The proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ: the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit on earth in Christ’s Body, the Church.

The Day of Pentecost

Test the Spirits- I John 4

4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (ESV Bible)

According to the Biblical narrative, Pentecost literally represents the “crowning act” of the Incarnation on planet earth. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the new temple on earth is the only proof that we need that Jesus is who he said he was and did what God testified in Scripture that he did. We do well to forget about all other hopes for ever proving the Gospel story to the world’s satisfaction.

Rather as another celebration of the Day of Pentecost arrives, we should concentrate on what Jesus and his first disciples tell us about the inseparable connection of the Spirit’s coming to the story. The better we know the story-line in Scripture, the better we will understand the connection and the role of the Spirit in certifying Jesus as the exalted and enthroned Christ. Read for example God’s decree in Psalm 2:

“I have set my King on my Holy hill of Zion!

Read the Apostle Peter’s application of Psalm 2 to explain the coming of the Spirit in the very first sermon following the Ascension of Christ. (Acts 2: 32-36)

There are simply too many scriptures to list in one post that all come together in the story at this momentous historical event. Read the Apostle John’s record of the words of Jesus speaking of this event and what it would mean for his disciples in his ‘Upper Room Discourse’ on the night in which he was betrayed. (Gospel of John, 16:1 – 16).

Beginning with those first disciples, the incredible courage that enabled them to confront the very leaders that rejected Jesus and had him crucified was visible proof for all to see that the Spirit was in them and His power was their strength. This is seen throughout the Book of Acts, the epistles of Paul, and the Jewish epistles.

The ball, as they say, is in our court now. The burden of examining carefully the proof is on you and me. We are charged with “testing the spirits” in the visible community of the followers of Christ. This has always been necessary beginning with the first generation of Christians for the spirit of the world, which is the spirit of Anti-Christ, is present along side of the Holy Spirit.

So, how do we test the spirits? By observing the life of the churches! Beginning with the work the Spirit has come to do, reproduce the righteousness of Christ in His people; examine the very thing Christ himself gave us as the first thing to look for: His love for oneanother. (Read I John 3- 4) 

Little children, let no man deceive you.

May 11, 2008 – THE FEAST OF PENTECOST

I read this week that the first generation Church probably continued to celebrate the two feasts with Judaism, Passover and Pentecost. As I have previously blogged, I came to the same conclusion on studying the Apostle Paul. I have to be honest and admit that in 2008, for some reason, I was not aware of this incredible celebration at The Washington National Cathedral. But it is a perfect example of what I believe that the Christian churches should strive to do with other Christians, celebrate their faith, especially on these two occasions.

Of course when the Christian celebrates Passover, the Resurrection must be included as the event which demonstrates God’s approval of the Atonement accomplished by the offering of Christ and the inauguration of the Messianic age. I have been celebrating for weeks now as I have been reading many different posts and tweets from the universal Church. Just this week I got into a discussion on a Newsvine post doing a survey on the resurrection. I think at last viewing 35% believed in a literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus in history-that it really happened; and 65% did not believe for various reasons. The comments that followed got a little heated and it was obvious that the Newsvive community at times can be hostile toward Christianity. I’m used to being in the minority opinion, so even there I was able to celebrate what this means in the life of all Christians and the feast days connected with the Old Order.

In this necessary work of emphasizing unity, there are many discouragements. Perhaps the greatest is from well meaning fellow Christians who say something like, “its a great idea/goal, but definitely not possible”. But the greatest personal satisfaction comes from finding new friends from all the diverse faith traditions which post their celebrations on-line during this season. My rejoicing and delight has been like the light show I missed. Thank you fellow bloggers for renewing my faith and my committment to promoting peace and unity.

See my related post, The Abolition of Death

Centenary of World Missions Conference of 1910

At the closing session,  June 6th, the delegates at Edinburgh issued a renewed committment to the world missionary task of the Church of Jesus Christ of this generation.  In contrast to the Conference of 1910, the delegates represented a much greater and diverse presence of the nations and peoples of the world.

And yet, never was the Christian faith more on display as the same “ancient-future” faith established by Jesus Christ for the whole world as at the 2010 Missionary Conference. It serves as a statement to anyone in doubt, that the missionary calling is at the very heart of the Biblical faith.

One of my favorite resources of how this developed in the 20th century, following the first conference in 1910, is a book written by Hendrik Kraemer in 1938,” The Christian Message in a non-Christian world”. It was written at the request of the International Missionary Council in order to serve as material for the World Missionary Conference in 1938. For that Conference the general plan was for five main themes and this book was to address the second one:”The Witness of the Church”.

Here is a quote for Dr.Kraemer in the chapter entitled, “The Non-Christian systems of Life and Thought”,p.145.

