Samuel Lindsay • January 20, 2022
Outside of parliament where else do you hear people talk about “my ministry” or “your ministry”? Christian circles!
If you’ve hung about church for any length of time you’re sure to hear this turn-of-phrase come up. It probably sounds a bit weird to outsiders or new disciples.
Ministry is just an old-fashioned way of saying “service.” When you take your car to the mechanic, he/she “minsters” to your car so-to-speak. Some denominations call their leaders Ministers; they are servants of the people of God.
Here’s the thing – although the word may be a bit old fashioned, the idea that each of us has a ministry is very good. And let me tell you why!
Jesus has given each of us service to do!
We are all servants of Christ and serve one another! (Gal 5:13)
In Ephesians 4, after Paul has given a sweeping overview of the Gospel power and the love of God in the preceding chapters, He moves to show how this is worked-out in the church. He talks about our changed way of life walking in love and unity then He says:
“To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people” (Eph 4:7–8).
So, Jesus gives gifts to His people. Presents. Favours. Each one has been given a special measure of Christ’s grace.
Paul goes on to flesh out how this works in practice. For starters Jesus gave witnesses and messengers who proclaimed God’s Gospel to the world and had it recorded (Apostles and Prophets). He also gave evangelists who’s special gifting enabled them to spread this news far and wide. Then Jesus also gave pastors and teachers who lead and teach the church in the truth passed down to us.
So these people/offices were given to us by Jesus. But why? What purpose do they serve?
These are given to equip you.
To equip you the church of Christ!
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:11–13).
It is quite normal for us to talk about the ministry of the Apostles and Prophets. It’s fairly common to talk about the ministry of various speakers or mission organisations. But have you thought about what ministry Christ has given to you?
The leaders and forbears of the church were given to equip you for your works of service. What are your works of service?
We’ll talk about this more in a moment, but first, did you notice what is the desired effect of the equipped saints?
“…so that the body of Christ may be built up…”
When Jesus’ people are equipped and serving the Church is built up. This is how we can become mature, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
It’s neither up to the official leaders of the church, nor you as an individual, but it is the body of Christ working in concert to bring us maturity through the power of Christ.
“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph 4:15–16).
We all work together to grow together. We mature together. We hold each other up.
In Christ none of use are designed to be hangers-on, or along for the ride.
So, what is your service? How do you minister?
In some sense there is a standard call to service for all of us, to love one another and be kind and hospitable etc. But beyond that we will have special ministries to tend to, because the Spirit of God equips each of us with gifts, “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Co 12:7). These gifts may take different forms in accordance with our faith and abilities, but they are for our service of God.
It may take some time speaking to others with some trial and error to discover your gifts. They may morph over time somewhat. But it is certainly worth your while to uncover and use those gifts! These gifts will clue you in on how you should be serving.
Some of your ministry is a given – if you are a spouse, you will minister to your spouse. Parents disciple their children for the building up of the body.
Here’s some possibilities on how your works of service might take shape amongst the body so that we can build each other up, such as:
- prayer that continually lifts each other up in Christ,
- musical service to aide and guide the worship of God,
- logistical and hospitable service to help facilitate our church gatherings and help those who are in need,
- preaching and teaching to equip us for ministry in Christ,
- deliberate discipleship/mentoring relationships,
- administration of finances and records etc.,
- evangelistic outreach to see others come to know Jesus.
In some sense most Christians can do most of the things in some shape or another, but finding an area to serve where you are especially gifted propels us all forward into maturity. For instance, anyone can stack chairs, but some people have a gift of being able to coordinate people and things to make Christ’s church run well. Anyone can sing, but God has gifted and skilled some people to excel in leading others to sing. Most can read the bible out loud, but some can read in such a way that helps the hearers engage with God’s word. Anyone can share the Gospel with someone else, but some of us are especially gifted to do it clearly and winsomely. We try to serve well whatever we are doing, but it is wonderful to be able to stretch our spiritual legs and thrive in our giftings.
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Co 12:4–6).
This list above is not exhaustive, but I just wanted to identify some tangible areas of service that most Christians will see in the life of their church. Not all our gifts will be shown off on Sunday morning, but all of our service work is collectively building us up regardless.
So, now we know that we each are in some way gifted and equipped to build up the church in Christ, what do you do next?
- If you haven’t yet, join a church. Formally commit to a local church family to build up.
- Find a way to serve. It may take a while for your gifting to become clear, but sometimes you just need to get stuck-in and see what happens!
- Talk to your leaders about how you desire to serve. Then they can help equip you better or provide opportunities to serve. It may take time for your “dream ministry” to become a reality, however serve faithfully where God providentially has you building.
- See your place in light of the whole – your service is neither unimportant, nor is it the whole show. We are each contributing to the whole body.
- Serve in love (1 Co 13:1–7).
What not to do: Bury your God-given gifts in the ground.
“[Christ] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Col 1:28–29).
Samuel Lindsay • January 14, 2022
One of the most popular Christian podcasts from 2021 was The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill from Christianity Today. It's a well-produced series that hooks you in! I don't recommend it for your spiritual vitality, but if you have been impacted by Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll over the years, it might be of interest to you.
In my youth I was introduced to some of Mars Hill's content, and I credit that introduction as being the start of understanding the gospel and grace, which in turn led to me taking my faith seriously. God could have used someone else, but through His providence He used Mark Driscoll in my life.
Mark was the lead pastor at Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington State USA. The church was “odd” because it bucked all the church trends of it’s day: It was a fast-growing church in an area that is famously post-Christian, it held reformed and complementarian theology, and it attracted young men. Over the years Mark Driscoll became something of a celebrity because of his style, the use of media and the rapid trend-bucking growth. It all came to a screeching halt when Mark was placed under church discipline. Rather than submit to the process and repent of sin – Mark absconded, and the various congregations of the church were either closed or became independent churches in their own right.
The podcast documented many aspects of Mark's rise to prominence, their apparent success, and the crisis that ended it all. Like many folks who have commented on this podcast series, it leaves me with mixed feelings. But, the tale of Mars Hill is a warning to evangelicals everywhere. There a few valuable lessons that I wanted to note for our own benefit.
Mark is a sinner, just like all of us. So please don’t hear me pouring any judgment on him that is not equally appropriate in our own failures. As Mark & Mars Hill are public matters of Christian interest, think of this more as an analysis that may highlight our own potential weaknesses when it comes to Christian leadership.
Christian Leaders must be Qualified
The accounts of Mars Hill’s genesis vary, but Mark himself bragged that he had never been a member of a church before he planted his own. This was not because he didn’t support formal membership (he did), it was because he was a young inexperienced Christian when he began to pastor.
God can use anyone, even stones, to build His church. Yet He very clearly prefers to use ordinary methods that the scriptures lay out for us. Exceptions occur – but in this case the story proves the value of the biblical way. I think one of the key factors that lead to the ruin of Mars Hill and Mark’s disgrace was that the basic foundations of Christian leadership had not been laid.
The qualifications for church leaders in Scripture very interestingly do not feature much in the way of skills. God does not call for charisma or inciteful anecdotes, instead he merely asks for men who are “able to teach”. The rest of the qualifications centre around character. Through Paul, God makes it clear that the ability to teach is only one (albeit important) part of the Christian leadership profile. One’s character track-record is the primary qualification. You can’t have a character track record if you’re new and untrained in the faith: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited…” (1 Ti 3:6).
The youngest in faith often tend to be the most passionate! They are keen to learn and share in a way that puts us older believers to shame! Unfortunately, the fire of new faith is often mistaken for leadership gifting and then believers suffer under the inexperienced ill-equipped guidance. How many “youth pastors” have been installed fast and fallen almost as quickly?
To be clear: age itself is not the issue, as the Apostle Paul points out to Timothy (1 Ti 4:12). Young leaders shouldn’t be maligned – but they too must shine as an example of godly character: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Ti 4:12).
It seems that Mark Driscoll had bucket loads of teaching ability but not the character to back it up. It seems he didn’t have sufficient time and training to prepare for the task which he undertook; in his own words he became a believer in the autumn and took up leadership in the spring. Then, he became conceited – to the point where he thought he was above Jesus’ design of church discipline while being very heavy handed with such discipline himself!
It started behind closed doors, but over time with more power and prestige and success it became very clear that Mark wasn’t just slipping up like all Christians do at times, but that he had a pattern of failing to be temperate, self-controlled, respectable, and gentle (refer 1 Ti 3:1–7 and Tit 1:5–9).
I for one do not have issue with the brash style that Mark was known for. In some respects tone and style are culturally defined, so in different times and places different tone and style will be appropriate (just look at the different tone and style across the pages of the Bible!). What is at issue here is not that Mark was rough with words or partial to a rant, but that he essentially used his position as an under-shepherd of Christ to bully people, the very people who were on mission with him to serve God!
In my opinion had the young and passionate Mark been kept from leadership for a time to be discipled and trained, things may have turned out much better. But who knows? God knows. Marks mythology has obscured his origin story, so it is hard to know if he indeed did have time in training and exemplify the qualifications of a pastor.
What is plainly obvious either way is that qualifications matter. God didn’t record them as mere guidelines – they are the basic foundations of Christian leadership. It is fine to like charisma, passion and rhetorical excellence but these are only icing on the cake. A cake is still a cake without icing, but icing on its own is no elder.
In our climate of immediacy and efficiency, it can be hard to appreciate the importance of time spent. It is interesting to see that Jesus discipled his Apostles over the course of years, and when the Apostle Paul was converted, he went away for some time before beginning his apostolic ministry in earnest. We have already seen that Paul banned the appointment of recently-converted believers. The very term “elders” implies that age, or at the very least the wisdom that comes with it, is part of the package. It takes time to build and test leaders who are suitable to lead God’s Church.
Christian Leaders must be Appointed
When those leaders are appropriately qualified, they must be appointed by others. It is not up to the individual to install themselves as a leader. In the latter years Mark Driscoll said he had a commission direct from God to do what he was doing, therefore, one of the implications was that no one could question him (he also pointed to the “success” as a validation from God).
In one sense this claim to divine personal commission is a problem because it is used to “trump” biblical qualifications. If ever there is a question about a person’s suitability for ministry or they disqualify themselves from leadership, they can justify continued leadership (or sin) on the basis of “I’m on a mission from God!” (Blues Brothers). Perhaps you can tell that I’m sceptical about Mark’s divine commission?
He and others may well have personal commissions from God, but in the church this does not automatically install us to leadership, or prevent us from being removed if we are disqualified.
Was Driscoll appointed or did he take up the leadership himself? I’m not sure, but the way Driscoll would talk about his role in later years communicated an entrepreneurial approach without reference to other believers. Something that is at odds with scripture.
So how are Christian leaders appointed? Well, the first Christian leaders were the Apostles – appointed as Christ’s eyewitnesses. Then they went on to appoint Elders/Overseers/Shepherds (a.k.a Pastors) in the churches they planted (i.e. Acts 14:23). As the church grew and the Apostles aged, it was not really possible for them to get around to do all the ordaining and people like Titus were sent to facilitate the ordination of leaders (Titus 1:5).
How did this ordination take place? There’s disagreement on this point, as one might expect when looking at different ecclesiastical models. Some see the appointment as “top down” – i.e. someone up a church hierarchy comes in and appoints leaders. Others look at the etymology of the Greek word for “appoint” and find associations with the idea of the congregation electing leaders to appoint them.
Let’s just do some simple logic on this point: If the qualifications of church overseers revolves around demonstrated character, then they have to be appointed by people who know them, and have seen the way they live for Jesus. This must in some way include people in their home church.
The apparent silence of scripture on the exact way this ordination takes place seems to provide space for us to “sort it out amongst ourselves” so-to-speak. In my estimation the best way is, that under the guidance of existing elders, churches should use a method like voting for the congregation to approve/affirm new overseers. In this way the Holy Spirit is seen to be moving through His Church to have Christ’s chosen leaders appointed.
Desire is an important factor to consider in being ordained as an elder. It is a good thing to aspire to be! “Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.” (1 Ti 3:1). Yet qualification must follow that aspiration.
Some people aspire to be pastors and so trot off to bible college. But, bible college a pastor does not make. Academic studies of the Bible or seminary-type courses may be helpful in forming Christian leaders, but they are quite auxiliary to the process. For many local churches, the idea of a 3 or 4-year degree for their lead pastors provides a kind of standard of knowledge metric that can be useful, but it has limitations! Christ is not after academics to lead His churches, rather those who will “[be an] example to the flock” (1 Pe 5:3). The aspiring pastor who is not a member of a local church is a severe irony.
Christian Leaders must be Accountable
Whether or not Driscoll was once qualified and/or ordained for Christian leadership the fact remains that in church we enter into an ongoing relationship of accountability with other Christians who help us to grow spiritually and warn us if we are wandering from the path Jesus calls us to walk. This is true for every believer, whether they be children, new convert, elderly life-long believer, or mega-church senior pastor.
As Mars Hill grew they changed their leadership structure to try and cope with the changing dynamics of staff and multi-site church, etc. Without boring you with all the details, what they practically ended up with was Mark as a rule-by-decree CEO over a large cohort of other campus and executive elders while he was (in theory) accountable to a Board of Advisors and Accountability made up of people outside the church.
Leaders under Mark ended up laying charges against him (like institutional charges, not legal ones). This, combined with external pressure from some controversy forced the Board to investigate if Mark has been disqualified. Mark took some time off and the Board formulated a plan of restoration, presumably to deal with the character issues that had been the problem.
Before that plan of restoration could be enacted, Driscoll resigned from his role as senior pastor and left the church.
The podcast was long, 12 mostly hour-long episodes covered a great deal of ground. But you know what? It hasn't changed the fundamental opinion that I formed in the immediate aftermath of Mark Driscoll’s resignation: He ran away from church discipline.
It has become apparent that changes in the church leadership structure made it hard for brothers in Christ to keep Mark accountable, but the Board did have some role in trying to do what the other elders couldn’t. You can tell the story in professional language, with “the board” and “leave of absence” and “resignation,” but at at the end of the day Mark was Christian who had some sin to deal with, and when it came to the crunch of actually having to face it and own up to it – Driscoll bounced.
He ran away from the problem. The church collapsed in his wake.
Then a couple years later he had the nerve to start a new church – with himself as the lead pastor again.
To my knowledge he has not publicly repented this sin, nor the betrayal of absconding from the flock he had professed to love and care for.
In Jesus’ commands for how to deal with a brother who is caught in sin (Matt 18:15-20) – the clear hope is for repentance. When we call-out a bother or sister, the desire is that they would see the error and turn away from it. And if they wish to persist in sin – then there is the clarity from the church that someone has been cast out. Excommunicated.
“God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’” (1 Co 5:13).
In a bid to have to neither deal with their sin, nor possibly be publicly excommunicated – people just run away. I have seen it in my own experience: they resign church membership as if that absolves them of the need to address sin before God and be reconciled to the brothers & sisters. It’s not a viable option, but when sin grips our heart we will even try to hide behind the bushes (Ge 3:8).
In my personal view Mark has disqualified himself from leadership until such a time as he owns up to the sin that was trying to be dealt with at Mars Hill. He has publicly shown he is untrustworthy when the going gets tough. Given the amount of time and “water under the bridge” since the fall of Mars Hill I’m not sure what this would look like but due to the public nature of these past sins, some kind of public repentance seems appropriate – not only to seek reconciliation and forgiveness of those he sinned against, but also to show the world what is looks like for fallible men to humble themselves before Jesus Christ.
The repentant tax collector went and tried to undo the harm he had done – not because he could buy repentance, but because it was the evidence that he was truly turning away from his past sin in the light of the Gospel. Apparently there has been nothing of the like from Driscoll despite the trauma and hurt in his wake.
It is entirely appropriate for churches to keep their leaders accountable, and the leaders should submit to that process. It is expected and commanded. To be sure, there will be some who make spurious accusations against leadership and so the scripture tells us how we should deal with allegations fairly:
“Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.” (1 Ti 5:19–21).
People in positions of authority are not above the ordinary means of discipleship in operation in the church. Therefore, the structures that we put in place for leadership and general membership shouldn’t put some people “off limits”. Elders, in my estimation should be in a cohort of men who have the power and ability to help each other walk the narrow path.
There’s lots that could be said in a commentary on the rise and fall of Mars Hill – and the podcast from last year is evidence of that! But I hate the idea of being a keyboard warrior removed in space and time from the events while entering into a continual series of assessment and commentary on the sins of others.
What is inevitably done is that a person’s/church’s sins and failures are highlighted to a degree that obscures the reality of their whole identity. Mark is not the “bad guy” – he is a flawed believer who needs sanctification like any other believer. He, like each of us, may have to own up to hurting others in the past. His sin may be “bigger” or somewhat differ from ours, but we have our own that must be dealt with. We should never disassociate ourselves from other believers on the grounds that they are sinners, but only on the grounds that they have disowned Christ.
Jesus' grace is sufficient to cover all the wrongs of Mars Hill and our own. I need Jesus to cover my own leadership sins.
God used Mars Hill to save and sanctify many people, and God may even now be using Mark to work in the lives of believers. But the good does not justify the bad or override a need for repentance.
Preventing the awful mess of Mars Hill in our own churches starts with adopting biblical model of leadership – just because it is old does not mean it is flawed. Sin can still sneak in, but God gave us these instructions for our benefit as churches full of sinners under Jesus.
