“…the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:26-27.
Who doesn’t love a good mystery? Especially one that has been kept hidden for ages and generations and now is finally being disclosed? This word picture from Paul is Indiana Jones-like imagery. Something wonderful and powerful has been hidden away for a long, long time and is now finally unleashed. By the end of this remarkable introduction to his Colossians letter, Paul has us all leaning in, desperate to know what it is.
Imago Dei – Created in God’s Image
I believe when God created man (and woman) in His own image, this mystery was more apparent to the angels looking on than to the created man. Being created in God’s image, whatever else that means, surely includes being created with the capacity to be indwelled by God’s own Spirit. Man was created with a void in the shape of God’s spirit; a void that would not be filled on a large scale until a day we know as Pentecost.
Everything changed at Pentecost. The answer to the mystery of what that void was all about was then revealed. For the first time, the Spirit of God completed what was God’s plan from the beginning, to indwell His creation. While we see appearances of His Spirit earlier in His story, temporarily filling individuals for limited purposes. But Pentecost was different. It was a permanent filling of every believer. God, the Spirit…Christ in you, the hope of glory.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27
Of all the miracles referenced in the Bible, the Pentecost miracle in Acts 2 may be at the top of my list of moments I would love to have seen. The tongues of fire ushering down God’s Spirit to indwell God’s people…wow!
In terms of their impact on this world and the ushering in of a completely new chapter in God’s story, I tend to think of the crucifixion, the resurrection and Pentecost as three aspects of a single, “this changes everything” moment in history. All are significant in themselves, but all are necessary to bring about the age of the church. It is a little like a three-legged stool in that regard. Take any one of the legs away and you have an entirely different situation.
These three events (which all happened within just a few weeks of each other), taken together, changed forever the way God would relate to his creation…AND the way we, His children, would relate to each other.
Follow the history with me through the Bible…
In the garden, God related to Adam and Eve through an interpersonal relationship (yes, I am quite the literalist in my interpretation of scripture). …
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
This is the time of year when we, as Christ followers, remember the three events which all happened within a few weeks of each other and which changed our world forever: the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Pentecost. Within the Christian world, different groups have tended to focus more on one of these events or another. In my particular flavor of Christianity, we tend to focus more on the resurrection than on the other two; so much so, in fact, that I sometimes lose the practical significance of either the crucifixion or of Pentecost. This week, as an exercise to help me balance this, I have been thinking a lot about the crucifixion.
In The Gathering this past Sunday, I challenged everyone to consider their daily routine, their life and their world without the crucifixion. What would it look like? What would it be like? It made for some interesting discussion, as we each began to come to grips with what the crucifixion means to us individually.
So, I have also been asking the same question with regard to the entire church. What does the crucifixion mean for us corporately? What would “church” look like without it? For me (so far) the picture is both simple and scary: there would be little forgiveness and there would be little grace. I believe that because, over and over again, scripture draws a clear and convincing connection between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of each other. Don’t …
Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matt. 9:17
“Worship style” definitely gets the prize for being the most troublesome issue dividing churches today. I believe it is troublesome because it hits many of us at a pretty deep level. We each have our preferred “language” for worship, and these worship wars have a way of calling into question the legitimacy of my “language”. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts here and here and here, but our questioning each other’s worship style is a little reminiscent of the money-changers questioning the legitimacy of each person’s sacrifice.
In Jesus’ much-studied conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (John chapter 4), he is asked a pointed question about the appropriate time and place to worship God. For those of us who are struggling even now with “worship style” issues, this woman’s question is a prime example of a “worship style” question. Jesus’ response, that “a time is coming” when God’s restrictions on time, place and form would no longer be central to worship, seems to me to be a clear signal that an important change was about to happen. Jesus’ remarks in Matthew chapter 9 about “new wine” and “new wineskins” seem to signal the same thing: a profoundly new way of relating to God.
Isn’t that what Pentecost (Acts 2) represented? Wasn’t it the ushering in of an entirely new way of relating to God? Surely, Jesus’ teaching to the woman at the well that God is seeking …