Following and Not Opposing God
Following and Not Opposing God
I remember so well the time when Alpha started in the Catholic Church. Bishop Ambrose of Newcastle and Hexham heard what was happening with Alpha in some of the Anglican churches. He became interested and wanted to find out more. However, he did not want to let us know he was interested. So, he sent two Catholic priests to a London Alpha Conference in disguise! They went back to their parishes and started running Alpha, to great success.
As a result of that, Cardinal Hume invited us to hold a conference for Catholics at Westminster Cathedral. The place was packed out with 450 Catholic priests and laity. A few people were very critical of us doing a conference for Catholics. One or two churches even threatened to stop running Alpha if we went ahead with the conference. With hindsight it seems quite extraordinary that anybody could object, but at the time it was of some concern.
On the first night of the conference there was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and singing in tongues like we had never heard before. I went home that night and read the passage for today: ‘If God gave them the same gift as he gave us... who was I to think that I could oppose God?’ (Acts 11:17). It was the same Holy Spirit who was poured out on them as on us. I realised that if we did not continue to work together, I would be opposing God.
The most foolish thing that any human being can do is to oppose God. Jesus was opposed: ‘They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen’ (10:39–40). Contrastingly, the most wonderful privilege any human being can have is to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth whom ‘God anointed… with the Holy Spirit and power’ (10:38).
The power of GodPsalm 74:10-17
When you are facing opposition it is good to remember the power of God. The psalmist is faced by enemies who are reviling God’s name (v.10). He recalls the power of God, first in his own life (v.12), and then over all of creation (vv.13–17).
These verses draw on the rich mythology of the ancient Near East. Creation was seen as a victory of the gods over the forces of chaos and destruction, often represented by the raging sea and ‘the monster’, also called ‘Leviathan’ (vv.13–14). The sun and moon were worshipped as gods. Yet, in this psalm the writer sweeps aside those myths and declares that it was God who created and established the world, bringing order out of nothing and ‘establishing the sun and moon’ (v.16).
There is always a temptation to make ‘other things’ more important than your relationship with God. Devotion to ‘other gods’ was one of the key temptations and weaknesses of God’s people in the Old Testament. This psalm reminds us of who God is and why it would be foolish to oppose God by going after other gods.
Lord, thank you that you are the one true God who brings salvation upon the earth. Help me to resist the temptation to make anything else more important than you in my life.
The Spirit of GodActs 10:23b-11:18
The Holy Spirit led Peter through a vision to the house of Cornelius. When he got there, he discovered that God had also spoken to Cornelius through another vision. On hearing this, Peter ‘fairly exploded with his good news’ (10:34, MSG) – the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all (v.36).
The Greek word for ‘peace’ takes on the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘shalom’. It means far more than an absence of hostility. It means ‘completeness’, ‘soundness’, ‘well-being’, ‘every kind of blessing and good’. It means harmony and concord between people. It means spiritual well-being, living under the favour of God.
The good news is that you have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death on the cross reconciled you to God. He made peace and you have received that peace as a gift.
You too should be a peacemaker as you seek to lead others to peace with God and as you bring peace into your home, place of work, community and nation.
Peter goes on to speak about ‘how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him’ (v.38). He told them about the cross and the resurrection, about faith and the forgiveness of sins (v.43).
While Peter was still proclaiming the good news about Jesus, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message (v.44). ‘The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews’ (v.45, MSG).
They knew that this was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, because what had happened to the apostles on the day of Pentecost was now happening to this group – ‘for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God’ (v.46).
Peter’s response was, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptised with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have’ (v.47).
News travelled fast – the Jewish believers were worried that ‘rubbing shoulders’ with these ‘non-Jews’ would ruin their good name (11:3, MSG).
Those who had not been there at the time ‘criticised him’ (v.2). But Peter explains (v.4). He tells the story of how he was led by the Holy Spirit – ‘the Spirit told me…’ (v.12).
He goes on, ‘As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning… So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”’ (vv.15–17).
‘Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. “It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”’ (v.18, MSG). Peter’s explanation was the answer to the criticism. Sometimes, when you are criticised, the answer is simply to give an explanation.
Lord, thank you that we see this same gift of the Holy Spirit given to all who believe in you, regardless of what part of the church or denomination they come from. May we never be found opposing you but rather following the guidance of your Holy Spirit.
The anointing of God1 Kings 1-2:12
Solomon was God’s anointed successor for David. Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed him king over Israel (1:34).
Adonijah made the mistake of trying to set himself up as king without reference to God. ‘He put himself forward and said, “I will be king”’ (v.5). It is a foolish thing to ignore God, and in this case it actually meant opposing God’s plans for Solomon. He did not succeed.
David gave this charge to his anointed successor: ‘I’m about to go the way of all the earth, but you – be strong; show what you’re made of! Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you: Follow the life-map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts, his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you’ll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go’ (2:2–3, MSG).
David’s words are a great reminder to us. God’s anointing of all believers with the Holy Spirit does not negate your need to obey God’s word. Obedience of God’s word (v.3a) must accompany God’s anointing (v.3b). You are given the Spirit of God to empower you to obey the word of God.
Neither David, nor Solomon, nor any other king of Israel, was able to keep God’s decrees and commands perfectly. It is only Jesus, the final Davidic King, who is the fully obedient, eternal, anointed King. He is the one who does ‘walk faithfully before [God]... with all [his] heart and soul’ (v.4).
The book of Kings is, as Eugene Peterson puts it, ‘a relentless exposition of failure’. Yet God continues to work out his sovereign purposes – often silently and hidden. God’s sovereignty is never cancelled out even by deeply sin-flawed leaders (‘kings’). This means that you can trust his sovereignty in your life, your church and your culture.
Lord, help me to follow Jesus, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. As I face ‘opposition and enemies’, I need the power and anointing of your Holy Spirit. Help me never to find myself in the position of opposing God. Help me to be strong and to walk in your ways and to walk faithfully before you with all my heart and soul (v.4).
1 Kings 1:1–2
‘When King David was old and well advanced in years, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. So his servants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to attend the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.”’
I have a lot of sympathy with King David – I feel the cold terribly. But I am not sure about the solution for him. I think I’d rather have a hot water bottle!
Verse of the Day
‘Everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins’ (Acts 10:43).
Eugene Peterson, ‘Introduction To 1 Kings’, The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used By Permission Of Navpress Publishing Group.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.