Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Every Christian’s life will have such an experience – what was yours? Every Christian’s life has a lead up to this empowerment – a waiting and staying still in obedience – the obedience makes the waiting possible and prepares a person for the empowerment. The collective unity of this spiritual reality makes His church real, relative and active not just then but now!
And with that – Jesus was taken up; “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9) The disciples just stood there looking up; “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel . . . “ (Acts 1:10) This is a very human response – How often we tend to tarry looking upwards – waiting to be fed when we should be looking around for opportunities to feed the world with His Word – that was His mission that he gave to us. Perhaps yearning just to have Jesus with us because we are not ready to accept His mission and all that it requires of us.
These two angels brought everyone back to ‘reality’; “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) To me these angels were saying; “Don’t just stand there GET AT IT! He’ll be back expecting you to be doing His will”.
Barnes’ Notes exhorts us to our task; “We may see here also that it is our duty not to stand in idleness, and to gaze even toward heaven. We, as well as the apostles, have a great work to do, and we should actively engage in it without delay.” Spreading the Word is not an option! We need to look around for opportunity to share with help, compassion and encouragement – sometimes with words but always with actions. We want Jesus to restore everything and do the work – Yet clearly the Book of Acts tells us that we are to be equipped to be His hands and feet in this world.
With Jesus’ ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem and did as they were told; “Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” (Acts 1:12-14) The beginning of unity is in simple obedience, prayer and supplication.
Chapter 1 of Acts tells us just as much about our church as it does about the early church. It tells us about the equipping for ministry and the hindrances to this ministry we all are called to. When we look to our own interests we are not serving His. Looking upwards and waiting for the Holy Spirit’s empowerment is the beginning of our witness. The vertical relationship of the cross drives out the control of selfishness in our lives. Self-interest isn’t the way of the cross. Through the Holy Spirit’s work in us we are prepared to take on the horizontal and relational building up of His church in the world.
The Holy Spirit’s power and equipping makes the difference between being a mere fan of Christianity and being a disciple of Jesus Christ. We can have a good opinion of Jesus and the church but that falls far short of the life changing conviction that the Holy Spirit works in us when we finally stop looking in the wrong directions and start really listening to His Word in our lives. When we believe His Word and trust Him enough to live it out we truly have something to say to others about Christianity.
Lip service comes from being a fan while the Holy Spirit’s conviction gives us real testimony of His Work in our lives. Discipleship begins where the former leaves off and the latter takes over!
Praise the Lord!