit with your thighs, you hit with your butt, you hit with your hips.

02:09 They thought it was really funny that I said, but, and you gotta boom and we're right here, boom. And we feel ground balls. Boom, boom, . Have you ever seen a coach go into this like little area, this weird little niche of energy? It's like these 40 year olds that are around us, we feel like we have quick twitch again. You know, you gotta be ready to move be perfectly normal and then bam on a dime or changing. And all of a sudden I'm like, oh my gosh, that was coach boom. It just happened. I didn't even, I didn't even ask that thing to show up. And it was there . And it happens in more dysfunctional ways. Sometimes it happens in, I've hung on to maybe some even pains and some hurts from in my previous life. And I can react to somebody in a way or maybe something that they will say can stick with me longer than I think.

02:56 Have you ever had a stranger say something to you? Maybe it was in traffic or just at a restaurant. They said something and it was quick and in passing and all of a sudden you find yourself thinking about it for the next two, three days that just sticks with you. And so many things just stick with me and I'm going, man, what is, what is that thing? How can I be angry about something so simple and so passive? There's so much to learn about ourselves. and just this kind of an off topic statement for you. I hope that you know that you get to keep learning about yourself as a matter what age you're at or what job you have. I think sometimes we can get in these modes of operation where we think, man, really by now I really should have had this figured out.

03:42 I should have gotten past this thing. And it's not always that simple. There's a work that God wants to do in us. And sometimes I think we get caught up in this miraculous instantaneous change, which of course God has happened in our lives sometimes. But so often there's this process that we're called to go through and it's the process of discipleship. And so if you're, you're feeling any shame around feeling underdeveloped or undereducated or under knowledgeable or man, I'm a parent and all of a sudden I feel like I should have some kind of a superpower. I'm at this position in my job. I'm at this position in my life and I should have everything taken care of. I want you to be set free from that today and understand God sees you right where you're at, okay? It's helpful to learn about ourselves. It's helpful to learn about where we come from, not just the history of something like our country, which is valuable, but even your own personal history, your family history, what happened in these generations before you. Maybe you can get some insight onto why you react the way that you do. Because how our human brains work is we're wired in a way to where we wanna evaluate our past so that we can then predict our future, right? I was over at Kim Alexander who's on staff here at her house the other night, and her dog, pushes a button when it wants to go outside and it makes a ding sound like a doorbell. .

05:06 I mean the, the evening there was a bunch of us over at the house. The evening was fantastic. That was my highlight. this little dog, you know, dessert is great, but I wanna see that little Oliver do that again. You know, bing. And we all have that in our lives. Hey, we all have this. It's kind of a de lizard brain, like basic level. We are wired to learn which button will get us the treat or which button will create the outcome that we want. And that's how we interact with people. That's usually why we select the words that we say or go the directions that we go live in the cities that we live in. It's because we're trying to base our understanding of what has happened before, what we've learned and then predict the future. And what's happening in Acts chapter two is we're at this tension point where Jesus has died and then he's risen again, but then he's ascended.

05:56 So Jesus is, is fully gone in the physical sense of the word, but as he's going, he says to the disciples, I'm gonna leave you a helper. Now I don't know about you guys, but that sounds bad to me. Hey, it's okay. I know that I perform miracles. I know that I'm God, I know that I rose from the dead. This is awesome, right? I'm gonna leave you, but somebody's gonna come be my substitute for me. Oh, come on. Substitute teacher, go ahead and roll that little TV out in front of the whole class and call it class. You know, I don't need this a substitute. This addition of you is very nice and we'd like to keep it around. And so once that happens and before the Holy Spirit really arrives, there's this tension point, especially for these followers of Jesus that were also Jews.

06:46 Because based on their own history, it might not be the greatest outcome that they're predicting after they have literally killed God himself, if that's what they believed. And Jesus writes these warnings, he speaks these warnings over his people, his followers, and especially in Luke chapter 1920. And the net culminates in 21 before his death. He says, and for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another. Every one of them will be thrown down. He warns the nation of Israel in an accelerating raid, that continuing to embrace violence, ignoring the plight of the poor and continuing to ignore the call of God to be the light of the world, all of this behavior will end in certain ruin. He even goes as far to say in Luke chapter 13 and verse five, he says, unless you turn to God, you abandon this violent revolution, you're gonna die the same death.

