August 14, 2018
The Age of the Spirit
as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
As is often the case with the Daily Text, once I’m into it a bit, a pattern or approach will emerge. I think I’m going to make this season one long numbered list of learnings about the ways and work of the Holy Spirit; from the first century to the twenty first century. We will see how it goes.
4. Isaiah? Yes! The Holy Spirit is weaving a very long, complex and intricate plot-line. It runs all the way from the original Creation to the final consummation of the New Creation. Think Adam to Abraham, Eve to Elijah, Isaac to Isaiah, Sarah to Solomon, and on we could go. The Gospel comes in the way the Holy Spirit has invited us to enter this story through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and made the invitation effective on the Day of Pentecost. We must become lifelong students of this story– not as outside observers but as inside players. This is an inter-generational story and this is our chapter. Isaiah? Yes!
5. The Word of God comes in the wilderness. Ever since the exile from Eden that’s been the story. No matter how much we try to dress it up and make ourselves at home, with nice cars and fancy restaurants, and highly edited Facebook lives, underneath it all is a fallen world. It often takes a stripping away of such accouterments to realize this. Sometimes fasting can help “prepare the way” for such a realization. The Spirit of God creates the conditions that make for the prerequisite path of holy discontent. No matter how “ok” things may appear to be, they are not ok. Great awakenings happen when people begin to respond to the Spirit’s movement to “make a straight path,” to do something different; to interrupt the patterns of so-called prosperity.
6. What is a baptism of repentance? It signals a clean slate, a fresh start, a new beginning. It is a decisive marking of a moment that holds the possibility of a new movement in one’s life. To repent means, in the words of my friend Brian Russell, to “realign” one’s life with a bigger story; a better one. It means re-aiming and re-calibration and it leads to re-newing. For so many, this isn’t the repentance that comes before deciding to follow Jesus but the repentance that comes after such a decision; often long after. It’s when “holy discontent” becomes an awareness of our own brokenness and how that has broken others. It happens when we start getting honest with ourselves, with God and with others. That’s what confession means.
7. The Holy Spirit is not about creating cool environments for crafty religious experiences. The Holy Spirit creates corporate, collective, and even generational movement. Deeply personal? Yes. Profoundly communal? Yes. When enough of God’s people reach the threshold of honesty about their holy discontent, movement begins to happen. Historians call it “revival.” Look at today’s text—already, only five verses in, people are coming in droves to hear the Word of God in the wilderness. Revival begins not so much with lost sinners as it begins with saved sinners whose salvation has grown cold. True revival, given a wide berth, always holds the possibility of spilling into the broader culture. This is the stuff of awakenings.
8. The Holy Spirit works through unlikely characters. At times they can be quite unusual. From coats made of camel hair to a little pentecostal craziness at times—be discerning, but err on the side of making room for John the Baptist types. They often play a “forerunning” role only a person like them would, or even could, play. It may require some of us shedding some of our dignified religious sophistication if we are to play our roles.
Our Father in Heaven, thank you for the baptism of repentance. I need a new kind of repentance in my life, a deeper kind. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Realign and reorder my innermost self in the truth and way of Jesus. In Jesus name, Amen.
Remember and reflect on a way the Holy Spirit has inspired repentance and realignment in your life. How might that be happening now?
For the Awakening,
P. S. Our most recent series on Prayer will be released in book format in Spring of 2019. For The Daily Text Faithful (that would be you), I am offering the book (as many as you want) at 50% off through midnight Friday. Please order here. I appreciate it.