Let's be real: Jesus is the most epic human who ever walked the earth. He performed miracles on an almost-daily basis, including giving sight to the blind, casting out demons, healing the sick, memorizing the entire Torah (some would say this is a miracle), walking on water (definitely a miracle), making paralytics move, raising people from the dead, and then rising from the dead himself - all in just over 30 years. So it makes sense his disciples were depressed when he died on the cross. "It is finished," Jesus said as he hung there, giving up his spirit to God. What? That was it? Are you FOR REAL?, his disciples (may have) said. After three years of intense training, fellowship, and miracles, Jesus was dead?
Not! Fast forward three days, and Jesus was resurrected from the dead - his tomb was empty. In his resurrected state, He appeared to several people, some of whom didn't recognize him right away. He talked, fished, cooked, and stood with the friends he'd made during his earthly life - then he took off again, this time on a cloud to heaven.
Now what? The disciples were told by two angels to wait for some kind of sign. When they got it - at Pentecost, when the disciples were gathered in a room in Jerusalem, and "a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting," some crazy things started happening. First of all, the disciples began to speak in other languagesas the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:2, 4), and then, they went out to the streets and began preaching from the rooftops (literally). Sure enough, the disciples and believers began raising people from the dead, being *joyfully* stoned in the streets, escaping from prison, and more.
So why don't these sort of miracles happen more often in the church today? Because, according to pastor Shane Farmer at Willow Creek Community Church's midweek service Wednesday, there's a difference between "Big M" Miracles and little "m" miracles. His instruction was that, when the church first emerges in a new place (i.e., the book of Acts, third world countries, underground churches in persecuted areas, etc.), more "Big M" Miracles are happening as God's kingdom emerges. However, in areas where churches have been established for years, like America, "Little m" miracles are more common. Some examples he gave of "Little m" miracles he gave included hearing God's voice audibly; seeing an angel; having a vision from God; experiencing a powerful internal movement of the Spirit; receiving a prophetic word from God; and/or experiencing a miraculous, or otherwise inexplicable, medical healing.
Farmer had each of us in the auditorium raise our hands if we, or someone we knew closely, had experienced one of those things in our lifetimes, and by the end of the exercise, almost every single person in the 1000+ person auditorium had raised their hand - including me - more than once.
So, the question that Farmer initially posed to us at Wednesday night's session remains:
1) Is the Holy Spirit a fair trade for Jesus?
According to Scripture, yes. As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, Jesus, during his time on earth, gave sight to the blind, healed the sick, walked on water, raised the dead, and more - then, before disappearing into heaven, told his disciples:
"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these" (John 14:12).
So what does that mean in today's church? Perhaps, in America, it means opening our eyes to the "daily miracles" happening everywhere around us, like the ones listed above. Are our hearts truly attuned to what God is doing, or wants to do, in our lives?
2) Jesus on the throne > Jesus in your home
This anecdote, created by Farmer ("It's corny, but you'll remember it, I promise"), means that Jesus defeated death. Therefore, fear of death, the one thing that has the power to bind us to the Earth, no longer needs to bind us as Christians, because we have a mighty counselor - the Holy Spirit - who leads us into eternal life even as we walk around in our physical bodies throughout our lives. Instead of following a fearless leader around physically, like the disciples followed Jesus for years, we can now, if we've been baptized and have asked to receive the Spirit, trust the Holy Spirit that dwells within us to lead us in the way we should go. In Farmer's words from Wednesday's session:
"The Holy Spirit in you is Jesus gone viral. Take it to the ends of the earth."
3) The Holy Spirit gives us...faith, faithfulness, and the power of influence
According to Farmer, three things: faith, faithfulness, and the power of influence. First, faith: to proclaim the truth boldly. We should WANT to publicly declare our faith in Jesus (as mentioned above, he's the most epic human who's ever lived). Second, faithfulness: is there anything challenging our faith? If so, we need to identify it and believe Jesus has overcome it, and the Holy Spirit gives us power to overcome it too. Last, influence: Again, according to Farmer, we as believers "have the power to change the lives of those around you . . . so don't be a caged lion! Engage people in a way that changes lives and eternities."
So my question to you is, what are the implications of the presence of the Holy Spirit in YOUR life? When do you come most alive? Are you living life to the fullest? If not, turn to Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to enter your life and change you from the inside out - because our God is a God of immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine, and works everything together for the good of those who love Him.
What are we waiting for? We need to WAKE UP and live life to the fullest for God - it's then we'll be most fulfilled and satisfied - Jesus promised.
Here's a closing prayer to help usher Jesus' kingdom here on earth:
"Jesus, grant me the gift of your Holy Spirit, and show me how to live boldly with faith, faithfulness, and influence for your glory. Amen."
And an amazing song to encourage you on your way: