By Doug Beacham
As I write this column, my heart continues to rejoice in and reflect upon the powerful meeting the IPHC held in Hong Kong in early May. From around the globe more than 500 of our leaders met for three days of prayer, vision casting, inspiration, relationship building and renewal.
We listened to powerful testimonies of how the Holy Spirit is working to reach the lost in Indonesia. Our hearts were stirred as we listened to leaders in Nepal tell us about their response to the recent devastating earthquakes— and many of us were prompted to respond to help through People To People Ministries.
We prayed with our leaders in Ukraine as they face the threat of war. The amazing people of the Hong Kong IPHC, especially the Wing Kwong congregation, poured out their lives into us with generous hospitality.
I was reminded again of the power that arises from our relationship with Jesus Christ. That relationship, which is the single most important relationship in our lives, establishes us as members of His body, the Church, which in turn connects us in life-giving relationships.
This is a vital part of what life in the Holy Spirit is about— being connected to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Those relationships are established in truth, in love and in mutual appreciation and edification of one another.
Our life in the Holy Spirit also connects us to the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) that has surrounded the global church across the centuries. In Christ, we have relationship with Abraham, David, Isaiah, Malachi, the first apostles and the people of God throughout the ages. It also means that we are connected to those who will follow us when we take our place among that cloud of witnesses.
But relationships do not occur in a vacuum. There are historical and cultural contexts that frame the dynamics of our relationship with Christ and with others, including those outside the context of followers of Jesus.
During the dark rise of Nazi Germany’s demonic statism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his powerful lecture Life Together: “Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.”
Solitude is not isolation; community is not group activity. Our time alone with God is preparation for time together with God’s people. Both of which are preparation for worship before the throne of God and life-giving presence in the world.
Our relationships with one another provide more than our needs of belonging, of having value, special friendships, mentors and spiritual fathers and mothers. Our relationships with one another are signposts of how the world will know we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:34–35).
The Apostle Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 7:12–16 to believers married to unbelievers provides a paradigm of the power of redeeming relationships in the world. Just as the married believer brings a sanctifying influence to the home, our presence in the world brings a sanctifying influence in the world, as we are salt and light.
The call to godly relationships— the way we relate to one another as IPHC brothers and sisters and the larger body of Christ—is not meant to just make us feel better about ourselves. These relationships are part of our witness in this dark world.
The demonic darkness of 20th century totalitarian systems arose in supposedly Christian nations: Germany and Russia. No nation is immune from the temptations of demonic power, including the United States.
In spite of the growing technological advances in numerous fields of human endeavor, spiritual darkness remains ever present, because technology can be used for evil as well as good. The darkness has always been here—it’s now capable of being spread with the speed of light. How shall we respond?
We can curse the darkness or we can be light in it—remembering that light disperses darkness. We can respond with fear and despair or we can affirm in love and truth the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
We can be angry or we can be filled with redeeming hope. We can compromise with the spirit of the age or we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can meet in fear-filled holy huddles or we can meet together in joyful worship of the Living God where our lives are transformed.
We can have pious-to-your-face-relationships undermined by behind-your-back-gossiping, or we can discern the glory of the Lord at work in each of us, transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
This summer, the IPHC continues to focus on our theme, “We Prayerfully Value Pentecost.” But our focus now is upon the fruit of the Spirit, the character of Jesus, the holy pattern of our relationships and character.
My prayer for myself and for this movement is that the life-giving relationship we have with the Holy Spirit will establish life-giving relationships with other followers of Jesus so that together we engage in life-giving relationships in this dying world.
This article was published in the June/July 2015 issue of Encourage.