Acts

The Danger of Mission Drift

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One of the greatest dangers facing the Church today is mission drift. It is not unique to the Church but it is especially devastating when it poisons the community of God’s people.

Mission drift is something every organization experiences; it’s slowing drifting from your core mission over a period of time and through a variety of circumstances. It leaves people asking the question, “How did we get here?” – and causes many people to abandon the organization because the reality is disconnected from the vision.

Consider the Church.

We began 2,000 years ago as a small group of people following a crucified (yet risen) Savior who ascended to be with the Father in heaven. It has morphed into a religious empire that spends millions of dollars on branding, marketing, and building campaigns while people around the world die without every hearing the name of Jesus. We have forgot the reason we exist; we have lost sight of our core mission.

Unfortunately, this was already happening BEFORE the Church officially started! After Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, he spent a period of 40 days teaching His disciples about the Kingdom of God. At the end of this time, they ask him this question –

“Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6)

Jesus, not impressed with their questions, offers them a sharp rebuke and correction –

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.(Acts 1:7)

They make two dangerously wrong assumptions:

1. They assumed the Kingdom of God correlates with their political interests. 
In the 1st century, the Jewish people were subjected to the sovereignty of the Roman Empire. As a result, many Jews were longing for the advent of the Savior. The reason many Jewish people rejected Jesus is because they expected the Savior to be a military king (following the example of David) who would overthrow Rome through force and set up a Jewish theocracy on earth. Instead they got Jesus – a crucified king who inaugurated the Kingdom of God through his unjust death by the very empire they expected him to overthrow.

Now that Jesus has risen from the dead, the disciples thought he was going to overthrow the Roman Empire and establish them as leaders of the great Jewish nation. They wrongly assumed that the Kingdom of God was the same thing as their kingdom in this world. We do the same thing when we seek to politicize the incredible message of the Gospel. When we wield our influence in the culture to wage a war on political ideologies rather than spiritual enemies, we are falling into the same trap.

The Church’s goal is not to make American great again. Our mission is to make Jesus famous and show how following Jesus supersedes the influence of every nation on earth. The day is coming when the United States of America – as well as every other nation – will only be a footnote in the pages of history. The only Kingdom that will last into eternity is the Kingdom of God. The same Kingdom that was established through the crucifixion of Jesus; not a 1st century cultural war.

2. They assumed they could know when the end of the world would be. 
The second assumption in their question is that the timing of the end was knowledge available to them. This belief still poisons many Christians groups (especially cults). I remember one specific example from an evangelist named Harold Camping who predicted the world was going to end on May 11th, 2011. His organization spent millions of dollars on billboards and marketing to get their message out.

Guess what – he was wrong (as was every false teacher that predicted the end of the world before him).

If you are the type of Christian who carries your end-time chart around, studies the significance of so-called blood moons, and tries to identify every world leader as the anti-Christ – you are focusing on the wrong thing. To paraphrase Jesus’ teaching – it’s none of your business. Instead, seek to witness to your co-workers, neighbors, and community that God’s love has been displayed to sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Do all of this from the power of the Holy Spirit; not the pseudo-power of your own wisdom.

If their assumptions are wrong, what exactly IS the mission of the church? Here’s what Jesus says in this same passage:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Jesus makes it clear – we are called to be Spirit-empowered witnesses to our community, our nation, and the entire world. A witness in a courtroom is simply a person who testifies about what he has seen, heard, or experienced as it relates to the case. Being a Spirit-empowered witness means we testify to the world about what we have seen, heard, or experienced in our time with Jesus. He does not send us into the world to win arguments – he sends us into the world to witness to the radical message of the Gospel.

Let’s put down our picket signs, end-time charts, and political bantering. Instead, join me in praying for the power of the Holy Spirit to give us an all-consuming passion to know Jesus and make Him known in every sphere of life.

