Have you ever thought it would be better to have lived during the time of Jesus? To have walked with him? To have seen him heal many people or feed the 5,000? As our hearts may long to have walked with Jesus many years ago, J. D. Greear reminds us that Jesus has a different, better plan for us. In his newest book, Jesus, Continued: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You, Greear argues from the Scripture that it is better to have the Holy Spirit in us rather than Jesus beside us. He challenges his readers to know the Holy Spirit personally and to participate in mission in this world.
In Part One, Greear exposes the lie that it would be better to have Jesus beside us now. Really. Yes, the Christian faith unquestionably relies on the person and work of Jesus. Yet, Jesus himself told us that it is better for the Holy Spirit to come. Greear reminds us, “Jesus claimed that having the Holy Spirit in [his disciples] would be better than having him beside them” (25). Tracing this instruction from Jesus, Greear emphasizes our responsibility as believers to walk in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit is to know the Word because we cannot know the Holy Spirit apart from the Word. The Spirit speaks through the Word, and we know the Spirit by the Word. He rightly claims, “While pursuing one without the other leads to spiritual ruin, pursuing one in the other leads to power and life” (29). In the remainder of Part One, Greear shows how God’s Word and the Spirit work together. To do so, he explores such themes as mystery in the Holy Spirit and clarity in the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit in carrying out the mission of God, and the promise of greater works in the power of the Spirit. Yet, he also calls to our mind a sobering truth: God doesn’t need us. He can accomplish his purposes without us. Yet, in his grace, he chooses to use us to be fishers of men. This grace serves as our motivation to proclaim the gospel to all peoples.
In Part Two, Greear explores what it means to experience the Holy Spirit, providing six defining characteristics. First, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit begins with the Gospel. As one grows deeper into the truth of the gospel, a glorious result is receiving further direction and understanding from the Holy Spirit in living for the glory of God. Second, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in the Word of God. The Scripture is our most reliable guide for knowing the will of God, and we are guided by the Spirit to rightly understand his Word. Third, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our giftings. Greear argues that you cannot fully walk in the Spirit unless you are familiar with and are using the gifts he has given you. The Spirit has empowered us in specific ways for his mission. Fourth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in the church. This comes primarily through preaching and words of wisdom and knowledge. Fifth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our spirit. God works in our affections, convictions, desires, and minds to move us to obedience and to actively participate in his mission. Sixth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our circumstances. Our experiences can lead us into all kinds of conclusions, but we must use the other means of knowing the Spirit to rightly understand our experiences.
In Part Three, Greear offers direction in pursuing the Holy Spirit. At times, we may feel as if God is silent. This doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Greear encourages us to look to the Scripture and remember that silence is a way in which God works in our lives. We must remember to walk in faith! This is key to pursuing revival from God. Revival is not found in some innovative technique. Rather, it is grounded in the proclamation of the gospel, prayer, repentance, and yearning for the Spirit. Greear calls for us to pray. We have been given the Holy Spirit. Now, we need to ask him to move mightily among us. This only happens through “persistent, faith-filled prayer” (206). In concluding the book, he offers another reflection on the gospel. He points to the overwhelming theme in the Scripture: the Spirit is given to us for purposes of the gospel. As such, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to accomplish his mission through us!
Overall, Jesus, Continued promises to be a fruitful tool in the life of the church. The pages are filled with Scripture, and his instruction is much like his sermons and other books—challenging, humorous, encouraging, corrective, and motivating. As a pastor-theologian, Greear does not simply offer a “twelve-steps” solution to experiencing the Holy Spirit. It is theologically driven and biblically grounded. In a time when the Christians need great wisdom and instruction from the Lord due to the changing circumstances in America and across the world, this book will serve the church well in understanding and knowing the Holy Spirit.
About the Author:
J.D. Greear serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He has a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he is the author of Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim (Harvest House 2010), Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (B&H 2011), and Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (B&H 2013).
B21 is thankful for the ministry of our friend Tony Merida and want to give you a heads up about his newest book set to release in January. Check out below how to pre-order a copy.
Well, the ordinary cat is out of the bag.
In January 2015, my new book, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down, will be released. I hope to encourage ordinary people like you to do the ordinary things with gospel intentionality for the good of a broken world.
In Acts 17, we see a picture of obedient followers of Jesus who were described by city officials as those who “turned the world upside down.”
To turn the world upside down, you don’t have to be a megachurch pastor, or have an impressive platform. You simply need to live on mission – in word and deed – within the ordinary rhythm of life. We need millions of ordinary, genuine followers of Jesus to live with gospel intentionality daily, not 20 more conference speakers.
This kind of life might not seem spectacular or sensational in the eyes of some, but from a Kingdom perspective, it truly is extraordinary.
