Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pentecost devotion: Traditional or Transitional? - Acts 15:8-9

Acts 15:8-9      God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith.

Acceptance is currently a big issue in the lives of many churches around the world. It involves a serious review of what is acceptable to the 21st century Christian community. It’s an important component of who we are and how we effectively witness to the wider world around us. Every generation has to wrestle and struggle with this; every congregation has to work through these tough issues.

Sometimes we get so busy defining the rules and regulations that we neglect to see where the Holy Spirit is actually working in our communities. We get so caught up in the theological civil war that is going on, that we forget about the healing work that the Holy Spirit is ministering to a much greater broken world.

This is not new or unique to our current generation. It happened in the First Century in Jerusalem where the Christian Church was initially started. The fifteenth chapter of Acts reveals to us the dilemma between Traditionalists and Transitionalists. Some Jewish Christians insisted that all male Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. Others, like Paul and Barnabas, fiercely argued that Christianity had progressively moved on from adhering to Jewish traditions.

Eventually, it was Peter who settled the dispute which threatened to divide and destroy the Young Church. Instead of looking back to the past or seeking a new paradigm, the Big Fisherman reminded everybody to look for the Holy Spirit and to seek to come alongside wherever the Holy Spirit was working among the people. Grace and salvation, acceptance and mission were meant to be discovered, encouraged, and supported wherever, whenever, and however the Holy Spirit chose. It was not a matter of keeping up with tradition; it was essential to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate Pentecost this coming Sunday in our churches, congregations, and Christian communities, we should ask ourselves these important questions: where is the Holy Spirit working in my community? How can I serve alongside the Holy Spirit in my community?

Prayer:            Holy Spirit, help us to seek Your Presence in our communities. Enable us to truly know Your works and to support them fully. Grant us a new spirit of discernment and give us the courage to face the challenges and apply the changes that we need to embrace and employ. In the Sacred Name of Christ, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, TN. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called ‘Caingis.’ Caingis is the Gaelic word for Pentecost, so the image features the Holy Spirit descending to Earth at dawn beside a Celtic Cross. If you would like to view a larger version, then please click on the following link:

No comments: