Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pentecost Transformation (Part 2)

(Note: Sorry for the time between posts—I have had to focus on pastoral “stuff” the past couple of weeks; after all, I am a pastor first and foremost.)

God is doing great things around the globe. The gospel is spreading like wildfire—driven by the Holy Spirit. This fantastic growth is happening almost everywhere; that is, except North America and Western Europe (“NA/WE”). Oh sure, there are places where God is drawing people to himself, there are pockets here and there, churches here and there. Any honest examination of the church world-wide will cause a person to see the sad facts concerning the church in North America and Western Europe.

The last post looked at how the NA/WE church is out of touch with the supernatural. Today we look at another reason why the NA/WE church is missing out on the global movement of God’s Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is God’s power to change us--but we don’t want to change:

“I don’t want to…” is a favorite saying of most two-year olds. The typical two-year old wants what they want, when they want it. The typical adult in NA/WE is just like the two-year old child—totally self focused. When was there ever such a self-absorbed society?

Change? I don’t want to change! You can’t make me change! God made me the way that I am—therefore, I must be alright.

Peter was hand picked by Jesus to be one of his disciples. Peter wasn’t perfect—far from it, in fact. Peter didn’t see any need to change until he experienced brokenness before Jesus along the sea shore following the resurrection. The Pentecost transformation of Peter was astounding. The one who denied Jesus was now openly preaching about the crucified and risen Jesus. He needed to be transformed by the Holy Spirit in order to be used by God.

Paul was happy with his life. He was serving God and the temple. He was all for keeping the “church” just the way it had always been. He loved the Torah. He was passionately devoted to the church. The problem—he was serving the church and not serving Jesus or God. The Holy Spirit totally transformed his life. He had to give up a lot of what he held dear. The gospel spread throughout the Gentile world because Paul was transformed by the Holy Spirit.

We (I) don’t want to change!!

The gay man wants to keep fulfilling his desire for sexual gratification with another man. The man that commits adultery wants to keep seeing that woman that has brought a new sense of excitement into his life. The meth user looks forward to the next fix. The person who habitually runs red lights sees no reason to stop at a meaningless traffic light. The computer hacker sees no reason to give up the joy getting through a new firewall. The CEO who accepts a $2 million bonus sees no reason to reject it even though thousands of people are being laid off by his company. The person sitting outside of the hospital (in their hospital gown) with an IV machine hooked up to them sees no reason to give up the cigarette they are sucking on. Politicians see no reason to quit making promises that they cannot keep.

Do you see a pattern?

Every one of us needs to experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. We are all for it as long as we don’t have to change! And, that is the problem with the NA/WE church. The NA/WE church is filled with people who do not want to change. We are afraid that God will tell us that what we are doing is wrong and that we are to stop doing it. We are afraid that God will have us do something that we don’t want to do.

I remember a Methodist pastor who was serving a “united” church (a Presbyterian church and a Methodist church had joined to become one church) in my Presbytery. He had been perfectly happy with his life as a pastor. The his prior church expected him to preach on Sunday, officiate at weddings and funerals and very little else. He had been a very liberal pastor for over ten years. Then something happened—he met Jesus and the Holy Spirit. His life was transformed. He said, “I became a born again liberal!” His Methodist pastor colleagues thought he had lost his senses. He still had a passion for the poor and homeless. He read the Bible in a new way—sin became sin, the Bible became God’s word. The Holy Spirit did a transforming work in his life.

Most NA/WE Christians do not want to experience any kind of transformation. We run from the Holy Spirit because we are afraid of what God might do to us. We don’t want to change and that is the problem!


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