The book will be available nationwide on January 1st, 2015. You can pre-order a copy today through one of the retailers below (or check with your favorite retailer):
Everyone is not called to live in a mud-hut in India. Some are. We should celebrate and support those that are. But what about the rest of us? What should we do? I hope that this book will help see the significance of the ordinary, mundane, and trivial. God really does use ordinary people like us.
In August, Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white policeman, in Ferguson, Missouri. Tonight, we learned that the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson on any charges related to the event.
In the months since the shooting, the world has watched closely to see how America faces its racial issues. We may wish we lived in a post-white/post-black world, but recent events affirm that we do not.
While we may never know all the details of what went down in Ferguson, we do know that black Christians and white Christians interpret these types of situations very differently. According to a recent CNN poll, “Fifty-four percent of nonwhites––including blacks, Latinos and Asians––say Wilson should be charged with murder, while just 23 percent of whites agree.”
So inside the church and outside the church, it appears that black people (and other minorities) and white people see events like the tragedy in Ferguson from totally different perspectives.
As a pastor of an intentionally multiethnic, multiclass church, I believe Jesus’ church can bring healing to the deep wounds in our country by being a testimony of how the cross and blood of Jesus can bring about reconciliation and justice.
What if black and white Christians, as well as other minorities, were members of multiethnic churches instead of segregated ones? Nearly 90 percent of churches in America are homogenous, meaning one ethnic group makes up more than 80 percent of the church. Sometimes geographic demographics cause this, but often it is a choice we make to remain segregated as Christians. For example, churches are 10 times more segregated than the neighborhoods they are in and 20 times more segregated than the schools that are near them.
If we worshiped side-by-side in the body of Christ, could we address racism, oppression, and injustice together? We could move towards being one (John 17:21, 23).
If we worshiped side-by-side in the body of Christ, could we address racism, oppression, and injustice together?
In the first century, the churches the apostle Paul planted had their own version of ethnic strife. In Christ, former enemies became co-worshipers in the same multiethnic local churches.
What if black and white Christians shared life with each other in a local church community and heard each other’s stories and walked in each other’s shoes?
“For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Eph. 2:14–16, NLT).
This reconciliation is not just for first-century Jews and Gentiles. It is for all humanity. The reason the church is segregated is that we don’t believe deeply enough in the power of the cross. It seems to me that Christians seem to not really believe that the cross of Christ has anything to do with racism and injustice.
But the gospel-reality is that “Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Eph. 2:16, NLT)
Put. To. Death.
Be an Ambassador
Do you wake in the morning with a sense of urgency every day? I hope you do. As the firestorm in Ferguson reveals, the stakes are high. Listen to Romans 5:10–11, ESV,
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Outside of association and allegiance to Jesus, humanity is an enemy of God. This is why ambassadors of Jesus wake knowing deeply that our time, talents, and treasure are to be leveraged so that God’s enemies can be reconciled to him through Jesus. Reconciliation means that through Jesus, enemies of God become friends of God. It also means that in Christ we are unified into one body, a new man (Eph. 2:15).
When you signed up to follow Jesus, he gave you the ministry of reconciliation. Your life is a bridge over which people walk from death to life.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:18–21, ESV).
God has entrusted you and me, his church, with the message of reconciliation. Are you giving that message away? God pleads with people to become his friends through our lives.
Are we only sharing that message with people who look like us or have the same socioeconomic status we do?
There is a hurting world that needs to know Jesus became what God hates most––sin––so that they could become what he loves most––his children. When we sit in segregated churches we loudly proclaim that we love some of his children more than we love others.
For all eternity, followers of Jesus will enjoy Jesus and each other. But we will not share the message of reconciliation. There will be no need to. But there is a need today! That’s why Jesus left us here as his ambassadors to announce that the kingdom of God has come and that salvation belongs to our God.
So are we just going to scream “Racism” and “Injustice” from behind our segregated church walls, or are we going to start building multiethnic communities that embody what God’s desire is for the world to be.
I’m thankful for the courageous local churches in Ferguson who are calling for peace and reconciliation.
Church, this is a pivotal time in history. Will we rise to the occasion?
B21 is grateful to post a guest blog from Pastor David Prince. Prince is the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church and is also an Assistant Professor for Christian Preaching at Southern Seminary. This piece was originally posted at his website Prince on Preaching and has been reposted with his permission.
“General William Tecumseh Sherman got it wrong. Peace is hell. In war people think about the country. In peace all they think about is themselves,” said war veteran and wartime president of the United States, Harry S. Truman. From 1979-2000 the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) fought a battle for the heart and soul of the world’s largest protestant denomination, which is commonly referred to as the conservative resurgence (or fundamentalist takeover from the liberal side of the conflict).
