Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pentecost: Christ's Anointing

An excerpt from a booklet I'm working on about the feasts:

On Pentecost, Peter explained the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in this way: "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.  Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear" (Acts 2:32, 33). God anointed Jesus with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, choosing Him to be Christ (="Anointed One") (Acts 2:36).  Christ's anointing then flowed down to the church, joining Christ and His people into one body through one Spirit. 
Sharing in Christ’s anointing means several things.  First John 2:20 says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.”  The Holy Spirit reminds us of everything Jesus said, testifies of Him, and leads us into all truth in Him (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13-15).  The Holy Spirit also supplies the capability and competence to minister and represent Christ in the ways He has called (2 Cor. 3:5, 6).  Scripture mentions many abilities the Holy Spirit may give us.  Speaking in tongues, writing songs or poetry, governing, metalsmithing, pastoring, interpreting dreams, giving to charity…there are, literally, as many spiritual skill sets as there are people (Ex. 31:1-5; Dan. 1:17; 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 28; Rom. 12:6-7).             
As we give ourselves in the ways God has called us, it is vital to remember that the anointing is on Christ, not on us.  We share in it simply because we are in Him (Eph. 1:13).  Some conceive of the anointing as an almost temperamental, flighty presence: if we have spent enough time with God and are living up to His expectations, then He will anoint us.  If we have failed in some way or if we aren’t at our spiritual peak (“prayed up” or “filled up”) because of some lack of discipline, then the anointing will leave us or not show up when we need it.  But the anointing is on Christ, and, since we are in Christ, the anointing cannot be removed from us unless we can be removed from Christ.  Anointing is every bit as unchanging in Christ as His blood and forgiveness.  It is always available, not because we behave, but because we believe (Gal. 3:2).  It isn’t recent sins, failure to pray enough, or lack of Bible study that affects the flow of God’s Spirit.  It is the unbelief of meditating on these things that robs us of the anointing that is always ours in Christ.  If we believe the truth, we believe that our union with Christ—and therefore with the anointing of His Spirit—never changes.  Believing this, in turn, will improve our morals, our prayer life, and all the other things we try to maintain for fear of losing the anointing.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Full Harvest of Christ

           The feast of Tabernacles celebrated the maturing and harvesting of the whole crop (Lev. 23:39).  Often, the idea of harvest is associated with evangelism, “reaping” souls for the kingdom of God.  But evangelism is probably more like scattering seed and conversion like seed sprouting. No one harvests seeds or sprouts.  Only mature plants bearing grain or fruit are harvested.
            In the parable of the sower, seed is scattered over all kinds of soil.  What distinguishes the good soil is that it produces a crop of 30, 60, or 100-fold (Matt. 13:23).  Jesus taught that many people receive the word and are converted for a time.  But seeds and sprouts only fulfill their purpose if they produce fruit worth harvesting.  Additionally, fruit from individuals is welcome but does not constitute a full harvest.  Ephesians 4:13 gives us a sense of the harvest God is looking for: “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  It is the whole measure of the fullness of Christ in His body that the Feast of Tabernacles foreshadows.  This is the harvest God desires. 
            Ephesians 4 also describes how we grow into the full harvest of Christ.  It starts with holding to each other, keeping the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Eph. 4:11, 16).  As we hold to each other, we function in the measure of grace apportioned to us (Eph. 4:7).  Grace is given to each of us so that we can pass it on to those around us.  For some of us, this means moving in the ministries Paul mentions—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph. 4:11).  But we shouldn’t limit the manifestation of God’s grace to five ministries, as if Paul is giving a definitive list.[1]  Leaders and ministers are important but we will by no means attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ if only leaders contribute.  We can only grow and build ourselves up in love “as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16).  That means every member of the church has grace from God that is vital to the growth of the church.  In this vein, Paul gave the Corinthians the following guidance about their services: “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (1 Cor. 14: 26).  Whatever your specific role in the body of Christ, it is divinely important.  Be encouraged that you are deeply needed!

[1] In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul gives a slightly different list.  This suggests he is just giving examples of ministries.