June/July 2014 - Vol. 74
In times of confusion or rapid change, it seems common to search for purpose. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, tapped into this strong current of underlying questioning and searching. Modern trends of gender-confusion, icon-bashing, and the pervasive challenge of authority have not led to more clarity, but to more confusion. One of the enemy’s strongest strategies is to convince us that no one knows the truth. When I have eliminated all outside authorities and teachers, I am now my own expert. “I” must then have all the answers; and if I do not, I will get plenty of help from my ancient dark friend.
After more than 35 years of teaching, I have found the recent class of young adults to be mostly likely to take a posture of, “Who says so?” Yet at the same time a searching and questioning is in place. There is a recognized vulnerability that is the result of this new individualism. We can be like hungry children who are too “picky” to eat.
By “anticipating purpose” I mean to address something more than what is my purpose. In one grandiose sweep I would like to suggest that we try to anticipate and explore God’s purposes, his intentions, and his patterns. As we understand his purposes, we can explore with increasing success, our own purposes. This would be a grand undertaking beyond the realm of human minds, so I’ll limit myself to just a few examples.
The Work of Christ
He came to save us from the enemy; he came to save us from ourselves; he came to save us for the kingdom of heaven, for all time. To list all of the features of the work of Christ is beyond this chapter. But, I think there is a great value in looking at the question, “What was Jesus concerned about in his last free moments on earth?” The answer is unity.
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” John 17:20-21The Work of the Spirit
Assuming Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be on the same page, we can now anticipate one main purpose of the Holy Spirit: unity. Steve Clark in his article, “Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Community” says it simply, “Central to the work of the Holy Spirit is unity.”
“For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Ephesians 1:9-10Interestingly, unity is a gift of the Spirit, and, as with all the gifts, human beings are entrusted with it, having a responsibility to preserve it and use it well.
“Always seek to keep the unity which the Spirit gives.” Ephesians 4:3 (New American Bible)In 1 Corinthians 12, gifts are listed with a certain descriptive caution: “As it is, there are many parts but one body” (verse 20). Again in 1 Corinthians 14:12 “Try above everything else to make greater use of those (gifts) which help to build up the church.” (Today’s English Version) This whole section in 1 Corinthians 12-14 seems to be calling forth giftedness, but giftedness that is: 1) expressed together in groups; 2) exercised properly and in good order; and 3) upbuilds the one body.
These markers, these features of the last prayer of Christ and these descriptions of the gifted body by Paul allow us to predict, to anticipate to some extent, what Pentecost would be like. More importantly, it allows us to anticipate what future experiences of Pentecost (significant moves of the Spirit) would be like.
So here is a layman’s first attempt at anticipating the purposes of the Holy Spirit: Pentecost will have unity as its purpose; Pentecost will be marked by unusual giftedness; Pentecost will have community as its result; Pentecost will create circumstances and experiences which will necessitate responsible and capable pas-toral care.
The Seven-Step Pattern of the Holy Spirit’s Work
If the last section was not adventurous enough, I will now try to identify a seven step pattern using the scriptural accounts that we have. This is not from some great theological authority. I have seven steps because in the Bible seven is considered a perfect number. You might study the same texts and come up with six or eleven. These are elements that I see in the verses. I am using them to explain and/or anticipate the purpose that the Lord has given us in community.
Acts 1:4 says he commanded them to wait in Jerusalem. In one verse we have two things that modern people hate: commands and waiting. Not many people “wait on the Lord” anymore, but I think waiting or anticipating is one key. Waiting together is another (Acts 2:1). Also worth noting, obedience prepares us for power.
We know that some prayer was taking place; tradition supports that (Acts 1:24).
Scripture says that there was a great noise like a violent wind. It was loud enough to gather a crowd.
“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues...” Acts 2:4
Acts 2:13 Some were mocking (not safe).
Acts 2:36 Peter accused (courage).
Acts 2:40 Peter warned and pleaded (zeal).
“About 3000 were added...” Acts 2:41
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...” Matthew 28:19-20
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42
“…breaking bread in their homes” Acts 2:46
Reverse Implications of Anticipation: What is a Christian Community?
Ah, the joys of complicated titles. I once saw a hammer described as a Positional Adjustment Impact System! Apparently, this allows you to charge the government a higher purchase price! I think the reverse implications that we might observe can help us to describe at least a sketch of Christian community.
For the sake of this discussion, I would like to consider “devoted to” as a power statement. People can humanly be devoted to a set of things; but when they suddenly become devoted to a set of things, something mysterious, something powerful has happened.
Breaking of Bread
See related article by Bob Tedesco > Empowered to Live in Commuity
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