The battle for the Bible extended well beyond the borders of the SBC, but the fiercest battles raged within the denomination. I fear Truman’s observation is proving correct in the SBC. The denominational struggle in the SBC produced unity among a broad and diverse group of SBC theological conservatives. The conservative resurgence SBC leaders put biblical gospel fidelity and the future of the SBC ahead of personal preferences and differences. But over a decade after the symbolic final victory of the resurgence at the 2000 SBC annual meeting, the harmony among SBC conservatives seems to have lessened. At least from my vantage point, we conservatives seem far more willing to fight and nitpick each other.
There are some passages that if you’ve grown up in church you know and quote; they’re often put on Christian paraphernalia and utilized by pastors to bolster their ministries or fund building campaigns, but sadly little attention is given to what they actually mean in their contexts. In this series, I want to walk through a handful of these passages in order to help us understand them rightly and see how powerful they actually are. This series will cover passages like 2 Chronicles 7:14; Jeremiah 29:11; 2 Chronicles 24 (the chest of Joash); and Proverbs 22:6.
The Most Misinterpreted OT Passages: 2 Chronicles 7:14
“We need revival!”
I have grown up in the SBC, so one sermon that I have heard loud and clear for three decades is the need for revival in our nation. Pastors at conferences and in churches have analyzed the decay of our culture and then they have given the solution: “What we need is revival – another Great Awakening!” Many of these sermons have inspired me a great deal. I certainly do want a Great Awakening in our nation – and in all nations!
Does 2 Chronicles 7:14 map out a plan for revival in America?
One of the key passages pointed to for this revival call is 2 Chronicles 7:14 where the Lord says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” There it is, a word from God that if America will repent then God will bring revival to our land, it is said.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is not about revival from the moral decline of America
This is an incorrect interpretation of this verse. Let’s walk through the passage in its proper context.
The context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 shows that this verse is about Israel
One big rule for interpretation is “context is king.” We must look at the context of the verse to see what it actually means. You’ll notice in my citation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 above that it starts with a lower case “i” rather than an upper case because it’s not an isolated verse but rather part of a larger sentence that starts in verse 13. And these two verses (2 Chron 7:13-14) are part of the even larger section of chapters 6 and 7. What is that larger context? Solomon has just completed the building of the Temple in Jerusalem and prays a grand prayer of dedication in chapter 6. Then in chapter 7 Yahweh appears to Solomon at night and begins to speak to him, referencing Solomon’s prayer that acknowledged the Temple is a place for repentance, forgiveness and restoration.
Solomon’s prayer indicates that when Israel sins against God and God judges Israel as a result with drought, or famine, or exile, then Israel will pray toward the temple in repentance and receive restoration. We know that Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6 and Yahweh’s words to Solomon here in 2 Chronicles 7 are connected because Yahweh uses the same language of the heavens being shut up (2 Chron 6:26; 2 Chron 7:13). Here in 2 Chronicles 7, God reemphasizes Solomon’s prayer that foretold Israel will sin and be judged, but that forgiveness is available if they will repent (2 Chronicles 7:12-16) and all of this is linked to atonement (7:12).
Who is Israel? It’s not America
So, 2 Chronicles is not a promise to the United States of America; it’s a promise to God’s people – Israel. Now, that raises a question for New Testament believers who interpret this passage: “Who is Israel?” Theologically, there are about 3 key positions that people take in answering this question: 1) National Israel: the promises to Israel in the OT will be fulfilled in the future with national Israel. 2) The Church: the promises to Israel are fulfilled spiritually in the church. 3) Christ: the promises to Israel are fulfilled in Christ who is the True Israel and those who are united to Him by faith also receive the promises. I don’t want to get into all the particulars of these theological positions, but suffice to say that none of these options includes the United States of America.
Let’s rejoice in the promise of restoration through repentance
As a NT Christian interpreting this passage, 2 Chron. 7:14 seems more akin to 1 John 1:9 than as a promise for a new Great Awakening. Instead of being a promise about national revival in America, this is a promise to the church that when she is in sin and repents, through Christ’s atonement God will restore the church (see the letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation).
For some people this reality may be upsetting and troubling. For those who equate Christianity with American patriotism, this will no doubt create animosity. But, for redeemed Christians in the New Covenant community, this truth should bring comfort that despite our sin we have a merciful God who forgives and restores.
Do I want revival in America? Absolutely! Do I pray for revival in my city? Yes! But, I want revival in all nations through the Great Commission. I just don’t think 2 Chronicles 7 gets you there. And, more than that, my primary identity isn’t as an American – as much as I love my nation. My primary identity is in Christ and His Church. We would do well to ask ourselves the question, “If God chose to bring revival to Iran, India, and Pakistan rather than the United States of America, would we rejoice or get frustrated?” Wherever God chooses to restore and revive among our brothers and sisters globally let us rejoice!
Stay tuned for the next installment!