We need leaders who are qualified, appointed and accountable.
Samuel Lindsay • December 23, 2021
Let me tell you about a man who loved Jesus.
His story is partially lost to history because he lived some 1700 years ago. Yet, some stories of his life remain. So lets sift through the mythology to see the faithful, and a little fiery, disciple.
He was born to a wealthy family in what is now Turkey. He grew up as a Christian. As a young man, after he had lost his parents and inherited their estate, he was convicted from the Scriptures of the need to be generous with his abundance. He didn't want his wealth to be a barrier to God's Kingdom, and he would rather store up riches in Heaven!
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" Jesus (Mt 6:19–21).
The story goes that one of his neighbours had three daughters of marriageable age. In those days to have much chance of a good marriage, the bride's family had to provide a monetary dowry. Problem was, this neighbour had fallen on tough times so marriages weren't on the cards, and they would soon be destitute unless some providential deliverance was provided.
The young man wanted to help, and he would embody the principle from Jesus: "when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret" (Mt 6:3–4). So at night, he would sneak up to his neighbours window and chuck a bag of money through the open window before scurrying away undetected.
He did this three times for the three dowries! But, the neighbour had caught on by the third attempt and rushed out to thank his merciful benefactor. Caught in the act, the young man pleaded for his identity to remain secret.
The young man grew in godliness, as did his reputation as a holy and righteous believer. He became a pastor, and eventually he was promoted to oversee all the churches in his region with the title Bishop.
In those days there was a heresy going around that Jesus was not God-himself. The false teaching asserted that Jesus was created, not eternal, and that he was not equal to God. The primary proponent of these ideas was a pastor named Arius.
This heresy grew, gaining popularity, so the church got together to nail down what they believed and why they believed it. This gathering is now referred to as the Council of Nicaea.
Our bishop was in attendance, and very concerned that the truth be defended. As is appropriate, everyone was given time to present their arguments and receive a fair hearing. Unfortunately our bishop was having difficulty keeping his temper in check! Attack after attack was launched on the divinity of Jesus by men who were meant to be Christ's representatives on earth. Eventually this bishop could take it no more!
He stood up and went over to the man defending Arian teaching (some say it was Arius himself) and the bishop struck the heretic across the face!
The assembly was gobsmacked!
That a bishop would loose such self control was crazy, they were meant to be an example of godliness to God's people!
The bishop was stripped of his bishop's uniform, chained and put in prison. He was so ashamed. He prayed for forgiveness.
There are different versions of the story from here, but the crux of it is that the penitent man was once again restored to his role as bishop (and he refrained from slapping Arians).
You may already know that the Council ended with the decisive conclusion that Arianism was heretical because it went against the Scriptures.
There are many other myths and legends about this bishop. But is suffices to say this man grew a great reputation for being merciful and generous while also being a staunch defender of biblical truth. A worthy ideal for any of us to adopt (without the assault!).
But who was this bishop? Did he have a name?
You may know him, he is often called Saint Nicholas, or if you're from Scandinavia: Santa Claus.
I hope you can look, not so much to the example of a sinful pastor from ancient Turkey, but to his God who provided through Christ such love, generosity and mercy that made Nicholas' own great kindness pale by comparison.
God rescues more than the destitute from poverty, His pure grace rescues dead sinners out of the grave.
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Eph 2:4–11.
Receive God's grace in Jesus Christ! He is God-made-man who came in the flesh to bring salvation and redemption.
Samuel Lindsay • December 16, 2021
I believe in...
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
We come to the end of the creed! But here's the curious thing: the Creed ends with something unending.
We have been stepping our way through the Apostles Creed, that great summary of the orthodox faith that has been passed down through generations. It's power comes from the weight of history continually confirming that it is a faithful encapsulation of the fundamental tenets of Christianity expressed by God in the Bible.
As with all attempts to summarise a vast swathe of belief and history - we could say more! And many have. There have been many tries through the ages to create more comprehensive summaries of true faith. Some better than others, some created to address particular problems of their day (e.g. Nicaean creed was created to rule out Arianism).
Yet here's the thing: try as we might to reduce the scriptures and our faith down to the basic components, we can never do it justice. There is a reason that God used multiple genres, authors, contexts and thousands of years to communicate to us the epic history of salvation. It's hard enough to communicate the breadth of the historical working of salvation, let alone the nature of our God who brings it all to pass.
"Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD
or fully declare his praise?" Ps 106:2.
God is immeasurable and eternal. We cannot comprehend Him fully. Even with a lifetime studying the words God gave us, we will not have scraped the bottom of God's revelation to us. Even with a lifetime of faith we will not find a limit to the depths of our eternal God & His love.
God imbued something of Himself in humanity: He has made us in His image. It's hard to delineate exactly what that means, but one thing is for sure, God's people will live eternally like God. Our mortality will give way to immortality. We will reflect something of God's limitlessness in the way that we live forever!
When we touched on the Resurrection last week, we noted this. That the people who belong to the living God must live. He is the God of the living. And so even through death God will return His people to life.
But it is now worth dwelling on the eternality of that life. It is never ending!
We may not be able to plumb the depths of God now, because of our creaturely limitations. But the day is fast approaching when there will be at least two less limitations on us: we will be sinless, and we will have all the time in the world to know Him. Perhaps in the endless ages to come, in some small way, we might be able to "understand" God - something that generations of God's people have been unable to do on this earth.
Our eternal life will be lived. We will get to know God more and better, but we will also worship more and better. I think the worship and eternality of our life was well encapsulated by Isaac Newton in the verse from Amazing Grace:
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
Here and now our worship is tainted by our sin and the death that snatches us away from continued faithful service to God. How beautiful it will be when those barriers are removed! We will be able to worship God more fully and freely. Yes worship in song, but also the worship of lives consecrated wholly to Him, serving Him and being reflectors of His Glory.
