John Stumbo Video Blog No. 22
May 12, 2015
Have we completely yielded our lives to Christ in such a way that we are open to whatever His Spirit would like to do in and through us? In a three-part series produced by Riverside Church in Minnesota, John unpacks God’s call on The Alliance as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8, family. Be sure to watch Acts 1:8 Part 2 and Acts 1:8 Part 3 of John's teaching.
Hey, team, what you’re about to see was originally recorded at the Riverside Church in Minnesota, courtesy of my friends there. I had been invited to speak at a conference for mission mobilizers but was unable to attend the conference, so we put together this video, which is actually a three-part series. I’m only gonna be showing part one to us today for the video blog. If you want to view or use the other two parts, you can simply find the link in the description below.
I am bringing this to you for this month’s video blog because as I describe The Alliance as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family and hear more of you use that description as well, I have concern that we might have a tendency when we think of Acts 1:8 to skip right past the first half of the verse, which speaks of the empowerment, to get right to the last half—the assignment.
For those who are attending Council, these would be great preparatory thoughts for us; and for anyone viewing this video, I trust that this will be a word of encouragement to your soul today.
Acts 1:8: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world.”
I read a story one time of a photographer who got a call. He worked for a leading news magazine, and there was a forest fire in the region that he was supposed to cover with this photographic journalism. He was told there was a Cessna waiting for him at the airport that he usually used, and so he was to grab his equipment and get down to the airport as quickly as possible and grab this waiting airplane.
So he did so; he jumped in his car with his equipment, got to the airport. Sure enough, there was a Cessna waiting in the—idling on the runway, and so he jumped in and said to the pilot, “Let’s go.” And they took off; and when they got airborne, he said to the pilot, “Now what I want you to do is I want you to head over toward the fire on the north side, and I want you to dip the right wing kind of low.”
And you could see the pilot’s eyes getting bigger and bigger as he described what he wanted done, and the pilot said, “Why do you want me to do that?”
“’Cause I gotta get pictures of this fire; what do you mean? I’m a photographer; I gotta get pictures of this fire.”
And the pilot said, “You mean you’re not the flight instructor?”
Untested assumptions are some of the most dangerous things that we can make. Untested assumptions endanger us, and I fear that as we begin talking about Acts 1: 8 that some of us will just assume the first part of the verse: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” We’ll rush like the photographer into the assignment, assuming too much, jumping right in to the last half of the verse because we’re missional people, we want to get the job done. We want to get to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the uttermost parts of the world, and so we assume we have the first half covered.
Well, I’m afraid we do this same thing with Matthew 28 as well. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go into all the world and make disciples.” We might assume that we understand that first part, or we might even neglect the first part. What does it mean that His authority has been granted?
So, today, I don’t want to make that mistake, because the C&MA from the very outset—while being very missional—yes, we started in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, uttermost parts right from the beginning; every sector of human society was on Dr. Simpson’s heart. It was clear from our earliest days, as we ministered to immigrants and street-level ministries and all the way to the Congo. Not going to the cities of Congo because there were missionaries there; we went to the rural areas because that was where the unreached, most remote places.
So if you understand The Alliance, you know that we’ve been very missional. But if you fail to understand that we’ve always been a deeper-life and missions movement—Old Orchard Maine, the camp ground where the beginning dreams of The Alliance came together—this was a place where there was deeper-life teaching, of being filled with the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, and that’s what sent us into the world—that kind of experience with God.
What we do flows out of what Christ has done for us and what He is doing in us by His Spirit. You know the story of how we started in after the Old Orchard Maine meetings and then with some of those things going on in Simpson’s background, when he had his first gathering of what would eventually become The Alliance. It was eight people around a wood stove on a cold and cheerless dancehall, as they gathered together and thanked God that they were few and poor and weak. And they claimed Zechariah 4, verse 6, which declares, “’Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD.”
So from our beginning, we started with this dependence on the Holy Spirit. At that meeting, by that wood stove, with those eight people, they said, “We thrust ourselves upon the power of the Holy Spirit.”
