At The Starting Line

Read Acts 2:1-21
In high school I enjoyed running on the track team. As the official gave us directions at the starting line, I vividly recall the adrenaline pumping through my veins at the beginning of each race. He would slowly call out three phrases in an elongated, deliberate tone: “Ready… on your mark… set!” Then BOOM! He would fire the starter pistol.

In the book of Acts we have a record of the “starting line” of the Christian church. Beginning at Pentecost, believers reached out to the lost in dozens of languages and cultures throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Although they encountered many obstacles and disappointments, the early Christians penetrated their world with breathtaking speed. So where does effective ministry begin?

Effective ministry begins…

When I understand that all of my resources combined will never be enough to do the job. (v. 1)

On the day of Pentecost we find the disciples gathered together in one place. With all they had experienced with Jesus and armed with the Great Commission, we would expect them to be out in the streets, preaching the good news.

However, in Acts 1:4 and 1:8, Jesus made it clear that the disciples needed something more in order to fulfill their mission of local and global evangelization. Years of intensive training and sitting at the feet of Jesus were not sufficient. By telling them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit, Jesus was underscoring a basic truth: in my own strength and abilities I will always be inadequate to do what God has called me to do (Zechariah 4:6).

Power for the task is a gift, not an achievement.

When I am filled with and fully dependent upon the Holy Spirit. (v. 2-4)

Heralded by the sound of wind and the appearance of fire, the Holy Spirit came to rest visually on each disciple as a fiery flame. Through this imagery, He makes it clear that each individual disciple needs His guidance and enablement in ministry. It is not enough to have a Spirit-filled pastor and staff in my church. I need to cultivate a personal relationship of love and obedience with the Lord Jesus Christ through His Spirit.

It was common when I ran track in high school for some runners to start too soon: this was called “jumping the gun.” They were forced to go back to the starting line and begin again. Have you “jumped the gun” by attempting to do ministry apart from the Holy Spirit?

When I am willing to do whatever it takes to share the gospel with my world. (v. 5-11)

Moved by the Holy Spirit, the disciples immediately began to speak in the languages of at least 15 different nationalities gathered in Jerusalem to observe the Jewish feast. Now the Spirit did not have to do this. Using the language of business and trade, the disciples could have simply spoken Greek or Aramaic. They would have been clearly understood by most of the crowd.

The Holy Spirit wants to help us overcome every obstacle posed by language and culture. Unlike Islam which requires seekers of truth to study the Koran in Arabic, the good news of Christ is to be shared in the idiom and within the cultural norms of peoples around the world.

Was it comfortable for the disciples to speak a language they had never learned? I doubt it, but the greater purpose of proclaiming the “wonderful works of God” (v. 11) overwhelmed all personal preferences and tastes. Are we willing to do whatever it takes to communicate the gospel in terms others can easily understand?

When I accept that some people will reject me and my message. (v. 12-13)

In verse 12, some people are asking “what does this mean?” In verse 13, others are mocking the disciples, accusing them of being drunk.

Some people will reject and ridicule you and your message. Paul taught we should expect persecution whenever we begin to live our lives with reference to Him in all we do and say. (2 Timothy 3:12)

However, there will also be those who want to know more. Endure those who reject you so that you can impact those who respond positively to you.

When I embrace a deep sense of evangelistic urgency. (v. 14-21)

Quoting from Joel 2, Peter announces to the crowds that the arrival of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of prophecy. Everyone willing to call on the name of the Lord (v. 21) could be saved and subsequently filled with the Spirit (v. 18). He also explains that these are the last days, describing signs and wonders which will immediately precede the “day of the Lord.” (v. 20).

Life is short and time is short. Anyone and everyone can now call on the name of the Lord. Armed with the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, God’s people ought to be deeply motivated to broadcast the good news.

Let’s go to the starting line for effective ministry and allow Him to launch us into His work—just like He did for the church at Pentecost.


Reproduced here with permission, this message originally appeared in the March-April, 2004 issue of Preaching Magazine (Vol. 19, No. 5). Edited by Michael Duduit, Preaching Magazine is written almost entirely by those who share a calling to the ministry of preaching. Each issue contains practical feature articles which offer useful insights to strengthen your preaching. Every issue contains a selection of model sermons which reflect the best of preaching across the United States and beyond.

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