Transformation

The Resurrection: Disciples to Leaders

empty-tombThe Bible is worthy of glorification. The disciples of Jesus Christ are not. Often we view the disciples as born healers, born preachers and born leaders. The truth is, they were none of these things. What we know of these men is that they were simple, common, unimportant socially; skilled, but individuals of the ordinary. For all intents, they were the middle of the curve, wonderfully average.

Upon witnessing the risen Lord following his resurrection, these disciples are quickly transformed into preachers that convert thousands at a time, healers that publicly display healing powers of the lame and crippled, and leaders of the persecuted, notorious yet thriving early Christian Church. How? How did they suddenly possess the clarity and public speaking power to instruct and preach that which only days prior they could not even comprehend? A message they ran from in fear of persecution and arrest? How did they suddenly possess the power to overcome sickness and forgive sins as God does, in the name of Jesus Christ? The answer is in the name of Jesus Christ.

We are all aware that different people have different skills with clear limitations as to what we can do with them. We know that in order to attain a new skill and use it confidently we must be patient, practice, wait and then practice more. We do not see the disciples take time to hone these skills. They appeared quickly in the characters of these disciples and, when used, their effects were unparalleled in human history. Almost overnight, these men and women became new creations and new people. Without the resurrection, these transformations are unbelievable. The kind of change exhibited in the lives of the disciples is not explainable by logic or reason. The promises of Jesus that the disciples would go on to do greater things in his name, accomplish all they desire for the glory of God in his name, become new creations born again in his name suddenly become possible and suddenly become true with the resurrection.

The Resurrection: Tradition to Transformation

empty-tomb

The lost tomb is one glaring example establishing that the disciples contradicted cultural norms as Israelites and began to blaze new trails in the name of Jesus, but the tomb is only one example of such radical reform. As the Jewish people were frequently raided, overrun, taken hostage, attacked and oppressed throughout history, it became extremely important for leaders to teach the legacy, ancestry and history of the Jewish people to future generations, not merely as a means of cultural emphasis, but to remind the future generations that the people of Israel held a unique place in the Creator God’s plans for humanity. Thus, while the tangible value of Israel wavered throughout history, the commands of God to Moses established in the Torah and the salvation displayed and promised by God to the people of Israel never faded. This longevity was due to the painstaking commitment made by the Jewish people to establish the Law, remind people of the Law and keep the Law. In this climate of extreme rule keeping and obedience, one witnesses in the Gospel narratives the disciples redefining the Law as established by Jesus, and following a new Law or covenant grounded in the deity of Jesus Christ. The disciples regularly break the long-established Law of the Sabbath by their activity on that holy day.

Matthew 12:1-2

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

The new law established in and by Jesus changed the disciples’ paradigm. As a result, because Jesus resurrected on a Sunday, the disciples no longer worshipped the Lord on the common Holy day of Saturday (Sabbath) but moved their worship to Sunday in order to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The disciples revise the long-established tradition of the Passover meal as they not only ate the meal away from their immediate family but also seemed to forget the most important element of the meal, the lamb. Only the direct intervention of God could alter that God-established tradition.

Mark 14:12-25

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take, this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

In following the example of Jesus, the disciples repeatedly break laws concerning the clean and unclean, interacting not only with the physically unclean, such as lepers and the paralyzed, but also with the spiritually unclean, such as the prostitute and tax collector. Without the resurrection, the argument that these humble and unimportant men suddenly decided to simply revise and disobey the laws their forefathers followed for thousands of years becomes ridiculous. One must also consider that if Jesus did in fact die and remain buried in the tomb, the disciples themselves would want nothing to do with such a blasphemer, liar and heretic and would have continued awaiting the true Messiah. However, given the resurrection of Jesus, we find reason to believe that their newfound courage and unusual behavior were motivated by one truth and one reason alone. Jesus resurrected from the dead and fulfilled all of the Messianic prophecies that rooted the Law of Moses. They witnessed the sacrifice of God himself as Jesus Christ. They witnessed the resurrection of God himself as Jesus Christ. Thus, the law and the prophets were fulfilled in Christ, and in Christ the disciples were given a new covenant that overruled the previous law and requirements of their forefathers.

Hebrews 9:11-15

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

 

Tithing: Joyful Giving

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The Christian character amounts to nothing without love, and tithing amounts to nothing without joy. It’s not difficult to understand why or how tithing and joy are rarely seen in each other’s company today. As we discussed, giving what we believe belongs to us is an act that our sinful nature automatically opposes. Giving what we have means that what was once ours is now gone; we have less while someone else has more. We often find joy in receiving and possessing an abundance of one thing, and giving destroys that passion of ours, “to get.” But God is absolutely clear that giving in His name must never be done without joy. To give under a shadow of obligation, resentment or bitterness is a gift that he warns us not to give in the first place.