07:44 You're heading for a disaster. He says, if all this doesn't change and change doesn't happen, they kill Jesus. And in one fell swoop, they embrace everything that Jesus literally warned against a violence, hatred, power, and a bloody revolution. But now we come to the end of this piece of the story in which Jesus physically isn't there anymore and it leaves the disciples, the followers of Christ. Probably wondering now based on the past experience and what these Jews would know about history, the outcomes when you disobey God don't always go all that well. Now one of these stories comes from Genesis in chapter 11. Some of you're familiar with it. It's called the story of the Tower of Babbel. It's, it's when the Jews would've grown up associating with the scattering and the disconnecting of the world says, this is why it's called babbel in chap in verse nine of Genesis 11.

08:36 Because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. And from there, the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Now, this isn't just about language and people speaking different languages. This is about incredible conflict that then sparked from this moment. Now a lot of times we consider, well I don't really speak their language when I go to their country, so maybe I'll download an app and I can have it translate and whatever. So often the inability to communicate appropriately would create enemies among people and tribes and nations. So this wasn't just a day where it got harder to talk to each other. It was a day that the Jews would've viewed as when so much war and hatred began. It's a huge crisis and problem. They would've been familiar with a story in Exodus versus 32 where Moses goes on this mountain to speak with God. And after he takes too much time, at least in the the mind of many of the Israelites on the ground to return with God's message, these people take it on themselves to pool their jewelry to make a new God a golden calf. And what ensues is a massive fight. 3000 people die in this fight. And Genesis, excuse me, Exodus 32, it says, A Levites did as Moses commanded. And that day, about 3000 of the people died.

09:59 Now, if you were convinced that Jesus was the physical manifestation of God and you saw him hanging breathless on a cross, you may have been gearing up for what would be the worst case scenario. On the other side of this, some of these people in history built a tower. Some of them put together this nice little jewelry golden calf thing. We hung the man on a cross when he warned us that violence wasn't gonna be the answer to this incredible revolution that God was bringing. And yet we ignored the warnings and we crucified him. Anyway, what will happen next? A scattering of the languages. What'll be plague and will it be famine? But something happens that's different altogether. When that helper arrives, the Holy Spirit shows up. Cuz Jesus isn't just a prophet who makes the world aware of the coming judgment on a nation that has gone its own way, but it's also, he's also a messiah who takes on and sums up all of his people with himself.

11:06 And this is how he does it. In Acts two verse five, and we're gonna talk about Pentecost Pentecost Sunday itself is actually coming and Pastor Steve is gonna teach on that. We're gonna go really, really in depth, but we're gonna touch on some elements of it here in Acts chapter two, verse five, it says, when the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place and suddenly a sound like a blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them to a little bit of the tenuous beginning. A violent wind arrives at this moment. Now we know the end of the story and it's easy to say, well yes, we know what was in the violent wind was the sweetness of God.

11:52 It's probably true that at the moment of the violent wind, they were going run away panic time. Here comes the plague, here comes death, here comes war, here comes violence. But the Holy Spirit arrives and then they begin to speak in other tongues of the spirit enabled them. And now they're there. They were staying in Jerusalem, God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. And when they heard this sound of crowd came together and bewilderment because each one heard their own language being spoken and utterly amazed, they asked, aren't all these who are speaking gals, then how is it that each of us hears them in our own native language and we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues, amazed and perplexed. They asked one another, what does it mean? Somehow made fun of them and said they've had too much wine. It's one of my favorite little jabs in all of scripture. Ah, the holy spirit's here. Nope, drunk .

12:47 So what happens at this time, a lot of the ways that I've taught it before is discussing the, the power of, of speaking in tongues and what that means for us to be able to even utter the tongue of the spirit. Again, all fun stuff that I'm gonna let Steve cover in a few weeks, . But the thing that I wanna touch on today is for the Jewish people in this room, this would've been a connecting moment to an important story from the past that maybe if we thought we killed God and now what's gonna happen, the same plague, something horrible will happen to us instead, because Jesus sums up all of our sin today and all the sin and all of his people in and of himself when the Holy Spirit arrives something instead of painful happening where something redemptive happens that before at the mistake of a of God's people, the people are scattered and in this moment their languages are actually joined, that they speak through God himself. And so all of these people who speak all these different languages now can see and hear and experience the wonders of God spoken through the same language by a miracle.

13:59 This is not just this one interesting moment in time. Instead it speaks to God's heart to unify the world as one people that he cares for and died for the amount of hope that would've arisen up in, in each individual person at this idea that we indeed can be unified. That communication, even if it was just for a moment, doesn't have to define us. It doesn't have to separate us anymore, but instead the Holy Spirit can bring us all together. It does so much work to take us out of this singular framework where the gospel and what happens with God is simply just about us and this one space. And in one time, now, I don't know about you, but I found myself walking through a lot of my life believing that this whole experience that we're having together, I am the main character in this story.

