COLLINS COLUMN: Let go and let God

Published 9:30 am Friday, May 17, 2024

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Holding on and letting go. I imagine you have done both. I certainly have. Maybe it was when you were a passenger in a car where the driver seemed less skilled or inattentive to the situation, and you gripped the door handle, the seat belt, or even someone else in the car. You held tightly because you were uncertain if a crash was coming.

Most of us have also experienced moments in a personal health crisis, the diagnosis of a friend or family member, or maybe a relationship or financial crisis, and our only response was to cling to hope, to God, to another. We held on, not knowing what was ahead.

But sometimes, we hold on to things or emotions that actually work against us. We hold a grudge against someone who has wronged us. It might have been recent, or even years ago, yet we hold on, unwilling to forgive. The result of holding on to the loss, the wrong committed, or even our own mistakes creates unrest and resentment, potentially leading to physical and spiritual harm. Yet we can’t seem to let go of the hurt or our failure.

And what about letting go? It might be terrifying at first to imagine loosening our grip or control of a situation. But the truth is, there is very little we actually can control in this life. I am not suggesting we just act irrational or irresponsible. There is significant biblical precedent for letting go of control and trusting God with the outcome, trusting in his promises that he is in fact the loving, merciful, and sufficient God he claims to be.

When John ended his gospel, he said that all he wrote was for the purpose of providing confidence and belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing in him, we might have life.

Luke ends with the disciples joyfully returning to Jerusalem, where they would do what Jesus asked them to do. Obedience to what Jesus tells us is foundational to our ability to experience his joy and the fruit of the spirit that flows to us and in us as we abide in Christ.

When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, he quoted from the short book of Joel. His direct quote that Luke recorded is from chapter 2:

”And it shall come to pass afterward, that 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 servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.“

We often focus on these verses of Joel 2 and Acts 2 to confirm that God fulfilled his promise of sending his spirit on his kingdom people, and that is true. But a closer look at the book of Joel reveals that the prophet was describing not just the coming Holy Spirit, but also the coming day of the Lord, where God would reveal his new kingdom. I wrote yesterday that the book of Acts reveals what it looks like for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Holy Spirit living in the believers empowered them to demonstrate what Paul would later describe in Corinthians, namely, that God now dwells in us. We are his temple. And the things God always intended to happen in the building called the temple are now to happen in and through those with whom his spirit dwells.

The historical temple wasn’t just to be a place where the priests exerted power or influence. The temple was a place where sacrifices were offered that brought forgiveness of sins. The temple was also the place where God intended generosity to flow through his people. But, as we remember from the gospels, Jesus found the temple to have turned into a cheap marketplace.

Beginning in Acts 2, we see that the apostles waited for God’s spirit to come, and when he did, they proclaimed the gospel clearly and miraculously in different languages. But we should be careful that we don’t simply consider the miracle of the mighty sounding wind, the appearance of flames hovering over the apostles, and their sudden ability to speak another language. There is another expanding miracle that takes place when thousands accept Jesus and surrender to him through repentance and baptism. The new believer is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to live a life of generosity and unity unlike anything ever seen before.

The early church immediately began to devote themselves to prayer, to worship, to fellowship, and to generosity to those in need. God’s spirit living in them meant that God’s temple and his presence was spreading in unity throughout the world. No longer would anyone need to travel to the temple in Jerusalem to experience God. God’s temple was now on the move in and through those who claimed Jesus as Lord. And the church that was birthed on the day of Pentecost began to turn the world upside down.

We must be careful that we don’t do what some of the Jewish leadership did. They tried to hold on to their traditions, their laws, their interpretations, their control, and their position of influence. Contrast that to the apostles, who led the early church. By the power of the living Christ, and his spirit living in every believer, they could now let go of tradition and allow God to move in them to do what they could never have imagined possible. They were no longer bound by law or, worse, their sins. They were redeemed, filled with the spirit, and loosed to live out the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven!

Father, thank you for what you did on Pentecost. Thank you that your kingdom has been growing and expanding constantly since that day. So today, we pray that with new awareness and filled by your spirit, we would embrace what it means to live your kingdom way in our homes, at work, and in our communities, as it is in heaven. May your kingdom be seen in us today.  In Jesus’s name, amen.