Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Master Plan Of Discipleship - The Power To Become!

But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) 

Enabling Power 

Jesus knew that His work on earth could never be done by human striving, however determined the effort. Power to be His witnesses could only come through the Spirit of God (1:8). So before He left the disciples, He told them to wait for "the promise of the Father," for they would "be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (1:4-5). In fact, they were instructed not to leave Jerusalem until they had received this promised heavenly endowment (Luke 24:49). Anticipating the outpouring, even as He authorized their mission, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). 

Clearly the power for witnessing was not in themselves, but in the Eternal Spirit, the enabling Agent of the Kingdom, communicating and effecting the will of God. By His creative power the worlds were made and the stars hung in place (Gen. 1:2). The Spirit fashioned man in the divine image, then breathed upon him, and he became a living soul (Gen. 2:7; Job 33:4). When the creature turned to his own way, it was this same Spirit who sought to bring the rebel back and effect reconciliation with God. All through the Old Testament He can be seen at work with chosen people, at special times and places, making a nation to be His witness in a fallen world (Isa. 43:10; 44:8; 49:6). Though the Spirit's power only rested upon a few people in the unfolding drama of salvation, a day was envisioned when He would come upon One in absolute and permanent majesty (Isa. 11:1-2; 32:18), and through that One the Kingdom age would dawn and the mighty power of the Most High would be poured forth upon all flesh (Isa. 32:15; cf. Joel 2:28-32). 

In the fullness of time the creating Person of the Trinity planted the seed of the Father in the womb of the virgin, so that she conceived and gave birth to the only begotten Son of God (Matt. 1:18, 20; Lk. 1:35). Thereafter, the Spirit directed Jesus during the days of His incarnate life (Lk. 4:1, 14). Everything He said and did was in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. He anointed Him to preach and to heal (10:38; Lk. 4:18-19). He empowered Him to cast out demons (Matt. 12:28). He sustained Him in suffering. At last, He brought the Son to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world (Heb. 9:14); then, in death-rending triumph, He raised Him from the grave (Rom. 8:11). Make no mistake, God's work, whatever the form, is accomplished only through the Holy Spirit.

Application Today 

Living in the fullness of the Holy Spirit is as much the privilege of Christians today as it was of those first disciples. Nothing about the "power from on high" is restricted to the apostolic church. "For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off" (2:39).

The guarantee is the power to become what God has called us to be. It is not a doctrine to cherish, but a reality to experience. To the degree that we take His Word to heart and make Christ Lord of our lives, we can expect to do His work. Here is where the issue rests. For the Spirit will use any life that is surrendered to the Savior. It remains for us only to remove every known barrier in His way and by faith receive the promise. Though our vessel be small, still He will fill to capacity what we offer Him. 

Better still, we can experience increasingly more of His holiness as we grow in understanding of Christ and ourselves. There is always more beyond. The freshness of His Presence is new every morning. Special anointings will be needed as work demands require greater sensitivity and strength. Yet we can be confident that, however difficult the task to which we are called, the Spirit is ever present to help, and His grace is all-sufficient.

In time we transmit what we are to those about us. The closer the association, the more powerful our witness becomes in shaping the lives of others, either for good or ill. What a staggering responsibility! Whether or not we like it, the very fact that we live in such a society calls us to a life of sainthood. Any compromise in our dedication to Christ invariably has adverse repercussions upon others. By the same criterion, we have in our fellowship the awesome opportunity to give an exemplary testimony to the transforming power of the Gospel.

Persons near us will come to know our failings and weaknesses, of course. But let them also see the readiness with which confession is made when we become aware of our sin. From the brokenness of heart occasioned by the knowledge of dishonoring God and the sincerity with which we seek to make amends for the error of our ways, observing people will learn that Christ-likeness is the supreme quest of our life. The fact that all of us come woefully short of the perfection of our Lord need be no refutation of our witness, if there is a transparent commitment to walk as best we can in the steps of Jesus.

We can lead even in our weakness when it is clear that a pure motive governs our actions and that, despite our shortcomings, we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and that we love neighbor as ourselves. In this devotion everything written in the law and the prophets finds fulfillment (Matt. 22:37-40). This is holiness as can be experienced by every child of grace. It is the bond by which the whole church can live in perfect harmony (Col. 3:14). 

How desperately the world needs this demonstration today---the undaunted witness of holy love in the lifestyle of men and women filled with the Spirit of Christ. To this character other qualities can be added, but without it everything else lacks the ring of truth. God is making a people in His own image, a kingdom of priests who will serve Him forever. Those who have entered this reign participate in His program to make disciples of all nations. He is our Way. He is our Truth. He is our Life. In the measure that we partake of His Spirit we shall fulfill His destiny for the church.