“The search for supreme religious experience is utterly foreign to Biblical realism , because the emphasis falls exclusively on what God does and reveals, and the correlate religious experience is secondary in the strongest  sense possible. Far from being necessarily “supreme”, we can learn from the great prophets that they seldom experience God’s revealing activity as a blissful immanence of the divine, never as the supreme moment of deification, but often as a being overpowered by God’s imperative claim on the whole of life”.

After all the interuptions, including World War II, the Korean War, and the War in Viet Nam, the Church of Jesus Christ has continued to grow and expand among the peoples of the earth. It is very refreshing and quite illuminating to see how we have come through all the challenges with a resolve stronger than ever to take the witness to what God has done in Christ to the non-Christian world.

 I encourage you to read and download the “Common Call” pdf.

The difference between “ what would Jesus do” and “what IS Jesus doing”! You may be familiar with the popular fad that was revived in recent years that sought guidance for Christians in daily decisions by answering with WWJD. Like so many fads in Christianity, I always felt that though the intent was a sincere attempt to influence life’s decisions by reference to the historical Jesus, this version of what it means to be a disciple of Christ completely missed the heart of the Biblical Gospel.

In the last few days, I have been reading a book which confronts this misunderstanding in the American churches with a fresh exposition of the doctrine of the Ascension of Jesus. The book which was published in 2004 by Gerrit Scott Dawson, is entitled –

Jesus Ascended: the meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation“.

I read a lot and have considered myself a full-time student for over 50 years. It has been a long time since I have been as profoundly moved as I have in reading this book about the present life of Jesus of Nazareth now in His heavenly session as our King-Priest. The fact that I have been celebrating the Festival of the Ascension for over a week now was the preparation needed to be able to profit so much from this author and the mature understanding he has of this neglected part of the Biblical narrative. I would love to recommend this book to everyone but I won’t because of one principle that is a priority here at E4Unity and that is the recognition that each individual is unique and in no way would the many be able to profit in the same way I have from reading any book. In the area of what is called “spiritual formation” that means that real progress is made only when we are able to see these things for ourself, through the “eyes of faith”, and that means we must be patiently brought in life’s experiences to desiring such things as this present world can never give or satisfy our inner spirit with.

I want to leave you with some quotes from Dawson. He is an excellent writer and this book is very “reader friendly” in the sense that he tells you what his topic is, tells you how he is going to approach it, and even gives you upfront a short direction on “how to use this book”. I will tell you that he is a Presbyterian pastor and so he is thoroughly pastoral- that is he concerns himself in the end with the purpose of this doctrine in living here on planet earth, the life of Christ in heaven transmitted to us by the Holy Spirit as we learn to live, not in the flesh, but by faith in God’s abundant provision in His beloved Son Jesus.

He has included some of the rich comments from past teachers in the churches, both from the Patristic fathers as well as men like John Calvin,  Andrew Murray, and Lesslie Newbigin. He has a robust exposition of what the the Ascension of Christ has meant to the Church in the past as well as how it can be instrumental in reviving us in the challenge we are now facing in our own generation.

“We have such difficulty conceiving how, or even believing that, the body of Jesus went to heaven that we may want the doctrine to remain in obscurity” (p.3)

“In no way, then, did the ascension signal simply a return to business as usual between God and humanity. Rather, the ascension of Christ is a vital hinge on which turns the work of the Mediator, the incarnate Son, our Redeemer in all his offices.” (p.8)

“My premise is that the church- our local church and the churches of the west-needs to recover the meta-narrative of the gospel as a counter-story, indeed a better story to the one the world tells. . .one of those episodes, the ascension, has been sorely neglected in the church’s telling of the story. The silence. . .cuts us off from the present work of Christ in heaven and from the conclusion of the story. . .recovering a proper and robust doctrine of the ascension can reconnect us to a sense of our true citizenship in heaven and the implications of that identity for life in the world.”(p.25)

Dawson’s book is divided into three parts, and we haven’t even reached the second one yet. But I don’t want to impose on you so I will close for now with one more, this time, a quote from Andrew Murray. Murray has also been one of my favorite devotional writers for a long time. Dawson may be the first Presbyterian writer that I can think of among contemporary ones that utilizes the treasures in Murray so often and so freely. He says here, that ” the church can reclaim the fullness of its story, with spectacular results.” And then quotes Murray-

” Faith has in its foundation four great cornerstones on which the building rests- the Divinity of Christ, The Incarnation, the Atonement on the Cross, the Ascension to the Throne. The last is the most wonderful, the crown of all the rest, the perfect revelation of what God has made Christ (to be)for us. And so in the Christian life it is the most important, the glorious fruit of all that goes before.” (p.26)

In part two, one of the highlights for me was his discussion of Calvin’s interpretation of the Lord’s Supper as one of the means of grace directly connected with the ascension. We will have a great deal to come back to on another occasion. For now, we must get ready to celebrate once again another Festival: The Day of Pentecost.

