In discussing our draft vision and strategic directions, a few people have asked: Why the emphasis on new life in Jesus and renewal? In response, I’ve pointed to biblical verses such as 2 Cor. 5:17
‘If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!’ or the Bible’s ultimate vision for our future of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev. 21:1; 2 Pt. 3:13) and Jesus’ words, ‘I will make all things new’ (Rev. 21:5). In addition, the Bible has a recurring theme of ‘newness of life’ in Christ (Rom. 6:4), with Jesus bringing new birth (John 3:3-7), a new covenant (Matt. 26:28), new hearts (Ezek. 36:36), being the new Adam (Rom. 5) and forming a new Israel (Gal. 6:15-16; 2 Pt. 2) and a new temple (1 Cor. 3:16).
This is not about discarding the old, but of transforming and renewing hearts and lives to become more like the resurrected Jesus.
Creating a Mission Action Plan is an act of stewarding the unique resources and time we have as we enter a new moment in history. Yes, our faith is ancient. It is critical that we constantly seek Jesus’ original message as we read Scripture in the power of the Spirit. Yet we cannot return to the 20th century or a time before the Internet or Coronavirus. Tomorrow will never be repeated! As God’s stewards in this unique time and place, we must go beyond preserving the past, seeking genuine renewal for the new moments and opportunities for inviting people to experience and share new life in Jesus.
The cover of our pew sheet displays the nine Gifts of the Spirit, which is a Biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit, according to chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to the Galatians: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (5.22) The fruit is contrasted with the works of the flesh which immediately precede it in this chapter.
The first fruit is love. This love in Greek is agape and denotes an undefeatable benevolence and goodwill that always seeks the highest good for others, no matter their behaviour. It is a love that gives freely without asking anything in return. Agape is more a love by choice than philos, which is love by chance; and it refers to the will rather than the emotion. Agape describes the unconditional love God has for the world and which all have experienced. We have to ask ourselves if we display it in daily living.
Of the other eight we have some understanding of the words and qualities under discussion. They are grouped together and likened to fruit, which is the natural product of many living things.
The Fruit of the Spirit is produced by the Spirit, not by the Christian. The Greek word is singular, showing that “fruit” is a unified whole, not independent characteristics. As we grow, all the characteristics of Christ will be manifested in our lives. Yet, like physical fruit needs time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight.
As we give the Spirit more control of our lives, He begins to do in and through us what only He can do - to shape us and grow us to look like Jesus. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being trans-formed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
Our task is to be open to the Holy Spirit and so allow him to do his work in us.
Bless you as you open yourself to him.
Today is Pentecost and we give thought to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity.
We read in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Wow! There is a statement. Can you honestly say that? Martin Luther says of this statement, “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith…”
So, what a magnificent role the Spirit plays in our lives. Many outside the Church cannot fathom the truths that we proclaim. Many think our beliefs beyond comprehension, and they are to a degree, but for the work and ministry of the
Holy Spirit. So, thank you Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t have to be a puzzle for us. Our reading today from Romans help us out.
The Holy Spirit Points to Christ
When Paul speaks of the power of the Spirit in these verses he points to our inclusion in God’s family. The Spirit makes us “children of God” (8:14) and so intertwines our lives with Jesus that we now understand God as a Father or even a “Daddy” (as Abba might be translated - see 8:15). In addition, Paul suggests we are now “heirs” with Christ (8:17). In other words, all that the Son shares with the Father (peace, life, righteousness) has now been bequeathed to us as well.
The Holy Spirit is a Gift
The Holy Spirit (not to be confused with the human spirit) is not something that resides in us or is under our control. We are speaking of God and a force beyond
human manipulation. Like the wind, the Holy Spirit is not something we can manage or direct (Acts 2:2).
But the Holy Spirit does have an agenda: he wants to bring us into a relationship with Jesus. As Romans 8:15-17 says, God seeks to make us his children by adoption.
The talk of heirship and suffering
Suffering for Christ does not cast doubt on our heirship. If, indeed, we suffer, we will also be glorified with Him. You are going to share his glory and be a member of his family.
Maybe you're not sure that you're in the family. Some people have that confused. Some people think they're born into the family, and others are afraid they'll never get into the family. We're not born into it. "Children of God" is something we become.
Maybe you've never become a child of God because you've never acknowledged your sinfulness and your need of a Saviour. You've never put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who died for you and paid the penalty of your sin. Read over Romans 8.14-17 carefully and ask yourself whether you are included or not.
All Souls Sandringham