The Holy Spirit Changing the World


Author: Chris Mabey Date: Sunday, June 3, 2018 Campus: Monkston

Today is the last in the series on the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit Changing the World

I want to address three questions.

Why is the world in such a mess?

Why bother with church?

What can I do to help change it?

Over the past month I have been meditating on a few verses from Pauls letter to Colossae. I am really excited to see that Paul answers these questions for the church he was writing to and also for us today.

So let’s read Colossians 1: 15-20

As was often the case Paul was writing to encourage believers in the churches he helped to establish but also to warn against and  correct error. Two particular issues: false teachers who were denigrating the deity of Jesus; they were teaching that He was not actually God. This is common today, there are many ways to God, Jesus is just one of many spiritual leaders. Second, and connected, pantheism, the believe that we are all one: God is not a personal being; he is an impersonal energy, a force or consciousness. Since all is one and all is God, we too are gods. This false thinking is also very much alive and kicking today in the New Age movement. The basic message is to awaken us to the god who sleeps within us, to teach us to live like the gods we are. Sound familiar? (Garden of Eden and the promise of godhood).

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Qu 1. Why is the world in such a mess?

Col. 1: 15-17

 

What this says about us and God?

 

What this says about leadership?

What does this mean for us as his agents on earth?

15. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation

God cannot be seen with the naked eye, but he has made himself known thru Jesus

The starting point is God who took the lead by placing His Son at the start of everything

 

To miss this, is to miss a vital key to the exercise of leadership

 

What/who are we leading and why?

As parents, as workers, as volunteers, as carers

 

16. By him and for him all things were created in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, thrones, powers, rulers, authorities

Jesus brought into being two separate but connected realms, a place where God resides and a place he created. Some of this is material , some spiritual. Within these are various types of power and rule

 

Jesus [as Logos] was instrumental in calling into being all dimensions of leadership: different types of power, sovereignty, kingship and authority

We tend to see leadership associated with status, position and man-made corridors of power. True authority originates and resides in Jesus.

 

Your leadership may be formal or informal, part of an organization or personal, small scale or large scale…but it is God-given

 

17. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together

As part of the pre-existing Godhead, Jesus brings coherence to all aspects of the created order  

Leadership involves galvanising different people and parts around a divine authority and a common purpose

 

Leave Jesus out of the picture, as non-believers do, and things begin to dis-integrate

 

We should not be surprised if leadership (in our workplaces, our neighbourhoods and even in the church) is hard, stressful. Bring Jesus into the situation by prayer. Ask him to bring order and harmony and reveal his purpose

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q2. Why bother with the church?

I must admit I have my own struggles with the church. It took me a while to cross the thresh-hold of our local ‘free evangelical’ church when I was a teenager. The folks were friendly enough but the rather austere atmosphere didn’t strike me as that free. When I was at university, I cycled to a Baptist church the other side of town. Students packed out the iron-wrought balcony of the cavernous tabernacle each Sunday evening. This was a marvel to behold, as the fiery Welsh minister Selwyn Morgan regularly preached on a single obscure OT verse, a 45 minute burst of exposition. There was something riveting about a person soaked in the scriptures mining modern truth from ancient sources. As it happens it proved a healthy counterpoint to my lectures on social biology and French existentialism. Since then we have frequented churches of various denominations and none. From each we have learnt much. To appreciate the symbols of the faith and the sensory richness of tradition in Anglicanism. To experience community based Christian living at a non-conformist church and to enjoy getting a glimpse of heaven through worship at Vineyard churches, one in the UK and one in France. Yet for all their virtues, each of these seasons of church attendance has left us searching for more, acutely aware of the gap between the dynamism of first century Christian discipleship and it’s rather anaemic modern expression twenty centuries later.

It was with this nagging but persistent dissatisfaction in mind that I recently came across this stunning passage in the writing of Paul. It was like receiving a divine download from Jesus himself: 

Come with me to the golden gallery of St Pauls cathedral. From inside this dome see the vast sweeping curves and elegant pillars and chequered floor, the choir stalls, the altars, the cruciform, the majestic vaulting that have rung to anthems through the ages. Take in the glorious scene and breathe in the holiness of this sanctuary. I am here but this place does not contain me.

Come with me to a banyan tree on the edge of an African desert under which a group of believers, swathed in colour with radiant faces, are worshipping God, swaying and singing, delighting in their creator. Many have walked half a day or more to join this outdoor congregation. I am here, but I am not contained by this.

Come with me to a white painted building in an Indian village where earnest faces are tilted up in awe as gifted preachers preach and solo singers sing and inspired prophets prophecy. Look over there, the lepers with healed skin, the blind with new eyes, those bent double now walking upright. This is where I am but I am not contained by this.

When each gathering of believers throughout the ages and across the globe, meets in my name and worships in spirit and truth, I am pleased to dwell amongst them, to reveal more of my Father’s love. My Spirit is present, instructing from the scriptures, convicting of sin, imparting grace, deepening bonds of fellowship, setting people free from addictions and afflictions. I delight to inhabit their praises, to inspire mission, to reveal mysteries, to enlighten searching minds, to satisfy hungry souls. I am pleased, no I am overjoyed, to meet with my children in this way. Never the same way twice. When they draw near to me, I respond by drawing near to them.