The link to the book is the on-line edition where you can read most of it at Google.books.

Celebrating today with Sir Beethoven’s help.

The Ascension of Christ is an integral part of the Biblical story of the Incarnation; it’s public knowledge or what is referred to on this blog as “the open secret”. I am in the process of reading two books that I want to post about before the Day of Pentecost. One was written 100 years ago, the other in 2004, but both have the same objective: to encourage the revival of the Festival of the Ascension in the churches where it has been neglected or is unknown. They both are rich in the meaning the Biblical writers attach to the historical event and what it means in the spiritual life of the Christian Church, tracing it through church history. The festival indeed continues!

In the new book, “Your Church is Too Small“, by my good friend John Armstrong (Zondervan), he speaks about as plain as one can about the oneness of the Church of Jesus Christ. You will never be able to find a clearer call to God’s mission on the earth and the place the Church has in it-in the past, present, and to the very end of time. Then he leaves the reader to consider the real cost for anyone that will accept this challenge; the real “Mission Impossible”.

” It will require us to surrender our small plans and embrace a bigger vision of the church, no matter what the size of our local congregation may be. Frankly, to do this, you must die. No one likes to think about dying, but there is no other way to pursue this vision.” (p.198)

Look for my full review of John’s book later this week. Read the foreword by J.I. Packer.

The Chief Temptation of CHRIST’S CHURCH forsyth

It was what still makes, and always has made, the chief temptation of his Church — the reformation of society by every beneficent means except the evangelical (The Gospel); by amelioration, by reorganization, by programes, and policies, instead of by the soul’s new creation, and its total conversion from the passion for justice to the faith of grace, from what makes men just with each other to what makes them just with God.

It was the temptation to save men by rallying their goodness without routing their evil, by reorganizing virtue instead of redeeming guilt. …It is the error which leads men to think that we can have a new Church or Humanity upon any other condition than the renovation in the soul of the new covenant which Christ founded in his last hours, before the very Church was founded, and which is the Church’s one foundation in his most precious blood. — P.T. Forsyth

ESSAY on THE PRECISE PROBLEM TODAY , from The Work of Christ, an incredible contribution to celebrating the UNITY of The CHURCH.

A classic on PREACHING CHRIST, by Charles McIlvaine “Nothing in this world could I rejoice in so much as to be instrumental, under God’s grace, in promoting the spiritual excellency and efficacy of your work and your personal growth in the faith and love of Christ.” (Ohio 1863)

 

 

T H E  I N T E R P R E T E R

adapted from a sermon by Joseph Parker (1830-1902)
“And the LORD answered me, and said: 
‘ Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables,
that he may run that readeth it’.”

Habakkuk, the prophet
 
“Which being interpreted”, that is what we need:  a man to tell us the meaning of hard words and difficult things and mysteries which press too heavily upon our staggering faith. The interpretation comes to us as a lamp. We instantly feel the comfort and the liberty of illumination.When we heard that word Emmanuel we were bewildered; it was a foreign word to us. It brought with it no familiar associations nor did it speak to anything that was within us. But when the interpreter came, when he placed his finger upon the word and said to us, “The meaning of this word is God with us”, then we came into the liberty and into the wealth of a new possession.
So we need the interpreter. We shall always need him. The great reader will always have his day, come and go who may. We want men who can turn foreign words, difficult languages, into our mother tongue. Then how simple they are and how beautiful, and that which was a difficulty before becomes a gate opening upon a wide liberty. We need a man who can interpret the meaning of confused and confusing and bewildering events; some one with a key from heaven, one with divine insight, the vision that sees the poetry and the reality of things; a man with a clear, simple, strong, penetrating voice who will tell us that all this confusion will one day be shaped into order, and all this uproar will fall into the cadences of a celestial and endless music.

We shall know that man when we meet him; there is no mistaking the prophet. He does not speak as other men speak, nor is he in difficulty or in trouble as other men are. On his girdle hangs the key, the golden key, that can open the most difficult gates in providence and in history, and in the daily events that make up our rough life from week to week. How much more we might have elicited from him if we had listened more intently to his wonderful voice! What miracles of music he might have wrought in our nature, but we take the prophet sometimes as a mere matter of course: he is a man in a crowd, his specialty we overlook, and we know not that he is talking to us from the mountain of the heavens, from the altar of the temple unseen ….