How can you receive this eternal life? It is only available through Jesus Christ. There is no other way to life beyond this life. Eternal life is found in the source of Life, the Creator. And He has revealed himself in Jesus Christ our Lord.
"Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Jn 17:3.
When we come to know and trust Jesus, we come into eternal life. To know Jesus is to know God, and to know God is to have eternal life. This is why we want as many people to meet Jesus as possible!
In the scope of eternity, these measly few years we're living on the earth that is fading away can seem insignificant. However, what we're doing here is a preparation for that eternity. We ought not squander the years we have been entrusted with and still hope to please our "investor". Make the best use of theses evil days (Eph 5:15–20).
So, although eternity is before us, begin as you mean to go. Strive for holiness, because "without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb 12:14).
We believe in Life Everlasting with God and for His Glory. It will be a long, long, long time, and a good time, and a beautiful time. It will be the fulness of life we wished we could have lived here and now. It is life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." Jesus - Jn 6:54.
Samuel Lindsay • December 09, 2021
I believe in...,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
We want to live!
There are things in this world, such as experiences of suffering, that make us want to leave it. When we are weighed down by pain and despair we may look for a way out.
The reason we look for a way out, in my estimation, is because our life doesn't feel like living. We feel so damaged and undone by life that we want to leave it behind.
The thing is, I reckon the escape we desire is not to nothingness, but what we would prefer is fullness of life, albeit untouched by the pain and difficulty that has scarred us so deeply.
All of us want life.
It is instinctual in us to push for survival, and to rescue others on the brink of death.
As we grow old and our bodies fail us, we remember the glory days of youth with vigour and vitality.
I'm sure I speak for many of us that we have considered the prospect: "What if I died today?" and have thought: "I'm not ready to die yet, there is so much more life I want to live!"
God has designed us to live. It is written it into our genetic and psychological profile. Human death seems so unnatural and unbelievable because eternity is written in our hearts! (Ecc 3:11)
Death was introduced to the human race through Adam (& Eve). They sinned, and the consequence of sin is death. Death pervades all humanity. But, even though we fairly brought this on ourselves, God wanted to restore His people to His good creation design: Life.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ro 6:23).
Our hope for the future is not some trite notion of "I want to go to heaven when I die." Our Christian hope for the future is eternal life.
We want to live!
We want to live in the fullness of our God-given potential.
We want to enjoy all the goodness of life, with knowing our creator, enjoying good relationships and revelling in God's good creation.
The smell of pine trees and wildflowers.
The laughter invoked at the wit of a friend.
The awe that overpowers us marvelling at the Lord God.
All of this is part of life; to see and taste and touch and hear and feel and worship! And we need bodies for that!
Death is none of these things (Ps 88), and so we desperately need God to step in and undo the effects of death so that we may be freed from it's entanglement for an embodied eternal life.
The hope of Abraham when he raised the knife over Isaac was that God could undo death. And his hope was not in vain. (Heb 11:17–19).
The hope of David was that God would deliver him, even from Sheol to live in God's love (e.g. Ps 86:13). And his hope was not in vain.
The Hope of Ezekiel was that God would reincarnate his dead people (Eze 37:1-14). And his hope was not in vain.
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners - those who deserve death. Jesus came into the world to undo death!
And, He was successful! This is demonstrated by the way that, after His own death on the cross, He rose from death Himself. Death could not hold Him. And now, death cannot hold anyone who belongs to Jesus! Jesus was the first of many more to follow.
We Christians believe in the the resurrection of the body, because if we belong to Jesus, we must live. He is the God of the living, not the dead (Mk 12:27). One cannot belong to the source of life and yet be swallowed up in death.
Death is a temporary state for Believers. The day is coming when the world will be recreated and death itself is destroyed. But now we live and die in the world on it's last legs. We are waiting for the promised resurrection. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Pe 3:9). The longer the Lord waits, the more opportunities there are for His Gospel to spread and people to join His kingdom.
We are free to expend our lives on this earth in service of our Lord, because He has promised an eternal life for his people beyond the grave, in resurrected bodies!
"We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
Samuel Lindsay • December 01, 2021
Periodically we must say goodbye to loved ones.
It is a matter of life that our time here is short. Whether it be geographical locations or our lives themselves, we are always on our way somewhere else.
For a time we journey alongside others. We grow to love our travelling companions as we fall in step with them. We help them through some obstacles and they share their supplies with us. We regale each other with stories and delight one another with traveling songs. Sometimes there is the shared trauma of being in the trenches together through tough times.
Sadly, eventually, we must part ways. Sometimes abruptly through unforeseen circumstances, but often we get a chance to say goodbye as God leads us to the same destination via a different road.
For us in Sale we get more practice at this than many other places, merely because of the local context. We have industries and employers whose staff are often coming and going. We have to acknowledge this, and the effect it has on church life; it is both to our advantage and disadvantage.
But regardless of whether you're here or in some other context, here's some thoughts on goodbyes, and in particular when Christian brothers & sisters are sent out.
The very word "goodbye" is a long lost descendant of the blessing "God be with you". It is a prayer-in-a-word, shrunk down by generations of abbreviation. But we can reclaim that sentiment; that our goodbyes are given in the hope and assurance that God goes with our loved ones.
The goodbyes between believers are filled with hope. It is not merely that we hope to see each other in the eternal kingdom, but that God might bless their coming and their going.
We know that there is someone who superintends all of our plans, so even as we get posting orders, get offered new positions or move to take care of sick family members, it is all under God's care and direction. Divine providence is at work through ordinary circumstances.
But, I reckon that this awareness of divine providence should not only be a consolation to us, but also a motivator. In our displacement we will find ourselves in another place, with new (or old) relationships to build, a new church family that needs our spiritual gifts, new places where the Gospel needs proclaiming.
We ought to be faithful disciple-makers wherever we are, and when we move somewhere else there is new opportunities presented to go out into the harvest under the Lord's guidance.
