I sometimes hear people talking about “born-again Christians” as if they were different from normal Christians, and perhaps rather extreme. In fact, born-again Christians are the only sort of Christians there are! It was Jesus who said to all of us: “You must be born again.” He told Nicodemus that unless he was born again he couldn’t “see the kingdom of God” or, in other words, be a Christian.
A Christian is someone who has had a supernatural experience of God entering into the very centre of their being, bringing them into a special relationship with Jesus and changing their lives for the better. This may have been a sudden, memorable experience or a quiet, gradual but deep experience.
The church isn’t a building with a point on top where people who like that sort of thing go on a Sunday. It isn’t a club for those who happen to like organ music or ceremonial or corporate sing-alongs.
No, the church is composed of people who come together to experience the supernatural presence of God: to worship him, to learn about him and to be changed by him supernaturally.
The question is: how much of this are we experiencing? It is good occasionally to have a spiritual stock-taking.
Pentecost (Whitsun) is a challenge to us, but it can easily play second fiddle to Christmas or Easter. The purpose of Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection and ascension was for God to be able to send his Holy Spirit into the hearts of human beings. So Pentecost is a most important Sunday which should be a high point every year. It says loud and clear that Christianity is supernatural and the church is meant to manifest that supernatural power.
The early church, whose example we should follow, was characterised by supernatural power:
- They were bold witnesses to Jesus who couldn’t but tell others about him.
- They offered wholehearted praise and adoration (love and awe-inspired worship) to God
- They experienced miracles: healings, prophecy, visions etc.
- They were a loving community who were “one in heart and mind.”
Now I thank God for the many good things in our churches, including fellowship and worship. I could write about them at length. But it is clear that we have a long way to go.
“Isn’t that a bit negative?” you might be thinking. No, because the Christian life is an on-going pilgrimage, not a pleasant afternoon on a deckchair enjoying the spiritual sunshine. In other words, we have never “arrived,” we can never sit back and conclude that we are Christian enough! We can never be “complacent in Zion” as the prophet Amos puts it.
Paul writes: “Not that I have already … been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Are you “pressing on” spiritually?
We should want to see our church “pressing on” spiritually:
- Becoming so committed to Jesus that we can’t but tell others about him.
- Experiencing new heights of praise, love and awe-inspired worship for God
- Experienced miracles: healings, prophecy, visions etc.
- Experiencing a new depth of community which is “one in heart and mind” (though not inward-looking).
- Seeing many people coming to faith in Jesus
We can’t make this happen, but we can facilitate it. How? By persistent, heart-felt prayer and by a trusting spiritual openness to the Holy Spirit. There is nothing to be anxious about. We only want what God wants for us: not necessarily what happens elsewhere, but God’s tailor-made purpose for our church.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction