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  • Counting Jesuses and "Truths"

    My first Bible enjoys a prominent place on my bookshelf. It is visible upon entering my office and during numerous glances at my desktop computer and printer during the workday. It brings back many memories. I remember waiting with great anticipation for its arrival. Life in a small West Virginia city in the days before Amazon required patience. Upon receiving a recommendation from my pastor’s wife, I walked to the local stationary store to place an order. After selecting and paying for the perfect Bible, ten days of anxiousness began. When a phone call announced its arrival, I stopped everything to retrieve my prized possession quickly. The Bible was beautiful! A black leather binding enclosed its over fourteen hundred pages. It even bore my name embossed on the front cover. Opening my New Scofield Reference Bible, I was impressed. It contained the King James Version of Holy Scripture and copious notes to guide the reader to a proper understanding. Written initially by C. I. Scofield in 1909, a committee of scholars recently updated the notes. Surely the assembly of scholars could guide this fledging Pentecostal in understanding the Christian faith. After all, according to my pastor, Pentecostals were just Christians with a plus, that is, our Pentecostal doctrines. Over the next three months, I journeyed through the pages of my Bible, reading Scripture and its interpretation. To understand our “plus,” my pastor provided a short compendium of Pentecostal doctrines by Ralph Reynolds, Truth Shall Triumph. Its goal was to present the “propositions” of Bible truth in a simple, clear, and logical manner. The presentation of “truth” followed a consistent pattern: 1) statement of Scripture; 2) statement of truth; 3) exposition of truth, and 4) application of truth. The author was adamant; Truth Shall Triumph provided a sound foundation for “instruction and indoctrination” in the Pentecostal faith. Reading my New Scofield Reference Bible notes and Truth Shall Triumph provided the “lens” through which I viewed the Christian faith. My “lens” served me well until I attended a Pentecostal Bible College. It seemed some future Pentecostal ministers formed their faith by reading Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible notes and had not read Truth Shall Triumph for “indoctrination.” It was also apparent the teachings received from their Pastors provided a different understanding of the essentials of the Pentecostal faith. They understood the Christian faith and their “plus” in a radically different way. Raucous doctrinal debates filled classrooms and dormitories. Student preaching at daily chapel services provided an opportunity to express one’s Pentecostal doctrinal truths and unique Bible interpretations inspired by the “illumination” of the Spirit. College faculty were amiable referees, seeking to temper passions and not wishing to incur the wrath of pastors and denominational officials who entrusted the youth to their care. Only dynamic worship services focused on Jesus brought unity and love to the College community. As I entered the ministry, I became acutely aware that Pentecostal formation created a dichotomy in our faith. We possessed a passionate love for Jesus, expressed in worship, but gave this love a cold rationalistic expression in sermons. An overarching concern for communicating theological truths supplanted the gospel’s proclamation and presentation of the living and present Lord Jesus. The biblical narrative, the story of God, culminating in Jesus Christ, was eclipsed. Paul’s admonition questioned our praxis, “Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3, NRSV). Debating the theological truths presented by Scofield, Reynolds, Dake, or others is beyond this article’s scope. Its purpose is to examine the implications of the “truth” approach to the Christian faith in creating a dichotomy of faith, a passionate personal love of Jesus, partnered with a cold rationalistic orthodoxy. This dichotomy is very apparent in the churches I visit, Pentecostal and Evangelical. One of my favorite pastimes and one my wife likes least is counting Jesuses and “truths” during church services. The object is to discover how many times the pastor presents Jesus personally, in the context of the biblical narrative, and how many times doctrinal truths occur. Visiting a new church almost always prompts my wife to say, “You are not going to count today, are you?” I smile, with the understanding that she already knows the answer. I try my best to count silently, but sooner or later, a “truth” statement happens that prompts a whisper, “There you go!” I quickly receive an elbow nudge from my wife, reminding me that my silence is not only appreciated but required! It never ceases to amaze me how pastors feel the urgency to move beyond the biblical narrative in preaching. The unofficial results of my “counting” reveal the shrouding of Jesus in statements of doctrinal “truths” that serve not to engender faith in Jesus, lead to a personal encounter with the risen and present Jesus, and create a passionate love for Jesus, but to establish that the Jesus they believe in corresponds to the “truth.” With unbridled enthusiasm, they loosen their ship of faith from its gospel moorings and set sail on the turbulent seas of the world, confident their “truths” provide the only compass to guide the congregation to spiritual formation. But perhaps this 19th and 20th-century analogy is too tame. Let’s update it to the 21st century. With unbridled enthusiasm, they fuel up a SpaceX rocket, launch in a fiery burst, escape the biblical narrative’s gravitational pull, and boldly go into the heavens to receive intimate knowledge of God’s mysteries needed for the spiritual formation of earthlings (congregations). The “eclipse” of the biblical narrative removes all boundaries from preaching! The preaching of these pastors reflects the adoption of a propositional model of faith. They sincerely believe that propositions, declarative sentences, best present the truth of God’s revelation. The meanings found in the sentences point beyond themselves to universal truths. The propositions present “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). They are a sacred treasure of “sound teaching” in need of guarding (2 Tim. 2:13-14). Passing on the “deposit of faith” found in propositions to new generations is mission-critical for the church (1 Tim. 1:14; 2 Tim. 2:2). At its essence, faith is an assent to revealed truths, doctrine. Salvation requires the assent to doctrine. Preaching a sermon infused with doctrine is, therefore, justified and essential. These Pastors believe understanding will lead to faith. They forget that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life! However, Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism have deep roots in Pietism. Rodger Olson’s description of Pietism is appropriate here. Pietists stress a heartfelt experiential faith. Faith involves a “personal relationship to God expressed in a life lived according to the revealed will.” Pietists affirm the authority of Holy Scripture for their faith and life but go beyond Protestant Orthodoxy’s quest for doctrinal correctness to emphasize salvation as “the experience of inward transformation by the Holy Spirit through faith as the personal appropriation of God’s grace.” They view faith in an affective, heartfelt, and experiential way. Hearing a “propositional” sermon creates an inner tension between affections and knowledge, a dichotomy of faith. Avery Dulles summarizes the affective-experiential nature of faith. This understanding of faith emphasizes faith’s affective component and closely connects faith and experience. Faith is foremost a matter of the heart, the center of the human being. Christian faith is evocative of an overwhelming affection, love for Jesus Christ. Jesus is a demonstration of God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). This love is “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom.5:5). Through the gospel’s proclamation, believers experience Jesus, are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and begin a new life of devotion to Jesus, growing “in the grace and knowledge” of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (1Pet. 3:14). The encounter with Jesus joins head and heart and connects faith with experience. Faith results in a new disposition, orientation of the heart that controls all powers of human emotion, perception, will, and understanding. For the Pietist, only faith resulting from meeting Jesus leads to understanding. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life! Counting Jesuses and “truths” reflects the passion of a Pentecostal Pietist to see the Christian faith arise from the experience of Jesus. Only this experience can create a new disposition of the heart, resolve dichotomies of faith, and lead to salvation and spiritual growth. The passionate love for Jesus expressed in worship should find a similar expression in sermons. A concern for communicating doctrinal truths should not supplant the gospel’s proclamation and presentation of the living and present Lord Jesus. The biblical narrative should provide the “lens” through which we learn to view and understand our Pentecostal Christian faith. Only faith in and experience of the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus, leads to understanding.

  • Speaking Jesus with Charity (1)

    “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 I just want to speak the name of Jesus Till every dark addiction starts to break Declaring there is hope and there is freedom I speak Jesus” (Charity Gayle.com). Charity Gayle is on the top of my worship music playlist. The third-generation Apostolic Pentecostal has a unique spiritual gift. She captures the ethos, the heartfelt sentiment of the Apostolic faith in song. Her lyrics resonate in our hearts as they reflect our love and experience of Jesus and the truth we proclaim. Jesus is our theology! We speak Jesus! But there is more. Listening to Charity’s portfolio, you recognize she connects the Apostolic heritage of faith, the past, with the present. Thank You, Jesus, for the Blood concludes with Glory to His Name (1878). Cleansed incorporates Nothing But The Blood (1876). The classic Pentecostal hymn A New Name in Glory (1910) receives new lyrics to convey the same message in Charity’s New Name Written Down in Glory. Hymns over 100 years old inspire Charity to speak Jesus in the 21st century with new melodies, new words, but with the same message, Jesus is Lord and brings salvation! Theologians call this recontextualization, presenting the Gospel of Jesus, the truth of the Christian faith, in the contemporary historical context. Let’s translate the language of theologians, recontextualization, into the language of Apostolic Pentecostals. Inspired by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Holy Scriptures, Apostolic Pentecostals witness to the presence, power, and reality of their life and salvation in Jesus Christ in sermon and song, prayer and praise, teaching and testimony within the context of their life situation, within human history. They are not ahistorical beings! That means the Apostolic heritage of faith receives unique expressions as Apostolics continue the ministry of Jesus, proclaim the Gospel, and live for Him in the contemporary world. Charity Gayle is an excellent example of recontextualization. Let me give another practical example. I am sure numerous Pastors are reading this article. Every time you prepare a new sermon, you engage in a creative process of recontextualization. I hate that word! Let’s say you testify to the reality of the risen savior in the world and provide a fresh Word from God for your congregation that reveals His will. I certainly hope that during the racial tensions last summer, God reminded you of Paul’s admonition to the Galatians (3:26-29): “for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” In one pregnant passage, Paul reminds the Galatians that God in Christ destroyed the racial divisions that once divided humanity and now unites them through faith in the risen and present Lord. Although written by Paul in Macedonia between 56-57 AD, the Holy Spirit uses Paul’s words, now recognized as authoritative Scripture, to speak to American 21st-century Christians through anointed Pastors who make a practical application of God’s eternal truth in the contemporary context. There are no racial divisions in the body of Christ. We are all one in Christ! There is “newness in the old!” The biblical narrative, the story of God, is the story of God interrupting human history and traditions and providing a “new Word” that recontextualizes His will for humanity. As Apostolics, we should be very comfortable with the concept of God interrupting the “worlds” humans have created. We continually seek an interruption of the Holy Spirit when we gather for worship. We rejoice when God “interrupts” our well-made plans for Sunday morning service and guides us in new directions to fulfill the current needs of His people as they live as historical beings in the present world. This past Sunday, August 29, 2021, I watched a dramatic interruption of the Spirit in the First Apostolic Church in Nashville on YouTube. Pastor Shoulders welcomed the eruption that “eclipsed” his sermon and encouraged the congregation to worship God and receive what He had for them on that day. God interrupts human history and traditions with new words and deeds! If you are trembling at all of this talk of newness, please be patient. As this series of articles unfolds, you will find firm boundaries of “newness” set by the revelation of God in Jesus and the canon of Holy Scripture as we speak Jesus to children of the Enlightenment! We speak Jesus: “Cause your name is power Your name is healing Your name is life Break every stronghold Shine through the shadows Burn like a fire” (Charity Gayle.com).

  • Welcome to The Christosis Network!

