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67 - God's Beauty to a Beast

I love Disney movies. I don’t mean all the other studio and film companies Disney owns and operates. I mean straight up, made for kids, Disney movies. I especially love all the princess movies. One of my favorites is “Beauty and the Beast.” A few years ago, my wife took me to see the live action version for my birthday, when it was first released in the theaters.

I loved it!! I laughed. I cried. I was still enraptured at the end when the beast turns back into a prince, and dances with Belle in the grand ballroom, even though I already knew how it would end! There are so many things I love about “Beauty and the Beast,” but what I love most are the themes of the story.

Belle is this wild, strong-willed, intelligent dreamer who has bigger plans for herself than the simple-minded world around her. I love that she doesn’t just accept the social norms thrust upon her by society, but instead sets out on her own path, to be her own person. That’s what eventually leads her to a wild adventure; to a castle, and a prince under a curse. That’s the other theme I really love. The theme of redemption.

The prince is this arrogant, self-centered, entitled debutante that thinks the whole world revolves around him, until he meets an enchantress who curses him for his pride and shallow character. To break the curse, he must learn how to love, to give himself unselfishly to another. He must do so before all the petals fall from a magical rose. In the midst of the curse, he’s offered a path of redemption. Belle embodies that redemption. Her love breaks through the beast’s bitter heart, and helps him learn how to love. And, just at the last minute, as the last petal falls from the rose, redemption and love come to full fruition for both, Belle and the Beast.

I love it!! It’s such a good story of redemption, and the redeeming power of love. It reminds me of Jesus and the Church.

The whole world lies under a curse. It is the love of Jesus that breaks that curse. Jesus sacrificed himself fully to free us from the curse of sin. Sin is separation from God. Jesus came to reunite us back to the Father. To do that, Jesus took on the sin of the whole world.

Jesus was separated from God temporarily, so we would no longer have to be. Then, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is that which reconnects us back to God in a real, practical, and intimate way. It was the coming of the Holy Spirit that instigated the beginning of the Church. That’s called the Day of Pentecost.

The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth.” It comes from the Jewish festival of Shavout, which was celebrated fifty days after the Passover (En.3). Jesus was crucified on the day of the Passover. Fifty days later, on Pentecost, the twelve disciples were still in hiding in an upper room, waiting. Why where they waiting? Because Jesus told them to. Why did Jesus tell them to? He told them to wait for the Holy Spirit.

In both books of Luke and Acts, we read an account of Jesus telling the twelve disciples to wait to proclaim the Gospel message. This is what he told them; “And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49). In the book of Acts, Luke wrote it this way, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

A few verses prior to Jesus’ command to wait, He made it clear that His baptism is the Holy Spirit. All of the Gospel accounts and the book of Acts record this statement about Jesus. (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16). In every single Gospel, it is John that makes this distinction between his baptism and that of Jesus, saying, “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8). But in Acts, Peter indicates that it was also a common saying of Jesus, when he writes, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 11:16).

Peter made that statement in defense of his actions in front of Jewish believers in Jerusalem, who were criticizing him for baptizing Gentiles into Jesus. He told them that since God had already baptized them with the Holy Spirit, he saw no reason not to baptize them with water. He was saying, since God had accepted them by imparting the Holy Spirit, so should the Jewish Christians. When Peter told them that, they changed their minds and said, “Well then, God has also granted to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

This instance in Acts chapter 11 is called the Gentile Pentecost. It was the point at which Jewish Christians understood that Jesus’ salvation was for everyone, and not just the Jews.

In every instance, the first Church was founded and grounded by a direct move of the Holy Spirit. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was what set a person apart as a Christian. It was the central, distinguishing act of what made someone a follower of Christ.

Before Jesus, the Jews would baptize their converts with water. Water baptism was nothing new. That’s why John baptized his converts in water. That’s also why he made the distinction between his baptism and that of Jesus.

Just as John prepared the way for Jesus, Jesus prepared the way for the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ mission on the earth was to make a way for every single person back to the Father. It wasn’t just an eventual reunification with God after we die. There was a practical and present aspect to reunion with God. That practical aspect was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The idea of getting to heaven when we died was just a completion of that beginning act. We are meant to grow into heaven, by growing into God through the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the power of God in the life of every believer to overcome the power of sin and death. In his second letter, Peter wrote that God’s “divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness” so that we could “become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Jesus knew that the first Apostles couldn’t start the Church without the power of God through the Holy Spirit. That’s why He told them to wait. Despite all the time they’d spent with Jesus. Despite Jesus’ already having given the Great Commission to go into all the nations preaching the Gospel. Jesus knew the Apostle’s weren’t ready until the Power of God was upon them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Part of the Great Commission of Jesus was to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). There are two parts to that Commission; Discipleship and Baptism. That’s how Jesus did it.

First, He walked with his disciples for three-and-a-half years, to show them what God was like. Then, he baptized them in the Spirit, to bring them back to God Himself. Then he told them to repeat the process.

This was the center of what the Church was meant to be, and to be about. The Church was meant to be a place where those who were already reconnected to God could disciple others to the point of receiving God for themselves. None of that was possible without the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is our God-connection. Without the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, the Church couldn’t be the Church.

It was this one thing that Satan needed to attack if he wanted his Plan to succeed. His Plan was to infiltrate the Church, in order to attack it from within. His Plan was to make the Church subservient to him, as much as possible. His Plan was to replace God’s version of power with his own. God’s version of power is the Holy Spirit. Satan’s version of power is a Beast.

Satan wanted to make the Church subservient to him by replacing the power of the Holy Spirit with the power of a Beast. Satan’s Plan was to make the Bride of Christ commit adultery with another lover. Satan wanted to introduce God’s Beauty to a Beast, not to transform the Beast into a Beauty, but to transform the Beauty into a Beast.

Satan wanted to turn the Bride of Christ into a Prostitute. He wanted to Prostitute the Church to his form of power. To do that, Satan hatched a Plan. That Plan had to mirror and counter God’s Plan.

God’s Plan was baptism into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Satan’s Plan was One Leader, One Church, One Truth

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