Butterfly Christians: Prophecy Fulfilled
Today we close out our series on conversion. Up to now I have been using various Bible characters to highlight different aspects of conversion – Zacchaeus, Jonah, Peter – and we have moved through two of the three stages of metamorphosis – the caterpillar and the Chrysalis –
We have talked about repentance – a radical 180 degree turn – as with Zacchaeus
We’ve talked about the redefinition of purpose – when Jesus reinstates Peter and gives him the task of caring for his lambs and feeding his sheep –
We’ve talked about the consequences of going against God’s call in our lives – with Jonah – an entire nation depended on him being obedient to God’s command to go and preach to them – when Jonah is disobedient he needs to spend time in the Chrysalis - the belly of a great fish – to come to a place where he is at least willing to be obedient to God
And now we come to the final sermon on conversion – the story we just read in Acts 2.
It was 50 days after the Passover – that’s why it’s called Pentecost – it was a celebration of the harvest – it was in Jerusalem – there was a large crowd in Jerusalem – God-fearing Jews from all over the world had come home to celebrate this ancient feast –
many different languages were being spoken on the streets because there were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, people from Cappadocia and Pontus and Asia and Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Arabia, and Crete.
It wasn’t just 50 days after the Passover – it was also 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The disciples were all together in one place – and that’s when it happened. The noise. The wind. The tongues of fire. They were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The first evidence that something radical had happened? As they declared the wonders of God to the crowds – as diverse as the crowd was – everyone was able to understand what they were saying.
And that is remarkable. Even we who all speak the same language regularly misunderstand one another – this entire multi-linguistic people all understood the disciples as if they were speaking in their own language.
Amazed and perplexed, the people asked one another – What does this mean?
That’s when Peter, one of the Eleven, raised his voice and boldly told them what it all meant.
Boldly – remember, this is the same Peter who fearfully fled when Jesus was being crucified – these are the same disciples who remained locked in the upper room out of fear after Jesus died – and these are the same crowds responsible for crucifying Jesus.
This story is all about conversion – from beginning to end.
It begins by the disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit – converted from fearful, hiding, hesitant followers of Jesus to bold, Spirit filled gospel proclaimers of Salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.
And it ends with conversion, as thousands and thousands respond to the message of salvation, repent, are baptized, and become followers of Jesus Christ.
It is all about what the HS can do – through conversion.
I want to focus on just a part of Peter’s message – the section from verse 17-21 –where he quotes the prophecy of Joel – just three phrases of that to help inform our understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church today.
1. Verse 17: In the last days
2. Verse 17 again: I will pour out my spirit on all people
3. And verse 21: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
In the last days.
Although Joel had written this prophecy almost 1000 years previously, Peter points out that these are the lastdays that Joel is writing about. We are living in the last days. We are living in the time period between the two comings of Jesus Christ –
And in these last days -
There will be wonders in the heavens above – there will be signs on the earth below – blood and fire and billows of smoke – the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood.
Jesus talks about the last days as well – you can find his descriptions in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 and Luke 21 – the days of wars and rumours of wars – days of persecution and death – days of dread and fear – when the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky – days of fire and volcano and earthquakes –
You don’t need to look to far to realize that we are living in these last days – and the closer we get to the final day of judgement, the more we see the signs of the times exhibited - it takes less and less imagination to realize that the earth could very well be finally destroyed by fire –
And that lends a certain urgency to our call to proclaim the message of salvation – to call on people to repent and be baptized – to turn from their wicked ways and call on the name of the Lord.
Peter knew that urgency. He knew they were in the last days. And so, filled with the Holy Spirit, he raised his voice and boldly declared the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ with such conviction that the people were cut to the heart:
Today, we are 2000 years closer to that final day of judgement. Which makes the message that much more urgent. It’s a good thing we have the next phrase from Joel to hang onto.
In the last days, God says ….
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
All believers. All ages. Male and female. Sons and daughters. Young men and old men. All social classes.
Back in the day, the Spirit seemed to be reserved for the few – leaders and kings – prophets and deliverers – the Messiah.
But in the last days, God’s Spirit will fill all believers.
And it’s a good thing. There is a lot to be done. We need all hands on deck. Young and old. Male and female. Rich and poor. All of us working together to bring the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.
And that brings me to the final phrase.
In the last days
I will pour my spirit out on all people
All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
And that is the ultimate goal of spreading the gospel. That all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. When we read this in the context of the previous verses, hopefully we come to a fuller understanding of meaning of salvation. Yes, salvation is about going to heaven, but salvation is also being saved from the cataclysmic events going on around us.
God is the great rescuer. In the face of trials and persecution, God is the one who rescues. In the face of illness and pain, God in Jesus Christ is the one who offers comfort and hope. In your poverty, cry out to God for salvation.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Conversion, truly a HS event.
And now I want to get back to our theme. This conversion as demonstrated in the metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly.
And I just want to revisit the analogy Gailyn Van Rheenen used in his book Mission: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies. And as I do that, I want us to think collectively about where we are at as a congregation.
He talked about three types of churches –
Caterpillar churches –
By nature, consumers. As a caterpillar consumes a large amount of leaves and fruit in order to grow – so a caterpillar church does a lot of feeding. She tends to be self-absorbed and self-concerned – to consume most of her resources for her own personal benefit – her primary concern revolves around meeting the needs of her own members and searchers in their direct community.
They affirm the need for local evangelism and foreign missions, but their do not have a full understanding of the mission of God and it has resulted in ministry without rationale. Evangelism and mission are merely duties to be performed – an obligation to be discharged.
Members of these churches are Christians but need to learn a bit about dying to self.
Chrysalis or Cocoon churches– in a state of transition. Becoming more Christ-like. Questioning their purpose for existence - undergoing conversion from being self-centred to spiritually vital. No longer concerned about their own felt-needs but more interested in what God desires them to become.
They are learning to pray – to help one another – to search Scripture – to teach searchers of the gospel.
All of this happens in the cocoon. And prepares the church to finally emerge from this cocoon as butterfly churches– feeding on the rich nectar of God’s providence – and then going from flower to flower spreading the pollen of God’s grace to a hurting world.
The butterfly church knows that the world is lost without Jesus Christ.
The butterfly church knows that her primary duty is to carry the saving message of the cross both locally and globally.
The butterfly church is filled with the Holy Spirit, and in the power of the Holy Spirit eagerly preaches that message.
The Butterfly church knows all about the prophecy of Joel – She is very aware that we are in the last days. She knows that all believers have access to the power of the Holy Spirit. And she knows that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
These are the guiding principles for the church to grow into. The urgency. The clarity of the call. And the power to carry out that call.
The disciples experienced a radical conversion that Pentecost. And that radical conversion translated into the radical growth of the church of Jesus Christ. All through the same Holy Spirit that has been given to us who believe in the name of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
And so this is our challenge.
First, to realize what time it is – we are in the last days – and to understand its urgency.
Second, to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit that has been given to all who believe –
And third, to allow that to guide us in our mission, as we try to be faithful to the call God has placed on all of us- to spread the good news of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.
I have asked Natasha to share a bit of how she has been experiencing all of this in her work with YWAM.