    Welcome to the Christosis Network website. The Christosis Network is a community of Pentecostal pastors and leaders seeking to center their faith, life, and ministry on Jesus Christ. Our goals are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, renew the church’s spiritual life, engage our culture with the truth of the Christian faith, and continue the Pentecostal revival. Above all, we desire Christosis, transformation into the image of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul prays for the Colossians to “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9, NRSV)[1]. The spiritual wisdom and understanding he desires for them are not speculative but practical. The Colossians need to learn how the salvation experienced in Christ translates into Christian life. Paul directs them to the prophecy of their Messiah in Isaiah. “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:1-2). For Paul, Christians receive the Spirit of their risen Lord to “lead lives worthy of the Lord,…grow in the knowledge of God, and bear fruit (Col. 1:10). They are to live as Jesus did! Paul vividly describes the Spirit’s work of transformation for the Corinthians. “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). Turning away from sin and receiving the Holy Spirit, Christians now see “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Beholding God’s glory in Jesus, they are transformed by the Spirit into the same image, the image of Christ. They experience Christosis! The early Pentecostals were Jesus-centered. The new experience of the Holy Spirit they received convinced them their ministry continued the work of Jesus. Their desire was “To Be Like Jesus.” “To Be Like Jesus, To Be Like Jesus All I Ask To Be Like Him; All Through Life’s Journey From Earth To Glory All I Ask To Be Like Him; To Be Like Jesus, To Be Like Jesus All I Ask To Be Like Him; Not In A Measure But In Its Fullness All I Ask To Be Like Him.”[2] I remember singing this chorus at the Pentecostal bible college I attended. An assembly of aspiring young ministers gathered around the college president in worship and praise as he called each forward to lay hands upon them and pray for their ministry. He prayed for an anointing of the Holy Spirit to empower us for Christian proclamation and service and transform our lives into the image of Christ. He understood that the success of our future ministry depended upon the Holy Spirit’s work not only for Pentecostal power but for Christlike lives that would enable us to say with Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The Christosis Network seeks to recover this Pentecostal dynamic. Pentecostal faith, life, and ministry need centered on Jesus. Luke boldly presents the first Christians as being like Jesus in Luke-Acts. Jesus and his followers receive baptism, pray, perform signs, wonders, and miracles. They proclaim the same message of the kingdom of God and call all to repentance. Luke describes Jesus and his followers in the same way. They are full of the Holy Spirit, possess power, bring joy, and create awe through their ministry. Like Jesus, the Christians in Acts use Holy Scripture to proclaim the Gospel and explain what God is doing in the world. Luke demonstrates that the ministry of Jesus continues in the first Christians. Jesus defined their life, gave them their identity, and was an example for the transformed Christian life in God’s kingdom. Christosis seeks to center Pentecostal faith, life, and ministry on Jesus. Becoming like Jesus requires spiritual formation. Pastor Paul agonizes over the Galatians, saying, “My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). The work of the Holy Spirit in their lives needed direction. Paul encouraged them to “live by the Spirit” and bear “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 22). Peter uses the metaphors of birth and growth to describe spiritual formation. Christians are “born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). He encourages them to become like newborn infants and “long for the pure, spiritual milk” to grow into salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). The metaphor of word-as-seed used to describe the new birth yields to the metaphor of word-as-milk to describe spiritual growth. Spiritual milk refers to the Gospel, the word of truth, provided by Peter in his letter. The goal is to attain maturity as children of God who set all “hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring … when he is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13). They will receive the outcome of their faith, the salvation of their souls (1 Pet. 1:9), and “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Pet. 1:4). Peter challenges Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). For Paul and Peter, spiritual formation is faith’s journey with the risen and present savior Jesus Christ empowered by the Word and Spirit. It is following Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Luke uses the term Way as shorthand for Christianity throughout Acts (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 22:4; 24:14, 22). It refers to Christians and their message. Luke writes of the “way of salvation” (Acts 6:17), “way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25), and “way of God” (Acts 18:26) and speaks of Paul persecuting “the way” (Acts 22:4). For Luke, the way describes Christians, their proclamation, and their distinctive manner of life. The Christosis Network seeks to renew the spiritual life of the Pentecostal faith community by presenting the unique way of life, spirituality, of the first Christians as the “road map” for spiritual formation. Pentecostal spirituality stands in stark contrast to the continued decline of Christianity in America. In December 2021, the Pew Research Center released an astounding study for the ten years from 2011 to 2021.[3] Survey results showed a 12% decline in Americans who identified themselves as Christians and an 11% increase in those who identified with no religion, agnosticism, or atheism. There was also a dramatic 11% decrease in adults who identified with Protestant Christian denominations. A growing secular community in America has moved beyond religion and ardently embraced secularism. They place their faith in science and reason and adopt a moral code arising from values deemed progressive.[4] For them, Christianity, like other religions, is antiquated, dysfunctional, divisive, and an impediment to human progress.[5] Engaging the secular culture they champion is mission-critical for the church in the 21st century. The Christosis Network seeks to provide resources for Pentecostals to understand the secular ideology rampant in American culture and equip them to make a defense for the Christian faith they possess and effectively witness to Gospel. The Christosis Network believes in the Pentecostal revival. God interrupted human history and religious traditions in the early 20th century with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Thousands came to a small storefront mission at Azuza Street to hear the full Gospel proclaimed and experience their personal Pentecost. Empowered by the Holy Spirit and gifted with a new understanding of the Gospel, they embarked on missions worldwide. Today, Pentecostalism leads the world in new converts to the Christian faith and comprises 26% of Christians globally.[6] Pentecostals need to retrieve and understand the heritage of their forbears that spawned and now sustain the Pentecostal revival. We need to embrace their spirituality, found in Luke-Acts. The Christosis Network will focus on presenting five critical elements of Pentecostal spirituality, 1) prayer; 2) reading, listening, and obeying Holy Scripture; 3) the continued presence and ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit; 4) victorious spiritual warfare and signs and wonders, 5) the expectation of the return of Jesus and the establishment of the kingdom of God. By embracing Pentecostal spirituality, Pentecostals will continue the explosive growth of their revival in the 21st century. The Christosis Network has a bold plan to prepare pastors to implement spiritual formation programs in their congregations. The Christosis website provides weekly content through videos, podcasts, social media, and a blog. Study modules accompany the content to facilitate learning and offer lesson outlines for pastoral use in church settings. A Facebook group page enables discussion, resource sharing, and prayer requests. The Christosis Network seeks to build an online community of pastors and leaders configured to Christ, possessing a faith normed by Holy Scripture, following Jesus in a Pentecostal way, and proclaiming the Gospel message empowered by the Holy Spirit. We invite you to join us! Bibliography Dellatto, Marisa. 2021. “Christians Decreasing As More U.S. Adults Not Affiliated With Any Religion, Study Shows.” Forbes. December 12. https://www.forbes.com/sites/marisadellatto/2021/12/14/christians-decreasing-as-more-us-adults-not-affiliated-with-any-religion-study-shows/. Homeschoolbookreviewblog. 2008 “To Be Like Jesus.” Hymnstudiesblog, November 18. https://hymnstudiesblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/quotto-be-like-jesusquot/. Randall, Rebecca. 2021. “Pentecostals Lead the World in Conversions, But Not in US Missions.” ChristianityToday.com. December 13. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/february-web-only/pentecostal-global-growth-missions-agencies-study-bok.html. The Secular Community 2022. “The Secular Community Home Page.” The Secular Community. February 10.. https://www.thesecularcommunity.org. [1] All Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted. [2] Homeschoolbookreviewblog, “To Be Like Jesus, “ Hymnstudiesblog (blog), November 18, 2008, https://hymnstudiesblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/quotto-be-like-jesusquot/. [3] Marisa Dellatto, “Christians Decreasing As More U.S. Adults Not Affiliated With Any Religion, Study Shows,” Forbes, February 10, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/marisadellatto/2021/12/14/christians-decreasing-as-more-us-adults-not-affiliated-with-any-religion-study-shows/. [4] The Secular Community, “The Secular Community Home Page,” The Secular Commuity, February 10, 2022, https://www.thesecularcommunity.org/. [5] Ibid. [6] Rebecca Randall, “Pentecostals Lead the World in Conversions, But Not in US Missions,” ChristianityToday.com, December 13, 2021, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/february-web-only/pentecostal-global-growth-missions-agencies-study-bok.html.

  • What is Spiritual Formation?

    Spiritual formation calls us “to put out into the deep” with Jesus! Spiritual formation is growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ that transforms Christians into the image of Christ and empowers them for life and witness in the kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus. The goal is to continue the ministry of Jesus by proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel in word, action, and life. Spiritual formation calls Christians to a deeper life in Jesus! A favorite Pentecostal hymn expresses the ethos of spiritual formation: “Deeper, deeper in the love of Jesus, Daily let me go; Higher, higher in the school of wisdom, More of grace to know. Deeper, deeper! blessed Holy Spirit, Take me deeper still, Till my life is wholly lost in Jesus, And His perfect will. [Refrain] Deeper, deeper! tho’ it cost hard trials, Deeper let me go! Rooted in the holy love of Jesus, Let me fruitful grow. [Refrain] Deeper, higher, ev’ry day in Jesus, Till all conflict past, Finds me conqu’ror, and in His own image, Perfected at last Refrain: Oh, deeper yet, I pray, And higher ev’ry day, And wiser, blessed Lord, In Thy precious, holy word.”[1] Spiritual formation challenges Pentecostals to launch their faith into the depths of the love, grace, and wisdom of the Gospel, grow fruitful, become conquerors, and perfected in His image! Following Jesus requires that they “put out into the deep” (Luke 5:4). How is a spiritual life developed? If you search the internet, you will find numerous programs. Authors are confident that if you follow the steps of their pathway, you will arrive at your desired destination. Common prescriptions are prayer, fasting, bible study, church attendance, and confession of sins. Of course, a reasonable donation to the spiritual guru will speed you along the way! Not achieving the goal is your fault: sin, lack of faith, and an undisciplined lifestyle cause you to stray from the proven path. The only solution is to start over and work harder. Pentecostals need to relearn a basic theological principle when it comes to spirituality. The life and ministry of Jesus and the first Christians provide the model we are to follow. Luke’s story of the calling of Peter and the catch of fish shows us the biblical way of spiritual formation. Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him (Luke 5:1-11, NRSV).[2] The story begins with a crowd pressing in on Jesus at lake Gennesaret to “hear the word of God.” The importance of listening to the word of God is a recurring theme in Jesus’s teaching, according to Luke. Jesus explains the parable of the sower by commending those who hear the word of God and hold it fast in an honest and good heart will bear fruit (Luke 8:11-15). When a woman pronounced a blessing upon Jesus, he proclaimed that those who hear the word of God and obey it as blessed (Luke 11:27-28). Luke wants us to know that Jesus emphasized that hearing the word of God is essential in our spiritual journey! Peter was among the fisherman at the lake that day. His boat was one of two on the shore, and Peter was busy washing his nets. Jesus got into Peter’s boat, asked him to put out a little way from the shore, and then sat down and taught the crowds. As a bystander, Peter heard the word of God and now found Jesus had invaded his life. He took over Simon’s boat, the fisherman’s life, and livelihood! Luke’s Gospel is full of life-changing encounters with Jesus, 1) the leper (Luke 5:12-16), 2) the paralytic (Luke 5:17-26); 3) the tax collector (Luke 5:27-32); 4) the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50), 5) the lost son (Luke 15:11-32). Spiritual formation happens when Jesus enters our world and changes our lives by an invasion of His grace. Spiritual formation is God’s initiative! After finishing teaching, Jesus remained in the boat and commanded Peter to “put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Jesus is Lord! He is the one who establishes the program for our spiritual formation. As Pentecostals, we need to hear him speak through the word of God and allow him to take the initiative for our growth through the Holy Spirit. Have we inherited spiritual formation programs from our faith tradition that need reexamination? Do we need to abandon programs designed to meet our personal needs, goals, and objectives rather than the Lord’s? Jesus calls us to leave the familiar shores of our traditions and allow him to set a new course for our faith, life and ministry. Peter is perplexed by Jesus’ command. After all, they had fished all night with no success. Doing things the traditional way failed. But Peter chose to respond to the Lord’s word in trusting faith. The result was a miracle. The nets were bursting with fish, and two boats filled to the point of sinking. Luke wants us to understand that spiritual formation requires hearing God’s word, acknowledging Jesus as Lord, and acting upon it in faith even if it challenges our traditions. Hearing and acting upon God’s word is the firm foundation Jesus wants us to build upon (Luke 6:46-49). The encounter with Jesus and the miracle of the catch overwhelmed Peter. He acknowledged Jesus as Lord and himself as a sinful man unworthy of the divine visitation and grace he received. He “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). The knowledge of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and our separation from God follows encountering Jesus and receiving grace. Peter’s encounter with the Holy One closely resembles the prophet Isaiah’s. Seeing the Lord upon his throne, he exclaims, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Peter and Isaiah learn their sinfulness does not separate them from the Lord. Isaiah receives forgiveness of sins, and Peter is told not to be afraid. A calling to mission follows for both. Isaiah agrees to go to the people of Israel (Isa. 6:8). Jesus announces to Peter that “from now on you will be catching people” (Luke 5:10). Luke concludes his story abruptly. “ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11). Peter’s spiritual formation culminated in following Jesus! Luke provides a spiritual formation model for Pentecostals to follow. Spiritual formation: 1) is God’s initiative, 2) requires hearing and acting upon God’s word, 3) is received in trusting faith in Jesus as Lord, 4) reveals our sinfulness and God’s overwhelming grace, 5) results in a life-changing calling to follow Jesus and allowing Him to transform our lives. Spiritual formation calls us “to put out into the deep” with Jesus! Spiritual formation is going “deeper, deeper in the love of Jesus.” Bibliography Jones, Charles Price. 1900. “Deeper, Deeper in the Love of Jesus.” Hymnary.org. https://hymnary.org/text/deeper_deeper_in_the_love_of_jesus. [1] Charles Price Jones, “Deeper, Deeper in the Love of Jesus,” Hymnary.org, 1900, https://hymnary.org/text/deeper_deeper_in_the_love_of_jesus. [2] All Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

  • Holy Spirit History (1)

    The Church is Maintained in Truth by the Holy Spirit! The Azuza Street revival proclaimed it stood for “the restoration of the faith once delivered unto the saints.”[1] The revivalists sincerely believed that for “ages men have been preaching a partial Gospel.” They were excited because in their age God had raised up men “to bring the truth back to the church.” They saw a progression in the bringing back of “the truth.” Luther brought justification by faith, Wesley Bible holiness. “Now he [God] is bringing back the Pentecostal Baptism to the church.” “He gave the former rain moderately at Pentecost, and he is going to send upon us in these last days the former and the latter rain. There are greater things to be done in these last days of the Holy Ghost.” “God is now confirming His word by granting signs and wonders to follow the preaching of the full gospel in Los Angelos.” The truth and experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit was the culmination of God’s restoration. The Pentecostal Bible college I attended presented a vision of Church history that followed this narrative and emphasized a church falling away from the full Pentecostal Gospel. The falling away resulted in dark centuries bereft of the power of God in signs, wonders, and spiritual gifts, a lack of the fullness of life brought by the Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the development of false doctrines. The Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century inaugurated a new age of light for the church returning it to its former glory in spiritual power and doctrinal truth in preparation for the second coming of Jesus. As future Pentecostal ministers, we rejoiced because we received the “light” of the story of the fall and restoration of the church, considered the story an essential part of our identity, and passionately shared the story. As a Pentecostal reading church history, I am convinced the story our forbears embraced and my Bible college teachers earnestly taught contain elements of truth. The pages of the New Testament do describe very different Christian communities than the ones evidenced throughout history. Doctrines strayed from an Apostolic biblical norm. Believer conversions occur by intellectual consent to propositional truth rather than a personal and life-changing experience of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. The ethics of Christian discipleship and disciplines of the spiritual life vanish in institutional churches accommodating to politics and culture. Christian existence no longer evidences the biblical emphasis on signs, wonders, miracles, and the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Reading church history raises the question, did the church lose the truth of the Christian faith at some point? Is it appropriate to tell a story of the fall and restoration of the church? The early Pentecostals answered with a wholehearted yes! But what if they asked the wrong question? What if we ask, “How is the church maintained in truth?” Jesus and the writers of the New Testament provide a straightforward answer to this question. John wrote his gospel to Jewish Christians experiencing anxiety and concerns similar to twentieth and twenty-first-century Pentecostals. Their faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Lord resulted in dramatic events, expulsion from the synagogue, and persecution. They were fearful “for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:22). Banned from the center of Jewish life and worship, separation from family, friends, and commerce would result. Like Jesus, Jewish Christians experienced intense persecution from the Jews. Jesus characterizes them as belonging to their father, the devil (8:44), and believing that when they kill Christians, “they are offering worship to God” (John 16:2). How could these Christians be “maintained in the truth” after Jesus departed and continue his mission without change and compromise? John comforts them by sharing Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and before his crucifixion and resurrection. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth (John 17: 9-19, NRSV). Jesus acknowledges that the disciples are living in a hostile world. However, like him, they belong to God. Their discipleship glorifies God (John 15:8). God lets them remain in the world to continue Jesus’ mission. Jesus prays for their continued protection in his name. Jewish Christians understood that just as the fullness of Yahweh, the God of Israel, saving work was in his name, so the fullness of Christ’s saving work is contained in the name of Jesus.[2] Believing in the name of Jesus is believing in the messianic mission (John 3:18), following God’s commandment, and abiding in Christ. “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us” (1 John 3:23-24). Jesus and his disciples do not “belong to the world” (John 17:19). They do not belong to the fallen world of sin and evil that aligns itself against God and Christ. The disciples belong to the world God loves and for whom the Son dies (John 3:16). Jesus gives them the Word, his person and story, as they are sent forth on their mission. He prays for God to sanctify them in truth, and reminds the disciples that God’s “Word is truth” (John 17:19). John prepares the Jewish Christians to be “maintained in truth” by pointing them to Jesus. Jesus does not separate them from the hostile world in which they live but reminds them of the “glory” of their discipleship, the protection they receive in the name of Jesus, the importance of following God’s commandments and abiding in Christ. They will be “sanctified” in truth by the Word of God. For John, Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The way to truth, the Word, for John is through the Holy Spirit. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13, 14). The church is “maintained in truth” by the Holy Spirit. The Pentecostal narrative of the fall and restoration of the church needs rewriting. The story of the Christian church is “Holy Spirit History.” The next Christosis post will present a new story for Pentecostals to tell when explaining God’s purpose for their revival. Bibliography Hans Bietenhard. “Name.” In New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 2:648–55. Grand Rapid, Michigan: Zondervan, 1977. “The Apostolic Faith | Consortium of Pentecostal Archives.” Accessed October 6, 2021. https://pentecostalarchives.org/collections/apostolicfaith/index.cfm. [1] “The Apostolic Faith | Consortium of Pentecostal Archives,” accessed October 6, 2021, https://pentecostalarchives.org/collections/apostolicfaith/index.cfm. [2] Hans Bietenhard, “Name,” in New Interantional Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 2 (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Zondervan, 1977), 655.

