In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up… (Acts 1:1-2a)
Born Two Thousand Years Too Late?
Earlier on in my Christian life, I secretly felt like I had been born two thousand years too late. It seemed like I could have been a better Christian if I’d have lived during the earthly ministry of Christ. I guess I just assumed it would be easier to live faithfully for Jesus if I could only walk and talk with Him before He left earth. After all, the most life-giving relationships are those which are deepened through personal, face-to-face interaction.
But I’ve since found that, while that’s probably true of every other relationship we have in life, it’s not true of the Christian’s relationship with Jesus. Christ’s ascension into the heavenly realm makes our relationship with Him more personal and life-giving, not less.
All That Jesus Began to Do And Teach
Writing to someone named Theophilus, Luke starts his written account of the early church’s life by referring to his “first book” (see Acts 1:1, quoted above). This first book is, in fact, the Gospel which bears his name—the Gospel of Luke. And that Gospel, he says, dealt with “all that Jesus began to do and teach.”
Often when describing a small, rural town people use the expression “Blink and you’ll miss it” to convey just how quickly one can drive through it without even noticing. Well, here in this opening sentence, Luke makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it statement that is loaded with meaning for the Christian life, and it’s all contained in that one word began.
By making a clear connection between his Gospel account and the book of Acts in Acts 1:1, Luke uses the word began to signal to his audience that the earthly ministry of Jesus didn’t end with the ascension; but that our Lord was only getting started with it.
But it’s easy to object at this point. After all, with Jesus going away, how could His ministry not be put on hold? And if that’s the case, aren’t we just biding our time until He comes back?
Well, that would be true, except for one thing . . . or should I say, Person—the Holy Spirit.
A Greater Advantage
We tend to underestimate the significance of what it means to have the Holy Spirit. However, the Spirit’s work is, in a very important sense, meant to be understood as a continuation of Christ’s ministry on earth—one that would have a more far-reaching impact. This is why Jesus reminded His disciples that to have the Spirit, whom He calls “the Helper,” is of greater advantage to them than His immediate physical presence:
But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:6-7)
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-14)
Here Jesus makes the astonishing promise that He will continue to speak to His disciples through the soon-to-come Helper-Spirit. In fact, He had yet to reveal to them everything they needed to hear about the ways of His Kingdom. But they would soon know more.
Yet that’s not all. Jesus actually promises something even more astounding:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
Through Christ’s incarnation, the Holy Spirit had dwelt with the disciples. But Jesus assures them that it was only a matter of time before that same Spirit would not only dwell with them, but also within them.
And this goes for us as well. The Helper-Spirit is still alive in the church today. This means that Jesus is still speaking to His people. It also means that Jesus, though seated in the heavenly places, is Spiritually present with us and we with Him (2 Co. 3:16-18; Eph. 2:6).
In other words, the incarnate Christ is immediately available to each of us through the Spirit in a way that He could not be in His earthly ministry. His presence is no longer bound by His enfleshment, nor is His teaching ministry spatially limited. Rather Christ’s work on earth is manifested wherever the church is sent because God has poured out His omnipresent Spirit upon His redeemed people (Ps. 139:7).
What could be more important for us as a church than the assurance that the personal, life-giving presence of the Risen Lord is with us today? We need it each time we gather to worship Him. For it is the Spirit who is uniquely present to illuminate His Word and bring His love directly to us. And in so doing, He is equipping and empowering us to bear a faithful witness for Christ in the world (see Acts 4).
So as we look forward to the Lord’s Day, let us fully expect that the Spirit who is in us will speak to us as a congregation. And when He does, let’s respond to Him in worship and obedience. To that end, LifePoint’s worship ministry will be introducing a new hymn which highlights the Spirit’s work in the Christian life—“Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God” by the Gettys. Its lyrics will serve as a sung-prayer for the Spirit’s presence to be manifested in our lives and among our church. You can find everything you need to know about the song directly below.
LifePoint, let’s come good and ready to sing this together in order that we might “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
Holy Spirit, living Breath of God
Breathe new life into my willing soul
Bring the presence of the Risen Lord
To renew my heart and make me whole
Cause Your Word to come alive in me
Give me faith for what I cannot see
Give me passion for Your purity
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me
Holy Spirit, come abide within
May Your joy be seen in all I do
Love enough to cover every sin
In each thought and deed and attitude
Kindness to the greatest and the least
Gentleness that sows the path of peace
Turn my strivings into works of grace
Breath of God, show Christ in all I do
Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth
Giving life to all that God has made
Show Your power once again on earth
Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise
Lead us on the road of sacrifice
That, in unity, the face of Christ
May be clear for all the world to see