Winds of change and winds of the spirit
11/27/15 at 12:57 PM 0 Comments

Seeing the church

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The Church is born of God. The Church has no human origin; but it is rather a new creation, hidden from the eyes of society. That is why no one can see the true church. And also why no one can see a true Christian, except as Jesus said: ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35) St. John also said, ‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him. (1 John 3:18-19) This is also the test of our own sincerity and faith.
The knowledge of God is both personal and mutual, and it must be personal before it can be communal, for this is not an ideology, a religious philosophy, or a political body, but the gift of God. For Jesus first appeared to individuals who became his followers, one by one. It was to them that Jesus revealed himself to be the Messiah, the Son of God. He did not reveal himself to the crowds for they would have forced him to be their political leader and to use his powers to make war against their enemies. This almost happened when he fed five thousand people from five loaves and two fishes. (John 6:15)

Jesus prepared his disciples for the coming of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Luke describes this in some detail, as that point in time Jesus spoke about, when they would receive what the Father promised. This, he said, ‘Is what you have heard from me, for John baptised with water but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ (Acts 1:4-5). Jesus spoke objectively and realistically about the coming of the kingdom of heaven on earth. It was embryonic; it had no form or shape by which it was recognisable; it was spiritual. Its children, or as St. Paul calls it, is the Body of Christ, (1Corinthians 12:27) It had no acknowledged teacher on earth who was able to guide it after Jesus was gone. It was like a still born child, or a child without a mother to nourish it. The whole world was against it. It was born in Jerusalem the place where Jesus, its Lord, had been crucified and where it was dangerous to be a Christian.
But, this child of the Lord Jesus, had a comforter and helper. Jesus spoke at length about him, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees nor knows him but you know him for he abides with you and will be in you.’ (John 14:17-18)
Here, in these words of promise, is the key to understanding the kingdom of heaven on earth which, like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, (Mark 4:31) would grow and become the Body of Christ in the world, his light and love for everyone to see, a pattern and figure of the kingdom of God on earth. The gift of the Holy Spirit was sent from the Father in heaven to teach and guide his people who would become a witness to the whole world that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord and Saviour of the world from sin and death. (John 15:26) And, of course, Head and Lord and King of the church, his people.

Luke describes this in some detail, as that point in time Jesus spoke about, when his disciples would receive power from the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. (Acts: 1:8) This took place as Jesus said, 50 days after the Passover when Jesus was crucified, and 47 days after his resurrection from the dead. The disciples were all together in one place in Jerusalem when a sudden noise like the sound of a strong wind came from the sky and filled the house where they were sitting, and tongues like flames of fire descended upon them and rested on each one. Immediately they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:5-6) This remarkable and inexplicable event drew crowds of Jewish pilgrims who had come from other countries to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. They heard the disciples speaking in their own language and were perplexed for they knew them to be Galilaeans. Some of the bystanders said, ‘They have been drinking but Peter stood up and said, ‘These men are not drunk as you imagine for it is yet the third hour of the day. No, this is what the prophet spoke about: ‘God says, “This will happen in the last days, I will pour out on everyone a portion of my Spirit; and your sons and daughters shall prophecy, your young men shall see visions and your old men dream dreams. (Acts 2:16-18) Thus Peter then went on to preach the good news ‘Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus, the Messiah, for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who the Lord our God will call.’ Acts 2:38-39)
This event marked the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy and also that of Jesus to his disciples, ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will bear witness for me in Jerusalem, and all over Jerusalem and Samaria, and away to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8) From that time onwards too, to the present day, over two thousand years later, the disciples of Jesus have witnessed to the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives and Christ’s way of life.

The first disciples of Jesus were like infants learning their first letters and sums, learning how to read and write, to add up and take away, to be in a classroom with other children for the first time. For the first disciples were a school in which everyone was a learner, new students as well as old, educated as well as uneducated. In this school the Teacher was unseen; nevertheless, he was there and they knew he was there influencing their thoughts, feelings and actions, lovingly and clearly teaching them the truth, forgiving their mistakes, their stupidity and their stubbornness.
The teacher was the Holy Spirit. There were no gurus’ or theologians. Not even the apostles, the twelve, who were with Jesus during his ministry, assumed the office of teacher or headmaster for that would have contradicted the teachings of Jesus to them, ‘You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.’ The apostles were witnesses to what they had seen of the life, death and resurrection of their Lord. (Matthew 23:8) They all practiced prayer by which they asked the Teacher to help them, comfort them, and guide them to know the truth. (Acts 1:14; 4:31; Acts 12:12) All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44) The believers were a closely knit community, visiting the temple and sharing bread and prayers in each others homes. This was the fresh, first fruits of the Holy Spirit who guided them, and confirmed the words of Jesus to his disciples that, ‘If you love one another as I have loved you everyone will know that you are my disciples.’ (John 13 :34)