If the life of Christ is not being lived out in us, the witness of Christ will not be properly spoken and lived out through us. One of the greatest reasons for people to listen to the message we have is because of the Holy Spirit–produced fruit that is born in our lives. We in our word and deed are far more attractive witnesses if we are Holy Spirit–filled witnesses.
Now, personally, I don’t see this as a one-size-fits-all experience. I know that early in my Christian journey, I often asked God to do in me what He had done in somebody else. I am changing that prayer in the later years of my life to ask God to do in me whatever He desires to do in me, to not try to replicate the story of some other saint. I don’t see the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as a one-size-fits-all experience. I believe that He is more personal, individual than that. He desires to be sought, that is universal, but our seeking of Him, our trust in Him is to work in us in a manner that is unique to us—personal, powerful over the course of time, His Word powerfully working through us but not necessarily repeatable.
I also don’t see this as a one-time-is-good-for-life kind of experience—this relationship with the Holy Spirit. “You’ve been given everything you need for life and godliness,” Peter tells us. Yes, we have been given everything we need, but we draw on that provision day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. I need Him right now so as not to miss what He has for me in this moment.
So I’m seeing this relationship with the Holy Spirit as a continuous drinking from the fountain that is continuously flowing—this ever-present, ever-available, ever-accessible, ever-willing Holy Spirit, who wants to change us from the inside out, bear the character of Christ through us.
I’ve said in other places that one of the worst sermons we as Alliance preachers can preach, or one of the worst series, is a nine-part series on the fruit of the Holy Spirit, where we take each fruit one at a time and then give like eight ways to be more patient and six ways to be more loving. I really don’t think that that’s what it’s about. I really believe it’s the fruit— it’s the work of the Holy Spirit, bearing the life of Christ, the character of Jesus through us.
And, yes, there are some things that we can do to cooperate with Him, but what I am trying to spare myself from, and those that I speak to from, is a try-harder form of Christianity, where we’re trying to squeeze a little more patience or squeeze a little more joy out of our dry and weary souls. No, that’s not the New Testament that I understand. It is not the life of Christ that is available to us.
So, I have to ask us today, have we completely yielded our lives to Christ in such a way that we are open to whatever His Spirit would like to do in and through us? Are we hanging on to any aspect of our old nature that just feels too good to give up? We really like a certain piece of that old nature, and we don’t want to walk away from it yet and die to that. If that’s the case, we’re not going to fully experience all that He has.
I am on a personal life quest on a daily basis of walking in the Spirit, experiencing what He has for each day of my life. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” That promise is still available today. Peter actually repeated it when, after Pentecost came, and he’s speaking to the crowd and they are saying, “What shall we do?” and he tells them, “Repent and be baptized.”
And he uses the same word that Jesus used in Acts 2, verse 38. “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off—to all whom the Lord our God will call.” For all who are far off—far off from God, far off in time, far off—I don’t know all that Peter was thinking, but the promise is for you to enter in to the life of the Spirit that He has for us.
And so as I read the New Testament, I read that they were sent by the Spirit, they were filled with the Spirit, they were set apart by the Spirit, they were to pray in the Spirit, they were taught by the Spirit, they were to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, bear the fruit of the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, manifest the gifts of the Spirit, preach the gospel by the Holy Spirit—the Spirit who is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, who gives life to our mortal bodies. By the Spirit we put to death the misdeeds of the flesh. We are not to grieve the Spirit. We are not to quench the Spirit, but by the Spirit, we cry, “Abba Father!” And on it goes.
So Alliance family and mission mobilizers that are out there, I challenge us to not assume too quickly that before we go on to the missional aspect of Acts 1:8 that we’ve really prayed through, thought through, and entered into all that Christ has for us: the giving of the Holy Spirit, the empowering of the Holy Spirit, bearing His fruit for us, through us, living His life through us, directing our steps, empowering our words and deeds. Let’s walk in the Spirit together.