Saturday, April 5, 2008

April 7, 2008

A God with God moment:

The last several weeks we have been pondering together what it means to be post-Easter but pre-Pentecost. In essence, waiting for the climax of the New Covenant. In a different setting I said, “the Cross and the empty tomb of Easter would have only been an historical remembrance if it were not for the transforming reality appropriated by the filling of the Church by the Holy Spirit.” So, once again we return to the meaning of formation of the “Body” by the Work of the Spirit.

We have looked at places in scripture such as John 17, where Jesus specifically and poignantly prays that His followers; both present and future, “be one, as He and the Father are one.” Profoundly, there is to be a Trinitarian-likeness regarding the way we relate to one another. Anything short of that would fall short of Jesus’ own request of the Father.

Earlier, we looked at Acts 2:42-47. There we discovered that a Spirit-filled community is to communally focus on the right priorities; read that as devotion to (1) the apostles’ teaching, (2) the fellowship, (3) the breaking bread, and (4) the prayer. An ethical result of that affection is that we recognize the needs which folks have in our vicinity and we are empowered to rise up and sufficiently meet them.

This week, I want to point you to well know passage found in the Book of Philippians. The climax of this passage is known as the Christological Hymn in 2:5-11…but I want you to first locate what precedes it in the text. Read carefully 1:27:
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Let me try to fill this verse out in its own context. This is the beginning of an entirely new argument. Previously Paul has been giving biographical information to one of his favorite churches. But now he is switching to their ethical responsibility. May I try to enhance the beauty of the language in the original Greek.
  1. “Whatever happens” should really be translated as: Only one thing. Paul is about to summarize his understanding of the Gospel in a brief statement.
  2. “Conduct yourselves” (notice the plural subject) is a very unusual word. It does not merely mean “live” but it means specifically “live as a citizen.” This is a call to loyalty; maybe better translated as “live as a citizen of the Gospel.”

So if there is only one thing that we should be focusing on; at its tantamount to declaring what our oath of citizenship might be; go on Paul, tell me what it is…ready;
Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.

It seems as if “one-ness” is not only an important ingredient in “Body-life.” It may actually be the central issue. Please, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read thru the passage as a whole (Phil 1:27-2:18). And do so slowly, taking in the theme of unity. Realize a few things that may be missed in the NIV.

  1. All pronouns are plural; no exceptions.
  2. Note the call to thinking alike (i.e., thinking like Jesus not like humans; it occurs three times in 2:2-5).
  3. Also note how this reaches a climax, not in the example to be like Jesus in 2:5-11 but this is the result if we follow the model of Jesus:
    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Again, do not be surprised that “your salvation” is plural and that the verb is present tense (do this continually). Do not misunderstand what Paul is saying. This is not a works-righteousness theology. Far from it. We are saved by grace thru faith. But here, Paul is telling us that we will exercise and strengthen our salvation muscles as we do so corporately. We need one another in this world, and in the next! He is also telling you that your salvation is not a private party. He wants us to know that this is a global celebration. For that is the way things are in heaven. Do you not want our citizenship here on earth to model life in heaven?

And it appears as if this only comes thru Pentecost; the one-ness that comes thru the Spirit.
Wow, Pentecost Sunday...May 11, I can hardly wait.
Come Lord Jesus, Come.

Now, Go With God.

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