The Christ-Filled Life

“When the holy day of Pentecost came 50 days after Passover, they were gathered together in one place,” – Acts 2:1, The Voice

Imagine waiting for the Holy Spirit. Can you envision what it would have been like, to watch as our Savior ascended into heaven promising to send His Helper? 50 days. It must have seemed like forever. The work was done! Jesus had not only paid the ultimate cost of sin on the Cross, but He had defeated death when He walked out of His tomb. With God’s kingdom seeming so close at hand, did those 50 days drag on and on?

We will not know this side of eternity, but the ending of Acts chapter one give us a clue: “Back in the city, they went to the room where they were staying—a second-floor room. This whole group devoted themselves to constant prayer with one accord…,” (1:13-14). This group did what is contrary to our nature: they waited. So often we rush to the finish. We see that, as the school year dwindles down, we are so near to the end that we can taste it. But, as with all things that are a part of God’s kingdom, we must not rush the Holy of Holies.

Why didn’t the Apostles run out and start evangelizing? Why weren’t they proclaiming the new kingdom of God, fulfilling the Lord’s prayer of “on earth as it is in heaven”? Because it was not their work to do! At least, not in the traditional sense.

We have the immense blessing of being a part of God’s coming kingdom here and now, but this is not something we do in our own strength. Think of Paul’s words to the Ephesian church, “Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us,” (3:20). Did you catch that? “the power at work in us…” Oh what a burden that has lifted! We don’t do God’s work on our own, but rather, as the Apostles before, we devote ourselves to God in prayer, and He will give us the strength to finish well.

This idea was said best by a teacher I once had: “Christ can do it, and He always said He would.” As we come to the end of the year, some of us moving on and some of us moving up, it is pertinent to remind ourselves that we serve a living God and it is only by His power that we accomplish anything. In order to be effective in this world, we must always be drawing on the only source of Water that gives life, and life abundantly.

May we live the life God has called us to, and may we always remember that we do so in His strength.

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Koinonia Blog Tour: A Theology of Luke and Acts

The good people over at Zondervan Academic have been working on a new series of textbooks called The Biblical Theology of the New Testament. The purpose is pretty straight-forward: cover every book of the New Testament by having various biblical scholars hash out the theology inherent in different groups of writings. I have the privilege of being part of a blog tour regarding the second book in the series, A Theology of Luke and Acts by Darrell L. Bock. Here’s a quick snippet to give you an introductory look:

What really sets this book apart from the other textbooks I’ve read regarding Luke, Acts, or the New Testament in general is the focus. Bock does spend some time on foundational issues like authorship, date and what-not. He also writes about Luke’s place in the canon of Scripture. But these are not the centerpiece of his work. The bulk of the text, “Part Two” of the three sections, is entirely devoted to the thematic theological elements of Luke and Acts. Curious about the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts? There’s a chapter for that. Women, Rome, Israel, the Gentiles, eschatology and the use of Scripture are some of the themes Bock deals with, and he does so with great clarity.

While written on the graduate level, I never felt like Bock was talking over my head. This level of writing is important to consider when examining the author’s treatment of introductory material. Bock does not bother investing in lengthy debates. He does, however, summarize them in order for the reader to better comprehend the idea that informs his perspective on Luke’s writings: Luke and Acts are two volumes of essentially one work.

Bock explains why this unified reading is so important to understanding Luke-Acts:

…we contend that Luke-Acts as well as Luke and Acts is intended to set forth the program of God as delivered through Jesus. The Christ was sent to bring the kingdom and Spirit to people of all nations who embraced his message of promise and deliverance. Jesus is the promised Messiah who also was vindicated by God to show he is Lord of all. So the kingdom message can go to all (p. 60).

This argument may not be unique in the great history of Christian theology, but it is offered with clarity and integrity in A Theology of Luke and Acts. Bock’s assessment is critical, in my opinion, to understanding how Christian’s today should respond to the kingdom of God. Because in order to respond and take part, we must first discover the kingdom. By reading Luke and Acts as Luke-Acts, and subsequently drawing upon the themes of both volumes, we see a kingdom that is robust, diverse and ecumenical.

All in all, Bock’s book is a worthwhile read. It may not be the kind of reading that every Christian enjoys, but the insights and breakdowns offered within the text are incredibly valuable for all Christians.

Other Alternatives

In my last post, I wrote about the contradictions inherent in Christian Capitalism. The post served as a critique of a system that, I believe, is a hindrance to God’s Kingdom being ushered in during this present age. I don’t mean this in any kind of apocalyptic sense, but rather in the sense that Jesus has begun ushering in His Kingdom with his life, death, and resurrection; resulting in our invitation to be participants in His reign in our present circumstances.

With that being said, it was brought to my attention that in my criticism of Capitalism, I offered no solution in return. This is partly due to that fact, as I have mentioned elsewhere, that my knowledge of economics (particularly global markets) is limited. I don’t think this disqualifies me from general criticism (after all, the Pilgrims certainly did not have a suitable alternative worked out prior to boarding the Mayflower), but it does limit my ability to offer corrective responses. As someone who studies theology and literature, I know where my constructive limits are.

However, there are a few things I would like to suggest.

1) All things should be shared, equally distributing what we have to make sure that everyone that we can take care is taken care of (Acts 4:31-33). I’m not opposed to Marxism (even if he didn’t understand God like one would wish). Unfortunately, I have yet to see someone correctly implement Marx’s philosophy. Thus far, all attempts turn into a wretched disfigured form of what Marx wrote (like the USSR, the DPRK, and the PRC). Still, I don’t think the principle is what is wrong, but rather humanity’s distortion of it.

2) Debts should be forgiven regularly, and without penalty in order to avoid abuses (Leviticus 25). This isn’t to say people shouldn’t pay what they owe, but rather this is to remove the oppression that debt maintains over so much of the world. While I hold that the current credit crises is a result of greedy materialism, a practice like the one in Leviticus would stem the tide to some degree.

3) The Kingdom of God must be understood as something that effects everyone in this life, here and now (Matthew 5, Matthew 13). We behave as though we must operate under the guise of “take what we can get,” but such a mindset is never promoted by Jesus, nor His disciples. Acting in this present life to bring God’s Kingdom to fruition today is a critical part to all of this. Reforming the system will never truly work, because we don’t need reformation. We need transformation.

Perhaps these tidbits are not a cohesive structure (yet) but they still offer what I view as a better system than the one we have at present.

How do we implement such things? On a global scale, I have no idea. But operations like Spilling Hope and Advent Conspiracy I think are on the right track. On a local scale, it is up to the local Church and the members who comprise it to bring these things to reality. On an individual scale, it’s simpler. Obey Jesus’ commands to love God, our neighbors, and other Christians. Pray the Lord’s prayer, and mean it when we ask God to complete His will on earth as it is in heaven.

How does that change Capitalism? It doesn’t. At least not at first. But by transforming the individual, we can transform the local community, and then, well, the world.

It’s not going to be easy. And it may not ever be completely fulfilled. But I would rather live for Jesus, sharing Him with those who are oppressed, poor, down-trodden, and marginalized, than worry about my mortgage, or buying that HD TV I really want.

It starts with Jesus. But He invites us into His reign. So let’s get started.