[Yesterday was the first time I had blogged here in a while – WordPress had also changed the publishing of new blogs was done in a weird blocks format. But I’ve been able to get it back to classic post mode so hopefully it’ll be easier to read the posts and their formatting! Day 2 is here, workshops begin today, so there will be plenty to write about. Follow along and let us know in the comments if you’re reading!]
Morning Talk 2 | Isaiah 11, 42, 61; Luke 3:22, 4:18-21, 4:43-44 | The Messiah-Anointing Spirit | Tony Rowbotham
Stuck on selfie mode
One of the funny things that sometimes happens with our phone cameras is that they get stuck in ‘selfie mode’. And often misunderstandings about the Holy Spirit are caused by us being stuck in theological selfie mode. It’s easy to understand how we get stuck there – Jesus puts his Spirit in us, he changes us, we become more like the Son of God. So there can be a sense that the Spirit is about us.
But today we’re going to be switching back to ‘normal mode’.
Isaiah 6:8-13 – Isaiah’s Ministry
Isaiah’s commissioning is in this passage. He puts his hand up for God’s mission – but the mission that God gives him is strange: preach to harden the hearts of your hearers. Isaiah’s ministry is to close people down – to help them hear and not get it. Their hearts calloused, their eyes blind – he will preach for a negative outcome. Not because Isaiah is incompetent – but because God ordains this so.
So Isaiah rightly asks – how long will I keep doing this? God’s answer: until everything lies in ruin.
Isaiah 11:1-5 – The Spirited King
Isaiah’s ministry was to cut everything back to a stump – but now God will make that stump live, bear fruit, flourish. A branch will come, and bear fruit – and the Spirit of the Lord will be upon this shoot. It will be a king – a Davidic King – and God will be with him.
The Spirit will also pour out upon this King wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord (11:2) – he will not be like Saul, that King who disobeyed God. He will not be like David whose passions overcame him and disobeyed God. He will not be like Solomon who though he had wisdom was brought to ruin by his sin. This king will not be like those kings. This King will have God’s Spirit upon him in ways that no other King had before.
11:4-5 – this king will judge the earth, with righteousness. His words will slay the wicked. And he is doing this on behalf of the needy, the poor of the earth
Isaiah 42:1-7 – The Spirited Servant
Here is God’s servant – who receives rave reviews from God, God is delighted in this servant – God will put his Spirit upon him. Same spirit, different person. This servant doesn’t speak – the King in the previous passage speaks and floors people, but this servant will not speak.
Yet he will also bring justice through his actions. The way he does this is in verse 6 – God will be at work through Him to be a light to the nations. This servant will bring justice by being a covenant for the people. This comes to head in Isaiah 53 where the servant will take on the sins of the people – he will become the new covenant, the bond between God and the people. And it will be God’s Holy Spirit that will make him out and strengthen him for this task.
42:7 – he will become a light to the gentiles to open the eyes of the blind – the blind whose eyes were shut by Isaiah’s ministry, the servant will open the eyes of. He will undo the ministry of Isaiah – here is the future beyond the felled stump. Here we have the same spirit, the same goal.
Isaiah 61:1-3 – The Spirited Mission
God’s mission of proclamation – carried out by the Spirit and the Word – the good news proclaimed to the poor, the broken hearted, to comfort from sin.
In all of these passages we see that the Spirit of God is marking out His work through a King/Servant – to be a light to the gentiles – and marks out the timing of this for the future. This ministry of the Spirit is also not for everyone. It is for those who consider themselves poor in spirit, those who are humble before God and not for those who are proud in spirit. The ministry of the Spirit is not for those who think they do not need God – those who are self-sufficient and independent, but for the people who know they need God.
Luke 3:21-22 – ‘the Holy Spirit descended on him’
This moment in the gospels is significant and different. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove – not exactly sure what this would have looked like – but in God’s speech at this moment we find out that Jesus is the servant king that Isaiah was looking forward to. By the Spirit the servant and king are identified in the one person.