It is a growing opportunity too! Have you noticed how much you are challenged and shaped by new circumstances? Character is forged in the fire of difficulty.
So our joy of sending people out to new pastures is based on a hope that God would bless them, that God would bless others through them, and that God would be glorified!
"Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails." Pr 19:21.
It must be recognised that there is real sorrow in loved ones moving away. There is tangible loss of friendship and connection.
Yes, yes, we have phones and video calls at our fingertips... but, if the last couple years have taught us anything, it's that there is no substitute for conversation over a campfire, laughter and jibes over a dinner table, or a chorus of voices raised in worship of the true and living God. To lose people is to lose the invisible fibres of Christian community that we can't put our finger on, but feel so real to us.
Added to this is the spiritual loss. Thinking of the church like a body, when people are sent out it can feel like an amputation. Our abilities are reduced when we loose Christ's servants from our midst. There are holes in capability and caring and encouragement. Mentoring, equipping, advice, experience, wisdom, perspective, hospitality, love, respect and compassion are all torn away with the loss.
That others will benefit from their Christian fellowship is little consolation to those who have lost it.
So we mourn. We need not shy away from the tears that roll down our cheeks and the sadness that pulls at our hearts.
"Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and rejoicing may end in grief." Pr 14:13.
Owning our Goodbyes
Knowing that we will have to say goodbye, in my view it means we should treat the time we have as precious. We should not waste the opportunities that come our way to build each other up, encourage each other and equip each other.
Perhaps a good question to ask is: Knowing that my time amongst these brothers and sisters is limited, how would God expect me to use it?
How has God gifted and enabled you to build up His Church in the time that you have?
The scriptures very clearly tell us that we should have this perspective all the time anyway! We do not know how long our days will be, nor do we know when Christ will return!
"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." Heb 10:24–25.
I hope that we will never waste an opportunity. This doesn't mean that we must frantically fill every second with trite attempts at "redeeming the time", but it does mean that our attitude and intentionality behind the way we live as a Christian community will be affected. It will shape the choices we make as a family. It will affect how we spend our money and our time. It will inform what official ministries we run, or don't run.
As we expect to say "goodbye" again sooner or later, wouldn't it be great to to know that they go out built-up in Christ? That we have contributed to their life such that they are "spurred on toward love and good deeds"?
As we send out people saying "God be with you," we should send them out knowing that from their time spent among us they are better equipped to face whatever God has in store!
Samuel Lindsay • December 01, 2021
I believe in...
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
Gospel centred Christians bang on about this "forgiveness of sins" a lot. Why?
Well, two main reasons come to mind. One is that if you feel the weight and guilt of sin, you need to know there is forgiveness! But, two, if you don't naturally feel the weight of your sin, you need to be reminded that all have sinned and it needs to be dealt with.
Sin is like a metastasised cancer. The first step to dealing with it is to get the diagnosis. Once you know it is there, then the treatment can commence.
Our only treatment is Jesus Christ. And he offers a miracle cure!
What is Sin?
Although sin is the best word to describe it, we can use other words such as transgress, trespass, wrong, immoral, rebellion and others to mean the same thing.
The classic illustration for sin is an arrow aimed at a target. If you miss the target, the arrow is said to have "sinned". When we have morally failed to hit God's "target" we have sinned.
But there more to it, it's not just an "oopsie, I missed". Sin is relational disfunction. When someone is unfaithful in a relationship they break down the relational connection. It is disrespectful and unloving to deliberately act in such a way as to hurt someone you love. When we sin against God, we are acting in a way that communicates to God that we want to be separated from Him.
Remember Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden? When they ate the fruit they were announcing "We'd rather preference ourselves over a peaceful and joyful relationship with God."
Sin is crime. If I break Australian law, I should rightly be charged as a criminal and suffer the justified punishment - whether it be fines or imprisonment or whatever. That is justice. When we break God's divine law that is binding on all people we are committing criminal acts against the Judge of the universe.
Sin is also transactional. One of the most famous descriptions of sin from the New testament is accounting. In the way that we have sinned we have racked up debts against God. God doesn't usually smite us from heaven as soon as we sin. We store up for ourselves guilt. Like a credit card, we swipe away knowing that we don't have to pay till later.
Sin is treason, like a citizen who acts treasonously against their own country to subvert the defence and sovereignty of their home nation. When the Christians sins, it's as if they are being disloyal to the Kingdom of God and inviting foreign powers to rule in God's place.
Everyone has sinned. All of us have sinned against God in some way, and none of us have the power to expunge our guilt. It is quite common for people to initially think that once made aware of sin, that they can work hard to undo or overcome their sin, but the older you become and the more you behold the Holiness of God, the more you can see how far reaching and inescapable sin is in your life.
Because we have sinned, we deserve the just and fair punishments that the righteous God gives.
"The one who sins is the one who will die." Eze 18:20.
How can we be Forgiven?
That's the bad news, but there is good news! Christianity exists because God has come in grace and kindness to deal with sin!
Although he knows our sin, although we made this mess ourselves, God has mercifully condescended to us to lift us out of the bog of sin and rebellion that we wallow in.
"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross." Col 2:13–14.
In Christ, God takes away sin. He forgives. He overlooks the evil and wickedness that we have committed so that we can be reconciled to God. He does not deal with us as our crimes deserve.
But the guilt, the debts that we have racked up do not just disappear into thin air. God is just, and righteous, and so atonement must be made for God's people. That is what Jesus did with his death: "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." Ro 3:25–26.
Someone had to deal with the debt. If you have a mate who lend you money you are indebted to them. Now if after a while that say to you "your debt is forgiven" it's worth remembering that while you benefited from their generosity, it wasn't free. Your mate lost out in order to help you. God looses out in order to be generous to His people and provide forgiveness of sins. Christ made atonement through his body, and God has expressed incredible patience and forbearance by withholding His punishment so that we might be made right with God.
