Tag Archives: demand for justice

Learning to Live Apart from Jesus

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.’

 

Introduction

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).[1]

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.[2]

Move 2

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.

Move 3

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.”[3]

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.”[4]

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.

 

References:

[1] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/what-is-pentecost-why-does-it-matter/

[2] 1 Corinthians 2 differentiates among the world’s wisdom and the wisdom of those led by the Spirit.

[3] 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

[4] http://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/he-felt-god-tugging-on-his-heart

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Pentecost is a Justice Movement

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!

With All These Hypocrites, Why Is the Church Still Standing?

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. [Matthew 23:1-3]

Introduction
Jesus now speaks a word of warning directly to his followers—then and now. The message is as clear and poignant today as it was then: If you want to be a disciple—an effective witness to the gospel— you must practice what you preach.

The scribes and Pharisees had failed miserably at this. Jesus charges them with teaching properly, and living badly. You’ve heard it said I’d rather see a sermon than hear a sermon. Or your life is speaking so poorly I can’t hear what you’re saying. Accusations like these continue until this day. The fact is Jesus knows it’s impossible to keep the law but the scribes and Pharisees do not. These religious leaders have deceived themselves into believing that they are actually keeping the law by observing outwardly what they do not possess inwardly.

These religious leaders are strict, holy rollers, sanctimonious hypocrites. They are like those who celebrate Halloween. They wear masks and costumes to hide their true selves. Jesus decries this practice of wearing costumes in the church rather than coming to God just as you are.

Likewise, they have trusted in their titles and positions to determine their righteousness. They wear long robes, sit at the head tables, and process in the church in their finest robes and shawls. They enjoy reserved seating and being served first at the feasts. When they walk through the neighborhood, they like to hear people reverence them by addressing them as Reverend, Bishop, Father, Dr., etc. They enjoy being regarded as somebody; even though inside they are not what they appear to be.

They enjoy people serving them but they serve no one. They will make a mess but won’t clean up the mess. Serving at the feasts is beneath them; they expect the low income and less influential members of the synagogue to do that.

And Jesus warns his disciples not imitate their behavior. He says to them, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Jesus warns his disciples, “Don’t be a sellout, be a servant.”

Move 1
Yet, what impresses me most about all that Jesus says is what he does not say. Jesus does not say leave the synagogue because the leaders are hypocrites. And in 2014, people cite the hypocritical lives of church folk as one of the main reasons they leave the church. Of course there are other reasons.
In an article by Ron Edmondson, a noted Christian author gives seven disappointing reasons people leave the church today. Here they are: 1) Burn out; 2) injury or church hurt; 3) distractions; 4) life changes, i.e. divorce, remarriage, new employment opportunities, et al.; 5) mistakes, people messed up and the church condemned them; 6) power struggles; and 7) lack of connection, the members had no real connection with the other members outside of church activities.

Ron didn’t mention hypocrisy but his fans and Jesus did. People will leave a church because those in the church are not following Jesus. They don’t leave because church folk are imperfect, we all are. They leave when the church starts condemning others rather than engaging in acts of justice for the least of these.

In the text, Jesus did not tell his disciples to leave the synagogue; the place where the Word of God was being taught. Rather Jesus says to them in Matthew 23:3, “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”

I wonder why Jesus did not shut the synagogue down. Do you ever wonder why Jesus did not just put them out of business and take all their members out of those terrible examples of houses of worship? Think with me if you will as to why he did not tell them to leave.

Move 2
First, the scribes and Pharisees were the authorized religious leaders, set apart for this task and as such they held the religious authority rightfully. Jesus said these leaders “sit in Moses’ seat” (Matthew 23:2). They were appointed to do this task and therefore had every right to do the job of conveying the Law of Moses to the people.

But Moses not only represented God to the people. He also advocated for the people to God and civilly to Pharaoh whose corrupt government had oppressed the people. Moses was the great emancipator, a staunch civil rights leader speaking truth to power.

Second, they were teaching the Word of God. By teaching the Mosaic law, their words conveyed (at least to a degree) the truth of God. Indeed, the law was God’s gracious gift to Israel, a manifestation of God’s great love. This was certainly the understanding of Matthew, who saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the law. The fault of the scribes and Pharisees was not in their teaching, but in their hypocrisy. Jesus used them as a reverse example of faithfulness.

Third, the synagogue was the place where God could be encountered in Rome by God’s people. Although the synagogue was plagued by leaders who did not practice what they preached, Jesus did not excuse his disciples from their attentiveness to the Word being preached. Jesus knew God’s people needed to know his Word and since the scribes and Pharisees were dispensing the Word he did not ask his followers to revolt and leave.
Jesus condemns religious leaders who are so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good. Teaching on the Sabbath but not advocating for the people on Monday. Hallelujah!

