Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Celebrating the life in the Spirit


This week we celebrate the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit – Pentecost. So I wanted to take some time to do some teaching on the Christian life as it pertains to life in the Holy Spirit. In the Church we call this “Pneumotology” or the study of the things of the Spirit. No let me say up front that most of the Christian life is not about the overt gifts that are given – especially the gift of tongues. While these are powerful gifts, this is not what is meant by life in the Holy Spirit. Gifts like prophecy and speaking in tongues (which are also a prophetic gift and must be given an interpretation by someone else) are meant for the edification of the Body of Christ and for the glory of God. These charisms (gifts) are an outflow of the life that is lived in the Spirit, but are not the base of that life.

If we are to get to the root of all this, we need to consider who the person of the Holy Spirit and what the ministry of the Holy Spirit is and does. The Spirit for example, is the creative power of the Father and the strength of the redemptive power of the Son as well as having the ministry of sanctifying the saints and bringing creation to its perfection through the redemption of the Son. The Spirit is present to the world for the convicting of sin and for making Jesus present to the Church and known in the world. The Spirit inspires the prophets and equips and enables the servants of God. The Spirit causes the stirring up of holiness in individuals and in the churches.

We recognize that the Spirit was and remains a part of the ministry of Jesus and of the Church that follows him. The Spirit was involved in the incarnation of Jesus – conception, baptism, ministry, passion, death, resurrection and ascension. The Spirit unites the Church to Christ and Christ with his Church. And because the Spirit indwells the Church, he is capable of transforming the Church into the likeness of Christ who is its head. The Spirit causes the Church to be faithful, producing the fruit that is in line with the Christian life: 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. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25 ESV)
The Spirit is a witness and a teacher of the Church. The Spirit shows and convinced the believers of the reality of the person of Jesus Christ in the Gospels and the presence of the Lord Jesus in their lives and that of the churches and the world. In essence, the Spirit is a spotlight on Jesus so that the Church can see him, know him and follow him in what he is doing in the world. Such seeing and hearing and doing results in the Church being obedient to Christ in everyday life.
Spirit also moves the Church to bear witness to the Christ we see and know through Scripture and in the world. In doing so, the Spirit enables the faithful to receive the divine witness: For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1.15-22 ESV)
So, if we are to live life in the Spirit, we ought to be aware that we are being, in this moment, led, fed and enabled to be the people we are called to be by God. We are called to live in the Spirit in everyday life. And we live this life in the full knowledge that we are the beloved children of our heavenly Father and are coheirs with Christ and the rest of the Church of the kingdom that is yet to come.
Until then there are two things to keep in mind: (1) each and every believer has a gift that God has given to them that is meant for the good of the Church and the benefit of the wider community, which ought to be used for serving God’s people and glorifying God who is the giver of all good gifts. (2) Remember that the giving of the Spirit is a present and ongoing thing – yes it happened all those years ago. It is still happening. The power is available for us today. The Spirit is still filling, still giving, and still working to bring about the coming of God’s kingdom in the lives of men, women and children. Let us avail ourselves of the blessing the Lord gives and the power he provides and actively proclaim all the wonders that God is doing in this world for the sake of the kingdom and those who would be a part of it. Go and live the Spirit filled life and do so in Jesus name.  


Thursday, May 14, 2015

He ascended with our scars

“Pax Dominum” (The Peace of the Lord be with you) – it is how Jesus greets his disciples for the last time in the Easter season and right before he is taken up to heaven. He has come to lead them out to the Mount of the Ascension and he is going to be taken into heaven from them.  But the question might be, “Where did he go?” According to the Creeds, he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

And then things got interesting. Two men dressed in white robes asked the 11 disciples why they were standing there, looking up into heaven when they should be focused on what’s next. Imagine how daunting that must have been. Jesus has been taken up, what do we do now? So I find what they did next all the more interesting. The Eleven worshiped and prayed. They went back to the Temple and to the City and they worshiped and prayed some more. And that it when it hit me: at the start of the Gospel of Luke, Zachariah would not thank God for the gift of a child believing that it was not possible and so could not bless people for nine months; not until John was born and he acknowledge what God had told him and did as he was directed.

That is a stark contrast to Jesus who is taken up from his disciple and continues to bless them as he is removed from their sight. Scripture witnesses to the fact the Jesus keeps on blessing as he keeps on proceeding to his rightful place, beside his Father. Jesus, according to the Scriptures continues even today to bless the Church. It has happened from that moment to this moment. Jesus is blessing his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. But what does it mean for us to be blessed?

Well, for one, when you know that you are blessed, there needs to be a response starting with thanksgiving. Praise and thanksgiving are an important part of God’s economy. The peace that draws us into God’s presence also enables us to move from fear to faith; from misery to mercy and from bewilderment to fascination, awe and wonder at what God can and is doing. Give thanks that he has ascended with our scars. Worship helps us to focus on God and to let go of the things that hold us down and keep us back from him and all that he desires to give us and to do through us in the world.

Secondly, we need to know when to get home for worship and to be resupplied and when to get out of the house. It has been said that “timing is everything.” It may be, but it is not the only that needs to happen. When it was time, things moved forward. The Spirit came upon the Church, Peter preached, people responded and the Church grew because the community had been both blessed and empowered for the work that was ahead.

So this then, raises questions like, ”Can you wait? Can you wait faithfully and keep on praise and worshiping God? Can you celebrate being left behind?” If you want to, then lift up your heart, lift up your life and allow God to direct it as he sees fit and may the Lord continue to bless you in the things he has called you to.