14:49 All of you are side characters. The camera will pan to you every so often, but your blot and your C plot and your dlot are fine. This thing's really about me. Why? Because I'm in my own head and I'm in my own spirit and I'm in my own soul and I know my own story. And I often just see things only through this lens, which when left unchecked and unhealthy, I can begin to believe that not only does this life revolve around me, but this God that I worship also revolves around me. So that when something doesn't work out, that means God doesn't exist or God is not helpful. And when something does work out, it means that my faith has been found located in the right place and I have been deemed worthy by God himself. And this faith can get really, you can become the son in your own galaxy just like that. And our image of God gets so narrow and so simple and so selfish. But what God is expressing through all these languages is that there is this world that goes beyond for them Judaism that goes beyond just this one moment. It reaches all the way back into the past and it reaches into the future. And it embraces all these nations and tribes and tongues that we would've just considered heathens or outsiders or people that aren't listening to God. God instead has gone out of his way to embrace all of them without our permission.

16:09 He loves everybody whether we would love them or include them or not. And then what happens next is they rush out of this room and into the streets and Peter begins to preach to the crowds that are gathered in the streets. And he says this in Acts chapter two, verse 32. He says, God raised Jesus from the dead and we're all witnesses of this. Now he's exalted in the place of highest honor in heaven at God's right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us just as you see. And you heard it today for David himself, never ascended into heaven. And yet he said, the Lord said to my Lord, sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them the footstool under your feet. So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified to be both Lord and Messiah.

16:57 Peter is preaching the gospel here, says his words pierce their heart. And they said to him and to the other apostles, brothers, what should we do? And Peter replied, each of you must repent for your sins and turn to God and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And then you'll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away all who have been called by the Lord our God. And then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all of his listeners, save yourselves from this crooked generation. Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day. Now listen to this, about 3000 in all, I was hanging out with a good friend of mine, Nate Kish a couple nights ago, who's far more educated, intelligent, beautiful than me, okay?

17:48 so you can trust what I have to say in relaying his words. he described, especially a Jew who would've grown up in, in exactly this time. He said their relationship with numbers was so deep and every time they wrote in scripture they would've read scripture. They would've been kind of paying attention to what numbers they were reading, especially numbers like 12, which has been thought to be the way of God and five, which would be the number of grace and all this stuff. But he said they really, they think about numbers a lot of the ways and ASO that we associate with colors that if we see red, for instance, most of the time that means stop or you failed this test or you know, whatever, we can just see the color and we can associate a feeling or an action with it.

18:32 They would've done so with these numbers. And 3000 would've been a valuable number to them in considering the people that have been lost in pursuit in looking for the promised land. And what does God do through the power of the Holy Spirit is the gospel is preached for the first time through the mouth of Peter, who by the way, not that long ago had been di denying that he even knew Jesus. He rushes out into the street and he preaches. And that 3000 person number, those 3000 people, that story is redeemed at the same moment.

19:11 I want you to understand today that this whole God's story of redemption goes so far beyond just you and me. Now again, it can be so easy to believe that this entire life in existence can revolve around us as if we are the son. And I believe just as we used to sing when you were little, that God loves you so much and he sees you. He knows every hair on your head. He cares deeply for you. But we also have to believe and understand that's this entire existence is just a small part of this grand tapestry of salvation and redemption that God has for the whole world. And God can make miracles happen right now in our midst. And by the way, we can pray for anything. I'm a big praying for anything kind of guy, even if it's simple and fast. Lord Jesus, I need a parking spot.

20:17 ,

20:18 This is the old mill. It's summertime. Hear my plea

20:22 .

20:24 I don't even know why I'm down here. I'm a local

20:26 .

20:29 Help me Jesus, make better decision, okay? Nevermind

20:32 ,

20:34 I think, I think you can, you can, you can pray to be reunited with the girlfriend that just broke up with you. Good luck to you, but you can pray for it. I believe that you can pray for the, the safest security of people right now immediately in your life. I believe that you can pray for a miracle and a healing in your physical body and God can do that work right here and right now. But I want to broaden our perspective into this even greater thing that God is doing. Did you know that there's things that in your past that you feel like are cold cases, that they're old and stale and their relationships and there are moments and there are words that you said that you would regret, that you feel like have just too much time has passed, that thing is scarred over and now it just simply is what it is. Do you know that God can redeem those things and those relationships and those moments still today I think about how life was before antibiotics were in the picture, right? And an infection was such a common way to die.

