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Archives for 152 – Holy Spirit and the Church of Christ

The Holy Spirit may be like slick okra – we are afraid to take in anything that we don’t have control over!  Even to the most intellectual and sharpest among us the Holy Spirit is a mystery.  In the words of Jesus he operates like the wind (John 3:8) coming and going as he likes.  In spite of his mysterious existence, he is real. But, I am convinced, he is only real to those who experience him.

It was Jesus who said, “It is for your good that I am going away” (John 16:7).  Why? Because, “I will send the Holy Spirit to you” (John 16:7).  Jesus was bound by his physical presence with the disciples, but the Holy Spirit is not so bound.  He dwells in all the earth. Peter quoted the prophet Joel in Acts 2 saying, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28-29). There are no physical limitations on the Holy Spirit of Jesus.

We should be challenged when we read the book of Acts by asking, “Is this a book of exceptions or examples?” (Rick Atchley, May 3, 2013) The Holy Spirit was active among the people of God then, what about now?  Paul was clear, “His Spirit HIMSELF testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).  Those who were to be chosen to serve in Acts 6 were to be “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (6:3).  No doubt they visibly demonstrated the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).  Acts 13 records the Holy Spirit speaking to the worshipers in Antioch saying, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (13:2).  Barnabas and Saul were “sent on their way by the Holy Spirit…” (13:4).  The Holy Spirit remained active in the ministry of Paul and his companions as you can see from Acts 16:6-10. He wants to be active in our ministry also.

I asked in a Bible class, “Would you believe me if I told you that God called me to preach?”  One brother was quick to speak and said, “NO! I wouldn’t believe you.”  I have met some who have said that God was “dealing with me for years before I decided to surrender to his will.” Others have said, “God spoke to me and said…”  Language that conveys that God is working  in our life or ministry, apart from the Bible, is met with skepticism in many circles.  Sad.

Why not open yourself up to the Holy Spirit rather than resist (Acts 7:51), grieve (Ephesians 4:30) or quench (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Him? Why not “fan into flame” this great gift of God? (2 Timothy 1:6-8) Then, watch out!

 

Whether in person or online in social media God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are involved in our conversations with other Christians. In Acts 8, when Jesus confronts Saul on the road to Damascus, he tells Saul that Saul’s persecution of the church was actually a persecution of Jesus himself, “Why do you persecute me?” Three chapters earlier in Acts 5 we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira. In Peter’s conversation with each of them he points out that their lying to the church was actually a lie to God (5:4) and a testing of the Holy Spirit himself (5:9).

We enter into so many conversations without the slightest thought about the role of the Trinity in our conversation. As Spirit-filled people who talk with other Spirit-filled people we must remember that we, together, are God’s temple as the Spirit dwells in us (plural). This should change the way we talk and type. It should change the tone of our words. Our mistreating of other Christians is a mistreatment of the Spirit who is in each and every one of us.

So before you go on that next online rant, or even one face-to-face, consider the presence of the Trinity in that moment and who it is who is actually involved in that interaction. When you stop and think about who is on the receiving end of your vitriol or aggravation it should help us to pause and convert our conversation to one that is more appropriate for such holy company.

God works through us.

It’s not that He can’t work in other ways; obviously He can and does. But because He believes in us — that astounding fact of scripture which simply cannot be denied or dismissed — He wants to work through us.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ~ Philippians 1:3-6

Can you conclude anything from this that there is a partnership in the gospel? That “he who began a good work in you” can be anyone other than God? So is this partnership just between Paul and the folks at Philippi?

(for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), ~ Galatians 2:8

No! It’s God working through Peter to the circumcised and through Paul to the Gentiles! How does He do that?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

Is it just to Peter and Paul? Does He just makes work for us? No! It’s for all, and for every:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:8

Does He just give us the grace to prepare ourselves for the work? Not by a long shot! There are gifts attached to that grace:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. ~ Romans 12:3-8

So He gives us specific gifts to prepare us for the work He has prepared for us to do. But prepared us in what way?

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

He empowers us. The Spirit, the Lord, God. How much power are we talking about?

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20-22

That’s a lot of power! Does He do it long-distance?

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. ~ Colossians 1:24-29

No; from within! Christ in us. It’s His energy working powerfully within us. That makes us partners in the gospel with God, through Christ!

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:1

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:20

How does Christ dwell in us? Through His Holy Spirit:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ~ Romans 8:9-11

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

The Spirit of God! The Spirit of Christ! Without His Spirit within us, we have no hope of resurrection! We have no chance of escaping destruction! Without His Spirit, we have no way to partner with God in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

We can know scripture forward and backward and think we know everything it means, and if we do not have the Spirit dwelling within us, we are pointless and powerless in our attempts to minister. By the Spirit, God speaks through us:

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:3

And the One who knows how best to prepare and empower each of us does so at His own discretion, not ours:

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Therefore we work for the common good, Paul says, in partnership with God to build His building, sow and water and tend His field:

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:9

So how do we respond to this offer of powerful, dwell-within partnership?

Do we say, “Well thanks, God, but I’ve got my Bible and I understand it completely and perfectly; that’s all I need and I don’t really want your help”?

Or, “I’m just not sure about all that miraculous stuff or being a part of that; it’s not that I believe You can’t do it, but it scares me a little bit and I’d rather just believe that You don’t work that way anymore because it’s too likely to be perceived as fake and I don’t want to have my credibility damaged”?

Perhaps just: “Oh, You don’t need me, Lord. Use my brother; he talks better than I do”?

Maybe: “I’m catching the next outbound boat for the other direction.”

Do any of those sound familiar?

Too familiar?

We have had an interesting relationship with the Spirit in Churches of Christ. In part this is one thing I love about our movement – there is no denominational hierarchy barking orders on what the official teaching of the church is supposed to be. On the other hand we somehow still have an unofficial official teaching on the Spirit over the years. In some corners of our movement one must have a certain view of the Spirit to be orthodox, to be a genuine Christian. I cannot help but think the Spirit does His work in spite of our misunderstandings and misapplications on this issue because the Spirit has been tasked with dispensing gracious gifts to an imperfect people since the beginning. Consider the first century church who the Holy Spirit enabled to prophesy and speak in tongues WHILE the ones with the gifts were misusing those gifts? You would think the Spirit would stop working in a moment like that and hang the first century tongue-speaker out to dry. The Spirit kept giving the gift even when people weren’t understanding it properly. I think the same is true today.

I would like to spend this month discussing the Holy Spirit. Part of what has spurred this on for me is the coming of Harbor (the Pepperdine Bible Lectures) in a couple of weeks where the theme will be “The Spirit-filled People of God.” Even if you can’t go make sure to catch the audio after the fact on itunes University! But I really want to tackle this for more practical reasons. Our people have a lot of questions about the Spirit and I would like for us to spend some time discussing the work of the Spirit in today’s church.

We can do better than reacting to other people’s theology. We can have a proactive, biblical view of the Spirit and a better understanding of how the Spirit operates today. It will take some effort to get there but it is worth the effort!

Welcome to April at Wineskins!

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