Disruption, Inclusion & Pentecost

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover He was greeted by crowds singing His praise, seemingly recognizing Him to be sent of God. But Jesus came with an agenda for more than mere festivities. He went straight into the Temple and began to deliberately make a big scene. No doubt this was premeditated.

As Jesus entered the outer court, He took it upon Himself to start aggressively flipping the tables of the businessmen who were selling livestock there. He also took the time to fashion a whip, with which He proceeded to drive out the animals that were being sold. He shouted about how unfair it was that their business was occupying this space, quoting from Isaiah 56:7…“For My house will be called a house of prayer for ALL nations.” This was a holy, staged disruption. It was a demonstration, if you will.

Scholars say these businessmen were selling their goods in “the Court of the Gentiles” — the one place non-majority culture worshippers could come and serve the Lord. The Jews at that time had the whole Temple set up exclusively for their worship privileges, but God had intended His home to be welcoming to every ethnic group. And the marginal space that religious leadership had segregated for these minorities to worship in was now being filled with Jewish commerce instead.

Our Lord was not merely demanding that He be loved more than financial profit was loved. In one sense He already had the adoration of the masses. He was also taking a stand to dignify and make room for everyone in the house of God. And He was not afraid of offending His fans in the process.

Later in Scripture, after Christ’s ascension, the Holy Spirit was poured out in Jerusalem. The Spirit came with what is described as sounding like a “mighty rushing wind” — the winds of change. Suddenly those gathered to worship began to supernaturally speak in a wide variety of tongues, miraculously praising God in languages that all the outside foreigners understood. Again, the Lord had set the scene for holy chaos… a disruptive sign and wonder. In doing so, He was affirming that “all nations” were to be included in His worship. Or as the prophet Joel had said, God’s Presence was coming upon “all flesh.”

Our Lord is not an apathetic person. Jesus came moved with compassion, flinging open the doors for all people to enter His Kingdom. And then He came once more in Spirit, standing in solidarity with the diverse spectrum of humanity. Again, He did not mind whether or not His methods made everyone comfortable.

Today on Pentecost (May 31st), we celebrate that great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the launching of the global Jesus movement. This movement is for the inclusion of all in God’s family — as many as will come. We are now the international temple of God’s Spirit.

I want to encourage those of you who are working to live in a way that is socially conscious. Take some time today to honor the occasion in the midst of this painful moment for our world. Remember the Presence that was poured out for you to access. Be filled afresh with the comfort that only His manifest nearness can bring. Encounter the living God, listen to His still-small-voice and let Him re-energize your heart. We can’t continue His ministry without continually drawing afresh from our Source. And in Christ, the Spirit’s wild, demonstrable, refreshing, empowering touch is freely available to us all.

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The Next Reformation

There are so many voices right now vying for the future of the Church. I feel like everyone with any kind of big-picture vision for Christianity is picking up on the fact that we are on the cusp of a major reformation, akin to the one that took place 500 years ago in Luther’s day. There are a whole host of ideas about what exactly this reformation will look like, all competing to be the dominant re-definition of our Faith.

As I see it, much of this competition for our future is the because the Lord Himself is working aggressively to move us into a new place. While in Cairo, Egypt in September of 1982, Mike Bickle heard the audible voice of the Lord tell him, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.” God has it on His own agenda to bring massive transformation (in a very short amount of time) to His Church and the way she proclaims His Gospel.

Mike Bickle heard the audible voice of the Lord tell him, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.”

There may be many reformation movements burgeoning in the earth today, but the one that the Lord Himself is initiating has yet to come into full manifestation. Every element of the current reformation movements that is in line with God’s agenda will contribute to this new Reformation. Much of what we are now calling reformation though will eventually prove to be counterfeit and lose its fanfare.

As a student of theology, I am of course very opinionated myself about where we are headed. The following are three traits that I see as defining this reformed, budding version of True Christianity:

A New Identity: The last great Reformation corrected the idea that we can be justified by our works, rather than by the grace of God alone. However, Protestants continued to teach the false notion that believers carry a sinful nature which has to be suppressed or killed off progressively as one goes through a life-long process of sanctification.

In this new reformation, we will see that Christ has not only justified us in God’s sight, but He has sanctified us too. Hebrews 10:10 says, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Verse 14 goes on to say that “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

This is not to say that we do everything right as Christians. Not is it to say we have no room for growth and maturity. It is to say though that our identity is not defined by what we do wrong. Our identity is defined purely by what God says about us, and that will never change.

As this new Reformation grows, Christians will come into greater agreement that we are presently “dead to sin and alive to God” (Romans 6:11). We will take more literally the fact that we are beloved children of God carrying His pure, divine nature (John 10:34). We are righteous and clean at the core of our being, and not merely in a legal sense.

As we are healed of our damaged self-image in light of these truths, we will also begin to see the radiance of God’s image hidden in all of humanity. The result will be an unprecedented new passion for evangelism and humanitarian work to redeem and protect that Imago Dei wherever it is found.

Experiential Revelation: The Protestant Reformation further brought to our attention the centrality of Holy Scripture in our worship. We came to recognize that the Bible carries a weight of authority that is unequaled by other sources when it comes to defining our theology and providing guidance to our lives.

The next reformation will stand on this foundation, but move us forward to recognize that we all have been brought into relationship with the Divine Word of God who is still speaking today. We will continue to weigh our ideas in light of the written Scripture, but we will also widely recognize our utter dependency on personal communication with Christ via His indwelling Spirit.

Charismatic experiences will no longer seem rare or optional for us. The whole Body of Christ will be operating in a dynamic, intimate relationship with the Presence of God. This will move prophetic worship, prayer and contemplative practices to the forefront of our corporate worship gatherings. Rich Bible teaching will continue (and continue to grow richer), but preeminence will be given to the hosting the manifest glory of God. “Bibliodolatry” will not keep us from mystical revelation any longer.

We will realize that the “priesthood of all believers” extends beyond us all having access to the Bible (which was a huge step forward in our progress in the past). We will all know our direct access to Jesus — who is Himself our living definition of perfect theology.

A “Gospel of the Kingdom” Mentality: Somehow the last Reformation left us in a place where believers were awaiting to experience God’s Kingdom when they died and went to Heaven. Very little of God’s will was ever expected to be actualized here on earth.

This new reformation will emphasize that Christ is already, presently the Risen King of Kings – and the scope of His Kingdom is unending. Truly “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

This is Good News, because it means God is already changing the way everything works in society. As N. T. Wright has brought to light in his newest book, the day Jesus died is “the day the revolution began.” The evil systems of this world have ever been coming undone in the wake of Christ’s Finished Work, and His victory over darkness will only continue to be enforced.

Believers will continually recognize and preach this reality more, and in the process repent of wanting to escape the world to experience Heaven’s bliss. We will instead make a better use of the time we have until Christ’s Second Coming, discovering endless creative outlets to reveal and release Heaven’s blessing. Together we will work to nurture abundant life and justice anywhere it seems to be presently lacking. No longer will our spirituality appear to be ethereal or impractical. Our message will carry weight and impact now wherever the Love of God is preached.

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