The promise of the Holy Spirit

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39, NIV).

A commenter on a recent post reminded me of Acts 2:38.

It gave me some thoughts from a pastoral perspective.

Most of the men, women, and children in the two churches I serve have been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter says that means they have received the Holy Spirit. The promise has been given to them, young and old, child and adult. Yes, even infants. The gift has been given.

Which means it is in there still. Like an ember smoldering, it is there, waiting to be stoked into a flame.

It is there in the members of the church who seem the most cold. It is there in the ones who seem to go out of their way to give Jesus a bad name. It is there in the ones who seem to have been so battered and bruised. It is there in the ones who seem on the outside like they have everything under control. It is there in the ones who bear the burden of keeping the church door open every Sunday.

The gift has been given, the Holy Spirit, waiting and working by slow degrees, ready to blaze forth.

Lord, put in my hands the bellows to blow those embers into flame.



Back pain as a spiritual discipline

On Sunday, I preached about healing.

This morning I hurt my back. I’m not sure exactly what I did, but I suddenly found it painful to stand up or sit down and walking was not a lot of fun. Keep me away from stairs, please. Fortunately, most of my day was sitting in chairs talking with students about their writing.

The day and my relatively minor pains gave me a little glimpse of what many people deal with every day.

For a while, I prayed to God for healing and a removal of the pain. And then I prayed that my eyes and mind and heart be opened by my pain. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to teach me what God wants to me to learn from this.

I am not sure what I have learned so far. I am a slow learner.

I’m not saying I have any special spiritual insight. But I am trying to learn how the Spirit uses my life.

He breaks the power of canceled sin

Kevin Watson has an interesting post responding to Rachel Held Evans’ argument that we cannot overcome sin.

Watson argues that the Wesleyan teaching of holiness is often rejected precisely because people are persuaded by arguments such as Evans’. The point Wesleyan Christians have made consistently is that we cannot overcome sin, but that Christ can. If we are growing in holiness by working out our salvation, the Holy Spirit does, in fact, have the power to overcome sin. It is along journey for many, but it is not impossible for God.

In response to Evans’ claim that sin is inevitable, Watson writes:

This is not the fullness of the gospel. The gospel proclaims that Jesus was the Son of God, he was crucified, died, and raised again on the third day. Jesus faced the very worse that sin and death could do. He entered fully into the reality of death. And he conquered sin, even the grave!

Which leads to his strong statement about God’s grace:

Here is what it comes down to: Which do you believe is more powerful: sin or God? If you believe that people are not able to “go and sin no more,” then you believe that sin is more powerful than God. If you believe that God is more powerful than sin, which I think is the conclusion Christians must come to, then you may need to take a closer look at the reflexive excusing of the reality of sin in the lives of those who have taken on the name of Christ that is prevalent in contemporary American Christianity.