 

 

What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

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This past Sunday we begin a brand new teaching series at Renovation Church through the Book of Acts. For the first message, I had the honor of teaching through Acts 1:1-8. In Acts 1:4-5, Jesus makes a remarkable promise to His disciples: “While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. ‘Which,’ he said, ‘you have heard me speak about; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.’

Jesus’ promise that they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” has sparked considerable controversy in the Christian church. Entire denominations have split – and been born – from differing interpretations of this promise. It is clear from the immediate context that the event Jesus has in mind is Pentecost which happens in Acts 2. Nevertheless, it is also an event that continues to happen to people today (which all Christians agree on).

So, what do Christians argue about?

Mainly, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit what happens at conversion when a person calls on Jesus for salvation? Or, is it a “second blessing” that is accompanied by a sign gift (such as speaking in tongues)?

In my experience, it seems that there is a deep divide in the church between those who faithfully teach the Scriptures and those who rely too much on spiritual experiences. Those who focus on accurately expositing the text tend to downplay the experiential role of the Holy Spirit and conclude that many of the miraculous gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era. Other Christians who emphasize the experiential aspect of the faith often veer from sound doctrine in their attempt to experience the miraculous.

What if both ways are wrong (and right)?

Let me explain.

First, we need to understand what the Bible means by “baptism.” This is the Greek work baptizo and it literally means to immerse. Picture for a moment the example of the Titanic. After striking the iceberg and when the ship was completely submerged under the water it was “baptized” in the literal sense of the word.

Keeping that in mind, when a person becomes a Christian, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the church in Corinth (who just happened to over-emphasize spiritual gifts) that no one can call Jesus Lord apart from the work of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). Therefore a person truly is “baptized” or “immersed” in the Holy Spirit at the point of conversion – the evidence is their new faith in Jesus.

Yet, I think Scripture also makes it clear that we should not only seek “second blessings” but third, fourth, fifth, and more! I get this understanding from Paul’s admonition to the believers in Ephesus not to get drunk off wine but instead to be “filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).” In the original language, this verb has the sense of “continue to be filled” with the Holy Spirit. If the word “baptism” means to be immersed, we could paraphrase Paul’s word accurately if we say that his command is that we should continually be baptized – immersed – filled – by the Holy Spirit in order to grow in spiritual maturity.

So, I agree with both the conservative Christians but also with the Pentecostals – but with one major caveat. This teaching becomes divisive because many Pentecostal churches teach that the sign of having the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues; therefore, if you do not speak in tongues you are not a truly “spiritual” Christian. Although I do believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit, a litmus test such as this one breeds self-righteousness and division.

It’s the same exact problem that plagued the church in Corinth. This is what Paul had to say about all of this –

1 Corinthians 12:29-30
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other tongues? Do all interpret? 

One Pentecostal teacher I listened to made the claim that Paul expects the answer to each of these questions to be “yes.” That’s simply a gross misinterpretation of Scripture. In the wider context of this verse, Paul is making the point that the Church is the Body of Christ and like the human body, we all have different gifts that must be used together for the glory of God. In other words, there is no one person who has all the gifts. You need the Church and the Church needs you.

If it’s not tongues, what is the evidence that a person has been baptized by the Holy Spirit? This is what Paul says – But the fruit (i.e. evidence) of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). The baptism of the Holy Spirit should transform your character to look more like Jesus – only then will you be able to faithfully use spiritual gifts to build up the Church. 

Finally, how do we pursue this baptism of the Holy Spirit? Do we need a special teacher with a so-called “anointing” to lay his hands on us to transfer the Spirit to us like it’s a super power?

No.

We are baptized – immersed – in the Holy Spirit when we faithfully practice spiritual disciplines such as studying Scripture, gathering with your church community, remaining persistent in prayer, and partaking of the sacraments (such as communion). The Father has graciously given us these “means of grace” that we might position ourselves in such a way that we are transformed by the Holy Spirit rather than the spirit of this age.


What have you been taught about the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Do you find this helpful? What are some other questions you still have? Let me know by leaving a comment!

P.S. – If you want to watch the full message from this past Sunday, you can watch it below: