Thursday, January 13, 2011

Acts Week 2: Heaven and Earth Collide

Our primary passage for the night was Acts 1:1-11 with a focus on verse 8. The verse here comes from Eugene Peterson's The Message . It would be helpful to read the whole selected passage to better track with the summary of the lesson below.

Acts 1:8
What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world."

And there it is. With one statement, verse 8, He sums up the whole task of the church. Jesus goes to heaven, and the New Creation begins with the Holy Spirit filling believers on earth. The Kingdom on earth begins. Not with political power or nationalistic pride, but power to be witnesses of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Heaven and earth collide. Heaven and earth are not two totally different spheres with one being reality, and the other being a far off “sci-fi” like dimension. Heaven and earth collided on ascension day just as much as on the day of Christ’s birth. And, Heaven and earth continue to collide through the Spirit empowered witness of those that follow Christ.

"What you'll get is the Holy Spirit"
The Holy Spirit was not sent just to comfort us, but to strengthen us to comfort others as Jesus did. The Spirit was not sent to simply love us, but that we might be empowered to love like Christ. The Spirit was not sent for our personal gain or benefit, but to courageously and tirelessly point to Jesus. The work of my flesh and blood can never accomplish a Jesus kind of love. Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish that in me. For now, in the absence of Christ’s physical presence, power and strength are given to us not to dominate an unwilling world as Knights in Christ’s Kingdom, as is so often depicted in popular contemporary teaching, but to extend love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

" will be able to be my witnesses"
It’s important at this point to emphasize that being “witnesses” is much more, (note I said more, as in not the only thing) than stating facts and verses in hopes to persuade a person to “accept” Christ. We are “witnesses” to a “Kingdom”, to a “Mission”. We are witnesses empowered, not by brute strength, but by the One described in Scripture as counselor, advocate, and comforter. I wonder if you have ever deeply considered what it means to be empowered by the Holy Spirit in light of the ways we know Scripture defines Him? By His work in our lives, and our availability to be worked through, it’s seems logical to expect that His “personality” would gradually permeate its way into how we express our lives of faith. For instance, as a Spirit empowered witness, I boldly declare truth about God the Father and His Son Jesus. But, I do it through the power given to me by the counselor, the comforter, the advocate - seeking the best for the person or community.

What do you think about this kind of Kingdom? Is this a different kind of Kingdom than the one you had fashioned in your mind? As I mentioned last week, the ultimate rule of Christ will happen. But, this is not our primary concern right now. God will work out those details. We wait... We anticipate... We hope... Until then, our concern is to busy ourselves being Spirit empowered comforters, advocates, and counselors to the ends of the earth. It’s my prayer and hope that today we have a better understanding of what that looks like.

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