Antony Spencer 9.15am 19th May 2013

St John’s Small Group Study Notes

From Antony’s sermon on 19th May 2013

Passage: Acts 2:1-21 – Anatomy of an experience of God

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Welcome
Share your answers to the question: ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time?’

Worship
Pray together about one aspect of God’s character (His faithfulness, love, mercy, grace, etc) and how you would like to see that being more evident in your life.

Word
What can we learn from the experience of God that the first disciples had at Pentecost that can be helpful to us?

1. Firstly it was a personal experience.
Each had a personal experience of God.
What were the components of this personal experience? (see verse 2, 3, 4)
John Wesley – the 18th C revivalist – wrote in his journal about the intensely personal experience of God that changed his life and his whole approach to ministry at the age of 35. His entry for May 24th 1738 records,

‘In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’

Share your own personal experiences of God. What was the inner and outward effect of these?

2. The second aspect of the disciples experience on that first Pentecost was that this was a shared experience.
Personal though it was this experience of God was something they shared together. There’s great theological importance to this because whereas the Spirit had been given to particular individuals at particular times previously, now as we read in v17, Joel had prophesied,

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people’ …

this first corporate experience signposts the beginning of the ‘last days’.
Share any experiences of God you have had with other people. Are you expecting or hoping that you will have more experiences of God in the future?

3. The third thing I notice about this experience of God on that first Pentecost is how it impacted those who weren’t directly affected.

a) We read in v 7 and 12 that some were amazed and perplexed. But it’s also interesting to think about what you do when you are amazed and perplexed.

Do you shrug your shoulders saying ‘This doesn’t compute – it’s not for me’ and leave it at that. Or do you – like some of these people referred to in v 12 – ask questions to try and understand it more? What do you think is God’s purpose in showing us wonders that might amaze and perplex us?

b) Another response from some people – v 13 – is simply to make fun and ridicule what God is doing.

c) Although not mentioned in this passage directly, another response to seeing or hearing about an experience of God beyond or outside our own expectation or direct experience is the response of fear. Fear can be crippling. The answer to this sort of fear is to know and experience the overwhelmingly greater love of God. Knowing God’s love deep inside and the certainty that he is overwhelmingly good, displaces fear even when we are perplexed and uncertain about what is going on.

How do you respond to seeing or hearing about other people’s experience of God or new things that God is doing which is outside your experience?

4. The fourth thing we can notice from this account of that first Pentecost is the effect it had.
This wasn’t just a shared experience for some that other people observed… it was an experience that brought transformation.

Being filled with Holy Spirit transforms people.
In this account we can see that the disciples who had been hiding away in fear were now set free to an extraordinary boldness. From your own experience and from the scriptures what other things does the presence of the Holy Spirit do in us? ( See Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Romans 5:8 etc.)
The key to transformation is intimacy – What is result and how do we step into this intimacy according to John 15: 1-17

The Holy Spirit transforms Communities.
It’s a wonderful thing that the language of the Holy Spirit crosses over differences of language, culture, gender, and even doctrinal understanding. The gift of tongues on this first Pentecost reverses the curse of the Tower of Babel when language between peoples was confused. People could hear the wonders of God in their own tongue. The Spirit of God cuts across man made division – the spirit is poured out on Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. He is poured out on men and women, old and young. The Spirit of God is the unifying agent of the community of God’s people across all sorts of boundaries. Irrespective of other differences we can recognise the presence and the voice of the Spirit of God in all sorts of peoples and settings.

Through His transforming presence God’s Spirit has a purpose beyond the individual or particular community.
These experiences of God point beyond the experiences to God himself. V11 tells us that the tongues the disciples spoke declared the wonders of God. The tongues were not the main thing; they were just a vehicle to catch attention and communicate the message about the wonders of God.

The Holy Spirit serves the purposes of God.
I cited John 3:16 as encapsulating God’s purpose as well as the motivation behind it. How would you summarise God’s purposes in the world and your part in it?

The Spirit of God serves God’s purpose
You see it declared in verse 21 ‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’. Read Acts 2:22-41. How did that work out on this particular day?

Conclusion
For the disciples this experience of God came at just the right time. (Pentecost = the festival of firstfruits).
This experience of God came after a time of waiting.
This experience of God came to fulfil the promises made … which the prophet Joel predicted (v16). But also Jesus more recent instruction See Acts 1:5

Response
Jesus has experiences of Holy Spirit which are specific for you. They’re not experiences that will confer acceptance or a special status – you have those already. Experiences of the Holy Spirit are not just for you – they are for the blessing and benefit of others ‘for the common good’. They’re not experiences that are the last word – they are the firstfruits – there’s much more. Jesus has experiences for you – do you want that?

However, is there any fear in the way? … God’s love displaces fear – see 1 John 4:7-19. Perhaps you need to deal with that.

If you are hungry for more of God, ask him – see Luke 11:13

If you are hungry wait for Him – See Acts 1:4

21st May 2013 Posted in: Sermon Notes by Fran Varley 0

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