I happened to mention in a sermon recently a BBC documentary on the life of Napoleon. The blank stares revealed that I had just outed myself as a BBC2 watching history geek. I am hoping that such a revelation is not as damaging to whatever street cred I had left as I originally feared.
Anyway, I had discovered something about Napoleon which helped to explain why he was the driven, successful leader that he was – until Waterloo , of course.
When Napoleon was at school, like other boys his age, he read about Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. A couple of centuries ago, the great military leaders of the ancient world were held up as aspirational figures. For most people who had this kind of education, even if they admired these kinds of conquering heroes, they ultimately had little bearing on the way they lived their lives.
But not Napoleon. When he read about Caesar and Alexander, he was more than inspired. He decided that he would become an Alexander or a Caesar. Their story would become his story. And the rest, as they say, is history.
When you look at the great spiritual movements in the Christian church, past and present, you are effectively looking at a group of people who have read about Jesus and the apostles and decided that the stories written in the Bible are their stories too.
Sometimes we approach the Bible as if it’s a text book or an instruction guide for life. Whilst the Bible does guide us and instruct us, it is much more than a spiritual maintenance guide. It is much more than heaven’s answer to a Haynes’ manual!
In the Bible we find the story of God at work in and through human beings throughout history, and ultimately in the person of Christ. The story however, takes a whole new shape when the Holy Spirit comes and fills the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Luke, in Acts 1, talks about the things Jesus began to do and to teach (v.1). And then he goes on to record what Jesus continued to do through His Spirit-filled disciples.
Jesus is still at work. He is still teaching. How? Through followers filled with His Spirit. When we read the book of Acts, we can stand back and admire what God did through the disciples. Or we can say “That’s my story too” and allow the amazing things God did almost two thousand years ago to shape our expectations and fuel our faith.
God invites us to live a whole new story. And the good news is He gives us His Spirit to enable us to do just that. And the other piece of good news is, you don’t have to watch BBC2.