anointing, authority, disciples, faith, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, lordship, power, resurrection, transformation

His Amazing Breath, #107

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

John 20:21-23 (19-23)

This is the second “peace be with you” in this passage.) So why the duplication of this peace proclamation? The disciples are sequestered and scared in the upper room (v. 19; and Luke 24:36. Having peace is being emphasized–the disciples were afraid of the Pharisees, but they also were undone by Jesus’ surprise visit.

Peace was definitely a precious commodity for them.

Jesus gives his disciples a mission to do, and they must be as ‘familiar’ with Jesus just as Jesus is with God. The disciples had followed him for three years–seeing incredible miracles, and hearing profound teaching, they’re ready, they just need power.

In track and field, there’s a relay race where a baton is passed from runner to runner, and maybe that’s how it’s working here? We see the same idea in John 17:18.

The baton has now been passed to the disciples.

The breath of the risen Jesus is necessary (and yes, he’s breathing.) What went down here, I don’t know exactly. But Jesus recognizes that his 12 followers will need this to do his work. Also, we might consider Adam in Genesis 2:7 where God’s breath brought him to life, which is pretty awesome when you think of the parallels.

The Holy Spirit is the energizing factor to do this new work.

The disciples were pretty much observers, but now they are to take up the ‘mantle’ of Jesus’ work. This is a definite duplication, which connects with the idea of one seed producing many others (John 12:24.) That’s how the Kingdom will come to people.

Verse 23 intrigues me. It seems that our life comes from the breath of Jesus. And it’s the Holy Spirit gives both power and the authority that’s needed to function like Jesus. We also now have the ability to pronounce forgiveness to the new believer, and yet that doesn’t seem a function of the Church today.

I wonder why this is so?

This entire passage as a doozy. It clearly declares the Churches new role as we follow in his footsteps. Disciples are to do exactly what Jesus does–with his breath and authority–filled with the Holy Spirit. If we neglect these things (it seems anyway) we’re going to fall flat on our face.

“The work of Jesus for His disciples on resurrection Sunday gives an ongoing pattern for His work among His people. Jesus wants to continue this fourfold ministry of assurancemission, the Holy Spirit and authority to His people today.”

From David Guzik’s website

A Member of Faithful Bloggers

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I’m His Unworthy Servant, #81

Born to Serve Others

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Luke 17:10, (context, vv. 7-10)

After many years of ministry— this particular passage has become one of my favorites. The path I’ve walked has been challenging, and it seems to me that I haven’t done it very well at all. I’ve been a fool much of the time, and yet, if anything, God has held me firmly in place. I haven’t always been faithful:

“Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come

T’was Grace that brought me safe thus far

And Grace will lead me home.”

Amazing Grace, Third Stanza

There should be a humility in doing the work that we begin to learn, and I really hope I’m communicating that to you. I sometimes see it in myself, and more often see it in others. I used to kill rattlesnakes when I lived in Mexico. It demanded a certain cautiousness, and lesson #1 was this–you never, ever take your eyes off of the snake–no matter what. We must approach ourselves that carefully.

The Lord Jesus tells us one of those stories of his. This, IMHO, it’s one of his best. It makes a lot of sense, and it resonates within me. And I must watch myself, lest I forget the idea behind this passage.

We live in a society of equals–having a servant today is frowned upon. (I really could use 2 or 3 myself.) But in Jesus’ time, it was the norm–some people were regarded as property. It was more common than we think, as 30-40% of the general population were slaves. Early Christians condemned this, and regarded all men as equals, and as a result, many slaves became believers.

Jesus uses the concept very well. It seems that after a hard day’s work, a slave still needed to prepare his master’s dinner. No matter how much he toiled out in the fields, he had a duty to serve his master in this way; and it does seem unfair–we live in a land “where all men are created equal.”

But this is how the Kingdom works. Yes, it’s a foreign concept, and we can’t relate–we can only imagine it. Jesus uses it quite adroitly. The servant works for his master; completely, exclusively.

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

St. Augustine

Most of us work the “fields” pretty hard. We get dirty, we toil hard, and we sweat under the hot sun. We dream of a glass of cold lemonade (with ice), and a cool shower when we quit the fields. But that isn’t the way it works. Yes, Jesus gives his laborers rest–but the work continues.

Someone once said, “the work goes on, even when God buries his workers.” Hopefully, the next generation will continue my humble efforts, and his work in his fields will continue. But, in the meantime I must “watch” myself carefully, and do his will out in his fields.

“What have we done for him compared with what he has done for us? Our service put beside Christ’s is like one single grain of dust put in comparison with the mighty orb of the sun.”

C.H. Spurgeon

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The Plow, #56

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:62 (context, vv. 57-62)

Every disciple has his plow. Sometimes it’ll be obvious, everyone sees it; other times it’ll be buried deep inside, and no one knows. A plow is a perfect word to describe exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing–and its descriptive of the determination of a disciple who is slowly learning how to follow.

When you’re trying to grow-up you’ll grasp this foundational lesson. You have to be single-minded and really focused to stay moving ahead. You cannot look behind at what has been done. You can’t turn around to admire your work, rather we look at the tree that is keeping us lined up with Jesus.

You will sweat and get tired. Your full effort is needed to keep the plow in the hard earth. You aren’t pushing, the oxen is pulling, but you’re the one who weighs it down while keeping your furrow relatively straight. It’s harder than it looks. (Thank God for the modern tractor.)