  • Our Pentecostal Heritage

    Pentecostals are children of Azuza Street, baptized in the fire and the wind! Pentecostals are children of the Azuza Street revival, baptized in the fire and the wind. Listen to the words of this Lanny Wolfe song: “It wasn’t in a robe of purple that the Spirit of God chose to dwell, and it wasn’t in a sacred temple where the Spirit of God really fell. But in a quiet upper room in Jerusalem, the Spirit came rushing like a mighty wind as the 120 started speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost. And we’re children of the upper room; we got the power like they did back then. Children of the upper room, baptized with the fire and the wind. It wasn’t in a great cathedral that the Spirit of God chose to fall. And it wasn’t in a royal palace, nor was it in a governor’s hall. But in a little storefront on the wrong side of town, everybody passing by could hear a heavenly sound; as the Lord started pouring His Spirit out on the folks on Azusa Street. And we’re children of Azusa Street; we got the power like they did back then. Children of Azusa Street, baptized with the fire and the wind. Well, it has been about three generations since the Azusa Street revival began. And the fire that started in that little storefront has spread to every land. Now you can get in this family if you take on his name, go down to the water, and when you come up again, you’ll be feeling the power like they did back then, the folks on Azusa Street. And we’re children of Azusa Street; we got the power like they did back then. Children of Azusa Street, baptized with the fire and the wind. We’re children of holiness; we’re children of righteousness; we’re children of godliness; we’re children of faith, children of light! We’re children of Azusa Street; we got the power like they did back then. Children of Azusa Street, baptized with the fire and the wind, baptized with the fire and the wind!”[1] Azuza Street was the foundational event for our Pentecostal faith. Although other events of the Pentecostal experience of the Holy Spirit’s baptism occurred early in the twentieth century, Azuza Street launched the movement into headlines and the world. Fortunately, W. J. Seymour’s The Apostolic Faith newspaper exists in several archives to understand its beliefs, aspirations, and the spirituality it spawned. The following citations are from the first edition in 1906.[2] Azuza Street and Pentecostalism were born in prayer and Bible study seeking “true Pentecostal power.” “Churches have been praying for Pentecost, and Pentecost has come” was the sincere belief of the Azuza Street revivalists. They were not surprised that God chose the little Azuza Street mission for the outpouring of his Spirit. “Jesus was too large for synagogues…The Pentecostal movement is too large for any denomination or sect. It works outside, drawing all together in one bond of love, one church, one body of Christ.” The Apostolic Faith Movement stood for “the restoration of the faith once delivered unto the saints – the old-time religion, camp meetings, revivals, missions, street and prison work, and Christian Unity everywhere.” They were “not fighting against men or churches, but seeking to displace dead forms and creeds and wild fanaticisms with living and practical Christianity. “Love, Faith, and Unity are our watchwords, and ‘Victory through the Atoning Blood’ our battle cry.” Jesus “was born in a manger and resurrected in a barn,” the Azuza Street mission. God was “working wonders in this place.” “He recognizes no man-made creeds, nor classes of people.” The “power of God” was falling at Azuza Street and “preparing” the church for the last days and a witness to the world. In 1906, The Apostolic Faith newspaper contained an extensive section outlining its faith with key supporting scriptures. Topics included repentance, sorrow for and confession of sin, restitution, faith in Jesus Christ, justification, sanctification, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and healing. They believed that for “ages men have been preaching a partial Gospel.” God has raised men “to bring the truth back to the church.” Luther brought back “the doctrine of justification by faith.” John Wesley established “Bible holiness in the church.” “Now he [God] is bringing back the Pentecostal Baptism to the church.” “Be glad, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: For he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain the first month” (Joel 2:23). “He gave the former rain moderately at Pentecost, and he is going to send upon us in these last days the former and the latter rain. There are greater things to be done in these last days of the Holy Ghost.” “God is now confirming His word by granting signs and wonders to follow the preaching of the full gospel in Los Angelos.” The Apostolic Faith newsletter reflects the spirituality of the first Pentecostals that spawned and now sustain the Pentecostal revival. Their spirituality is consistent with the early Christians found in Luke-Acts. The “Welcome to Christosis” blog post presents the five critical elements of this spirituality, “1) prayer; 2) reading, listening, and obeying Holy Scripture; 3) the continued presence and ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit; 4) victorious spiritual warfare and signs and wonders, 5) the expectation of the return of Jesus and the establishment of the kingdom of God.” Let’s compare the narrative of Azuza Street with Luke’s description of events in the first chapters of Acts. After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples returned to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place,” in the upper room where they were staying (Acts 1:12; 2, NRSV).[3] They “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). The Pentecostals of Azuza Street were “praying for Pentecost.” Luke goes to great lengths in Acts to show the disciples’ presence in Jerusalem resulted from following a commandment from their Lord, the incarnate Word. “While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5). Reading, listening to, and obeying Holy Scripture, the written word, the Azuza Street Pentecostals believed they could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, “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” (Acts 2:39). “Churches have been praying for Pentecost, and Pentecost has come.” The Azuza Street Pentecostals always presented their faith with supporting scriptures. Luke is explicit about the relationship between his Gospel and Acts. “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen (Acts 1:1-2, NIV).[4] The purpose of Acts is to show that the ministry of Jesus continues in his disciples filled with the Holy Spirit. The Azuza Street Pentecostals believed that Jesus “was born in a manger and resurrected in a barn,” the Azuza Street mission. The “power of God” falling at Azuza street was a sign of the continuing ministry of Jesus as he prepared “the church for the last days and a witness to the world.” Jesus promised that the coming of the Holy Spirit would empower the disciples to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). They would continue his ministry (Acts 1:1-2). While going to the temple to pray, Peter and John encountered a beggar crippled from birth asking for alms. Peter said to him, “But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:6-8). Following the healing of the beggar, the priests, temple guards, and Sadduccess arrest Peter and John and question their Gospel and miracle (Acts 4:1-2). Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly answers them. “Let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 4:10). Peter, the disciple who was once fearful of the possible results of answering a question from a servant-girl (Luke 22:56-57), now exudes the Holy Spirit confidence prophesized by Jesus. “When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12). Confronted with the reality of a miracle and Peter’s Spirit-inspired defense, the captors gave Peter and John a warning and released them. They returned to their faith community and prayed for continued victory over the opponents of the Gospel. “And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” Acts 4:29-31). The first Christians witnessed the continuing ministry of Jesus in their midst by signs, wonders, and victorious spiritual warfare. Azuza Street Pentecostals saw God “confirming His word by granting signs and wonders to follow the preaching of the full gospel in Los Angelos.” Jesus prepared the Apostles for his departure. “After his suffering, he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Jesus understood that they believed his life and ministry signaled the fulfillment of the hope of Israel, that God would establish his rule over all the earth. He had taught them to pray for the coming kingdom (Luke 11:2). In response to the Apostles’ question if the kingdom would arrive after their coming Spirit baptism, Jesus, “replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1: 6-8). God’s kingdom would not arrive by military power or political force but by the proclamation of the Gospel and the transformation of lives by the Holy Spirit. God’s kingdom is present in the person of Jesus and his ongoing ministry. Jesus “is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38). The Azuza Street Pentecostals believed God was “bringing back the Pentecostal Baptism to the church” to do “greater things” … in the “last days” before the coming of the promised kingdom of God upon the earth. The spirituality of the Azuza Street Pentecostals mirrors the spirituality of the first Christians described in Luke-Acts. Both display five critical elements of spirituality, 1) prayer; 2) reading, listening, and obeying Holy Scripture; 3) the continued presence and ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit; 4) victorious spiritual warfare and signs and wonders, 5) the expectation of the return of Jesus and the establishment of the kingdom of God. We should cherish and follow our Pentecostal heritage to renew and sustain the Pentecostal revival in the twentieth-first century. We need to be “Children of Azuza Street,” baptized in the fire and the wind! [1] “Lanny Wolfe, "Children of Azusa Street," by Hymn Time,” February 20, 2007, https://revnormanburnspresents.bandcamp.com/track/harvestime-songfest-silver-anniversary-07-lanny-wolfe-trio-children-of-azusa-street. [2] Consortium of Pentecostal Archives, "The Apostolic Faith, ” Consortium of Pentecostal Archives, October 6, 2021, https://pentecostalarchives.org/collections/apostolicfaith/index.cfm. [3] All Bible quotations are from the new Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted. [4] New International Version Bibliography Consortium of Pentecostal Archives. 2021.“The Apostolic Faith.” Consortium of Pentecostal Archives.” October 6. https://pentecostalarchives.org/collections/apostolicfaith/index.cfm. Wolfe, Lanny. 2007. “Children of Azusa Street.” Hymn Time.” February 20. https://revnormanburnspresents.bandcamp.com/track/harvestime-songfest-silver-anniversary-07-lanny-wolfe-trio-children-of-azusa-street.

  • 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.

  • Speaking Jesus with Charity (2)

    “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. Let’s use the metaphor of a picture and its frame to present the effect a new worldview can have on the Christian faith. Placing an old picture in a new frame can change perceptions of the image and give it new meaning. New frames often focus the viewer’s eyes on specific content and change the picture’s story. Placing the gospel, God’s story, in a new worldview is inherently risky. Like a picture mounted in a new frame, a new historical frame of reference may refocus the viewer’s perception of the gospel and change the content and meaning of the original story. The “newness” eclipses the old and becomes the story. However, the gospel requires proclamation in human history again and again without anything new, without development. Paul boldly proclaims, “See now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). The proclamation of the gospel, God’s story, is a current event taking place in the real world in God’s time. Its proclaimers are to present “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). The gospel is a sacred treasure of “sound teaching” in need of guarding (2 Tim. 2:13-14). Passing on the “deposit of faith” to new generations is mission-critical for the church (1 Tim. 1:14; 2 Tim. 2:2). The gospel makes the old present confronting new historical epochs and worldviews and calling all to faith in the God in whose kingdom they live. The metaphor challenges Pentecostals to articulate their faith in a new frame of reference, the culture of the twenty-first century, in a biblical manner that recovers and strengthens the original Pentecostal ethos and spirituality. The Enlightenment fueled philosophy of modernism and post-modernism has created a culture that boldly announces it has outgrown religion. Modernists champion the ability of human reason to comprehend all reality. Humans control their destiny, characterized by progress in science, technology, human institutions, and social relationships. Although life has no ultimate meaning, the innate power of human reason promises a glorious future of unity, peace, love, and prosperity. The universe’s secrets will unfold by properly exercising human reason, and a utopia will one day arrive upon the earth. When post-modernists took a hard look at human history, they became disillusioned with modernism Modernism promised great things but could not deliver. The promises assigned to human reason went unrealized in the world. Wars raged, empires crumbled, and oppression of people by political systems continued. Enlightenment reason failed to bring unity or a utopia. Humanity remained divided into a plethora of competing tribes. There was no one universal standard of truth common to all. Truth and religion were just matters of personal preference. The individual became the final arbitrator of truth with inalienable rights that all must recognize, even God. Post-moderns are moralistic therapeutic deists who evict God from the intrusive active involvement in the creation and their lives. They place God on-call to meet their individual needs and provide consoling therapy in times of crisis. They are spiritual but don’t consider themselves religious. Being religious would require the unconscionable, assigning priority to one belief and questioning the beliefs of others. “Speaking Jesus to Children of the Enlightenment” requires understanding the new frame of reference in which we are proclaiming the gospel. We are speaking to the “nones,” identifying with no religion, the “spiritual but not religious,” who have invented their own spirituality, and the “disaffiliated,” who have abandoned the institutional and doctrinal heritage of their Christian faith but desire to retain a modicum of identity. They have not encountered Jesus, know the stories of the Bible, accept its authority, or embrace the truths of the Christian faith. Several years ago, I received a warning about a problematic student I would face in the university marketing class I teach. She was an atheist who delighted in challenging the faith of her professors and fellow students, especially following devotions. Embracing the university’s spirit of toleration, professors allowed her to have her say, did not respond, and then politely moved on to course content. As teachers are prone to exaggerate situations, I didn’t give the problem much thought. Following my first devotion in the class, the student erupted, challenging the authority of Scripture, the divinity of Jesus, and the exclusiveness of the Christian message. Shocked, I stood in silence for almost a minute, eyes focused on her. The class was silent. Recovering, I asked a simple question, “Where did you learn this philosophy?” She replied quickly, “I just know. It is evident to me.” With this prompt, I challenged her belief that she possessed a “view received from nowhere.” She was shocked as I asked her how she learned to speak English, if she went to the public school system, read books or magazines, talked with peers, surfed the internet, or sat in a university classroom. I finished by asking if she would prepare for her marketing exam by going outdoors and raising her hands to heaven, and asking to be filled with business knowledge. There was now silence in the classroom when I explained the Enlightenment origins of her philosophy of life and contrasted it with the Christian story. I quickly moved on to marketing content. After class, several Christian students expressed appreciation for my unplanned homily. Like so many, they chose not to dialogue with a “child of the Enlightenment.” They could not have “a meaningful conversation” because their faith communities left them unprepared. We need to “always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15, NRSV). With Charity, we must speak Jesus and engage an Enlightenment-soaked culture. We speak Jesus: “Cause Your name is power Your name is healing Your name is life.” (Charity Gayle.com)