21:44 And so the best thing that they could develop before we understood antibiotics was that if you were getting a festering infection in your leg, the best route oftentimes would be just cut it off. So then at least the rest of the body will live. But you won't have that thing. And and our world got used to this being part of the reality. The redemption of God can even grow all of those limbs that have been missing for so long back, that relationship with your son, that moment of deep regret that you have that seems like so long ago, God can heal and bring those things back.

22:29 God wants to do this incredible, massive work and not just in our lives and not just in our nation, but in this whole world that all the mistakes and the violence that we have been okay with, that we have allowed to have happen, the ways that we have betrayed God. And and some of you maybe have walked into the room today and you're feeling maybe like some of those Jews did, where you're go, man, we killed God. We made a huge mistake. This unbelievable famine is about to happen. This plague is about to happen. We're about to get hit with pain. And you know why? It's because we deserve it. But Jesus, in all of his goodness, in his grace, sums all of us up in, in himself.

23:08 And it's not because we come crawling back to him and we've figured it out and we're so good. And, and look, we've done the work now and we feel like we're fully developed to wear people that are ready to fully follow after Jesus. Jesus comes to them in their context immediately following his death. And he says, I choose to take all of you on into myself and I choose to give you a gift of the Holy Spirit. That doesn't just bring miracles right here for the here and now, but it exists so that this entire world, the whole timeline that this planet exists on can be redeemed beneath the grace and the mercy and the forgiveness of Lord Jesus. Now I'll finish with this little story and then we'll close keyboards up here. So we gotta, we gotta move it along.

23:55

23:58 I think of the story of, of Joseph also from the Old Testament. Now, if you're not familiar with the story of Joseph, Joseph is, born into this important family and, and Joseph doesn't have an edit button. Okay? So Joseph has a couple dreams and he says, I've had this dream in which, and we're, we're actually in a galaxy and you guys are all gonna bow down before me out here. And then I had another one that was almost the exact same way. He's telling this to his brothers like an idiot

24:30 ,

24:31 How great is it that you're all gonna worship me? And of course they throw him in a pit and all this crazy stuff happens. He goes on this long journey where he's enslaved and then he's wrongfully accused and he ends up in prison. He ends up in all of these things. And at the end of the entire story, when he's a, a critical cog in the wheel that allows Egypt to, to get through a famine, he says something so profound at the end of the entire journey. And he looks at his brothers

25:01 Who

25:02 Hurt him and they did it on purpose. You know, have you ever been that kid? Or maybe you have kids. And they look at the other one, they go, they did it on purpose. And sometimes it's not just a cry, it's not just a weak plea, it's it's real. They did it on purpose. These brothers, they did it on purpose. They meant to harm him. They meant for this to go horribly wrong to him. And yet Joseph stands up with all this power and authority that he has over them in this moment. And instead of violence, he says, I know you intended to harm me, but God brought it all for good. God enabled me to fill this position so that I could then save the lives of so many people.

25:48 And so we can look at the world around us, we can even look at ourselves in our own story. And it's not just a mistake, right? Sometimes we did things and we hurt people, we made mistakes, and it wasn't on accident. We did it on purpose. Well, in the world is going in this direction, the world is doing this, and it's happening on purpose. It's happening all, many of the mistakes that we make, the violence that we perpetuate it, it is happening on purpose. And still God comes into our concepts and he says, I love you and I'm gonna be with you. And I'm gonna redeem not only this moment right here and now where you need a miracle, but I'm gonna redeem these years of life and even beyond our own deaths. God will do a work in our families, our generations, and in our nations. That is the powerful work that only God can do of redemption and salvation. And what we're seeing in this moment in Acts is the beginning of this Christian theme that is so valuable called salvation. It's not just about going to heaven, even though it includes the promise of heaven and resurrection into God's creation, but more so salvation is pointing toward a very concrete and particular real reality in our future. And in our past.

27:00 If God's ultimate intention was to save only disembodied souls that would not be a rescue from death, salvation instead refers constantly to this specific acts of rescue within our present and past and future lives being saved from this potential disaster, a new way of redemption that God wants to work into our own story. So we should expect signs of this ultimate future. God has promised to us to appear in the present. And whenever we're in a mess of whatever sort, we should remember that we are a turn back and be rescued people. We are a repent and be baptized people. We have the right to cash in that promise at any place at any time. Those are the words of NT Wright. We are a turn back and be rescued. People rescued right now in this day and in this moment, but also in all of our inequities in the past and all these things in the future. And the good news is that the whole world reunited is involved.