Thursday 4 October 2012

Anglicans Ablaze - Transformed by the Holy Spirit - Bishop Graham Cray

These are the notes of the talk on Transformation by the Holy Spirit, given at Anglicans Ablaze on 4 October 2012 by Bishop Graham Cray, Archbishops' Missioner in the Church of England


Great to be back in South Africa
Great to be here among so many blazing Anglicans.
I am also part of the New Wine ministry in the UK
A new bishop's hat

So to our theme

The Lord is here - His Spirit is with us.

Two possible talks about the Holy Spirit - the comfortable one about assurance,
(but I'm not going to give that). Then there's the other discomforting one.

Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

'Our theology would improve if we thought more of the church being given to the Spirit, than of the Spirit being given to the church.' John V Taylor

If we are to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit we must allow ourself to be drawn into the Holy Spirit's purposes, not believe we can simply draw the Holy Spirit into ours.

v8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

A crucial text in my own history - February 1966 - leading my first person to Christ

Since then renewal and mission have been inseparably linked in my understanding.
Renewal without mission is self- indulgence.
Mission without renewal becomes legalistic or triumphalist or disillusioned.

But there is much more in this text than I saw then

'Be my witnesses' Who we are not what we say

'Ultimately the evidence for the credibility of the gospel in the eyes of the world must be a quality of life, manifested in the Church, which the world cannot find elsewhere.’ Towards the Conversion of England 1945

Martyrs - cost not just encounter

Witnesses for others, not experiences for myself.

The Spirit of Christ transforms us to be more like Christ, as we are drawn into witness and mission
When the Spirit comes, I am drawn out of self -absorption into love for God and love for others, out of individualism into community, out of consumer Christianity which exists to bless me and drawn into a missional life which blesses others.

Drawn out of my comfort zone to those who need Christ.

E.G. Soul Survivor Mission 2000 Valley Estate - learning to do the same when they get home.

E.G Fresh Expressions (60,000 since 2004, 30-40 in many congregations). The same missionary Spirit in Nyassa and the UK.

Fundamentally the gift of the Spirit is a cross cultural or missionary gift, and that requires wisdom.

When Pentecost occurred, Peter gave a further explanation:
Acts 2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,in those days I will pour out my Spirit;and they shall prophesy.19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. ’

The promise of wisdom, for mission out of our comfort zones.

The Holy Spirit is the lead missionary - they must follow and attend to the Spirit

But they were often surprised - despite 'Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'

The Samaritans, Paul, and Cornelius all come across as surprises.

God gives guidance on a 'needs to know basis.
He decides what and when we need to know.

They sometimes found it hard
Acts 16 - An apostolic team, seeking to be obedient to the Holy Spirit opens up a new mission field, despite its best intentions!
Acts 16:6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8 so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

Unpromising circumstances

Church Politics:

Partnership of Paul (who represented the Gentiles at the Council of Jerusalem) and Silas (who was part of the Jewish church in Jerusalem, a leader and a prophet 15:27+32) So something good can come from unavoidable politics and conflict.

Relationship Breakdown:

Following a split with Barnabas and the forced creation of a new team (15:36ff)

Months of Frustration

Kept from preaching in what would be the next places on a journey north.
(These regions were evangelized later Ch18-19)
As a result they have a frustrating journey of several months.

‘Jesus’ witnesses must patiently endure the frustration of their own plans, in order to discover the opportunity which God holds open.’ David Peterson

‘The Spirit blocked every direction sought by human initiative, and left only an opening to Europe.’ LT Johnson

Notice when God stops you, or takes his hand off a piece of work - In my context many trusted ways of evangelism failing to bear fruit.

Or when his guidance so far seems to lead you to an impasse – my interview at Cheltenham

Or when you have tried everything you know - much of it what God has taught you in earlier ministry - Grange Park Church

‘The Spirit is shepherding Paul and his companions to Troas, in order there to grant them a new vision.’ Justo Gonzalez

The Spirit was present, just as much in the time of frustration as in the time of a clear call from God

‘The church is “missionary by its very nature” and it becomes missionary by attending to each and every context in which it finds itself.’ Bevans & Schroeder

A church is not being faithful by remaining the same and preserving its traditions when it's missionary context is changing all around it.

We grow as we allow God to draw us out of our comfort zone and security.

‘They were not expanding the gospel as they followed the missional mandate of our Lord across all the safe boundaries of their world. The gospel was expanding them. It still does.’ Darrell Guder

Back into the story of the call to Macedonia, where they find their previous experience will not help.
No synagogue.
But God the evangelist at work in just the same way as before, but in this strange new context.

Acts 16:14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.

We are witnesses - The Holy Spirit convicts and we add our testimony.

Heaven backs up earth 'in the heaven above and on earth below'

Why is it hard sometimes? Why is life in the Spirit not just one triumph after another.

Pentecost is first fruits not full harvest, the Holy Spirit in the midst of the kingdom of this world, Not the kingdom restored - so a gift of first fruits of being sustained, of hanging in there, in hope and faith.

So when it is hard, remember
'The certain evidence that the future has dawned and the absolute guarantee of its final consummation.' Gordon Fee


The gift of this missionary and sustaining Spirit is for today, whatever your context and however much it is changing.

'In the last days' (Compared to 'the Lord's great and glorious day')

So the promise for today.

Acts 2:39
For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

Jan. 1, 1739. In his journal Wesley wrote about it this way:
Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother Charles, were present at our love-feast in Fetter-Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning , as were were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, “We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.”

The promise is for today.

'Our theology would improve if we thought more of the church being given to the Spirit, than of the Spirit being given to the church.' John V Taylor

If you have never been filled, open yourself today.

Told keep on being filled
To do that you have to,have a first time.

Together we give ourselves to the Holy Spirit again.