Spontaneous Combustion

It’s often said that where there is smoke, there is fire. When we see people acting in odd and extreme extravagance towards others, curiosity compels us to see what is behind this bizarre behavior.

Acts 4:31-34
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.

The power of God working through community destroys poverty completely. God’s grace transforms the givers and the receivers all at once.

This level of generosity seems almost excessive, but it is exactly what Jesus had already talked about (even commanded):

Luke 12:33,34
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus said to give to the poor, but the fire didn’t catch until the Holy Spirit was fully released on the day of Pentecost. The action had to come from the inner transformation within the hearts of those now filled to overflowing. The church was freed by the Holy Spirit to come fully alive.

In Acts chapter 4, there was no political rally, no new policy reform, no speeches to inspire a new movement. There was no new book written (or blog article) that was the catalyst to a trend of community action. Social justice was a direct outcome of the move of the Spirit of God. They didn’t even call what they were doing Social Justice. It was just called LOVING GOD. Those who had been forgiven much were now empowered to give much, not out of intellectual understanding from a teaching or an attempt to become more righteous or holy. It was simply an organic response erupting out of those finding themselves suddenly in the very palm of God. In this epicenter of love, power and grace, the ways of the kingdom start pouring out of them. It was spontaneous combustion.

It was spontaneous combustion.

Suddenly these new believers found themselves consumed by the fire of God. The side effect was that poverty was obliterated. The driving force was the move of the Holy Spirit. Generosity was just sparks getting thrown off from the inferno of the Holy Spirit. The world would never be the same. The church is birthed on earth out of this explosion. The fallout is a widespread. Jesus the light now sent the Holy Spirit so the light could be in us. Darkness didn’t have a chance.

One example of this Holy Spirit fueled generosity that I see on our urban missionary team at New York City Relief is in Outreach Team Leader, Paul Ballesteros (pictured at left). If Paul sees someone on the streets with no shoes who has the same general boat-sized feet, he will give his shoes away. This is in the middle of a four-hour outreach with The Relief Bus in which he is constantly walking around on the concrete sidewalk. In a New York City winter, that sidewalk is as cold as ice. Paul just can’t stand to see someone live barefoot on that ice-cold sidewalk. Another Outreach Team Leader, Jeff Cook can’t seem to hold onto a pair of gloves. Every time he saw someone without gloves during this past brutal winter, he was compelled to give them away. Giving wasn’t so much a sacrifice for these guys as it was a joy.

People ask me how our team at New York City Relief keeps going in our mission to bring life transformation to the homeless. How do we not burn out? Don’t we get overwhelmed by the incredible need? How do we deal with over 60,000 homeless people in New York City, rampant addiction, dire poverty, and the despair of those who struggle literally for daily survival?

The answer for our team of urban missionaries is the same as the answer for the early church. We are in desperate pursuit of Jesus and a move of the Holy Spirit in and through us. Even when weary, we press forward relentlessly into the heart of God. Pulling each other up in community, iron sharpens iron. Spurring each other on, we love God by loving and serving each other. We fail as much as we succeed at this, but we are intentionally running after a goal. We stumble often, but keep getting up, dusting ourselves off and running some more. We don’t bathe ourselves in diatribes and dogma, we open ourselves up more and more to the ridiculous foolishness of a life relinquished to God. Motivated by our love for God, we fight for each other’s hearts:

Hebrews 10:23-25
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The King James version of verse 24 says: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” We keep dragging our compatriots back into the fire of God. There is nothing else.

This isn’t so much a life of sacrifice and self-discipline as a life that is relinquished to Jesus. We serve the broken because we love Him. Of course this only happens because He loved us first. His love is the fire that drives the engines of our hearts. I don’t know how to explain it except…spontaneous combustion.

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