Posts Tagged ‘HolySpirit’

A member of God’s family, the church

God has a magnificent goal for His children:

‘The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.’ (Ephesians 4:9-16)

The Father wants you to move on into maturity as a Christian. Just as a child starts with a basic knowledge of life, and grows into adulthood through their learning and experiences, so too Christians are to seek to grow up in their faith and become the kind of person the Father wants them to be – ‘the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’, or in other words, just like Jesus.

This is not a challenge for you to accomplish yourself. Notice in the passage above that this is something God is doing, and it is something that He will be successful in. The Father’s aim is that His Son will ultimately be honoured and glorified as we clearly and joyfully display his image; and so all of creation will be filled with those who know and love the glory of God. This is as certain as His own love for his beloved Son. So we can have a wonderful assurance for both ourselves and for our Christian brothers and sisters:

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

The passage also tells us the means by which the Father makes us more like Jesus: through the ministry of other Christians in the context of the church, and particularly through our Christian leaders. These people are God’s gifts to us. Their ministry is to bring God’s word to us, because the more we hear God’s word the more we will grow.

  • Apostles and Prophets are the ones through whom God has laid the foundation for what we know about Him and his work. The Prophets (someone who speaks God’s word) who wrote the Old Testament and the Apostles (someone sent by Jesus) who wrote the New Testament were enabled by the Holy Spirit to communicate the truth that is centred in Jesus. We benefit from their ministry as we read the Bible today. There are also men and women today who continue this work, not in the sense of receiving new revelations from God, but as they lead and teach God’s people and enable us to better understand the Bible and the church’s mission.
  • Evangelists (from the greek word for Gospel, ‘evangel’) are those who share the good news of Jesus with others. You must have met at least one evangelist, otherwise you would not be a Christian! The person who first told you about Jesus was being an evangelist, as was the person who may have been instrumental in you coming to faith in Jesus. It is because of God’s gift of evangelists that the Gospel is still being spoken around the world. You too will be this gift to someone else whenever you share what you know of Jesus with them.
  • Pastors (literally ‘shepherds’) and teachers (someone who helps us understand and live the truth) are those who particularly lead and care for God’s people in the context of a church community. They help us better understand the Bible, and give wisdom in putting it into practice in out everyday lives. They are available to answer questions, give guidance in life decisions, and are used by the Holy Spirit to equip us to be on about the Father’s business in this world.

The key to growing into a mature Christian is to be a part of a community – a ‘church’ – where all of these people may have input into your life, and where, in time, you may also be used by God to contribute to the lives of others – ‘so that the body builds itself up in love.’

The next studies explore what being a member of a church community looks like.

(Part 4 here)

Living in Hope, Faith and Love.

Being a Christian is not, like many religions in the world, assenting to a set of beliefs and following a set of rules. It is a dynamic, living relationship with God. It is knowing the powerful working of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Father’s purpose for you in making you like His Son.

Jesus said:

‘Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.’ (John 5:24-25)

A little while later he gave a vivid picture of this when he attended the grave of his friend, Lazarus:

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odour, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go”. (John 11:38-44)

What happened here is a picture of what happens to every person who hears the Gospel and trusts Jesus as their only saviour. Lazarus was stone dead. A dead person cannot bring themselves back to life. Likewise, we were spiritually dead; slaves to sin, and completely helpless and unable to revive ourselves spiritually. When the word of Jesus (the Gospel) came to us, the Holy Spirit supernaturally brought us back from the dead, and enabled us to hear, believe and respond to Jesus.

When Lazarus was brought back to life he did not stay lying on the stone slab. A tomb is no place for a living, breathing person, and so, understandably, he came out of the tomb in obedience to Jesus’ call. He as restored to his family and friends, and he would have got on with the active process of living life. In a similar way, spiritual life is active and dynamic. It involves engaging with God and with those around us. It means being participants in the work that the Father is doing in His world.

““Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.” (John 5:19-20)

Because Jesus is on about his Father’s business, when we are united with him we share not only his status and relationship with the Father, but we gat involved in what he is doing.

The next three studies unpack what that looks like.

(Part 6 here)

misused bible

The verse:

“Repent and be baptised, 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.” Acts 2:38

How it’s misused:

Salvation is made to be conditional: ‘God will forgive you provided you repent and get baptised.’

The Holy Spirit is treated like a commodity; something we can get by following the right formula.

What it’s really saying:

The ‘for’ in ‘for the forgiveness of your sins’ (Greek: eis) does not mean ‘in order to get’, as if the repentance and baptism will make forgiveness happen; rather it conveys the idea of, ‘because of,’ or, ‘in light of.’ So the call to repentance, and the physical act of baptism (a demonstration of repentance) is in view of the fact that forgiveness has already come. It’s because God has forgiven us in Christ that we repent.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is not so much an individual event that happens multiple times, as the global, New Covenant event of the Father pouring out the Holy Spirit upon His people – the event that was inaugurated at Pentecost and has be continuing ever since – we are living now in the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy. Peter here is speaking corporately to Jewish people who knew this promise, and was assuring them that this promised Holy Spirit has come. Notice that receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit here is not a result of their repentance as much as a simultaneous event. It is actually an assurance that they will be able to repent because the Gift of the Spirit has come, and it is He who enables them to respond to the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins.