“No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” Gentiles, but there is was — they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.
“Then Peter said, ‘Do I hear any objections to baptising these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.’ Hearing no objection, he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.
“Then they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.” Acts 10:44-48 (The Message).
Mission accomplished! Finally the door of the gospel had swung wide open for the whole world. With the Holy Spirit Himself authenticating the next phase of Jesus’ mission, the disciples of Jesus were free to take the message to the ends of the earth.
What an experience for a seasoned Jew! God had got His point across in no uncertain terms and Peter had no option but to fall in and obey. God had once again fulfilled His promise that He would confirm His word with signs following.
My journey through Acts thus far had left me wondering why we are not seeing the same powerful acts of God happening through the church today as it did in the early church. What have we missed, lost, changed or forgotten that has left the church relatively powerless, an organization rather than a living organism and another religion instead of a vital and dynamic relationship with the living God?
In His teaching on prayer, Jesus brings our attention to two destructive forces in our lives and in the world — unforgiveness and the evil eye. Most of His prayer focuses on God and puts us and our insignificant concerns into the perspective of who God is and what His agenda is for us in His kingdom. Our greatest need is not for “things”, needs about which God knows anyway, but for the “daily bread” of His word without which we cannot live.
Unforgiveness wrecks relationships and cuts us off from God’s forgiveness, leaving us bitter and alone. Forgiveness is not about making excuses for other people’s behaviour. It’s about cancelling a small debt because Jesus has cancelled a very big one.
The evil eye, not the Evil One, is our biggest enemy. The evil eye refers to our natural bent towards selfishness and greed. Is it not true to say that the entire world has been ruined and destroyed by greed? And yet these two issues, unforgiveness and the evil eye are as rife in the church as they are in the world.
Jesus calls us as His disciples to be learners and imitators of Him. What were the qualities that He modelled? Humble and gentle and utterly dependant on the Holy Spirit were the hallmarks of His human life.
Among the many reasons why the church is irrelevant today, I see two streams that are disturbing. There is the tendency to “use” the Holy Spirit for the doing spectacular. He almost becomes a spiritual “entertainment” which draws the crowds. In the other stream the Holy Spirit is relegated to a doctrine. Priests and ministers have replaced Him as head of the church and individual believers grieve and quench Him into silence and inactivity.
With our relationships in tatters because we refuse to forgive, and with self with its self-will and greed firmly in the driving seat, it is any wonder that the church no longer impacts the world by modelling the life of God and the kingdom of God.
Just a thought….