| ||Messiah Lutheran Church||
6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634
When you hear an individual or a church described as being "Pentecostal", you tend to think a brand of Christianity that places an emphasis on experiencing the Holy Spirit.
But, how can we be sure whether an individual or our a church is really experiencing" the Holy Spirit or not?
We find our answer in 1 Corinthians 12:3 which tells us that "No one can say that Jesus is Lord except through the Holy Spirit".
And that doesn't just merely expressing His Lordship in words, but includes how we communicate that Jesus Christ is Lord in every aspect of our lives. This is why the Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the "shy member" of the Trinity, because He is always pointing others away from Himself and towards Jesus.
As important as the gifts of the Holy Spirit may be in the life of the believer and the church, we must never fail to keep in mind that the purpose of these gifts is to glorify the person of Jesus Christ.
If the focus fails to be about Jesus Christ, you can be sure that something is amiss, and that the Holy Spirit isn't truly at work in the life on an individual or in the life of the local church.
Galatians 5:9 describes the following characteristics that are to be found in the life of a Christian and the church: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.
Sure, as St. Paul advices, we ought to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts in our lives, but along with that we should make sure that the fruit of the Spirit is present whenever we happen to exercise those gifts. Otherwise, we shouldn't be so sure that it is indeed the Holy Spirit that is at work, in spite of the outward signs that may fool us or others into thinking so.
After all, consider this stern warning by Jesus to those who do not bear fruit, and yet seemingly exercise the spiritual gifts, when he says in Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"
What happened at Pentecost is the reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. At Babel the people were trying to make a name for themselves, while on the Day of Pentecost, the people's motivation was to make the name of Jesus known. In the end, the building of the Tower of Babel led to confusion and scattering, whereas Pentecost led to order and unity.
During World War II, cities in England were heavily damaged by the German air force, and so after the war, these cities had a great deal or rebuilding to do. In one of these cities, there had been a large statue of Jesus standing in the square outside a church. The statue showed Jesus with hands outstretched in invitation and on the pedestal were carved the words, "Come unto me."
That statue had been broken into pieces during the air raids, but the people wanted to put it back together again. When they started to pick up the pieces, however, they could not find the hands. Their first thought was to find an artist and sculptor who could carve new hands for the statue, but they decided to simply leave the statue without hands and change the inscription on the base to read: "Christ has no hands but ours."
And this is what happened at Pentecost, as God's people empowered by the Holy Spirit, became the representatives, the hands and feet, minds and bodies, of the Lord Jesus Christ, proclaiming His name together.
This is what it truly means to be a Pentecostal Christian and a Pentecostal Church - when Jesus Christ is truly Lord and the focus is not on ourselves or even that of our church, but Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins.
When an individual or a church attempts to "experience" the Holy Spirit apart from God's Word and Sacraments, their focus is not Jesus, but instead their own sinful flesh. They are repeating the error of Babel, placing their emphasis on their own self-striving and notions of exalted spirituality, rather than on Lord Jesus.
Instead, we are to simply stick to the rather humble outward means of His grace-Baptism, preaching, Absolution, and the Lord's Body and Blood - where alone Spirit fullness is distributed and true discipleship occurs.
For it in God's Word and Sacraments where lies our sure hope for true renewal in our individual lives and the life of our church.
To devise more and other ways makes not for a fuller but an emptier gospel, and has always led to mischief and disaster:
As Luther warns in the Smalcald Articles:
"All this is the old devil and old serpent, who also turned Adam and Eve into enthusiasts, and led them away from the outward Word of God to spiritualizing and self-pride. And nevertheless, he did this through other outward words.
In a word, enthusiasm dwells in Adam and his children from the beginning to the end of the world. Its venom has been implanted and infused into them by the old serpent. It is the origin, power, and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the papacy and Muhammad.
Therefore, we must constantly maintain this point: God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. Whatever is praised as from the Spirit -- without the Word and Sacraments -- is the devil himself."
The Holy Spirit has been given as our counselor, equipper and guide in our earthly sojourn! We cannot ignore the importance of the Holy Spirit in our walk with the Lord. Thank God for the Holy Spirit!
But we must always keep in mind that the primary function of the Holy Spirit in our own life, and in the life of our church is to point people to Jesus.
And so, by the faithful reception of God's Word and Sacraments, trough which God promises that the Holy Spirit is given, we can assured that the Holy Spirit will be at work in our own life and in the life of this church, resulting in a life of true discipleship where Jesus is Savior and Lord!.
And so we pray:
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest, and make our hearts Your place of rest; Come with Your grace and heavenly aid, and Fill the hearts which You have made.
Your Servant in Christ,
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