Anyone can now be reconciled to God, not matter the sins they have committed, because God has made an atoning sacrifice with Jesus. Anyone who accepts the sacrifice of Christ in faith can have forgiveness of sins. Accept Christ and you accept rescue (salvation) from the effects of your own rebellion toward God.
This is good news! This is Gospel! Jesus saves!
We believe in the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ our Lord.
"All the prophets testify about [Jesus] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Ac 10:43.
Samuel Lindsay • November 18, 2021
I believe in...
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
Once again in our survey of the Apostles Creed includes a word we don't use very much: Communion. It means intimate fellowship, sharing or union.
This idea flows out of the previous line, that there is a holy universal church, and within it there is an intimate union of saints.
But who do we have sweet fellowship with? And what does it look like? Let's break it down.
Saints = Holy Ones
Firstly, a quick note on Saints. Saints are not only the virtuous believers who have gone before us, but they also include us. If we belong to Jesus, we are Saints.
Now, obviously we know that we're not always qualitatively saintly, but belonging to Jesus changes our status so that while we are still sinners, we are made holy to God. We become "holy ones" which is the meaning of the word "saint".
Confusingly, "holy ones" can also refer to angelic beings, but that is not who is in view with this part of our creed.
"...on the day [Lord Jesus] comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you" (2 Th 1:10).
Communion with God
The communion of saints is firstly with God. In our position as saints we have been set aside for God and made holy for Him. We touched on this in the last article, so suffice to say we have a special place with God as His chosen holy people. As a whole we are joined to God in a special way, so that we can even say we have been adopted by Him, and brought into His household.
But how does that come about? It comes through our union with Jesus by the Spirit. We have our fellowship union with God through Jesus Christ! And Jesus makes that clear in some of the imagery He uses, including that Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. Jesus is the head of the body that is the church. If we are not joined to Jesus, we are spiritually dead and cut-off.
"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:4–5).
This union with Christ is powered by the Spirit, and it enables us to live the life that we have been called to! If you desire to grow spiritually, abide in Christ!
Communion with One Another
Even though the communion of the holy ones is chiefly with THE Holy One, it naturally flows horizontally to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The very fact that we call each other brother or sister is down to the fact that we have been united in a spiritual family by the power of Christ's blood. We're now blood-brothers.
We have diversity in Christ from different ages, genders, languages, ethnicities, classes, etc. But, we are all one in Christ! We are joined together by an invisible bond, and it means we have an interconnectedness that gives us each a stake in the other's life. My loss is your loss, your gain is my gain.
We, the church are a holy temple being built for the Lord, and as each brick relies on the other bricks around it in an interconnected unity to create the building, so we too rely on each other to be built up un the unity and love of Christ.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Th 5:11).
"Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves" (Ro 12:10).
Every time we gather as the local church we express that unifying fellowship that we share with one another and God, and it is amplified when we corporately celebrate the Lord's Supper which we sometimes call "Communion." There we use physical elements to celebrate the fellowship we collectively have with Christ through His sacrifice.
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Eph 4:4–6).
(Much of the inspiration for this article is owed to:
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 1014.
 Zacharias Ursinus and G. W. Williard, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company, 1888), 304.)
Samuel Lindsay • November 11, 2021
....in the holy catholic church
If you start talking to a modern Aussie about the "catholic church" they will probably have in mind Popes in white, cardinals in red, priests in black, as well as steeples and scandals.
As you may have guessed by the way I started this article, this is not what we're talking about!
Over years, words often evolve from their intended meaning, like apocalypse or terrible or awesome. Or, for another example "Panadol" has become synonymous with "paracetamol" or "painkiller", despite the fact that Panadol is just a brand.
In the case of "catholic" it has become synonymous with the traditional institutional church of the West, but, the word simply means something like "universal".
So in our summary of the Christian faith (the Apostle's Creed), we profess "I believe... in the Holy Universal Church."
What do we mean when we say this? Let's break it down!
The Church is Holy
The Christian church is holy. It is special. It is set apart.
Did you ever have a Grandmother who had a special cabinet with the fine china and silverware reserved for special occasions? (perhaps you have one yourself?) We could say this is "holy" crockery. Not because there is some mystical endowment in that dishware, but because it has been reserved for a special job. It has a higher purpose than the "profane" dishes used everyday.
This example only goes so far, but you get the drift right? God's people, His Church, is dedicated to God for His special use. The church is made up of all kinds of vessels that are set aside for God.
Holiness does carry with it a sense of purity - and this is reflected in the famous words from Ephesians 5 where Paul compares Husbands and Wives to Christ and the Church. Particularly relevant is the way that Paul describes the way that Jesus loves His Church: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph 5:25–27).
The Church is Universal
Christians are notorious for creating new schisms in the Church every other week.
The biggest of those schisms came out of the institutional church of the Roman empire when the Latin-culture church of the west split from the Greek-culture church of the east in 1054 AD. This is where the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches took on their own identities.
Famously Martin Luther would come along some 500 years later in the west to spark the protest that began the Reformation churches in different countries.
You get the gist - we can divide the church every which way - by theology, by tradition, by geography, by time.
But here's the thing, despite the external differences between this denomination and that tradition, Christians believe in a invisible reality - that there is one Church.
There is ultimately only one Church from all time and all places.
While some wish that there was still only one institutional organisation of church on earth, our physical earthly divisions are a sad reality (and sometimes a healthy necessity - 1 Cor 11:18–19, 1 Tim 4:1). Yet the spiritual reality is that Jesus has only one Bride for whom He died.
We share an undeniable link with all Christians, no matter their stripe; if we have real faith in Jesus we are in His everywhere-church.
One day the whole Church will assemble before the throne of Jesus without division of ethnicity, language and affiliation: "There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Re 7:9).
The Church is a.... errr... Church.
This would seem to be self evident - but it is an intense truth hidden in plain sight. A forgotten treasure to be recovered!