In case the plowman starts to look back, his plow line would become crooked. If that happens, the field he is plowing will not yield a full harvest. A good plowman has learned he must hold on. In following Jesus, we are to keep our eyes on Him, and never let our minds and hearts wander away. (Hebrews 12:1-2.)

“To keep our hand on the plow while wiping away the tears–THAT is Christianity.”

-Watchman Nee

To follow means looking and moving forward. We must understand this–it’s the very essence of walking a path. We’re walking out the journey. Sometimes we feel Jesus’ joy as His follower, but occasionally we won’t. We’re learning to understand it more and more. But no matter what, we keep putting heel-to-toe. We are followers after all.

Jesus lived this; He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

“To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.”

-George Mueller

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The Easy Yoke, Entry #35

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, (context, vv. 25-30)

I have thought some on these two verses; I’ve come to the conclusion that it really must be understood as a holy ‘invite.’ A gracious bidding to come to Him, to find much needed rest, and discover meaningful work. This is a gentle summons to blend both rest and work and then live it out in our lives.

Jesus is aware of my weak and faltering steps. I stumble a lot, I weave and trip often. Yet He never criticizes me, He finds no fault, but matches His steps to mine. On His own, Jesus could do the work much faster. But He insists we stay yoked, connected with each other. This amazes me.

The moment we do this we’ll understand that the combination of these two will always balance and correct us. It will pour out of us love, grace and gentleness. The fruits of the Spirit can be seen, and we become salt of the earth.

He invites us to come and be yoked, and to enter into true rest, and true work.

“Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.”

-St. Augustine

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Doing Jesus’ Work, #28

“And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”

Matthew 10:7-8, (context vv. 5-15)

Heal. Raise. Cleanse. Cast out. What a job description for Jesus’ disciples! He truly believes that those who follow Him are ready, and it’s time for them to go to work. I suppose they could keep sitting at Jesus’ feet, just soaking up His teaching, and watching Him do His miracles. But this isn’t what they’re called to do. They’ve sat long enough.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s vital that we absorb His words to us. It’s absolutely critical that we hear His voice and really do find our rest in Him. We must intimately listen to Jesus and be filled with His Spirit. Yet it strikes me that far too many disciples think their life is an inward one; a concentration on personal growth and one’s own spiritual attainment. But I don’t think this is the case.

The disciples must go to work.

Jesus ‘commissions’ them to go out and proclaim the ‘Kingdom come.’ The labors of Jesus must be done by these inadequate (and sinful) men. Heal. Raise. Cleanse. Cast out. It’s time for them to go out and meet the desperate needs of the world. But stepping out can be a scary thing.

The works that these disciples are to do are truly marvelous. They now have an ability and an anointing to do remarkable things. Jesus is comfortable that His disciples are ready, and yet knows that when they return they will have much to learn from Him. It seems however, that we are waiting for a certain amount of “perfection” before we step out.

Most of us, I suppose, are ‘hamstrung’ by our own sin. We see know our inadequacies and deep weaknesses. Most of the time we feel completely unworthy. Seldom do we think we’re ready to spread the Kingdom news to a needy world. Our own sin, we believe, disqualifies us from ministry to others. It seems Satan is very quick to neutralize us, and to annul the “work” of the Father. He accuses us, and we listen.

We’re overwhelmed by what we see within us, and as a result we seldom see the needs around us.

It seems we shelf His work and replace our faith into some sort of personal rehabilitation program. “When we are finally holy enough, we will hit the streets.” Until then, we will try to get enough personal purity to work His miracles. Commendable I suppose, but I don’t think this is what Jesus intends. I’m convinced the work itself is a vital part of our sanctification.

“Have thy tools ready. God will find thee work.”

-Charles Kingsley

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Laborers Wanted, # 27

Then he said to his disciples, 

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:37-38, (context, vv. 35-38)

The issue here is laborers–this is our work, plain and simple. The fact is that there isn’t enough workers. It’s funny, it seems God is constrained by our prayers–earnest prayers for a harvest to be brought into the barns. But there aren’t enough hands. The harvest will be ruined if help doesn’t come soon.

God must have our help if it’s going to get done.

The harvest seems contingent on our prayer life. We decide what is going to happen. Prayer is the work of the authentic believer and our hearts must be for the fields. We are the people who work, who sweat, and get tired. That is our call. That is the true work of discipleship.

Mother Teresa once commented that what we see in front of us is our “Calcutta.” We have got to open our eyes and look, we must see the incredible needs of desperate people that surround us. We must have eternal eyes–God’s eyes. We do our work on behalf of others. I really do believe that it will be ‘sweaty’ prayers that will move the hand of God.

I think ‘prayer’ is the real work in evangelism.

Prayer is our effort that gets combined with the Holy Spirit’s great passion of lost souls. Our “earnest” prayer for the harvest will call workers to the fields. Every generation is responsible for their own part of the field.

For some reason God has chosen to limit Himself by our decision to pray. He patiently waits for us to intercede. Everything seems contingent on us, we can point no finger at God, or accuse Him of ignoring the work that must be done. We must make the decision. Evangelism, and missions, is God’s intense passion. He now shares with us this responsibility.

All of Heaven is standing on its tiptoes, waiting to hear our pleas for the lost.

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

-St. Augustine

 

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