Pandemonium (Acts 17:5-7)

The Gospel caused pandemonium in Thessalonica. Pandemonium is a riotous uproar, complete disorder. Today, we are witnessing pandemonium in our city streets. There is no order. The purpose is to create chaos, tear down the established order, and gain power for themselves.

Why are they doing this? They have been taught by socialists that the system of this country is racist, therefore evil, regardless of the freedoms, privileges, and economic opportunities available to all. But, they are not seeking equality and freedom for all. They are seeking a system where they are privileged and in power. They will eventually fight amongst themselves for this power. And once they gain power, our rights and property will be taken away. We will be subjects of those in power. They will determine if you will live and how you will live.

This is nothing new. It has happened in other countries that experienced Communist revolutions. We are just seeing the beginnings of it in this country for the first time.

When Jesus came in the flesh of man, the nation of Israel was under the dictatorship of Roman rule. Freedom was oppressed. Jesus performed miracles, gave the people hope, and spoke of another Kingdom where there was freedom. Pandemonium occurred everywhere Jesus went. People were excited! Some zealots wanted Jesus to lead a revolution, overthrow the Romans, and become their king. He rejected all such attempts.

However, when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, pandemonium broke out again. The people hailed Jesus as the King of Israel. Then Jesus drove out the money changers in the Temple and the “deep state” of the religious order was alarmed. To protect their establishment, they told the Roman government that Jesus was a threat to their rule as well. Together, they crucified Jesus to quell the pandemonium.

The disciples of Jesus, who had felt so much joy, hope, and excitement in the presence of Jesus, now felt deep guilt, disappointment, hopelessness, and fear for their lives. The Kingdom and freedom Jesus preached about seemed like an impossible dream.

Then the Holy Spirit descended upon them and pandemonium broke out once again. They had the grace and the power of God that created pandemonium everywhere they went preaching Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. They began turning the world upside down without any use of force, without protesting, without rioting, and without looting. Nevertheless, the pandemonium they created cost them their lives. But their persecution and death only caused the Gospel and the Kingdom of God to spread.

It was, and continues to be, the fruit of the Holy Spirit instead of the fruit of the flesh that has the power to change people’s hearts and minds.

Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

As it was for the first disciples, every disciple today who follows Jesus can expect an exciting life—Jesus’ life—a life that affects others around us. And we can expect persecution, suffering, and death.

John 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

There is more to life and Christianity than following a bunch of religious rules. Following Christ will result in an abundant life, an exciting life. But it will cost us everything—including our present life, which we cannot keep anyway.

Mark 8:34-35 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

The abundant, exciting life that comes from following Jesus and living in His Kingdom requires denying self, taking up a cross, and losing our life. It begins by being born again of the Spirit—a new life that never dies.

John 3:5-8 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Being born again is not something we do. The Holy Spirit does it according to His will.

First, He brings conviction of sin and reveals the truth: that Jesus is the Messiah, who died for our sins on the cross and rose again from the dead. He gives us faith to believe this truth and that is God’s grace that saves us. He leads us to repent of our sin, die to ourselves in a watery grave, called baptism, and gives us a new life (born again) by taking residence in us. We become a new creation in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, who continues to renew our mind, will, and emotions. Through this process, the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another.

The Holy Spirit also gives us a love for Jesus that desires to obey His commandments. The result of our obedience is peace, joy, and an abundant, exciting life as a witness to others.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God has a plan for our life. He will unfold it as we walk after His Spirit. While we simply focus on following Jesus, we are unaware of the affect, the pandemonium, we create in other people. That is not for us to know. We are chosen to declare the praises of Jesus who called us out of darkness, and that is all we need to do and say to be effective.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Our words and actions have power to create pandemonium and change in our homes and community. We will never know the far reaching effects of a simple act of love in the Name of Jesus. Even the persecution and rejection we receive from some people can be turned into an effective witness to other people.

For example: Acts 11:19-21 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

Instead of going to the synagogues where there were people familiar with the Holy Scriptures, some unnamed believers took the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Greeks in Antioch, who were steeped in mythology, superstition, and paganism. Look at the long-range effect of their faithfulness. I think all of us are here today because those persecuted believers left their homes and remained faithful to the Great Commission by “going and making disciples of all nations”. Persecution did not deter them from sharing the Gospel with people who did not know God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

When we look at the number of people who need Jesus, the condition of our society, and the power of darkness around us, it may seem impossible for us to have any influence. But look at the results those 120 disciples on Pentecost had in a world darker than ours. The darkness has never been able to put out the light of Jesus Christ, even in godless and oppressive Communist countries.

For a recent example, on the streets of Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed and the riots took place, Christians have gathered to praise, worship, and profess their faith in Christ. God is getting the glory as people are being saved, healed, and born again through baptism right on the streets of Minneapolis. In the middle of a tragic event, revival has begun. Hope and life have been put back into the area. This will have a ripple effect throughout the city and potentially the whole country.

After all, our only hope is Jesus Christ, not anarchy, not Communism, not capitalism, and certainly not homosexuality. Although they don’t know it, Jesus is the answer to the disenchantment people are feeling in the streets. Every generation has to discover this.

