Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Power!

The believers in and around first century Jerusalem are an interesting lot. Dr. Luke gives us a most fascinating series of scriptural snapshots in the early chapters of the Book of Acts. The narrative gives us some wonderful insight into the actions of these average folks, through whom God accomplished miraculous results. We see the rag tag group of Christ followers increase from 120 somewhat frightened souls in a rented second story meeting place to more than 3,000 in ONE DAY. Within a few short days or weeks, the number had increased to more than 5,000, and many of the Jewish priests were included in the group of new converts.

By the time the narrative reaches the 13th chapter, we see Spirit empowered witnessing throughout the city; selfless acts of love and obedience to Christ; professing believers who lied to the Holy Spirit and to the Apostles, and wound up dead; miraculous healings in the name of Jesus; "small scale" persecution against the leaders of the church; unity and powerful prayer by the community of believers; full scale persecution of the church through the martyrdom of Stephen, and James, and the imprisonment of Peter. We see the first recorded church spat, and witness the wise solution and its productive outcome. We see the miraculous conversion of Saul of Tarsus (who had previously led the efforts to stamp out the Christian movement); the sharing of the Gospel with a Roman Centurion, resulting in his conversion, and that of his entire household; and we see the church spreading out from Jerusalem to outlying areas; and the initial foreign mission endeavors of the Church - the beginnings of taking the Gospel to "the uttermost parts of the earth".

What could bring about such tremendous results?

It was most certainly not the result of some high powered church growth conference. Nothing found in some first century "Purpose Driven Church" treatise or best seller on how to create an effective, growing church. Neither did it result from the human efforts of the initial group, which included a bunch of blue collar uneducated fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, brawlers, social outcasts, and former prostitutes. There wasn't a seminary graduate in the entire initial group. No VIP's or politically well placed individuals. There was no financial support from a "mother church" in the early days of their existence, since none existed at the time.

Nope. None of the above.

The launch of the church and its tremendous geometric growth only came about through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit - and His indwelling in the lives of believers. The second chapter of Acts gives us the details of the event, and the remaining chapters show the tremendous power exhibited in their daily lives.

Jesus had promised such Spiritual power both before, and after his death and resurrection. He sought to teach His disciples about the importance and the future work of the Holy Spirit in their lives ( recorded in John 16) just before His arrest. And He specifically spoke of that Power in Acts 1:4-8, just before He ascended into Heaven from the Mount of Olives:

"... He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

It is truly fascinating to see that power manifested in the lives and ministry of the believers throughout the remainder of the book of Acts. Even though the recipients may have been "ignorant and unlearned" individuals, their lives had been forever changed through the power of the Holy Spirit. Their boldness was apparent. Their lives were transparent. And their focus was significant.

These are the same traits that must be found in 21st century Christ Followers if the church is to make similar impact in today's world.

We will never be able "whip up" enough emotion to do it. Formal education (while valuable to the Spirit Filled Believer) is not enough on its own to do it. Church membership, itself, won't do it. Church Growth Conferences and self help books won't do it. Plans, programs, study commissions, and Convention directives will not accomplish it.

If we truly seek to fulfill the Great Commission, we must embrace the simple truths that God's Word is supreme, Salvation is in Christ Alone, those without Christ are hopelessly lost for eternity, and we must do WHATEVER IT TAKES and pay whatever it costs, to take the Gospel to every people group - around the corner and around the world.

The task is impossible, apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

May we turn up our cups and be filled!

1 comment:

dan biser said...

Nothing is going to happen without us waiting upon the Lord. Let us wait until we are endued with power from on high for His glory. Great posts brother