Jimmy Hoffa of the Trinity: October Moses House Devotional
Jimmy Hoffa might be the most famous person that no one can find. Hoffa was head of the Teamsters union for many years and was notorious because of his connections with the mob. Hoffa disappeared sometime around 2:45 pm on July 30, 1975, from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, an affluent suburb of Detroit. He was going there to meet some of mafia leaders. He is presumed dead but his remains have never been found. Some of the most famous stories are that his remains were mixed in the concrete used to build Giants stadium or under a driveway in Detroit.
The Holy Spirit who does not resemble Hoffa very much in appearance or deeds, except maybe that both were organizers of labor (if it does not make sense now, it will later), does seem to go missing from time to time in the theology and spirituality of the church. He is the most famous person of the Trinity not discussed in our churches today. Who is this Holy Spirit? Why does it matter if the church theologizes and spiritualizes about his perfections or not? Why does it matter to me?
I can’t answer those questions fully in this little devotional however, by reflecting on the scriptural texts for the House of Moses for the month of October, I would like to declare some reasons why communing with Holy Spirit and serving the church through his power and gifts is integral to life of our church, Cornerstone EPC, and our individual spiritual lives.
The Israelites were often stubborn and rebellious. The Israelites were described this way in the law (Deut. 31), the Psalms (Ps. 78) and in the prophets (Jeremiah 5 &6). After receiving salvation from God at the Red Sea, the Israelites grumbled again and again about how good they had it while being slaves. Numbers 11: 4-17 describes one of these times in which the people wanted to exchange the providence of their true Father, God, for the poor fatherly provision of pharaoh and his idols. The Israelites were tired of God and His provision. They whined about how the food was so much better when they were slaves of the pharaoh and his gods. Pharoah’s table gave them meat and fish. On God’s meal plan was manna, manna, and more manna. Moses demonstrated that his courses in servant leadership were not wasted when he exclaimed to God, “I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness” (Numbers 11:15). God had mercy on Moses and told him to gather 70 men of the elders of Israel and bring them to the tent of meeting. “And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” The seventy men were brought up in the Spirit of God to take some of the people’s burden off of Moses’ back. These men needed special talents and gifts that could only come by having God’s Spirit upon them. The men, like Moses, needed super natural strength and wisdom in order to lead the people of God through the time of wandering through the wilderness. This was an uncertain time for the nation of Israel and the people needed servant leaders to help carry their cares to the Lord and the Lord’s providence to the people.
The early church was going through another wilderness time. They had just witnessed the resurrection of Jesus. The apostles had been transformed from a weak group of guys into a strong band of brothers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The church was growing at an astonishing rate. The church was growing so fast that they were having trouble caring for the whole church. Complaints arose that the widows of Greek-speaking Jews were not being taken care of properly. The disciples of Jesus were busy spreading and preaching the good news. That took up all their time and energy. They could not carry the burden of the preaching the word and serving tables. Something needed to be done. It was decided that they “pick out from among (all the disciples) seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty (serving the widows).” All believed that this was a good plan and those chosen were taken to the Apostles who laid hands on them. “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
Like the men chosen during the wilderness wanderings of the nation of Israel, these men were filled with the Spirit and thus able to serve the family of God with wisdom and love. As the apostle John teaches that “the Spirit of Truth will come and guide you (disciples, the church and us) into all the truth.” Jesus Christ purchases and secures our salvation while the Holy Spirit applies the salvation to us. As puritan John Owen states, “Now, this whole evil frame is cured by the effectual working of the Holy Ghost in the rectifying and renovation of our natures. He giveth a new understanding, a new heart, new affections, renewing the whole soul into the image of God” (The Works of John Owen 3:437). The Holy Spirit applies all of God’s blessings on the Christian and helps him live the Christian life and serve God and the church in truth and love.
It is the Holy Spirit who took the normal men in the stories above and made them into ministers of God’s grace. It is clear in both stories that being indwelt by the Spirit was a pre-requisite for true Godly leadership and ministry. There was one Spirit who through indwelling the men in both stories, empowered them for ministry. Without the Spirit, ministry was impossible.
This teaching is no less true today and no less true for all of God’s people and for Cornerstone EPC. We need the Holy Spirit if any ministry of our church is to be effective. In 1st Corinthians 12 Paul states, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Notice how there are varieties of gifts, service, and activities but only one Spirit, Lord, and God. The focus is on the Corinthians having the one Spirit and on the manifestations of the Corinthians having this one Spirit. Each minister is given manifestations of the one Spirit to serve the people of God. It is the same as in the passages from Numbers and Acts. These passages demonstrate that there are no spiritual gifts without the Spirit. The one Spirit indwells and empowers multiple believers to serve God and his people.
The Holy Spirit has gifted all Christians to serve God and His church. We are all called to be ministers of God’s grace through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. We are all called to be leaders at Cornerstone by ministering to the church with the unique gifts that God has given each one of us. There is no one gift above any other gift because there is only one Spirit. The one Spirit is God so all the gifts are equally, radically cool. As we see in the story of the calling of the first deacons in Acts 6, the church called Spirit-filled and gifted men to wait on tables so that the gospel could be spread. The point is not that the apostles were too good to wait on tables. The point is the church needed Godly men to use their gifts for the service of Jesus Christ and His body. Not one gift is unimportant. All gifts are given by God so that the church can glorify God. As we continue to go through the Fanning the Flame process, it is important for all of us to meditate on our service to the church. How are we using our gifts from the Holy Spirit to help the word of God continue to increase because of the ministry and work of our church? How are we being led by the Spirit as we decide which ministries we decide to do as individuals and as church? How do I, with my unique manifestations of the one Spirit, lead as we minister to the church with God’s grace? These are questions we all must ask ourselves and our church. The questions must be understood and answered with an understanding that it is the Holy Spirit who will guide us into all the truth. It is only through a humble use of the gifts we receive from His presence in our hearts that we can minister to church full of grace, humility and truth. So I leave you with a question and a challenge: How will you lead at Cornerstone EPC this next year through the unique manifestations of the Spirit in our life?