Monday, 14 June 2010

Wise and persuasive?

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on man's wisdom but on God's power. (1Cor2.4-5)

I remember being told the (I'm sure apocryphal) story of a visitor being taken around the Vatican, and, as he was being shown all the treasures his guide, recalling the story in Acts, said "no longer does the church have to say, 'silver and gold have I none' , to which the visitor replied, "no, but no longer CAN the church say 'in the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk'.
It is a story to which I return in my mind often, by which I am challenged and made more than a little uncomfortable. I believe it is a 'holy discomfort'.

I am not one to decry the worth and importance of human intellectual endeavour, especially when it comes to matters of faith. However, I remember a good Christian friend once reminding me that anyone who was argued into the kingdom could be argued out when a more persuasive speaker came along with a contrary view. There is a lot of truth in this.

So what are we saying? Most certainly don't despise human wisdom and persuasion, but please don't come to depend upon it as our primary means of seeing people come into the fullness of a relationship with Jesus. I think it is this balance that has been fairly comprehensively tipped in many of our churches and teachers. It is rather more 'comfortable' and culturally acceptable to talk than it is to lay hands and 'pray with power in the name of Jesus'. I wonder, of myself as much as anybody else, to what extent we really do expect our 'words about God' to be accompanied by the visible, demonstrable and/or experiential power of the Holy Spirit- 'signs from God'?
In Acts we read about Philip, and it says that 'when the people SAW saw the miraculous signs..... then they LISTENED intently to what he said'. Not the only model by any means, but certainly a one that many of us could do with 'rediscovering'.

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on man's wisdom but on God's power.


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