The Spirit’s power essential to mission

Posted Sep 2, 2020

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Daily Scripture

1 Theophilus, the first scroll I wrote concerned everything Jesus did and taught from the beginning, 2 right up to the day when he was taken up into heaven. Before he was taken up, working in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus instructed the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. 4 While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: 5 John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”

7 Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Reflection Questions

Before leaving earth, Jesus charged his followers to witness to him. But he didn’t ask them to trust in their own courage or cleverness. He said they were to wait for the Holy Spirit’s power to make them effective in carrying out their mission. Some have even suggested that instead of “Acts of the Apostles” we might better call Luke’s second book something like “the Acts of the Holy Spirit (through the apostles).”

  • Acts 1:15 said that “the family of believers” included about 120 people. Think of the vast, ever-expanding scope of the task Jesus set before them: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” How did Jesus' vision and commission for that mission-driven, outward life focus make it essential that those first 120 (and all who came after them) trust the Holy Spirit’s power rather than their own?
  • Jesus “ordered” (not “requested”) that his followers “…wait for what the Father had promised… in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). Especially when there is a big job to do, most of us want to “get on with it,” not “wait.” Have you ever had to wait for God to clarify or empower some worthy activity? What spiritual risks does running on ahead of God pose for a Christ-follower?

Prayer

Jesus, I love your audacity, telling 120 people in a small Roman province to reach “to the end of the earth.” I love the Holy Spirit’s power that made that mission a reality. Give me your vision and power today. Amen.

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Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

It happened on the subway platform in Moscow. I’d been there for weeks and I don’t speak Russian. My ears had been in a sea of gibberish, random sounds that I couldn’t understand. Then, in an instant of clarity, I heard English from the other end of the platform. It was like a beam of light, piercing through all other sounds, straight to my ear--my native language. It was a homing beacon, sharpening my senses to its signal. I felt every molecule in my body relax. It felt like coming home.

When Jesus tells his followers (v. 8) that the Holy Spirit will come upon them, there’s no way the disciples could have expected what happens next in Acts 2. Perhaps they expected the Holy Spirit to empower them to perform mighty acts to impress the crowds, or to give them an action plan for ministry. Instead the Holy Spirit gave them power to speak in the foreign languages of all the outsiders in Jerusalem for festival days. For those visitors, their native tongues must have felt like coming home.

And when the Holy Spirit shows up, the power given to these Jesus-followers is a gift expressly for those outside the Jesus movement, those who felt displaced in a language-world not their own. We cannot miss this connection to mission! The power of the Holy Spirit is given not for the disciples themselves, but for God’s mission, for the outsiders who hear it and recognize at once their mother tongues. The Spirit welcomes all to make their home in God’s abundant life.

When the Holy Spirit empowers us for mission, it empowers us to connect to others. It points us beyond ourselves, our cliques, even beyond the church itself, to welcome those longing to live at home in God’s love in ways they can hear and understand.

What home-coming do you long to hear from the Holy Spirit? What heart language do outsiders around you long to hear? How might the Holy Spirit be at work in you this very today empowering you?

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