Life is finally catching up with me, uni work is getting to an unsustainable level and my eagerness to complete it, waning. As such, I’ve got a delightfully incomplete collection of half-baked posts that are yet to see the light of day as a lot has been happening. Another really sad thing is that, as a result, my camera has been gathering dust in the drawer, hurry up Christmas 😦 (Just to make it clear, I’m GENUINELY joking, it upsets me how early people have started preparing, mince pies are being consumed in such a scandalously premature fashion, shops are stringing their baubles out and, I kid you not, one of my friends has already bought all her presents. Barking.)
The bulk of the weekend was spent on our church weekend away-but-not-away, which was an interesting concept, but I guess, in London, there’s not many places you can do a cheap weekend trip, so it was totally worth it! It was fantastic, there was some great, really challenging teaching. The main things that really moved me were that the Bible isn’t like any other book, where you read it as, well, you would read a book and the author is sitting comfortably in his Primrose Hill penthouse overlooking London. No, the author of this particular book is there, living, and the words you read are coming straight out of His mouth [2 Tim. 3:16] and are living [Heb. 4:12], and it’s really important how we treat them. There was this great illustration with my friend’s wife where she wrote him a love letter whilst he stood and waited, then she gave it to him, and whilst she was there, he opened it, blew his nose with it, scrunched it up and threw it away. Now this isn’t how I’m suggesting we treat God’s word, but I know I definitely don’t approach it like what it is, God’s love letter to each and every one of us.
I’ve been to a few different churches growing up. Most of them have been pretty white middle class, filled with really lovely people; nice. Others have been pretty ‘lively’ churches, where there’s always a lot going on, people talk during the services without getting stern glares from the surrounding congregation, there’s no invisible social roof preventing you putting hands up during singing or clapping, everyone else joins in! These churches are different, but none of them have ‘the right way’ of doing church, although, some would be more popular to different people for various reasons.
A few years ago now, I went through this phase with a couple of my friends, where it seemed everyone was getting on this ‘church hype’. For a bit of background, my family were christian and I’d been a christian for a while myself. But these friends of mine, who were also christian, started going to more worship sessions, started praying a lot, and quite a lot of them started doing things like speaking in tongues. For a long time, I felt really frustrated with myself, inside I’d be like “why, God, aren’t I experiencing things like that huh? Please fill me with Your spirit…”, and I’d pray and I’d pray, and still, nothing really changed. During singing, the words would come out but a quick look around and people were raising their hands and on the ground and stuff, and I’d just have mine in my pockets or trying to prop myself up on the chair in front of me so my legs wouldn’t buckle under from the sheer length of time we’d been standing. Why God!?
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with any of that stuff. They are spiritual gifts and are from the Spirit and are good! [1 Cor. 12:1-11]. The danger is when people start using that as standards to test your level of christianity. Some churches suggest you haven’t become a christian until you start speaking in tongues, or have this huge spirit filled experience, and I don’t think that’s true, there aren’t two stages to being a christian.
- [Acts 2:17] – I will pour out my spirit on all people
- [Acts 2:38] – repent and be baptised … and you will receive the Holy Spirit
- [Gal 3:1-14] – we can’t be saved by what we do, because what we do will never live up to the standards of God, we are simply not able to keep all the laws, but we get His Spirit by believing in what we’ve heard
So we get the spirit from the day we accept God into our lives. Think about the last time you had someone over to stay. How much, say, as a percentage, of them came to stay? 30% 50%, maybe even 75%? Of course, it’s odd to think that only half of them came around, because when someone comes to stay with you, they come with their whole selves, why should God be any different?
All in all, a really challenging set of talks!