Whitsun (2)

In the late 1960’s, there was a 'toothpaste war' going on in Britain, as various companies tried to capture a larger share of the market.
 
Most manufacturers got caught up in this 'war'. Each claimed that its own toothpaste did more than any other, to prevent dental decay. Each tried to produce more convincing advertisements, than the others.
 
Eventually the British Dental Association became involved. It stated that all such claims were invalid: because there was no brand of toothpaste that had an ingredient that actually prevented dental decay.
 
The 'toothpaste war' came to an abrupt end. But the McCleans company couldn't resist one last shot. It published an advertisement, which said:
 
‘As the British Dental Association has stated; no present toothpaste ingredient can, of itself, actually prevent dental decay. What we claim for our own brand is, that it does, supremely well, all that a good toothpaste can do – namely, to clean teeth’.
 
And that was how things remained for a while. Then a great change took place. A decay-preventing ingredient, fluoride, came on the market: and was added to most brands.
 
Toothpaste tubes began to have special labels printed on them, which read: 'Endorsed by the British Dental Association: which accepts that a properly-constituted fluoride toothpaste, helps prevent dental decay'.
 
What once seemed to be impossible; became possible, because of an additive, fluoride, which made all the difference.
 
There was a brief period, in the very early days of the Church, during which the disciples of Jesus could have published an advertisement similar to that of the McCleans company.
 
 
It could have read:  'No disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ has the power do what the Lord himself does. What we claim for ourselves is that we do as well as we can, all that good disciples can do - namely, to follow Christ, and observe what he does, and be prayerfully thankful'.
 
But all that soon changed, and remained changed! It is both the promise and the record of the New Testament; that what seemed impossible to those disciples, during that first brief period, became, and remains, possible.
 
To paraphrase the words of Jesus; his followers should bear this label:
 
'Endorsed by God the Father who, through his Son, and in the power of his own Holy Spirit, enables a properly-constituted Church to continue to do the works that Christ did; and to be as Christ to the world'.
 
To a large extent, the average church-attending Christian will not accept that this could be so, let alone that it should be so.
 
To an equally large extent; the Church of God; designed to be a healthy, functioning channel of God's love and power; fails in its commission.
 
It fails because it is, itself, suffering from spiritual decay.
 
And spiritual decay will continue to weaken God's people, so long as the 'additive' - the active ingredient of God's Holy Spirit - the power which prevents spiritual decay; is missing.
 
Almost always, God's power is missing, and remains missing, not because the Lord has changed his mind about the Church; or withdrawn his Spirit; but because so many people are unbelieving and unreceptive in the matter.
 
What we have not received from God, we do not possess.
 
What we do not possess; cannot do us the good that the Lord intended it to do; or be offered to the needy world; for its healing and redemption; as Christ commands.
Great numbers of churches do not possess the power of the Holy Spirit. For a church to speak as though it does; and then do nothing to remedy its situation; is to disregard Christ's commands and promises in the matter, and to be unaware of the spiritual decay that continues to erode its life.
 
Great numbers of churches do speak as though they possess the power of God's Holy Spirit, when, all the time, they don't.
 
To the Christians at Corinth, Paul wrote: ‘The Kingdom of God does not consist in talk; but in power’ (1.Cor.4: 20). In the Corinthian Church, at that time, there was a whole lot of talk going on; but there was not much to distinguish them, as being men called by God the Father; given place and purpose by Christ; and empowered by the Holy Spirit; to undertake works of power, of the sort that Jesus did.
 
Christ said: ‘Without me, you can do nothing’ (John 15: 5}. All true Christians believe that word; but, sadly, far too many of them, content themselves with the ‘safer’ aspects of the Lord's teaching, and leave things at that.
 
Comparatively few actually take hold of the positive aspect of that teaching, and ask the Lord to fill them with the Holy Spirit; so that they can do all that Christ commissions them to do - in actual power; in his name.
 
Immediately before his Ascension, Jesus said: ‘Behold. I will send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24: 48-51).
 
Many Christians use Christ's ‘wait in the city’, instruction, as their reason for not having been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. ‘We are still waiting’, they say; ignoring the fact that the Lord's command related to a brief, one-off wait, lasting until the first Pentecost; from which event, there need be no more waiting.
 
Christ's specific giving-of-the-Spirit promise; was fulfilled at Pentecost. We read that ‘they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2: 1a-4a).
 
Not just a few of them; here and there; but all of them; the whole, gathered-together body of Christ's followers.
 
The power of God's Spirit was manifested in many ways, from that moment on. No Christian named in the ‘Acts of the Apostles’, was without the enabling power of God himself.
 
All of them received; possessed; manifested, and ministered, spiritual gifts; within the Body of the Church (for its own needs) and, through the Church, reached out in power and blessing, to the world all around.
 
The 'Spiritual Gifts' of God stood, and still stand, quite distinct from the 'leading into all truth' work of the Holy Spirit.
 
For 'leading into all truth', stands in relation to salvation in Christ, and him alone: whereas the Pentecostal 'gifts of the Spirit' stand in relation to serving the needs of the Church and the world; and to receiving the power to do so effectively.
 
In the Early Church, the receiving of the Holy Spirit was a natural part of the believer's developing life of faith, work and witness: but that cannot be said of today's Christians.
 
The developing and effective Christian life: is an ongoing process of believing and receiving: of becoming and being.
 
However; very often; perhaps without realizing it; we halt the process; stop the development, and make no further progress along this ‘Way of the Spirit’.
 
Many people who are ill: give up taking the medicine when they begin to feel better. They don't complete what the doctor asked them to do; and, therefore, fail to receive the full benefit of the medicine's power.
 
Much the same applies to Christians who do not progress, or develop, beyond believing that salvation is in Christ alone; and, in their own way, receiving Jesus into their lives.
 
Such Christians believe that, for them at least, the process is completed. Therefore, they don't expect anything further; do not undertake what Christ commanded them to do; and fail to receive, and share, the full benefit of the Spirit's power.
 
Ask the average Christian what the Church's main functions are; and they are likely to talk about worshipping God, and, perhaps, say something about outreach.
Almost all of the worship of God: consists in words, and in talk. In the readings and prayers; in the sermon and hymns; it's words; words; words!
Most churches talk a lot about outreach; but very seldom undertake it. Meetings and talk, about a particular desirable object, are no substitute for the object itself. Mere talk cannot make a church effective.
 
The church that has not received, does not possess; and, therefore, cannot manifest and minister; the power of God. If it tries to persuade itself otherwise, it deceives itself.
 
It may deceive itself; but it cannot begin deceive God; or the needy world all around: which then begins to look elsewhere, for effective help.
 
Spiritual needs require spiritual power to meet them,
 
‘The kingdom of God, does not consist in talk, but in power’.
 
God may be saying to us: ‘You've talked long enough’.
 
 
                                                                                 Amen.