It is the time of the year when we can see a lot of the Philippine flag flown around us. We see big flags proudly wave in our city hall. We can see flags displayed in storefronts, vehicles, streets, homes, and other places. This is a common sight as we approach June 12, the day the Philippines commemorates its Independence Day.
There is also one special celebration not familiar to the Filipinos and even to the whole world. This day seems to slip away every year without the world even noticing it. I am talking about the Biblical Feast of Pentecost mentioned in Leviticus 23.
In this blog post, let me share with you the valuable lessons that we can learn from the Philippine Independence Day and how it relates to the Feast of Pentecost
Celebrating the freedom that we didn’t have
June 12, 1898, was the time when the Philippine flag was first waved on the balcony of Emilio Aguinaldo in his home Kawit, Cavite. However, anyone who knows Philippine history would quickly point out at the fact that we really didn’t achieve independence on that day.
The Spanish government at that time sold the Philippines to the United States for $20 million. While we were free from the reins of the Spaniards, we were turned over to the Americans. On July 4, 1946, the United States granted the Philippines independence.
Similarities of Independence Day and Pentecost
This year 2016, the Independence Day falls on the same day as the Feast of Pentecost. On June 12, 2016, the people of God are also celebrating a much MONUMENTAL and important event. On this same day, the day of Pentecost in A.D. 31, marked the foundation of the New Testament Church.
Instead of marking our establishment as a country on June 12, 1898, that day should be commemorated as when the Filipino people seriously and strongly desired to gain Independence from its conqueror.
In the same manner, the Feast of Pentecost reminds us of the day when God made the Holy Spirit available to all His people who desire to follow Him. PENTECOST IS NOT THE DAY OF ENDING, but a beginning.
When the Philippines declared independence from the Spaniards, it is not the end of their fight and struggle. It is actually the beginning of their battle against the Americans.
Can we now see the analogy? Receiving the Holy Spirit is not an end in itself but the new beginning of our Christian journey. It is the time when we can use God’s power to overcome sin and trials in our lives.
Receiving the Power of God
We all fantasize about having a unique super power. When I was a kid, I always dreamed of flying and pretending to be a superhero. But do you know that there is a miraculous and supernatural power that is made available to all followers of God?
Let’s open to Acts 1:7-8. We can read:
And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive POWER when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This passage is talking about the Feast of Pentecost when God’s people will be able to receive the Holy Spirit. When we receive the Holy Spirit, what will happen? We will gain power.
On the Day of Pentecost, we have seen the dramatic change of the Apostles – from cowards who deserted and betrayed their Master to bold and courageous individuals who are ready to die for their beliefs.
That’s the power of the Holy Spirit.
Simply put, the power of the Holy Spirit is to transform us from carnally minded individuals to spiritually minded Christians.
It is a fact; we are all sinners (I Kings 8:46; Romans 3:23). No matter how hard we try, we just keep on sinning and sinning. We must recognize the reality that on our own, by our own effort, we can never overcome our human nature. We need the help of God, and that is where the Holy Spirit comes in.
Academic knowledge of the truth will not enable us to think, speak, or act like God. Even if you can read all the literature of the church, listen to all of the available sermons, and memorize the Bible from cover to cover, you will still be incomplete without the Holy Spirit working in you.
That is the great importance of the Holy Spirit.
We shall be witnesses
Let’s continue reading, Acts 1:8. It reads, “And you shall be witnesses…” So after we have received the Holy Spirit, what must we do? We shall be witnesses.
The Disciples of Christ had seen their Master first hand. They have a firsthand account of His manner of life, character, miracles, suffering, and teachings. Jesus Christ, Himself have taught them. Therefore, they are qualified to be witnesses for God and Christ. In the same manner, we are also called to be witnesses of the life and teachings of our Savior.
It is interesting to note that the Greek word for witness is ‘martus.’ This is the same word where we derived the English word, martyr.
What does this mean? It means that we must bear witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ even if it means that we will be persecuted and we will suffer for what we believe. It means that we will stand our ground and never compromise with our Christian calling even to the point of death.
That’s how serious our calling is!
This is the main reason that before you ever get baptized, you should count the cost. Once you have been baptized and have received the Holy Spirit, there will be no turning back. This is your ONLY chance to salvation. It is now or never. Do or die.
This is one of the many reasons why many attending members in the church delay their baptism. They would argue, “Oh I don’t want to get baptized because I don’t have what it takes to become a Christian.” Well, my friend, that is EXACTLY why you need to get baptized because you don’t have what it takes to be part of God’s Kingdom without the Holy Spirit!
So don’t be afraid. We will receive the POWER to overcome sin and trials in our lives. Though it will be a tough journey, we will never be alone. We will have God’s Holy Spirit to get us through.
Preaching the Gospel throughout the earth
Finally, the passage tells us that we will be witnesses or martyrs not just in Jerusalem, not just in Judea, not just in Samaria, but to the end of the earth!
Preaching the Gospel and making disciples are the most important work on the face of the planet. You and I are part of that work. We are given the Holy Spirit not just to enjoy the power of God but to be an instrument of proclaiming the Gospel. We have significant work to do, and we can only accomplish that with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The Feast of Pentecost stands as a memorial
Every 12th of June, the Philippines celebrates its Independence Day. It reminds us of the awakening of the great desire for freedom that has long slumbered within the confines of our hearts. Imagine, after more than 300 years of being under the yoke of the Spaniards, the Filipinos realized that we were born to be free and not slaves.
In the same manner, the Feast of Pentecost reminds that the Church Jesus built still exists unto this day. It reminds us of the desire of God to call more people into His Kingdom and one day will gather them as part of His first harvest.
However, we must also not forget that the Feast of Pentecost stands as a memorial of the great commission Christ has given us. Pentecost reminds us that we have a big work to do, and that is to preach the Gospel to the end of the world. All these can only be achieved through the power of God.