 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.      

 Isaiah 1:11-15

“The multitude of your sacrifices—
   what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
   of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
   in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to appear before me,
   who has asked this of you,
   this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
   Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
   I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
   I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
   I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
   I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
   I am not listening.  

 

Isaiah 43:22-24

“Yet you have not called on me, Jacob,
   you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel.
You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
  nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with grain offerings
   nor wearied you with demands for incense.
You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me,
   or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins
   and wearied me with your offenses. 

Jeremiah 7:21-26

“‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’

 

Malachi 3:6-12

“I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

Joy is among the fruits of the Spirit Paul identifies in Galatians, a characteristic of the Christian spirit. This joy is not a joy that one talks themselves into or practices. Likewise, it is not a joy void of the reality that suffering continues to persist in the broken world we live in. The joy of a Christian goes much deeper than that. The joy of a Christian stems from its foundation, which is forever and always Jesus Christ. To know Jesus Christ is to have been saved by him. To be saved by him is to know that without his saving grace we were destined to die. Joy in tithing stems from that very same foundation. The joy of tithing contradicts our typical impulses or desires. Born out of the spirit of God, this giving defies the logic and rationale of the sinful human mind. The Christian character thrives when worshipping God, and to tithe is to lift others up by giving of ourselves. Ultimately, to sacrifice out of love for another is the most powerful emulation of the Father and his son Jesus Christ and thus, the truest form of worship.

Spiritual Gifts: Healing

gifts

For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on healing.

In the same way that Prophecy and Vision come with stereotypes and judgments on the part of those outside of the Church, the idea of “healing” has also gone quite misunderstood. The gift of healing, like Prophecy and Vision, was a major part of Jesus’ ministry and the Apostles’ teaching and was well represented in the early Church. For us to dismiss it as something done in the past but not available to our present Church is illogical.

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. -Matthew 10:7-8

The gift of healing is for us in the Church to possess now, not simply to reflect back to in nostalgia as something done by our forefathers. While some are gifted with the gift of healing in dramatically physical ways, most people go their entire lives without seeing an actual physical healing in person and assume the absence of frequent resurrections and blind-to-sight healings as proof that the gift of healing simply does not exist anymore.

To assume this is to completely misunderstand the purpose of healing taught by Jesus for His Church to exercise. The purpose of the gift of healing is to express the impact of God. This impact is a visible, public transformation from old to new. However, this transformation from old to new cannot be reduced to simply the transformation of the physical body. In fact, Jesus Christ was adamant that our physical body means very little. The purpose of the numerous physical healings that Jesus conducted in the Gospels was not to discourage or intimidate by comparison. Those healings were conducted for Christ’s ministry and the people of that time, to fulfill the prophecies that illustrated the nature of the Messiah’s return, which would be characterized by physical transformation:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. -Isaiah 61:1-29

While physical healing and transformation is still present in the Church today and some are gifted in this area, the true healing available to all those professing faith in Jesus Christ is of a different nature.

Jesus Christ was clear that healing is impossible without his presence and his word. In his Word lies the power of God to transform and save the lost.

2When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” -Mark 9:25-29

While most will never see a dead body raised physically, the sharing of God’s Word to someone outside of the presence of God is more powerful than physical resurrection. Anyone raised from the dead in this world still faces the challenge of sin. However, sharing the Word of God that results in a life born anew and a new creation in Jesus Christ represents the ultimate healing. There is joy in this world when a dead body is raised. However, according to Jesus, there is immeasurable rejoicing in Heaven at the resurrection of a life dead in sin, reborn and resurrected with Christ and transformed in his image.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. -Luke 15:1-7

Physical healing means absolutely nothing as long as the sin within the body is unaddressed. The priority of Jesus’ healing targeted sin, not the body. Finding God in the words of Jesus Christ and His gospel is the true pearl, the true prize, the true goal. In this way, the Church today has been blessed with the privilege of spiritually raising the dead to life through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. -Philippians 1:18-26 

Tuesday Devotional: Proverbs 19

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Desire without knowledge is not good—
how much more will hasty feet miss the way! -Proverbs 19:2

A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will not go free. -Proverbs 19:5

A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will perish. -Proverbs 19:9

A corrupt witnessmocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil. -Proverbs 19:28

 

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. -Acts 1:6-9

Do you call yourself a Christian?  Why?

