Brace yourself for a jolt. Pentecost is here and we’re diving into the lectionary text of Acts 2:1-21. We’re celebrating the core of God’s essence, which is spirit. Since humans are created in God’s image you are a precious spiritual being who enjoys connection to God, spirit-to-spirit.
Jesus promised that shortly after his departure from earth he would send God’s energetic, marvelous spirit. Jesus sent spiritual power because he didn’t want his followers to be powerless orphans in a fledgling new religion. A basic biblical message about God is that the Almighty comforts, guides and empowers believers. Realize this great truth as you demonstrate God’s presence, ideally through the witness of your life.
Strange things happened on that original Pentecost many centuries ago: flames of fire appeared above the assembled disciples; people spoke foreign languages without prior knowledge; and the astonished new believers were gathered together in a wonderful awakening. Peter, Jesus’ closest friend, stood up and explained that even greater things would happen, such as prophecies and diverse signs and wonders. What a scene!
Are you confused and perplexed about all the spirit talk and miraculous claims? If so, then you’re not alone. There is controversy over the nature, role and God’s spiritual presence. Christians are divided more than ever about the issues. Some argue that you can and should expect the same miracles as described during Pentecost in Acts. Such a belief assumes that God’s Spirit is ready and able to do the same types of miracles in today’s church as what happened in ancient times.
An opposing view about God’s wonder-working spirit suggests that the age of God doing public, fantastic miracles is long over, and that God uses other, often more subtle or creative means to equip and empower believers. The claim is that conditions were very different long ago and God doesn’t need parlor tricks in modernity to energize the church. The danger in this belief is that it ignores or diminishes possibilities. On the other side, placing too much emphasis on the literal, specific miracles in Acts feeds an appetite for sideshow distractions.
There’s no easy solution to decide which side of the spirit debate is absolutely right. As usual, it’s likely not an either/or because there are insights in each position. A larger problem concerns how people on either side of the controversy perceive only what they want to see; contrary evidence is either ignored or dismissed. The same process of people trying to create their own facts has been occurring with increasing frequency outside the church, such as in secular politics. A lesson is that each person is entitled to his/her opinion but not to their own facts; alternative facts are false and not facts at all.
Unfortunately, divisive debate is commonplace in Christianity. How does anyone manage theological controversy without becoming either a fundamentalist or a relativist? The key is to focus on God’s love, which is the greatest force in the universe and the central point of Christian faith. Also, with a bit of consideration you might detect a balance between extremist positions regarding the role of God’s spirit. It’s worth the effort to engage spiritual issues without becoming hysterical or delusional on one side or skeptical and cynical on the other. Embracing God’s spirit doesn’t mean that you speak contrived nonsense—“tongues” or babble as it often manifests–but it does mean that you can embrace love for God and for one another, the heart of Jesus’ gospel.
It helps to accept the basic premise that God’s spirit is within you. It’s worth exploring the wondrous things that can happen when you open yourself to transformed attitudes and actions. Increase your understanding. Consider that you have access to almost unlimited power. What a waste when closed hearts and minds render people resistant to how God wants to bless them. Resist the temptation to ignore the possibility of spiritual gifts and power, which some people neglect or refuse to accept.
Your personal relationship with God exceeds any tradition or theology. To realize your potential as God’s child you can heed the prophetic voice and engage the path of spiritual maturity without blindly following others. Are you ready? Are you in a process of becoming a new you or are you so set in your ways that you are not open to the transformation to which God calls you?
As an awakened Christian you can choose to let God accomplish great works in your life. The challenge is to advance and keep your faith alive by claiming God’s promises. Your spirit can progress as you embrace the promise that God’s spirit will empower you. You are invited to set goals that promote God’s kingdom and that challenge you to become a more compassionate, loving person. Otherwise, you won’t gain much from just going through the motions of mere religion.
Resolve to do whatever you can to demonstrate that God is alive in you even if you need a spiritual makeover to help you become more receptive. Celebrate Pentecost by yearning for and embracing God’s spirit. Life-fulfilling joy awaits your positive decision.