Acts 2 tells us the story of what we have come to call Pentecost; when the Spirit of God descended upon the disciples in tongues of fire, allowing them to speak in languages that were not their own. The text says that a diverse crowd of people observed what was going on and had responses that varied. One group responded this way:
“And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (verses 7-11)
Another group responded this way:
But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (verse 13)
Following these remarks Peter stands up and delivers a powerful sermon that God uses to bring many of his hearers to faith in Jesus for the first time.
This whole account has many lessons for us about sharing our faith in Jesus with others. Here are a few big takeaways that I noticed this morning:
(1) Evidence only goes so far. The same evidence produced two different responses. One group said “Wow, this is amazing!” Another group, said, “Just a bunch of drunks, no big deal.” This shows us that in many cases the determining factor in how people respond to “evidence” for God is their heart, not the evidence. If a person’s heart is skeptical, it may remain skeptical even when presented with lots of solid evidence. This leads us to another conclusion:
(2) Peter addressed their objections. The skeptics were witnessing first-hand a miracle of God but were still objecting. Peter didn’t snarl at them or just say “You have to have faith.” Neither did Peter assume that the evidence would simply speak for itself. Instead, he responded directly to the objection presented and countered with a rationale that would have made sense to his audience:
“Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
He then quotes from the prophet Joel about how God’s Spirit will be poured out on all mankind. Once Peter had cleared out of the way the objection, he then presents Christ. This is what might be called pre-evangelism. This is where we must deal with intellectual (or sometimes emotional or spiritual) problems that keep others from entertaining a gospel presentation. Dialogue is an important part of this aspect of sharing Jesus with others. This is where you gather information from people and get a feel for the things that keep them from embracing Jesus. Maybe it’s a bad experience with the church, maybe it’s ignorance, or maybe it’s science. Having this information in hand will help you share your faith in a way that makes sense and address their doubts instead of giving the impression that a relationship with Jesus is one that must exist at the expense of rationality.
(3) Another principle to take away in this is: the Holy Spirit will lead you to speak of Jesus. It’s no coincidence that just moments after being filled with the Holy Spirit, the same Peter who denied Jesus three times just recently, is now suddenly emboldened and moved to share about Jesus with others. Now not everyone will have the same boldness as Peter, obviously, but the takeaway is this: if you have the Spirit, you will be compelled to share about Jesus to others, even when it might be uncomfortable and cost you something. (Notice in the very next chapter, Peter and John are arrested, but they still continue sharing Jesus, verse 19.) Allow God’s Spirit to lead you. If you sense a nudge when you are with someone, don’t be afraid to ask a question, even it might be a bit awkward. Trust the Spirit of God. The response may be positive, but you never know what good seed you may have planted in someone’s mind and heart.
(4) The results are up to God. Our job is to be faithful to tell people about Jesus Christ, not to convert others. Notice at the end of chapter 2 it says “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (verse 47). It was the Lord who was adding to their number. The disciples were simply sharing Jesus with others in word and deed.
My life is one of contradictions. I’m a southern boy living in northern New England; a boring guy married to super-fun girl; a conservative pastor in a progressive Christian denomination; a changed man in need of change; a sinner loved by a holy and perfect God.