The following message is based on Acts 1:1-11 and addresses the source of the Christian’s power as witnesses for Christ in the world, which is the Holy Spirit. It was shared on November 17, 2013
Recently, I read of a most strange religious movement sweeping the country, or so the article led you to believe. The Associated Press article read: “It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Hundreds packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.
Dozens of gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors are springing up around the U.S. after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke. On Sunday, the inaugural Sunday Assembly in Los Angeles attracted more than 400 attendees, all bound by their belief in non-belief. Similar gatherings in San Diego, Nashville, New York and other U.S. cities have drawn hundreds of atheists seeking the camaraderie of a congregation without religion or ritual.
Jones got the first inkling for the idea while leaving a Christmas carol concert six years ago. “There was so much about it that I loved, but it’s a shame because at the heart of it, it’s something I don’t believe in,” Jones said. “If you think about church, there’s very little that’s bad. It’s singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?”
Success is not measured by popularity, but by God’s approval. Now there are several things critically wrong with this picture. What are those critical things that are missing? One of those things is the gospel, the good news of Jesus. If there is not message of Christ, there is no Christianity and God is not in it. Without the gospel, a group of people is just a club; an organization. It is not a church. The second critical thing missing is the Holy Spirit. Without God’s Spirit, there is no life. There may be activity, but there is no life. Today, I would like to talk about the place of the Holy Spirit in witness and mission. Jesus said before His ascension in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”
The Holy Spirit is the most mysterious person of the Trinity. We often forget about him. But without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). It was to our benefit that Jesus ascended into heaven, to reside at the Father’s right hand to pray for us (Romans 8:34). Jesus also spoke of sending “The Helper” in John 16:7: “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” The Holy Spirit is the presence of Christ on earth today. His presence and work is essential for the church to for mission and service. So how should this play out? What does the Holy Spirit do in equipping us for ministry?
First, the Holy Spirit shines the light of the gospel in a spiritually darkened world.
As the world grows darker in sin, the light of the gospel shines brighter. As we await Jesus’ return, the gospel is being preached. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.” So now is a time that the gospel is going out and many believe; it is not time for the bookend of history to come about, when God says concerning time for the present earth; “That’s enough.” So the Holy Spirit goes before the spread of the good newes and prepares hearts and minds to receive it. Jesus’ words also remind us that…
The “preaching” of the gospel is not just for preachers.
I would include every Christian. Your words, your lifestyle, your relationships, are all meant to be tools, helps, and displays of the Holy Spirit in sharing the gospel with others. As opposed to the thinking that witnessing is just another task we have to do on an already huge list of things, and probably, arguably the least favorite, we need to change our mindset as a church and as individuals.
Starting on January 12, we are going to be looking at a culture change within our church. Many of you will receive a copy of Thom Rainer’s, “I Am a Church Member.” In the weeks to come, you’re going to be hearing more about this church wide revolution. I want to encourage you to get involved. For many, it will challenge you in your thinking about how we do church. For others, it could be life changing for you.
The following are some helpful items of direction for understanding Christian witness. One thing we have to recognize is that none of us convinces anyone else. Now this is not to excuse the value of a good argument or advancing the truth. Rather, we must realize that it is the Holy Spirit that brings about belief. The Spirit of Christ is He who draws us into fellowship with Jesus. He convicts; ushers, illuminates our hearts to trust and follow Jesus. Jesus said in John 6:37 that no many can come to the Father, unless he is drawn.
If there is any change in our lives, it is because the Spirit is working.
At the point of becoming a Christian, the Holy Spirit brings renewal and life to our dead and darkened souls. Titus 3:5 tells us: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit….” Conversion, from a divine, spiritual perspective is much like a reflex. Jonathan Edwards, the Father of the American Church described regeneration and conversions as the Holy Spirit tapping the knee. We, then react out of reflex. The Holy Spirit affects the mind, will and emotions.
And it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us for witness and service.
Jesus said: “But you will receive power, when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” What are we here for? We are here to point others to Christ. It gave me great joy to hear that on Monday night, the Adult Life Bible study prepared and shared the meal with our family staying at Central during November. Many of you have stayed overnight, provided transportation and laundry to help a family turn the corner in their lives. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is using us for God’s glory.
But it is not just the doing, but the speaking is necessary, too.
We need to be looking for opportunities in conversation where Jesus is the topic. We need to share from God’s word and our experiences. Have you ever put your testimony into words? Maybe that would be a healthy exercise, to write down your journey of coming to faith in Christ. How have you found forgiveness? How have you been transformed? Changed? Everyone who is a Christian is a disciple. Look for ways in which you can interact with others in order to introduce them to Jesus. I say this because…
The Holy Spirit is also active when we speak to others about Christ.
Christianity is not just information designed to convince others to join up. Or change by their own will. Rather, the Holy Spirit changes us and transforms our lives for His glory. We also need to trust God with the outcome. You are not responsible for convincing them, as much as you are responsible for being faithful. But there is a message that you must know. It can be confined to these short statements/words:
• God loves: John 3:16
• Sin separates: Romans 3:10
• Jesus died and arose again: 1 John 4:10
• Will you trust and turn? Romans 10:9-10
You might say, “what about the questions?” Mark Dever states: “Actually, having a few questions of your own shouldn’t prevent you from sharing the gospel with others. You can explain to them that while you still have a few unresolved questions yourself, you don’t have enough faith to not believe. There is simply so much reason to believe the good news of Jesus Christ in history, in Scripture, as well as in our own experience that it would take a leap of faith not to believe in the gospel. And an honest conversation like that can be very helpful to a non-Christian.”
Stop and take a moment to do something very important. I want you to take a blank piece of paper and write down the names of 5-7 people that don’t know the Lord, but do know you. Then, over the next month or so, start praying daily for opportunities to share the gospel with them. Start thinking about how you can make legitimate opportunities to share Christ with them. As you pray and witness, remember Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8: “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.” I leave you with the words of Bill Bright, the late founder of CRU, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. Speaking of Christ, Bright said: “Here on earth, He has no lips but ours, no feet but ours, and no hands but ours. God has chosen to use men, not angels, to reach the world for Christ and, if we are obedient, He will use us. We can count on it.”
I was recently faced with the opportunity to share with someone. I was cautious at first, but presented the message as best as I knew how. The meeting ended abruptly and I’m not sure what God did, if anything. But I must trust Him with the outcome. He is the one who causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). I’m only there to plant a seed or water it.