We throw this word around so much to mean different things contextually like a building, or a particular meeting of Christians on Sunday, or an organisation. But what is the church at base?
It is an assembly, gathering, congregation and community of people, and we use it to talk specifically about the assembly of God's own people purchased with the blood of Jesus.
One of the most epic and terrifying pictures of God's church was in in the desert wilderness, when God's people gathered around the tabernacle to live and worship with God in their midst.
When Israel moved into the Promised Land, it became harder to live as this church while scattered across the countryside, but they would regularly travel to Jerusalem to worship and honour God.
Then, as God enacted the next phase of His mission to save humanity He removed His presence from one physical location in Israel to send His Spirit into all of God's people and scatter them across the world into smaller guerrilla groups.
While we still belong to one invisible catholic community of God's people, it is expressed in local smaller gatherings that mirror the great assembly to come. The New Testament makes it clear that we are to submit to a local group of believers, with leaders, and boundaries who regularly gather together to build each other up in faith under Chief Shepherd Jesus.
The church has a kind of indefinite quality most of the time. Where is Flooding Creek right now? There is no building that is Flooding Creek, and the incorporated association isn't the church. We're only the church of Flooding creek because of our affiliation with one another in space and time. But even when we get together as a body, there are often people who are away. Yet, that doesn't make us any less the church on those occasions... it's difficult to make nice neat boundaries around church. Nevertheless, the most concrete moments that the Church of Jesus is expressed, is when His people gather in time and space under His word and remember His death until He comes.
"I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, LORD,
as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly" (Ps 40:9–10).
So, we believe in the holy, universal church - won by Jesus, powered by the Spirit for the Glory of the Father.
P.S. I leave you with my favourite picture of church:
"On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken." (Is 25:6–8).
Samuel Lindsay • November 04, 2021
I believe in the Holy Spirit...
In our excursion through the the Apostle's Creed we come now to the Holy Spirit. The apostles creed is a summary of the Christian faith, so for every line there is an immense background of biblical narrative and theology that we only skim each week as we look at the topics. That is especially true for this week because the doctrine (i.e. teaching) of the Holy Spirit is quite deep, and quite misused.
So lets stick to the big ticket things that we mean when we say "I believe in the Holy Spirit": Who is He? What does He do?
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God. Now it was hard enough to get our heads around the idea that the God the Father and the God the Son were both one God expressed as distinct persons, but now we have to throw into that mix the Holy Spirit. There is one God expressed as three distinct persons.
This is something hard for us to understand, it has lead some to assert that we believe in three gods or that we're illogical. But here's the thing, if God is infinite and greater than His creation, isn't it quite plausible that He would be more complex than we can conceive? How much more complex is the potter than the pot? or the painter than the painting? The creator is beyond His creation, and He has revealed Himself to us in this way as three persons in one God.
How do we know the Holy Spirit (a.k.a Holy Ghost) is a person? Well, it's because the Bible speaks about Him as if He were another person (e.g. John 14:15–17, 16:7–8). He can be grieved (Eph 4:30). He is on mission to carry out the will of God.
The Holy Spirit is held up with the Father and Son as God when Jesus commanded his disciples to baptise "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). If the Holy Spirit was only an impersonal force of God, why should we be baptised in His name?
As with many things about God, the mechanics are a mystery. We are limited in time and space, so we cannot understand an unlimited God. But what we can know has been communicated to us, including that the the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father (John 15:26) and an is sent by Jesus (John 16:7).
What does the Holy Spirit Do?
In the ancient Hebrew world, the idea of spirit is closely tied to breath, wind and life. This is unsurprising, because when someone is alive, they are breathing air in and out - they have their spirit. This leads to ample opportunities across the pages of scripture to make puns on the those words. It also means that sometimes translators aren't sure whether they should translate something as breath, wind or spirit (e.g. Eze 37:7–10).
Given that the spirit is breath (e.g. life force), it is unsurprising to hear that the Holy Spirit is an agent in physical creation (Gen 1:2, 2:7, Job 33:4) and spiritual creation (Eze 37). It must be said that it is unhealthy to always create divides between spiritual and physical, because God made us as both physical and spiritual beings where it is impossible to delineate where the physical ends and the spiritual begins, but it illustrates the point - the Spirit brings about both birth into this world, and especially rebirth into the spiritual world (John 3:5–7).
So, like the other divine persons, the Holy Spirit seems to have some special jobs to do as part of the epic plan of salvation. He must rebirth and regenerate us so that we may live in God. He helps us understand and remember Jesus (John 16:13–14), and more broadly He is the one who brings the Word of God to His people through the prophets and writers (2 Pe 1:21, 2 Tim 3:16 "God-breathed" = In-spirited by God).
The Holy Spirit guides, comforts, convicts and teaches. He is our advocate and intercedes on our behalf (Rom 8:26–27).
So where does this leave us? Without the Holy Spirit we cannot know God, or be regenerated to life! Just as the work of Jesus is essential to God's rescue plan, so is the Holy Spirit. All three persons in the Godhead have worked, and are working cohesively to bring about the Salvation of God's people and the remaking of the world.
In some respects the Spirit takes a background job, because it is His job to illuminate Jesus and the Father, but He is no less God. He is working in us and through us. He is here with us while we wait for the bodily return of Jesus. In fact it was so important that He be here with us now, that Jesus would say it is to our advantage that Jesus left and the Spirit came! (John 16:7 ESV)
A last note: The place where a god lives is called a temple. Despite the fact that God cannot be contained, some part of His presence dwelt in the temple at Jerusalem. But now, we do not need that temple, because God dwells amongst His church by His Spirit. It means that in some sense each Christian is a mini-temple, a place where God lives by His Spirit - mobile holy ground. But it also means that the most holy place you can be this side of glory is in the gathered assembly of God's people (Eph 2:21–22, 1 Cor 33:17, 1 Pe 2:5).
"In [Jesus Christ] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (Eph 2:21–22).
"[God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Tt 3:5–6).