Blog Talk on the Gospel of Luke: Session 199
Luke 24: 49-53 (MsgB)
 “What comes next is very important: I am sending what My Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until He arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.”  He (Jesus) then led them out of the city over to Bethany. Raising His hands He blessed them,  and while blessing them, took His leave, being carried up to heaven.  And they were on their knees, worshiping Him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy.  They spent all their time in the Temple praising God. Yes.
364 entries. One day short of a year.
We’ve literally blogged our way through Luke’s literary contribution to God’s advancing Kingdom.
Luke’s Book of Acts. Luke’s Gospel of Jesus.
And here we are with Jesus saying, “What comes next is very important.”
As I see it, if you and I take everything we’ve read and blogged through over the last year and try to go out and live it through our own strength and wisdom, the world is going to really hate what they see. I’m guessing neither God or we will be too happy with the results as well!
The problem is that you and I fail so often to do the very thing Jesus states here at the end of His great commission.
We fail to wait. We fail to realize that we can’t do this thing Jesus is asking us to do unless we are first and foremost, working alongside the real laborer of God, His Holy Spirit.
We, in our zeal and excitement to do something good for God, gather up all of our biblical writings, sell our earthly goods, buy a tent and start traveling the world, bringing our Jesus to a world lost in darkness.
Now, while that plan has some merit at first, I’ve found that after a while, the newness of this approach eventually wears off and we find ourselves getting a bit worn out and ragged on the edges. Year after year, the harvest seems to get smaller and harder, and it’s then, we decide that we must turn it up a notch if we’re gonna get this job done for Jesus. We wring our hands, wondering what’s gone wrong. We complain how our culture has become so Gospel-hardened. We attend conferences on how to change things. We begin to try other good ideas that have worked elsewhere in keeping the people’s attention. We put on shows. We buy a bigger tent. We fly higher flags. Some even invest in big flood lights with electric signs that spell out J-E-S-U-S across the sky. Some of us learn to speak the secret language of selling and telling. We talk louder. Some yell and scream about hell and damnation. Others weave together stories and song to woo the people into our tents. Others decide a newer approach is best, so we sell the tent, re-arrange the message, and decide to focus on meeting people’s needs, never realizing how deep that well is to fill using our own limited resources.
All the while, Jesus waits back in the Father’s presence, hoping at some point we’ll grow tired and weary of doing church our way.
Eventually a few start to see the folly of our human efforts. They wander back home, get a fresh drink of God’s Spirit, and quickly go back out on the road again. After a time, these same refreshed men and women grow even more and more frustrated with this ‘doing the commission’ thing for Jesus. Some eventually pack it all in and go find a real job that pays better money and offers better perks that feed our hunger for human achievement.
If you read church history carefully, this seems to be the pattern of God’s people. We read and respond to Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection and commission. We go out immediately and do it. We burn out. We come back home. Get revived a bit. And then after a season of blessing, we begin to slowly transition away from God’s empowering power and presence, taking matters into our own hands once again. Eventually we run out of steam, only to be reminded by God of all have we left behind.
In my life, Jesus used a fat man from Missouri named John Wimber to remind me that the Holy Spirit has a better way for us Christians to live than this rat race we so often call church life. John talked about Jesus and the Kingdom ministry of God. He told us that church life in America has got to change. Back in the early 1980’s a group of people, including my wife and I, started practicing what Wimber was suggesting. We set out to stop doing church as usual and start doin’ Jesus stuff instead.
For a good season of time, it worked. It’s amazing. John was right. When we stop doing work for Jesus and turn it around, allowing the Spirit to lead the way, it’s fun. There’s real joy when all we have to do is show up, find out what the Father is already doing, and then adjust our lives and ministries to do those things being initiated by God. It’s amazing how very fulfilling this commission of Jesus can be when we do it His way, instead of ours. As we learn to wait for the Holy Spirit to lead us, practicing God’s presence, allowing Him to guide us, empower and indwell us, Kingdom ministry can actually be a blast!
But unfortunately, over time, we humans, as the Bible so clearly shows, naturally wander away from God’s best. We move from being Holy Spirit-led to becoming men and women with very good intentions but very fleshly, self-consumed follow-thru. We allow our ministries to become extensions of ourselves instead of works that originate and flow from God. We lead more by our human wisdom than by God’s Spirit. God’s plan A, as spelled out here by Jesus in His great commission, suddenly becomes Plan B; where we end up doing most of the work for God while the Holy Spirit remains back in the upper room, waiting for someone to remember what Jesus actually said!
My prayer: Lord, You are very explicit with Your final instructions to Your followers. Yet we, the church, have a long history of taking Your words and either adding to them, subtracting from them, or ignoring them completely. Forgive me, Lord. Holy Spirit, come. Empower and indwell me so that I find myself adjusting my life and ministry to Yours, not vice versa. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How am I guilty of making my life and ministry about what I can do for God? How has this approach missed the mark? What might it look like to transition my life and work for Christ into an approach where I; first, wait on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit; secondly, I follow the Spirit’s promptings, looking for Jesus’ ministry around me rather than creating my own; and thirdly, when I finally see and hear what God is doing, I adjust my life so that I can participate fully with the Holy Spirit’s agenda versus coming up with my own?
So what is God speaking to you today? Are you practicing the Kingdom presence of God?