According to my mother I began my career as a researcher quite early in life. One of my favorite early childhood words was why. Evidently I used this key question to gather data about the natural world (Why is the grass green?) as well has human relationships (Why do I have to do that?). If my young mind did not find satisfaction, then I would ask a follow up why question. Evidently Mom nurtured, or at least tolerated, this questioning orientation toward life, for I continued to ask why questions through my years of formal education and my professional life.
As a professor I learned the value of a good question. I think a good question often held more transformative power than an hour-long lecture. Of course, I held my students to a high standard of questions as well. Though not always appreciated, I never subscribed to the there-are-no-bad-questions philosophy of life. I have heard some bad questions. In fact, bad questions can generate bad or even dangerous answers.
I often try to get people to ask good questions after they read a portion of Scripture. Whether a disciple reads a paragraph, multiple chapters, or a whole book of the Bible they should always ask a few questions. What did I learn? How can I live out this understanding? How can I change my prayers to be more in line with the Word?
I find some great questions in Acts 2. After observing the new Pentecostal phenomenon many of the devout pilgrims that clogged Jerusalem’s streets asked, “What does this mean?” Of course, others chose to mock rather than ask questions; they tried to explain the phenomenon by foolishly accusing the newly Spirit-filled followers of Christ of being drunk on some cheap wine. The good questioners, and some of the mockers, responded to Peter’s sermon with another great question, “What must (or should) we do?” In fact, Peter’s sermon seems to end with a creative tension in the air. The crowd had to ask the good question before they got the opportunity to join in the new Pentecostal liturgy.
I have heard many people weaken the question from Acts 2:37 down through the years. Perhaps due to our Pentecostal tradition, many saints add “…to be saved” to the end of the question. These three additional words bleed off much of the power of the original question. The addition limits the original question to a terminal condition of “being saved”. The revised question also keeps people from continuing to ask this critical question after they “have been saved.”
Hearing the message of Jesus, and the early church’s response in Acts 2, calls me to ask the better question this morning. “What should I do?” I still ask this question even though I celebrate my 50th anniversary of Spirit infilling later this summer. The weaker, longer question blocks my ears from hearing what the Spirit says today. The weaker, longer question blocks my heart from responding to the convicting (biting?) words of the passage. The weaker, longer question shortens my arms reach to the threshold responses rather than the lifelong claim of the Spirit’s indwelling.
What should I do?
- About the power of Pentecost?
- About the devout people around me that observe the Spirit’s work?
- About questioners and mockers alike?
- About the offering of visions, dreams and prophecies – an offering that seems strangely under claimed today?
- About the limits of those gifts to just a few when the sermon opens it to all flesh?
- About ways I limit all flesh just as Peter would in Acts 10?
- About the signs of pending judgment?
- About the tendency to limit the power of the Spirit to gathered worship where so few devout and mocking people can see it public spaces?
- About the ‘far off’ people that still have not heard this message?
- About the ‘untoward generation’ like elements that can still be found in me?
- About the full breadth of the new Pentecostal liturgy (continually in Apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayers, sharing resources as a loving and living witness, praying with others in public spaces, going from house to house, eating with gladness and singleness of heart, and praising God)?
- About finding favor with the people in the world?
- About seeing the Lord’s daily addition plan?
There I go again … so many questions. Some of them undoubtedly reach a higher level of questioning that others, but all of them come alive with the original Act 2:37 question. New hearers and old hearers alike can zero in on one or two of the questions for a season. As long as I stay repented and in my baptism, the infilling of the Spirit will lead me, and those with whom I walk, in the Lord’s new Pentecostal purposes.
I repent again. I have dropped off on my questioning these past few months as I dealt with some other life situations. Your Word calls me to hear and ask better questions. I stay in my baptism – a baptism that commits to my rejection of old creaturely ways, to living in Your resurrection, and to actively participating in Your body.
Lead on Holy Spirit. Help me see which of my questions should guide me at this time. Help me to persistently pursue good answers – answers for my mind, my heart, and for my actions. Help me to live them out in the original oneness/unity liturgy of that first Pentecost.
In Jesus’ Name,
Thank you for walking with me through Acts 2. I trust the walk generates some new questions for you to purse as well. Perhaps some of my questions will help you think about the new Pentecostal liturgy seen in this powerful chapter.