OUR SOURCE OF ENERGY AND LIFE
Jesus, speaking over 2000 years ago, is quoted by the writer of John’s Gospel in Chapter 6, verse 63 of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, as saying: “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail.” The Apostle Paul, when speaking to the non-Jewish Athenians found ideas from their poets that were similar to his understanding and spoke of the “God who made the world and everything in it…made from one every nation on all the face of the earth…that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being” as even some of your poets said, “For we are indeed his offspring” Acts 17:24-28 RSV.
Although at some times some scientists have been skeptical of the idea that God created the world or even that there is a God, there is interest in how the universe came into being and how it works. A question remains as to how life was produced from things that were not alive.
Sometime ago I had a vivid dream. Upon awakening, I was very puzzled. But I wrote it down.
I was traveling a long and lonesome road in my car. My fuel indicator was low. I drove down a long hill and through a dry valley with no one else in sight. I had gone about as far as I could. Another long hill was ahead of me and I was praying for a gas station soon. Nearing the crest of the hill, my car began sputtering. Out of gas. To my relief, I saw a filling station at the top of the hill and just barely coasted in to the pumps. I was thankful. It was a miracle to me.
I looked around. No attendant. No problem, I thought. I’m used to “self-service.” I got out and went to the pump. To my amazement, I could find no way to get gas. There were no hoses and no gas. The pumps were empty shells, the gas station was a sham. I was dismayed.
Then I said to God, “There is nothing I can do. If You don’t do something, I’m going to be stuck here a long time.” I shuddered. I imagined myself starving while waiting at the mock station waiting to be rescued.
I looked up and, as though shining through a distance and mist, a gas station appeared on the next lot! It was so busy that I wondered how I would ever be able to get any service from them. And how could I have missed seeing it in the first place!
Then a young man attending the station called to me, “Can I do anything for you?”
“Yes,” I called back, “You can bring me some gas so I can drive over to your station and fill up.” He brought me gas, put it in my car and invited me to drive to his station where he filled my tank. I went to the counter to pay for the gas.
“That’s not necessary,” he said.
“But I want to pay!”
“No, we’re glad to do it.”
“But what about the other station?” I asked.
“Oh, they never have had any gas,” he said, “Everyone gets their gas here.”
Everyone?” I said, “What about the competition?” “There is no competition.” he said.
Then I awakened. I puzzled over this dream. Was I going to run out of gas on the trip I was planning to take by myself? What measures should I take to prevent such a happening? Fill up when the tank is half-full? But one never knows how far it is to the next filling station. I could watch the map and road signs and try to estimate the gas needed to get to the next town. I can check the gas gauge each time I get in the car. But, I’ve run out of gas before, and someone was always not far away to help me. Was that accidental? Was God helping me?
At those times I had thanked God for helping me. Faith and trust are part of the answer to my every day problems. Obedience to God’s instruction and guidance is another part. I am reminded of the hymn, “Trust and Obey…for there is no other way…”
“Faith, trust, obedience.” Could my dream mean more than running my car out of gas? Is it a metaphor for something much more? In some spiritual sense can I be full all the time? Jesus needed time to be refreshed by prayer and by companionship. So do I. Surely God is everywhere and there is no other “fuel,” but God’s Spirit to provide the energy to run my life. Paul understood this clearly. He knew the source of courage and prayed for it when his own energy was low.
What about everyone getting their fuel at the same place? Even in the Old Testament of the Bible, God was at work in other cultures with whatever was good and true. Three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, claim their foundations in the same God, the God of Abraham who was known for following God by faith to unknown places. As Paul said in Romans, God is revealed in nature, therefore, we need not be surprised when some of the values and ideas we find in other religions are similar to those in our own religion.
The Christian faith has a clear, unique, contribution to understanding the relationship of God to people. It is that the very Spirit of God is available to INDWELL, actually be in, all who call upon God. See Joel 2, Acts 2, and John 3.
The Jewish prophet Joel, who lived about 800 years before Jesus and his disciples, gave voice to God’s promise.
“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” Joel 2:28, 29
Jesus was the first to experience this outpouring fully, according to our written witnesses, and he has a special place in Christian literature and belief. Jesus told a young, intelligent and well-educated man, a teacher named Nicodemus, what he needed.
“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above…no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above” Gospel of John 3:3,5-7 NRSV.
This settled the teacher’s question about some kind of reincarnation, being born again of a woman as a human being. Jesus indicated that being born of the Spirit of the Living God gives Eternal Life, a new and different, never ending life to the soul. In the same book, you find Jesus’ explanation of eternal life:
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
John 17:3 NRSV
The word “know” is translated from a Greek word that means more than being acquainted with or knowing about someone. It means to know God as a personal on-going experience! If we do not have this life experience, or perhaps have lost it, we can ask for the gift of God’s Spirit as Jesus said.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13. NRSV.
Not only is the Holy Spirit, who gives us eternal life, a gift, but also the faith to receive it is a gift. You may read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in Chapter 2 about God’s rich mercy and great love that makes us alive together with and in Christ; that we are created for good works; and this occurs not as the result of works, but through faith as a gift.
Peter ties the giving of the Holy Spirit to the promise given the Jewish prophet Joel (2:28), and to the life, death, and raising up of Jesus from the dead. People in the crowd asked him what they should do. Peter told them this:
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
Acts 2:38,39. NRSV
In Acts Chapter 10, you read the story of a similar experience given to non-Jewish people when Peter was sent to them with the same message. Accordingly the Jewish followers of Jesus realized that God desires to bring people together from all nations, near and far, as Paul said later:
“(to) be joined together and grow into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”
Ephesians 2:21,22 NRSV.
The New Testament writers express the belief that, through Jesus, God broke down the barriers between those who have hope and those who have none, between Jews and non-Jews. Are we willing to cross barriers to receive the gifts and each other in order to build together spiritually?