Editor’s Note: This was preached on Pentecost Sunday. I share it with you now, a little late, but always timely. Due to length, it is divided into two parts.
Nobody jumped out of bed this morning, saying “It’s Pentecost!” You should have. It’s far more important than Christmas. You know how we get out of bed, “It’s my birthday!” or “It’s Christmas!” That is how we should have begun this day. Well, a lot of time is wasted or misspent in the house of God for a couple of reasons and the first is that we don’t know who we truly are. Can you imagine a player running out on the court not knowing what side he is on? “Am I a Warrior or a Cavalier?” That’s how we come to church. In fact our songs get us all confused, saying we are one thing one time and one thing another time. Our forms do this, our sermons do too. Very contradictory. I hope to address this subject now; knowing myself, knowing who I am.
The second reason why we misspend time in church every Sunday is that we don’t know what we are doing. Suppose a player ran out on the court and he knew he was a Cavalier but he didn’t know what position he plays. “What am I now? A forward? A guard? Or am I supposed to sit on the bench?” We try to worship, evangelize and study, all at the same time. It’s an inherent contradiction. And that’s especially said of Pentecost of which we hardly know the meaning. Every Christian church should be packed today. What would you think about a church that on Christmas, December 25, the preacher preaches on whatever. “The Flood,” let’s say. Crazy church. There are plenty of them that are not even referring to Pentecost on Pentecost Sunday. So, to carry out the illustration of basketball, the Bible consistently says that we are in the last quarter. And you know that the last quarter is the most exciting, the most important, really, of the whole contest. Peter said at the first Pentecost, “These are the latter days.” So Christmas and the great drama of salvation is the beginning of the game, the first quarter. Good Friday marked the end of the first half. And then there was an intermission, nothing happened there. Easter marked the second half and Pentecost the last quarter.
Now anybody knows that while playing a basketball game each basket is important; the first basket scored is just as important as one scored at the end. But that last quarter is crucial. That is when the strategy is significant, the time-outs, intentional fouls and the substitutions. That is what we are in now, and what happens is that not only do spectators fail to show…can you imagine at the end of a championship game they start walking out at the end? But we do. We are all there for the beginning, for Christmas, and we walk out on the last quarter. What would one thing of a player walking out in the last quarter? Well, there is more that I could say. Let me just say this much, I trust the mood is established by now. Christmas and thereafter was God with us. Now it is God in us. So now we can greet each other by saying, “He is here.” Or say to that person, “Christ is in you.”
In introduction to our scripture passage in II Corinthians, I can not resist the observation that if Paul did not receive so much flack or trouble from certain members, not the church at large which was a good church, but certain people in it, that he would never have written this letter nor would we have some of these remarkable statements. So in II Cor. 5:16,17 he says, “So from now on we regard no one [not just Paul but all of us] from a worldly point of view, though we once regarded Christ in this way [that’s the way the world reckons, you see, that he was a failure and all the rest], we do so no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation.” That is why Pentecost came on a Sunday, the start of the first day of the week, like when God said, “Let there be light,” that was Day #1. Fire came down on Pentecost, and a new creation was started. “…he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new come.”
If there is one subject that human beings do not know, what would be your guess as to what it is? The subject that a person knows the least is himself. Even our physical selves. I had relatives die a generation ago who would have lived much longer if we had known our bodies better, the way we do now. But psychology is just in its’ infancy. The knowledge of the ego and of the soul. The ignorance of psychologists by their own admission is contradictory and very limited. Socrates, 500 years B.C. said, “Know thyself.” And Christians and the church, the ones who should be giving leadership, is delinquent on this score. Happily, the future is promising. Those who know tell us that the coming generation is going to be the age of the humanities. It will make the Renaissance look very physical, sensual. Paul says, “I don’t know any one after the flesh.” And that was kind of a fleshly thing, the Renaissance. But this is going to be the computer age, but why? To release us, so we can get away from fleshly things, numbers. So the operators and programmers have more time to find out finally who we are. And happily the church is getting in on that too. The second reformation is to find out “Who am I?” And the result of not knowing ourselves is the reason. The reason or result is that we do not know Christ better, in whose image we are made, of whom we are carbon copies. Carbon copies, nothing, we are part of him.