A Christian identifies with Jesus Christ and believes confidently in his claims.  While those who actually saw Jesus in person have long since passed away, to be a Christian is still to be a witness.  A Christian is convinced in head and heart that what they have seen in the Bible and in their own life is evidence that Jesus Christ is who He said He is, and that His Spirit remains with us in the person of the Holy Spirit.  To be a witness, a person has to have seen someone or something personally.  To be a witness of Jesus Christ, and therefore a Christian, a person has to be a witness of His presence in history and in their own life.  Before you answer “yes” to the question “Are you a Christian?”,  ask yourself a much more important question: “Am I a witness?”

Have I personally witnessed the presence of Jesus Christ in my own life?  Do I believe that the Holy Bible testifies to the evidence of Jesus Christ in history as a man and the incarnation of the living God? Are YOU a witness?  If the answer is still yes, we must then understand and count the cost of what it means to be a witness.  We must understand that we have been shown the living God in Jesus Christ, and that we are commanded to testify to our experience in His life, death and resurrection and what we hear Him say in the Gospels.  Just as a witness in a court proceeding puts their right hand on the Bible and promises “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”  This oath poignantly and convictingly speaks from the place of Christian identity.  Jesus identifies Himself as, “the truth and the life.”  Therefore, as Christians we are not only proclaiming to the world that we have seen and believe in the presence of Jesus Christ, but we are also promising to share only what we’ve seen and heard, so help us God.  We not only share what we’ve witnessed in the Word, but we primarily show what we’ve witnessed in bearing the Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.  Our faith in Jesus Christ MUST replicate His spirit in our own.  If we allow His spirit to become our own, we provide the world with the most honest and powerful testimony to what we’ve witnessed.  If our lives bear witness to the life of Jesus Christ, we are loved by God as a true witness.  But if our lives conflict or contradict the life of Jesus Christ, we stand condemned before a God who warned us not to bear false witness, so help us God.

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Chronicles 7

bibleRead 2 Chronicles 7:11-22

14If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Can we lose the gift of Jesus Christ?

YES.

Jesus Christ is not a gift you receive, store for a later date and then use to your advantage.  To view him in this way is to receive without understanding, store the gift without valuing it and use it without respect.

How do we lose the gift of Jesus Christ?

We lose the gift of Jesus Christ if we stop practicing the following disciplines in regards to our sinful nature. Daily we must:

  • Openly identify with name of Jesus Christ
  • Humble ourselves to His authority and commands
  • Pray
  • Seek the face and presence of God in our life
  • TURN FROM SIN

We cannot be ashamed to be called Christians.  We cannot be embarrassed by our association with and nature in Jesus Christ.  This central reality of the Christian life should be our strength.  Being an ambassador of Christ is not just a burden we are meant to carry.  Representing Christ is to be His light in the world.  It is an honor and a privilege to be called a Christian and to hide our identity is to reject the gift.

When we receive the gift of Jesus Christ we no longer possess any authority in our lives.  Naturally there are times when our sin fights viciously to draw us away from the presence of the Lord.  This command is not a command of perfection.  However, it is a daily decision we must all make.  We must all decide if we will use this day to serve our own interests, or His.  We must decide if today we will follow His commands or our own.  To receive the gift of Jesus we cannot claim authority in our lives or wisdom in the steps we ought to take.  Jesus is the final authority, and the Gospel to which we dedicate our lives is His.

Faith in Jesus is a relationship, and like all good relationships, conversation plays a central role.  The fruitfulness of a relationship corresponds with level of communication between the parties involved.  How can we claim to love Jesus or to receive His forgiveness and mercy and at the same time be totally disinterested and apathetic about our intimate dialogue with Him? We cannot. Prayer is not asking for things or saying sorry for things we’ve done.  Prayer is a practice in faith.  In praying we believe that we are talking with the God of Creation and that He takes interest in what we have to say.  Prayer is a powerful gesture to God that we believe Him, we miss Him, and that above all else we need Him.

The gift of Jesus IS Jesus.  The gift of Jesus is not merely rescue from our problems, peace from our strife or joy amidst the misery.  The gift of Jesus is the fact that we no longer have to search for happiness or contentment in anything else.  We no longer have to try and fail to satisfy our own hearts.  The gift of Jesus is the fact that in Jesus we have the answer that our hearts have sought to find from the moment we were born.  Therefore, if we understand the gift of Jesus and resist or even resent the presence of Jesus in our lives as our King and Savior, we are continuing to rely on the gifts that Jesus replaces, and we continue to search for satisfaction that, apart from Jesus, is nowhere to be found.

