Man, I wished I had included a sermon on the words of Jesus below in the latest sermon series “Impact Statements”. I’m not sure how I missed this – maybe I will retro-fit it back into it but, for today, let me cram it into a blog because it’s something I really feel compelled to address:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” – Luke 4:18
Very interesting. Jesus Christ was reading the opening passage of Scripture that day in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. He shared words from Isaiah’s prophecy and then preached a 90-second sermon in which He declared Himself to be the fulfillment of that Messianic text. He up-and-told the people that He was the Messiah standing right in front of them. What continues to speak to me is the somewhat-awkward declaration that the earthly ministry of God the Son was classified as being anointed and empowered by God the Spirit. Time and writing space don’t afford me opportunity to dive into the full extent of what the New Testament says about Jesus Christ and His “interaction” with God the Spirit but, by way of His example, we may conclude that, if Jesus required the Spirit’s empowerment for living and serving here, certainly we do also. Here’s my concern for my own life and ministry: We are Christians who have been commissioned by the Creator and Lord to tell people of Him and His plan for them. It’s not the Good Option that we are given but, rather, the Great Commission. Our lives are to be proactively engaged for the ultimate purpose of proclaiming redemption and reconciliation to the human race via the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May I share an observation or two about what I see happening among Christians and especially among those of us who are to be preachers and teachers? Jesus said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…” – Some may not be comfortable with this question but I am going to ask it anyway: Is your life and ministry anointed of God? Does the power of the Holy Spirit clearly characterize who we are and what we do, presumably, for the glory of Christ? This is not a side-issue for a fringe group in the Body of Christ. All believers have the Holy Spirit but do we have His active anointing on life and ministry?
“…he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…” – I am deeply worried that, instead of this, we tend to proclaim non-confrontational news to the indulgent. Jesus had an intense attraction to the poor, socially-outcast and notoriously sinful people of His day. Confessedly, most Christians and churches here in my neck of the woods don’t seem to attract people like this. Jesus seem to draw them to Himself…why don’t we?
“…he has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives…to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” – Far from proclaiming freedom to the oppressed, many uber-orthodox Christians and churches proclaim religious, enslaving tradition to doubly-capture the already captive. Liberty – what a massive theme of God’s Word! In our day it is a dirty word among conservative evangelicals who are worried that biblical freedom will lead to looseness of morals and commitment. Our solution? Wrapping people up with chains of Law and Tradition so as to make them appear godly to those who are bound just like them. The only problem is that God is free and joyous and intends for His followers to be the same. Legalism NEVER produces this.
“…and recovering of sight to the blind…” – Doctrinally liberal Christians and churches so dim the beam of Truth that they end up offering shadows to those who desperately need light. It’s akin to smiling like one of the Stepford Wives as you present to the malnourished and starving bowls full of air, encouraging them to dig in for a sustaining meal. We need to Holy Spirit power to bear the light of the Gospel effectually.
With the American, 21st Century revisionist Gospel, is it any wonder that scarcely few could publicly, boldly proclaim as Jesus Christ did that day in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…” The Holy Spirit’s enablement is tethered to the clear mission of Jesus. We can do many things apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. We just can’t do anything spiritually meaningful and why would we not be powerfully concerned about this negative potential for our lives?
At the risk of hanging out our ecclesiastical dirty laundry before the eyes of non-believers, I want to submit that we are guilty of the aforementioned issues to one degree or another. Perhaps you are the exception. Maybe your church has been graced to escape culpability in these frightening generalizations. The question still remains, however, for all of us to consider. Are we living an anointed life? (that sound you hear is 1,000 Baptists simultaneously clicking the X in the upper right hand of their computer screen) Is the Holy Spirit’s presence characterizing who you are and what you do or… have you simply mastered playing your role and delivering your lines as you enter the umpteenth uninterrupted running of your life on the Broadway of Westernized religion?
By the way, one of the errors we make in discerning if we or someone else is serving with the blessed touch of God is to over-analyze results from what is said and done. Jesus Christ declared that the Spirit of the Lord had anointed Him and His work. What was the result of His ministry that day in His hometown of Nazareth? The audience rejected Him and His teaching and sought to throw Him off a cliff. They were unsuccessful. He began His ministry with the blessing of God and completed it in the same way. The same Holy Spirit who anointed Him is doing that continuing work upon any and all that will love others like Christ, pray like Christ, sacrifice like Christ, speak truth like Christ and trust Christ. Nothing else will suffice in our lives and ministries. We need to wait until we are clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49) and then welcome God to lay His enabling hand on us. Beware of all the counterfeits to this that are available. Study is essential, but it’s not the same thing as God’s power. Clear communication and interesting sermons can be effective, but they will never be fruitful on their own. Nice buildings, immaculately-performed music and well-oiled Sunday services carry no weight with the Almighty nor have they ever made the enemy to quake. May God help me and all other Christian leaders refuse to settle for anything less than the power of the Holy Spirit as we continue in our calling to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, and freedom to those who are oppressed. If we make these our life-aims then we should well expect the Holy Spirit’s presence and power as our sustained reality.
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