“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” – Jesus
By Phil Tiews
At the very core of our identity as The Word of God is the Holy Spirit. For many of us being baptized in the Holy Spirit was the revolutionary event in our walk with the Lord and the mission of renewing the church is his call to us as a community. As we return to the Lord’s vision for us, we are taking the next several months to focus on ‘living more and more in the Holy Spirit’ as we have covenanted together to do.
Clearly Jesus is eager for us to do this very thing! As we know, he promised his Holy Spirit to the disciples and told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were filled with power so they could fulfill his mission for them. He said “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49). While there are various thoughts on how to understand this verse, one strong candidate is that he was wishing for the fire of the Spirit to enkindle the earth.
Are we burning with the same desire for the Spirit? We can be, if we ask Jesus to give us his heart. We don’t need to settle for a cooled-down version of the Christian life, and we shouldn’t. It is not someone else’s job now to carry on the mission to see the church renewed, re-fired, the mission is still ours until we hear otherwise from the Commander!
So what will in involve for us ‘to live more and more in the Holy Spirit’? Among others, I am sensing three things:
- Disruption of our lives
- Deepening of commitment to the Kingdom
- Growth in love
Fire will bring change Whatever else might be involved, clearly when Jesus spoke of bringing fire on the earth, he had some tumult in mind! This is not a crackling campfire safely in the fire pit. It is a conflagration that is meant to enkindle the earth! We should expect that this might involve some shaking in our lives, too. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naturally eager for this. When we were younger and fresher as disciples, such a thought was exciting and one of the great attractions of following Jesus. For many of us though, whether young or old, fresh or veteran, the thought of disrupted life patterns and additional challenges is scary. That is OK. It should be a bit scary to follow Jesus. After all, we are not leading, He is, and he is pursuing a monumental mission – to deliver and transform the human race, indeed, the whole universe.
The Holy Spirit is the power he gives us to participate in that mission. It comes as no surprise, then that living more and more in the Holy Spirit will rearrange the furniture a bit! Let’s not fear it, but embrace it as the means of running with the Son in His quest.
Fire leads to tempering I was reading in the recent ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ magazine of a church in Indonesia which has undergone severe persecution. On the day they were to dedicate their new church building, a Muslim mob gathered and threatened them. A few weeks later, under pressure from Muslim extremists, the local government sealed them out of their own building so they took to praying by the road in front of it. Enemies throw glass and dead rats and other garbage in the area each Saturday night so they have to clean up before Sunday worship. Yet despite the oppression and the fear, the Spirit is actually strengthening them!
Outdoor worship is often difficult for the church members, who are forced to endure the scorching sun or drenching rain. But Muslims often hear the gospel when they pass by – something they wouldn’t hear if the services were held in a church building.
And Pastor Palty says the persecution has actually been a blessing to his church family. “before…believers seldom came to church.’ He says. ‘But when the persecution came, the believers gained incentive to come to church and pray and gather together in unity. Maybe the Lord has allowed this so the believers will have unity. I cannot tell you what will happen but I see that my congregation has a commitment to keep doing the service, because the church is not a building; the church is the believers.”
As living more and more in the Spirit brings some disruption to our lives and leads us to engage the world around us in mission, it is going to call for a deeper commitment to stay the course. But that is part of the empowerment the Spirit brings to the body. Casual Christianity will not be the outcome of living more and more in the Holy Spirit, but rather an ever deepening commitment to one another and the Kingdom mission Jesus has given us together.
Fire leads to love At the recent Fall Retreat Mike Gladieux reminded us that love is the mark of a genuine disciple of Jesus. In Galatians 5:16 where Paul says, ‘So, I say, live by the Spirit…’, he has just told his readers ‘…serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command; “love your neighbor as yourself.”’ Living by the Spirit is SO we can serve one another in love. We often think of living more and more in the Holy Spirit in terms of more healings, more prophecies, more miracles. And may we experience more and more of these! But another sure sign of living more and more in the Holy Spirit will be a growth in love and service of one another, a turning from our selfish desire, attitudes and ways to selfless giving of ourselves to others. Like floodwater which on breaking through a levy makes an every widening gap, may love break through and spread out to flood our families, community and County as we live more and more in the Holy Spirit!