Monday, 25 February 2013

What's missing? Part 2

Before I continue to answer the question I posed in my previous blog I need to qualify what I am about to write. This is no magical cure for the problem of decline nor rediscovery of a hidden recipe for instant success. I have only asked the question which no doubt will lead onto other questions. So with that qualifier I want to look at Jesus' instruction to stay in Jerusalem "until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)?

What keeps popping out of the text at me is Jesus' command to "stay in the city until" they are clothed with power from on high. The word means to sit down, dwell, hover, continue (in the same place), set or tarry. In other words don't do anything other than stay there until the promise of Jesus is fulfilled.

You can't get away from the fact that this was in many senses a one off command. It's one off because Jesus spoke it specifically to the disciples - not us. It's one off because this was the start of the forthcoming mission which was to begin at the epicentre of world outreach. It was a one off because this was the fulfuillment of the specific promise Jesus had given to the group of disciples. So in those ways this is unrepeatable. But - and its a big but - there are basic principles which we can draw that apply to Christians and the Church in every age. Namely, at the basis of everything we are called to do is the necessary and fundamental partnership - unequal as it is and leaning more towards the divine than the human - between God and man. It was this that lay behind Jesus' command to stay put until the Holy Spirit was not just alongside but sharing the driving seat.

I always remember that rather effective illustration about the individual life of the Christian represented by a car. Before we come to Christ there is no one in the car but us and we are driving it rather badly wherever it is we want to go. Sometimes its on the road but a lot of times it is racing the red light or careering over roundabouts or crashing and hurting ourselves or knocking over others as we make our way along. And then we realise just how bad we are and the road we are hurtling along is actually going nowhere and we are only hurting others and ourselves in the process. So we invite Jesus to join us and by His Spirit he climbs in the back seat where he can whisper in our ear of show us the way to drive and the direction to take and we start the get the car of our life back on track again. But even though the Holy Spirit is in the car with us he is in the back and so sometimes we turn the radio up so we can't hear him or we decide that we would rather turn left than right or take short cuts rather than go the safe and secure way. What has happened is that Jesus is a passenger who we turn to for help when get lost or when we get into trouble. However is this really how we were meant to live as Christians, with Christ as a passenger? We need him in the driving seat so that our life is his and he can steer the car of our life on the road and in the direction we need to go.

Okay its not the best illustration but it shows us one thing. We can't drive our life on our own and we need the Holy Spirit's presence if we are to keep things moving in the right direction. What applies to our individual lives also applies to the Church.

Charles Spurgeon puts it like this:
"The grand thing the Church wants in this time is God's Holy Spirit. You can get up plans and say, "Now if the Church were altered a little bit it would do better." You think if there were different ministers or different church order or something different, then all would be well. No dear friends, its not there the mistake lies. It's that we want more of the Spirit. Now people are saying, "This must be altered and that must be altered," but it would go no better unless God the Spirit should come and bless us. you may have the same ministers and they should be a thousand times more useful for God if God is pleased to bless them. This is the Church's great want. And until that want be supplied we may reform and reform and still be just the same. All we want is the Spirit of God."

These words could well apply to us today but they were delivered on August 31 1857! And they serve to underline Jesus' imperative to wait or stay until the Spirit comes. What has changed except the situation is as bad if not worse than Spurgeon's day. We need the Spirit but we cannot have Him unless we are prepared to stop and wait and pray.

But that is only half of a possible answer. God's part is to supply, ours to receive. But what state of readiness are we. Another blog post is needed.

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