If you are carrying a box that requires you to carry it with two hands and a person asks you to carry another box, both the same size, both requiring you to carry it with two hands, you’ll have to make one of two choices.  You can either drop the first box and pick up the new box, or you can refuse to carry the new box and continue carrying the box you were carrying at first.  In the same way we have to face our sinful desires and temptations in relation to the gift of Jesus Christ.  The gift of Jesus Christ is the second box.  To receive it we HAVE to put the other box down.  Where do we get the idea that we can carry both? In order to be a recipient of the grace and promises of Jesus Christ we have to lay our lives down, pick the up the cross and follow our Lord.

 

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Mission

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

The Power of the Mission

One of the most haunting questions is ‘What do you want to do with your life?” Hopeless wandering is the case for many. They all dream dreams, but rarely follow through on them or find the means to do so. At a certain point of “maturity” we submit to the fact that the most reasonable, “responsible” thing to do is to fall in line, get a job and grow up. After dreams or visions of greater things, this life often is lived under silent protest and open resentment. Hardly the foundation for fulfillment and satisfaction.

The truth is, while there are some gifted with extraordinary physical and mental abilities at birth, for the rest of us, mediocrity becomes a stigmatizing label we bear for the rest of our lives. And while we might go through phases of extraordinary success or development, for most, these phases are short-lived. Therefore, when hearing the “hopeful” messages from the pulpit each and every Sunday that all things are possible, we may snicker silently as we evaluate all of our personal and worldly limitations.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not of this world, but the results of said baptism carry profound consequences in this world. Where our worldly life bombards us with reminders of our limitations, the baptism of the Holy Spirit releases a limitless God into the limited world we live in. The baptism of the Holy Spirit does not follow a path according to our known talents, skills or dreams. Upon being baptized with the Holy Spirit, one desire and one desire alone reigns: the desire for God. Our authority to dictate what we can do disappears; our ears are for the first time open to what God wants us to do. Our opinions on what we feel we can do disappear; we are for the first time open to what God believes we can do.

The life that follows the baptism of the Holy Spirit often bears a different appearance to the life lived prior to being baptized. The purpose is different, and thus the means to achieve the purpose is different as well. The baptism of the Holy Spirit ignites a desire to wholeheartedly serve God and share his Word. All else is secondary. God has always desired to release our true design and purpose, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the means by which we experience God’s design. He gives us power by the Holy Spirit to overcome a world of perceived limitations. Through this new purpose and mission we daily grow in our understanding of how much God can achieve if only left unchallenged and unobstructed, by a heart previously consumed by sin.

This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:16-19

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Creator

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

The Power of the Creator

The baptism of the Holy Spirit not only helps us to finally understand our creator. It goes beyond extending our memories back to a time with him before we decided to follow sin and our own pride to abandon his love for another. While this realization is powerful and is characteristic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, our relationship to the Creator God also provides us with a new understanding of who He is in nature.

Prior to being baptized by the Holy Spirit, we are taught that God is in control, all-powerful. However, with our numerous unresolved problems, it becomes easy for us to refer to God’s power in the past tense. In other words, while our mouths continue to profess that God can change the world if he wanted to, our hearts doubt every word. Our hearts doubt his power in our world as much as our minds and mouths want to profess that nothing has changed. This outlook on the power of God also hits us personally. We look at ourselves in the mirror everyday and see our imperfections and reflect on the numerous challenges that we face daily. We take inventory of all of these obstacles and we hope for a miracle but doubt that anything will ever change. We read our Bible daily. Nothing changes. We attend Church regularly. Nothing changes. We tithe 10% of our income every month. Nothing changes. We go on a mission trip. Nothing changes. The truth is nothing will ever truly change until one is baptized by the Holy Spirit.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that can bridge the gap between the hopeful mind and the doubtful heart. It unleashes the healing power of the Creator God; suddenly, things begin to change. While we are still tempted by sin and continue to fight the good fight, with the power of the living God the things that seemed insurmountable no longer obstruct our progress. We find ourselves progressing due to a power not our own. We are propelled forward simply because we now have the Creator God moving our steps and dictating our path. This is something that only the baptism of the Holy Spirit can provide.