The believers were called ‘the way’ because this is what it was, a new way of life led by the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. What flowed from these brothers and sisters was love, healing of diseases, sharing everything in common, prayer and praise to God and his Son Jesus Christ. Like newborn children they were born of a new way of life, born again, so to speak of a new life in the Spirit, born of a new hope and born into a new family as God’s precious children. Born, in fact, into the kingdom of heaven on earth and the prayer of Jesus was on their lips and in their hearts, ‘Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6:9) In truth, the kingdom of heaven was there with them. As Jesus said, The Kingdom of heaven is within you.’ Jesus foretold the kingdom’s presence in their lives. ‘Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.’ (Luke 17:21)

As the believers grew in number and took the message of salvation to other cities, towns and countries, they called themselves after these places; the believers at Antioch, at Ephesus, at Corinth, at Galatia, at Rome, and so on. They were still very much disciples in the school of the Holy Spirit and they had much to learn of God’s salvation beyond their own history and heritage. They had to learn, for instance, that there was no longer a separation of Jew and Gentile, male and female, ‘For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Romans 10:12-13) The Holy Spirit guided the early believers to affirm only that which united and helped them to become holy in word and deed. Although persecuted by other Jews who followed the Law of Moses, and by the authorities in towns and cities who had their own gods and religious traditions, and finally the Roman Empire, the followers of Christ grew in strength and numbers, and as Jesus said to Peter, nothing will prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

It was the prayer of Jesus that his disciples would be united and be one just as he and his Father were one, (John 17:11) to have the same mind and purpose, to spread the gospel and save those who are called from sin and death; to inherit eternal life. To make disciples of all nations as Jesus commanded, the disciples went from place to place and country to country as the New Testament records confirm. They could never be anything but one for as Jesus reminded his disciples, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5) And as St. Paul reminded the Christians at Ephesus: There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. (Ephesians 4:40 11) ‘The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.’ (Ephesians 4:11-15)

No matter how visible the church (Gods chosen people) is, it cannot be seen. Whether it is a chapel, or a cathedral; whether the ministers wear surpluses or gowns, or the liturgies are long or short; whether the name of the church is a country, a doctrine or the name of a clergyman, the real church is not seen. The church can only been seen by its love, one for another. There is no other objective view of the inner life of the church. As Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:34-35) The church belongs to the kingdom of heaven on earth, invisible, (Luke 17:21) yet visible by its way of life; not an attendance at Sunday services, but as a holy people in word and deed, caring for the elderly, the widows, orphans, homeless, broken hearted, ‘weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice; (Romans 12:15) sharing everything in common as a church who witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; who prays together, prays for the gifts of the Spirit and makes disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19) If it is a church in name only it is not a real church but an impostor, of which there are many, having the form of the church but not the power of the holy Spirit. (2 Timothy 3:5)

We know that, from the beginning, the church was severely persecuted. The church was attacked by the other religions, by the governing authorities in many towns and cities and by Rome. But the church was also attacked from within its own company and gatherings. St. Jude makes abundantly clear for then as now, that the church will be infiltrated by scoundrels who seek to overturn the Christian faith with their philosophies and shameless lies.
Jude writes an urgent plea to ‘contend for the faith because certain people have infiltrated our ranks, (our Scriptures warned us this would happen) who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of God with sheer licence which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only master.’ (Jude 1:3-4) Dear brothers and sisters, in our time, they have already infiltrated our colleges and schools of Christian learning. There are those who boast that they have degrees of divinity and teach that Christianity is no different than other religions. They teach that Christianity is just another mythology along with many other religions and superstitions in the ancient world; they teach that sociology and science have now replaced the bible and we are living in the post-Christian era. These shameless intellectuals wear their academic gowns and profess their evolutionary theories and their scientific reasons for the creation of the world. They speak of the death of God as a new creed of the 21st century, of a new morality that has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus or the Word of God. They worm their way into churches and spread their godless lies amongst children, students and ministers. They are doing what the Apostles warned the church of old to expect: St Paul said, ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.’ (Colossians 2:8) and Peter, ‘There are false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in false heresies, even denying the Lord. Many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they, with feigned words, make merchandise of you.’ (2 Peter 1-3)
This is not the fault of the true church who remains faithful disciples of Christ. These are insidious and self appointed masters of deceit. They align themselves with the church, impress others with their learning and seek to achieve positions of influence in the church. But as St. Jude says, ‘we must contend for the faith’ and rid ourselves of all those who practice a gospel other than that handed down to us by the apostles and the Holy Spirit. We must also remember that our Lord Jesus said, ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and one's foes will be members of one's own household .’ (Matthew 10:34-36) The household of the church is called upon to fight against these devious ministers and intellectuals with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Let us not be intimidated by so called modern ideas but remember what Jesus said to Satan, ‘It is written.’

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