It is the prophet’s business to interpret things to us, to tell us that everything has been from the beginning, to assure us that there are no surprises in providence, to calm our hearts with the deep conviction that God has seen the end from the beginning, and that nothing has occurred on all this theatre of time which God did not foresee and which God does not control.  The devil is but a domestic servant in the kitchen of God; the devil has limited chains; he counts the links, he would like to make seven eight, he strives to strain the links into greater length, he cannot do it, he was chained at the first, he has been chained ever since, he will be chained forever– Hallelujah!  The Lord reigneth!  There is but one throne, and all hell is subject to the governance and the authority of  that throne….

“Which being interpreted”.  We need the interpreter every day.  We say, Affliction, and he says, I will interpret that word to you;  it needs interpretation, it is a very bitter word, but affliction being interpreted is chastening, refining, sanctifying, making meet for the Master’s use.  The Cross being interpreted is law, righteousness, pardon, redemption, atonement, salvation.  Being misinterpreted, it is to one class a sneer, to another an offence, to another foolishness; but to believe its interpretation at its best, it is the power of God and the salvation of God.  Man being interpreted is child of God, son of the Eternal, a creature made in the image and likeness of God, and meant to live with God and to enjoy Him and glorify Him forever.  The Church being interpreted is the most vital centre of the most blessed influence, an association of souls that love the Cross, that live in Christ, that are saved by Christ, and that have no joy that is not consonant with the purposes and pleasures of God.
______________________________________________________________________
Quoted in Bernard Ramm’s Protestant Biblical Interpretation, (1950) e4unity@cs.com

See my post “Do we need an Interpreterat SIMPLECHURCH

INTERNATIONAL YEAR of SAINT PAUL

A special year in honour of ST.Paul the Apostle has been declared by Pope Benedict XVI. The year will commence on 28th of June, 2008. It may very well be the golden opportunity indeed for all of us to be involved in getting to know for ourselves this Apostle to the Gentiles and the significant role he played in the development of Biblical Christianity.

My suggestion at the begining is to go to the source- go to Paul’s writings themselves. If all Scripture is God’s testimony to his Son Jesus Christ, then surely Paul’s own testimony to the revelation given him of this Christ can be said to be among the richest of all that the Church can study for the knowlege of eternal life.

In a previous post on godly contentment, I left you with a question to ponder which was ” Who taught Paul the art of godly contentment?”  Did you search the Scriptures to find his own answer?

” BUT you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:20,21)

Yes, Paul consistently claimed that it was the resurrected and exalted Christ himself that personally gave the Apostle his Gospel; that he had been taught by this same Christ, much like those first disciples that found themselves walking with the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus (another earlier post). And what was the unique part of the revelation that was left for Paul to be especially the recorder of for the world and for the Church? I do not hesitate to say that it is “Christ in You”, the little phrase “IN CHRIST” that is so dominant in St.Paul’s writings and ministry.

The universal Church has never been more in need of rediscovering this CHRIST as the source of God’s new humanity and thus the only true source of UNITY. This blog will be participating in the call of a year of Jubilee and post often about Paul’s unique contribution to our access to the treasures of grace found in Christ alone. What would happen if the blog world would do the same and dedicate the priority on searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so, just as some of Paul’s early audiences did at Berea?

 

CHRIST CALLS SAUL of TARSUS

Related essay on the spiritual poverty in the churches. From A.B. Simpson’s, Philippians

 

A lot of folks are asking this and similiar questions about the condition of churches in their neighborhoods after hearing of one more scandal. I certainly don’t want to join in throwing rocks at an already wounded institutional church. But I do want to offer an opinion for you to consider as one of the major weaknesses of local churches I am personally familiar with.

The Chuches have left the Story-line. As it turns out, in almost every case, the bottom lines seems to be that churches have forgotten their charter, their God-given calling.  They seem to be trying their hand at everything under the sun, everything everyone else is now doing, except the very thing they were called into existence to do; live out the life of godliness before the watching world and thus be the instrument of divine healing in the midst of a wicked and rebellious generation. The emphasis here is not on the wickedness of the world, but what God in sending Christ has done to restore his wayward children. The churches are to be local gatherings of the “first-fruits” of those restored to and delighting in the presence and the “shalom”of their heavenly Father while summoning those around them to likewise be converted and join them.

The Testimony of the Father concerning his Son, Jesus Christ, thus becomes the all essential focus of all things in the local church. And this Testimony is found only in the Scriptures-it is a very special Revelation. I found a statement in one of those powerful little books that pretty well sums up what we all need to do in order to recover the spiritual health of the churches:

Consecutive reading of Biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of mankind. We become a part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness.

We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dealt with us, and there He still deals with us, our needs and our sins, in judgment and grace. It is not that God is the spectator and sharer of our present life, however important that is; but rather that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the history of Christ on earth. And only in so far as we are there, is God with us today also.

A complete reversal occurs. It is not in our life that God’s help and presence must still be proved, but rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.

(Life Together- Dietrich Bonhoeffer)