Be filled

be filled

Acts 6:15 And all who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

My first inhalation was in a sinful world. My first exhalation was a scream. From day one, we are filled with that in which we’re submerged.

“He’s no angel.” Those were befitting words for me when I was young. Recently, I shared a bit of that past at a ministerial alliance meeting. It was in response to a presentation promoting the construction of a new juvenile detention center with a strong rehabilitative approach. As the presenter drew the picture of a recreation room and other pleasantries, I was taken back in time to my different experience of “juvee”. After he wrapped up, I commented, “When I was 15 and in detention, it wasn’t rehabilitation I needed.  I was full of hell and I needed to be full of Jesus.”

I had stolen my dad’s gun and was on the run. Few have ever had as many loaded weapons pointed at them as I did the night those police caught up with me. I was handcuffed and transported to a solitary confinement cell at the county juvenile detention center.  I said I was “full of hell,” but more literally, I was full of sin.
But without being full of the Spirit of Christ, aren’t we all? Like you, I was born into a fallen condition. My first inhalation was in a sinful world. My first exhalation was a scream. From day one, we are filled with that in which we’re submerged.  We’re submerged in sin at birth and there’s only one way to empty ourselves of it; be filled with something else.

Yesterday, I was kayaking in the clearest water imaginable. I could make out details on the bottom of the river at several feet. Imagine dropping a glass to the bottom.  It’s filled. It’s filled with whatever the make up of that water.  Whether murky or clear, the environment around that cup determines its contents.

So it is with you and me. The problem is that until we’re in heaven, comparatively we’re submerged in black stench water. It’s what we live in. It’s what we’re filled with. Whatever our attempt to clean up on the inside is as Isaiah wrote, self-righteous filthy rags.

What do we do? Is there any way to be filled with something different than what we live in? Is there any way to empty a cup of river water when it’s at the bottom of a river?

There is. Displacement.

Consider the glass at the bottom of the river. If you filled it with gravel, there’s almost no water in it at all. It’s all displaced.

In the short 15 verses of chapter 6, we learn something about displacement. Stephen was born into a sinful world and a sinful nature just like the rest of us, but here in the middle of persecution before being stoned to death, he’s described as an angel. Why? Because he’s filled with something else.

In this short chapter, we learn he’s filled with faith, grace, wisdom, power, and the Holy Spirit. (vs. 5, 8, 10). There really wasn’t much room in him for fear, bitterness or vengeance. Those qualities filled his persecutors that day and most would have reciprocated with the same. Although Stephen was submerged in the same nasty world as the rest of them, he was filled with something else. Sin and hell were displaced by faith, grace, wisdom, power and ultimately, the Spirit.

We live in a fallen world that seems to spin more out of control everyday and we’re immersed in a relativistic culture that skews truth, encouraging us to be filled with everything around us.

But remember, like Stephen, you too can be filled with something else.


Glued Together

glued together

Acts 5:13 None of the rest dared to join them, but the people praised them highly.

Believing in Jesus but never joining in Him is like enjoying an entire wedding ceremony never realizing you’re part of the bride who was supposed to say, “I do.”

Years ago, there was a mission in our city whose leader was allowing unmarried men and women to sleep in the same room together. You can imagine how that went south.  I visited with him about my concerns. He was shocked that another mission leader unrelated to his organization would even think to schedule a visit around his own operations.  Before I left, he accused me of being a “spiritual policeman.”

That’s not the only time something similar has happened.  Another Christian leader circulated material to a large number of college students directing them to internet sites that represented, at least, a serious temptation. What did I do? I guess one might have said I slapped on my badge, my red/blue light and siren and drove over to have a meeting with him.

Did I want control? No. I just wanted to have a conversation. And the conversation was with more than just another member of the area ministerial alliance or a member of our association of rescue missions or a fellow member of our chamber of commerce.  I was talking with a member of the body of Christ.  Isn’t that my brother?

I think some scripture would argue that we should be even closer than brothers.  Jesus prayed that we would become one as He and His Father are one. That’s a different kind of connection in a different kind of family with a different kind of DNA.

In this passage, there were many believers who praised the work of God through the hands of the apostles, but most didn’t dare join them.

How are you connected? Are you joined to the literal body of Christ or a figurative one? What does it mean to be joined together in Him?

Believing in Jesus but never joining in Him is like enjoying an entire wedding ceremony never realizing you’re part of the bride who was supposed to say, “I do.” It was a nice church. Enjoyed the company. Everyone looked good. The music and food were great.

You believed, but were never joined.

At least you weren’t joined like He intends.

Do you remember your basic chemistry? There are two types of bonding, ionic and covalent. Maybe you recall that the strongest is covalent. Why?  Because covalent bonds are those in which the atoms are joined by sharing electrons rather than transferring them.

Consider the water molecule.

water (2)

Hydrogens and Oxygens covalently bonded may turn from liquid to gas under tremendous heat, but each water molecule remains in tact. Simply put, when atoms are sharing energy, they’re joined together, stuck together and their the new identity is stronger.

It’s that kind of bonding that God calls us to with one another, but there were many that day in Jerusalem who feared it.  They believed. They praised. They held the disciples in high regard. But they dared not join them.

Why? If you knew that God was with them and working through them, why not join them as they themselves were joined?

Because the word join ολλάω kolláō, literally means “to glue together.” They were bonded in a very special way. They endeavored to be of one mind and they were. They were willing to share their energy and their resources with one another and they did. They also knew they would share in the sufferings of Christ and it happened.

It’s how the disciples were connected in Acts. They were joined (kolláō).

This is different than the word “join” in Philippians 3:17. This word, συμμιμητής (summimētḗs), means to imitate.  Imitating what is good certainly isn’t bad, but God calls us to a different kind of “join.” 

It’s also different than the word “join” in 2 Corinthians 1:11 συνυπουργέω (sunupourgéo) which means to serve or work together. Certainly God wants us working together but He calls us to a tighter “join” than that.

How are you joined to the church? Are you an imitator-worker who believes in, attends and applauds the church or are you glued to the other members of His body?  

There were many believers that day, but you and I are called to become more than believers. A believer can be aware of the body of Christ and even applaud the body of Christ, yet still retain his own identity. But one who’s joined the body of Christ takes on the identity of Christ as he becomes one with those around him.

The risk is that you and I might believe and never really join.  When you’re truly born again, you’re joined (kolláō) to a body of which every member is supplied by the same blood, fed by the same bread and watered from the same source. It’s a bonding within a continuum that beautifully blurs the lines between what one has gained, what one has lost, how one is blessed and how another must bear. In Him, it is shared.