A New Capacity

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By Linda Rex

PENTECOST—As a pastor, I am often burdened by the struggles and suffering of those I minister to and of those I encounter as I move about in my community. I would love to help people find freedom from the things which enslave them and to find peace, joy, and renewal in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

But I realize how easy it is to allow the distractions and interests of life to occupy my own mind, time, and attention to the place that I lose focus on the things of God. Any relationship becomes stale or divided if not enough attention is given to it. To become indifferent to another person rather than deeply connected with them can easily happen without our realizing it if we are preoccupied with other things.

When we read about the disciples after the resurrection, we find them gathered together in community continuing in their relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer. As a group they were focused in prayer and they remembered that Jesus had told them they were to be witnesses to his life, death, and resurrection. But Jesus had told them to wait—to wait until they were clothed with power from on high.

I have no doubt that Peter could have told a powerful story of his own personal redemption, of how he had betrayed Jesus but Jesus had forgiven him and recommissioned him to tend the flock of God’s people. Matthew could have told about how Jesus found him in the marketplace, a despised tax collector, and told him to follow him, and how Jesus had changed his life and given him a new purpose. Mary Magdalene could have shared how Jesus had freed her from her many demons and given her a new life of service and obedience to her Lord.

But Jesus had told each of them to wait. He had told them that telling his story in their story would not be enough. Something more was needed.

God had come in the person of Jesus Christ, had taken on our humanity, had forged a new human existence for us, and had taught his disciples how to love and serve others in the way God meant us as humans to live. But Jesus was touching only a few people’s lives while he was here on earth. From the beginning God had intended the transformation of the entire cosmos. He had meant a change in the very substance of our human existence which would heal, restore, and renew all things.

For this reason, after his death and resurrection, Jesus needed to return to the Father and send the Spirit. Pouring out this gift of God’s presence and power on all flesh gave each human being the capacity for the new life Jesus forged for us while living in our humanity. And Jesus was frank about the reality that the world would not receive this gift. He knew and understood our human capacity to rebel against God and to resist the gracious love of the Father.

It seems that apart from our Abba’s work, we do not receive this gift and walk in the truth of our existence as his adopted children. Our tendency is to listen to and embrace the lies of the evil one instead and to seek our life in this broken existence rather than in the One who created us and redeemed us. We prefer to design and assume our own self-created identity rather than embracing the one given to us by God—to be his image-bearers, children who love him and one another with a self-sacrificial, humble, serving and gracious love.

What we don’t realize is that apart from this precious gift of the Spirit and the work of God’s power and presence in our lives, we are living as if something is missing. There is a capacity we do not have which we need so that we are able to truly be the people God intends us to be. We are not truly ourselves apart from the indwelling Spirit, for when the Spirit dwells richly within us, God dwells within and we participate in the realization of the kingdom of God. We experience in those moments what it describes in Revelation 21:3-5 where God comes to dwell with man and Jesus works to make all things new.

In Genesis, we read how Adam and Eve walked in the garden of Eden with God, talking with him and sharing all of life with him. Being in God’s presence and experiencing a personal relationship with our Creator is what we were created for. But more than that, we have been given through Jesus Christ by the Spirit the very real presence of God within our very being. Now God dwells within us permanently rather than merely being with us.

The power and presence of God within is lifechanging and transformational, but we will not experience the reality of this as long as other people and interests command our attention and focus. If our dependency is upon the things of this life, we will not depend upon God and his Spirit. Due to God’s grace, we can survive quite nicely for a while doing this, but we will miss out on the capacity to fully participate in our real human existence as children of God. We will struggle to truly express the nature of God in our words and actions and any witness we may give to the person and work of Jesus Christ will be limited and ineffective.

Attending upon the things of the Spirit through the spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship, silence, sharing, bible study, gratitude, and meditation opens us up to the Spirit’s work within. Slowing down and taking time to focus on Jesus Christ allows the Spirit fill us and renew us for the work we have been given—to testify to the goodness and love of the Father expressed to us in his Son Jesus Christ. Just as the early church learned to wait for the promise of the Spirit before moving ahead on mission with Jesus, today believers learn to rest in Christ and to wait upon the Spirit before attempting to do ministry in this broken world.

Today, how can we pause and make room for the Spirit’s work within? How can we give undivided attention to the Lord Jesus Christ through prayer and the other spiritual disciplines? Perhaps all that is needed is simply silence and rest. God is present and real at all times—we simply need to awaken to his presence and power within, and to allow the Spirit to renew, inspire, teach, and lead us.

Thank you, Abba, that through Jesus you have sent your Spirit. Awaken us to your presence and power at work within us. Enable us to experience renewal, refreshment, and healing by your precious Spirit. Holy Spirit, fill us anew and empower us to bear witness to Jesus, and to live and walk in truth in Jesus’ name. Amen.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:4 NASB

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.”
John 14:12 NASB

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Romans 8:14 NASB

Who is God For You Today?

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by Linda Rex

There is a way of reading and meditating on scripture that informs our knowledge of God. It also informs our relationship with God by bringing to our minds the attributes and will of God in relation to each of us as his children.

For example, when I read a particular passage, I first ask myself this question: Who is God in this passage?

If I were reading Hebrews 2, the answer would include the following:

  • God speaks and his Word is unalterable
  • He exacts judgment
  • He provides salvation
  • He testifies to us through signs, wonders, various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • He made humans lower than the angels but destined them to be crowned with glory and honor

Included in our observations about who God is in this passage would be these (abundant) truths about Jesus:

  • He was made lower than the angels just as we are
  • He suffered and died for everyone
  • He was crowned with glory and honor just as we as humans are destined by God to be glorified
  • All things are for him
  • All things are through him
  • He is the perfected Author of Salvation through whom many sons will be brought to glory
  • He sanctified all those who are being sanctified
  • His Father is our Father
  • He is brother to all humanity
  • He proclaims his Father’s name
  • He trusts in his Father
  • He shares all this with humanity
  • He partook of flesh and blood along with God’s children
  • Through death he rendered the evil one powerless and freed all who were enslaved
  • He was made like us as humans in everything
  • He became a merciful and faithful high priest or mediator in things that pertain to God and to us as humans
  • He was tempted in suffering, and so came to the aid of all who are tempted

If we stop now and give some thought to what we’ve learned about God so far in this passage, we’ll find that God is deeply involved with us as humans. He cares about us so much that he actually came to share in our human existence with the expectation that one day we will share in Christ’s glory. In Jesus we have an intimate brother and friend who is for us and with us in every situation.

So going on with our reading and meditation of this passage we can ask: Who is God for me today in this passage? Here are some thoughts that came to my mind in answer to this question:

  • God speaks to me through his Son and his Word is unalterable and just
  • God witnesses to me through signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of his Spirit
  • Even though I am lower than angels, in Christ God has raised me up and crowned me with glory
  • God is working to sanctify me and has perfected my salvation
  • God in Jesus has shared my humanity and purified it
  • God has set me free from Satan’s grip and the chains of sin
  • Jesus speaks God’s Word to me and stands in my place to offer my perfected praise and service to God
  • God in Jesus has gone through everything I’ve gone through and upholds me in the midst of it all

As we approach the scriptures beginning first with God, and God in Christ at the center, we find that there is much that we can learn. With God at the center, we learn how much we are loved and cared for, and the tremendous significance of our God taking on our humanity and providing for us in Christ all we need for life and godliness.

There are many ways to read and study the scriptures. My prayer is that as you read the written Word of God you will encounter the Living Word in a real way that is healing and life-transforming. May God bless you in your studies.

Lord, as we read your Word each day, open our eyes to see you, and our ears to hear you. May we come to fully understand who you are, and who you are for each one of us at every moment of each day. Thank you for being for us, with us and in us by your Spirit, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.