18 June 2011

Together in one place

Last Sunday I was blessed to be asked to share what God has placed on my heart, and to lead in the Prayer for the World that is at the core of Global Day of Prayer each Pentecost Sunday.  Here, then, though longer than my usual blog post, are my sermon notes:

I am always awed at the timing of Global Day of Prayer. It is not by accident that the organizers chose Pentecost Sunday. It is as if every participant, from all corners of the world are gathered together in upper room, waiting, as Jesus commanded:

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 NKJV

As I have been preparing to speak, The Lord has been revealing some similarities between 2 Chronicles 7 in the Old Testament and Acts 2 in the New Testament. We step into 2 Chronicles to find that Solomon has completed the building of the temple and holds a special time of offerings and prayer to consecrate it to the Lord.  We read:

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 2 Chronicles 7:1-2 NIV

It is after this, that we find the key scripture for many who dedicate themselves to the Lord and to prayer:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 NIV

So here we find the people of God, gathered together, in one place, the new temple, offering prayers and sacrifices, and God comes in fire, His glory fills the temple ---  Suddenly, the account of what happened in New Testament times doesn’t seem so strange.  We already read Acts 1:4-5 where Jesus commanded the disciples to wait for the Father’s promise, and they did as He asked.  To begin the next chapter we read:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
 Acts 2:1-4 NIV

So, here again, the people of God were united, devoting themselves to prayer and God showed up in power. He didn’t send His Holy Spirit just to tickle them, just to create a big show, just to tantalize emotions. He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within His own so they would be empowered to change the world around them. He asks no less from us today.

There’s something key about being united as one, devoted not simply as individuals, but as a body of believers.  There were no denominations in the days of the early church. There were simply people who believed in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, those willing to dedicate themselves to living as He had taught.

I don’t know what God has in store for His Church (big C) and our churches – perhaps we are to return to the practices of the early church in the days following Pentecost. We are told: 

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 NIV

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved – isn’t that the desire of our hearts? And if it isn’t – shouldn’t it be?

Somehow, we have made things much more complicated than I believe our Lord intended. We build doctrines and theologies and look for those who will agree exactly with what we perceive as truth. Jesus asks us to believe that He came from the Father, become one with Him and each other, and share that truth with others.

Jesus prayed for us. Before He gave up His life He spoke the words to His Father:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23 NIV

It’s time for us to return to the simplicity of what Jesus asked. Its time for us to become the body He was broken for. Its time for us to become the bride He longs to return for. Jesus commanded us:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35 NIV

United in mind and spirit, may the world look upon us and know that we belong to Him so that more and more and more will come to a saving knowledge of His love and grace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this truth. This is powerful when we understand. Being all together in one place was more than just physical location. It was in every facet! Good word, Karin. Thank you!

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