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.

As recorded in the book of Acts, Holy Scripture.

Read the most viewed E4Unity post: The Coming of the Missionary Spirit by Roland Allen (1910)

A classic reading: The Christian’s Strength

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.

THIS PRAYER WAS ANSWERED!

I receive a very interesting mailing every fifteen days from a man named David Wilkerson. For those of you who do not recognize the name, I will just say he is a godly evangelist that began a ministry years ago among the gangs of New York City (see, The Cross and the Swithchblade) which is now global in its impact.

The message in this mailing made reference to the prayer of Christ for his disciples just before he was taken to be condemned and crucified. What caught my attention was the observation of the status of his disciples at that moment in the Gospel narrative: they were in fact already possessors of what we call ‘saving faith’. As Jesus prays, he tells his Father that he has given these men the words (testimony) that his Father had sent him into the world with and that they had  received that word, believing that he was in fact the Messiah, the sent One of God. Peter, for example, had made his profession days before upon which Christ made then his declaration that he would build his Church on the rock of Peter’s (and the other Disciples) confession of faith.

While he was with the disciples, he himself had been like a shepherd, keeping them safely within the sheepfold of salvation. Now Jesus knew that his hour had come to die for the sins of the world as The Lamb of God. This prayer is first and foremost about Jesus asking the Father which sent him into the world, on the basis of his perfect obedience in fulfilling his mission, to keep forever these that believed on him. Whatever it would take in the days to come, including their denial and abandoning him in the face of death, he was then and there making full provision for their eternal destiny as children of God. He was in essence, asking God to never abandon His People.

Two thousand years of subsequent experience of countless disciples of Jesus Christ in every part of humanity has demonstrated that this prayer was heard; begining with the first generation of disciples who received the gift of Christ’s own Spirit and were strengthened to testify of Christ and his original message against all odds, and then those that received the message from these first disciples and believed on the Christ for their own salvation.

The take away for us who have initially put our faith and trust in Him is a powerful assurance that this prayer was for us as well and secures from God the keeping of our soul in this present evil age. Every provision for our salvation from initial faith to final glory is the direct result of this prayer.

“Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”        -Romans 8:34,35

see original post: Glorify Thy Son

Michael Card sings about one of the first ‘BELIEVERS‘ in the Gospel narrative. (video)

ORTHODOXY as BARRIER to UNITY

If you’ve been observing Christianity for any time at all, you will have noticed all the divisions that have resulted from schism. This is nothing new, in fact the tendency was already evident within the Biblical narrative- in New Testament times. The sectarian spirit which is now in full bloom, can be a major barrier to the full realization of the Unity which is inherent in the Body of Christ-God’s new creation. But it doesn’t have to be a barrier; it can be instead a great source of strength in diversity if we can only recover the fulness of God’s original design. It is, among other things, a question of desire and deliberate choice to be obedient to God and to live by faith.

One thing should be abundantly clear by now: all of the various claims to “orthodoxy”, or “the right doctrine on paper” as Horton says in his previous essay, can not possibly have any legitimate claim on the universal Church. If we would all just dwell on that reality alone until it became undeniable to all, we would then be ready to confront the enormous challenge of agreeing to put our version of “orthodoxy” in the place of distant second to God’s Orthodoxy. No, I’m not going to tell you what that is, I only will tell you that it exists and does not equal any one that is out there “on paper” nor is it in any way “the sum of the parts”.

Here is William Dell speaking about the strength of the Christian which is the gift and function of Christ’s Spirit, who alone creates and nurtures (sustains) this Unity-

“And this unity of believers is their strength; and when GOD shall take away all prejudices, suspicions, jealousies, particular ends and interests, divisions, separations, and schisms, that are among his own people, and the people of GOD shall be reduced into this blessed unity among themselves, and the Lord be one, and his name one, among them all, then shall the church also be of invincible power.”

” So that all they that strive with it shall perish; and all they that war against it shall be as nothing; yea, then shall the Lord make the Church as a new sharp threshing instrument, having teeth, and it shall thresh the mountains,” (that is, the kingdoms of the world,) ” and shall beat them small, and shall make the hills,” (that is, the lesser common-wealths,) ” as chaff.”

“But till the churches of GOD attain to this unity, it shall not do any excellent thing, it shall not work any notable deliverance in the earth, neither shall the inhabitants of the world fall. When the Spirit of GOD shall be a Spirit of unity in the faithful, and shall heal all the sad dissensions that are now between them, then also shall it be a Spirit of admirable power in them. ”      – William Dell, Christ’s Spirit: the Christian’s Strength