  • The Primacy of Jesus

    Jesus is at the center of the ethos of Pentecostalism. Pentecostals desire to enter fully into the story of Jesus of Nazareth and encounter the earthly, risen, and glorified Jesus. What is Pentecostalism all about? You will receive many explanations attending a Pentecostal church or reading Pentecostal literature. Pentecostalism is about receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues, empowerment for Christian mission, the restoration of the true church, the recovery of biblical truth, the demonstration of the gospel’s power in signs and wonders, and the imminence of the second coming of Christ. But do these explanations reflect the ethos, the heartfelt spirituality of Pentecostals as they encounter Jesus, receive salvation, worship, and serve God in their unique faith community? I think not. Pentecostalism is about 1) meeting Jesus through the Holy Spirit, 2) Jesus calling us in love to enter into a close relationship with God, 3) receiving the blessings of salvation Jesus gives, 4) having Jesus guide us into his perfect will, 5) discovering and experiencing the presence of the Holy God in Jesus, 6) bowing down before Jesus to acknowledge his Lordship. Pentecostalism is about the primacy of Jesus! It is Sunday evening, and Pentecostals assemble in a local church to worship. Faces, young and old, are focused on the worship team, singers, and musicians, anticipating the first song. The electronic keyboard plays a gentle melody prompting a young woman to walk to the platform center. Microphone in hand and eyes closed, her voice raises to God and sings, “Jesus is in this room, here right now, here right now; Making this place I stand, Holy ground, Holy ground. Your Spirit moves and breathes, all around, all around; All good and perfect things, flowing down, flowing down.”[1] Acknowledging the presence of Jesus, the worship team leads the congregation in the chorus, “If all of the heavens are singing along, with the saints and the elders in glorious song, And the praises they sing never seem to get old, then I’ll stay here forever singing, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord. God almighty overall; You were, you are, and you’ll be forever, The King enthroned in glorious splendor, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord.” [2] The congregation sways back and forth with hands held high, almost in unison, as a collective voice sings praises to God. The countenance of faces changes and glows as believers engage with the song’s message and the blessing of the Lord they are experiencing. They perceive God’s “Gentle love calling” them closer and Jesus guiding them to his “will.” [3] Suddenly the calm and reflective song of praise changes to a bold affirmation. “The veil is torn, the doors fling wide, I see Glory as I run inside, the throne room, before you I bow.” [4] A burst of energy sweeps over the congregation. Swaying transforms to jumping and dancing. Voices, once restrained, unleash, and offer boisterous praise to God from the depths of the heart with all possible strength. They are in the holiest place, the presence of God, and “with the saints and the elders” singing a “glorious song.” [5] They are “standing on Holy Ground.” [6] The faith and worship of early Pentecostals were Jesus-centered. They embraced a five-fold Gospel: Jesus is 1) savior, 2) sanctifier, 3) spirit baptizer, 4) healer, 5) soon and coming king. Devoted to Holy Scripture as the source and norm for their faith, they echoed its maximalist claims about Jesus. Jesus is 1) “Lord” (Matt. 21:3), 2) “Son of Man” (Matt. 12:8), “Son of God” (Heb. 1:2), 3) “Messiah” (Mark 8:29), 4) “Son of David” (Luke 18:39), 5) “the Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 1:8), 6) “Author of Life” (Acts 3:15), 7) “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), 8) “Lord and God” (John 20:28). Paul boldly sums up the supremacy of Christ in his letter to the Colossians. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (Col.1:15-20, NRSV). The hymn of Christs’ supremacy follows Paul’s thanksgiving for the faith and life of the Colossians. Paul rejoices in their faith, love of all the saints, and the fruit they bear in their lives (Col. 1:4-6). He prays for spiritual wisdom and understanding of God’s will to empower them to “lead lives worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:9-10). Paul reminds them of the inheritance they share with the “saints in the light,” their rescue from the power of darkness, the redemption and forgiveness of sins they possess, and the kingdom of the Son in which they reside. Paul’s hymn places the Colossians’ experience of salvation into the story of Jesus, who is the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15-17), and the firstborn of the new creation (Col. 1:18-20). The Colossians are experiencing the story of Christ in their life and Paul’s ministry (Col. 1:21-23). Paul’s message to the Colossians is explicit. Jesus is the image of the invisible God in whom all the fullness of God dwells (Col. 1:20). All things were created in him, through him, and for him (Col. 1:16). Jesus has “the first place in everything” (Col. 1:18), and “in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Jesus is not only the “firstborn of all creation” but “the firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:15, 18). According to Paul, Jesus is not just one part of creation, a symbol of God or the perfect human being that could exist apart from him. Jesus is the reality through which all creation exists, the revelation of who God is, and the revelation of the new creation God desires to achieve in the lives of Christians. Jesus is at the center of the ethos of Pentecostalism. Pentecostals desire to enter fully into the story of Jesus of Nazareth and encounter the human Jesus in whose face “the glory of God” shines (2 Cor. 4:6). Encountering Jesus, they come to know who God is and who God desires them to be. Pentecostalism is about 1) meeting Jesus through the Holy Spirit, 2) Jesus calling us in love to enter into a close relationship with God, 3) receiving the blessings of salvation Jesus gives, 4) having Jesus guide us into his perfect will, 5) discovering and experiencing the presence of the Holy God in Jesus, 6) bowing down before Jesus to acknowledge his Lordship. Pentecostalism is about the primacy of Jesus! Bibliography Kennedy, Ryan and May Angeles. 2020. “The Throne Room.” 2020. People & Songs. March 7. https://genius.com/People-and-songs-throne-room-song-lyrics. [1] People & Songs (Ft. The Emerging Sound, May Angeles & Ryan Kennedy (People & Songs) – Throne Room Song, accessed March 7, 2021, https://genius.com/People-and-songs-throne-room-song-lyrics. [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] Ibid. [5] Ibid. [6] Ibid.

