In my view, anyone who elevates the Bible above all other literature, cultures, and morays is doing it a disservice. The Bible should be interpreted in context alongside all the other bodies of knowledge handed down through generations. Was the gospel Paul preached written prior to him preaching or did he claim a new Spirit revealed gospel? In the 1st century, he was labeled a heretic by the religious community. His gospel survived because he fashioned it to answer a dilemma regarding the salvation of Gentiles and their status with Jews. It was in his mind a new revelation and he suffered to give it Birth. We have such challenges to salvation in our time that need bold voices to speak and reveal what God is saying in our time. Anyone who lives by scripture and verse has not allowed the Spirit to speak. Even Paul cautions against such dogmatic positions. I’m sure Paul did not envision his letters being canonized in a book by an oppressive regime and given as the final Word of God in any matter. In fact, Paul urged people to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for understanding and deeper insight. Even the Law of Moses was not final for Jesus in many sermons reinterpreted it and issued a new edict based on a higher knowledge of God’s Intention. We should be students of the Word engaging our total being in a conversation with God and the Word people have shared regarding God’s Word revealed to them. The Holy Spirit empowers such boldness and I pray for more disciples like Paul who will take the steps to hear a fresh word from God in this season and not a stale cultural bread steeped in the past.
Learning to Live Apart from Jesus
John 16:4-15 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)
4 But I’ve told you this so that when it happens you’ll remember what I’ve told you. I didn’t tell you this at first, because I was with you. 5 “Now I’m going to the one who sent me. Yet, none of you asks me where I’m going. 6 But because I’ve told you this, you’re filled with sadness. 7 However, I am telling you the truth: It’s good for you that I’m going away. If I don’t go away, the helper won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 He will come to convict the world of sin, to show the world what has God’s approval, and to convince the world that God judges it. 9 He will convict the world of sin, because people don’t believe in me. 10 He will show the world what has God’s approval, because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore. 11 He will convince the world that God judges it, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 “I have a lot more to tell you, but that would be too much for you now. 13 When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into the full truth. He won’t speak on his own. He will speak what he hears and will tell you about things to come. 14 He will give me glory, because he will tell you what I say. 15 Everything the Father says is also what I say. That is why I said, ‘He will take what I say and tell it to you.’
Today is Pentecost Sunday. But what is Pentecost? This celebration of Pentecost is derived from the Celebration of the Festival of Weeks, originally a Harvest Festival observed by the Hebrew People of Israel during the time of Moses well into the modern era. Exodus 23:16 says “Celebrate the Festival of the Harvest with the first produce harvested from whatever you plant in your fields. “Celebrate the Festival of the Final Harvest at the end of the year when you harvest your crops from the fields.” It occurs on the fiftieth day after the Passover, a celebration of Freedom from Egyptian Bondage by the Hebrew People.
From whence does this term arise in Scripture? On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those followers of Jesus who had gathered together in Jerusalem. Acts 2:1-4 records, “When Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Passover, came, all the believers were together in one place. 2 Suddenly, a sound like a violently blowing wind came from the sky and filled the whole house where they were staying. 3 Tongues that looked like fire appeared to them. The tongues arranged themselves so that one came to rest on each believer. 4 All the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.”
What happened on the first Pentecost continues to happen to Christians throughout the world today, though usually not in such a dramatic fashion. We rarely get a heavenly wind and tongues of fire anymore. Nevertheless, God pours out the Spirit upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and become his disciples (see Romans 8:1-11).
Christians are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3), empowers us to serve God with supernatural power (1 Cor 12:4-11), binds us together as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13), helps us to pray (Rom 8:26), and even intercedes for us with God the Father (Rom 8:27). The Spirit guides us (Gal 5:25), helping us to live like Jesus (Gal 5:22-23).
But it didn’t start out so easily. Jesus was labeled a blasphemer by the church of his day, cast out of its synagogues, put on trial for heresy, and finally crucified as an enemy of the State. Jesus had to persevere in his struggle to convince a dying, hierarchal, oppressive religious system that he had found a new living way. A new way to view God that of Father. A new way to express God’s concern for humanity, that of Mother. A new way for humanity to interact with one another, that of brother and sister and friend. Jesus taught the love of God, the Compassion of God, and the Mercy of God toward all people most especially sinners, outcast, and rejected in society. He came to liberate, celebrate, and bring justice within society.
Pentecost, then, is about liberation, celebration, and justice. Pentecost signifies that the oppressed in the world who accept Jesus Christ as Lord have received power for living. And this outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon believers, frees believers to live lives being led by the Spirit that do not conform to the worldview of those without such a relationship with God. The aim of believers is to live as Jesus lived meaning to meet the challenges of spiritual evil and wickedness with the same clarity of thought and power as Jesus. Believers who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit move to a different level of knowledge and understanding.
Because of Pentecost, the world is constantly being introduced to Jesus Christ, the revolutionary man who preached justice, lived justly, and died on behalf of justice. And the church knows that the world we live in is not a just world. Oppression and oppressors are thriving while God’s people are living under heavy weights of persecution and injustice. The life and message of Jesus is far reaching in its influence in the world. The church witnesses that the manifesto of Jesus is being realized though not yet and declares that a day of reckoning is at hand.
