July 21, 2019 From Community To Community

From Community To Community

What a powerful message was preached by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Peter: “‘Be saved [escape] from this crooked (perverse, wicked, unjust) generation’” (Acts 2.40, Amplified Bible, 1987)!

Grudem reminds us that the Kingdom of God is “the active presence of God in the world.” (Grudem, W., Systematic Theology, Chapter 30, intro., olivetree.com). He either speaks of acts through mankind. See Nehemiah 6.15-16 and Exodus 31.1-5 for other examples.

Years later, He would repeat this warning through Peter in 2 Peter 1.2-4. Escape what? Matthew 25.31-46 and Revelation 20.11-15: Judgment for rejecting God and His offer of salvation; see John 3.16-21 and Acts 17.30-31. Escape to where? Escape to Jesus, as He had proclaimed in John 6.48-51 and 8.31-32.

Escape how? Acts 2.38-39, Peter confirms what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3.1-8: we receive the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus as Savior! We need the Holy Spirit to fulfill Jesus’ promise in John 14.12-14. Rabbi Jonathan Cahn writes: “The law can tell us the will of God, but only the Spirit can give us the power to live it” (Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 110, 2016, Frontline).

Three thousand of the people gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Harvest accepted Jesus as Savior and received the Holy Spirit when Peter gave the invitation! See Acts 2.41. Rabbi Cahn writes an interesting observation that these 3,000 replaced the same number of wandering Jews who perished in disobedience; see Exodus 32.28 (ibid). And, Acts 2.47, 5.14, 6.7 say people kept coming to Christ and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit! Read what Apostle Paul says about this in Romans 8.14. “The new covenant was empowered by God’s Spirit” (Cahn, ibid).

However, the families of the new believers kicked them out! So did the religious leaders. John 9.18-23 presents a similar situation. The believers lost their community—their old identity and security. But they gained a new community—a new identity and security; sisters and brothers in Christ who took them in and met their needs.

The Holy Spirit presents this in Acts 4.32-37, 5.1-16, and 6.1-7. The church actively ministered to them because of Jesus’ warning in His Parable of the Sower, in Matthew 13.18-22. The 3,000+ new believers needed to be nurtured by the Christian community. Whose responsibility is it, today, to see that new Christians are discipled to keep them from turning back? Remember Jesus: Matthew 28.20.

Apostle Paul describes this result as Jesus’ call for his ministry. In Acts 26.18, Paul repeats Jesus’ words: “‘I am sending you, to open their [spiritual] eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.’” Paul established churches and strengthened them through regular visits and appointed co-workers. How would this be a reversal of God’s observation in Jeremiah 13.10?

Dr. Richard Niebuhr explains this as removing an “‘artificial, secondary environment’ which man superimposes on the natural” (Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, p.32, 1951, Harper & Row). He writes that this artificial environment “comprises language, habits, ideas, beliefs, customs, social organization, inherited artifacts, technical processes, and values” (ibid). Artificial environments are cultures developed by families, communities, governments, corporations, schools, and religions to produce conformity among members supposedly for the ‘greater good’.

So, Peter’s “devout” converts to Christ from Judaism or philosophies had ‘scales’ (like Paul, Acts 9) or coverings removed from their eyes by the Holy Spirit. This is His work; see John 16.8-11. They left their tribal communities and came into the body of Christ, as Paul discusses in Galatians 3.28.

If the artificial is removed, what, then, is the natural environment that Niebuhr infers? The Founders of the United States wrote in the Declaration of Independence certain “unalienable rights” or natural rights, meaning “unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor” (Apple Dictionary). This is so because natural rights are given by God. The Founders included equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as natural rights.

Are there others that you would add? Judges 13.1-12and Jeremiah 1.5-10& 29.11-13remind us that God has a mission for us. And, John 1.4-9 & 16-18say our natural rights include grace, truth, enlightenment, and the revelation of God, our Father. Man’s “artificial environments” have sought to diminish these for selfish ends; 1 John 2.15-17and Colossians 2.8-10.

What is “natural” for the Christian? Paul includes “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” as characteristic of the Kingdom of God (Romans 14.17). Christianity, then, is going from community to community.

This idea might be explained in a picture. Draw a person as a stick figure on paper. High above the person’s round head draw the Sun with its beaming rays. Between the Sun and the person draw a dark cloud. The cloud represents Niebuhr’s “artificial, secondary environment” which distorts, diminishes, or blocks the nourishing rays of the Sun onto the person.

“To guard against the creeping counterfeiting that threatened to erode the integrity of the Christian message, the leaders of the movement (in the late 300s) created this concise restatement of what it means to bear the name ‘Christian’ (the Apostles Creed): I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic* Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. (*In the Creed, “catholic” means all-inclusive; it does not validate the exclusivity of the church system of the same name.)” (Copied from Bob Shank’s weekly email for July 15, 2019, titled: Are you an American? Are you a Christian? Shank is Founder of the Master’s Program. bob.shank@mastersprogram.org.)