Luke 4:18-21 – ‘the Spirit of the Lord is on me’
Jesus reading out the Isaiah 61 passage we read before – Jesus is the servant that God is sending to proclaim good news to the poor in spirit. The mission of Jesus is laid out in these verses – how did Jesus know what his mission was to be? He read Isaiah!
Luke 4:42-44 – sent to proclaim
Jesus often leaves the sick and suffering people – not because he didn’t care for them, but because his primary mission was to proclaim his gospel of the Kingdom of God.
From selfie to Christ
One of the key works of the Holy Spirit is to identify the Christ. We need to move out of selfie mode to think that the Spirit was sent for me – and to see that the Spirit was sent for Christ. The Spirit here was sent to anoint the Christ, to strengthen Him and keep Him for that task to bind up the broken hearted and the poor in spirit. Those who are not proud, but humbled before the God of the universe.
This is one of the wonderful things about being an evangelical – which is a fancy long word for being gospel-people. The gospel is at the centre of how I think about the world and how I relate to God – only through the work of Jesus. To be evangelical is to understand the world through Christ. The Spirit here is being ‘evangelical’ – marking out Jesus and equipping him for the mission.
An observation from Tony – one of the main differences between evangelicals and Pentecostals is in their testimonies. In an evangelical testimony, people talk about Jesus (and how he gave his life for us and died in my place). There might be a story attached to that, but the goal of an evangelical testimony is to raise up Jesus. Pentecostal testimonies tend to focus on the power of a changed life – he’s done this in my life, taken me from this, and made me into this. Because the Pentecostal focus is on the Spirit’s work in me.
We all have that same problem – we all want to be about me.
[A helpful reorientation of our thinking about the Spirit and ourselves. The selfie/normal contrast is a great way of reflecting on whether we have a self-centered view of the Spirit’s ministry or a Christ-centred view. May we see the Spirit for who he truly is.]
Evening Talk 2 | John 14:15-15:17 | Abiding in Jesus: Love and Obedience | Paul Grimmond
1. The questions we have as we come to the text
i. Whatever you ask in my name I’ll do?
What’s up with this? At the beginning of our passage and the end of this passage is the incredible promise that Jesus will give you whatever you ask in his name – and that will involve bigger things than he has ever done.
What is Jesus saying here? And why is it that we sometimes feel like we’re missing out on it?
ii. If you obey me, my Father will send the Spirit
Again, in this passage there’s a sense that if you obey Jesus you’ll be fine – but is that the Christian gospel message? And yet Jesus says – love me and keep my commands/words and my Father will love him. You obey Jesus, Jesus will come and be with you, and everything will be great.
iii. What on earth is the fruit?
There are also some tough things being said about bearing fruit – and whatever the fruit is you’ll need to bear it otherwise you’ll be thrown out, and if you do bear fruit you’ll be pruned. So what is this fruit that shows you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to you?
2. Seeing the threads of the tapestry
And still, there is another problem when we come to this text. Jesus says so many things that seem to circle round and round that you get lost – like you’re looking at a tapestry and finding it hard to follow. There are so many ideas that bounce around.
The ideas that are at the beginning, middle, and end – promises (14:12, 27; 15:11, 15) and prayer (14:13, 15:7, 16)
The ideas woven through the passage – love and obey (14:15, 21, 23, 24, 31; 15:9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17).
Ideas that appear in the first half of the passage – the Spirit, the Helper
Ideas that appear in the second half – remaining, dwelling
[Gosh Paul is flying through this section! Best find the talk online to listen to it…]
3. How Christ dwells in us by his Spirit
The logic of this section is a little strange – Jesus has just said, ‘You know the Father through me…’ and then just said, ‘I’m going…’ – so how can we continue to know the Father when Jesus is about to go?! Answer: He will send his Holy Spirit.
14:18-20 – Jesus promises to not leave them as orphans. v16 speaks of Jesus sending the Holy Spirit, and yet in v18 he speaks of himself coming to you – so when the Spirit comes to dwell in you it’s not just the Spirit – but the Son and also the Father will be dwelling in you. The Trinity dwells within you.
