Sunday, June 07, 2009
The Church thrives by virtue of her union with Christ (Mark Lauterbach)
Mark Lauterbach, pastor of Grace Church San Diego:
"The temptation of my heart is always to take a work of God and turn it into a self-improvement project. Acts is about the continuing work of Christ to build his church by the Spirit of God and through the witness of his people. Human servants are all over – but Luke wants us to see this is the work of Christ. My heart wants to turn it into a blueprint for what I need to do... Acts 2:42-47 is the end of a passage about the pouring out the Spirit of God by the exalted Christ. It is about how the Spirit of God is the active presence of God in this last chapter of history... Acts 2:42-47 contains no exhortations. It is a description. It is a description of what it looks like in a local church when the Holy Spirit is active.
These are vital signs. “Vital signs” is a medical image. Doctors look for vital signs in a patient. They look for a strong pulse, good respiration, skin color. If they do blood work, they look for acceptable red and white cell counts. Vital signs are the fruit of health. Vital signs in the church are a mark of health. Luke gives five... hunger for God’s word, hunger for fellowship, hunger for worship, the active presence of God, and fruitful evangelism. If the Holy Spirit is active, these will be there. So, I do not think the passage is a template for human initiative. It is a measurement of God’s work...
...This pouring out of the Spirit is not being managed by the apostles. It is being experienced. The fruit is Gospel fruit, possible only in a new birth and the indwelling Spirit. Fruitfulness is not the result of human strategies and planning. It is certainly not the fruit of us deserving it. Fruitfulness is the result of abundant grace. Grace is not God's response to anything in us. But God uses people. Acts is about the continuing work of Christ by the Spirit through his witnesses. Everywhere Luke notes that God uses human means to accomplish his work. But his work is related to their faith not their performance. Paul asked the Galatians in 3:1-5 if their experience of grace and the work of the Spirit in them was due to their merits and efforts or due to their trusting God? Jesus said, 'according to your faith be it unto you' and we are told 'he could not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
Does this mean faith is some kind of power over God? No, faith is looking to God, hoping in God's Son, turning from self-focus... Acts is no more about human wisdom and planning than surfing is about the surfer creating the wave. The surfer rides a wave, and so do the apostles ride the wave of the Spirit's coming.
...We must turn from anything that would make us think fruitfulness is a result of something other than the Savior's blood bought grace... the downward drag of sin can weaken, wither, or shrivel the fruitfulness that was once there. And God also sends dry times to draw us back to him... in the church we may grieve or quench the Spirit. Or we may simply grow dull because of the working of sin to harden our hearts. Fellowship may be disrupted by bitterness or a pride that thinks it does not need others. Love for Scripture may be quenched by a desire for sin or a pride of traditions. The continuing work of Christ may be hindered by unbelief.
We are called to ask God to see what is hindering the work of the Spirit and bring it to the cross. And we are called to go back to the Savior for fresh grace. We are not to live under a cloud of despair or condemnation. We are to flee to the cross. The heart of the passage is this – the church is the work of the exalted Christ. She thrives by virtue of her union with Him. The church is made healthy by going back to him. Sin will disrupt the church. The Savior’s blood is more than sufficient for forgiveness and renewal."