The Holy Spirit empowers the church that makes the mission of Jesus Christ its own and brings hope, healing, and help to those in need. A Pentecost Church is a church on the forefront of advocacy for the poor, widowed, orphaned, and immigrant. A Pentecost Church speaks life to those engaged in alternative lifestyles, addicted to money, sex, and power; the Pentecost Church speaks a word to those on the brink of suicide reminding them that evil cannot win. Reminding them that God has a remedy for evil. To all those like David who think the powerful elite have it made. The church says be patient, keep serving the Lord because Justice is coming.
For I hear James the Church Moderator declare in James 5, “Pay attention to this if you’re rich. Cry and moan about the misery that is coming to you. 2 Your riches have decayed, and your clothes have been eaten by moths. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be used as evidence against you. Like fire, it will destroy your body. You have stored up riches in these last days. 4 The wages you refused to pay the people who harvested your fields shout to God against you. The Lord of Armies has heard the cries of those who gather the crops. 5 You have lived in luxury and pleasure here on earth. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered people who have God’s approval, even though they didn’t resist you.”
Thus, equal pay legislation, reform of our criminal justice system, advocacy for universal healthcare, welfare reform, and social security issues are all things that Pentecost Churches fight for. They fight for the least of those among us and they stand to speak truth to power. But not only do they advocate, the Pentecost Church creates. The Pentecost Church creates programs to educate, employ, and liberate those for whom society is intent on denying freedom. The Pentecost Church is not a begging church, it is a Church inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit to make a difference in its community and in the world.
So, while we’re apart from Jesus, we are instructed by the Holy Spirit to do the works that Jesus did. Jesus did not allow the Law of Moses to restrict his activity in the world, rather he reinterpreted the Law of Moses to better fit his understanding of who God is. Jesus did not sit idly by and quote scripture to keep from influencing the world for God. Often from the mouth of Jesus, we hear the words, “But I say unto you…”
When these words were spoken, people knew a change in attitude and behavior was expected to spring forth. When the church hears the world minimize people based on their socio-economic standing, lifestyle, neighborhood, and race the church uses these words of Jesus to say, “You have heard what the world says, but up in here we say unto you . . .
The Spirit looks at the “letter” but is not confined to the “letter.” The Apostle Paul writes, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
It is in the context of such a life-giving word followed by action against evil that the Pentecost Church impacts lives.
Finally, “A twelve-year-old boy was saved at a revival. Later, his friends questioned him about it. One said, “Did you see a vision?” Another said, “Did you hear God speak?” The boy answered all of these questions with a simple no. “Well, how did you know you were saved?” they asked. The boy replied, “It’s like when you catch a fish, you can’t see the fish or hear the fish; you just feel him tugging on your line: I just felt God tugging on my heart.”
The Holy Spirit tugs at hearts exposed to demonstrations of God’s power in the world. I trust that he is tugging on yours today. There is much work to be done, “the world is groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God. Beloved, a Pentecost Church can live apart from Jesus because it sees itself doing the work of Jesus, speaking the words of Jesus, and having the same results of Jesus. Beloved, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to help us live apart from Jesus. Amen.
 1 Corinthians 2 differentiates among the world’s wisdom and the wisdom of those led by the Spirit.
 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
Slave owners selectively chose certain black men and women to teach how to read; the slaves thought themselves special. The slaves went about teaching other slaves to read and most of the time the Bible was used to do such education. Can someone tell me why the slave owners would choose the most difficult book to comprehend to use as a teaching aid to black slaves?
Anyone can learn to read; its the critical thinking piece, however, that is necessary to become learned. Slave owners taught black slaves how to read, interpret, and fight to ensure nobody questioned, analyzed, or contradicted those words and created schools to reinforce the basic teaching they gave them. It is still the same today. Blacks fear to lift their eyes above the words and think for themselves. The Bible with its fear of hell, fire, and damnation, has enslaved people for generations and those who gave it to us and other (so-called) minorities gave it to us because it served their purpose.
The descendants of slave owners still violate the teachings of the Bible and do so with impunity because Black people refuse to think critically about what they are reading and remain paralyzed to create a new ethic for the issues of our time. Could the Bible be the real “Willie Lynch Letter”?
Stop regurgitating to me what the Bible said, I need more of what the Holy Spirit has revealed as a result of your own study and critical analysis unless you believe that the interpretations of your Anglo-Saxon Scholars are the only valid ones available. This is my prayer, Lord, free me from the confines of words on a page and liberate me to a world of knowledge only revealed by your Holy Spirit through intentional study, meditation, and prayer.
Nat Turner was taught how to read; he had a natural zeal for it. But why did his reading result in an uprising while other slaves’ reading resulted in conformity to the slave owners rules? For me what transpired was Pentecost! And Pentecost always results in nonconformity. Pentecost is a justice movement not bound by literal words on a page. Pentecost comes with power to change the world! Help me Holy Ghost!