  • The Authority of Holy Scripture

    How should Pentecostals read Holy Scripture and receive it as their authority for faith, life, and ministry? How should Pentecostals read Holy Scripture and receive it as their authority for faith, life, and ministry? The first Pentecostals provide a pathway for twenty-first-century Pentecostals to follow. They read the Bible as the story of Jesus. Christ was the interpretive key to understanding its pages. Experiencing salvation and empowerment for Christian living and mission was the goal of reading. The story of Jesus found in Holy Scripture served as the context and authority to understand, evaluate, and reform their faith, life, and ministry. By the work of the Holy Spirit, Scripture not only told the story of salvation but worked salvation in Pentecostal lives. Pentecostals were “born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). Pentecostals expect to encounter Jesus when they read, teach, and preach Holy Scripture. The Old Testament finds its meaning and purpose in revealing Jesus. An early Pentecostal leader, G. F. Taylor, boldly proclaimed, “All the Bible points to Jesus on the cross. We may not be able to see Jesus in it all, but he is there just the same.”[1] They saw the New Testament concealed within the Old and the Old Testament revealed in the New. Jesus was the center from which they interpreted Scripture. “Jesus brings about the unity of Scripture because he is the endpoint and fullness of Scripture. Everything in it is related to him. In the end, he is its sole object. Consequently, he is, so to speak, its whole object.”[2] The story of Scripture is the story of Jesus! New Testament writings confirmed the Pentecostal hermeneutic. The authors interpreted the Old Testament in a two-fold sense, historical and spiritual. The Exodus from Egypt is a historical event. The river of water gushing from the rock to satisfy Israel’s thirst during the event (Ex. 17:6), prefigures Christ (1 Cor. 10:4), and the rivers of living water receiving the Holy Spirit brings believers in Christ (John 7:37-39). Scripture’s historical and spiritual senses unite to provide one story of God’s action in history culminating in Jesus. Scripture tells the story of Jesus, and he is the interpretive key and center. How is this story authoritative for Pentecostal faith, life, and ministry? Once again, Pentecostals need to return to the center of their faith and listen to the teaching of Jesus. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:16-20, NRSV). Matthew concludes his Gospel by returning his readers to the beginning of the story of Jesus, Galilee. Jesus grew up in Galilee (2:22-23), recruited his first apostles along the shores of its sea (4:18-22), and first proclaimed the kingdom of God with power there (4:23-24). Jesus’ ministry was successful, and “great crowds followed him from Galilee” (4:25). Galilee, the place from which Jesus launched his ministry, would become the launching point for the ministry of his disciples to the whole world. Jesus directed the disciples to a mountain. Seeing Jesus created doubt in some and spawned worship in others. Jesus knew what his disciples needed for confidence in their future ministry, a renewed affirmation of his authority. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (28:18). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is a sign of the enthronement of Israel’s king as prophesied by Daniel. As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed (Dan. 7:13-14). Jesus wants his disciples to know that he possesses all authority over heaven and earth. The risen Jesus continues the Lordship exercised during his earthly ministry. Paul vividly describes the authority of Jesus. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Eph. 1:20-23). The Great Commission reminds the disciples the authority of Jesus continues in them. Because Jesus possesses authority, they are to “go” (Matt. 28 19). They are to make new disciples just like Jesus. Disciples follow Jesus (Matt. 4:22), listen to Jesus (Matt. 17:5), pray with Jesus (Matt 6:9-13), and practice the ethics of the kingdom modeled by Jesus (Matt. 5:1-12). Disciples are imitators of Christ (1 Cor. 1:11). Jesus reminds his disciples that discipleship starts with water baptism. Paul’s presentation of baptism is appropriate here. He explicitly links water baptism to the bestowal of the Holy Spirit and the new life in Christ. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (Rom 6:3-5). For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (3:27). And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). In baptism, Jesus’ authority is on display as new disciples are made and experience the salvation and new life he brings. The disciples are not only to baptize but to teach new disciples. They are to tell the story of Jesus and his significance for all nations. The teaching required is comprehensive to guide disciples to obey “all” that Christ commanded (Matt. 28:20). By teaching the story, they make God’s holy name known to the nations, see his kingdom come, and will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9-13). Jesus’ farewell discourse concludes with a promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Matthew takes his readers back to the beginning of his Gospel. Jesus receives the name Emmanuel, “which means God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Jesus is always present in the Christian community. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20). Jesus and his authority are with the disciples on their mission. The words they speak and the power they possess are Christ’s words and power (Matt. 7:24-27). The story of Jesus, the Gospel, “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Rom. 1:6) How should Pentecostals read Holy Scripture and receive it as their authority for faith, life, and ministry? We should read the Bible as the story of Jesus with Jesus as the interpretive key to understanding its message. Experiencing salvation and empowerment for living and mission as disciples are the goals of reading. Scripture’s authority reflects the authority of the present and risen Lord Jesus, who continues his ministry through disciples. Jesus fulfills his promises and makes biblical stories of God’s revelation and actions in the world alive with meaning and power. The story of Jesus found in Holy Scripture serves as the context and authority to understand, evaluate, and reform Pentecostal faith, life, and ministry. By the Holy Spirit, Scripture not only tells the story of salvation but works salvation in Pentecostal lives. Pentecostals are “born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). Bibliography Lubac, Henri de Cardinal. Medieval Exegesis Vol 1 the Four Senses of Scripture. Ressourcement (Grand Rapids, Mich). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998. “The International Pentecostal Holiness Advocate | Consortium of Pentecostal Archives.” Accessed February 15, 2022. https://pentecostalarchives.org/collections/internationalpentecostalholinessadvocate/ [1] “The International Pentecostal Holiness Advocate | Consortium of Pentecostal Archives,” accessed February 15, 2022, https://pentecostalarchives.org/collections/internationalpentecostalholinessadvocate/. [2] Henri de Cardinal Lubac, Medieval Exegesis Vol 1 the Four Senses of Scripture, Ressourcement (Grand Rapids, Mich) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 237.

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