March 25, 2014.
About three years ago I went on a spring retreat with the CSC for the first time and the subject was the Holy Spirit. I’ll have to admit I learned a lot that weekend, as I had not been taught or done a completely thorough study about the Holy Spirit. It seemed to be (unfortunately) a divisive issue in the church and to be honest, a part of the Godhead that we still don’t fully understand, and we did not focus on Him. I knew the basics, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit after we are baptized, He is our comforter and he prays for things that we don’t even know we need. But that was about the extent of my knowledge. As I said, I learned so much that weekend, and it was amazing. Perhaps the thing that stuck with me the most, however, is our topic for today.
Have you ever done a before and after case study of the apostles? These few men, chosen by Jesus when he began his ministry, had many issues. They went back and forth on their faith, denied the messiah, abandoned him at his trial, ect.. None of them, save John, would even present at Golgotha during the crucifixion of our Lord, to our knowledge at least. When you look at the picture of the apostles and disciples before the resurrection, you see a picture of weak and scared men. Honestly, I probably would have been right with them. But Jesus says something very interesting during his ministry- something that we all know, but I think few make the connection to the application.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Don’t you find it interesting that Jesus would say that it is to the disciple’s advantage that he leave? I think this makes a lot more sense when we compare the apostles before and after the resurrection. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles with cloven tongues of fire above their head, and they began speaking in all the different languages of the people gathered. It was a great display of power. As you continue to read through acts, you start to see a very different picture of the apostles than the picture we have in the gospel. These men are on fire, teaching and preaching the gospel with fervor, not heeding any opposition or threats from the Jewish leaders. These same people who had scared them before now had no effect on them. Why?
This was the gift of the Holy Spirit. He gave them confidence and boldness to teach the name of Jesus everywhere they went. Isn’t that amazing? Perhaps what is even more compelling than that, however, is the fact that the Holy Spirit still abides in us today. Why do we not trust in him to do many great works in the name of Jesus? Why do we not call upon his power in out times of need? Unfortunately, I think we have forgotten about the Holy Spirit in the church today, at least to some extent. And that is a dangerous place to be.
Perhaps we should simply go back to what the disciples did in Acts 4. Peter and John had just caused an uproar because they had healed a lame man in the name of Jesus. The religious leaders at the time did not like this, and they took and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore with threats. When they were released and joined the disciples, they all prayed. It is interesting what they prayed for. They did not pray for safety, but for boldness to continue to speak the truth. I think that is amazing, and a lesson we could take today. Many times we are scared to speak out in the name of Jesus, even for what little persecution we would receive. I think we need to be more like the apostles, boldly proclaiming the name, and worrying about safety as a secondary issue. I know I do at least, as I cannot speak for you.
I want to see another great awakening amongst Christians today. Will you help me?
Suggested Daily Reading: Acts 1-4.
May the Lord be with you.