3 Ways to Shortcut the Work of the Holy Spirit

What was happening in the house spilled into the streets.

That’s what happened in Acts 2, and that’s what happens still today with the people of God. We meet together, sing together, talk together, pray together, sit under the Word together, all in the midst of the family of God in the house of God, but what happens inside the church spills over into the culture. Inside the house of Acts 2, the promised Holy Spirit fell. With the sound of a mighty wind and the visual demonstration of power of flaming tongues resting on each disciple, the disciples tumbled out into the crowd at Pentecost to declare the wonders of God. At first, they were met with great confusion. Maybe some laughter. Probably some cynicism. But the crowd was prompted to collectively ask a singular question:

And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12).

Peter rose to the occasion. In a stirring sermon, Peter connected the news of the death and resurrection of Jesus to the prophecies of old. Powered by the Spirit, the preaching of God’s Word did not return void, as the crowd there came to the sudden realization that they were in desperate need of forgiveness. And so the question of the crowd changed:

When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?” (Acts 2:37).

The early church moved forward thanks to the unmistakable work of the Spirit of God in the lives of both the old and new disciples of Jesus. What we find here is not just a historical accounting of the birth of the Christian movement; we find here a lasting testimony of how dramatically and quickly the Holy Spirit can change a person to their very core. This same Spirit that worked so dramatically at Pentecost is alive and well and working today. In these verses, we see a group of people freely embracing His work. And while we still see many across the world embracing the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives today, we also see many who undercut that work.

We see here what happens when the work of the Spirit is embrace, but what happens when it’s not? What does is look like on a person when the Spirit is moving, and yet we do not accept what He’s doing in our lives? What are some of the ways we might undercut the Spirit’s work so that we don’t have to actually own up to our own sin and truly repent? I’d suggest three ways we might do this, even now:

1. Keep it intellectual.

There is a beautiful change of question in Acts 2. The first question is a matter of mere curiosity: “What does this mean?” But then the question changes to one of volition: “What must we do?” One of the ways we undercut the work of the Spirit is by keeping our faith in the intellectual realm. We argue about this point or that point, and the conversation might indeed be very stimulating. But we undercut the work of the Spirit if the question never changes. If we never come around to not only acknowledging what the Spirit is doing, but then actually seeing that His work requires something of us, then we are not truly embracing His work.

2. Calendar it away.

We might undercut the Spirit’s work by confining it to the realm of intellect, but we also might “calendar” His work away. In Acts 2, there were surely other things going on in the city. Pentecost was, after all, a big celebration. Lots of things to do, lots of people to see. The people might have looked at their proverbial watches and seen they had other commitments, other obligations, other shows to see, and then moved on. In today’s over-calendared society, we have the opportunity to undercut the work of the Spirit simply by our busyness. If we fill our calendars with meetings, sports teams, social engagements, and everything else, we have effectively crowded out the room in our lives to listen to the voice of both love and conviction. And so we move on, never taking the time to actually listen, embrace, and then act accordingly.

3. Postpone any action.

Procrastination is a wonderful tool for never walking with the Spirit. But in these verses, in this account, when there was a mighty move of God, the response was immediate. Peter’s sermon, or at least what we have recorded here, is comparatively short. And the response was immediate. That day they responded. That day they repented. That day they were added. This is especially convicting for me, because I don’t enjoy doing anything quickly. I enjoy the time to deliberate, think, and then weigh out all the options before me. And while that might work great when you’re buying a car, it’s a terrible way to embrace the work of the Spirit.

The same Spirit of God at work in the people of God on that day is the same Spirit of God at work in the people of God today. We are, by God’s grace, marked by this indwelling Spirit. Let’s recognize our tendency to take the easy way. And as we do let’s surrender ourselves to His work fully and immediately:

Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception (Hebrews 3:12-13).

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