Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Whoosh! Storying through Acts Week 1: The Guarantee

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. 

It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

  This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” 
- Romans 8:9-15 The Message

How old were you when you became a Christian?  I was six.  There were some things I understood at that age and some things I didn't get for a long time.  I understood that God loves me.  And I like to be loved.  And something in me loved him back.  I understood that God made the world.  And I liked the world he made.  So I did what others told me to do:  I asked God to live in my heart.  

How great is that?  The God who made the world loves me, and now he lives in my heart. I thought that I had just invited God into my life.  Now the God who made the universe was going to get to work on my agenda. And boy, did I have an agenda!  I was a very typical little American girl, raised on stories of "There once was a beautiful girl, and she had something she wanted.  And she got it.  And she lived happily ever after." I had lots of ideas about what happily ever after would look like.  Let's do this.

What it took me a long time to realize was:  I had not invited God into my life.  God had just invited me into his.  My story had just been pulled up into his long-term story, into his agenda.  And boy, does he have an agenda!

I was thinking about this lately because this week we begin Wednesday Bible study again, and this fall we are going to learn stories from Acts.  Last winter, we learned that we are deeply loved and pursued by the God who made all things, including us.  We were made for relationship with him, a relationship delivered at the hand of his son Jesus.  This is what Paul tells the Ephesians - people who were very concerned with love and fate:

 Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. 
- Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12 The Message

What is God's idea of "glorious living," exactly?  What does it look like?  Where will it take me?  How does it up-end my idea of glorious living?  Is the life God designed me for and offers me more special than the "special" I would go out and get for myself?  Those are the questions we will think about this fall as we continue to learn what this life with God looks like.

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.
-Ephesians 1:13-14 The Message

The Holy Spirit is the deposit of that life in us - that guarantee of that life forever.  The story of Pentecost makes us nervous, because the Holy Spirit makes us nervous.  Right off the bat, we are going to discover that a life powered and led by the Spirit is a whole different kind of special than we could ever have imagined or designed — or can control. But the Holy Spirit does not bring chaos;  he brings Purpose, with a capital P.   It's an adventure for sure, to be swept up into God's life, into his agenda.  Do we want that adventure?  

Let's find out.

Click here to listen to the story of the gift of the Spirit and download the Bible study.

Who will you tell this story to?

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