Top down or bottom up? So many times as believers we try to understand the world, God and his purposes for us from the bottom up; this is an issue of the lens we see and reason through, or perspective. In certain aspects of art, architecture and photography to name a few “perspective” affects everything from the shadows that are cast on a scene, the dimensions of objects, beginning and ending points or lines, etc. It’s a really BIG DEAL.
All of Paul’s letters to the Spirit-born believers in the first church where truths written to people who as a result of having been birthed into a kingdom they could now “see” and “enter into” (Jn ch 3) had the capacity to interpret the world from the top down, that is from a prophetic perspective or vantage point. How is it that the same disciples who during their 3 + years journey with Jesus Messiah were regularly baffled at much of his speech about what the Kingdom was to be, now in the days following Pentecost (Shavuot in Hebrew), the commemorating of the Law given at Sinai now saw things and entered into the very greater works of Jesus? In many places the New Testament, especially Paul’s letters make it clear that …”what the Law could not do… God did by sending His Spirit”…(Rom 8). Normal to their experience the first believers were initiated into – immersed into an encounter with Holy Spirit. This initial experience was so much more than tongues, or prophecy or gifts. More than the difference between worship with emotion and hands raised as opposed to a more contemplative style of worship. This was a full immersion, baptism into a new reality – The Kingdom of God on earth.
That Holy Spirit, who Jesus made so much of as did Paul is the one who took the Scriptures (initially all they had was the Old Testament!), the words of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles and made heavenly realities so eminently real and present. Paul speaking to the Ephesians in the early chapters spends a great deal of time pulling back the veil as he conveyed to the churches the elevated place of the believers to the point of literally being “seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” – remember we are talking about perspective here. That is a place from which Messiah rules and rains over all and we are co-heirs with him. Paul made it clear that for anyone “in Christ” these were present realities that radically altered how we view ourselves individually and corporately as well as how we perceive God’s dealings with the nations. I am concerned that many believers today are afraid and shying away from asserting those realities and daring to live in them for fear that they will make the same mistakes of previous generations whom perhaps took some of these things to an extreme and out of balance with the rest of Scripture. It is the classic metaphor of flushing the baby down the drain along with the dirty bathwater. On that note, one would not think that a beautiful little baby would really dirty the bathwater all that much; I mean what did it do to get dirty? Those of us who have raised infants well know that babies have a tendency to pee when they’re soft little selves hit that nice warm water!. And they poop too! Perhaps we as the body of believers in my generation and others before have at times fouled the clean refreshing waters that the Holy Spirit poured out on the church so that the next generation doesn’t even want to think about taking a bath (baptism or Jewish Michvah) as we did. The fault is not so much in the doctrine; certainly not the fault of Holy Spirit Himself. As usual it is we, humankind, who do you are failing best to apprehend the glory of God and somehow contain it and sustain it, but alas we mess things up. To any so-called millennials or others reading this, sincerely, please forgive us! You have your chance now. But I urge you to build on the gifts and deposits over the centuries that I believe represent the Spirit’s restoration of all that was lost in terms of the vitality of the first believers both Jew and Gentile, “one new man in Messiah” as Paul taught.
Back to top-down and bottom-up. The Spirit-immersed, maturing yet child-like believer, hungry for God, walking in love and loving the truth; loving God’s people – has by birthright a prophetic mindset and sees things more and more from the top down. The Old Testament prophets lived this way. The Patriarchs had that unique relationship and walk with God. Jesus had that perspective as did Paul and the rest of the apostles, and it was accessible to all laypeople (I despise that term!), and this was the crowning glory of there early ekklesia – the coming of Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh – not just the hierarchy of the church. And less we be accused of being too heavenly minded to be any earthly good, let me say that prophets and apostles often ” lived in the dirt” – in earthly standards not an “elevated position”. Their sufferings for Yahweh only sharpened their top down perspective, regardless of earthly status, wealth or lack there of, they saw from an elevated vantage point and from that place they lived and wrote what they perceived. So I want to take what I believe was in the heart and mind of Jesus and magnify the coming of Holy Spirit to be and do be and do all He did for his first disciples.
In conclusion. To read the scriptures and attempt to live a life that follows the apostles’ example the first order of business is to go the same route they did. Repent and be baptized and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. His coming on the first Gentile converts under Peter’s ministry was recounted by Peter to the dominantly Jewish, clearly skeptical leadership in Jerusalem with these words, “ He came on them just as He did upon us at the beginning”. I want everything that happened to them and yes, I get it, even with persecutions. He is worth it. In some places, that threat is from ISIS, in others it’s from “Us’s – our fellow believers can unwittingly make us pay the price for fullness. May we walk in love and humility and hold fast to what we have obtained.