Summary: The mission of the church is to wait on the Holy Spirit and witness of God's risen Son until He comes again.
Several years ago, the London Transit Authority had a problem. Buses were going right past passengers who were waiting at designated places to be picked up. They were at the bus stops, and the buses were sailing right past them. The London Transit Authority released a statement to explain their actions. The statement said it was impossible for them to maintain schedules if they always had to stop and pick up passengers. (Dave Stone, “Keep the Dust Off the Highchair,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 143; www.PreachingToday.com)
Funny, I thought that’s what transit authorities are supposed to do – pick up passengers. Do you know: some churches are like that? They get so busy maintaining schedules and programs that they forget what they’re all about. My friends, I don’t want us to forget what we’re all about as a church, so if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Acts 1, Acts 1, where Jesus Himself gives us our mission.
Acts 1:1-5 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (ESV)
The first thing Jesus wants us to do is…
He wants us to wait for the Holy Spirit. He wants us to remain. He wants us to stay put until God’s spirit comes upon us. For without God’s Spirit, we cannot do anything.
Now, we know, from 1 Corinthians 12, that all of us who have trusted Christ have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 makes it very clear, “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (ESV)
Every single believer, the moment he or she trusts Christ, is baptized by the Holy Spirit. That means the Holy Spirit comes upon you and dips you, or immerses you, into the Body of Christ. The word, “baptize,” literally means “to dip” or “to immerse.” When you trust Christ as your Savior, the Holy Spirit places you into the church. That means, my dear friends, that you are a part of something much bigger than yourself.
It’s kind of like this famous surfer, Laird Hamilton, riding a 65-foot wave. (Show YouTube video: At first he is being towed along the water by a speeding Jet Ski. Then, as Laird gains speed by the power of the Jet Ski, he lets go of the rope and you see him as a mere speck on a wave so enormous it defies comprehension. The wave curls and the surfer zooms down its face, propelled by a wall of water crashing around him, exhilarated by the ride of a lifetime.)
This is a picture of what God is doing in this world through His church. It’s like a wave so enormous it’s beyond our comprehension. And if we should we want to ride this wave, we soon learn that it travels so fast, we can’t do a thing on our own power. We can’t paddle hard enough to catch it. Instead, we need the Holy Spirit to tow us along to get us up to speed. Then when we catch the wave of what God is doing, there is not much we can do except hang on and enjoy the exhilarating ride! (Bill White, Paramount, California; www.PreachingToday.com)
That’s what it means to be “baptized by the Holy Spirit.” He makes you a part of something much bigger than yourself, and the first believers were to wait for this baptism. They were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and bring them into the wave of His church.
Now, we don’t have to wait for this particular baptism today – we already have it as believers in Christ. But there is a sense in which we must still wait on God. We must wait on God’s Spirit before we do anything else. We must wait for the sense of His presence; because when we go forward without Him, nothing of any lasting value happens.
We saw this during our own First Great Awakening, sparked by Jonathan Edward’s sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which he preached in 1741. It followed a style of sermon then preached to condemned criminals just before their execution. In that style, the preacher would stress the criminal’s imminent encounter with God and exhort him to repent. The newspapers published these sermons all the time, so most people in the day would have recognized the form.