William Arthur wrote a powerful piece of Spirit filled literature published in 1900 called The Tongue of Fire: The True Power of Christianity. He called the church to remember the great gift of Jesus for the disciples who followed Him and those who would come after them and to us today…that gift, the Holy Spirit. The meditations I offer from the reading of his work clearly represent my own attempt to fix my thoughts on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. As many others have in this season, I instead have feasted on a steady and unhealthy diet of politics. It is so fitting that Arthur’s opening chapter speaks to the lowly sight of the disciples in the days after the resurrection of Jesus.
Like so many others in Israel, their idea of restoration could not extend beyond the borders of Israel. They wanted the ‘power’ Jesus spoke of to restore the sovereignty of their nation instead of the sovereignty of God in the hearts of humanity. At the promise of their baptism with the Holy Spirit, they asked, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 NASB). Arthur writes, “He had said nothing of a kingdom for Israel, or in Israel” (p. 9).
Man has long been fascinated by the wielding of power. Today we see a contentious rift even among believers in light of recent changes in political power in the US. In some cases, the pews have split as people take up evermore increasing extremes. Arthur’s book begins with this fabulous reminder that the power we seek will require us to lift our gaze far beyond Jerusalem or D.C. and the parties represented. Our struggles for power from the mountain tops, instead of calling on the Helper who comes from beyond the mountains, reflects the faint hearts of pilgrims who gave into temptation on their way to worship the Lord and fell into debauchery instead of completing their journey onto the Temple. Our worshiping at the pagan altars of policy and law preach a practical atheism that forgoes the social holiness renown through the history of Wesleyans. While we should certainly encourage and advocate for just legislation, I question the need to fight so ferociously when we find ourselves in disagreement. Have we completely abandoned the governing of the Holy Spirit for the power of the writ?
Arthur’s opening chapter covers the awkward time spent with Jesus between His crucifixion and His ascension. Perhaps most elegantly, he explains the final commission Jesus leaves for His followers. He describes the kingdom under Jesus: “…a kingdom not over men’s persons, but ‘within’ their souls; a kingdom not of provinces, but of ‘righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost’; a kingdom to be spread not by the arms of a second Joshua, but by the ‘witness’ of the human voice;…” Arthur paints an amazing picture of power flowing from One who is holy and just; all of which the Holy Spirit distributes through His followers with complete affirmation from the Father (pp 10-12 are fantastic).
No words of violence, frustration, anger, destruction, or division come from this promise of the coming power of God. Instead, Arthur tells of the scene in terms of glory, sovereignty, reverence, righteousness, life, and faithfulness. He closes the chapter with this, “Unbelief is now impossible. Doubt vanishes away. His word shall not pass unfulfilled. The baptism of fire is at hand.”
I invite you to join me not to just merely fast from the brokenness of our political system but to instead feast on the Holy Spirit and the promises of Jesus to send One who will empower us to do even greater things than He has. I believe in a kingdom spread by the witness of the human voice and have spent too much time lately as a champion of public policy instead of a bearer of Good News. You can join me in reading this great work by ordering it from Seedbed Publishing or you can simply read my weekly meditations scheduled to drop each Wednesday in Lent. As I read each chapter, I will try to focus on loftier subjects than our mutual frailty in hopes of experiencing God’s sanctifying work.
As always, thanks for reading and praying with me…
I have no formal affiliation with Seedbed other than appreciating their work and praying with them for the church today.