Controlled by the Spirit – Part 4
“‘How is it that each of us hears them in our native language?’” (Acts 2:8 NIV)
Some of us are afraid of opening up to the Holy Spirit because we prefer to stay in control. That’s understandable. We’re concerned about self-preservation, so giving up control can be scary. We’re not sure we’re comfortable with what God did in Acts 2 when people spoke in languages they had never learned. At the time, the early Christians’ manifestations of euphoric joy and ecstatic utterances made people mockingly say, “Those people are drunk!” And we see their point. Why would God inspire such a holy bedlam?
Many of us want more of God but not to the point of being ridiculed. Our Western minds think, I will serve the Lord, but I will remain in control as I do it. But whether we like it or not, that’s not how the church began. The church began with Spirit-controlled Christians who yielded themselves to God. That’s radical, yes, but that’s the way the Lord did it.
Some might say, “Yeah, but we’ve improved upon that New Testament style of Christianity.” If that’s true, I want to see the spiritual fruit our improvements have produced. People may have mocked those first, “unsophisticated” Christians, but thousands got saved in the first four chapters of Acts. The Word of God was treasured. The churches were filled with sacrificial love. A holy excitement pervaded the atmosphere. Have we really improved upon that?
In Acts 2, while the disciples gathered in one place, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in languages they didn’t know. I don’t want to debate speaking in tongues, but I want to point out that when the Spirit came upon them, they immediately began to do something they couldn’t do naturally. “When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?’” (Acts 2:6-8). They were speaking in actual languages they didn’t know. They were doing something that could have no other explanation than that God was the source. The circumstances will differ from person to person, but an undeniable expression of Spirit-controlled living is that we will be lifted above the limitations of mere natural talents and abilities.
The irony of Spirit-filled living is that we have to give up power in order to gain a greater power. How many times in your Christian walk have you come to a place where you struggled to do something, so you just tried harder? Have you ever tried harder to have the self-discipline to read your Bible more or pray longer? Have you ever tried harder to love an unlovely person? Have you ever tried harder to be bold when you felt afraid? How did that work out for you? Trying harder has never gone well for me.
Christianity is not a self-effort religion but rather one of power—the ability and might of the Spirit. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). The Spirit is the only one who can produce self-discipline, love, and boldness. But to do so, he has to control us daily. We can’t rest on a religious experience we had years or even months ago.
-Pastor Cymbala (excerpted from Spirit Rising)
Read Acts 2:1-21.