Saturday, May 23, 2015

Two anniversaries on the same day

There are at least two reasons to remember tomorrow. First, tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday.

Pentecost Sunday commemorates the day the Holy Spirit came and filled the early Christian disciples. Those early believers were aware of Christ's crucifixion to pay the price for man's sin. They realised He was the Son of God. They knew He was risen from the dead. They were ready to go out and preach the glorious good news. Well, almost.

Jesus had said "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). But He had also said "Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). So they waited.

On Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit came. A multitude gathered to see what the commotion was about. Peter stood up and preached, and about three thousand were converted to Christ.

The wonderful thing is that the same experience is available today. Peter said (in Acts 2:39): "For the promise is to you" - those who were there that day - "and to your children," - those who were to come - "and to all who are afar off," - those in Manchester, and Medjugorje and Milton Keynes; and as though to make it perfectly clear - "as many as the Lord our God will call." If you are called to God's salvation, the infilling of the Holy Spirit is for you.

Second, tomorrow is the anniversary of the conversion of John Wesley. Wesley, one of 19 children, went to Oxford, belonged to the Holy Club, and was ordained to the ministry of the Anglican Church. He went to Georgia as a missionary, and returned considering himself a failure. "I went to America to convert the Indians;" he wrote, "but, oh, who shall convert me?"

He was impressed by the conduct of Moravians on board ship, and on his return to London made the acquaintance of some Moravian believers. Then came May 24, 1738.

"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." He was 34 years old.

He went on to ride an estimated 250,000 miles and preach an estimated 40,000 sermons. He preached, it is said, "as though he were out of breath in pursuit of souls."

The Methodists have lost much of their power since those days. Methodist churches in England are closing in numbers. But God is still able to call others like He called Wesley. "I will build my church," said Jesus, "and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt 16:18).

A beauty of the Bible is that it tells us about the past, the present and the future. Many Christians are suffering a hard time at the moment. But the Bible tells us how things end up. We win.

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