Today we have the wonderful opportunity of sharing with you the first of a two-part interview with J.D. Greear, author of the new ebook Jesus, Continued. You can pre-order Jesus, Continued on Vyrso today!
Tell us a little about the background for your latest title, Jesus, Continued.
Early in my ministry, I secretly felt frustrated with my faith, because it seemed like the people in the Bible had a fundamentally different experience with God than I had. My relationship with God seemed to be one-way. All of God’s presence seemed stockpiled in the past: he created the world, died on a cross, and then inspired a Bible to tell us about it. God was like a busy teacher who had given me an assignment and then stepped out of the room, leaving me to get it done on my own. I had a “relationship with God” in the sense of praying to him about my problems and trying to trust that he was working—somewhere, somehow—to help me. But I didn’t have any real interaction with him. God was a doctrine I knew about rather than a person I knew.
I related to the Holy Spirit the same way I related to my pituitary gland: grateful it’s in there; know it’s essential for something; don’t really relate to it. It certainly wasn’t a sense of the presence of God with me, or a living, moving, dynamic Person.
Jesus, Continued is a book for anyone who shares that feeling. It’s about how the Holy Spirit God is actually present with his people, and through him we have the kind of fellowship with God the disciples had with Jesus (1 John 1:3). He moves in us, speaks through us. He calls us to follow as he goes about accomplishing the Great Commission through us. Mission is not what we do for him, but what he does through us.
This book is for those Christians who want to see God move from being someone they know about to someone they feel is truly present in their lives, someone they interact with personally. It is also for those who have gotten a vision for mission but soon grew weary at the size of the task or their inability to accomplish it. I’m thinking here of everyone from burned out pastors and missionaries to zealous college students and weary mothers.
What was the inspiration behind Jesus, Continued?
I took the title from Acts 1:1, where Luke says that in his former book—the Gospel of Luke—he “wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day he was taken up” (Acts 1:1). The implication is that Acts is what Jesus is continuing to do.
What this means is that the work Jesus began in his earthly ministry he now continues through his Spirit by the church. It’s not that in the Gospels Jesus worked, and now we, in his absence, work for him; during his incarnation Jesus worked through his earthly body and now he works through us.
I believe this is a crucial message to recover. When we approach the Christian life as something we do for God, we quickly feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and eventually burned-out. But when we are filled by the Spirit of God, drudgery is transformed into delight, and the crushing weightiness of the task becomes empowerment for specific callings the Spirit gives to us.
Was there a particular moment that you encountered God speaking to you through the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit appears 59 times in the book of Acts, in 36 of those he is speaking. I see no reason to think he has ceased moving and speaking to his people today, though those movements of us never takes on the weight or authority of Scripture (that level of revelation has ceased; the canon is closed). Scripture is complete, and contains all we need to be complete (2 Tim 3:16-17) But just as we see in the book of Acts, we need the Spirit to move dynamically in our lives to show us how to pursue and execute his mission.
And as I explain in the book, we always need to weigh our experience of God’s Spirit speaking to our spirit with other factors, like the testimony of Scripture and the wisdom of our Christian community. But the Spirit of God can and does speak to us individually. One particular way I’ve experienced that is through what I call “holy ambitions.”
When the Spirit of God wants to work in his people, he often starts by stoking the fires of a particular, holy ambition for a particular ministry or need. The fire of passion for God to do something in your generation, or on your campus, or in your family, grows to a fever temperature inside of you. It’s less of a “word” from God that it is a holy discontent with a situation, a broken heart over injustice and pain, or a burning passion to see God glorified.
For example, Scripture does not record God ever telling David that he wanted him to fight with Goliath. God did not summon David to a “holy huddle” in the pasture in which he said, “OK, David, there will be a giant there, and he will say this . . . and then you get 5 rocks, and then . . . .”
David simply found himself in a place with a defiant giant, burning with holy zeal. He assumed that meant God wanted him to fight. Furthermore, God gave David no assurance that he would defeat Goliath on that day. David simply believed God wanted him to fight the giant and trusted God with the outcome.
I’ve had a few moments like that in my life. For instance, I spent two years living as a missionary in Southeast Asia. Shortly after I left, the worst tsunami on record swept onto the island, killing more than 100,000 people. When I returned and stood at the very spot where the tsunami had come ashore, I sensed God telling me that he would send a wave of salvation through that same area, and that our church was to continually place people there on the ground believing it, waiting for it to happen.
Not every ambition in our heart comes from God, but God certainly uses holy, burning desires like those as a compass to point true north for your life, to show you where he wants you to go and how he wants you to be involved in his mission. You likely will experience it as a holy discontent—a conviction that God wants something different than what the situation currently is. You sense him inviting you to lay hold of his willingness and release his power.
What’s one of your favorite Scriptures that empowers people to live fruitful lives?
In John 16:7, Jesus told his disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” In other words, if they understood what was being offered to them in the Holy Spirit, they would have been glad he was returning to heaven if that meant getting the Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit in them would be better than having him beside them.
That’s a staggering promise. How many Christians today are experiencing the fulfillment of that promise?
When the disciples had Jesus beside them, he wasn’t just a force or a principle. He was a person, someone they interacted with. Someone who spoke into their lives.
The Holy Spirit is to be the same for us. He desires to have fellowship with us (1 John 1:3). And he is to be our guide, as we see him guiding his church throughout the book of Acts. He powers our ministry the way he did those first Apostles. In some ways, the book of Acts can be seen as one extended commentary on Jesus’ promise in John 16:7. The Spirit inside the apostles was even more empowering than Jesus beside them.
He gives us resurrection power over sin, applies the promises and warnings of Scriptures to our hearts, and shows us what parts of the Great Commission belong to us. He turns “good” ideas into “God” ideas. These things make his presence inside us even better than Jesus beside us.
You can pre-order J.D. Greear’s new ebook, Jesus, Continued, and download his other titles today on Vyrso.com. Be sure to check back Friday for part two of our interview with J.D. Greear.