Summary: Jesus commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses and make disciples to the ends of the earth. To fulfill this awesome calling God gave the church the Holy Spirit. This is who we are.
Acts 1:6-11, 2:1-4 “Commissioned and Empowered
What comes to you mind, when you think of the word, “church.” Some people might imagine white clapboard buildings sitting on the prairie, or pot luck dinners with Jell-o. Other people might remember Sunday School Christmas Pageants, hard wooden pews, long, boring sermons, or pipe organs. While all of these images are part of our traditional church experience, none of this is mentioned in the Bible. The fact that these images aren’t addressed in the Bible doesn’t mean that they are bad. It does mean, however, that if we are to understand clearly what the purpose of the church is we will need to delve deeper.
For the next several weeks, we are going to be rediscovering the mission and ministry of the church. We will learn what we are all about, what makes us different from the Lion and Rotary Clubs, and where does each of us fit in to the whole. This is not only important for us as a congregation as we face the awesome task of establishing and building a church in Surprise, but it can also be life-transforming to us as individuals.
When Jesus and the disciples are gathered at the top of the Mount of Olives, Jesus commissions them as his witnesses. He tells them that they will be his witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. This is similar to the Great Commission contained in the gospel of Matthew where Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (28:19).
Witnesses tell others what they have seen and heard. The disciples had spent three years with Jesus. They had seen him crucified, and they had encountered the resurrected Christ. Their relationship with Jesus had transformed their lives. With the command of Jesus, they were sent to tell what they had seen and heard to others and invite others to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
Some of us have had theological discussions with our family, friends, co-workers, or neighbors. This is different than being a witness for Jesus. Rarely does a person come to faith because we have won a theological argument with them—convincing them of the validity of child baptism, that God was active in creation, or that Satan is not a figment of our imagination.
People want to hear and see what difference God has made in our lives. They want to know how God has helped us through our struggles, or how we see God in our triumphs and success stories. People want to know how our faith has shaped our families, how it directs our actions at work, and they want to see the difference it has made in our lifestyle. If our relationship with God, because of the cross of Christ, has made a difference in our lives, then other people reason it may just make a difference in their lives.
Our witness is not to give us glory. The impact of our actions and words is to invite others to become disciples of Jesus Christ, to live in the freshness of God’s love and forgiveness, and to experience the new life that a relationship with Jesus brings with it.
PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
We cannot accomplish this commission alone. It is beyond human capability. Jesus therefore commands his disciples to wait until they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in there lives.
Since this commissioning, the church has been involved in accomplishing the impossible. We are still striving to make sure that the gospel message reaches all the ends of the earth. We strive to bring to gospel to the forgotten and the marginalized. We face the daunting task of loving the unlovable and of forgiving the unforgivable. We take steps of faith that drive us far, far away from our comfort zone.
We do all of this so that people might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, grace, and salvation. Faith cannot be conjured up. Faith is a gift. Faith is given by the Holy Spirit. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, “You have been saved by grace through faith, and this is not by works. It is a gift of God lest anyone should boast” (2:8).
In partnership with the Holy Spirit, we can carryout the commands of Jesus and be God’s witnesses to people next to us and on the other side of the world.
GOD’S PRESENCE AND POWER
When the Holy Spirit comes on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit comes like a mighty wind with tongues of fire. These are powerful images.
We cannot see air, but we can feel the wind and sense its direction. In much the same manner, we cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we can sense the movement of the Holy Spirit and determine the direction that the Spirit is blowing.