Why? Why didn’t Jesus tell his disciples to leave. Finally, because Jesus knew that his grace would be available to them in a few short days. Jesus pronounced judgment upon them because of the lives they were misleading and destroying by their example. Jesus pronounced judgment upon them because they didn’t want to be changed and kept others from being changed. These leaders were comfortable with the system that kept their followers oppressed. Yet, Jesus knew that at the moment, the synagogue was the best they had. Lord, have mercy!

Jesus’ final example of their hypocrisy dealt with power issues in the faith community. The scribes and Pharisees saw themselves as morally and socially superior to others. By virtue of their standing in the synagogue, they felt entitled to places and titles of honor. But Jesus said, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
The abuses of power, the displays of false piety, and the lure of prestige, which ensnared the scribes and Pharisees, are just as real—and dangerous— for all Christian disciples. We have religious leaders who do not serve the people nor engage in acts of justice for the least among us. Only in servant hood and humility before God is true faithfulness expressed and our actions must be consistent with the gospel message that we confess.

Jesus gives a harsh condemnation, a stern rebuke to those leaders engaged in religious facades but denying their power to make a difference in the lives of the people.

God has always been involved in and concerned with our quality of life on Earth as well as heaven. Voting is a part of advocacy. Voting is speaking truth to power. Yet, some of our religious leaders won’t vote because they don’t believe their vote counts; others don’t vote because they believe all politicians are liars and hypocrites. Yet, in America, yes, all over the world, voting is the best God’s got for us right now and God expects us to care enough for the least of themselves–ourselves and others, to vote in order to make a difference.

I dare say each time those religious leaders made a decision that affected those whom they considered beneath them, servants, their votes determined the outcome on the lives of the masses. They knew the letter of the law, astute students, but denied the principle of the law. In other words, they were hypocrites.

Following Jesus means going all the way, just as he did, speaking truth to power and calling out the leaders who were not legislating for the poor, widow, orphan, homeless, naked, hungry, sick, for to follow Jesus is to do as Jesus did–anything less and we too like the scribes and Pharisees are hypocrites. We don’t practice what we preach. We don’t live what Jesus lived.

Move 3
I dare say even today a lot of churches remain open because at the present time, the church is the best God has to dispense the gospel message. Yes, God will judge the hypocrite but you will have no excuse for leaving the church.
The Church is the best God’s got! The church is a service station dispensing God’s Word and God’s Spirit into the hearts of God’s people so they can turn the world upside for Jesus Christ. However, there are hypocrites among us.
There are hypocrites among us! There I said it. But that is not an excuse for you to leave the church and abandon the service of God.

What makes a person a hypocrite; it is not living a life with flaws and struggles. We all struggle! We all have flaws! That does not make us hypocrites. Hypocrites are those who refuse to stand on God’s word and God’s grace to change this world for the betterment of all mankind. God doesn’t want us to spend our time just in holy attire and religious assemblies. God wants us engaged in acts that produce justice.
And I stop by to tell you that God will use anybody who makes him or herself available for him to use. God uses the ordinary, the lowly, the proud, the arrogant, God uses us because God knows we are the best he’s got to get this message out.

And if you wait until you’re perfect, you may never do anything for Jesus Christ. Following Jesus means serving God now. God wants to use you just as he’s used so many other imperfect people. Let me call the roll of the imperfect people God used, some you might even call hypocrites:

• Abraham -Was old.
• Elijah – Was suicidal.
• Joseph – Was arrogant and a slave.
• Moses – Had a speech problem.
• Gideon – Was afraid.
• Samson – Was a womanizer.
• Rahab – Was a prostitute.
• Samaritan Woman – Divorced.
• Noah – Was a Drunk.
• Jeremiah – Was inexperienced and young.
• Jacob – Was a con artist.
• David – Was an adulterer and accessory to murderer.
• Jonah – Ran from God.
• Naomi – Was a widow.
• Peter – Denied Christ three times and Peter was a racist.
• Martha – Worried about everything.
• Zacchaeus – Was a tax collector.
• The Disciples – abandoned Jesus in the garden.
• Paul – was the Pharisee who persecuted Christians before becoming one.

And I stop by to tell somebody this morning, you may not be all you want to be, but God wants to use you in his kingdom. If you’re struggling, struggle with Jesus; repent and give your heart to Jesus Christ. Just decide now that you’re going to follow Jesus despite what’s going on in the church.

You’re not here just to become spiritual; you’re here to follow Jesus into the trenches. There’s a war going on in the world today and it’s a war for justice. Jesus cries out, “Follow me in the trenches.” Church let us follow Jesus without excuses. You’re a changed people called by Christ to change the world. And you’re the best God’s got! Hallelujah!

I don’t know about you but I’m going to stay with the church, because the church is the best God’s got. And God’s son has already paid the price for our shortcomings. Won’t you serve him today? He died for you so you wouldn’t have to live your life outside God’s grace and mercy! Hallelujah!