Summary: Where does the power for living as an effective witness for Christ come from? The answer is none other than the Holy Spirit.
Preaching Series: The Tie That Binds
The Power of the Church
Text: Acts 1:1-8
Introduction: On Father’s Day in 1997, Ricardo Enamorado set out on a jet ski from Chicago’s Wilson Avenue Boat Ramp and headed north along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. After traveling several miles north, at about 3PM he turned around to head back south when the engine on the jet ski suddenly quit. Unable to restart it, Ricardo floated along nonchalantly, expecting help to come quickly on the busy waters off Chicago. Gradually, though, the wind and the waves pushed him farther and farther from shore, and help did not come. By dusk he was frantic. Dressed only in cut-offs, tennis shoes and a life preserver, he spent the night on the chilly waters of the lake. The next day Coast Guard helicopters and a Chicago fire department chopper equipped with special radar began searching for the lost man. By the end of the day that still had not found Ricardo, so that hungry and sunburned, he was forced to spend another night on the dark waters of Lake Michigan. Finally the next morning one of the search-and-rescue teams spotted a flash of light from a mirror that Ricardo was holding in an attempt to signal the helicopter and the nearly two day ordeal finally came to an end.
A loss of power can result in all kind of mishaps. This is true even for Christians. Countless believers, including myself, have at one time or another failed to utilize the resources that God has provided for us to walk with Him moment by moment. As a result, we have found ourselves in a position where we were conquered by our own sinful flesh rendering us ineffective witnesses of the life-transforming power of Christ.
In the passage that we’re looking at this morning we discover that prior to His ascension to the Father Jesus spent great time and effort in teaching His disciples. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, also wrote the Gospel that bears his name. It is this ’former book’ to which he alludes in Acts 1:1. Clearly when we inspect his account of the life of Christ, we discover that teaching was a major emphasis in our Lord’s ministry to His followers. He taught, we are told, in the synagogues (See Luke 4:15), in homes (See Luke 5:17-19), in towns and villages (See Luke 13:22), in the temple (See Luke 19:47), and in virtually any other venue where people gathered. As a matter of fact, Christ’s accusers make note of this when they say "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here (to Jerusalem--See Luke 23:5)." Yet we know that teaching from the greatest expositor of truth that has ever walked the planet was not enough to transform the lives of the disciples so that they could carry out the Great Commission. (Don’t forget that following the crucifixion of Christ, the eleven disciples hid out in an upper room and refused to believe the testimony of the women who had become aware of His resurrection--See Luke 24:9-11).
If teaching did not empower the disciples as witnesses, perhaps the opportunity to see Jesus following His resurrection did. But, alas, this doesn’t seem to be the case either. In Luke 24:37 we’re told, "While they were still talking...Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, ’Peace be with you,’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they had saw a ghost. He said to them, ’Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds?" These are not the kind of words that describe bold believers who are eager to tell the story of their risen Savior.
So now we know that neither the privilege of being an eyewitness to the resurrection or the opportunity to sit under the instruction of Christ provided them with all they would need to testify to the life transforming power of the Gospel. This came as no surprise to Christ! That’s why He says in 24:49, "I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
This brings us to Acts 1 where Luke once again reminds us that radical transformation, the kind that changes our character and alters our priorities, does not come through teaching or persuasion alone. It requires nothing less than the power of the Holy Spirit to be unleashed in our lives. For this to happen we need to know what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit and His role in our lives. For the sake of time, I’m going to limit our discussion to four observations, though there are many more.