How can Christians discourage return to the ‘artificial’? One way to accomplish this might be to prefer the Son’s rays and to judge the world by the Bible. Use the Bible to identify the natural environment and the clouds of distortion in each of Cunningham’s “Seven Mountains of Influence:

  1. The home;
  2. The church;
  3. Schools;
  4. Government and politics;
  5. The media;
  6. Arts, entertainment, and sports; and
  7. Commerce, science, and technology.

‘These seven spheres of influence will help us shape societies for Christ” (Seven Mountains of Influence, Loren Cunningham, 1988, google.com).

Another way to discourage return to the ‘artificial’ is to question the source and the content. Who wrote this man-made information? What was his or her agenda for sharing it? From where did s/he receive it? What was the agenda of their source? What information is misinformation (partially true), disinformation (wholly untrue), or a ‘straw-man argument’ for the real motive (like ‘climate-change’ may have been hijacked in an attempt to exert a controlling agenda over others’)? Do you find any of these in the tenets of the organizations to which you belong? Questions the symbols, heroes, and ritual practices of the ‘artificial’ to discover the values they represent. You might even apply this protocol to the Bible. It has passed many such tests!

Most importantly, use the Bible as your standard for examining the ‘artificial’. How closely does the man-made ‘artificial’ correlate with the teaching of God in the Old and New Testament? And, what happened in the Old and New Testaments to people who decided to follow the ‘artificial’ instead of the ‘natural’? Philosopher George Santayana (1905) wrote originally: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (Quote, google.com). I might change ‘cannot’ to ‘will not’. Could this be why God continually encouraged the nation Israel to ‘remember” His leadership?

Reversing what got us into the mess is, often, the best way to get out of it. Thus, consider what God says in Jeremiah 13.10He gives the way to peace and joy.

Authors Cameron and Quinn write that cultures—normal or artificial— include four levels, with the bottom two unseen and the top two observable, as follows: Implicit Assumptions lead to Conscious Contracts and Norms lead to Artifacts and Behaviors (one above the other). The Apostles Creed, for example, expresses Implicit Assumptions which led to Conscious Contracts between the new and experienced Christians at Pentecost. Their communal prayers, Bible studies, and worship were the Artifacts (symbols, heroes, and rituals), and the satisfying of the needs of the dispossessed and unemployed by Christians with means exemplified Christian Behaviors. (Cameron and Quinn, Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture, Based on Competing Values Framework, 2011, Wiley & Sons)

Is it worth the rejection of the old to gain the new? The 3,000+ who were saved at and following Peter’s sermon thought so. That is the question of cultural change for every person. 1 Peter 1.15-16! “Instead of struggling to accomplish the will of God, live, move, and be moved by the Spirit of God—and you will fulfill His will” (Cahn, ibid).

From Community To Community 190714-21 (* = update)

Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2019. www.sozoclass.com.

 

July 7, 2019 Entrance of the Holy Spirit

Entrance of the Holy Spirit

Acts 2.1-4 (NKJV & hereafter unless stated) presents the coming of the Holy Spirit Who Jesus had promised in John 14.16-17. The Holy Spirit has not left us, as Jesus promised, but is very much alive and at work among Christians today. He is fulfilling the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught about (Matthew 6.33 & 10.7-8, John 3.8, Acts 1.1-3) by giving “gifts” (1 Corinthians 12.1-11) of abilities to individual believers and bearing “fruit” through them (Galatians 5.22-23).

“We may define the work of the Holy Spirit as follows: The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church” (Grudem, W., Systematic Theology, Chapter 30, intro., olivetree.com). Compare to John 1.18. Notice Grudem’s emphasis on the “active presence of God in the world” as the work of the Holy Spirit. Grudem continues:

“It is also possible to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; cf. Luke 1:15, 41, 67;4:1; Acts 2:4; 4:8; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 9:17; 11:24; 13:9). To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with the immediate presence of God himself, and it therefore will result in feeling what God feels, desiring what God desires, doing what God wants, speaking by God’s power, praying and ministering in God’s strength, and knowing with the knowledge which God himself gives.” (ibid, my italics, Matthew 10.7)

Of course, we see this most clearly in Jesus (John 1.18Matthew 10.7-8Mark 16.15-20 John 5.19-20 & 12.49). Easton’s Bible Dictionary enhances our understanding of the Holy Spirit:

“His divinity is established (1) from the fact that the names of God are ascribed to him (Exodus 17:7 Psalm 95:7 comp. Hebrews 3:7 11); and (2) that divine attributes are also ascribed to him, omnipresence (Psalm 139:7 Ephesians 2:17, 181 Corinthians 12:13); omniscience (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11); omnipotence (Luke 1:35Romans 8:11); eternity (Hebrews 9:4. (3) Creation is ascribed to him (Genesis 1:2 Job 26:13Psalm 104:30), and the working of miracles (Matthew 12:28; 1 Corinthians 12:9 11). (4) Worship is required and ascribed to him (Isaiah 6:3 Acts 28:25; Romans 9:1 Revelation 1:4 Matthew 28:19).” (olivetree.com)

