“As He is, so are we in the world.” (1 John 4:17)
Even charismatic/pentecostal theologians (such as the writer of a note on this verse in my “Spirit-filled Life Bible”) say that this statement by the apostle John relates only to our position in Christ – justified, seated with Him in Heavenly places, co-heirs with Him etc. – but doesn’t refer to being like Him in other ways. However I feel challenged by the Scriptures I find that say we are, at least potentially, like Him in other ways too. I believe that He is calling us to a place where we are like Him in character and in power as well. I have written about much of this is, with Bible references, in the post “It is Finished”, so I won’t repeat it here. In that post I cover the fact that we are like Him, by faith, in the following:
Death – we are “crucified with Christ; it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)
Resurrection – We are raised up with Christ (Eph 2:6)
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mark 10:39)
Being born of the Spirit (John 3:5, 2 Cor 5:15)
Heavenly authority (Matt 18:18)
Being sons of God (Gal 4: 6-7, Rom 8:29)
we have His life flowing through us, not our own (John 10:10; John 20:21)
We have the Spirit who raised Him from the dead giving that life to our mortal bodies (Rom 8:11)
And his character is being formed in us, (Gal 4:19) so that we manifest the fruit (SINGULAR!) of the Spirit: the indwelling Christ Himself.
All of the above bear out Luke 6:40, in which Jesus declares: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
Throughout their time with Jesus, pre and post-resurrection, the disciples did not have a clue about the Kingdom of God. Even moments before He ascended to Heaven, “they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). All the seeds of His teaching were dormant until they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, but once he was filled with the Spirit Peter was able to say to the lame man at the Gate Beautiful “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
The Day the Church Started Walking
This was the first of the “works that I am doing …and greater” that Jesus prophesied (John 12:14), brought glory to God through out the city, was recognised by the Jewish elders as a “notable miracle”, and led to a further 5,000 men (plus, one assumes, may women and children) being saved. While Pentecost itself was the birth of the church, this was the day that the Church started walking. It came about because a fully trained disciple was filled with the Holy Spirit, believed the words of Jesus and acted on them.
We say we are filled with the Holy Spirit. But are we? This is what Paul calls being filled with the Spirit, when he prays for the Ephesians “…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend (the Greek word used here means to understand through experience, not just in our heads) with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3 16-21) When were we last “filled with all the fullness of God”? When we are exhorted to be filled with the Spirit (eg Eph 5:18) it’s not a one-off occasion; it’s an ongoing process. In the template that we have, the New Testament, being filled “with all the fullness of God” is the normal Christian Life. Why are we so far from it, we who have had years of teaching from the Word and who are baptized in the same Spirit as Peter and Jesus?
Two possible barriers:
1) That we are still clanking around in the armour of Saul instead of putting on the armour of God; walking in and relying on the flesh instead of the Spirit. God spoke to us about this in SOP a few weeks ago. Have we removed any of it since then?
2) We do believe the Word of God. But do we believe with our hearts, or with our heads? Just as salvation, which is the beginning of our life in Christ, comes when we “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead”, surely we also have to believe with our hearts that God’s promises for the rest of our life in Christ are true as well. There is a big difference between believing that they are true on paper, and walking in them as Peter did at the Gate Beautiful. Yet it’s not a big step between believing with our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, to believing with our hearts that the same Spirit who raised Jesus dwells in and gives life to our mortal bodies also.
Praying in the Spirit
We looked at the first corporate prayer of the church recorded in the NT, which is in Acts 4: 24-30. The disciples “raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them… grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
How often are our prayers formulaic, relying on how we always pray instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to show us how to pray (Rom 8 26-27)? We need to be praying in the Spirit, not in the flesh. If the Gate Beautiful was where the church started walking, Acts 4: 24-30 is where it started talking. I’m sure that if we prayed as we were led on each occasion, instead of just praying as we always do, we would see God’s hand moving a lot more frequently.
Holiness and Power
That was me done, but lots more came through various people. Marion is reading Andrew Murray’s commentary on Hebrews, and we considered how the Holiness movement preceded Pentecostalism, and both holiness and the power of God are essential aspects of the Kingdom message. Holiness and Power go together, just as Word and Spirit go together. Rob reminded us that everything has its foundation in love: the whole of 1 John 4: 16-17 is “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” Whatever we face, we need to trust that love and “lean into God”, rather than away from Him. When we read the Word, we must ask the Holy Spirit to speak to us through it. When we pray He wants us to give Him a platform to speak into our lives, not just spend our time talking to Him.
Rob had a lovely word about the love of God: he said it was “wild.” I have a (secular) book called “Wilding,” (which I strongly recommend to all nature lovers) about a “rewilding” project is Sussex where a large farm estate (Knepp Farm) has, over the years, been carefully and scientifically released back to its original balance of nature from decades of intense agriculture, and is now teeming with flora and fauna that have not been seen there for a hundred years or more. God’s love is “wild” like the life in Knepp Farm: rampant, untrammelled, uncontained, triumphant, and above all fruitful
The Contagion of Sin
Sin is sinful!! We need to be obsessive about contagion with sin, just as we are learning to be with coronavirus. It’s the result of the Fall; it gives dominion to the devil. We need to deal with it by keeping short accounts, repenting and asking the Lord for a right spirit every time we fall. Elaine said that God had shown her that he is serious about all this, because serious times are ahead, and we need to take Him seriously and look at ourselves seriously. One of the Eagles prophets has also had a word from the Lord about being serious. We have all that we need to do whatever He says with authority, but we need to push through in prayer and not be lazy. Jake gave us Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
I’ve just seen how many times in this I have said “we need to…” But I think it’s true. If we want to walk and talk as normal new testament Christians there are a lot of things that I think we do need to take on board. God is shaking Heaven and Earth, He is pruning His vine, and He is poking us out of our comfort and complacency. Another of the Eagles prophets said that Jesus is “walking round and inspecting the foundations of His church.” It’s challenging, but it’s very exciting!