Buildings have been constructed in my name. Towering spires lean into rural horizons, magnificent cathedrals - centuries in the making – loom over city squares, domed basilicas and affluent abbeys consecrated to me. How can He who is the beginning be housed? Can majesty be managed? Can the Lion of Judah be caged? Surely supremacy defies domestication. My church on earth is a body not a building. A body is alive, organic, growing, multifaceted. The head is the source of the body’s life.

When the motive is pure, when the intent is prompted by love and when believers themselves step aside to welcome me, to listen to me, that is ME heading up the Body. That is me breathing my life, that is me causing the ligaments to operate and function well. In this way a small group of flawed and directionless people are galvanised into a small army. Not a military army bristling with earthly weapons ready to impose their will on a piece of territory, but part of my heavenly army. Their weapons are persistent prayer, plumbing the depths of my purposes for this world, not letting evil take a grip anywhere but coming against such forces in my name – often invisible to the naked eye, vanquishing, delivering, healing, making whole the broken and scarred places of my universe. As they singularly meditate on me and as they collectively focus on me in worship I download my insights, my perspective on the perturbing events that swirl around them. I choose some to stand up and speak truth to the rulers and leaders who will listen. To speak truth into a post-truth world. They will bring prophetic messages to a people who do not know which way to turn, to bring warnings to those who persistently ignore me their Maker and perpetrate evil on earth.

This is my body in action, this is my kingdom holding sway, this is me exercising my authority, this is me, putting in place a rightful rule, justice and compassion and holding back the cosmic forces of evil. You see, I rely on my body, my church to do this. Yes, I could step into any earthly situation and arbitrarily right the wrongs, repel the forces of darkness, institute just governments and banish all the hunger, sickness and poverty that pervades this planet. In fact one day I will. But for now I am relying on my body on earth to do these things. Think about the multitudes who constitute my body on earth. By operating as my agents they are learning much and their faith is being tested and extended. As they grapple with the issues the world faces, they are growing in maturity. Different personalities, diverse cultures, distinct theologies, learning how to accommodate and respect each other, how to combine forces in a greater cause. What could be a more inspiring cause than to push back every evidence of wickedness and bring my rule, my headship to every place on earth. Through my people, wherever a few are gathered in my name, I will come and make good the imperfections, I will sew together the loose ends, I will spiritually solder the flapping pieces of armour. The advance will sometimes falter, the energy will dissipate on occasions and my foot-soldiers will grow weary but that’s OK…

…because I am with them and in them, but I am not contained by them.

 

 

Q18a. He is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead

The way God chooses to reveal his love on earth is through an organically connected ‘called-out’ group, headed by His resurrected Son

Ultimate leadership rests with Jesus. The (super)natural order is for his followers to each play their part, using their gifts to follow his lead and direction. They are galvanised by Jesus as the head

 

To abrogate this divine intention and model will lead to expressions of leadership which will be impaired at best and dispiriting and harmful at worst.

 

We experience this in many secular organizations, but it shouldn’t be the way in the church.

Here, as ‘called-out’ ones we can make a difference in the world by using our gifts, interceding for each other and making Jesus central in all we do

 

You see, God was changing my perspective on church. Turning it upside town. It’s not about me, about the collection of believers called GUV, or Vineyard UK or even Protestantism. It’s about Him. His call on our lives. Hearing His voice and doing what he calls us to do.

 

Q3 What can I do to help change the world?

…and this begins to answer our third question.

18b. So that in everything he might have supremacy

 

In this way, everything in creation depends on his sovereign rule

Leadership flows from Jesus alone

Leadership residing in any other source is likely to be distorted

 

Pray for your boss, those with influence around you. Learn to discern good from evil.

19. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…

It delights God to invest the entirety of himself in his Son

When Jesus directs he is doing so with the full authority and approval of his Father

 

As his followers we share something of that authority.

 

It will bring us on a collision course with worldly authorities, but he will equip you by the Holy Spirit (Luke 12: 11-12)

 

20. ..and thru him to reconcile to himself all things on earth and heaven by making peace through his blood shed on the cross

It is God’s intention to bring everything into a right relationship with himself. This is made possible and accomplished via the death of Jesus on the cross

Uniquely, by his death and resurrection as a space-time event, Jesus qualifies as the one person who can lead us - and all creation - back to God

 

Ultimately leadership is about restoration of people, organizations, communities and the planet earth, into a peaceful and creative relationship with God

 

This gives us a raison d’etre for our lives. How is God using us to reconcile?

 

Some of you may feel like you are treading water in your Christian life. You have lost your sense of direction. Ask yourself what part am I playing in God’s plan of reconciliation? Am I helping to point people to Jesus? Am I helping to make peace?

Some of you are on a collision course. You are coming up against resistance, negativity, criticism because of your faith. Maybe you have not recognised it yet, but these are secular forces, worldly authorities and you need to quietly claim your authority as a follower of Christ.

 

So what do we do?

  1. We pray in the Spirit  Rom 8:26

 

  1. We wait on the Spirit  John 5:19

Father , show me what you are doing

Jesus, what do you have for me today

Spirit, fill me afresh

  1. Walk in the Spirit  Eph 2:10