The coming of the Holy Spirit had been prophesied by God through His spokesmen for centuries, as in the following: Ezekiel 36:26-27 & 37:14 & 39:29 and in Joel 2:28-29. Understand that God is the One putting His Spirit within and upon the people who choose Him (John 1.12). And, He has chosen you who have accepted His Son as Savior (John 3.16), as Jesus infers in Acts 1.8 with His disciples and Paul states in Ephesians 1.3-14. The Day of Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel’s words. Practically, Christians need the Holy Spirit’s power to complete Jesus’ assignments in John 17.18and Matthew 10.7-8, 19-20.

In Acts 1.8, Jesus promises empowerment of His disciples by the Holy Spirit. To “empower” is to “make stronger and more confident, especially in controlling [one’s] life and claiming their rights” (Apple Dictionary). We will see empowerment of the characters of Acts and should understand that the Holy Spirit makes Christians “stronger and more confident in…claiming their rights” as followers of Christ (Hebrews 5.14, Colossians 2.8-10Ephesians 1.15-23 & 3.14-212 Timothy 3.16-172 Corinthians 10.4-6).

We are empowered to overcome satan (John 8.31-32James 4.7, 1 John 5.4) and put off “every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us” (Hebrews 12.1, AMP), including the traditions of men which make the promises of God unproductive (Mark 7.6-8Colossians 2.8-10).

When Elijah ran from Jezebel, God led him to Mount Horeb (the Mountain of God; Exodus 3.1) for security, refreshment, and instruction (1 Kings 19.8-18). God announced His meeting with Elijah by “a great and powerful wind [that] was tearing out the mountains and breaking the rocks in pieces.., an earthquake.., [and] a fire” (1 Kings 19.11-12). Then, God spoke: “the sound of a gentle blowing” (ibid, Amplified Bible, 2015). This “still small voice” (ibid, NKJV) was appropriate for Elijah but not for Job; see Job 38.1-3 for the reason. Notice, also, the howling “whirlwind” that God Job’s attention. Likewise, it was a howling “whirlwind” that separated Elisha from Elijah, whom God took straight to Heaven (2 Kings 2.11-12). In Exodus 34.10, God declares that we will know it when He shows up! See John 2.19, too.

Just so, the Holy Spirit, Third Person of the Trinity of God, was announced with a “whirlwind” in the upper room of the 120 in Jerusalem (Acts 2.2). But, instead of speaking immediately, He “appeared to them [like] divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them” (verse 3); all 120! See Matthew 3.11 and Luke 3.16: Jesus will baptize with fire! That is, the Omnipresent Holy Spirit separated Himself into multiple duplicated of Himself so that each follower of Jesus became empowered for the task that was about to be given them. This was the “advantage” that Jesus stated in John 16.7. [Just think; now there are hundreds of millions of duplicates of the Holy Spirit!]

Their immediate task, all 120, was “to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2.4; see Grudem’s comments above about the “active presence of God”). So, the disciples preached “the wonderful works of God” (verse 11) to the “devout men, from every nation under heaven” (verse 5, 9-11), who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Harvest. Peter’s sermon focused God’s wonderful works upon “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst” (verse 22). Note that the Greek word for “tongues” also means languages, as is apparent here.

The Holy Spirit “‘dwells with you and [is] in you’”, who follow Jesus (John 14.17). That is, the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent God walks alongside you (John 14.16) and indwells you for “feeling what God feels, desiring what God desires, doing what God wants, speaking by God’s power, praying and ministering in God’s strength, and knowing with the knowledge which God himself gives” (Grudem, above). Can you fathom this thought?

Where does God want His “active presence” (Grudem) known in the world through Jesus’ followers?

In Cunningham’s “Seven Mountains of Influence” in our lives — “1. The home; 2. The church; 3. Schools; 4. Government and politics; 5. The media; 6. Arts, entertainment, and sports; 7. Commerce, science, and technology. ‘These seven spheres of influence will help us shape societies for Christ’” (Cunningham, Seven Mountains of Influence, 1988, google.com).

In every link of the commercial ‘value chain’, which links producers to processors to shippers to wholesalers to retailers to consumers (and those who clean up after them). Each adds value to benefit the next in line.

In the Implied Assumptions of cultures that lead to our Conscious Contracts and Norms among our groups which form a foundation for and are expressed in our Artifacts and Behaviors among other people (Painter, Marks of the Kingdom, 190609)

The Holy Spirit will give you Gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.1-11, 27-31; Romans 12.1-8) and His Fruit (Galatians 5.22-23) for demonstrating the “active presence of God in the world” (Grudem). The Holy Spirit activates these in believers who are available to Him. Are you courageous enough for Him to display these to the people in your contexts?

Entrance of the Holy Spirit 190630

Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2019.www.sozoclass.com.