For example, some of you are old enough to remember the riots and assassinations of the late 60’s. Young people were protesting the Vietnam War and marching for civil rights. The country was in turmoil. Do you remember what happened next? A revival took broke out among the disenchanted youth. Millions were saved. The Broadway play “Godspell” ran for months and is still played in theaters. All over the nation, football stadiums were filled with youth who came to praise and worship Jesus. It became known as the “Jesus Movement”, and it created pandemonium in the Church for a while. As the new believers matured, they had a profound effect on Christianity, worship, and on the country.

Have you ever noticed the pandemonium that a small pebble creates when it is tossed into the water? We are God’s “pebbles” to be tossed into seas of iniquity. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be Christ’s witness and simply commanded to “Go”. And as we go, we are to share with others the Gospel of Jesus and what He has done for us. Some will listen; some will not, but we have many opportunities. We will experience persecution, but sharing Jesus with others is exciting when you see Him affect them through salvation, healing, deliverance, and restoration. The salvation and transformation of one person is worth all the rejection and persecution that we get from others.

Instead of being comfortable, predictable, and impassionate—yes, even boring, be willing to take risks, make the most of every opportunity in life. Otherwise, we will miss God’s blessings if we fail to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I learned this lesson early in my Christian life in 1976 (Jesus Movement era). New in Christ, I was asked to be a chaperone on a youth retreat one weekend. I didn’t want to go. It sounded boring. Camping out with a bunch of teenagers was not my idea of fun.

We were to prepare for the retreat by reading “Prison to Praise”, a book about praising God in all circumstances. I read the book and unenthusiastically went to the retreat out of obedience to the Holy Spirit, who was definitely telling me to go.

During the activities, Beth, 16, lost a diamond ring that her grandmother had given her. She was devastated and weeping. Many tried to console her, others looked for the ring, but the pastor saw it was an excellent opportunity to apply the lessons in the book. Beth couldn’t see any reason to praise God in this circumstance. Neither did the other teens around her. But, Beth finally agree to try. She prayed and began to sacrificially praise God and trust Him with her grandmother’s ring. Then she asked God to fill her with the Holy Spirit so she would have grace to truly trust and praise Him for everything in her life.

God immediately answered her prayer! The Holy Spirit came upon her and she began laughing, declaring praises, thanksgiving, and love for God. She was filled with exceeding joy because she knew Jesus was real, for He now lived in her! She felt His Presence! The ring no longer mattered so much. She had received something far more valuable! And she began sharing her new joy and experience with the other teens.

Pandemonium began to spread throughout the retreat. John, 18, wanted what he was witnessing in Beth. So everyone, including Beth, began praying for John. (I’m just watching; I don’t know how to pray.) John prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Again, God immediately answered his prayer. But instead of laughter, John began to weep uncontrollably. I thought something was wrong. Eventually, John could tell us. He saw a vision of Jesus on the Cross dying for his sin. John repented of his sin and gave his life completely to Christ. Then the Holy Spirit filled him with indescribable peace. We met John 25 years later. He was still walking by the Spirit and is a leader in the Church.

These conversions were amazing, but God wasn’t finished showing us His power through our praise. Near midnight, we had completed the task of getting the teens to bed because we had to go back to the church in the morning. I was walking with the pastor to our tent area when we both noticed a small light shining in the grass. The pastor went over to inspect and it was Beth’s diamond ring! When he picked it up, the light disappeared.

Pandemonium broke out in that youth group. They were alive in Christ, praising Him and rendering thanksgiving in the church and it didn’t stop. They continued with Bible studies, prayer meetings, worship, and obedience to their parents.

However, a different kind of pandemonium broke out among the religious people in the church. They complained to the bishop that the kids were not being taught correct doctrine by the pastor. The evidence was the kids, who were sprinkle-baptized as infants and confirmed by the church, were now wanting to get baptized by immersion and filled with the Holy Spirit. Even Beth’s mother told the bishop, “Something is wrong with my daughter. All she wants to do is stay in her room and read the Bible. That is not normal behavior for a 16 year-old girl. She ought to be out having fun with her friends.”

Like Jesus, the pastor never spoke a word in his defense. In the end, he was dismissed. But he continued to praise and trust God, believing God had something else for him to do.

As I reflect back, I almost missed this experience. If I had followed the desires of my flesh and stayed comfortably at home, my faith and my life would be very different. The experience showed me that if you follow Jesus and His Holy Spirit, you will go places you never dreamed existed and experience things you never imagined.

On the other hand, following Jesus will bring persecution from unbelievers, family, friends, and religious people, as we read in Thessalonica. But following Jesus is not complicated—ask Him to fill you with His Spirit so you can love God and love people. Become a living sacrifice. Place your life every day before God and let Him lead you to bless others—stirring up hope and a little pandemonium wherever you go.

Jesus is the reason for what we do. Whatever happens, following Jesus is definitely not boring. And the reward is Heaven and God’s Presence. Are you ready to receive the abundant, Spirit-filled, life Jesus died to give you?

Acts 2:37-39 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”