The same breath brings life and judgment?

 

 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

That familiar Scripture tells how God’s breath brings life. It is a dramatic image, to think of a lump of dust or clay being brought to life by the breath of God. Many people know that in Hebrew, the words for breath, wind, and Spirit are the same (ruach). The same is true in Greek (pneuma), and in Latin (spiritus). It is clear that when God breathes, it can bring life. That is echoed in this Scripture from Psalm 33:6:

Psalm 33:6 

At the same time, we read other Scriptures telling us that God’s breath brings judgment and destruction:  

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.  (II Thessalonians 2:8)

Here is another example of God’s breath peeling things back so that the truth can be uncovered:  

Then the channels of the sea were seen,

The foundations of the world were uncovered

At Your rebuke, O LORD,

At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

(Psalm 18:15)

 As I look at the landscape of the Anglican Communion, I see two main areas of activity: activity that advances the Gospel and activity that advances a message of spiritual death. The clear march of the same-sex agenda in several Provinces is an example. I think it will continue its “march" for a time, but ultimately, since it is not consistent with Scripture, the Bible witness is that it will wither.

I’m sure there is much rejoicing in some corners at the appointment as Suffragan Bishop in Toronto, Canada, of a man who is in a same-sex partnership. Ultimately, though, regardless of how nice he is, it is not a ministry that can stand the test of time because it is not in alignment with God’s Word. Ultimately, God’s manifest presence will draw near, bringing blessing to some and withering judgment to others, namely those who depart from His precepts. 

I find it fascinating that the same breath can bring life or judgment. What might be the difference?

If I might venture a guess, I’ll suggest it is the alignment of the human spirit with the plumb line of the Holy Spirit. Another way to say that is, the person whose spirit is in sync with the dictates of the Holy Spirit (and Scripture) will experience blessing. Those who are out of sync, or diverging from Biblical order, will experience His presence, His Spirit, His breath as an overwhelming force under which they will shrink and wither. 

Soon there will be two landmark gatherings in the Anglican Communion. Gathering one will be the first GAFCON Bishops’ Training Institute, where almost thirty new Bishops will come from all across Africa to be encouraged in leadership, interior life, and Biblical ministry. I also participated in the Bishops’ Training that the American Anglican Council put on earlier this year for Bishops in the ACNA. The work the AAC did rendered that conference a very successful endeavor, and they got rave reviews.

Bp. Mwaluda

Among other resources, Bishop Samson Mwaluda, who is chairing the GAFCON BTI, has drawn on the AAC experience, so I expect that this one will be effective, too.  The second gathering will be composed of teams from Provinces all across the Global South. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tunisia a year ago, but it had to be re-scheduled due to security concerns. 

God’s breath will be poured out on these meetings, and they will welcome His breath. In both meetings, I am confident that the participants will rejoice at the manifest presence of His Spirit, and there will be great fruit. In the first meeting, Bishops will be better equipped in Gospel ministry. In the second, faithful people will listen, pray, work, and discern God’s direction for advancing Biblically congruent Anglican faith. In addition, I expect that networks and relationships will be strengthened to carry out His mission. 

In both cases, the empowering of the Holy Spirit will go far beyond just building bigger and better churches. What is most powerful is that people will learn and strategize how to disciple and deploy Christians, not just into the Church but into the world. I’ll be saying more about that in upcoming weeks, but I believe it to be the essential work to which we are currently being called. We already give a great deal of attention to building up churches and programs, but we also need to attend to deploying disciples into the world to make a difference for Christ. 

As that is happening with the faithful, their spiritual “sails” will be filled with His breath and they will be propelled to fruitfulness. At the same time, those who hold priorities other than those of Scripture will experience that very same breath as a spiritual headwind, impeding their every step. It doesn’t always start at their first step, but it will certainly come. Biblically faithful ministry will advance, and that which departs from Biblical faith and norms must ultimately wither. It may take a long time to see it (metaphorical sailing ships are not necessarily fast), but it will be manifest.

 

It behooves us to live in concert with His Word

so we can experience His breath as blessing.