Saturday, May 16, 2009

a Spirit-empowered church

“And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability.” - Acts 2:4

The first Christians didn’t operate from their own power or cleverness. They were filled and empowered by the Spirit of God. How else can one explain the phenomenon of Christianity? How could a tiny band of uneducated peasants lead a revolution that would forever change the world? The Spirit was at the center of the revolution.

I’m referencing the day of Pentecost, which the church had been actively waiting for. The Spirit of God fell on each of the apostles and, echoing what happened long ago at a tower in the land of Babel (Gen 11), they began to speak in different languages. But this wasn’t the tower of Babel “take two.” Instead of their scattered languages being a source of confusion, “each one heard them speaking in their native language” (2:6). This wasn’t a repeat of the tower of Babel. Pentecost was a reversal of it. The Spirit of God empowered the apostles to speak in the language of all – anyone with ears to hear heard the Gospel that day in their own native language.

As we think about our own church, it may be helpful to ask – is the Spirit of God driving what we do and what we say? If our lives are to matter – if our church is to matter – we must follow where the Spirit leads and we must allow the Spirit to lead us. “Live by the spirit” (Gal 5:25). “Be guided by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). “Be strengthened with power through the Spirit” (Eph 3:16).

We can’t read about Pentecost and write it off as a onetime event. For we’re a people entrusted with Jesus’ Great Commission – “go, therefore, and make disciples of all tribes” (Matt 28:19). We may not be surrounded by “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia,” (2:9) but the many tribes in America – artists, musicians, activists, the homeless, republicans, democrats, surfers, dorks, jocks, the elderly, the upper-class, the lower-class, and all sorts of classes of men and women in between – haven’t yet heard the Gospel spoken in their own native language.

How many of us have proclaimed, “I just don’t understand those people.” A Spirit-empowered church will say no such thing. Empowered by the Spirit, we will proclaim the Gospel to each tribe in their own native language – which means that we’ll learn their language. To the Jews we will become Jews. To the Greeks we will become Greeks. To the weak we will become weak. “We will become all things to all people.” (1 Cor 9:20)

But if the revolution is to move forward, the Spirit must be at the center.

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