The back of my car during my high school and college years was plastered with bumper stickers – mostly of bands I loved, but the occasional “statement” sticker as well.
Because of my affinity (some might have called obsession) with bumper stickers, I am especially inclined to notice other peoples’ car tattoos as well – the message they choose to impart to the world about themselves.
You have the standard “proud parent of smart kid” stickers, band representation, political statements (some that age well, some that don’t), places of interest, “look how far I can run”, religious proclamations, sport team allegiances, Calvin peeing on stuff, corporate advertising, and a host of other varieties. Then you also have the “anti-“ versions of all of these.
Which stickers you have, where you place them, how many you have … these things all impart critical information about you, the driver (whether it is your car that you are driving or not). And I will judge you based on your bumper stickers!
In the early days of my obsession I was always on the lookout for new stickers. One of the ones that caught my eye was a simple statement, “My Boss Is a Jewish Carpenter”. I wasn’t a Christian at the time and was largely unchurched, so I admittedly didn’t get it at first. But I thought it was a provocative statement. I remember having that “aha!” moment a couple of years later when my life was in a different place and I finally understood that it was a reference to Jesus. It didn’t convert me or play any role in my conversion, but it was definitely noteworthy in and of itself as a statement.
As The Grove enters a teaching series on the book of Acts, my mind has come back to this statement. For sure, the early church had its foundation in Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith. They quoted his teachings, they continued the work of his ministry, they preached his gospel, they saw and heard him in visions and dreams. Jesus was still very alive and active as he still is to this day.
But if you pay attention to who was actively directing and guiding the church in Acts and through the ages, you will see a greater emphasis on the Holy Spirit. To be certain, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one God, so we are correct to say that God has always directed his church. The purpose of this blog isn’t to start a debate over semantics, but to shift our mindset ever so slightly.
Aligning ourself, our purpose, and our identity with Christ Jesus is the foundation of our faith and our salvation. When we are baptized, we declare that our old self is dead and raised to new life in Jesus. Our baptism also involves receiving the Holy Spirit as our Seal of salvation, our Deposit of the life to come, and our Counselor for living out this life.
But for many Christians (even for myself at times), it seems like we feel that the Christian life begins and ends with aligning ourselves with Jesus, accepting the job offer from the Jewish Carpenter. We accept the offer and then we spend the rest of our lives doing our best to imitate our boss as closely as possible. And there’s nothing wrong or evil that. At all!
But I feel that it comes up short in describing the life that we are called into. Spend some time reading John 16, then read through the book of Acts. See how the Holy Spirit moves in the lives of God’s people. The Spirit guides us to the specific work that needs to be done in this world, counsels us in our weakness, convicts us of our sins, enables us to do God’s work on earth by working through us in ways that we commonly refer to as “spiritual gifts”. The Holy Spirit is active and imminent, continually at work in both subtle and overt ways. The Holy Spirit empowered God’s people to speak in foreign languages, heal the sick, reveal sin, travel to the places where his work was needed, and so much more. As a “boss”, the Holy Spirit is less passive and more dynamic than we often times allow our view of Jesus to be.
The slight nuance that I challenge both you and me to is to think of our boss as the Holy Spirit – the one who first appeared to Jesus’ disciples in Acts as a tongue of fire on Pentecost and who hasn’t stopped working since. Some things that I will be praying for, ideally on a daily basis:
•Guide me toward the work that needs to be done today
•Work through me to accomplish that work
•Convict me of sin in my life that I am ignorant of or willfully clinging to
•Counsel me through letting go of that sin
•Transform my mind to think the way you think, rather than the way the world thinks
•Help me see and love the people and the world around me the way you see and love them
Maybe you already pray in this way. I know many people who do. This is the job description of a life whose boss is a holy tongue of fire. You might be surprised to discover where it leads you