Eastertide — Week 7

This is the seventh and final week of Eastertide. Fifty days of focusing on the truth, power and joy of Christ’s resurrection prepare us for Pentecost Sunday—the day we celebrate the reality that we are now the Body of Christ.

 

Monday, June 3

Read: John 15:18-21

Consider: In preparing his disciples for the days to come, Jesus told them a hard truth. He wanted them to understand what they were about to experience…

“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (15:20)

Jesus was frank that this persecution would be prompted by the world’s utter contempt — “hate” — for him and for them.

We struggle today to understand how these words apply to us. We are not shedding blood because we follow Jesus. We are not being imprisoned or watching our children go hungry because of our faith. So, many times American Christians begin to see persecution where it really doesn’t exist. Some Christians think they’re persecuted if people disagree with them or the government doesn’t place Christianity above other religions. Worse still, sometimes Christians cry “persecution” when they are simply receiving normal responses to their own obnoxious behavior. Peter warned us about that. He told us to rejoice in persecution, but he reminded us that there is nothing to rejoice about if we bring suffering on ourselves through sinful or obnoxious behavior (1 Peter 4).

So, what does it mean to be hated by the world? For us it means that the ethic of love—the essence of Jesus’ teachings and commands—is not the way of the world. When we love God, love our sisters and brothers, love our enemies and lay down our lives for that love, the world is convicted. The love of God that is manifested in his people is an affront to them.

(I must be honest, though. Many times, the ones who most hate seeing Christians love their enemies are other Christians who have taken on the values of our culture. Over the years I’ve received more negative responses from Christians who think I talk too much about love and acceptance than I have ever gotten from those who identify as atheists or agnostics.)

Jesus’ words on persecution were preceded by his command to “Love each other as I have loved you” and to do so by laying down our lives (John 15:12-17). Before Peter talked about the persecution to come, he encouraged us to never “repay evil with evil” and to “love each other deeply” (1 Peter 3:9, 4:8). It appears that Jesus and Peter were telling us to rejoice when we are ridiculed for loving like Jesus loves.

We may not be thrown into prison, but the purity of Jesus’ love is offensive to our world that sees coercion, force, power and violence as the means to victory. So, when we practice that love and strive to be like Jesus, we fall out of favor with our culture and with religious people who have been seduced by power and condemnation.

Jesus and the New Testament writers repeatedly encourage us to rejoice in this. When people think we love too much or forgive too much, when we find ourselves out of step with those who call for hatred, vitriol and retribution, we must realize that we have been given the beautiful opportunity to show the face of Christ to our world. Rejoice!

Pray: “Lord, help me to put aside my agendas and my need to be right. Rather than proclaiming how ‘right’ I am, help me be ‘righteous’ in that I strive to love like you love. And I will rejoice in the results, no matter how much pain there may be in the process.”

 

Tuesday, June 4

Read: John 16:5-7

Consider: Jesus continually stretched his disciples into new ways of seeing and thinking. His parables would often make them scratch their heads and wonder what this “kingdom of heaven” was all about. And, at times, his words were simply unbelievable. That must have been the state of his disciples—disbelief—when he told them, “It is for your good that I am going away” (16:7).

They had spent three years trying to learn what it meant to be like Jesus. They were trying to figure out how to walk with him and know him more intimately. And now it sounded like he was saying that their journey together had come to an end.

Of course, Jesus was not talking about an end, but a beginning. He was telling them that his departure in the flesh would mean the presence of his Spirit with them and in them (14:17). What could be greater than Christ living in us?

I’m sure that after Jesus left them (in the flesh) there were many times when they missed him. Like us, after we have lost someone we love, they must have longed to hear his voice again, to feel his arm around their shoulders, to see his face and to hear his laughter. They missed him and yet he was with them and in them.

That was a good position for them. And it is for us. We can long to see Jesus more clearly even while we see him and experience him in the present. We can grow in intimacy with him while we hunger to know him more.

It is good that Jesus is not with us in the flesh at this moment, because his Spirit is with us and in us. Someday we will have both—his indwelling Spirit and interaction with him in our resurrected bodies. So, for now, we rejoice and bask in his presence while we yearn for more.

Pray: “Lord, thank you for your presence. Throughout this day I long to see you in everything I do and in everyone I meet. May your presence be increasingly real to me as I walk with you on this amazing journey. Please increase my hunger for you.” 

 

Wednesday, June 5

Read: John 16:25-33

Consider: Jesus spoke these words hours before his arrest and crucifixion. “You will leave me all alone” he said. But that was not a statement of despair. He continued, “Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (16:32).

He had been explaining to them the reality of the Holy Spirit and the promise of his Spirit’s presence with them and in them. And throughout that evening he had been weaving a tapestry of truth that is almost too great to comprehend.

He had been teaching them that he is in the Father and the Father is in him, and that he is in us and we are in him (14:20). That’s staggering! Christ in us (meaning God in us) and us in Christ (meaning us in God). Or as Paul would later say it, “your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Jesus told them that great persecution was on the way, but that they would be victorious if they “remained” in him (15:4-12).

