Speaking Jesus with Charity (3)
“I just want to speak the name of Jesus Over every heart and every mind Cause I know there is peace within your presence I speak Jesus” (Charity Gayle.com).
Charity Gayle challenges Pentecostals to “speak the name of Jesus” in a new context, the twenty-first century. The church must “speak the name of Jesus” to children of the Enlightenment. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal written by Ivy Young, young Americans have a God-shaped hole in their lives they are earnestly trying to fill. Forsaking traditional institutional religion and Holy Scripture, they turn to political ideologies and social media to find meaning and discover their identity. These Young Americans have lost the biblical story of a God who creates humankind in his image and likeness for intimate fellowship with him and remains faithful to his purpose amid human sin and rebellion. They do not know the God who becomes incarnate in Jesus to provide forgiveness, bring salvation and establish his kingdom forever. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God recreates humankind in the image of Christ, bestows their true identity as sons and daughters of God, and gives meaning to life. Only Jesus and a biblical worldview can fill the God-shaped hole in the lives of children of the Enlightenment.
Speaking Jesus to children of the Enlightenment requires retelling the biblical story of God, humankind, and salvation. To be more explicit, it necessitates a renewed emphasis on Holy Scripture as the authoritative Word of God made living, active, and powerful by the Holy Spirit. The proclamation of the Gospel, the biblical story, becomes real, reaches human hearts, and transforms lives by the Holy Spirit!
Retelling the biblical story and proclaiming the Gospel transcends two common Pentecostal views. Following an Enlightenment modernist hermeneutic, Pentecostals often champion a rationalistic apologetic in presenting the Gospel. Holy Scripture is a quarry from which to mine facts to prove the truth of the Christian faith following methods found in science, history, and philosophy. Pentecostals assemble “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” and are confident faith and conversion will result. These apostles of reason forget the teaching of Jesus that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17, NRSV). The things of God are hidden “from the wise and intelligent” and revealed to those with childlike faith (Matt. 11:25). Paul is emphatic about the nature of his proclamation of the Gospel. “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5). Pastor Paul understood that anchoring faith in human wisdom rather than the Gospel results in a faith continually challenged by changes in human understanding. Science, history, and philosophy become the final arbiter of truth replacing the Word of God found in Holy Scripture.
Proclaiming the biblical story also transcends an excessive emphasis on charismatic gifts. Our Pentecostal forbears correctly discerned that the early Christian church in Acts continued the ministry of Jesus with signs, wonders, miracles, and spiritual gifts. Receiving the “latter rain” gift of the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century signaled the church’s restoration in both faith and practice. Pentecostals experienced the God of the Bible who acts in human history in supernatural ways to accomplish his purposes and dethroned the deistic God of the Enlightenment. The biblical story continues in Pentecostal faith, life, and ministry as God’s Word is proclaimed with supernatural power and evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in the present age.
Paul encouraged the wise exercise of spiritual gifts and acknowledged deeds of power (1 Cor. 12:18). At the same time, he recognized all were not apostles, prophets, or teachers, and all do not work miracles or possess the gift of healing (1 Cor. 12:18). He directed the church to a more excellent way, the way of love (1 Cor. 13). The charismata, though valued, will one day pass away; only faith, hope, and love will abide (1 Cor. 13:13). For Jesus, the love of God and neighbor were the greatest commandments to be enacted in one’s life (Matt. 22:37-39)!
Pastor Paul was also wary of super Apostles. He did not boast of signs, wonders, miracles, or spiritual gifts. “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything” (Gal. 6:14-15)! For Paul, the new creation, the redeemed life brought by Christ, was everything! Being a new creation in Jesus Christ, not signs, wonders, miracles, or spiritual gifts, is the summit of the Christian life (1 Cor. 3:11). The biblical story is evidenced by the supernatural. Still, the supernatural always has one purpose, to bring about God’s new creation in the lives of humankind according to God’s Word by the Holy Spirit.
An emphasis on charismatic gifts prioritizing religious experiences reflects post-modern relativism that minimizes the foundational truths in Holy Scripture and champions individualism. Personal feelings and spiritual demonstrations become the basis for the certainty of one’s salvation, replacing the assurance received by faith in the person and work of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. An excessive emphasis upon charismatic gifts neglects the Gospel, the story of salvation, does not create a biblical worldview, and fails to form a Christian identity.
Speaking Jesus to children of the Enlightenment requires retelling the biblical story of God, humankind, and salvation. This story was Peter’s message on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). The coming of the Holy Spirit fulfills God’s promise (17). Jesus’ ministry attests to the realization of God’s plan of salvation (22,23). A descendent of David now sits upon the throne of God’s kingdom (30). The entire house of Israel should “know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (36). Peter calls all to repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and receiving the Holy Spirit in response to the Gospel, God’s story fulfilled in Jesus (38). “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him” (39). Peter proclaims God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit, guides his audience to a biblical worldview, and provides them with a new identity in Jesus Christ.
Paul encourages the church at Colossae to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” (Col. 3:16). When God’s Word dwells in us richly, it overflows in songs of praise that retell God’s story and celebrate the new creation brought by Jesus. Listen to the words of Charity Gayle’s song “A New Name Written Down in Glory.”
“I was lost in shame Could not get past my blame Until He called my name I’m so glad He changed me Darkness held me down But Jesus pulled me out And I’m no longer bound I’m so glad He changed me
See I’m now a new creation in Christ (Yeah) The old has gone, there’s new life I live by faith, not by sight
There is a new name written down in glory And it’s mine, yes, it’s mine I’ve met the Author of my story And He’s mine, yes, He’s mine.” (CharityGayle.com)
Speaking Jesus to children of the Enlightenment and filling the God-shaped hole in their lives requires proclaiming God’s Word, the Gospel, guiding them to meet the Author of their story by the power of the Holy Spirit, and receiving a biblical worldview and new identity.