Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Kingdom: Do You Have the Spirit?

Suppose you lived in a neighborhood full of single-mothers who could barely afford to purchase their children food. Or perhaps you lived in a country where children went days without a clean glass of water. How would you respond? Well you might say, “These are people who desperately need the gospel” and you would be right. All people, no matter what condition they are in, need to hear the good news that Jesus, the promised messiah and King of Israel, died for our sins and has been risen from the dead; that he now reigns from his throne and will one day return and do away with sin, evil and death forever. But what would you think of someone who said that that is the only thing they need. You would be right to say, in my estimation, that they haven’t fully understood the vocation of the messiah.

Jesus the messiah came to John the Baptist to undergo baptism. Russell D. Moore says, “Jesus is anointed through the baptism of John, pronounced the Son of God by a voice from heaven, and then, just as His father David, immediately sent in the power of the Spirit to confront the enemy of His covenant God (Mark 1:9-12; Luke 3:21-4:14; 1 Samuel 17).” Jesus received the Spirit and then went to proclaim and enact the Kingdom of God. Whenever Jesus healed a leper, healed a blind person or cast out demons he was confronting the enemy of God and bringing his kingdom to bear on the present.

After Jesus was crucified and risen Jesus told his disciples to wait for the gift of the Spirit (Acts 1:4, 5). When they received the Spirit they were given the ability to speak in tongues, prophecy, and some were given the ability to heal. These are all signs that we are living in the days of the reigning King (see Acts 2: 17-21). The church began to spread rapidly because of the gospel proclamation and the miracles that were being done in the name of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The miracles performed were not mere magic tricks used to impress an audience. They met the physical needs of those suffering due to the fallen world in which we are living. The apostles didn’t say, “One day Jesus will come and destroy this world and make a new one so come on board so that one day you will be made well”. No, they healed them by the power of the reigning King (see Acts 3:1-10).

In his conversation with a lame man Peter says, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). I don’t know any Christians who have the power to heal but I know plenty of Christians (and all Christians have the Spirit). This means that we, just normal Christians, can, by the power of the Spirit, bring Jesus’ lordship to bear on the present. Sadly, there are many Christians who think that we must solely focus on preaching the gospel (which is an absolute necessity if anyone is going to be saved) and wait for the consummation of the Kingdom for anything physical to happen (which in some cases is true since not all of us have the gift of healing). But the early church knew that Christ is already Lord and is working through his church.

Many of us don’t have the gift of healing. Does that mean that we’re useless? No. “What we do have we will give”. We can help purchase food for our neighbor’s children. We can build wells in the name of Jesus. And when people ask us why or by what power we do these things we can answer, “It is through the power of Jesus, the crucified, risen and reigning Messiah that we do these things; repent, therefore, for the forgiveness of sins and receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.”

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