This concept of being “in Christ” is not simply beautiful poetic language. This is the reality of the work of Christ. The One who came in the flesh—the God-man—is the One who has the power to dwell where he wishes. And he wishes for his Spirit to dwell in us and for us to dwell in him.

No wonder he concluded this amazing teaching by saying…

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (16:33)

Pray: Thank the Lord for the reality of his presence in your life. Ask him to continually expand your understanding—today and for the rest of your journey—as to what it means for Christ to live in you and what it means for you to remain in him. (Remember, this understanding involves more than our intellect. We must understand in our spirits.) Allow this truth to fill this day with joy as you foster an intentional awareness of his presence.

 

Thursday, June 6

Read: Acts 2:1-13

Consider: As we read Luke’s account of Pentecost, the first image he gives us is that of the wind.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (2:1-2)

The wind, its characteristics, and its movement are used throughout the New Testament to describe the Spirit of God. Jesus used this imagery as he explained spiritual birth…

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

In fact, in the original language of the New Testament, there is one word—pneuma—that is translated “spirit,” “wind” and “breath.” Jesus personified the breath of God when, on one occasion, he “breathed on them (his disciples) and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22).

What are we to make of this? How is God’s Spirit like the wind? While there are various aspects of wind we could look at, one is obvious. Wind moves. In fact, movement is the essence of wind. If it didn’t move, it wouldn’t be wind.

God’s Spirit is dynamic. The Spirit of Christ moves in you and in me. The Holy Spirit moves in the community of faith—the Body of Christ—and is active, alive and moving in our world. Which means the Holy Spirit is not a “thing” that we possess. The Holy Spirit is God himself, living and moving in us. We are vessels and vehicles of the ever-moving God who is continually changing us, and through us, changing the world.

Pray: “Lord, I don’t want to look for a static relationship with you. I don’t want my religion to be simply a system of beliefs. I want to know the dynamic of your Spirit living and moving in me, in your people and in your world. I give myself to you. Move in me and through me.”

 

Friday, June 7

Read: Acts 2:1-4

Consider: Fire is the second image of Pentecost. Luke wrote that…

“They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” (2:3)

Our scriptures associate fire with purity—as in a refiner’s fire. The Old Testament prophets used this image.

“For he will be like a refiner's fire…. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have people who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord…” (Malachi 3:2-4)

“I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:9)

When we invite the power of the Holy Spirit into our lives, we must also submit ourselves to God’s refining fire. He doesn’t want to give power without purity. So, the wind of the Spirit coming into our lives is accompanied by the purification that the Lord wants to accomplish in each one of us individually, and in his people collectively.

I often encounter Christians who yearn to see miracles and healings—demonstrations of the power of the Holy Spirit. But the power we must long for is the power to live pure lives. You and I cannot live victorious lives of integrity—holy lives—without the power of the Holy Spirit. So, the first power we must yearn for is the power of the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts.

Be patient with yourself. God’s purifying work is not accomplished in a day. Throughout our lives he removes the dross—the junk—that sabotages our journeys with him. If we submit to his work in us, we can watch our motives, our aspirations, and the desires of our hearts change so that we may be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This process is often painful. As Richard Rohr likes to say, change comes from great pain or great love. And we will encounter both.

Rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s people. And rejoice that it includes you.

Pray: Here is a portion of a prayer we sing from time to time…

Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will
— Brian Doerksen

 

Saturday, June 8

Read: Acts 2:1-12

Consider: The third image of Pentecost was the proclamation of the good news in the language of “every nation under heaven” (2:5).

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” (2:5-6)

This was not a gift of unknown tongues. The disciples were speaking known languages that are listed in 2:9-11. Rather, this was a sign showing us that the gift is for everyone in every nation.

It also shows us that a natural result of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit is the proclamation of good news. As you read through the book of Acts, you’ll find that the disciples did not have to be coaxed or coerced into sharing the Jesus story. In fact, they said, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:20).

I need to ask myself, “How does my life proclaim good news today?” I may not do it like Peter did when he stood up to explain the coming of the Holy Spirit to the masses (2:14-40). I may never be able to adequately verbalize it. But if my life is filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit—if this wind is moving through my life—it will proclaim good news that is new and fresh to those with whom I come in contact.

Pray: “Lord, make my life a proclamation. May people see in me the work of your Spirit. May my life speak the language that my family, friends and acquaintances need to hear—the language of your love. Thank you for your presence.”

 

Sunday, June 9 — Pentecost Sunday

Today is Pentecost Sunday—the day that Christians around the world celebrate the birth of the Church. On the day of Pentecost (as recorded in Acts 2:1-41), God sent his Spirit into his people forming us into a new body—the Body of Christ.

Go to church today celebrating and thanking God for the Body of Christ. In the days ahead, seek to understand how you should love the Body and how you can strengthen the Body through your faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

Thank God that the Church of Jesus Christ has carried this message for two-thousand years and has passed it on to you.