Do you realise that the promise of Jesus is that when he goes he still comes to dwell within you? Alongside the Spirit and his Father. And that means you are never alone. At the worst moment in life, when people ridicule you, when you’re snubbed and depressed and feel all alone – the Triune God is with you. If God has made his home with you then he is here right now! What a great privilege… that we so easily forget.
14:25ff – some people are feelers and others are thinkers – and some people think that the Spirit is all about feelings – yet the passage here is saying that the Spirit’s role is to teach you all about Jesus as you hear His truth. The Spirit is not more present with you when you feel like he’s there – the Spirit is all there. He’s there to teach you all the truth in Christ and to understand all that Jesus has said. Be encouraged that genuine Spiritual Christianity is thinking Christianity – it is word based, truth-based, and will transform us to bring us deep joy. Know that you are not alone, especially when you feel alone – God is always there – by the ministry of the Spirit in your life the Son and Father are also with you.
4. The call to dwell in Christ
15:1ff – here Jesus flips it over – in the latter part of 14 he wants to show how He will dwell with us – and now he flips it and speaks of us dwelling with him. The words ‘dwell’ (chpt 14) and ‘abide’ (chpt 15) are the same word.
The central image of 15:1-8 is a vine. The way to thrive in the Christian life is to remain in Jesus. You don’t have to move, you don’t have to find something new – the one you came to in faith is the one you stay with.
15:9-10 repeat 14:21 – and show us what abiding in Jesus looks like: keeping Jesus’ commands.
We live in the most anti-authoritarian culture in history. We’ve been taught that education is about scepticism – don’t believe anything you’re taught and question everything. We are terrified of authority and being told what to do. And some of us might have codified that in our theology: that it’s all about grace and not works – so when we read that in scripture we caveat that away by saying we’re saved by grace. But Jesus is not afraid to tell us to listen and obey. To know Christ in person is to trust that what he says to us is good for you – even a word of obedience. It is for our joy, delight, and life.
So friends – what is it in God’s word that you are running away from? What command raises anxiety and shame?
Know this: Jesus loves you more than you know – and his love and forgiveness is great. Confess your sins to one another – ask God for forgiveness, and plead with God for transformation and change.
15:12ff – how are we going at loving one another? It is a rich beautiful truth that we get to share life with others in church – so how are we loving the people there? But this is tough – if you’re in the in-crowd, are we including the people on the fringes? We’ll need to leave the fun space and enter the hard space to do so. But Jesus did that when he came – he left the fun space and entered the hard space. Who is the person that needs encouragement, needs prayer, needs to be sat with. What will it mean for us to look at the people in our church instead of the people just next to us? Will you find the elderly person to get to know them?
If you find it hard to do these things, and struggle to put these commands into practice – go back to the promises of Jesus, and see their deep significance.
Why does Jesus say ‘whatever you ask in my name… I will do it’? Is this here to make you feel guilty when your prayers are unanswered? Has this been placed here to keep punching you in the nose to show you how faithless and godless you are because you can’t get your prayers answered?
The most important thing you can pray for are for things you cannot see. If you pray for a new car then you’ll be able to see it – but if you pray for forgiveness, for grace, for patience – these things are unseen. The things that are most precious and our deepest needs – all the things in here that Jesus tells us for godliness and grace – the promises that Jesus gives – if we pray for these things we will receive them.
How can we do more than Jesus? In the OT the great problem of God’s people is that they have hard hearts and cannot obey God. In the NT we are given new hearts, and can do things like obey God and know God in ways that are totally new compared to the old covenant. You have been raised spiritually from the dead, are made alive, and are given opportunities to bear fruit. You won’t do this perfectly – but you can always find forgiveness in Jesus.
[How great is that? My notes here have not done this talk justice – please find it online soon! But what a great reminder that all of Jesus’ words to us are for our good – even the hard words.]