Friday, May 23, 2008

Pentecost Transformation (Part 3)

(click on the "photo" for a larger version)

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 first post looked at how the NA/WE church is out of touch with the supernatural. The second post looked at how we do not want the Holy Spirit to change us. 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 binds us together as Christ’s people like the Torah bound the Israelites together as God’s people:

It was an awkward moment. Jesus was stand on top of a mountain with his disciples--Jesus knew that he was about to ascent into heaven, the disciples had were clueless about what was about to happen. Jesus told them to go to every ethnos (ethnic or people group, not nation). He then told them to go to stay in Jerusalem until God gave them the gift (Holy Spirit) that had been promised to them. They had to wait on God’s timing.

As the disciples waited in Jerusalem the city began to come to life—filled to the brim with people. Jews from across the Mediterranean region traveled to Jerusalem for the festival of Shavuot. Shavuot is the festival where the Israelites celebrated God giving the Torah to Moses and the people receiving the Torah—becoming the people of God. Shavuot marked the end of the grain harvest. This was the first day that people could bring the Bikkurim to the temple. “What is the bikkurim?” you may ask. There were seven harvests where a family would save the first fruits of the harvest. These offerings would be placed in a special basket. The basket of first fruit offerings (bikkurim) would be taken to the temple as an offering to God. People had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Torah, being the people of God and to bring the bikkurim as an offering to God.

Then God did something amazing!! The Holy Spirit! Tongues of fire! The Holy Spirit came upon all of Jesus’ disciples! Peter preached about the life, death and resurrection Jesus. Peter called people to repentance and to follow Jesus. Thousands were converted that day. The revival had begun.

All of this happened on the day when the Jews had gathered together to celebrate the Torah and being the people of God. All of this took place on the day of bringing the first fruits offering to God. This is did not happen by coincidence!

The Holy Spirit bound these thousands of believers together as one church—even though they spoke different languages and lived in different countries. They followed one Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ! The thousands who received Christ that day were truly the “first fruit” of this new time.

God weeps when he looks at the divisions in his body today. I am appalled when the leadership of the Presbyterian Church says that people are splitting Christ’s church when congregations leave the denomination. The PCUSA is already split—it is fractured like broken window that is held together with masking tape (look at the chart at the top of this post). Our leadership “talks with” groups that aren’t even Christian and some “Christian” churches that have drifted so far from the gospel that they may no longer be “Christian,” and seems to totally ignore other Christian groups.

I have served as an ordained pastor in four communities. In every instance there were churches that wanted to work together for the Kingdom of God in our town. These churches were: Southern Baptist, Conservative Baptist, Assembly of God, Independent, and Evangelical Covenant. The churches that very seldom want to work together were the “liberal” churches. In one town the Methodists would work together on some projects.

Why can’t the “church” be united? Why can’t the Holy Spirit bind us together as one church?

I believe that it goes back to Shavuot. It was the Torah that held the Israelites together. They had God’s word. They knew what God expected of them. They knew about sin and redemption through sacrifices. They were held together by the same belief system. In the Presbyterian Church it is our property that holds us together—it is our beliefs that divide us. We have pastors, churches and denominational leaders that do not believe that Jesus bodily rose from the dead, is the only way to God, that “sin” is sin, etc. The Holy Spirit cannot join those who are heading in different directions, following different masters. Denominations ARE NOT the “body of Christ.” Churches, and the people who are a part of them, that follow the risen Lord are the body of Christ.

We are working on a joint project with the local Baptist Church and an Independent ChurchGraham Jam 2008. The project is the brain-child of the Baptist Church. They are footing practically all of the bills—they are by far the biggest of the churches. They invited churches that they knew served the risen Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit binds us together in ways that denomination never can.

I am thankful that the denominational age is coming to an end. Denominations have not, and cannot, bind us together. )Just look at the chart at the beginning of this post.) The chart shows the splits and mergers in the Presbyterian “family.” We need to be transformed by the Holy Spirit—then and only then can be united as THE CHURCH by the Holy Spirit.


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