I had a nostalgic moment while filling up my gas tank the other day. I thought to myself, “Remember when gas was under two bucks a gallon?” Those were the days! But let’s face it, that was then and this is now. Those days are gone—long gone.
Nostalgia is that mindset that believes that the best days are past and wishing we could experience them again.
I am concerned that as disciples of Jesus we get nostalgic about the activity of God and in particular about the work of the Holy Spirit. Is it possible that the church has adopted a mindset that says that the best days and our best memories of the work of God in the church and world are behind us?
We read in our Bible that there were days when God’s Spirit moved powerfully in and through followers of Jesus—thousands were converted at one time, sick were healed, the spiritually oppressed were delivered and prophetic gifts were strengthening the church and giving foretastes of the future in the present. But let’s face it, that was then and this is now. Right?
This kind of nostalgia is common and I am convinced it is inappropriate.
Why? Because the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit continues to work in the here & now just like he did there & then.
The Holy Spirit continues to empower & edify God’s people to spread the fame of Jesus for the glory of God the Father just like he did in the 1st century.
Let me offer two reasons why you should believe this.
- The Example & Teaching of Jesus.
- The Example & Teaching of the 1st Century Church.
The Example & Teaching of Jesus.
Jesus is more than an example but he is not less than an example. Although Jesus is the redeemer of men, Jesus is also an example or prototype of redeemed humanity. As a man, Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to live the life we were created to live for the glory of God, but failed to live on account of our sinful rebellion. Jesus provides an example of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, loving our neighbor and making disciple of the nations—which includes proclaiming the gospel in word and demonstrating the power of the gospel in deed.
Another way to say it is that the life of Jesus gives us a pattern to trace today.
As the true and better Adam, Jesus shows us what it looks like to live as the people of God under the new covenant. In one sense, the life of Jesus, as recorded in the gospels, serves as a foretaste of the life that is offered to all who turn from their sins and enter God’s kingdom by trusting in the accomplishments of his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus is more than that, but I argue that he is not less than that.
In 1 Peter 2:21 the apostle says that Jesus has left us an example, so that we might follow in his steps.
Part of that example is that Jesus shows us what it looks like to live our lives for the glory of the Father but let’s not miss that another critical part of his example is to show us how. How can we live our lives and do what we have been redeemed to do for the glory of God the Father? The consistent answer that comes to the surface through the example of Jesus is by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus demonstrated how we desperately need the Holy Spirit for living the life and doing the mission of discipleship. Jesus shows us both the what & the how. The what is love God, love you neighbor and make disciples. The how is by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We can also add to that the why—for the glory of God the Father.
Luke’s gospel is where this is most apparent. Luke’s aim is to show how Jesus is not only the divine Son of God but that he is also the perfect man. Jesus is the 2nd Adam. He lived the life the first Adam did not live, passed the test the 1st Adam failed and died the death the first Adam deserved to die so that Adam’s race may turn to Him for forgiveness, deliverance, acceptance and a new life in Him. Jesus lived the life we could not live and he did that both for our justification and as an example for our transformation. Without diminishing his divinity—Luke is out to show how Jesus is the God-MAN.
To do this Luke makes the case that Jesus was not only sent by the Father but also empowered by the Holy Spirit. Luke reveals Jesus as one who was constantly enabled by the presence & power of the Holy Spirit.
It begins at his conception.
Jesus was Conceived & Born because of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:35 “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”
Jesus was Anointed by the Holy Spirit for Life & Mission.
Luke 3:22 “…and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus was Filled with & Led by the Holy Spirit.
Luke 4:1 “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness”
Jesus Begins His Public Teaching Ministry Empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Luke 4:14-15 “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in the synagogues, being glorified by all.”
Jesus was Empowered by the Holy Spirit to Advance the Gospel in Word & Deed.
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Isaiah 61:1-2)
Jesus Worshiped under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
The life of Jesus leaves a robust example of how his disciples need the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
By the example of Jesus we see a prototype of what it looks like for redeemed men & women to be born of the Spirit, anointed by the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit for word & deed mission (deeds of mercy & deeds of a miraculous nature), and influenced by the Spirit for worship. In all these ways Jesus provides an example of how we must relate to the Holy Spirit.
If we are going to love God, love our neighbor, and make disciples of the nations we must first be born of the Spirit then anointed by the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit for word & deed mission and influenced by the Spirit for worship.
Jesus is more than an example, but he is not less than an example.
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