Our encounters with Jesus must be our own. A Christian will not get very far on someone else’s encounters. This is a very important formation piece. When Jesus left this earth, He said “It is better that I Leave so the spirit can come.” (John 16:7) If Jesus was still present and visible on this earth our focus would be on Him, where He is, what He is doing, seeing Him as much as we can and trying to get contact with Him. After all, He is the Son of God, so who wouldn’t? It is our human nature to get our inspiration from tangible things.
Jesus said that the comforter would come; a guide, a teacher who would be available to everyone, everywhere, anytime. The spirit has been described as the wind, breath, life that flows, a fire and much more.
“The wind can be blowing, but if your sail isn’t raised, you wont go far. You can be surrounded by oxygen, but if you don’t breathe, it won’t do you any good. The sap can be flowing, but if the branch is not connected to the vine, it will wither. If you don’t put wood in your hearth, a lit match won’t burn long. It is the same with the spirit. All that remains is for us to learn how to let the spirit fill, flow and glow within us.” (McLaren, PG 254)
While there is important strength to be found in the community of faith and being with others that spur us on, our encounters with the Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit must be our own.
Sometimes I feel sad that I didn’t live in the time of Jesus, and get to actually meet Him and sit at His feet and see the miracles He did, but then I realise that now I have something so beautiful. I have His spirit inside me, guiding me daily, never leaving me. I don’t have to go to a service, a meeting, a conference, trek to a far off land to meet a man who may place his hand on me and bless me. I can encounter Jesus daily, just Him, as I get up in the morning, as I walk through the day, as I lay down at night.
Formation and growth can happen at any time, when you “walk with the spirit of Jesus”. But this must be your own journey.
Sometimes the church “mis-communicated” to young and old, that programs, services, teachers and leaders are who you must come to, to encounter Jesus? Have we created spaces, liturgy, services, practices and processes where we have come to believe that if we do, recite, or attend, then and only then, Jesus will fill us again? We must be aware that this is our human nature that needs to make a formula out of things; that desires to have 4 steps to assure an encounter. It becomes a dangerous thing when people come to church for the purpose of getting another fix, another shot to keep them going for the next week.
As I read more and more about the life of Jesus, He sensed when people were enjoying the spectacle of being with Him, and it was then that He would often retreat. Jesus did things differently all the time. Each encounter with individuals was exactly that, unique and individual? There are some things that never change … the fruit of the spirit is always love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This fruit guides us in what is really the Spirit of Jesus working in us and its purpose is always about transformation of a person’s life.
We ask why are so many people leaving the church? I believe it is partly because they are withering from being unconnected and have found the conduit of a service or a leader is not enough anymore. Because they can’t breath throughout the week well enough, and the oxygen they get on a Sunday morning is just not enough. Because they have not been encouraged or taught to put their own sails up and catch the daily wind of the spirit. Because their kindling has all burnt up as they are waiting from Sunday to Sunday, or from event to event, and it is just too long. In the meantime they find other things to get the fire going. If we are going to be to "Here2Stay" in life long discipleship, our encounters must be our own.
We cannot put a program, a set time a day, an age limit, or 6-week course on the Spirit of Jesus. The spirit of Jesus is not limited for some to access and share out as they will. Our encounter with Jesus must be our own. The greatest thing any program, ministry, leader or church can do is to keep drawing us closer to the truth that our encounter with Christ must be our own. The spirit is always moving, always present and we must learn how to let the spirit fill, flow and glow within us.
What is your “Jesus Encounter” story?