In Acts, there is no reasonable explanation how 12 regular men with varied backgrounds, none of which support a lifelong missionary or pastoral career, suddenly began to change the world. With men this is impossible, but with God nothing is. This becomes true as a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No Created by Mobile Word Ministry one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:31-39

Tuesday Devotional: 2 John

bibleRead 2 John

God never desires partial healing.  The healing of the Lord is complete and all encompassing.  There is sickness in this world, and Jesus Christ came to overcome and conquer it.  Jesus Christ did not come to redirect or guide the world into a better way of living; he came to completely restructure the world into a new way of living.  When the healing power of the Holy Spirit enters into this world there is no remnant of the passed life with him.  What remains are faint and distant memories of a former way of life that hold no place in the present.  This healing power is so unprecedented that the only natural instinct upon receiving it is to share it with anyone and everyone you come into contact with.  Upon receiving healing from the Holy Spirit there is no “I have to” share the gospel out of duty or obligation.  There is only “I have to” share the gospel because the world needs this power and healing I have also graciously received. 

However, one must constantly be aware of what is actually being shared.  All we can share is Jesus Christ alone.  He is the power.  He is the healing.  In nothing else is there the power for transformation and change that is in the name of Jesus Christ.  If the gospel is shared in power and in truth there is an unequalled healing in store for the entire world.  The gospel shared in power and truth will change lives completely and will unmistakably yield good fruit.  However, if the gospel is misrepresented, healing will be overpowered by suffering and pain.  Good cannot win because the good news was not preached.  The gospel cannot and will not be effective if it is not received as it was established, in truth.  Anything short of the truth in the gospel is dangerous and will not result in healing.

As one seeks to share the gospel out of a desire to heal, one also learns to avoid those who share a gospel of lies that will only prove to destroy and prevent healing.  Christ is all and is in all, and when sharing the gospel there is no message other than exactly what has been lived and shared before. The reason for the stable and consistent nature of the gospel’s integrity over the years is that it is only in the natural state of the gospel that the world has experienced its healing effects on the suffering of this world.  After experiencing the healing truth of the word, the choice to dilute or weaken the gospel for any reason whatsoever becomes completely ridiculous. The gospel of Jesus Christ is truth and the healing it promises is real.  Clinging to his truth will result in the truth of complete healing, whereas being distracted or overcome by falsity will only result in progressive sickness and pain.

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Peter 1

bibleRead 2 Peter 1:3-11

Projects usually have an estimated time of completion, and ultimately are completed.  A destination has an estimated time of arrival, and can ultimately be reached.   The transformation of an individual from sinful indifference toward Jesus Christ to a life forgiven and overcome by his spirit is neither a job that we work to complete nor a destination at which we arrive in this lifetime.  The process of spiritual transformation that occurs in a person through the work of the Holy Spirit is ongoing.  It never ends as long as life remains.  It is not gained by striving, and we do not enjoy the completed work in this life.  We are often unaware of the process of this work, although we continue to participate in throughout our lives.  The complexity of taking a sinful heart of man and recreating the holy heart of Jesus Christ in a person takes persistence, trust and time.  While there is nothing that we can offer God in the actual rewiring of our heart into one compatible with his, we are not absent or excluded from the process.  On the contrary, we are essential in this radical transformation.

Our role is not to produce the change.  Our role is to present the opportunity for change.  Our role is to give the Holy Spirit every opportunity to work out our salvation and rework the tendencies and desires of our heart.  In this role we cannot afford to be complacent or inattentive.  We must never assume that the work has been done.  We must never lose the heightened awareness of potential opportunities for change.  We must never assume that the destination has been reached.  If we ever find ourselves believing these lies we can be sure that we have effectively brought our transformation to a complete stop.  As we change and grow into the life of Jesus Christ we must not waste time trying to calculate the progress made or the progress to be made.  As we are transformed we must be aware of only one thing: that our work is not done and we are not there yet.

So, until then, until we breathe our last, our goal each and every day is to seek out opportunities for the Holy Spirit to reveal more of the spirit of Christ in us.  This search for opportunity will contradict our opinions, our plans and our preferences.  It will press us in ways that we are not used to being pressed.  However, in these moments where our heart and character are pushed into discomfort, the spirit of Christ will be able to reveal itself and prove the promises of Christ that we all can change, and we will all be made like him.  A disciple’s heart is never satisfied, content with ground already travelled.  A disciple’s heart is daily hungry for more. More intimacy with the life of Christ. More transformation in his image.  To a disciple, the challenges of this world prove the transformation of our hearts in the way we hunger for everything other than what the world has to offer us.  As we race to close the distance between us and the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, we will become completely unaware of our surroundings and our progress.  We will forget the course.  We will forget the race.  We will forget the clock.  We will run further than we thought we could and longer than we had planned to run. We will arrive without realizing that we have.  The race will be a fading memory to, at the end, being with him forever without ever having to run again.