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The Power Is On
ALL WIRED BUT NO POWERIt is hard to realize that there was once a time when parts of the United States did not have electric power. While people find criticizing the government popular, I doubt if few would complain about the government program entitled REA. It brought electricity to rural America. The program was launched in 1935 and took over 10 years to connect the remote areas of our country.
A story is told of one man in North Dakota who worked long and hard to get electricity to the remote sections of the state. He not only had to make several trips to Washington, but he also had to convince people in the state to get wired for the day when the "juice" was turned on. The man had a real vision for the future. He encouraged workers to put up poles, to hang the lines, and to construct relay stations. His enthusiasm was contagious so many of his neighbors took his advice. After many months of hard work the entire town was all wired but not a single light bulb glowed, not a single motor ran. The town had to wait for the power to be turned on.
Too many Christians live their lives like those town folk. They fail to understand that when they became believers, they were filled with the same Spirit that swept through the band of disciples on the day of Pentecost.
WHAT DIFFERENCE?What difference would it make in your life if the Holy Spirit were removed from your theology? Would it matter on a day-to-day basis, if God were only revealed as Father and Son? What difference does the Holy Spirit make in your life?
The sad reality is that on a practical level, the Holy Spirit matters very little to most Christians? I would say this is even true of Charismatics or Pentecostals. They spend a lot of time talking about the Holy Spirit and some claim to pray in the Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues, but I am hard pressed to notice an appreciable difference in their personal life. They struggle with the same temptations common to all other believers and do not give evidence of any greater or lesser empowerment to live the Christian life.
Unfortunately, I have also encounter well-meaning believers who after performing some particularly ridiculous stunt justified their irresponsible behavior as "the leading of the Spirit." From my reading of the New Testament, the Spirit of God does not prompt believers to do something contrary to either the law of God or the teachings of Jesus. Nor does the Spirit lead us to take a course of action that will hurt another person.
The question for us to consider is what has taken place to cause us to digress from a community that was energized and driven by the Holy Spirit as was the first century church to a community of faith that merely pays lips service.
MOVING FROM THE PREDICTABLE TO THE UNPREDICTIBLESome people chose to ignore the topic. They simply do not believe that the supernatural can be experienced in the ordinary life of ordinary people. They are very much like the Muggles of the Harry Porter series. Muggles just do not believe in magic. Nothing can be said to convince them. They have closed their mind on things they cannot understand. Only a powerful, life changing experience will convince them otherwise.
Others have decided that the issue is too complex, too difficult to understand, or too abstract. They prefer to focus on the real world, things they can feel and touch. The realm of the Spirit is too nebulas, too ethereal. They prefer to define their faith in concrete rules. Codes that define specific behavior are less complicated. They provide a clear set of expectations. These people are usually very good Christians who really try to do the right thing. They make positive contributions to their family, their church, and their community. The Christian life is manageable and predictable. And that is the crux of the issue; life in the Spirit is not always predictable, manageable, or understandable. When we consider the movement of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, we see a very unpredictable Spirit.
On the Day of Pentecost, Peter could not ignore the Holy Spirit. The sudden eruption of speaking in tongues caught everyone's attention. However, few people understood it. They accused the disciples of being drunk but Peter stepped forward and reminded them of a prophecy from the book of Joel
Your sons and your daughters will prophesy
Life in the Spirit was making sense to Peter. He was beginning to understand what Jesus meant by his teaching. But just when Peter thought that he had everything figured out, God sent a vision that at first completely baffled him and made him realized that life in the Spirit was not manageable or unpredictable. Life in the Spirit is full of surprises and unpredictability.
PROCRASTINATEAnother way we limit or stifle the working of the Spirit in our lives is by procrastinating. So often God gives us a vision for a ministry or project. We will see the face of a person and know we should go and talk with them. We sense a prompting to pray for someone. At first, these are small thoughts almost imperceptible. Most of the time, we ignore them so nothing happens. Then we wonder why we do not understand what it means to be empowered by the Spirit.
After the Day of Pentecost, Peter decided to be alone and pray about noon. While he was in prayer, he saw a vision that confused him. In the vision, he was offered as food to eat all the animals that the Jewish law prohibited. Peter objected. "Never have I eaten anything impure he said" but a voice said, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Three times this happened. After it was over, he sat on the rooftop startled and confused, not certain what it all meant or what he should do. Then he group of Gentiles appeared at his door, people who any respectable Jew considered unclean and Peter knew what the dream meant. God prepared him to do the most unmanageable, unexpected, unanticipated thing he could think of, to present the gospel to the Gentiles. Peter did not hesitate or procrastinate. He responded and visited the Gentiles. He told them the story about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles and they came to faith. (Acts 10)
In spiritual matters, we are like small children. As our parent, God entrusts to us small tasks. As we demonstrate mastery of these small affairs, the Spirit prompts us to greater things. But if we procrastinate, if we delay if we make excuses as to why we should not do something, the Spirit of God cannot break through in our lives. Life in the Spirit responds to the unpredictable, unanticipated movement of God without delay.
UNDOMESTICATING THE DYNAMIC SPIRITIf life in the Spirit is at times appears unmanageable, at other times it is uncontrollable. One tendency though is to domesticate the Spirit. We can do this in a number of ways. First, we assume that the Spirit is at our beck and call. The Spirit of God drove Jesus into the wilderness to face temptation. Jesus did not order the Spirit to accompany him on his travels. The Holy Spirit block the Apostle Paul from visiting the church in Rome on several occasions. We the Holy Spirit calls us we do not call the Spirit.
We also domesticate the Spirit by limiting the types of ministries we undertake. So often I hear people say, "Oh, I do not have any experience teaching Sunday school." "I am not qualified to serve in youth ministries." Or "I do not have any leadership skills to take on the responsibilities of an elder." A friend once told me that he would take on at least responsibility for which he was not qualified or attempt to accomplish one goal that he knew his chance of success was very small. By so doing, he forced himself to rely on the Spirit and when the goals was accomplished he would give thanks to God because he knew he did not accomplish the task by his own power.
This fall we will begin a new evangelism outreach using the Alpha Series. It is a bold program. It has a very high chance of failure-thanks be to God. If we succeed, it will not be on our own efforts. We can only succeed if the power of the Holy Spirit is working through us. We need to take on a few more projects that will not succeed unless the domesticated spirit becomes a dynamic Spirit. Unless we are willing to allow the Spirit to stretch us, to drive us into uncharted areas of ministry, the Holy Spirit will remain nothing more than a decorative statue on the mantel.
THE POWER IS ONOne day a neighbor noticed that the light bulb he had screwed into a ceiling socket some months before all of a sudden began to glow. The light filled the room with the brilliance no kerosene lamp had ever made possible. He rushed outside and ran down the street shouting, "The power is on! The power is on!"
My friends, the power is on. The Spirit has come. It is time to stop ignoring the unpredictable, to stop procrastinating and "undomesticate" the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit.
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