Monday, September 7, 2009

The Future of the Church: The Spirit, pt. 2

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."
John 14:16-17

"The Spirit itself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God."
Romans 8:16

As Christians, we worship the God that is Father, Son and Spirit - or better, Son, Spirit and Father - for our first tangible experience of the Trinity is the Son in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the "word made flesh", who is the absolute revelation of God the Trinity on the earth. It is when God condescends to humankind in the form and substance of man that He can be perceived by our fallen senses. But even the truth of this experience is mediated to us by the Holy Spirit, for it is the Holy Spirit that affirms to our hearts and minds the reality of God the Son. This is how the truth of this reality is communicated to us after 2000 years of history: the Spirit.

When Jesus responds to Judas (the Son of James) in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him" - He is stating the reality of all Christians.

When we accept the truth and sacrifice of Jesus into our fallen lives (initiated by the grace which emanates from the Trinity itself!), the Spirit takes up residence and continues the process of transformation. Indeed, as Jesus states, the Spirit is the very presence of both Son and Father in our lives. Individually, the presence of the Spirit gives us hope, joy and peace. It gently corrects us and nudges us in the direction of wisdom. It points us constantly to Jesus, His Word and thus his guidance. But it is this same Spirit that is working in all believer's lives and not for the purpose of simply making us feel better as individuals! The Spirit's work in us as individuals serves a greater goal. The Spirit has a mission...

The Spirit is drawing us into community as the Body of Christ, where each of us functions in the power of the Spirit together, for God's glory. In most of the passages where Jesus or Paul refers to the Spirit's work in 'you', it is most often not referring to the first person singular 'you' but the second person plural: all of you. The Spirit is making the 'each' into an 'all' - bringing the solitary individual into a community of love. There is no place for pride, preference or pugilism in this body! The truly effective Saints in the Kingdom of God - the Body of Christ - today, constantly deflect praise for his or her work. They continually credit God and those around them for the marvels in which they participate. It is the working of the Spirit he or she says, and "I give God the glory"...

If the heartbeat of the Church is Christ Jesus, then the life blood that beats through its veins is the Holy Spirit, providing energy and nutrients to the rest of the body. If the Christ is the head of the church, then the Holy Spirit is found in the electrical impulses that move from the head to the rest of the body, guiding its movements as the head directs. What happens then if the body has no blood and the soul "loses its nerve"? Death.

Without a healthy, balanced - and thus orthodox - view of the Holy Spirit as mediated through scripture; the local, institutional church is in great danger of dying a slow, painful death. There is little love, no power and constant struggle. Most Western churches, suffering from poor theology, selfish concerns and even an unregenerate membership, settle into a death process which lasts one to fifty years.

The church that preaches Jesus, must live Jesus. In order to live Jesus, they must allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through their lives. When the Holy Spirit works in and through their lives, the world changes around them. A church that "proclaims the Word" better live the "Word" - the proof is in the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) or it will find judgment as the last word.

The Spirit is the key to church - not programs, not music, not architecture, not Bible translation, not parking lots, not even espresso machines! The Spirit pushes the church beyond concern for form to function, beyond the concern of individuals to the Body of Christ.

A friend of mine shared that she was placing the subheading, "Living in the Spirit" as a description for Romans 12 in her Bible. I agree. What happens if the every member of the Body of Christ took "living in the Spirit" seriously? What if every member of the Body of Christ stopped placing their own individualistic interests at the forefront of their lives and allowed the Spirit to shape his or her role in the greater Body for God's glory?

I don't know, but I want to find out - for here lies the future of the church...

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