Every Sunday night since Easter Sunday, my family and I have been watching the 12-week TV miniseries “AD: The Bible Continues.” It is based upon the biblical Book of Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament, and upon the accounts of ancient historians from that same time period.
Recently, this dramatic miniseries has been covering the events of Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was given to the Church of Yeshua/Jesus our Lord. It was the birthday of the Christian Church, the day when the followers of Jesus truly became his Body in the world after being filled with his Holy Spirit. On the Jewish festival of the harvest, called Pentecost, the Apostles of Jesus and all the believers in Jesus received the great gift of the Holy Spirit of God, just as the following Bible quotes explain:
In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
2 CORINTHIANS 1:20-22
For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.”
When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The simple gospel truth is that, on our own, we are utterly spiritually bankrupt, being captive to sin and death. In and of ourselves, we have insufficient funds to pay the ransom to redeem us from our sinfulness and our mortality. But thanks be to God for our victorious Savior, Jesus, who has offered the most valuable substance in the universe to ransom us and redeem us from our bondage to sin and death. And this most valuable substance in the universe is his own life-blood. In sacrificial love, the only begotten Son of God ransomed, redeemed and liberated us from our captivity by his own most precious blood.
We have been rescued and saved from our spiritual bankruptcy and mortal enslavement, and the resurrection of Jesus is our receipt for this — and it is marked Paid In Full. Yes, the Resurrection is our receipt, and the Holy Spirit within us is our “first installment” of this most precious transaction (2 Cor. 1:22).
Therefore, by the grace of God in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are the Body of Christ in the world. We are his Body (his hands, feet and voice) in the world, inspired by the Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus Christ and to engage in charitable service for the sake of the world. And we are inspired by the gift of the Holy Spirit within us to encourage and equip one another for this life of Christian discipleship in the name of Jesus our Savior and Lord.
As in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the encourager, in encouraging; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, and serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Over the past several months our congregational leadership has been rediscovering and better utilizing our Time & Talents booklets. And, as a result, we have been rediscovering the spiritual giftedness of our congregation. The truth is that we are much more gifted than we often think we are.
So, by the grace of God given to me, let me offer this word of encouragement to the whole Body of Christ at Adoration ELCA: We are braver than we believe and stronger than we seem (from Christopher Robin to his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood).
Christ is risen! Jesus is Lord! Thanks be to God!
By God’s Spirit, Pastor Tim